Propride 3P 1400 Hitch


Information about our weight distributing and sway eliminating hitch.

Decision

Our initial choice of Weight Distributing Hitch (WDH) system was the Equal-i-zer with its integral friction sway control. However, it soon became apparent that our Sequoia with its relatively short wheelbase would benefit from a more advanced system that, by design, eliminated sway.

Research led us to ProPride Incorporated and the 3P hitch:

ProPride 3P 1400 hitch

If you followed the 3P link, you can see that this hitch costs a lot more than a WDH with friction-based sway control. However, it's still just a fraction of the combined cost of our current (and any future) truck and trailer... and its cost pales in comparison to the occupants of the truck upon whose lives no price could ever be put. Check out the links below for more information.

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Installation

Getting Ready

On Sunday May 24th 2009, I installed the 3P.

Because our driveway has a slope I did the install on the street in front of our house. I pulled the trailer in as straight as possible, then disconnected and set up an assembly area:

Assembly area

Assembly benches

After removing the propane bottles I was set to go.

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Adjustable Hitch Bar

The 3P comes with an adjustable hitch bar, or "stinger". Measurements are required to determine which way to flip the receiver end and at what height to mount the hitch end. It's also necessary to configure the tilt of the hitch end to make it parallel to the ground. A pin with adjustment washers is used:

Tilt adjustment pin

Once the tilt is figured all the bolts are put in place. I used this hydraulic jack to keep it tilted upwards; torquing the top bolts tends to tilt it back down. The bolts must be torqued to 150 ft-lbs:

Supporting the hitch for bolt torquing

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Weight Distribution Jacks

Unlike friction-based sway control systems, the weight distribution bars stay attached to the 3P whether the trailer is connected or disconnected. This is accomplished in part by weight distribution jacks that are bolted to the trailer's A-frame:

Curbside weight distribution jack installed

Mounting the jacks is a matter of measuring along the frame from the coupler, attaching and tightening a U-bolt and tightening a pinch bolt that helps to hold the jack against the frame.

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Frame Bracket

The frame bracket centres and supports the tail of the yoke (see below). It also mounts with u-bolts, though they face downwards and, in my case, required a mod to the battery tray:

Battery tray mod for frame bracket U-bolt

Once the cutting was done and the u-bolts could be put in place the hydraulic jack was again employed to hold the frame bracket in place while it was bolted on:

Holding up the frame bracket while attaching it to the U-bolts

The frame bracket is visible beneath the frame and through the battery tray:

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Main Hitch Unit

This is where the magic of sway elimination happens!

Main hitch unit

Installation of this component is pretty simple. Attach it to the stinger, back it under the coupler, lower the coupler onto the ball and couple them up. The main hitch unit stays permanently coupled to the trailer:

Main hitch unit attached to trailer coupler

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Spring Bars

Tensioned by the jacks via spring bar links, the spring bars are what provide the weight distribution. They're permanently attached to bushings that bolt into the bottom of the main hitch unit.

The once the leading edge of the spring bar is liberally greased, the bars are inserted into the bushings and are prevented from dropping out by a retainer disk. The bushings are then bolted to the main hitch unit:

Spring bars greased and mounted in bushings

Once both bars are in place the spring bar links are hung on the jacks and connected with small u-bolts to the spring bars:

Srping bar links attached to spring bars

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Yoke

The yoke keeps the main hitch unit parallel to the trailer's frame:

Yoke

It attaches to the main hitch unit with a pair of massive 1-1/8" bolts that must be torqued to 250 ft-lbs:

Yoke bolts

The cover of the main hitch unit must be removed to bolt the yoke in place:

Main hitch unit cover removed to attach yoke bolts

The next step it to raise the yoke tail between the two hanging vertical bars on the frame bracket. The yoke bolt is fed through one bar, through the yoke support roller and through the other bar:

Yoke tail on support roller

The yoke bolt must be tightened until there is no side-to-side movement in the yoke tail.

Next, the yoke pivot bolts are loosened and the yoke is positioned so it hangs 1" to 2" below the trailer frame:

Adjust yoke pivot bolts

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Final Installation Adjustments

The main hitch unit adds about 12" to the front of a trailer, which may mean that chains, electrical connections and breakaway switch wires will need extending. Extensions are provided with the 3P.

In our case it was only the chains that came up too short. Because one of the links at the trailer chain stay was split, I cut them there with bolt cutters, and we added the extensions there. I also picked up a pair of shackles:

Shackle

The shackle hoop was passed through the trailer's chain stay and the shackle bolt through the hoop and the end link of the extension chain. With anti-sieze on the bolt's threads, it was tightened with a pair of pliers. Chains undergo a lot of vibration, however, and to prevent the bolt from loosening I ran a zip tie through the bolt hole and around the inside of the shackle:

Shackle attached and zip tied

The next step was to attach the extensions to the existing chains I had previously cut off the chain stay. The extensions each came with a double clevis for that purpose:

Double clevis attaches chain extension to existing chain

Installation complete. Kind of looks like a railway coupler!

