RV how-to install a bike hitch to a trailer

Creating a Safe Trailer Hitch for EBike

I’m Michelle Fontaine for “RVing Today.” Several months ago, I purchased an e-bike, and I love it, so it has to come cross country with me. We considered several options, and the most logical one was putting a hitch receiver on the back of the RV. And my friend, Ray LeQuesne graciously offered to do this modification for me. So, here’s Ray with today’s story.

Ray LeQuesne: Well, looking at the original setup, evaluating it, whether it was going to be strong enough just to put a hitch receiver on the existing bumper, would it be heavy enough, would it provide enough safety? And after evaluating it, we decided, no, it needed to be replaced with a heavy wall 4 X 4 bumper, as well as the 2 X 4’s right here, one in each side, and only a foot long. Increased the wall thickness by 33% on this and as well as this, to get that strength that I felt we needed.

Doing a project like this, can we improve on the existing setup somehow, someway through location? And that’s what we decided. We said, you know, we’re gonna have this bumper off. Let’s pull it out two more inches, provide two more inches of here to here. Prior to this, it was set back almost flush with the back of the rig. So, we pulled it out two inches, and that’s considerable. We also added two inches to each end.  We added two inches, gives you a little bit more protection on your corners. So, we incorporated that improvement, still got a nice little gap between the ladder and the bumper. So, everything looks good.

In addition to the heavier wall on the material, we added another cross member about 14 inches under here, another cross member across, because we want the hitch to attach at two points, not a single point. So, we got a two-point attachment via welding, here and back in here. So, that’s going to give you a good, good strength. There’s a lot of activity back here going down some of these roads, that your assembly is trying to rock back and forth in every direction, and that puts a lot of stress on whatever is holding it.

We’re gonna talk about removing the existing bumper. And a day like today, windy, dry, Arizona– big shocker there– not a good day to be cutting outside with a torch or making sparks. So, we did this in a garage, and we were good. The first thing we do on removal is we get our fire extinguisher ready. We get a garden hose, good pressure ready to go, set aside, in place. Don’t want a fire. Because we’re cutting and we’re grinding up under here, and sparks are going. Also, equally as important, you shut your propane tanks off. Probably already have that done, but make sure they’re shut off, and bleed the line, because there is a line, band the remote line comes to the back, that you actually have to move out of the way to cut and weld. So, gotta get that propane system down.

Also, to gain access, there’s five welds from this piece to the frames, five, factory welds. And to gain good access, we had to remove the 5/16 self-tappers from the liner right here to be able to get at the welds we need to cut. Lots of room helps out. All right, so with all that removed, we get under there. We put jack stands on both sides to support it. Get under there with a 4 1/2-inch grinder and smaller grinder and chisels, and we got it out– not without a lot of work. They finally come out.

Failed to mention, with that cross member, we put it in place with the idea that it’s right under the black tank, and we cannot interfere with getting access to the black tank. So, we made that cross member removable. It actually bolts on both sides. It bolts with a good half-inch Grade 8 bolt. 

We cleaned up the frame rails where the new one’s going to attach. We got the stabilizers that we took off, and we need to get them as close as we can to the original position. So, that’s kind of a fit and go, as you assemble. So, with the underneath prep ready to go for the new one to go in, the assembly that we put together, how it’s made, how the hitch receiver actually fits in to the 4 X 4, it looks good. It gives you good welding all the way around it. So, we got it all tacked together, very lightly tacked together– the arms, the 4 X 4, the cross member that I was talking about is bolted to each end. You can see it there. So now we’re going to roll it under the rig, and jack it up, and fit it, and it looks good. We’ll put some primer and paint on some certain points that we’re not going to be able to get at later, and we’re going to remove it, finish welding it up, and get it back under there.

So, with the bumper securely in place with good, good welds running the entire length of this piece here, which only runs 12 inches, the way it fits, it fits perfectly. And now we’re looking at the stabilizers. And fortunately–I don’t know if you can tell by the pictures, but the stabilizers actually clamped under the cross member. One leg of the stabilizer clamped under the cross member, which was like yes, because that’s a heavy gauge cross member. It just supplies so much more strength to the original system. So, this system is actually, the stabilizer is stronger than the original. I know that with certainty. So, I was really happy They’re about 2 inches off of where they originally were, but there’s no interference. They work fine, and they’re stronger, so we’re really happy about that part of it.

The big question is weight, always sensitive of weight. Spending weight on safety and things like that is a good value versus adding weight for just a comfort feature that you could do without. Weight for safety is a no brainer for me. So, we, basically, we took off 50 pounds, and we added 98 pounds. So, it’s a net gain of almost 50 pounds, 7 gallons of water, 6 1/2, 7 gallons of water, the equivalent of.

You’re getting more protection because of the setback. You’re getting better protection for your corners, and you can haul two e-bikes on that rack without even– with no problem whatsoever. Relocation of the spare tires, the second modification. We no longer want it on the back. So, she could carry it in the back of her truck, or we can figure out where to put it. So, we looked at it, evaluated it, and tried to come up with clever ideas, practical ways of doing it. And her Tacoma, her spare tire mounts right here
in the back like a lot of pickup trucks do. I think most do. And you gain access by taking the tools supplied by Toyota in through–somewhere down here, is an insert, and you lower your tire. Well, that device that lowers the tires are readily, easily obtainable replacement part, not only from Toyota but from other places. And they’re not that expensive, and they work really slick. So, we’re gonna get one of those, brand-new, and we’re going to mount it under here, and she’ll be able to use this same tool for her truck, as her tire, but first she’s going to try to call the tire people to come save her, but sometimes that’s not gonna happen.

We’re going to need to install a couple more cross members, and they’re probably going to be on the scale of angle iron, an inch and a half by 1/8 inch– give you an idea of what kind of material we’re talking about, not big stuff–over the top, and that’s where that device I was telling you about is going to mount. That’s one that actually lowers and raises the tire. It’s going to mount on those two cross members, and she’ll gain access from probably right under here. And so, it’ll all be the same. Yeah, it’s gonna be about 50 extra pounds, so actually that’s going to offset the 50 you gain back there, and it’s going to transfer it here. So, that’s almost going to even out, but it’s going to be a little bit more weight here, because your center, your wheel base center is not halfway down the rig. It’s more towards the back. So, 50 pounds back there would be the equivalent of maybe 40 pounds here because of the location of the axle weight distribution. So, but we’re down to 10, 20 pounds difference, so move some pots and pans around.

Michelle: Thanks so much, Ray. Well, the bike is in place and covered with a heavy duty bike cover. This is Michelle Fontaine of “RVing Today,” wishing you safe travels. And maybe I’ll see you on the road.