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John E Davies

Bulldog coupler destroys Anderson ball

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I have sent an email to Bulldog and to Anderson, and I have notified Jason at the factory; I am re-posting it here as a heads up and to get input from Anderson owners. I have not seen mention of this particular issue on any forums.

 

IF you are experiencing severe and uneven wear, please degrease the inside of your coupler and the ball, and take pics so we can see if my situation is more than a fluke. This ball has 700 miles on it, with grease:

 

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EMAIL SENT TO BULLDOG AND ANDERSON:

 

Hi, I have a new Oliver Legacy Elite II travel trailer, purchased new 05/15/17. It currently has 4100 miles on it. It came from the factory with a 2 inch/ 7000 pound Bulldog coupler bolted to the aluminum tongue. The inside of the socket has two raised areas that are destroying the balls.

 

I first used a 2 inch chrome ball and towed for about 3200 miles as a dead weight. Tongue weight was about 650 pounds. Wear was bad, but tolerable since the ball only costs $10.

 

Now I have an Anderson weight distributing hitch. In just 700 miles, the forward thrust of the chains is VERY SEVERELY wearing the 2 inch/ 10,000 pound Anderson ball where the raised pressure points are in back. This is unacceptable since a replacement ball is $50 plus shipping.

 

https://andersenhitches.com/Products/3382--wd-2-replacement-ball-tapered-10k-gtwr.aspx

 

I have kept the ball and coupler lubed with synthetic grease but it does not appear to help.

 

I need to know if I can get a replacement coupler sent at no charge under warranty, and also a reimbursement for the purchase of a new Anderson ball.

 

Is the wear I am experiencing unusual? I have seen NO mention of this on forum discussions.

 

Also, with a new coupler, can I manually “lap” the ball and socket together by using an old ball and valve grinding compound, to eliminate the high spots before towing? Or is there another way you recommend to prevent the coupler from abusing the new ball?

 

Thanks,

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

 

 

 

 

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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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John:

 

I have experienced a similar wear pattern as shown in your pictures, and probably have fewer miles towing than you. The wear showed up after the first 500 miles, towing with a dry ball per the Andersen recommendation. I too sent an email to Andersen, c/o Justin in customer service. His reply was in the nature of "Oh, that is normal, they all do that."

 

Since then I have been greasing the ball, but I don't think it has helped much. The reason I can say this is that when I replaced the brake lining cone under the ball (due to excessive groaning) I rotated the ball 180 degrees to present a new wear surface. Sure enough, after the next trip there was fresh wear on the "new" back side of the ball, even though I had given it a good coating of grease.

 

At this point I don't know which component is at fault. One could blame the bulldog coupler as destroying the Andersen hitch ball. One could also say that the Andersen hitch ball has been inadequately surface hardened. I don't know what the Brinell hardness of the coupler and the hitch ball are, but I bet some nitriding of the ball would improve its resistance to wear.

 

I think the root cause is the use of bolt on components without a real understanding of the issues raised when they are used together. Some time ago I sent an inquiry to the folks at Bulldog and told them I would be using an Andersen hitch which by design would put an extra 4000 lb horizontal load on the coupler. It didn't appear it was something they had ever thought about, and their reply suggested that, to be on the safe side, I should use their 2 5/16" coupler rated at 12,500 lbs vice 7000 lbs.

 

I don't know what the real solution is. Seems to me it might involve some combination of better surface hardening of their hitch ball by Andersen, and use of the 2 5/16" coupler by Oliver (which would not cost any more). In any event I have stayed calm believing that if the wear on the ball became excessive, Andersen would (I hope) replace it under their lifetime warranty on the hitch. They have been very stand up with respect to brake lining cone replacement.

 

It might be helpful if Oliver had a conference call with Bulldog and Andersen with a goal of improving the compatability of the two components. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

John Shkor

SailorsAshore

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Well it is great to see that John is hooking his Andersen WD up properly. Unfortunately the wear on the ball is normal when our hitch is used as designed. With the chains correctly tensioned the coupler does push on the back of the ball and will leave evidence of that. With our WD hitch and a regular coupler the locking claw leaves a (smiley face) in the chrome plating because the ball is designed to be softer than the claw so the trailer is not having excessive wear in inconspicuous safety related spots. It seams to wear rapidly at first then it stops once the initial wear has settled in. Anytime there is metal on metal friction there will be wear, even with grease. As we can see from John's original ball, the difference is where it happens. Is it on the top and front of the ball with a traditional hitch or is it on the backside with the Andersen? If the ball is harder than the coupler the ball will not show much sign of wear but the inside of the trailer coupler will, however; that often goes unnoticed until it is to late.  With the design of the Bulldog coupler there is a different wear pattern on the ball and it should wear to a point similar to the photo John provided then neutralize. This should not affect the performance or the safety of the connection at all.

