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jcsteele

Building an air ride hitch

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First off, I am fully aware of the liability here. 

Hard for me to stomach 2400-3000k for a hitch when I have some spare truck air bags and B&W 25k pivoting hitch head sitting in the shop...plus my best friend is a certified structural welder.

I have an idea in my head but the only thing holding me up is what to use for pivots up front??? Been trying to research it but have found very little.

Also have not quite hashed out a plan for side to side stability but the hamster is turning :-)

thanks!

 

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You cannot beat a man that does this for a living. His first was well his first and it looked like it. He shared this with us. I can weld anything and do it better than most. I can't engineer a hitch that for all intent is perfect. It don't buck, doesn't need a shock either. And he bags it to your pin weight. It has been proven tough enough too. Couple here on forum had a motorhome ram them while stopped at a stoplight. Pushed the hdt and camper into intersection. Hitch stayed hooked and intact. Camper totaled and hitch damaged but hooked. I want and got the ET. 

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Check some posts by BMZero, he did his own air ride hitch. A few others have also.

But for the work you have to put into it and the piece of mind, might be better to just buy one. 

Dave

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Why not just go back to a pup tent. That would save a lot of money also. Henry makes a great and very robust hitch that has been tried and tested.

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If you have the skills you can weld something up. But there is more to it to have something that operates effectively and has longevity. Henry continues to refine the ET family of hitches. He has recently, for example, been working with us (RVHLifestyles) to build "preload" into the hitch for RVs that have light pin weights. This also reduces "bounce" on big bumps. This is just one example of continued refinement of the hitch. There are others. 

I'll provide some free advice - which is worth exactly nothing. The place to economize is not on running gear and hitches. IMO. Sure, if you want to engineer a replacement product like BMZero did, then that is a good thing.....choices are good. But he had the skills and was doing it as a longer-term business project. And that may also be your intention - in which case have at it...but it is not simple to get right. :)

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I, like Glen, am a welder and fabricator.  I have talked to Henry and will buy his hitch when I get to that place.  Why? Because he has done the work of design and engineering and didnt do it for just 1 hitch.  

As a side note-I own 7 welding machines, of various types and capabilities.  And I am a 1 man shop.  There is NO one size fits all available.  I respect and appreciate all that Henry does, communicates and delivers in his product.

 

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Everyone is familiar with the term, "Easier said, than done!".  This would fall into that category.

If your main goal is to save money on ONE hitch for personal use, you will be hard pressed to be able to design and fabricate a safe and functional hitch for less money than you could buy one for.  

Now I realize that as you read that. Above statement you will want to quickly point out that I am crazy because you have a buddy who is a certified welder and an uncle who owns a steel yard or whatever.  The point is that unless you have an engineer on retainer and access to very expensive CAD and design analysis software, and uncles who also own a CNC Table, you will burn through a whole lot of raw components.

When you build something like an air ride hitch, you are constructing something that articulates in motion, yet in any position of operation has to possess inherent strength to withstand impact forces far greater than the rated maximum capacity from forces exerted on multiple planes.

My education is in engineering and my very close friend, a mechanical engineer turned fabricator, who builds off road trophy trucks that routinely drive 140 mph through open desert, has recruited me to help on a few different projects. Even after a whole lot of number crunching, design, simulation and analysis, it is often maddening at how many prototype changes are needed to achieve fruition.  

If you are developing a new product for resale, it is just part of development cost.  If the finished product is going to be made several hundred times, that cost is miniscule.  If it is a one off custom, it is staggering.

The underlying point here is that there is a WHOLE LOT MORE to building a dynamic object than having access to someone who welds and a pile of steel.

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I am slow on the uptake 80% of the time, and just plain stupid the other half the time. But...

I would sell the B plus W unit, and send that money to ET's home as a deposit on the order of a 5th wheel unit (sorry, in the World of Trucks that's wha couples a semi trailer to it's power unit... a hitch pulls a wagon..) I digress - a 5th wheel that is designed to prevent your heavy duty truck from beating your rv trailer to within a inch of it's life... 

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I have a ton of fab equipment and the experience to design and fab a hitch. Did I build one, no I bought a hitch. In fact  bought 4 hitches at wholesale pricing, sold 3 and kept 1.  

Would I build a hitch, yes if I was looking for the challenge but I wouldn't build ONE to save money. Any money saved would be lost because after I finished using it all it is worth is scrap metal. 

