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Old 06-25-2020, 06:05 PM   #1
sageghost
 
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Reese Hitches: Buyer Beware!

Hello fellow RVers! For anyone thinking about buying ANY Reese Hitch (or any of the brands associated with Horizon Global such as Draw Tite, Bulldog, etc.) you may want to hear this story. I've owned several Reese products and never had any issues with them until my second 5th wheel hitch which I purchased through eTrailer.com in December 2019.

The hitch arrived, like all stuff shipped by eTrailer, with banged up packaging but otherwise in good shape. This was the Reese 20K 5th wheel hitch (Item # RP30160) made for a Ram truck's OEM towing prep package. I installed the hitch per the instruction manual with no issues. A few days later, I departed on a road trip down to El Paso, TX with my 36 foot, 14K lbs toy hauler in tow. The trip was uneventful right up until the intersection before the RV camp I was going to stay in. Then, as I pulled away from the light, BANG!!! The hitch broke loose from the bed of my truck. Initially, it and the trailer's gooseneck slammed into the tailgate, destroying it, and then came crashing forward as I applied the brakes, doing more damage to the truck bed and my tool box.

Thank God this happened where it happened! If this hitch had broken loose only 10 minutes earlier going 55-60 mph on I-10, the damage could been a lot worse, especially to other vehicles behind me. Luckily it happened right in front of the RV park (Fort Bliss FAMCAMP) where I was going to stay and some very gracious campers came out to help get my truck/trailer out of traffic and into the RV camp. After being stranded for a few days, I bought a new B&W Companion hitch from the El Paso Camping World and made it back home safely.

At first glance, it had looked like the steel on the locking pin feet were made from very poor grade steel and sheared away. However, upon closer examination, the cotter pins were missing from the front two locking pin assemblies. These cotter pins are absolutely critical to the proper functioning of this hitch. Without them installed, the locking feet cannot rotate 90 degrees and lock into the truck's pucks. In the instruction manual, you would only open up the end caps and look at these cotter pins if that particular locking foot needed to be adjusted. On my hitch, only the right rear locking foot needed such an adjustment so I didn't open up the caps on any of the others. The instructions DO NOT direct you to do so. Since my hitch was missing those cotter pins on the front two locking feet, only the back two were actually engaged and were holding all of the weight/stress of the trailer. After enough road time, they failed and thus the hitch separation.

Bottom line, this was a failure of the quality control process at the plant in Mexico where this hitch was assembled. They failed to ensure those cotter pins were installed. There's also no warning in the installation instructions for the end user to check for the presence of these pins. Do all Reese 5th wheel hitch owners have to take their brand new hitch apart and check to make sure the folks on the assembly line did their job? That would be like you having to make sure all the cotter pins were installed on your brand new car's tie rods. It sucks when you follow the instructions to the letter and a lapse on the manufacturer's part ends up damaging your truck/trailer to the tune of $10K. It certainly could have been a lot worse.

So what does the company do about it? Absolutely nothing. Horizon Global, the company which owns the Reese brand, has sat on my claim for six months. I contacted them in January 2020 and even sent the base arches from the broken hitch back to them for an "engineering analysis". After many calls to them, writing a review like this seems to be about my only recourse aside from going after them in court. Lesson learned: don't trust your trailer, truck, your life and the lives of others to defective Reese hitches.

- Chris Morris
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Old 06-26-2020, 09:11 AM   #2
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Pictures of failed Reese Hitch

Not sure why the pictures didn't upload with the original post, but here are a few. Lots more where those came from. Just know that when you buy a hitch from Reese this could happen to you too and the company will NOT stand behind their products.