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As John requested, here are a couple of pictures of my ball.  This ball has about 4,600 miles on it.  While it is difficult to tell from the pictures, I do not consider the wear to be excessive - it appears to me that basically the chrome plating has worn in the spots shown, but, there are no real gouges or divots that would indicate to me that anything was amiss.

 

Bill

 

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2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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It's impossible to get away from wear when you have a forged, two piece coupler on a machined ball.  Under normal circumstances, this would be predominantly on the top area of the ball, due to the tongue weight down force.  This is where mine shows wear and it was expected.  But with the particular design of the Anderson, there is a very large and constant forward force applied to the ball.  The Bulldog coupler doesn't seem to really be designed for this, but is perfectly capable of handling it as long as the sliding sleeve does it's job.  The way the two forged pieces come together to enclose the ball doesn't describe a perfect spherical shape to match the ball and there has to be some grinding.

 

Load leveling hitches in general put a lot of force of the coupling/ball interface.  Anderson used to say not to grease this interface, but I've recommended to always grease it.

 

Bottom line:  There will always be wear with this design.  The chrome finish is the first to go.  The ball and socket fit will never be perfect.  Wear will be much faster with load leveling than with a simple coupling.

 

I've never been a big fan of the Anderson design, but with the tongue design of the Oliver and the factory offering only this brand and design, it seems there will have to be some maintenance or replaced parts occasionally.

 

I doubt anyone really needs one of these special hitches as the Oliver is incredibly stable by nature.  Heavier rear springs or air bags would handle the tongue weight more efficiently than the awkward geometry of the tensioned chain design.  If damping was needed, and I doubt it is, a strut design might be better than the cone clutch and chains of the Anderson that seems to always be making too much noise and need replacement.

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John


"I only exaggerate enough to compensate for being taken with a grain of salt."


LE2 #92 (sold),   Black Series HQ19   

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Well it is great to see that John is hooking his Andersen WD up properly. Unfortunately the wear on the ball is normal when our hitch is used as designed. With the chains correctly tensioned the coupler does push on the back of the ball and will leave evidence of that. With our WD hitch and a regular coupler the locking claw leaves a (smiley face) in the chrome plating because the ball is designed to be softer than the claw so the trailer is not having excessive wear in inconspicuous safety related spots. It seams to wear rapidly at first then it stops once the initial wear has settled in. Anytime there is metal on metal friction there will be wear, even with grease. As we can see from John’s original ball, the difference is where it happens. Is it on the top and front of the ball with a traditional hitch or is it on the backside with the Andersen? If the ball is harder than the coupler the ball will not show much sign of wear but the inside of the trailer coupler will, however; that often goes unnoticed until it is to late. With the design of the Bulldog coupler there is a different wear pattern on the ball and it should wear to a point similar to the photo John provided then neutralize. This should not affect the performance or the safety of the connection at all.

Sage, the wear you posted is not the same as the wear I am experiencing. Mine is highly concentrated in one area and it is eating out a deep canyon in the steel. There is no way that this can be considered "normal".

 

I heard back from Bulldog and the only way they will do any kind of warranty exchange is if I send them the coupler and the Anderson ball for "evaluation". The rep did say that the coupler should not wear the ball like that if kept lubricated. He did not address my questions about the special way the Anderson "back loads" the ball very heavily.

 

There is no way I will risk having my trailer inoperative during the summer - I have many trips planned. I will send them the two parts late this Fall and see what happens.

 

I plan to ask them to send me a 2 5/16 inch 10K coupler, and I will order a 2 5/16 inch Anderson ball. I hope that the larger surface area will mitigate the wear. I also plan to do some very close inspection and testing with Dykem machinist layout dye to find the high spots on the coupler and then either grind or lap them down, BEFORE towing.

 

Hopefully my existing coupler is a bad one. I can't imagine them all being that roughly forged inside the ball cavity.

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

 

 


"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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I guess the bright side John is that if it wears enough, you'll have an extra element of sway control as the hitch settles into the groove.  You won't be able to turn of course, but if you keep it straight it should at least be stable.

