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Hillstart

Having to change from AL-KO

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11 hours ago, Hillstart said:

Have tried, thought was ok... was not. Thankfully weren’t on main road or travelling at speed 

 

    It appears to me, that Hillstart has tried to hook up but when driving off, the ‘van has become detached.  This has happened to many people.  Winding down the jockey wheel to check correct attachment is the way to go perhaps.

    John.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Leedslad said:

 

    It appears to me, that Hillstart has tried to hook up but when driving off, the ‘van has become detached.  This has happened to many people.  Winding down the jockey wheel to check correct attachment is the way to go perhaps.

    John.

 

Yes, but detachment can't be a result of incompatibility. If anything, an incompatible towball can only cause damage the towbar or to the hitch, but it can't cause separation unless there is total material failure of the towball or, in an extreme case, if the hitch won't go on to the towball in the first place due to a foul condition, but that should be immediately apparent when trying to hitch.

 

Edited by Lutz

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14 hours ago, AlwynMike said:

Winterhoff hitch is a direct replacement for the Alko hitch. No modification needed.

 

Winterhoff was bought out by BPW so they are now BPW branded WS3000 from memory is what I used.

From eBay in Germany for IIRC £275 or thereabouts. Less than 30 minutes to swap over. Extra budget needed for hitch lock though!

ALKO bought out BPW!  So removing the hitch may not resolve the issue?

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Both Alko and Winterhoff hitches are compatible with the same towball so I can see no reason to change.  I have never had a Winterhoff hitch so I have no reason to believe that it's better or worse than the Alko.  The foldaway towball on the OP's Audi looks like a modern one, so no problems there.  My only reservation is regarding the amount of clearance between the hitch and the car bumper.

    John.

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3 hours ago, Leedslad said:

 

    It appears to me, that Hillstart has tried to hook up but when driving off, the ‘van has become detached.  This has happened to many people.  Winding down the jockey wheel to check correct attachment is the way to go perhaps.

    John.

Hi John that’s exactly what happened, very frightening can’t allow to happen again. 

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14 minutes ago, Hillstart said:

Hi John that’s exactly what happened, very frightening can’t allow to happen again. 

 

Are you jumping to conclusions regarding the tow ball?

 

There may be a fault with:

 

The Ball

The hitch

Or just not put on 100%

 

In the case of the ball.  It must be the correct 50mm diameter, so not worn.  But that would be unusual. 

 

It may be too close to the bumper.  But that would damage the bumper and is easily tested by hitching up and doing a slow tight turn while another person looks out for clearance throughout the manoeuvre.

 

It may also not have sufficient vertical clearance from the shoulder.  Agreed your picture makes is look like it is short, but then it's not a full shoulder.  This can be tested a bit like the turning test but needs the angle changing, this can be done by slowly driving over a severe speed bump and checking that the hitch does not foul the shoulder.

 

But it could be a faulty hitch.  Yes the pads can be changed, but that its not what does the work regarding locking it on to the ball.  this is best checked out with a specialist, I would suggest.

 

You could end up replacing the tow ball or the car unnecessarily.  If you are unsure, find a fitting specialist close to you.

 

 

John

 

 

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   This Youtube video shows the hitching procedure quite nicely.  However, before raising the jockey wheel into it's travelling position, many of us like to wind the wheel further down to check that the hitch is properly locked onto the ball which is important.  As a newcomer to the Alko hitch, it's worth practising this procedure a few times until you're sure that you've got the hang of it.

 

      

    John.   

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, Hillstart said:

Hi John that’s exactly what happened, very frightening can’t allow to happen again. 

 

Unless there was an immediate indication of an actual foul condition (i.e. not just inadequate clearance) with an AlKo hitch, a change to a Winterhoff hitch is not going to protect you against that sort of thing happening again.

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20 minutes ago, Lutz said:

 a change to a Winterhoff hitch is not going to protect you against that sort of thing happening again.

AIUI from reading on here about the Witterhoff hitch:

1) does not need the 'extended neck' of an Al-Ko ball to permit full articulation.

2) will not close unless the ball is properly inserted into the stabiliser hitch.

So it could help with some issues (maybe not bumper clearance) and might prevent the basic operator error that seems to have happened in this instance?

 

But so will 'best practice' of

checking the Al-Ko hitch latches on properly:  i.e.  that the indicator 'pip' is fully raised up/showing green, that once on, it will raise up the car back end when the jockey wheel is operated, before closing the stabiliser arm on the ball.

