Spent about 30 hours on this project between research, shopping, and all of the support related tasks.
Stage one: Find a hitch.
Found a hitch for an express van on craigslist for 50 bucks in Katy which is about an hour and a half of driving one way from here. Emailed to verify the dimensions.
We got there and he sold me a 50% tread 6 year old set of e range 245 75 16's for 20 bucks. Turns out ours has 225 75 16's. Still 20 bucks isn't terrible and I can probably get 50-100 bucks for em out here.
Stage 2: Trailer wiring.
Removed the easy access panel that covers up the right rear of the vehicle.
Everything is there except the left rear turn signal. Concluded that the main conduit that connects the front/rear of the vehicle is on the top left side.
Every wire is gloriously labeled. This is the most user friendly wiring I've ever had the pleasure of working on. (auto strippers bit my fingers and left me a nice blood blister)
Reinstalled cover minus removed fiberglass insulation and switched to the challenging side where the rear heater partially blocks access to the panel fasteners.
We purchased a Hopkins 46155 from Oreilly auto parts: http://www.oreillyauto.com/site/c/de...0158&ppt=C0386
The bus has dedicated turn signals and trailers use the brake light and turn signals in the same circuit. This converts the signal to the one the trailer requires. Another cool part about the adapter is when you hit the brakes while using your turn signals, the signals on the bus and trailer alternate which imo draws further attention.
Theres a hole from the service panel down to beneath the bus where I ran the wires for the trailer lights to a 7 way. Next time I'm at the machine shop I'll have shane plasma cut a hole in the bumper to mount the 7 way high up to keep it out of harms way.
Step 3: Modify the hitch to reduce departure angle.
I decided rather than hang the hitch from the bottom of the frame rails I'd hang it from the top of the 2 C-channel frame rails to keep the hitch above the rear bumper. Dropped her at the machine shop and had about .5 inches cut off of each side to fit within the frame rails.
Removed the bumper to begin the design of how to mount everything. I was fully expecting to be killed from the weight of it when the final bolt was removed. Turns out she's aluminum and light as a feather. 1/4" thick C channel aluminum. Theres a structural cross member that was originally installed at the very end of the frame rails. At some point in the past it was torched off and relocated inward by about 15" as indicated by the burn marks on the frame and cut marks on the member.
This interfered with the hitch. I decided that the hitch install would replace it's purpose anyhow so it was removed. The welder had a really fun time in those tight spaces with 3" long self tappers sticking down from the school districts floor repairs.
Once the bracket was removed I ran home from the machine shop a second time on this project. The hitch slid between the c channel frame rails like glove. It was magical. Shane (the machinist/welder) and I gave an exuberant high five when we slid it into place after he removed the crossmember.
Came back home so I could figure out how I wanted the hitch installed. Pondered and mocked everything up for a few hours and decided against welding it to the frame. I wanted to be able to cleanup/paint the receiver and frame down the road. The hitch boxes everything in so welding everything on would make maintanance/cleaning a challenge.
Experimented with the hitch mounted to the top and bottom of the c channel and decided to mount it to the bottom for ease of access to drill the holes out for the bolts.
I went through my loose bolts/nuts drawer and decided against reusing unknown grade/strength bolts/nuts and spent 25 bucks at lowes for 6 1/2" grade 8 zinc coated bolts with zinc coated washers 1 per side, zinc coated split washer, and finally a zinc coated nut.
My wife built a template for me to drill on the frame. I learned a long time ago to use masonary bits when drilling on steel with an unsteady handheld drill. The 5 dollar bit walked through the 1/4" thick frame supported by my now heavily bruised knee. I couldn't stand the pain on the next attempt so I let necessity take over. She built me a drill press using a bottle jack against my drill. It was glorious.
My Milwaukee 18v lithium battery is about 5 years old now and she's lasting maybe 10 minutes under the drill press so I had to whip out the 8 year old dewalt 18v nimh to finish the job.
In my haste to wrap this project up I didn't realize I had squished my Fenix LD12 between the hitch and frame. Just a little surface damage, had to use a prybar to rescue her.
The hitch is now properly mounted.
Shane rewelding on the bumper brackets. We did have to cut off and re weld on the bumper brackets. I'll design some stronger gusseted brackets in the distant future that bolt on.
We have a pretty good impact on the rear right of the bumper. Shane and I used some wood blocks and a sledge and pounded it a bit. It straightened up quite well for 5 minutes of effort. Once that was done he measured and drilled a pilot hole in the bumper for the hitch opening.
I designed it in such a way that the bumper sits flush with the end of the hitch. This gives me room behind the bumper to install the hitch pin and clearance for the factory hitch chain straps.
Once the pilot hole was drilled we mounted the bumper. Shane then used a plasma cutter to make the hole in the aluminum.
Hitch installed and
cargo rack mounted!
The cargo rack is a walmart special. Holds 500 lbs and has a lift hitch bringing the rack up a good 6+ inches. The problem is after holding 10 gallons of fuel on the rear left and an empty tool box on the rear right it got a stress fracture in a bracket and was also incredibly poorly designed so that 6" it gains in the front sags down 6" in the rear. We put a block of wood on the rear of the rack to put it in a bind holding it up as high as possible then Shane tacked on a few welds.
Removed the rack and Shane welded everything up awesome. I can jump up and down on the end and it's stout as ever. (perky if you will)
Our 16' tandem axle utility trailer bolted up to my 3" adjustable drop hitch.
The trailer is about 10" higher in the front than the back (unloaded) so I'm going to grab a 6" drop hitch to level things out. Otherwise the mechanical part is completed.