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Problem with the Draw-Tite 16K

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July 16, 2006: After returning from the Spring Escapade I mentioned a problem with the hitch that could have meant a major disaster (April 29, 2006). I first found the ring on the right laying in the bed of the pickup. I had no idea where this came from and found nothing. When I arrived at Howard Prairie, I found this bullet shape object in the bed of the pickup and could not imagine what it could be from. Since the bicycles hang in the bed of the pickup, I searched over the three bicycles looking for a place for the missing parts. Fortunately, I needed to remove the hitch so I could move the pre-built deck from my home in Grants Pass to my trailer at Howard Prairie Lake Resort. That's when I was amazed and shocked to find where these parts belong.
Underside of Drawtite Hitch
This is a photo of the bottom of my DrawTite 16K hitch. The bullet shaped object (locking pin) came from the main center shaft. The ring was attached to the locking pin and encircled the main center shaft to secure the locking pin in place. The ring broke from the locking pin, then the locking pin worked it's way out of the center shaft. This meant that nothing was locking the center shaft in place. It easily slipped from the center of the frame when I turned the hitch on it's back. This center shaft locks the upper portion of the hitch to the frame and allows the hitch a certain amount of freedom to rock from side to side.
Clcik for larger view This center shaft connects the upper portion of the hitch to the lower frame of the hitch. If this shaft were to slip from it's proper location while the trailer is attached, NOTHING is connecting the trailer to the tow vehicle. (Click the photo for a larger view) I've always attached the safety brake cable to this upper portion of the hitch so with the shaft gone, the hitch would be securely attached to the trailer then the hitch would no longer be attached to the tow vehicle and the safety brake would not be applied because the cable was also attached to this

attached to this upper portion of the hitch. The shaft did not fall from the hitch while I was driving but since the locking pin had broken and fallen from the shaft, nothing was locking the shaft in place. After getting over the shock of finding this near disaster, I became very angry. First at Custom Muffler and Hitch in Grants Pass who installed the hitch. No, it wasn't faulty installation but I came to them asking for a different brand of hitch and they assured me that Draw-Tite Hitch was equal or better in quality to the brand I requested. Then, I was angry at Draw-Tite. This locking pin is probably a $1 item or less yet is key to the safety of the hitch. Under no circumstance should this part fail. Yes, I could add a routine to check to be sure the locking pin is still in place when I hitch the trailer or continue my trip after a rest stop but that means I'm checking to view the safety of the hitch in past-tense. If the pin is missing, how long have I been towing after it dropped out?

I plan to contact Draw-Tite for their comments and replacement locking pin and will report here what I learn.

July 26, 2006: On July 16, I sent an email to customer service at Draw-Tite. In three days I received a reply that "I must contact tech-support for warranty problems." I called tech support and they were able to understand my broken pin after about three minutes of explanation. "That never happens, explained the tech-support person." I agreed that it SHOULD NEVER happen, however, it DID happen. This person took my mailing address and promised to send me a replacement pin. I asked him to view this page so he would be sure to send the right part. He agreed to view the page. I've not heard from them by email or phone since and I'm still looking for the replacement pin. As you can imagine, I'm not concerned about the cost of the pin, I'll bet I could replace it for fifty cents or less. I'm hoping the replacement pin will be of superior quality than the first pin.
Replacement pin
July 27, 2006: The replacement pin arrived today. It appears to be virtually identical to the broken pin. Apparently there is a base plate to the pin which is attached to the ring assembly in some way. I mentioned above how I felt one could not plan to watch for this pin to break during a trip because, if broken, you would still be traveling with a missing pin until your next stop. I suppose a driver could watch the pin for cracks between the ring assembly and pin assuming that cracks exist before it snaps off. I've done my best to let the folks at Draw-Tite know of this problem and apparently they feel the broken pin was defective and all other pins are not since they supplied me with exactly the same pin style.
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