My 1990 Boston Whaler REVENGE 22 W-T Whaler Drive boat has been sitting on a 1992 E-Z-LOADER boat trailer for most of its life. The boat is not kept in the water, except for periods of perhaps a week or two when we are en route on long boating cruises. In 2017 the trailer was 25-years-old. The trailer gets frequent use on the highway, and has probably been towed perhaps 20,000-miles since I have owned it for the last 15 years or so.
The trailer was equipped by the OEM with a DICO Model 6 surge brake actuator, which uses a 2-5/16-inch-diameter ball coupler. The actuator is now made by TITAN and is called the TITAN DICO Model 6. The ratings are given in the owner's manual:
- "8,000 POUNDS MAXIMUM GROSS LOAD with 2 5/16" bolt-on coupler
"800 POUND MAXIMUM TONGUE LOAD with 2 5/16" bolt-on coupler...This is the weight applied downward by the fully loaded trailer's coupler on the tow vehicle's hitch. Measure your trailer's Tongue Load with the tongue in a horizontal towing position, using a commercial scale. Upward tongue loads are not permissible.
"The Model 6 actuator is intended for use with recreational trailers subject to more frequent use, light utility trailers, and light occasional-use industrial trailers, which are towed by passenger cars and pickups. The actual in-service rating is limited to that of the ball and hitch being used or the trailer manufacturer's G.V.W.R.shown on the certification label, whichever is lower."
In addition to those specifications, the manual also specifies the rated service life:
- "Surge actuators of this type provide a service life of approximately five years with proper installation, usage, and maintenance. However, a well cared-for actuator can often exceed this estimate."
It so happened that in the summer of 2017 I was reading the owner's manual and came across that statement of service life. Since my coupler was now at five-times the suggested service life for a coupler of this type, I decided it should be replaced. In addition to the motivation from reading the manual, I had noticed that the shock absorber in the coupler that cushions the movement of the coupler was worn out, and, at the least, the coupler would need to be disassembled and the shock absorber replaced. Because the cost of a entire new coupler was not excessive--about $225--I decided I would just replace the coupler assembly as a whole rather try rebuild parts of it.
After shopping for a replacement coupler, I found an on-line vendor who listed the TITAN DICO Model 6 coupler with 2-5/16-inch ball hitch and DRUM BRAKE master cylinder at a reasonable price, and I placed an order with them. The online vendor was ETRAILER.COM. It was easy to order from the webstore, and the coupler arrived several days later.
As I was busy with work for several days, it took me a while before I got around to opening the shipping box. My first surprise was the weight of this coupler--it is made of heavy steel and has substantial weight. But a further big surprise awaited: affixed to the coupler was a stick-on label that advised rather clearly: COUPLER FOR USE ONLY WITH DISC BRAKES. I quickly double-checked my order and all associated paperwork; everything specified DRUM BRAKES. It was clear that ETRAILER had sent the wrong coupler in response to my order.
I called ETRAILER and spoke with a nice young woman who arranged for me to send back the DISC BRAKE coupler (at their expense) while cross-shipping me a replacement coupler for DRUM BRAKES. This took another week or so to complete.
Eventually I received a replacement coupler. However, it looked suspiciously like the first one, except where I was expecting to see a label declaring the new coupler to be FOR DRUM BRAKES ONLY, there was nothing, except perhaps a hint of adhesive residue. I was very curious to know how I could definitively identify this second coupler as being the proper one for drum brakes, and not another disc brake model.
To get advice, I called TITAN DICO, and with some great luck, I got to speak to Lon Hatfield, who is a production engineer that is completely familiar with the Model 6 coupler and its two variations, one for disc brakes and one for drum brakes. He told me:
- --there is no identifying part number on the assembly
--only way to identify DISC from DRUM is by measuring depth at the master cylinder fitting outlet as follows:
--if only abut 1.5-inch depth then unit is DRUM
--if about 3-inch depth then unit is DISC
He also told me that in the field one could modify a DRUM unit to become a DISC unit but in the field a DISC unit cannot be returned to a DRUM unit configuration.
Using a 1/8-inch drill bit as depth gauge, I measured the depth inside the master cylinder and discovered that coupler #2 that I had on hand was indeed another DISC BRAKE ONLY model.
I again followed up with ETRAILER, speaking again to a polite young woman in customer service, who again apologized for the error, and again wanted me to return the coupler to them at their cost. However, before shipping me another coupler, she was going to investigate further into why the shipping department was sending the wrong coupler to me, and she'd call me back in a day or two.
While waiting for ETRAILER to call back, I spoke again with Lon at TITAN DICO. He was extremely helpful. He offered to send me the master cylinder part for drum brakes, which he indicated I would easily swap out for the disc brake master cylinder now on my coupler. That seemed like an interesting option, as it would give me an option in the future of converting to disc brakes, if I ever got around to re-fitting all the trailer brakes.
