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Tow Bar Pins

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mikeh

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Tow Bar Pins
« on: September 17, 2021, 08:20:29 pm »

IMG_1776 by Michael Henry, on Flickr

I don't know how many of you may be using the "swivel-lock" type pin to anchor your tow bar as seen in the photo above.  This is the type of pin that has a swivel end that must be pulled out against a spring and then rotated 90 degrees to keep the pin in place.  Mine were made by Master Lock, but many manufacturers offer them.

IF you use these type pins, I recommend that you keep a very close eye on them and even consider changing.  Below are two photos of what I found when I pulled into my driveway from my last trip, and got out to unhook the TOAD.  Don't know how much further I might have traveled before the LH pin dropped out--but I know I barely dodged a bullet.
These pins had exactly 4757 towing miles over a period of 3 months.  The spring mechanism in the LH pin had failed and allowed the 90-degree lock section to rotate in line with the pin.  Although the RH pin looks OK, close examination showed considerable wear on the edge of the 90-degree lock section--I suspect that it was progressing toward failure as well.


This is the second tow pin failure that I have experienced with my set-up in 12,000 miles of towing.  The first was loss of a "hairpin-type" clip that allowed my RH pin to fall out a couple years ago.  That failure was "at speed", and only my safety cable saved my bacon that time.
My new pin set now uses padlocks, and I'll gladly put up with the hassle of a key for more security.


IMG_1778 by Michael Henry, on Flickr

IMG_1775 by Michael Henry, on Flickr

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Free2RV

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2021, 05:29:39 am »
Wow, you are VERY lucky that pin didn't drop out as well.  We replaced our original pins with locking pins shortly after we began towing a toad.  We didn't do it for this reason, but rather to prevent someone from simply removing the pin while we were stopped.  Although that isn't something that happens often to people, we had it happen to us at  a rest area.  Every time we stop, I always do a walk around to make sure everything is alright with whatever we are towing.  In our case, after I completed my walk around, a group of guys walked behind the snowmobile trailer we were towing, but I didn't do another walk around to check things again before pulling out.  Less than 5 miles down the road I saw our loading ramp go airborne, just missing a car behind us.  I know the pin was in when I did my walk around and I know the guys started laughing as I pulled away.  Needless to say, I got a new pin with a lock and have done so with any similar situations.
Gary
« Last Edit: September 18, 2021, 05:19:05 pm by Free2RV »

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2 Frazzled

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2021, 06:16:05 am »
We have used the locking pins for eight years. It doesn't feel like a hassle, it's just part of the process.We have three - the third locks the tow bar to the rig. We also walk around each time before driving off. I just don't trust humans to do what's right.
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mikeh

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2021, 11:28:03 am »
I certainly agree with the walk-around--and had done my usual examination at my last fuel stop before arriving home.  I use a riser on the PC for the higher lift of the Jeep Trailhawk, so that means two pins in front of the tow bar and the two hitch pins at the rear--I always eyeball all four pins at every stop.  That means that the hitch pin that failed had not done so yet at my last stop--about 350 miles and 5+ hours previous.  I didn't scrutinize the pins closely, just looked at them to ensure they were properly locked in place.

I had considered locking pins previously when I bought these after my first failure, but my Roadmaster Nighthawk tow setup is mated to Blue Ox baseplate hitches.  The Blue Ox setup accepts 1/2" pins rather than the 5/8" pins standard on the Roadmaster base plate.  Although the 1/2" pins are more than adequate (rated for about 10K pounds apiece), for some reason there is simply not as many options for the regular end-locking pins in 1/2" size as opposed to 5/8" size.  I also saw reports of some failures with that type, where the end-lock had come off.  Based on those concerns I decided to go with the "swivel-lock" pin--which proved to be an error in judgement.

Even with considerable online research, I ran into the same "limited choice" issue again when buying the new pin set this time.  I did buy a set of end-locking 1/2" pins, but I also bought a set of Blue Ox pins with slightly larger holes that will accept a 1/4" hardened padlock shackle.  I'm going to initially go with the padlocks (because I know those can't come off), but watch closely for any indication of lock or shackle wear or failure.

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Ron Dittmer

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #4 on: September 25, 2021, 08:16:33 am »
Boy you dodged a bullet there.

I often inspect my connections in-case of children tampering and natural causes like you have there.  I never experienced it, but know how the youth can be mischievous.  It is one reason why I use locks where applicable, though certainly not with the primary pins you show.

