Trailer Hitches & towing; accessories.


jamescooper

New member
I hope I don't offend for posting this in the wrong place. I'm sure I saw info on this here but I cannot find it again.

To the point: There are a couple of vanagon hitches for sale on eBay. They are the type that mount to the towing loops on the rear bumper. Do these work ok? I want to be able to tow a 3 rail trailer with 1-3 street motorcycles on it.

I used to drive old split windows but am getting my first "wet" bus next week - an 87 Westy with 79k on the motor. I'm psyched!

- James
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
The Vanagon does allow trailer towing per your owners manual, but with enough warnings to make OSHA seem reckless. There have been weight-bearing frame hitches sold aftermarket and through some dealers specifically designed for the Vanagons.

The manual specifies a LOAD BEARING, FRAME MOUNTED hitch. Even this is restricted to 165# tongue weight. The maximum weight of the trailer AND load combined is 1320#, or 1600# if the trailer is equipped with brakes.

You may rightfully call those hitches that just bolt through the towing eyes "gadgets." Tongue weight is a vertical load. The tow eyes are for a horizontal pull only. The design and welding is not meant to withstand that up & down stress. A tonque weight of 165# will be doubled or tripled with jounces and dips, so I'd consider that style hitch dangerous.

:eek: Also please consider a hitch failure could wreck the tow vehicle, or worse, wreck another car.
 
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jamescooper

New member
Thanks for the reply - its just as I suspected, a neat idea but useless in application.

I suppose that I'll have a real setup built and put on the vanagon. I'd like the flexibility it would provide. Most likely, the heaviest I'd tow would be the 900 pounds of motorcycles plus the weight of the bike trailer!

James
 

Bill Scholz

New member
A couple of notes here ...

First, though the "tow loops" are convenient and would appear to be there for the purpose of light-duty towing, I've owned several VWs over the years and remember a bold-faced caveat from an old owner's manual stating that these are actually TIE DOWN hooks meant for use during shipping and transport and should never be used for towing at all. A hardly-thorough perusal of my '85 & '89 Vanagon owner's manuals failed to find this warning, but I found no mention of these loops at all. I've seen ads for the hitches you're talking about, but I'm pretty dubious, and would personally make another choice.

The original owner of my '85 Westy was kind enough to put a hitch on it for me, though it's never been used to my knowledge. It's a frame-mounted (bolts on, replacing the bumper mounts) ball-type still sold by VW in South Africa and available from the Bus Depot (and, I'm sure, elsewhere) for $180. I don't know how this would compare with what you could have built locally, but worth your consideration, I should think.

Finally, if you get yourself set up, I'd like to hear how well you like it. I've considered buying a LIGHTWEIGHT trailer to pull my 600lb Honda VF1100S as a dinghy behind the Westy before my next extended tour of North America. That setup would seem to provide a good solution to the annoying time-to-break-camp-and-pack-the-bus-for-a-day-trip problem.
 

jamescooper

New member
Thanks for the tip.

I'll let you know what I do and what I think of it. I hope to have some sort of resolution by end of spring. I've got a 6 day road-trip (on motorcycles) in summer. Days one and six suck so I'm thinking I'll trailer over, enjoy the middle days and then drive back!

~ James
 

zadar

New member
I know everyone is talking about hitches to tow hooks. But I am looking for a 2" reciever hitch for my 83.5. not even for towing but a bikerack instead. does anyone produce such a beast? since I am having no luck. have any other westie owners delt with this? thanx


P.S. the archives seem to be down.
 

nosliwmit

New member
I just had a custom-built class I, 2" receiver hitch installed on my '85 Westfalia. It uses the two tow loops and has a cross-member that attaches to the lateral engine-mount frame. They welded a lug onto the frame, and the hitch cross-member bolts onto it (so you can completely remove the hitch in case you need to gain better access to the engine). I called a lot of places looking for a simple bolt-on receiver hitch, and I concluded that there aren't any available. My custom hitch cost me about $250 with tax and all. I only intend to use it for a hitch-mount bike carrier, and I'm quite happy with it thus far. I'm in the Seattle area. If anyone is interested in more info regarding this particular hitch, e-mail me. I might be talked into photographing and posting the instl somewhere if it's of significant interest...
 
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jamescooper

New member
Whoa - I'm in Seattle too (I started this darn thread!) Where'd you get the work done? How much weight does a class I hitch tow?

James
206-714-5147
 

nosliwmit

New member
A class I is supposed to be good for 2000 lbs gross towing weight with a max tongue weight of 200 lbs. They may have placarded it for less than that--don't remember...

I had my hitch done at Glenn's Welding & Mfg in Lynnwood.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
VW's limit of 165# tongue weight and 1320# unbraked or 1600# braked trailer weight assumes the suitable frame mounted hitch. Do NOT exceed those limits regardless of hitch type. There are other limitations to be considered such as chassis stress, suspension, drivetrain and load distribution.

Zadar: Bike racks have their own topic.
 

lnp00

New member
Hi All!

I'm new to the Westy world; bought a '91 late last year and I'm getting it ready for the summer.

I have a problem deciding between a trailer hitch or roof rack system for a 45lb canoe that I would like to take along on my walkabouts. I have a folding aluminum trailer which could easily be used to transport the canoe.

I've read the provisos regarding both roof racks and trailer hitches and I believe that with this light load a trailer hitch may still be the best bet. Somehow I just can't bring myself to hack that pop-top.

