Wheelhouse Journey

Trailer Equalizer Hitch Repair in a Carl’s Jr. Parking Lot

by Aug 22, 2017Travel

We began our day in Sutherlin, OR, having our usual morning coffee, and not in a huge rush to leave our site even though checkout was at 11. The route we had planned was to go through Eugene for a grocery stop at Target, fuel up at Fred Meyer – which by comparison to other gas stations in Oregon is about 15 cents cheaper – and then head to our next campsite on the McKenzie River. At Fred Meyer Nancy noticed our right trailer tire was a little low. After checking it, it was about 4 PSI lower than the left. We figured that after we left the gas station, we’d find another parking lot to fill the tire using the portable pump we bought before leaving Minnesota.

This is where our afternoon turned a little “exciting”.

Making our way towards the highway, we decided to stop in a random parking lot, get out the portable pump and fill the tire. After connecting the pump and the additional extension cord for the 12V cigarette lighter, we find it was about 10 feet short!

Lesson learned #1 – make sure before you leave on a cross-country trip, that if you buy a pump and extension cord, it gets you to the tire you want to inflate.

So at this point, we’re in Eugene, have stopped at Target, Fred Meyer and a random parking lot. Still thinking we need to fill the tire to make it the 60 more miles we need to go, we left the parking lot with intention of finding another gas station – this time with a tire pump. As we were approaching the exit for the parking lot (not the one we entered through) I noticed a pretty large dip in the road. My first thought was that our trailer drainpipes were going to scrape as we drove through it – they’re small diameter and really flimsy. Surely we are going to hit and it will rip these right off. As we proceeded through the dip, there was a loud metal scraping sound. Insert expletives here. Well I was wrong, something else hit and scraped against the ground. This time I thought it was the power jack stand. Now we need to stop a fourth time in Eugene to check out possible trailer damage.

Finding a place to pull over, away from traffic, was a little difficult in the area we were in. After some time, we found a residential area and pulled in front of house where a guy was watering his lawn. Both Nancy and I got out of the truck to take a look when she spotted the L bracket/link plates (which connects to the frame for the weight distribution system) was about 20 degrees off vertical. When this system is setup properly, it controls the trailer sway, and in this condition it would not have been safe to drive with. Now that we knew what the problem was, I knew we had the tools to fix it. We just needed to find an empty parking area – a fifth stop in Eugene.

Before we left Minnesota, we bought all the tools necessary to make hitch adjustments, mainly because we got a new truck. We never did have to make any, prompting me for a moment at the time to think about returning all of them. I’m so glad we kept them!

Lesson learned #2 – If you are traveling long-term, you can never have too many tools. Things WILL break down.

After what seemed like an eternity trying to find somewhere to pull off the road in a busy area of Eugene, we found a Carl’s Jr. with enough space to park our rig and make the repairs. All of the parts that make up the weight distribution system are under a lot of pressure and need to withstand the twisting and turning metal. We brought along a 250 ft-lb torque wrench to properly tighten all of the parts that loosened during the bottom-out.

Lesson learned #3 – Get a torque wrench to properly tighten all bolts of your system. This will give you confidence that you’re driving a safe rig.

We didn’t get a before picture in all of the craziness, but the pictures below show the L bracket that was moved, now in its proper position, and the trailer jacked up and safely at our new campsite. By reading a lot of blogs and watching videos before we left Minnesota, we knew that things would break down on the road. We were fortunate to get this fixed ourselves and we had the right tools!



Eric is a freelance engineer, self-taught web developer, photographer & adventurer. He loves the outdoors and exploring the country with his wife and pup.


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