Question on hitches/receiver, which should I get?

I’ve got a 2016 Volvo V60 Cross Country, and I’m strongly considering getting a small travel trailer, something similar in concept to a Scamp 13’, although might not be that brand, or possibly not even a fiberglass shell, but something in that vicinity for size and weight.

The official Volvo 2" ball comes with a controller for a 4/7 pin connector, as well as does some anti-sway stuff in talking with the stability control system. Here’s the official description.

The towbar is equipped with Volvo’s Trailer Stability Assist technology (TSA) and interacts with your Volvo’s DSTC system1. If the trailer starts to sway back and forth at speeds in excess of 30 mph (50 km/h), TSA can brake one or more wheels to regain stability and maintain control.

However it’s a non-standard receiver, so I can’t use any standard receiver bike racks or what not when not using the trailer. It just brings up a standard 2" ball hitch. It is effectively a “hideaway” hitch, since there’s no visible sign of it unless the ball is in.

On the other hand, I can get a standard 2" socket hitch put on from a high quality local place for about 1/2 the price, but it won’t have the stability control interaction for anti-sway. It’ll also probably take off an inch or two from the centerline clearance, although that’s not so big a concern for me. Will also have some sort of visibility from the rear, although again, a nice to have but not a real need for me.

So which would you more experienced towers recommend? One which integrates with the car systems and can help fight sway if it happens, or a standard 2" receiver socket?

What’s the trailer weight and your towing experience?

However, careful on the price comparison - does that local hitch include the wiring for the trailer lights/brakes/etc? The 7 pin connector has a trailer brake output, as well as a live 12V output for charging breakaway batteries and such, and with a 3500lb max tow weight, the car had better be putting some sort of brake signal out. If you’re getting your own hitch, don’t forget to budget for the light/brake controller.

I wouldn’t be too concerned about the anti-sway stuff - by the time that matters, you’re pretty well screwed anyway, and if the trailer starts to diverge, I’m not sure how much stability control will really help. It might help with minor divergence, but if it’s a major one (the trailer has flipped the switch to outboard and gone off to dance), I have no idea how much the car can do about it.

The 2" receiver is more useful, as you note, and if there’s no real ground clearance issues (which, with a low slung one on the Volt, there would be - so I found a better solution…), and the cost with brake controller and light controller is still half the cost, I’d go with that one. And then not load your trailer like a moron.

Have you checked if there’s adapters for the fancy one to more normal style? And/or ones sold in Europe?

The electrical setup is half the battle with a hitch and if the price gets close I’d be tempted to go with the “official” one.

Yes, the regular 2" receiver was for wired all up with a 4/7 pin connectors. Rather… that was for the wiring & receiver, but I don’t think it actually included a brake controller, I’d have to check, but I suspect not.

I don’t have the trailer, but I’m aiming for 1800-1900 dry weight max, give or take. Also going to get a tongue weight gauge so I can check the load balancing in the trailer.

I think I’ll give Volvo a call back, because nowhere for that controller module do I see it explicitly saying it includes brake controller functionality for the trailer. If the trailer is so equipped of course. If it doesn’t, even though it has the 7 pin… I think I’d go for a regular receiver + 3rd party brake controller to be 100% sure.

This controller product page actually has a good picture of how the ball hitch will look once installed.

Yeah…nope. This is the only official Volvo one. Oh sure, there’s various 3rd party 2" receiver hitches I can get. Even a 3rd party stealth hitch with regular receiver for racks and the like, although I’d need to pay more to get their ball hitch for actual towing.

And then would need the electrical added, of course.

I suspect the anti-sway is not really required (maybe an EU requirement/law?) and agree that the normal 2in is going to be much more useful than a simple ball.

I wonder if you can buy the controller and harness from VW without the hitch if you go that way.

Visibility from the rear isn’t a major issue, you have to put your truck nuts on it anyway.

You’ll want brakes with 2500lb loaded behind a car.

I regularly drag around 4k-6k without brakes, but… I shouldn’t be, I wouldn’t take it on the highway, and I’m towing with a bit of a beast.

I doubt it’s required by law anywhere, but it’s a nice to have it actually works somewhat.

And it’s Volvo, not VW :stuck_out_tongue: And when I asked about that, it apparently is a complete kit. Towbar, controller, hitch, etc. Although I suspect I can order them separately elsewhere, based on what I’m seeing.

