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installing a brake controller and hitch

SailAndPaddle
Explorer
Explorer
I'm negotiating to buy a new travel trailer and I believe that the dealer is asking too much to sell and install a brake controller and weight distribution hitch ($1,009.) I thinking about getting the brake controller installed before going to the dealer, and installing the weight distribution hitch myself at the dealer; this one:
http://www.amazon.com/Eaz-Lift-48058-Elite-Weight-Distributing/dp/B005SB6S3Y/ref=bit_bit_org_1ba-cr_def_us?_encoding=UTF8&app=1BA&partner=amazon&platform=CR&programCode=org&tag=bit-org-1ba-cr-us-20&tagbase=abba-chrome#

I understand that I'll need to rent or buy a 400' lb torque wrench, but otherwise, this seems doable. Advice? Thanks!!
19 REPLIES 19

hddecker
Explorer
Explorer
You will get better products for less money if you shop around, not only for a hicth but everything else you need for a camper.

I don't go to an RV dealer for anything and I won't pay retail. Most of the RV stuff I buy, I get from an auto parts store. My local guys have a catalogue of RV parts and accessories, what they don't have in stock they can order and usually have the next day. Their retail prices are about 25% lower than the RV stealership. Then they give me a discount on their retail price of 10-20%.

4x4Bob
Explorer
Explorer
I also recommend the Equal-i-zer brand hitch with built in 4-point sway control. This type hitch does not need any holes drilled into the trailer frame to install.

I started out towing with a hitch that had a adjustable sway bar. Was not happy with the performance. Moved up to the Equal-i-zer. Was really surprised on how much better the sway control was.

What I did was to take the hitch head and new ball down to a equipment rental yard and had them tighten the nut on the Ball. Will save you buying or renting a torque wrench. I went in and talked to the manager telling him what I needed done. He said go around back and when the guys get a free minute they will do it for you.

Bob
2001 2500 Silverado LS 4x4 6.0, 4.10
2007 Jayco Eagle 288RLS
Cocktails for 6, Dinner for 4, Sleeps 2
--------------------
End of dirt road, no signs in sight, sun going down: I am not lost, just getting ready to go camping.

westend
Explorer
Explorer
Terryallan wrote:
westend wrote:
APT wrote:
Not all WDH and brake controllers are the same. $1000 is on the high side, but $500 for a mid-range WDH, $125 for Prodigy P2/P3, plus installation for both.

Please get at least the Equal-i-zer vs. the EAZ Lift.

X2
.

AFAIK, any Ford pickup truck built after 2003 has it's own factory controller (if ordered with the trailer package).


Uh No it doesn't. I have a 2004 Lariat, Loaded, has the towing package. No brake controller. However. They did come prewired for a brake controller. They are just plug and play. All you do is plug them in. mount it, and good to go.

BTW F150s got a integrated controller in 2009. Super dutys got theirs in 2005
Thanks for the correction, I always thought my truck model year was the last without one. I've read that the factory controllers are the best but I don't know what you'd do to improve on the Prodigy for a final result.
'03 F-250 4x4 CC
'71 Starcraft Wanderstar -- The Cowboy/Hilton

rbpru
Explorer
Explorer
I priced a WD hitch before I bought my TT because I knew I would have to have one. The dealer wanted $800.00 for a WD hitch that would handle a 5000 lb. TT.

When we eventually found the TT we wanted, (different dealer)the salesman through in the WD hitch to sweeten the deal. It never hurts to ask.

The dealer installed the hitch during the walk through, when I picked up the TT.

I figured this dealer sells and services hundreds of TTs each year, he knows a lot more about what will work with my TT and TV combination. He is a licensed dealer and if something goes wrong with the WD hitch, the hitch manufacturer cannot blame the DIY owener.

Yes, I am sure the dealer made a profit on the deal, that is how he stays in business.

I did install the brake controller because I had it from my previous TV and it is a simple installation.
Twenty six foot 2010 Dutchmen Lite pulled with a 2011 EcoBoost F-150 4x4.

Just right for Grandpa, Grandma and the dog.

Gsragtop
Explorer
Explorer
When I got my TT I negotiated in a WD hitch and brake controller., turns out they installed a $350 wirless controller in my TV.. Plugs into the cig lighter when in use and it works great !! Best part is if i tow with another vechical in just plug the controller in and I'm good to go. Bottom line is before you think it's to much money find out exactly what they are installing.
2015 Gulf Stream Conquest 198BH (our first TT)
2007 Kia Sedona Minivan (no laughing)

goducks10
Explorer
Explorer
I had just the opposite form my dealer. He said all I would need was an EAZ-Lift. They had trouble installing it because of the position of the coupler on the tongue. They put 5 washers in the WDH and couldn't figure out why it wasn't working. One guy told the other, "I don't get it, we always put 5 washers in and never have any trouble". Problem was the coupler was on the bottom of the tongue and they were used to leaving 3 links hanging. Can't do that with the bottom mount couplers. To have the bars level you hook the last link.

Heavy_Metal_Doc
Explorer
Explorer
I am all for DIY'n anything one feel capable of (most products like hitches and BC's come with great instructions that the average handy type easily handle), but I would recommend getting some first hand advice from others who purchased at the dealer in question, if possible. They are not all inept shysters. I knew ours had a good reputation (unlike most of the horror stories you read here). I also saw their display of hitch products and asked what they would recommend for us. They offered a good WDH and even discussed the right weight bars and all that so I let them set up everything. They where also decent enough that I got the a Reese Duel Cam and a basic timed-based controller installed as part of the cost of the TT. I knew going in the BC would likely be cheapo timed based unit, and it was. It worked, and I used it for a few trips before I took it out and swapped to a Prodigy P2 a few months later.