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Snowball • 256 • 2018 Ford Raptor

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Well it is great to see that John is hooking his Andersen WD up properly. Unfortunately the wear on the ball is normal when our hitch is used as designed. With the chains correctly tensioned the coupler does push on the back of the ball and will leave evidence of that. With our WD hitch and a regular coupler the locking claw leaves a (smiley face) in the chrome plating because the ball is designed to be softer than the claw so the trailer is not having excessive wear in inconspicuous safety related spots. It seams to wear rapidly at first then it stops once the initial wear has settled in. Anytime there is metal on metal friction there will be wear, even with grease. As we can see from John’s original ball, the difference is where it happens. Is it on the top and front of the ball with a traditional hitch or is it on the backside with the Andersen? If the ball is harder than the coupler the ball will not show much sign of wear but the inside of the trailer coupler will, however; that often goes unnoticed until it is to late. With the design of the Bulldog coupler there is a different wear pattern on the ball and it should wear to a point similar to the photo John provided then neutralize. This should not affect the performance or the safety of the connection at all.

Sage, the wear you posted is not the same as the wear I am experiencing. Mine is highly concentrated in one area and it is eating out a deep canyon in the steel. There is no way that this can be considered “normal”. I heard back from Bulldog and the only way they will do any kind of warranty exchange is if I send them the coupler and the A

 

John,

 

It depends on what you describe as "normal".  I consider what you are experiencing as normal considering the design. Anderson proudly says their balls are soft, so wear will happen.  The ball turns with the coupler in this design, so the wear will be concentrated in one spot.  It would be even worse if you followed Anderson's original recommendation to NOT grease the ball.  The Bulldog coupler is not accurately machined to fit a ball precisely, so you will get wear in spots.  This is not a defective coupler as it is never a problem with a hardened ball with a downforce from the coupler.  And finally, the Bulldog is not designed to be used with the extreme forward push the Anderson hitch applies to it.  It can take it, as it is a good design, but that is not a force it is set up for.

 

Not to be too negative, but when you look at the history of the Anderson hitch and the comments they make about how to use it and their responses to problems, it seems obvious it's not a perfected product.  They do stand behind it, but the public is doing the Beta testing for them.

 

The frame clamps are marginal, the balls are soft and wear, the geometry of the chain design gives limited weight distribution, the friction/sway clutch fails and has been a big problem with lots of warrantee replacements, first they recommended no grease on the ball and then they said to grease it, they have even recommended  turning off the stability control on the TV if  your vehicle is unstable while using the Anderson, etc.

 

Don't blame this on Bulldog.  Their couplings are very strong and a bit crude, but they will go forever with a good ball and no heavy and continuous forward load.   If you want to reduce the localized wear on the ball, best to grind the inside of the socket to better match the ball in the wear area.  Just don't be surprised that this is happening.

 

As a comparison, I have towed about 4,000  miles with my Oliver with no special hitch.  Just a ball in the Bulldog.  I make a point of going deep into the mountains and desert.  The last trip I was in low range, 1st gear for a long way up a rocky trail.  My Ram was spinning the tires trying to pull Ollie up there through lots of holes and over rocks.   This is fairly normal for our use.  The ball is polished and some chrome warn off.  No big deal.  The inside of the Bulldog coupling looks new except for some grease and dirt.   I have a conventional tow ball available anywhere for about $15.

 

I have an Anderson hitch that came with my Ollie.  It sits in the garage and has never been used by me.  No need to because Oliver's are very stable and the Anderson design doesn't make sense to me.


John


"I only exaggerate enough to compensate for being taken with a grain of salt."


LE2 #92 (sold),   Black Series HQ19   

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I agree with Raspy above. I have towed my Oliver all over the west including almost every mountain range without an Anderson hitch. There is no effect from big rigs on the highway and very little effect from wind. These trailers tow like small boats...no need for fancy towing gear. My ball has no excessive wear and has been in use for over five years.

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Update: I towed about 800 more miles since posting. The wear on the ball seems to have stabilized (as shown in the first pictures). I am going to live with it for now. I am still unhappy but if needed I will get a new 2 5/16 replacement coupler and matching Anderson ball.

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

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"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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Mark:  what is the status of your 2 5/16" ball request?

 

thanks,

 

Geronimo John

 

 


Tug:  2019 F-150 SuperCrew Lariat, 3.5L EcoBoost, Max Trailer Tow, FX-4, 4X4, Rear Locker

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Or, a nice case of making lemonade out of lemons.