In the last picture, that's what the inside of the locking feet look like with the plastic caps removed. There's supposed to be a cotter pin in there holding the threaded portion into the slot in the welded sleeve. Those cotter pins were absent on the front two locking feet on my hitch, thus the catastrophic failure. Luckily this happened at low speed taking off from a traffic light. Still, the damage is over $10K and no response whatsoever from the company. Stay away from these clowns.
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Old 06-26-2020, 09:23 AM   #3
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Wow that really sucks at least no one got hurt or killed. I am guessing you filed an insurance claim to get the bed fixed? If so I am sure your insurance company will be after them for compensation and hopefully get your deductible back for you.
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Old 06-26-2020, 09:25 AM   #4
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I do not own a fifth wheel. Did you have safety chains? I believe here in AZ they are required but rarely used.
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Old 06-26-2020, 09:36 AM   #5
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I do not own a fifth wheel. Did you have safety chains? I believe here in AZ they are required but rarely used.
Looks like a puck system, no rails? I donít think chains would make a difference. The pin is was still locked into the hitch jaws and the chains would be connected to the hitch somehow. All of,it, along with chains would go.
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Old 06-26-2020, 09:43 AM   #6
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Looks like a puck system, no rails? I donít think chains would make a difference. The pin is was still locked into the hitch jaws and the chains would be connected to the hitch somehow. All of,it, along with chains would go.
I don't have a 5th wheel and have no experience, but should 5th wheel safety chains not be connected to some point other than to the hitch, for the same reason that safety chains on standard hitches are connected to the frame, not to the hitch?
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Old 06-26-2020, 09:45 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by JPin AZ View Post
Wow that really sucks at least no one got hurt or killed. I am guessing you filed an insurance claim to get the bed fixed? If so I am sure your insurance company will be after them for compensation and hopefully get your deductible back for you.
I haven't filed a claim with my insurance yet, but I suppose that might be a good option. The insurance company might be able to put some heat on Reese/Horizon Global to pay up. I hate to have a ding on my insurance record, especially since it wasn't my fault. At this point, it looks like I'll have to go after Horizon Global in small claims court. They're up in Michigan and the limit is $8K with a six year statute of limitations.
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Old 06-26-2020, 09:49 AM   #8
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I don't have a 5th wheel and have no experience, but should 5th wheel safety chains not be connected to some point other than to the hitch, for the same reason that safety chains on standard hitches are connected to the frame, not to the hitch?
This happened with my second tow vehicle and second 5th wheel hitch and I've never heard of using safety chains with those. I've seen them on goose neck hitches, but not 5th wheel hitches. All the 5th wheel hitches I've had use a puck system so even if there were chains on the hitch itself, it wouldn't have helped. I'd have to have somewhere on the truck bed to attach chains to. I don't think that's the usual set up with 5th wheels though.
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Old 06-26-2020, 09:50 AM   #9
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I don't have a 5th wheel and have no experience, but should 5th wheel safety chains not be connected to some point other than to the hitch, for the same reason that safety chains on standard hitches are connected to the frame, not to the hitch?
Unless there are some special hitch laws and manufacturing that I am not aware of. 5th wheels do not have safety chains like a bumper pull or goose neck. I have owned 5 different 5th wheels and neither came with safety chains.

I do have both gooseneck and bumper pull utility trailers and they have safety chains. Never have I seen safety chains on a 5th wheel.
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Old 06-26-2020, 10:12 AM   #10
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Wow that really sucks at least no one got hurt or killed. I am guessing you filed an insurance claim to get the bed fixed? If so I am sure your insurance company will be after them for compensation and hopefully get your deductible back for you.
This X2. Let your insurance deal with them, you just keep pushing your insurance company.

As for everyone asking about safety chains for fifth wheels, they are not required. Ever see a semi with safety chains?
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Old 06-26-2020, 10:40 AM   #11
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I don't have a 5th wheel and have no experience, but should 5th wheel safety chains not be connected to some point other than to the hitch, for the same reason that safety chains on standard hitches are connected to the frame, not to the hitch?
No safety chains on 5th wheels.

Funny (sort of) story. When I purchased my first 5th wheel, I asked the sales guy when hooking it up where the safety chains were. He looked at me perplexed and said there are none. In a bad situation, like the OPs, one could only hope that the brake breakaway switch would activate to bring the RV to a fast stop. Not saying there wouldn't be damage but it should control the RV from skidding down the road.
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Old 06-26-2020, 10:51 AM   #12
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Are chains required on an Andersen Ulimate Hitch. It is a ball and socket?
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Old 06-26-2020, 11:04 AM   #13
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No safety chains on 5th wheels.