Forgot to add. The challenge for me is building something to improve the workmanship or the design. I didn't think I could do either with the designs that are out there.

Edited by J-T

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On 6/18/2017 at 2:26 AM, jcsteele said:

First off, I am fully aware of the liability here. 

Hard for me to stomach 2400-3000k for a hitch when I have some spare truck air bags and B&W 25k pivoting hitch head sitting in the shop...plus my best friend is a certified structural welder.

I have an idea in my head but the only thing holding me up is what to use for pivots up front??? Been trying to research it but have found very little.

Also have not quite hashed out a plan for side to side stability but the hamster is turning :-)

thanks!

 

When I build mine I plan on using Heims or Johnny Joints, have you heard of those? Plenty of guys building 4 link suspensions are using those ends and they stand up to all types of forces.  I think they'll likely stand up to those of your hitch and there's some engineering data out there to prove it.

Edited by Black

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41 minutes ago, Black said:

When I build mine I plan on using Heims or Johnny Joints, have you heard of those? Plenty of guys building 4 link suspensions are using those ends and they stand up to all types of forces.  I think they'll likely stand up to those of your hitch and there's some engineering data out there to prove it.

Have you priced out large Hein joints lately?  The engineering data you are talking about is strictly for inherent ability of the joint, not what it attaches to.

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As an example:  I am an Electrical Engineer (retired).  I consider myself "skilled" in my field.   Occasionally, I get a wild hair and build something that I believe will meet my needs for a specific electronic project.  Usually, my original prototype is often quickly replaced by my version 2, then 3 before I finally settle on 4 or 5.  It is at about that point that it occurs to me that all I did was make something that I could have purchased from another Engineer that surpassed my version in quality, safety and design for less than I spent on my project. I have designed and built scores of Ham Radio transmitters, receivers and even computers over the past 50 years, but I will never do it again.  None can compare to what I can buy ready-made.   Other than occasional self pride and satisfaction it makes no sense to build it myself.   Make no mistake about it - Henry is an Engineer with considerable experience.  He has the skills, resources and most importantly the KNOWLEDGE to build a strong, safe and properly functioning hitch line.  He doesn't try to cheapen a product to make more money.  He is one of those Engineers that is never happy until he has refined and improved to the point of pure perfection.  Using your welding skills, think of all the other things you can build for the HDT that will not require the time and materials you will put into a prototype that will most likely leave you thinking, "Ghee, I wish I had done it like....."

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1 hour ago, VegasFlyer said:

Have you priced out large Hein joints lately?  The engineering data you are talking about is strictly for inherent ability of the joint, not what it attaches to.

I have priced them out, they vary from $15 for a straight heim up to $60-$70 to $115-$135 for some of the more specialized ones with greater degrees of movement and larger shanks.  As for the engineering data, the heim is the weak link in the application so yes, I also acknowledge that the engineering data is strictly for the inherent ability of the joint.

Edited by Black

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I"m going to encourage you to go ahead...if you want to do it "just because".   Designing and building something for yourself is half the fun right?  (Don't let the grumpy old engineers on here discourage you!)  BUT, If you are only doing it to save money, save your time and contact Henry.  Seriously!

I built my own as well, because I wanted to.  I had a different set of requirements than most, an idea I wanted to try, and a truck it would have been a bit hard to slide a "box" into the rear end.   I also had a whole farmyard full of old farm equipment to use for parts, and a NOS pivoting hitch head I had found cheap locally.  But mostly, I just wanted to build my own for fun.

As the pivots and main arms, I used the wheel lift assemblies out of an old field cultivator, with the axle removed.  Dirt simple...a 1-1/2" shaft  pivoting in a "pipe" sleeve on each end, with a 2x3" solid bar welded to them as a "reach".   The sleeves have grease zerks---no fancy bearings--- and are easily replaceable.  I figured if they will last for 20+years bouncing across fields with no significant wear, they will hold up for as long as I need them (and then I can just bolt a new sleeve in place).  

As far as side motion, just put some blocks of UHMW poly on each side of the hitch frame.  Actually, the hard part is the up stops...you need a very strong way to keep the hitch from flipping "up and over" in case of an accident.  

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J C.....