Cheers,
LenP
 
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Capt. Mike

Moderator
Sounds like you'd be well below both the Vanagon's total towed weight and the tongue weight (assuming loaded correctly). Do use a proper frame-mount hitch instead of those gimmick "tow hook" mounts.

You might find the trailer will have less adverse effect on mileage and cross-winds as well. It will not cut your hieght clearance. And you can park it while you do your other things. But it does add to your length and 'backing up' considerations. I think the advantages vs. disadvantages is about even; decide by your circumstances.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Transferred from another post to consolidate like topics

Towing & Extra Gear

SRemains, Junior Member, 05-29-2001 10:02 PM

But does anyone have any opinions or concerns on pulling trailors with Westy's? I have an 89 Syncro that I would like use to pull a '14 aluminum fishing boat with some extra gear, etc. Does anyone have any experience with this good or bad?
I appreciate any insights or comments.
 
G

Guest

Guest
I have an '81 Westy that I use to tow a 20'HobieCat. My hitch is one that attaches to the bumper mounts. I believe I purchased it from Bus Boys in No. California (i think they are no longer around). The trailer and boat weigh just under 1000 lbs. Towing works great with the subaru legacy engine and air-cooler transaxle. The jump between 3rd and 4th can be problematic on some freeway hills. 4th may be too tall and third a bit too short to maintain speed up hills. I recently noticed that the bumper is tilted down, which could happen if there is any play in the bumper mounts. I am going to try to adjust it, as I'm not sure if I installed it that way or if it slipped.
 

bobdgraham

New member
Hey Gang: nosliwmit is quite right about custom fabricated hitches. I'm a welder/fabricator/industrial mechanic and have built and installed dozens of hitches on every type of vehicle imaginable over the last 25 years. The best thing you can do is bolt or weld right on the frame at the rear and then bring the reciever out to the back. Most custom welding shops have done this enough times that they have seen everything and will build you a hitch strong enough to pull a bulldozer because they want to cover their backside. I once built a hitch for my 66 splittie for towing a small utility trailer. The kid I sold the bus to told me years later that he was using it with a tow bar to tow cars, and full sized ones at that. Made me glad that I had used 2" heavy wall square tube, cross braces and 5/8" bolts(6) to fasten it to the frame and then come out under the bumper! A word to the wise...over design the strength of any hitch. There's nothing as scary as watching your trailer (with your wife's prized antique china cabinet in it) pass you going backwards on the freeway with the tongue draging behind shooting sparks 50 feet out the back. Also, drive like there is a highway patrolman following you. Stuff tends to fly out of the trailer even if it is well secured. I was driving across the expressway through Toronto (imagine Jacksonville FL at 85mph) towing a 22' cabin cruiser boat when some meathead passed me in the far left lane :mad: at about 80 mph towing a small trailer, when he got about 40' ahead of me an exercise bike popped out of the trailer and slid from left to right across 5 lanes of traffic and by some miracle never hit a soul and came to rest against the right hand guard rail. He never stopped. Probably never knew until he got to his destination. But on the positive side, I once trailered a '61 Mercedes sedan on a flatbed from Richmond VA to Canada (700 miles)with out incident using a GMC 1/2 ton. 55 mph and lots of coffee and two extended shopping stops for the bride.
Good luck with your trailering,
Bob G. :D
 
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villinski

New member
Hi all, Just bought an 85 Westy for touring and camping, and want to bring a small motorcycle along. Bike weighs only 300 lb.s or so. I have seen single rail motorcycle racks which mount onto a 2" trailer hitch. The rack/rail mounts parallel to the rear bumper, so the motorcycle is carried about 1-1/2' from the rear of the vehicle. Has anyone used a set-up like this? Would the tongue weight be excessive? (probably, huh?) Is a small trailer the only option?
Thanks for your ideas and input.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
Question answered above. MAXIMUM tongue weight 165#. Period. Tongue weight is everything supported by the receiver, in this case weight of rack AND motorcycle.
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
osted 10-26-2001 11:14 PM

Has anyone had any experiences with wiring up a harness for the Westy for trailer lights or is there a prefab kit to do this easily? I have been looking around with no luck so far. Thanks.
 

Mrdi

New member
Trailer + load = 1320 lbs.
Does that mean the occupants and the trailer and what is on the trailer max is 1320 ?
In Essence People 4oo
Dog 50
food 50
Trailer 300
Cycle 300 etc. MAX 1320
Actually I could live with that.
Thanks,
Mrdi
 

Capt. Mike

Moderator
There are THREE weights involved in towing. The first is maximum tow load which is given in the vehicle owners manual. (You didn't give year & model.) That is the weight of the trailer and everything in it.

The 2nd is the tongue weight, also given in the owners manual. That is the weight the trailer will put on the hitch. In the VW acceptable range, a bathroom scale is adequate but have the trailer exactly level -- you'd be suprised how much it shifts if the tongue is not level with the hitch. This means the trailer frame & tongue are level with the ground. If it doesn't meet the height of the receiver ball, then you must use a drop or rise ball-to-hitch mount. You can NOT have the trailer angle at the hitch! Tonque weight should be 10-15% of total trailer weight. DO NOT estimate -- almost every weighed trailer is far over what you 'think' is in it or calculated from manual data sheets. Where & how to get weighed is discussed elsewhere on the site.

The 3rd is the vehicle maximum GVWR. This will be the vehicle, all its occupants and contents including engine fluids AND the trailer tonque weight. Again, weigh the vehicle in its loaded condition. I guarantee you have underestimated by a long shot.

You may not exceed ANY of the three limits above. Even within those limits, you should consider the extra strain on the engine and adjust driving accordingly.
 
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