Funny (sort of) story. When I purchased my first 5th wheel, I asked the sales guy when hooking it up where the safety chains were. He looked at me perplexed and said there are none. In a bad situation, like the OPs, one could only hope that the brake breakaway switch would activate to bring the RV to a fast stop. Not saying there wouldn't be damage but it should control the RV from skidding down the road.
I wonder if anyone else out there has had a high speed departure of their 5th wheel on the road? I imagine with all the 5vers on the road these days it must have happened somewhere. I've always been curious how well the break away system would work anyways. I guess after the trailer separated, tore through the tailgate, then fell to the ground on the front jacks, it would have some serious drag to slow it down with or without the break away activating the brakes. Seems like there would be some serious potential for it to roll over though. Just really glad I didn't find out during my little mishap.
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Old 06-26-2020, 12:32 PM   #14
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I think you need to stick with the insurance also. There may be some fine print that recommends professional installation or something that says check all hardware. They usually have some kind of CYA for themselves.
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Old 06-26-2020, 12:38 PM   #15
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Yes, The Anderson hitch does require safety chains and they sell them as an option. Note it does depend on the state you live in. Not all States require safety chains on Goosenecks.
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Old 06-26-2020, 01:05 PM   #16
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on my 2015 ram I had the puck system, but already owned a Reese 20K classic (same one since 1995) so I bought he Ram adapter frame.


it came in a box with 4 cotter pins loose because you have to mount the system, adjust it, then install the cotter pins.
when I moved this same adapter into my 2018, I checked the install and had to adjust 2 of the arms (remove cotter pin, adjust and install new cotter pin).


Since this needs to be adjusted the first time, and cotter pins are not reusable, I would be surprised that Reese sent it with pins installed from factory.

Maybe someone else owned it, returned it, and you ended up with it?


Many of these RV companies are drop shipping from a distributor. I recall getting 3 defective truck camper covers from one large internet dealer. I received 3 covers that were used with holes either ripped or burnt in them. 4th one was brand new sealed in a vacuum bag.
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Old 06-26-2020, 01:07 PM   #17
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I wonder if anyone else out there has had a high speed departure of their 5th wheel on the road? I imagine with all the 5vers on the road these days it must have happened somewhere. I've always been curious how well the break away system would work anyways. I guess after the trailer separated, tore through the tailgate, then fell to the ground on the front jacks, it would have some serious drag to slow it down with or without the break away activating the brakes. Seems like there would be some serious potential for it to roll over though. Just really glad I didn't find out during my little mishap.
A family we used to do a lot of camping with had a situation on a trip coming back from FL to NC. They hit a bad cross wind that caused their F250 and 5er to jackknife. As the event unfolded, the 5th wheel hitch ripped off the truck and the 5er hit the ground and rolled. Fortunately no cars on the road were impacted and as one would expect, camper was totaled. After buying a new 5er, they have it stored at and utilize just one campground....no more traveling.
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Old 06-26-2020, 01:13 PM   #18
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I do not own a fifth wheel. Did you have safety chains? I believe here in AZ they are required but rarely used.
There are NO safety chains on a 5er. They have a "breakaway switch" that activates the 5er brakes should it come dislodged from the tow vehicle.
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Old 06-26-2020, 01:29 PM   #19
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I think you need to stick with the insurance also. There may be some fine print that recommends professional installation or something that says check all hardware. They usually have some kind of CYA for themselves.
Definitely agree, I should pursue the insurance route. I looked the manual over carefully and no where did it recommend professional installation. If that was the case, then why would they sell these hitches to just anyone? They'd have to make them available to dealers only. Either way, they probably will try to hide behind some sort of CYA clause. In many ways, all us consumers can really do is put reviews out there and let others know about how they do business.
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Old 06-26-2020, 01:30 PM   #20
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This X2. Let your insurance deal with them, you just keep pushing your insurance company.

As for everyone asking about safety chains for fifth wheels, they are not required. Ever see a semi with safety chains?

Not sure all states but I think if you tow with a gooseneck in CA you need safety chains but not 100% sure. I concur, turn it over to the insurance company so you can get your truck fixed. they'll try to recover your deductible but my guess is they'll not get anywhere and just pay it, possible settle with Reese but that won't get your deductible back.
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