Propride 3P 1400 Hitch
Information about our weight distributing and sway eliminating hitch.
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.
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.
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:
After removing the propane bottles I was set to go.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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:
The frame bracket is visible beneath the frame and through the battery tray:
Main Hitch Unit
This is where the magic of sway elimination happens!
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:
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:
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:
The yoke keeps the main hitch unit parallel to the trailer's frame:
It attaches to the main hitch unit with a pair of massive 1-1/8" bolts that must be torqued to 250 ft-lbs:
The cover of the main hitch unit must be removed to bolt the yoke in place:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Installation complete. Kind of looks like a railway coupler!
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.
The ProPride 3P manual is thorough, well written and contains lots of photos. It was an invaluable reference for the initial installation and for the adjustments and changes that came later.
This is the first video in a great series by Jeff Lockhart, past 3P owner (Jeff and family camp in a 5th wheel trailer now). 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.
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...
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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 Sean Woodruff, president of the company. 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.
Despite the severity of this incident we believe it to be an isolated one. We continue to tow with and put our trust in the 3P hitch and we have had no other causes for doubt.
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.
Another year of great towing is in the books.
Another year of trouble- and sway-free towing!
A year of reliable towing, and I got the chance to meet and talk with someone who purchased a 3P hitch largely based on our experiences. It was good to be able to offer advice to a fellow camper.
We reconfigured the ProPride for use with our new F-150 and took it for a half hour test tow. This is the first time we've changed vehicles with this hitch and the adjustable stinger makes it a cinch. All set for our summer trips, which will include five nights at Sandbanks Provincial Park and two glorious weeks in Prince Edward Island.
The 3P continues to perform well with our 2013 Ford F-150. We are using a constant 7" of lift on the weight distribution jacks.
- Disconnect the spring bar links from the spring bars
- Remove the spring bars links from the jacks
- Unbolt and remove the jacks
- Remove the bolt, roller and nut from the down tubes of the frame bracket
- Lower the yoke tail from between the frame bracket down tubes*
- Unbolt and remove the frame bracket**
- Support the main hitch unit from underneath (I used a wheeled hydraulic jack)
- Unlock and unlatch the main hitch unit from the trailer's coupler
- Lower the main hitch unit to clear the coupler
- Stow all removed parts for reinstallation
|*||Initially, the yoke tail would not drop - I had to stand on the yoke. We saw the reason for that afterwards: the down tubes were slightly pinched together at the bottom. ProPride sent us a replacement free of charge.|
|**||One nut became difficult to remove partway down the curb side frame bracket U-bolt. We persisted, which was mistake number one - at the first sign of tension we should have backed off and investigated the cause. But persist we did, and by the time the nut came off it was hot to the touch and the U-bolt threads were galled and ruined. We requested and received a replacement U-bolt from ProPride but we paid for parts and shipping because the fault was ours. Second lesson learned - inspect and clean u-bolt threads before removing nuts.|
With all the parts stowed in the garage and a little touchup painting done we await the 18th of May, when we will take delivery of our new-to-us trailer and install the 3P hitch ourselves in the dealer's lot before towing it home. Installation should be pretty much the reverse of removal but for a few extra steps (propane tank and tray removal, measurement and marking of jack and frame bracket locations, and possible chain lengthening). And we may have to make some height and jack tension adjustments.
We foresee no problems but are bringing along a truckload of tools and supplies... just in case.
Installation of the 3P hitch on our new trailer took about four hours. After removing the propane tanks and tray, installation was fairly straightforward... just time consuming. And we had to raise the adjustable stinger by two holes.
Our first trip with the new trailer and the 3P. As expected, it towed like a champ.