 

Did you try asking that they leave the coupler off and then attach the 2 5/16th the moment after delivery?

 

Bill


2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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Did you try asking that they leave the coupler off and then attach the 2 5/16th the moment after delivery?

 

Bill

 

Bill, I am pretty sure that would never fly, they have to be able to couple up each trailer to move it around the production line and the coupler goes on when the frame is built, essentially Step 1 of the build.

 

I would be willing to bet that there is a factory policy to have just one coupler size only. While a 2 5/16 inch Bulldog coupler, which is self adjusting, probably would stay connected to a factory tug with a 2 inch ball, there is no guarantee that it would not pop off at the worst possible time.

 

Their rear service lot is pretty darned lumpy and I can imagine a brand new Ollie coming loose and swinging into an adjacent new unit, or one belonging to a customer waiting for service.... oops, that would be a really hard thing to explain and also a liability nightmare.

 

They probably don’t hook up the safety chains or breakaway cable when moving them around at a walking pace. Though they really should.

 

As an aircraft mechanic I often moved VERY expensive small planes around (outside) by myself, but never ever without a spotter when near a building; I would have been crucified if I had not followed all safety guidelines. I wonder how hard they enforce the rules about moving trailers within the factory? Having two different ball sizes would significantly complicate normal operations.

 

Just thinking.

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA


"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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My request for an upgrade to the 2 5/16″ Bulldog was a no-go. I’ll take care of this at some point; it’s a simple swap out affair and not really needed to tow the OTT. It was only an inconvenience simply because everything I currently own is 2 5/16. But I now own a nice combo unit which meets my needs, including a 2″ ball.

 

I'm pretty much in the same boat.  Three other trailers with 2 5/16" hitches.  Plus, the bigger ball just seems a bit better, but not necessary for normal Oliver loads.   I'm not running the anti-sway hitch so that is not a factor.   In any negotiations with Oliver about changes, it might be better to leave this one alone because it's just an outside mechanical switch to something else and nothing that requires work to the electrical system or body.

 

I converted mine to the 2 5/16" coupler and posted a couple of pix on "Modifications to hull #92" in the modifications section.

 

This modification does not affect anything else on the trailer and can be done at home quite easily.  The new "blank" just has to be drilled and then it slips right on.  The new piece isn't really much stronger as it's the exact same channel welded to a slightly bigger ball coupler.  It's mainly the ball that is reliably stronger.  Instead of looking for the highest rated 2" ball just to meat the GVW of the trailer, you can easily find a 2 5/16" ball rated for twice that, or 14,000 lbs.

 

My truck also has the class 5 receiver (2 1/2") and was bushed down to 2" for the stinger I was using.  So I switched to a 2 1/2" stinger at the same time which got rid of a lot of play and rattling.  I've also found that if you get a steel tube stinger, instead of a solid forged one, the tube type fits a bit tighter.  Then I installed a 5/8" Grade 5 bolt and nylock nut as a pin (select a bolt with 3" of unthreaded shank.  This turns out to be about a 5" bolt)  This method is very strong and the bolt/pin cannot escape.  It reduces the chance of theft and it can pinch the receiver tube down just a bit to eliminate any side to side play.  Works very well.

 

 


John


"I only exaggerate enough to compensate for being taken with a grain of salt."


LE2 #92 (sold),   Black Series HQ19   

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John - Sorry, but I thought that most of your comments would have been fairly obvious - regarding the moving of the trailer  through the production process.  I should have been a bit more specific.  What I meant was that the coupler would be left off the price of the camper or possibly applied to the cost of the new one to be installed just after delivery by the guys in the Service area.  However, it sure would be interesting to see just how the guys would get an Oliver down the production line without the ability to tow it via a hitch.  In the time that I've spent on the factory floor, I've never seen anyone use safety chains and/or breakaway cables when towing.  I must admit to being a bit nervous when it was Twist being pushed around.

 

Bill


2017 Ford F150 Lariat 3.5EB FX4 Max Towing 2016 Oliver Elite II - Hull #117 "Twist"

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This modification does not affect anything else on the trailer and can be done at home quite easily. The new “blank” just has to be drilled and then it slips right on. The new piece isn’t really much stronger as it’s the exact same channel welded to a slightly bigger ball coupler. It’s mainly the ball that is reliably stronger. Instead of looking for the highest rated 2″ ball just to meat the GVW of the trailer, you can easily find a 2 5/16″ ball rated for twice that, or 14,000 lbs.