 

Of course if the 'raising up' makes the hitch pop off then there's something seriously amiss with the ball (worn, excessively) or caravan hitch mechanism.  THAT will need specialist checking.

 

I'd suggest that the OPs might benefit from a Towing Course where correct hitching / unhitching is thoroughly covered?  (and probably a new breakaway cable following the incident described).

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56 minutes ago, Lutz said:

 

Unless there was an immediate indication of an actual foul condition (i.e. not just inadequate clearance) with an AlKo hitch, a change to a Winterhoff hitch is not going to protect you against that sort of thing happening again.

 

As above, with the Winterhoff you can't close the handle unless its hitched properly. 

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Many years ago I made a mistake with a boat trailer, we were told it needed a 2" ball which was really a pain, having to swap when towing caravan or boat, then one day forgot to lift leaver before winding down jockey wheel and it came off without releasing, checking we found boat trailer was 50 mm same as caravan, not 2" as we had been told.

 

The difference is 0.8 mm hard to see, but the 2" ball is round at top, and 50 mm ball has a flat on the top. I still have the old 2" ball 3.5 inch centres also old mongoose ball with hole through it for pin, must get rid of it as unlikely will every find anything needing a 2" ball today.

 

I have been in a car (Standard 8) when we lost a caravan, and yes not a good thing to happen, however that was when ball was on the caravan and the screw down cup on the car. It was around 1956 I think, petrol crisis at time.

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Alko, Winterhoff and every other tow hitch I am aware of fitted to caravans (unless they are VERY old caravans indeed in which case it’s a two inch one) are designed to fit over a 50mm towball, if ACTUALLY coupled correctly they simply CANNOT come apart as when the locking lever is down it extends a section of “cup” that goes underneath the shoulder on the towball, thus keeping everything together. 

 

Sorry Mr Hillstart but it’s pretty clear that the incident you had can ONLY have happened because you did not ensure the towhitch was correctly seated, and fully engaged with, the towball. As Unpalatable as it probably  is there ain’t no other possibility. Don’t feel too bad, others have done it!! 

 

My favoured method is to lower the (open) towhitch onto the towball by winding the jockey wheel up and wait until there is a loud “clonk” That noise can ONLY occur when the hitch has locked onto the towball and is much “deeper” in tone from the noise you get by JUST pushing the towhitch locking arm down when it’s not going to connect with anything. It’s a VERY different sound. Once that has happened I then wind the jockey wheel back down so it lifts the rear of the car an inch or so. It needs to be that much to demonstrate that it’s actually all connected, rather than just resting on the top of the towball and pushing the car down. 

 

THEN (and not before) I check that the tell-tale on the towhitch mechanism is showing green.  

 

Even then, EVERY single time I move off, I apply the car brakes with some enthusiasm at about 2mph just to be 100%  certain all is connected as it should be. It’s a system that has worked perfectly (for me) for many years

 

Andy

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39 minutes ago, Paul_B said:

 

As above, with the Winterhoff you can't close the handle unless its hitched properly. 

 

I had my caravan detach from the car last year, despite the handle of the Winterhoff being down even after the detachment, so it's not 100% foolproof. OK, it was my mistake for not doing a double check, but there was nothing to immediately indicate that the towball wasn't seated properly.

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5 minutes ago, Lutz said:

 

I had my caravan detach from the car last year, despite the handle of the Winterhoff being down even after the detachment, so it's not 100% foolproof. OK, it was my mistake for not doing a double check, but there was nothing to immediately indicate that the towball wasn't seated properly.

 

I have never had a Winterhoff close unless the tow ball was properly inserted, you should have contacted Winterhoff and explained the problem as it sounds like something was drastically faulty. 

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7 minutes ago, Lutz said:

 

I had my caravan detach from the car last year, despite the handle of the Winterhoff being down even after the detachment, so it's not 100% foolproof. OK, it was my mistake for not doing a double check, but there was nothing to immediately indicate that the towball wasn't seated properly.

 

If the tow hitch is only partially engaged then an Alko stabiliser won’t go down either BUT if it’s not engaged AT ALL (as in just “resting” on the tow ball) then the hitch lever goes all the way down, and THAT allows the stabiliser arm to go all the way down.

 

Hence my habit of applying the brakes as soon as I move off. If it’s not engaged/seated correctly then it will become blindingly obvious at that point and long BEFORE anything serious can happen.

 

Andy

 

 

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10 hours ago, Lutz said:

I am a bit puzzled inasmuch as the original thread referred to a retractable towbar, which would have been a factory fit and should always be OK. However, the photograph distinctly shows a detachable towbar which could have been dealer installed using components which were not compatible with that particular model of car.

