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Curt class III receiver hitch fail

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lparsons
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Posts: 81
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:44 am

Curt class III receiver hitch fail

Post by lparsons » Tue Jul 23, 2019 7:03 am

A few years ago I ordered the curt hitch from Amazon and installed it on my 05 limited (not exactly a process I enjoyed, honestly). I occasionally pulled a light utility trailer - heaviest load I ever pulled was one yard of dirt in said trailer - though I mostly used it to carry bicycles.

Yesterday I had four bikes (two of which were kids bikes) on thule receiver mounted carrier and headed out from home for a short ride with the wife and kids. Made it two blocks from home, went over a speed bump at walking speed and heard bounce, bounce, CRACK. Stopped the car quickly to find the receiver suddenly several inches lower than it was previously.

Looks like the bolts nearest the rear bumper have released in interesting ways. This does not look repairable.
05 Freestyle Limited AWD - dark red (wife's car)
02 VW Passat W8 - all black (my car)

LimitedX
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Posts: 43
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:11 am

Re: Curt class III receiver hitch fail

Post by LimitedX » Tue Jul 23, 2019 8:56 am

Hi,

Did the bolts BREAK, or bend? Could you replace the bolts and tighten it back in place? My hitch is bolted on, three bolts on each side. I've heard of some people welding the hitch in place but haven't tried that options...

Now I'm curious.

D

lparsons
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Posts: 81
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:44 am

Re: Curt class III receiver hitch fail

Post by lparsons » Tue Jul 23, 2019 6:28 pm

It took me a while, but I was eventually able to remove the receiver. Interesting that you mention yours had 6 bolts, mine only had 4. I wonder if it was revised at some point? I presume yours extended a fair bit longer towards the center of the car than mine to find two more mounting points.

That said, in my case the bolts did not themselves fail (sorry if my initial comment was ambiguous on that). Rather the plate for the driver's side rear-most bolt actually broke through the channel it was in. Here I'm talking about the rectangular plate that helps to hold the bolt in place while the nut is tightened. On the passenger side somehow the plate was missing entirely (quite difficult to see the plate while fastening the nut) so it was actually not attached to anything but the hitch itself (and certainly had a role in the failure as well).

Another interesting quirk to this receiver is that three of the nuts were 19mm while one - which was the passenger side closer to the mid section of the car - was 15mm. I could not figure out why they did this either, though that 15mm nut was a real chore to remove from its own bolt - I had to break it with a rotary tool and an oversized flat-head screwdriver, then bring down the weight of the receiver on it to finally get it to fall off. Naturally that was the last one that I fought in the removal process (while I had a jackstand under the receiver itself to keep it from crashing to the ground in the process).

Regardless the damage done to the channel by the plate crashing through it is extensive. There is no hope for putting a receiver back on in this fashion now; I guess from this point forward my freebie (currently at 173,xxx miles) will be limited to what it can carry inside and on the roof. I'm not sure that it would be worth seeking out someone to try to weld this (or any other) receiver on for the duration of the car's life.
05 Freestyle Limited AWD - dark red (wife's car)
02 VW Passat W8 - all black (my car)

LimitedX
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Posts: 43
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:11 am

Re: Curt class III receiver hitch fail

Post by LimitedX » Wed Jul 24, 2019 10:53 am

That is interested. Did you find corrosion / rust where the bolt fell through the channel? Or did it crack from fatigue?

Our vehicle's first trailer hitch I installed, with the three bolts on each side. Two went straight up into the channel - one went sideways (horizontal). We were rear ended and the hitch bolts were so strong that the square channel BENT on one side. The repair shop had to get a replacement channel, flatten the bent floorpan, and cut and weld it back in, and then install a new hitch back into the new channel.

I'm pretty sure you don't want to do all that. I do wonder if a day at the welders would fix you up, weld in the hitch to do two things - 1) keep your hitch capabilities and 2) add structural support back to that frame rail channel.

Or, if you have another vehicle to handle tow and bike duties, just leave it. Depends on mileage and condition I guess.......