Thank you for sharing that.
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HenryJ

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2021, 10:09:50 am »
interesting to read this... what brand tow bar is this... so we know..does not look like the Roadmaster ...
Patricia
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mikeh

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2021, 04:03:26 pm »
Patricia,

The tow bar is the Roadmaster Nighthawk model, however the base plate units mounted to my Jeep are Blue Ox.  I had the setup professionally installed at Dan's Hitch in Elkhart when I bought my PC in 2019, and that is the combination they quoted me when I called them to arrange the installation appointment.  I don't know why they chose to use that combination of two manufacturer's products, but I have seen this combination advertised in other product ads, so it's not that unusual.  I didn't think to ask them what advantage the combination might offer over all Roadmaster components, but I do know that Dan's Hitch came highly recommended, and my personal experience with them is that they do quality work.

The only issue with the Blue Ox combo, as I said, is that since they use 1/2-inch diameter tow pins rather than 5/8-inch pins in the Roadmaster base plates, the selection of locking pins is much slimmer.  Other than that, I have been totally satisfied with the tow setup overall.  I'm currently on the road with my new pin set from Blue Ox using the padlocks to retain the pins, and it's working great.  My only recommendation is to stay away from using those "swivel-lock" type pins shown in my first photo.

Mike

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donc13

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2021, 03:11:52 pm »
When I pulled a toad... All tow bar connector pins used clevis pins through the pin to prevent loosening.   Never had an issue.

---
Don and Patti

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mikeh

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2021, 06:13:26 pm »
When I pulled a toad... All tow bar connector pins used clevis pins through the pin to prevent loosening.   Never had an issue.

Don, my initial setup from the original installation used the exact tow bar pin and hairpin or clevis pin keeper that you illustrate.  As I mentioned in my original post, that system failed when I somehow lost the passenger side clevis pin which allowed that tow bar connector pin to drop out while I was doing about 65 on the Florida Turnpike.

I felt a little twitch in the RV, and was horrified to see almost one-half of my Jeep running outside the plane of the PC in my passenger side mirror.  I was on a long bridge at the time, and although the Jeep was still running straight and true, it was only about a foot from the bridge railing.  I managed to slow down and get off at the next exit with the Jeep still towing straight, but to the right of my rig, by the driver side tow bar and passenger side safety cable.  Scared the pants off of me, but I was lucky to escape with no damage--just replaced the pin.  I had checked everything as usual at my last stop, so I have no idea how that clevis pin could have come out.

Before my next trip, I replaced that style tow bar pin with the "swivel lock" type that I thought would be more secure--only to have this failure roughly 5000 miles later.  My new tow pin system with padlocks is probably overkill--but by now I guess you could say that I'm a little paranoid.    :beg

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Ron Dittmer

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2021, 06:53:07 pm »
mikeh,

Your story is exactly what I fear while towing.

I use hitch pins with clips "forward" at the hitch and offset hitch.  I once had one locking hitch pin as seen in this picture, but I worried that it was not a reliable locking feature.  I always inspect the connections primarily over fear of tampering.  The best thing any of us can do is inspect our setup often and have spare parts on-hand.

With our Roadmaster setup, I use locks instead of Linchpins for the top connections, the ones most vulnerable to tampering on that end.  It is critical that they "click to lock" completely.  I also set the locks so that if one released, it still would not be able to work it's way out without a very serious bump in the road.  I have to admit locks have their own concern.  I just might go back to Linchpins in the rear top connections.
« Last Edit: October 03, 2021, 07:11:40 pm by Ron Dittmer »
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mikeh

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2021, 11:12:58 pm »
Ron,

I have used the hairpin clips for many, many years to secure pins in many applications--primarily agricultural on tractors and equipment--with never a problem.  I have no idea how that clip could have come out in my failure, but it did.  Obviously I know that any possible tow combination is theoretically subject to failure--but based on all of the input I've seen from various RV forums tow equipment failure is not very common.  That's why I got a little spooked when I experienced two failures in roughly three years and 12,000 miles.  It's not something to be taken lightly---any failure at speed could easily be catastrophic for one's RV, Toad, and surrounding third-party vehicles.  I was very lucky with my first failure on the turnpike that I was in the right-most lane and the failure was on the passenger side.  Traffic was extremely heavy--three lanes, bumper to bumper and crowding each side.  If my Jeep had swerved to the left instead of the right, I very likely would have sideswiped whatever vehicle was to the left of me.  I still get chills thinking about what could have happened.

As I mentioned, I researched the pins with the end keyed locks, but I saw more than one negative review where the lock had unexpectedly come off--and given my recent experience I was looking for a 100% solution so I passed on those.  The 90-degree swivel-lock design looked like it should be fairly foolproof--so I tried those next--but that was a very wrong assumption.  I think my current setup using the padlocks is about as certain as possible.  It's a little bit of hassle but the peace of mind is worth it.

