We trail our Acura TSX using a Blue Ox package and we are equipped with a Brake Buddy. On this Florida trip as we were heading toward the central part of the state on a county road off RT 441, I felt a strange sensation at the rear of our Chinook and as I looked out through the rear view mirror and on our rearview TV screen I was horrified to watch the car wobble and let loose. Fortunately, we were in a slow traffic area and of all things, a employee of a local RV dealer was right behind us! He bounded from his truck and grabbed the car that was slowly rolling backwards, opened the door, and pulled the emergency brake. I stopped and saw the entire Blue Ox, safety chains, and break-away wire still attached to the car.
Here’s what happened. The Chinook factory fabricated receiver hitch had broken and pulled away from the frame. Upon examination, we saw that it was quite rusted and possibly it had not been welded correctly. I had been noticing a slight bending of the entire rig at our last campsite, but while it worried me, I dismissed it as simply an accumulated effect of stress.
We were able to drive both the RV and the car since there had been no damage. We followed the RV person in his truck to Nichols RV service. Now Nichols RV is attempting to have a new receiver hitch fabricated to replace the broken one. We found a Ford E350 hitch at the local U-Haul dealer, but it was far too large for our application and we had to return it. We spent the night with Kathy and Bob Brick (as our trip had planned), but were not able to sleep over the worry. We called Nichols, who said they were working with a welder certified to make case 4 hitches and they hoped to have a solution by the next day by noon. We spent another night with the Bricks - a little less stressed. We were able to let Fort DeSoto Park know we would be coming a day late (we did not want to lose our reservation there) and had a slightly better night’s sleep.
Nichols RV did refabricate the receiver hitch (subcontracting to a class 4 welder person) from the old part and installed it ($600). It took 2 days and fortunately we were able to stay with friends, Bob & Kathy Brick who live in the Villages about 25 miles from the RV Dealer. We are still traumatized by the event but we drove and trailed the car with no incident to our next stop, Fort DeSoto. Our Florida trip is saved!
I (Tom) should have been suspicious when I had been noticing the extension and Blue Ox were leaning down and touching the bottom step. If you have a trailer, watch for that tell-tale sign because your hitch is weakening! I also noticed a lot of sway in the towed car. As it was weakened, the metal was being worked even more until it just snapped. Because that rear step requires almost a 3 foot extension, there is a lot of lever arm action on the receiver hitch.