My child, you are such a mere child to come here to this forum of geezers and a$$piring-Geezers and ask such a silly question about building a one-off air hitch………


 

Of course you can build your own one-off air hitch and if you need “approval” it is herebye “granted”


 

Somehow I have become liabled and named as the teller of tales here in the forum and this is a testiment of the skill of the forum population in general to judge fish tales and skills of wife management or mi$$-management…….


 

Unlike Jack , my advice is precious and should be very highly valued so……..listen up.


 

Now that you have been “approved” for hitch building lets get started……

First call Henry…….talk him into sending you ALL the current drawings AND talk him into having you named on his insurance policy…...Hint: chat Stinson airplanes he is a push over with Stinsons….


 

Second…..if Henry cant find his drawings…...just have him send you a hitch on the China-program…...you know …..where you just take the hitch apart and clone it …..sorta…..just guess at the various grades of metalic components and treatments…….


 

Third…...If Henry cant find his “loaner-hitch”…...just go to the photo section of the forum and gaze upon the large selection of hitch-pics there …….shucks with that many photos anyone could cobble-together a air-hitch and likely improve it as well…..


 

Back in the stone age I was charged with saving the free world…...it was harder back then because the Ruskies did not like us exceptionals…….anyhow I had these jobs where my “uniform” involved strapping on a parachute…….I swaggered around like a cool-fool and thought I had a great job …….BUT think about this for a moment…….parachutes are bulky and have lots of catchy buckles and things hanging out that tend to be come fouled with everything that you walk by…….now most aircraft designers seem to think that only chimps will try to get into the aircraft so the cockpits and doors are only chimp-sized and NO way designed for ba too-big-hillbilly wearing a parachute…..


 

Ok where was I……..oh ya…...a couple I was looking for some long lost treasures in the back of the shop and stummbled upon a shelf full of……..parachutes…….gulp……


 

Guess what they still have my name on every chute but……..somehow they just don't fit a fat-old-stooped-over-geezer……...imagine that?


 

So J C …….if you are too young to be a geezer …...go ahead strap on that chute and hope that you don't need to use it IF the one-off hitch has a “hick-up” …….shucks I have graduated to Geezer-status and have used up at least 25 lives and then some……...so as Dirty Harry used to say…….”Ya feeling lucky”…….go ahead.


 

Now my Di$$claimer……..I currently tow with a couple of hitches that I cobbled togeather and they are OVERBUILT…...HEAVY…….UGLY, but they work ok but they are OVER-BOLTED to rigs that had no hitch factory built for so I had no viable choice but to cobble my own…...I can weld but I have a complete machine shop so too many LARGE quality bolts work well for my current hitch needs so thats what I did……


 

My advice……...go buy a old Stinson 108-2 airplane ande trade it to Henry for a hitch…...he is a push-over for Stinson's……


 

Drive on……….(Stinsons make nice hitch trades…..)

Edited by Dollytrolley

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I built one 5 years ago and am still using it, 

i can send u pics , 

Email: bobackert@gmail.com

 

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Is there anyone on this forum that is not a damn Engineer:rolleyes: Henry and I were literally talking about that earlier this afternoon and I told him I am just a dumb truck driver and cannot possibly keep up with all of you super brainiacs :huh: 

Maybe after I pay for my hitch I can talk him in to making me a honorary Engineer wannabe B)

 

PS, A ET will be a bit more than 2-3K......just sayin

Edited by 13speed

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OK, since I am being mentioned "liberally" perhaps I can add some "insight".

There is something about hitches that draws tinkerers, after all, all I have to do is to look in the mirror. There are also two truths about doing it. If you want to build one off to prove that you have the stones, coohones, whatever, go for it, as many here encouraged

If it is to save money, forget it, fool's errand. Two ways to save money are, you are using scrap or leftover material and parts and you uncle is a welder and will weld for nothing (if you are a welder, obviously you will not charge yourself anything). You are cannibalizing someone else's hitch for major parts, which means it is not truly one off. In all those instances you have not paid a fair price for anything.

Can it be done, sure, I did it on my "first effort".

52NlFj2l.jpg

Started with an old solid Reese added some rails, added two airbags, had little welding done, bought some nuts and bolts, I GOT MYSELF AN AIR HITCH AND SAVED MONEY!!!!!!!! compared to the Trailer Saver that was my other option then.

Yea it was an air hitch and it worked like a piece of crap. When I sold the International it was in I installed the original hard hitch that was in it before and threw this one in the trash. I didn't want to try to explain the "value of the creation" to the next owner.