ETRAILER called me back a day or two later and informed me that their present inventory contained not a single drum brake model coupler, and they proposed to remedy the whole problem by just refunding my purchase price and having me return the disc brake coupler I now had.
At this point I decided to take up the generous offer from Lon at TITAN DICO, and I told ETRAILER I would keep the coupler I had now, and we'd call it a done deal. I then called Lon back and asked him to send me the drum brake master cylinder, and thanked him for his kind offer.
About this time in 2017 it was time to go boating--25-year-old coupler on the trailer or not--so the whole trailer coupler project was put on the shelf for a while. I did receive the replacement master cylinder assembly from TITAN DICO a few days later. Later in the summer, I got around to refitting the new master cylinder onto the new coupler.
The master cylinder assembly bolts onto the main coupler frame with four screws. There are holes in the main frame and the screws thread into the master cylinder assembly. But there was a problem: the holes on the new master cylinder were not tapped. Time to call Lon for more advice.
My initial thought was that the holes were tapped at some point in the assembly process, and the part I had been sent was not completely finished. Lon explained that was wrong, and the mounting bolts were very special bolts that would cut their own threads into the 1/4-inch steel of the assembly. I was quite skeptical that I could do this, but Lon assured me it would work. He was right; with some careful alignment and a big wrench, I was able to use the special self-tapping machine screws, and I installed the new master cylinder assembly onto the coupler.
Very late in the summer, I finally got around to installing the new TITAN DICO Model 6 coupler onto my 1992 trailer. The coupler installation was quite simple; the old coupler came off with several large mounting bolts, and the new coupler, an identical replacement, was bolted on. The coupler was filled with brake fluid and the brake system bled of air. All seemed ready to go. All of this work was done on the trailer while the boat was off the trailer and the trailer was unhitched from the tow vehicle.
As part of my general trailer refurbishment, I had also purchased a new 2-5/16-inch ball mount. The old coupler had been gouging up the old ball mount, so I wanted a fresh and smooth ball mount to mate with the new coupler. I backed up the trailer and dropped the coupler onto the ball. It was then I discovered another problem: the new DICO Model 6 hitch would not close and lock on my new 2-5/16-inch ball. Time to call Lon again.
In conversation with Lon, I explained the problem: the locking mechanism of the coupler was just not engaging properly. Something was out of tolerance, and I did not think it was the hitch ball. Lon informed me that there was a possibility of some mechanical tolerances being off on my coupler, and offered to send me a coupler lock rebuild kit that I could install. Okay, I figured, I had already replaced the master cylinder on this new coupler--why not rebuild the hitch lock mechanism, too? Lon allowed that it would be about three weeks before he had the necessary replacement kit to send me--I got the impression they were probably a little short on these parts as perhaps they had to make up a lot of them. He warned me not to use the coupler in an unlocked condition. Since I only had to tow the boat at 10-MPH for less than a mile to the launch ramp, I ignored him. The coupler typically has about 400-lbs of tongue weight, and I could drive very slowly to the ramp.
About three weeks later the coupler lock repair kit arrived. Yikes--this was going to be another problem to install. I needed to drill out some big rivets, replace several parts, and then rivet them back together. I don't exactly have a rivet setting tool that could handle these big steel rivets. I had to call Lon for more advice. He allowed that if I wanted to avoid the rivets I could use high-strength bolts in place of them.
In the end, one rivet could be installed with the lock assembly not yet on the coupler. By using a huge granite rock in my backyard--probably several thousand pounds--as a base, and holding the rivet head against it, I was able to flatten the other side of the rivet with a hammer in a reasonably decent fashion. The second rivet would have to be installed with the lock mechanism in place on the coupler. For that rivet I chose to substitute a hardened bolt. A hardware store grade-7 bolt was found and fitted. The lock mechanism was fixed.
This is part-one of my saga of trailer refurbishment. It took most all of the summer of 2017 to get that original coupler replaced. It took a lot more work and effort on my part to accomplish it than I had anticipated: I had to send back one coupler, replace the master cylinder on the second coupler, then replace the ball hitch lock mechanism on the second coupler. I have more stories to tell about the trailer, and I will add them to this thread later.
I don't mean to condemn ETRAILER. They tried their best to send me the right coupler. It appeared they just did not have the proper one in stock and their inventory and shipping controls were a bit loose. I am extremely grateful that the first coupler they sent had that big warning label on it about ONLY FOR DISC BRAKES, as without that I would have been off on the totally wrong road, using an inappropriate coupler.
I can't say enough good things about Lon at TITAN DICO, as he was a great help, and sent me all the stuff I needed at no charge. However, the whole process seemed to be unusually complicated and difficult. If I had known all this was awaiting me, I think I would have ordered a different coupler from a different vendor.