 

Do you think it would it be possible to redrill the new coupler or the tongue itself to move the coupler out a little,  say three inches, beyond the factory position?

 

I am away from home, or I would run out and look.

 

Thanks,

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA


"Mouse":  2017 Legacy Elite II NARV (Not An RV) Two Beds, Hull Number 218, See my HOW TO threads: https://olivertraveltrailers.com/topic/john-e-davies-how-to-threads-and-tech-articles-links/

Tow Vehicle: 2013 Land Cruiser 200, 33" LT tires, airbags.

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This modification does not affect anything else on the trailer and can be done at home quite easily. The new “blank” just has to be drilled and then it slips right on. The new piece isn’t really much stronger as it’s the exact same channel welded to a slightly bigger ball coupler. It’s mainly the ball that is reliably stronger. Instead of looking for the highest rated 2″ ball just to meat the GVW of the trailer, you can easily find a 2 5/16″ ball rated for twice that, or 14,000 lbs.

Do you think it would it be possible to redrill the new coupler or the tongue itself to move the coupler out a little, say three inches, beyond the factory position?

 

I am away from home, or I would run out and look.

 

Thanks,

 

John Davies

 

Spokane WA

 

 

John,

 

My trailer has the telescoping tongue, so it's a simple matter of pulling out the cross bolt, behind the coupler,and extending the tongue to where you want it.  I don't remember how far it can be extended.  Does yours have this telescoping tongue?

 

Later models did away with this telescoping feature, and so to answer your question with respect to those, no.  The bolts are only 2" from the end of the aluminum box that mounts the coupler, so it can't be moved forward and the coupler itself is already at a leverage disadvantage, so it's bolts, (the coupler bolts) should not, or could not, be moved 3" farther back to move it forward..

 

There is so much strain at that location that sleeves were installed by Oliver to help distribute the load from the coupler bolts to the aluminum box tube. These sleeves are 7/16" ID, about 3/4" OD and just under 3" long.  They resist the pinching load from the coupler bolts and distribute the towing forces to 3/4" holes in the box tongue.   I found the 7/16" holes in the coupler were slightly elongated from the strain, but the tongue was fine.  The coupler bolt nuts had run out of threads and bottomed before adequately pinching the coupler against the tongue and it's sleeves, so the bolts were in pure shear and able to move slightly.  The fix for this was to add a grade 8, 7/16" fender washer on each side of the coupler, on each bolt.  Now it sucks up nice and tight.

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John


"I only exaggerate enough to compensate for being taken with a grain of salt."


LE2 #92 (sold),   Black Series HQ19   

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Or, a nice case of making lemonade out of lemons.

Did you try asking that they leave the coupler off and then attach the 2 5/16th the moment after delivery?

Bill

 

It doesn't really work that way. The 2 5/16" coupler comes not-drilled. So thre is a bit of measuring and drilling involved. It is almost identical and fits the frame exactly as the 2" coupler does.

 

Also, this will not stop the ball wear.

 

For those using the Anderson hitch, you might check with them to see if they offer a 2 5/16 ball or not.

 

I switched to the bigger ball and I'm glad I did, but it's partly to match other trailers I have and not entirely for strength.


John


"I only exaggerate enough to compensate for being taken with a grain of salt."


LE2 #92 (sold),   Black Series HQ19   

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If they leave the hitch off, at the factoryy, how are they going to move it to the showroom for pickup or around?

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If they leave the hitch off, at the factoryy, how are they going to move it to the showroom for pickup or around?

 

They would not have to leave it off. It could be easily swapped in about a minute with a previously drilled 2 5/16" coupler, right before pickup, with the new owner. Also, the 2 5/16" coupler would work fine with a 2" ball for moving it around the factory. I move mine all around the place with my tractor and a 2" ball mounted to the bucket.

 

 


John


"I only exaggerate enough to compensate for being taken with a grain of salt."


LE2 #92 (sold),   Black Series HQ19   

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That's how it worked with my hitch, though Oliver ended up keeping the hitch when I took it for a test fitting and then had it ready for me at delivery.

 

Since my hitch won't work with a standard receiver, I just leave my receiver with them whenever I take it in for service so that they can move the trailer around.


Snowball • 256 • 2018 Ford Raptor

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If the ball is harder than the coupler the ball will not show much sign of wear but the inside of the trailer coupler will, however; that often goes unnoticed until it is to late.

 

Makes sense. I learn something interesting and/or helpful every time I visit this forum.


Onward through the Fog!


EarthPicks of Cochise County


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