Heh, yeah, definitely not ideal. Can brakes be added to trailers? I think some of the older trailers don’t have them. Definitely wouldn’t depend on them, I have no intention of going 75 MPH down the highway, even if things feel stable and safe. All it takes is 1 good random gust of wind or passing/being passed by a large vehicle with the change in air pressure, and the trailer goes all over the place and that’s how tragedy happens. Not me. I’d rather get there a bit slower and not have a chance gust of wind or rock in the road cause problems.

In general, anything that’s over 2k loaded should have brakes out of the factory, and a lot of lighter ones may as well.

The big one I haul has brakes. They just don’t work and I’ve not felt like pulling hubs apart to fix them.

At 75mph… a well balanced trailer (I’d want closer to 15% up on the tongue up there) should behave fine, even with a gust. It’s the EU loadings of 5% on the tongue that will get you in trouble. Though, practically, there’s zero reason to bother with a specific trailer tongue scale. A bathroom scale, a sheet of plywood, and a stool will do the job, and once you know what it should feel like, you’ll know if you’re close.

Some trailers have a very dinky electric brake setup - basically, the brake lights are on the trailer brakes are on.

I prefer to keep the trailer weight way below the hauling vehicle weight unless it’s expressly designed for it (read: usually air brakes).

Well, bathroom scale and sheet of plywood and stool is a lot larger than an tongue scale :stuck_out_tongue: But I definitely take your point.

I can see how that would work, especially with newer LED tail lights using less current - it leaves a few amps for the brakes. As long as the trailer weight isn’t changing massively, you can do something productive with that, though it doesn’t work at all for anything that has a large weight range, and it’s questionable for anything too heavy, as you want to be able to get on the trailer brakes harder if you’re slowing faster. Plus, a good brake controller lets you apply trailer brakes separately - not only for stability (it’ll deal with a swaying trailer quickly), but for just convenience. I regularly lock the trailer brakes if I’m getting the hitch seated and it’s being a bit cranky.

I would definitely agree for a car, though a pickup can usually go a bit heavier. I start getting a bit grumpy about a receiver around 10k lbs on my truck, which is somewhere in the 8k range in typical trim - beyond that, or for long distances, I’d rather use a 5th wheel hitch, but I’ll tow 10k around town without worrying about it.

You don’t need to weigh the tongue that often. Just enough to learn what it should feel like. If it’s a 3000 lb trailer, you want 300-450 lbs on the ball, and you can feel that in the crank for the tongue wheel. If you can lift the front easily, well, time to go figure out what’s going on.

Yeah the trailers I’ve seen with those electric brakes had batteries on the trailer itself. Not sure how safe it really is but I suspect if you keep to the 55 recommended you’re going to do pretty well.

The “battery on the trailer” is usually a breakaway switch - if you’ve set things up properly, if the trailer separates from the tow vehicle, it pretty much locks up the trailer brakes.

So…called the dealership back, the parts guy had to call Volvo themselves, the control module does NOT function as a trailer brake controller. Unfortunately. Only interacts with the vehicles brakes. And there is a car computer firmware update they’d need to install in order to get the controller module to work. The parts guy did confirm he can order the wiring harness and controller separately, so in theory I can have them to the work to add the controller/wiring harness, and have another place install a standard 2" receiver and add a brake controller. Assuming the service department will allow that, that is.

Oh, and the dealership doesn’t have a brake controller they’ll install. Although of course that assumes the trailer I get has one. Which doesn’t appear to be the case for all of the used ones, of course. Some of the older ones don’t.

Le sigh.

Just go third party, then. I don’t see possible stability control antics as being worth much, and I would far rather have a good brake controller than that sway system integration. You can get a good anti-sway hitch if you really want.

Hm, this BT brake controller seems pretty nifty, some pretty happy reviews of it. Probably not quite as good as wired to the front, but still seems solid in general I’d say. And would easily fit into basically any setup that has a 7-pin properly installed. Although, naturally, if I need to make an emergency adjustment that won’t be available at all. Hmph.

Bluetooth-enabled brake controller wirelessly connects to your smartphone, turning your phone into a brake control interface. The compact unit plugs in line with your 7-way trailer connector - no complicated install and no bulky cab-mounted unit.

NO! No part of this is the slightest bit OK!

Just get a normal under-dash brake controller. If you need to assert a bit of trailer brake, you need to assert it very much now, not “Load app. Wait for it to connect. Wait, which button was it?” while the trailer is diverging from well behaved travel.

sigh Yeah. It’s that one time in 3 years when I really need it. Or it could be the day I pickup the trailer. But yeah. Not worth it in this case really.

It’s worth finding out if any of the trailers you’re interested in actually come with trailer brakes. If they don’t, it doesn’t matter.

But smartphones belong nowhere near any critical control paths, and trailer brakes are one of those.