Anything "one off" is a prototype. No prototype, ever, survives to production, not my prototypes, not anybody's. As Randy astutely pointed out, it takes 3-4-5 iterations before all the things "overlooked", "not thought off", "not tested", etc., etc., are flushed out. What this often means that things just cannot be made better, or fixed to move on, it often means that this first, second, third, etc., prototype is simply heaved into a dumpster. And if this was an honest attempt of engineering and manufacturing and you paid for everything you should pay for it is a very expensive heave into a dumpster.

When I was designing the ET my option back then was still a Trailer Saver at that time for under $3,000, but I decided to "prototype" an ET.

LYnn6Tol.jpg

Out of pocket costs to get to this point, $6,500 and of course all my time, about three months worth, was "free".

Oh, did you guys notice the fenders I built, I saved myself money building these. The pair ended in the dumpster when I built the deck.

Over the 10 years of its existence the ET was redesigned 5 times to increase it's capacity, make it easier to manufacture, or respond the changes in the RV industry, Jack mentioned a bit about the latest "improvement". 

As I said, I am not against anyone with "coohones" trying to do this, I am helping a local fellow do just that, he's been hanging around my shop pumping me for tips and suggestions. I feel it's my responsibility to point out to him things that would make his "prototype" unsafe. He is planning to use one of my Super Binkleys

2KHGO81l.jpg

and I am making sure that he mounts it right.

Edited by phoenix2013

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22 hours ago, 13speed said:

Is there anyone on this forum that is not a damn Engineer:rolleyes: Henry and I were literally talking about that earlier this afternoon and I told him I am just a dumb truck driver and cannot possibly keep up with all of you super brainiacs :huh: 

Maybe after I pay for my hitch I can talk him in to making me a honorary Engineer wannabe B)

 

PS, A ET will be a bit more than 2-3K......just sayin

Chris, you might want to reconsider that Honorary Engineering Certificate after you see this one.

jm2E9nPl.jpg

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I appreciate everyone's opinion!

Am I going to attempt to build one? Maybe, I don't know yet, I have plenty of time to think about it.

But it's sort of feeling like everyone is getting the wrong idea.... I in NO WAY want to produce hitches. I simply was seeking advice on a hitch for me and me only.

just to clarify :-)

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1 hour ago, jcsteele said:

I appreciate everyone's opinion!

Am I going to attempt to build one? Maybe, I don't know yet, I have plenty of time to think about it.

But it's sort of feeling like everyone is getting the wrong idea.... I in NO WAY want to produce hitches. I simply was seeking advice on a hitch for me and me only.

just to clarify :-)

jc, if you list some general ideas and the concept what you are trying to build I'm sure you'll get lots of good advice what to do and what to avoid. I don't have any problem sharing my experience.

The only cautionary thing many brought up was that you need an "adequate budget", otherwise what you come up with might not be safe, perform as needed, or you might not be too proud to showcase it.

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I understand that and thank you!

 

i guess I don't really expect to build one "cheaper"... just for some reason my young, weird brain can stomach $500 here and $500 there to build something (I will do it over a few months) versus just handing over $3,000-$5,000 in one fail swoop...

what can I say, I'm weird! Lol

at least in my brain, so far the only thing I can't get ironed out is an adequate pivot material... I would make it greasable but I am trying to find an adequate hardened bushing in the 1.5" to 2" ID size range.

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1 hour ago, jcsteele said:

I understand that and thank you!

 

i guess I don't really expect to build one "cheaper"... just for some reason my young, weird brain can stomach $500 here and $500 there to build something (I will do it over a few months) versus just handing over $3,000-$5,000 in one fail swoop...

what can I say, I'm weird! Lol

at least in my brain, so far the only thing I can't get ironed out is an adequate pivot material... I would make it greasable but I am trying to find an adequate hardened bushing in the 1.5" to 2" ID size range.

JC.........Wonder over to Newhouse Manufacturing in Redmond ...........Likely before your parents were born was building STRONG ROBUST CUSTOM machinery and the components and Inventory IS what you walk into when you when you open the front door including turn table bearings to 500,000 LBS.........IF you do not see what you need speak up they will likely have it out on one of the other buildings........Prices are fair.....

 

Drive on.........(Newhouse has it all.......)

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