It is fairly certain that a towbar manufacturer would not offer an alternative towball with a longer reach for the same car as this would involve additional unnecessary and costly type approval. Even if one were able to find a towball with a longer reach that fits from another model, such a combination would be illegal as it would not be covered by the original type approval.

The towbar is definitely factory fitted and retractable by a pull cord in boot. Have been to Audi they have confirmed factory fitted.  Correct there is no alternative to the tow bar for this age /model of car, Audi service man also mentioned to attach a different towbar would not be possible due to coding in control system. No other towbar fitters will remove it... by now I’m confused!! Have discussed measurements on AL-Ko website with Audi and they yet haven’t advised if correct or not for AL-KO stabiliser.

Wish we had bought towballless car and added an AL-Ko towbar.   

what happened to the old hitch and go 30+ years ago. 

A caravan fitted with another tow hitch may have to be acquired. Any excuse to browse.

 

Have discussed also at length with service department where caravan was purchased and they advise not changing hitch type as there maybe an impact of “other factors” eg break system that we are unaware of. 

All  this comes from van departing from car after being positive was hitched  correctly we  then re- measured /checked ball height etc against AL-Ko ranges. And found height lacking by approx 5mm.

Will be following advice given earlier and use jockey wheel to check all attached before brave Hubby takes car and caravan out round quiet block to see if it stays attached.

 

Thank you all for your input and advice. Nikky

1 hour ago, Mr Plodd said:

Alko, Winterhoff and every other tow hitch I am aware of fitted to caravans (unless they are VERY old caravans indeed in which case it’s a two inch one) are designed to fit over a 50mm towball, if ACTUALLY coupled correctly they simply CANNOT come apart as when the locking lever is down it extends a section of “cup” that goes underneath the shoulder on the towball, thus keeping everything together. 

 

Sorry Mr Hillstart but it’s pretty clear that the incident you had can ONLY have happened because you did not ensure the towhitch was correctly seated, and fully engaged with, the towball. As Unpalatable as it probably  is there ain’t no other possibility. Don’t feel too bad, others have done it!! 

 

My favoured method is to lower the (open) towhitch onto the towball by winding the jockey wheel up and wait until there is a loud “clonk” That noise can ONLY occur when the hitch has locked onto the towball and is much “deeper” in tone from the noise you get by JUST pushing the towhitch locking arm down when it’s not going to connect with anything. It’s a VERY different sound. Once that has happened I then wind the jockey wheel back down so it lifts the rear of the car an inch or so. It needs to be that much to demonstrate that it’s actually all connected, rather than just resting on the top of the towball and pushing the car down. 

 

THEN (and not before) I check that the tell-tale on the towhitch mechanism is showing green.  

 

Even then, EVERY single time I move off, I apply the car brakes with some enthusiasm at about 2mph just to be 100%  certain all is connected as it should be. It’s a system that has worked perfectly (for me) for many years

 

Andy

Thanks Andy for your advice... will be following it!! Hubby going out for short tootle to regain confidence. Horse trailers must have been too easy. Only ever prob I had was getting my highland to come out in reverse but that’s another really long story.  Thanks again Nikky

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2 minutes ago, Paul_B said:

 

I have never had a Winterhoff close unless the tow ball was properly inserted, you should have contacted Winterhoff and explained the problem as it sounds like something was drastically faulty.

 

 

No, I can explain. It is actually possible to already push the handle down as soon as the ball has entered the hitch enough for the cam at the back inside the hitch to retract, but before the ball has seated properly. As a consequence, the hitch can pop up again and the towball out of its socket, remaining just rested on the towball.

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8 hours ago, Lutz said:

 

No, I can explain. It is actually possible to already push the handle down as soon as the ball has entered the hitch enough for the cam at the back inside the hitch to retract, but before the ball has seated properly. As a consequence, the hitch can pop up again and the towball out of its socket, remaining just rested on the towball.

 

Its been impossible with any Winterhoff I've used, the ball must be pushed home before the handle will close.  As I said you must have a fault, something like the pads missing or well below the critical indicator. 

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46 minutes ago, Paul_B said:

 

Its been impossible with any Winterhoff I've used, the ball must be pushed home before the handle will close.  As I said you must have a fault, something like the pads missing or well below the critical indicator. 

 

I did notice that the handle was difficult to push down, but thought nothing of it so I must have disengaged the ball by applying too much force before it seated properly. Normally the handle will drop slightly on its own and click as soon as the towball engages, requiring only reasonable force to bring the handle into its final position, but it didn't then. However, it has done ever since. No, I am convinced that it was solely my fault. The pads are in place and are not excessively worn.