Installation complete

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Important Notes

This page is only an overview of the installation process. I followed the ProPride Installation and Operation Instructions very closely throughout the installation and that's what I recommend to anyone who wishes to install a ProPride 3P hitch.

Pictures of the whole project are on my Flickr site.

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Resources

This is the first video in a great series by Jeff Lockhart, fellow 3P owner. The videos cover a lot of ground on hitching up.

 

This video simplifies the understanding of the 3P concept. It was posted by Youtube user tfodify.

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Experiences

For all its apparent complexity it's as easy (or easier) to hitch up than a conventional ball-and-socket hitch. During our earliest uses of the 3P it quickly became apparent how much for the better it changed our towing experience. Read on...

2009-05-29

We took the rig for a half-hour test run on the highway and the differences were immediately evident. The trailer is no longer an imposing presence on the truck: no more side-to-side and front-to-back tugging, no more weaving or hobbyhorsing. A couple of (relatively) quick lane changes and the trailer tucked in right behind afterwards. As promised, no sway at all!

I stayed in the slow lane at 90 km/h, hoping to be passed by a speeding semi... no luck. On the way back I got off the highway and took some hilly and curving country roads... again, the entire rig showed poise, for the first time working together as if meant to do so.

Firm braking in some situations led to a clunk and shift from the back. This, I have learned, is called "Hensley bump" and is a result of the tow vehicle decelerating faster than the trailer. We'll increase the boost settings on the brake controller for the next run.

I look forward to trying this hitch out for a longer period under more challenging conditions.

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2009-06-12 to 2009-06-14

Our first camping trip with the 3P is complete - this outing was to Murphys Point Provincial Park a little over an hour from home.

The 3P performed beautifully on the two-lane county roads that lead to the park. The Hensley bump issue was resolved by dialling the Prodigy brake controller voltage back a bit and setting the boost levels to b1 in the city and b2 on the open road.

Maneuvering in the Hogg Bay CG at Murphys Point was tight but still easily doable. I'm paying extra attention because of the way the trailer now follows the truck more directly around corners.

Parking on site 70 was interesting. In nautical terms the pad was down in the starboard quarter (sloping to the right and back) so we had to elevate the curbside wheels 3" and lower the front all the way down. The permanently mounted spring bars were a liability in this situation - I actually ended up digging a trench for them so we could get the nose down far enough. We've been seriously contemplating an axle flip for some time and this is another incentive.

Teething issues aside, I remain impressed with the way the whole rig handles. The trailer continues to be perfectly behaved behind the truck and I' m more convinced than ever that this was money well spent.

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2009-06-28 to 2009-07-12

During a two-week trip to Sandbanks we had the opportunity to spend several hours towing. The trip involved everything from city streets and two lane county roads to six-lane cruising on the 401... and the 3P handled it all with aplomb.

One-handed driving was the norm. Dawn experienced the Equal-i-zer before and said she'd never drive the 401 again... now she's driven with the 3P and fully convinced that it's worth every penny. We tend to drive at 90 to 100 km/h (around 55 to 60 mph) so we get passed a lot... and being passed by buses and tractor-trailers is no longer an issue.

There were heavy winds on the 416 (the highway that connects Ottawa to the 401) and Dawn was able to handle them with no more difficulty than she'd experience driving the truck by itself.

Bye-bye, sway... hello 3P!

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2010-04-30 to 2010-05-02

We brushed off the cobwebs in April and took the rig to a campground about 90 minutes away. Once again, the 3P performed like a champ.

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2010-06-25 to 2010-08-20

Our summer trip - 11,500 km of towing to Vancouver Island and back over eight glorious weeks. The 3P performed flawlessly over wide highways, narrow mountain passes and everything in between, keeping 30 feet and 3 tons of trailer right where it was supposed to be at all times. Until we were about three hundred meters from home, that is. Just as we were about to turn onto our street there was a bang and a loud scraping. We got out of the truck and here's what we found:

Hitch bar failure - truck end

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Hitch bar failure - trailer end

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A weld in the stinger failed. It was obvious from the rust penetration that the weld had begun to fail quite some time prior to the incident. Remember, this hitch is rated for 14,000 pounds of trailer and 1,400 pounds of tongue weight; we're at 5,800 and 700 pounds, respectively. I took the 3P off the trailer right there in the road and with a spare draw bar we limped the rest of the way home.

I contacted ProPride that afternoon and spoke to the President. He assured me that after thousands of hitches sold this had never occurred before and he shipped a new stinger that day by priority mail. It arrived quickly and as requested we sent the failed version back in the same box, all postage paid. We looked very carefully at the new unit and we continue to check it frequently and carefully to this day.

11 - Replacement - 3/4 rear view

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2011-07-22 to 2011-08-07

The 2011 summer trip took us to Prince Edward Island with a stop at Quebec City on the way home. The 3P worked flawlessly and I had plenty of opportunities to explain it to interested parties.

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2012

Another year of great towing is in the books.

2013

Another year of trouble- and sway-free towing!

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