Good luck.

D

lparsons
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Posts: 81
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:44 am

Re: Curt class III receiver hitch fail

Post by lparsons » Sat Jul 27, 2019 3:44 pm

I've contacted a couple of local independent welders (through craigslist) and the response I keep getting is "probably not". I've attached two pictures of the channels that show the damage; the intact one is the passenger side while the mutilated one is the driver's side. You can also see that the rust is pretty extensive (car has been in salt / rust states since it was new to the best of my knowledge) so the repair required to make the channels usable would likely be extensive. The worm drive belt you see on the driver's side is holding up the muffler as it was previously held up by a rubber brace that used to connect to the receiver that I removed (don't remember what I removed to install the receiver that used to hold up the muffler).

We're leaning towards replacing the car at this point, though not for another year or more. We're past 174k miles on the car and it's not running that great anyways (definitely lost a few horses over the years). We haven't been able to solve the "AWD Malfunction" light that's been on for about two years now (and it was noticeably tracking less well this winter than last) and we've had a rattle (independent mechanic suggested catalytic converter heat shield) that we haven't had the time and money to resolve either.

We do not at this time have another car that can handle the bike / trailer duties but we don't do either all that often. If I'm taking a bike out on my own I can certainly fit it inside the car; if we need to haul something in a trailer we can often borrow a truck from a friend, neighbor, or relative. And my trailer has a flat tire right now so it's not going to be going anywhere anytime soon either.

We're thinking the Ford Flex with ecoboost looks real appealing right now. Just saw a 2011 with 140k and AWD in my area for under $10k. They should be even cheaper still by this time next year. Time to start socking away money I guess ...
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05 Freestyle Limited AWD - dark red (wife's car)
02 VW Passat W8 - all black (my car)

lparsons
Regular Member
Posts: 81
Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:44 am

Re: Curt class III receiver hitch fail

Post by lparsons » Sun Jul 28, 2019 5:47 am

I put some more thought into the bike situation and realized I have another solution to this. This is somewhat specific to my own family as right now my wife and I have 4 and 9 year old sons; it might not be as useful for others.
I have a folding bike rack (the kind you would put on the trunk of a sedan or coupe) that can carry two bikes; I can safely put my bike and my wife's bike on it. I can then fit the bikes for our sons inside the back of the car. This won't work for very long as our sons move into larger bikes, but for now it buys us some time until we can afford to replace the car outright.
05 Freestyle Limited AWD - dark red (wife's car)
02 VW Passat W8 - all black (my car)

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mmsstar
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Re: Curt class III receiver hitch fail

Post by mmsstar » Sun Jul 28, 2019 12:48 pm

You might be able to replace the rear sub frame
Drove an 06 LTD FWD from July 08 to August 10, moved on to a 2011 Flex

LimitedX
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Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:11 am

Re: Curt class III receiver hitch fail

Post by LimitedX » Mon Jul 29, 2019 6:59 am

Yeah that's a high level of rust, and a high level of miles. I have replaced the rear frame rail (the "box") before on our 2008 T-X. We were rear ended and the rail bent. The shop had a hard time locating that specific part, and I think if memory is correct it was about $300 for the part alone, not counting the labor to cut, weld, and paint / seal it. You could check prices to see if prices have changed - my repair was several years ago. The shop said it was priced about as much as gold, for the weight.

If this were my car, and given the mileage and mechanical condition listed, I'm not sure I would do any repairs here at all. The payback is probably not worth the investment level at this point in the vehicle's life.

baf20prz
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Joined: Mon Aug 30, 2010 5:50 pm

Re: Curt class III receiver hitch fail

Post by baf20prz » Tue Aug 06, 2019 7:33 am

Our 08 TX was put out to pasture by similar (but not as catastrophic) unibody failure. viewtopic.php?t=8079

Ours was a Hidden Hitch and if I remember correctly it used 6 bolts as well, not that it matters when sheetmetal gets rusty. Life in snow country! :(

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