What do I learn from that? Never force the handle down. If it requires excessive force, the towball isn't engaged properly.

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I got it wrong on my second time out and had the caravan detach just as I left the camp site.

 

I had lifted the locking handle, to lower the hitch onto the ball.  as I lowered the hitch the handle released and I wrongly assumed it was locked in place.  I pushed down the Alko handle and off I jolly well went.

 

Things I do since then:

 

I leave the locking handle in the down position and lower the hitch onto the ball by raising the jockey wheel.  The hitch at this point is not engaged,

 

I continue to raise the jockey wheel a few more inches, then lift the locking handle and the hitch drops down firmly onto the towball.  The button on the top pops up, showing the green indicator.

 

I then push down the Alko handle to lock on the friction pads.  This will require a fair amount of force to do.

 

If the Alko handle goes down easily, the ball is not in the hitch!

 

Tip:

 

Try engaging the friction pads with the ball in the hitch and with it out of the hitch and learn the difference.

 

As, due to my inflexible body, I have to lay down in the mud to connect the electrics and while I'm down there, I give the hitch lock a look from underneath, just to finally satisfy myself that everything is where it should be.  It always has been!

 

 

 

 

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16 hours ago, Mr Plodd said:

My favoured method is to lower the (open) towhitch onto the towball by winding the jockey wheel up and wait until there is a loud “clonk” That noise can ONLY occur when the hitch has locked onto the towball and is much “deeper” in tone from the noise you get by JUST pushing the towhitch locking arm down when it’s not going to connect with anything. It’s a VERY different sound. Once that has happened I then wind the jockey wheel back down so it lifts the rear of the car an inch or so. It needs to be that much to demonstrate that it’s actually all connected, rather than just resting on the top of the towball and pushing the car down. 

 

THEN (and not before) I check that the tell-tale on the towhitch mechanism is showing green.  

 

Even then, EVERY single time I move off, I apply the car brakes with some enthusiasm at about 2mph just to be 100%  certain all is connected as it should be. It’s a system that has worked perfectly (for me) for many years

 

Andy

 

I do precisely this as well. I do not believe that a correctly connected hitch will separate unless there is a catastrophic failure of the lower jaw that locks the hitch onto the ball. If you look at the technical drawings of the hitch on the Al-Ko website this is made clear.

 

Of course it is possible to close the arm down with the hitch just resting on the towball (the actual socket is much further back in the hitch than one might think) but as said elsewhere the resistance of the stabiliser to being closed would be negligible. Ours is adjusted so that it needs substantial effort to engage so it would be immediately obvious if the ball wasn't locked in position.

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On 28/04/2019 at 19:58, AlwynMike said:

Winterhoff hitch is a direct replacement for the Alko hitch. No modification needed.

 

Winterhoff was bought out by BPW so they are now BPW branded WS3000 from memory is what I used.

From eBay in Germany for IIRC £275 or thereabouts. Less than 30 minutes to swap over. Extra budget needed for hitch lock though!

Hi AlwynMike need more advice please. Been very stressful day. Our caravan service department has said best not to change stabiliser hitch on our van (swift Challanger 586) as there maybe implications with handbrake, ATC etc. We are intending on trying AL-KO again for towing, if hubby still dislikes it am I correct in saying that you have successfully put a Winterhoff onto a AL-KO chassis & did it have ATC? 

Good Evening and Good News

 

successfully replaced Al-Ko with Winterhoff. All Al-Ko pads were badly worn  also noticed rubbed areas on metal of AL-KO hitch. (We have only owned van for 2 months )  Received email from AL-Ko with reference to changing to Winterhoff no issue. Had so much positivity from Mike. Towed caravan today no screeching squealing or loss of hitch. 

 

Many happy caravanning days ahead.  

The Hill Family 

 

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Great stuff Nikky!!

 

Glad to hear you've got over this little hump.

 

Now get out there and enjoy yourselves.

 

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Posted (edited)

By the way, BPW's chassis subsidiary, and hence Winterhoff, too, was also bought out by AlKo. Only their heavy commercial vehicle axle business remains with BPW itself.

Edited by Lutz

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7 hours ago, Lutz said:

By the way, BPW's chassis subsidiary, and hence Winterhoff, too, was also bought out by AlKo. Only their heavy commercial vehicle axle business remains with BPW itself.

 

 

 

 

    DEXKO      own ALKO/Winterhoff and Bradley a UK manufacturer of towing components.

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