Terryallan
Explorer II
Explorer II
westend wrote:
APT wrote:
Not all WDH and brake controllers are the same. $1000 is on the high side, but $500 for a mid-range WDH, $125 for Prodigy P2/P3, plus installation for both.

Please get at least the Equal-i-zer vs. the EAZ Lift.

X2
.

AFAIK, any Ford pickup truck built after 2003 has it's own factory controller (if ordered with the trailer package).


Uh No it doesn't. I have a 2004 Lariat, Loaded, has the towing package. No brake controller. However. They did come prewired for a brake controller. They are just plug and play. All you do is plug them in. mount it, and good to go.

BTW F150s got a integrated controller in 2009. Super dutys got theirs in 2005
Terry & Shay
Coachman Apex 288BH.
2013 F150 XLT Off Road
5.0, 3.73
Lazy Campers

jmcnab
Explorer
Explorer
Good post @myredracer
02 Yukon Denali XL
08 KZ Spree 324BHS

myredracer
Explorer II
Explorer II
Not really a good idea to let a dealer install a hitch, period. Sometimes they don't even know how to torque things up. If they are selling you a brake controller and WDH, chances are they are the cheapest and most basic of ones available. $1000 total is too much.

When we bought our first TT, we knew nothing about WDHs and BCs. The dealer sent us to a local hitch shop who installed a very basic WDH and BC. In the fist camping season, we ended up replacing the BC with a Prodigy P3. We also now have a Reese DC WDH. We sure know a lot more about WDHs...

I would install the WDH and BC yourself. The BC may require an adapter harness for your TV. The dealer will not spend the time to adjust your BC either... Installing the WDH is easy, except for maybe the sway control brackets on the A-frame but you just need to drill some holes in the right spot. You need to learn how to adjust the WDH and it is somewhat different for each TV and brand of WDH. The straightforward method of adjusting a WDH involves measuring the before and after heights of the front fenders. The angle of the hitch head also needs to be set right. The dealer is just not going to want to spend the time to do this, even if in the off-chance they know how.

One very important thing to do on WDHs is to install the correct rating of spring bar. The rating is based on the actual tongue weight of a TT, not the dry weight and the weight should be measured after the TT is all loaded up for camping. Sometimes you can estimate it based on the GVWR and the bar size may end up being in the middle of the range. For example, Reese trunnion bars are either 800 or 1200 lbs so there is 400 lbs of leeway. You don't want bars that are under-sized otherwise you will not transfer enough weight back on the front axle of the TV. Dealers are not going to weigh your tongue wt and then size the bars. They would probably just slap in what they *think* is okay.

The Reese dual cam WDH is pretty nice but you need to study up on installing it and setting it up. Chances are close to 100% that the dealer would screw one of these up. We bought ours last year for $450 and shopping and searching around the internet.

I like the trunnion style spring bars as they are more compact and a little bit easier to handle and store. The round bars have a little captive spring clip and pin that holds the bar in place. We had a clip fall out on ours but fortunately it happened somewhere on our property but could not find it. Bought a pack with 2 clips in it and had one for a spare. There is no retainer clip or anything like on a trunnion bar to fall out and lose.

goducks10
Explorer
Explorer
Brake controllers are super simple to install. You will need the plug n play harness adapter for your specific vehicle. The hardest part is finding a location to mount it. It took me about 15 mins to install mine.

As far as WD goes it depends on which one you get. If you get an EQ then the L brackets will require a little work. If you go with something like a Blue Ox then all you have to do is slide the chain brackets on top if the a frame and tighten. You may have to move a propane tank or battery, so it's good to get all the measurements for the one you are using and compare it to the TT. Other than that the WDH just slides into your receiver. You will have to adjust it anyway after you leave the dealer since the TT will be empty and most of the time the dealers never get it adjusted right. So you might as well do it right the 1st time. You may be able to have the dealer torque your ball on the WD if they're easy to deal with.

wcjeep
Explorer
Explorer
For Brake Controller your vehicle is probably already wired. Buy the adapter for the Prodigy to avoid splicing ($25 +/-). My Chrysler product plugin was near the emergency brake on the firewall.

Ron3rd
Explorer
Explorer
OP's Hitch

You're looking at a basic WD hitch, and nothing wrong with that setup, I ran it for 9 years and it's the most common WD hitch type you see on the road today, mainly due to cost IMO. You did not mention the specs on your trailer, so there may be better choices for a couple of hundred bucks more. Equilizer, Reese Dual Cam, and Blue Ox Sway Pro all have big followings and are superior to what you're looking at as they have built in sway control.

If you decide on the EZ Lift setup, it's not hard to install your self and dial in correctly.

As others advised, go with a Tekonsha controller as they probably have a pigtail adapter for your truck making it plug and play in most cases. What model truck btw?
2016 6.7 CTD 2500 BIG HORN MEGA CAB
2013 Forest River 3001W Windjammer
Equilizer Hitch
Honda EU2000

"I have this plan to live forever; so far my plan is working"

NorfolkCounty
Explorer
Explorer
X2 on the Prodigy brand and eTrailer.com. I've been using the same unit for 7+ years with no challenges.
Chris - Chesapeake, VA
2007 Silverado 2500HD 2WD 6.0L, 2009 Jayco 26BH