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Ron Dittmer

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2021, 11:56:45 pm »
mikeh,

I take it that you ruled out tampering?
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mikeh

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2021, 09:45:15 am »
mikeh,

I take it that you ruled out tampering?
Ron,

You may remember from earlier posts that I'm a new RV'r---my PC is the first rig I've ever owned.  Also, I don't consider myself to have an "anal personality", but I've been called very "Deliberate"--which I am.  That trip to the Florida Keys was the first major trip in my new rig, other than getting it home from Elkhart.

Given all that, I was being very careful in all aspects of the trip--including inspecting the tow setup before I left every stop.  My previous stop for fuel had been a couple hours earlier, and I looked things over pretty carefully before I climbed back in the cab and left.  One can never absolutely rule out anything of course, but in that combination of circumstances, tampering was extremely unlikely.  Someone would have had to run up (after I looked at my tow pins) and snatched out the clip before I drove away.  After I calmed down from the incident, I went back over everything mentally to try to account for what had happened--but I could come up with nothing.  I remembered looking at the pins and they were in place; there was no other factor that had occurred since that stop that I could point to.

The only thing that I've been able to imagine, is that I install the tow pins from the outside toward the inside, so the retaining clip was on the inside toward the safety cable hook--if you look at my photos in my first post in this topic you can see what I mean.  Although in the Nighthawk tow bar, the safety cables actually route through the tow bar, and are under light tension (so they don't move much), it might be just possible for some type of hook movement to have caught the pin just right to kick it out.  It would have to be a freak thing, but that is about the only possible circumstance I've been able to develop.  As far as the failure of this last "swivel-lock" pin set, that was wear plain and simple--the swivel part wearing against the harder tow bar material actually wore into the spring mechanism, disabling it.  So far, with a couple thousand miles,  my current pin set with the padlocks is showing zero wear and my towing confidence is improving.

Mike
 

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2021, 08:06:29 am »
I use the NSA elite ll.  It comes with pins that have a large D handle at the end for easier removable.  But stock came with hairpin type keepers.  When towing the pins tend to work out so that the keeper pin is tight against the vehicle bars.  Itís tight with the safety cables very close and has to be doing some rubbing in tight turns.  Just wasnít comfortable with that and now use pad locks to secure the pin.  The hardened padlock is much more secure than the flimsy 1/8Ē safety pins.  I carry spares pins from tractor supply.

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mikeh

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Re: Tow Bar Pins
« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2021, 07:34:24 pm »
I use the NSA elite ll.  It comes with pins that have a large D handle at the end for easier removable.  But stock came with hairpin type keepers.  When towing the pins tend to work out so that the keeper pin is tight against the vehicle bars.  Itís tight with the safety cables very close and has to be doing some rubbing in tight turns.  Just wasnít comfortable with that and now use pad locks to secure the pin.  The hardened padlock is much more secure than the flimsy 1/8Ē safety pins.  I carry spares pins from tractor supply.

Tarnold,

I totally agree with you about trying to get whatever retainers you  use away from the safety cable hooks.  I mentioned that I bought  a set of Blue Ox brand pins, which had a little larger retainer hole that would accept a 1/4" padlock shackle.  As it turns out, since my base plate connectors are Blue Ox--my Roadmaster tow bar has Blue Ox connectors mounted on the ends of the arms to mount to the base plates.

There are two things that I really like about this set-up.  First, I found that Blue Ox builds their connector ends and pins to exactly the same dimension--when  the pin is installed with a retainer filling the retainer hole, there is absolutely no room for lateral movement.  Lateral movement in pins is very common with most setups, but if it can be avoided I think that is a plus.  Second, the pin head is blunt, with only a wire ring through the head to grab to pull out the pin.  That can make it a little harder to remove the pin, but there is also nothing to interfere with the safety cable hook.  That means I can install the pins from the inside and put my padlocks on the outside.

Take a look at the photos below and you will see that the head of the pin is jam against the tow bar connector on the inside, and the retainer (in my case a hardened lock shackle) is jam against the connector on the outside.  No lateral movement in the pin and nothing to interfere with the cable hook. I think this combination should be about as foolproof as possible, and so far it's worked well and I've had no problems with it.  I know a lot of RV'ers will think that I'm making a big deal out of a routine thing, but talk to me about that after you have experienced two tow pin failures in your first 12,000 miles of towing!

Mike


IMG_1839 by Michael Henry, on Flickr

IMG_1840 by Michael Henry, on Flickr