noisy trailer hitch..why?

I just bought a home-made kayak trailer I bought from an Craigslist ad. Very well designed unit, the owner even had it inspected for structural integrity, weighed and registered/tagged by the state of Pennsylvania. I had a 1 1/4" Class II hitch for it put on my new Mazda CX5. The drive home was about 35 miles , maybe 5 on country roads and the rest on highspeed interstate. It made what seemed to me a disturbing amount of noise, clunking and clattering whenever hit a bump. Did pull over and checked everything and all was properly assembled and latched up.

I’ve hauled trailers of many kinds in the past but never one this light (it is less than 250 lbs.) and never towed one that made so much clattering noise. I noticed the receiver bar seemed quite loose in the hitch socket, I would say it had at least an eighth inch of play. Would that have caused the unnerving rattling whenever I hit a bump. This was not chain chatter, this sounded like something in the hitch connection. Is this due to the trailer being so light and not having a load on it? Should the receiver have been so loose? I don’t ever recall a 2" receiver having so much play.

my kayak trailer is very noise unloaded
Whenever I tow my trailer without weight, it is over-sprung and bounces around a bit. With six kayaks on top it is smooth and quiet.

Tighten the hitch…
You can usually tighten the hitch by adjusting a nut underneath the hitch on the trailer…

probably that
I forgot to bring a wrench and we did not have one to tighten the nut on the ball shank. I tightened it with big channel locks after I got home and parked it.

Too much play…

– Last Updated: Jun-13-15 3:15 PM EST –

t'ween de hitch an' de receiver on de car. Wedge a shim t'ween both an' bet'ya de clunk goes away. Dem's also sell a little clamp dat does dat too. Had de same problem waan ah' foyst got a hitch back in de ol' daya.


ball and coupler same size?
I understand these range from under 2 to over 2 inch and are sized apart from receiver sizes 1-1/4 and 2 inches.

Does the size of the ball match…
the size of the coupling ?

Possibly a 2" ball and a 1-7/8" coupling or vice versa

Jack L

There is a nut on the coupler that you adjust so that it tightens on the ball when you put the lever down.

You can’t see it unless you look under the coupler and if it is too loose it will bang.

thanks, grayhawk

– Last Updated: Jun-13-15 6:01 PM EST –

That's a good tip, grayhawk, I would not have known that -- I did feel some play under the ball cap when I was yanking things around trying to find the noise.

And the tip on the shim is another I will take: thanks, FE! I actually bought a big package of nylon plastic shims from a clearance bin last year (50 cents, how could I resist?). Sort of chastised myself at the time for being a compulsive junk buyer but a couple of those could be just the ticket to take up the slack.

Since it is a class II hitch (car is a 2 liter 6-speed manual so it could not haul anything over 1000 lbs) the hitch receiver is the smaller 1 1/4" . I am more accustomed to 2" (have had previous heavier vehicles with standard hitches) and the receivers fitting more snugly. The 1 1/4" shaft I got does not seem to fit as well. I do have the right sized ball for the trailer -- confirmed that with the owner.

Nice trailer though -- completely home made but I am impressed with the quality of the welds, wiring (brakes and running lights) and clever adjustable padded cradles. He built it from an old ATV hauler so it has sturdy leaf springs over the axle. Of course the loads I will haul will not likely ever compress them to the extent they are designed. They built it for two 18' Current Designs kayaks so it's going to be perfect for my boats.


snap on adjustable wrench

medium size vise grips

diagnol cutters ( trim nails)

roll 3M electrical tape

roll Walmart primary wire

full set of spare bulbs

utility knife with set of fresh contractors blades

one flat head screw driver

2 Phillips

set of Torqs used with a T driver or the vise grips.

one digital tire pressure gauge.

spare fan belt

spare windshield wiper body

spare trailer wheel with associated lug wrench

I have a 2’ breaker bar with impact wrench sockets for lugs, a can of CRC electronic cleaner for wetting lugs…from Summit with the gauge.

and a Porter Cable batt drive drill with lug socket adapter.

Possibly too little tongue weight
Sounds as though there might be other things going on, but a trailer whose load distribution results in very little tongue weight can clunk a lot.

could be
This has a very long tongue (custom built for full length sea kayaks and the balance point must be pretty far back. Though it did come with one of the swing up third wheel attachments at the front so it can be more easily moved around by hand. Unloaded it is probably wanting to unweight and lift the connection point-- I noticed particularly loud clunking when driving uphill (and there are a lot of hills around Pittsburgh).


– Last Updated: Jun-15-15 10:12 AM EST –

tongue weight.

If you load it a little farther forward, the clunk should go away. If you were getting the clunk running empty, thats part of life. My 16' 8K trailer will make the receiver clunk running empty. Your hitch sits in the receiver with the pin as a pivot. When your tongue goes up, the foward end of the hitch bangs the bottom of the receiver and then pivots back down and bangs the rear of the receiver.

Thinking on it, you may not stop the clunk. With a long tongue the pivot point it forward of the axle already, so it may get better loaded. At 250lb for the trailer and 2 kayaks with stuff, you are looking at 500lb..... Its still going to bounce.

Just a question. You have brakes on a sub 3K trailer? That is a little overkill but I am hoping you meant brake lights. A controller and a 7 pin plug seem like a lot for a kayak trailer.

No brakes, just lights
No brakes, just brake lights (from the car’s signal) and yellow running lights. It’s just a 4 pin connector.

Yes, I think I am just going to have to live with the clunking due to the physics of the extra-long tongue. My kayaks are all so light anyway (not that the 50 or 60 lbs that a pair of hefty rotomolds would add would make much difference.) I suppose that is one of the advantages of a dual axle trailer – keeps the rig more level, though they require more precise matching of the hitch height.

Been thinking I might be able to rig a bike carrier rack astride the tongue. That would add some weight ahead of the axle. Have to see what kind of clearance I have between the boats when I first put them on Thursday.

Unfortunately I do not have a driveway or garage that would facilitate experimenting with this new toy. My property is on a steep hill and my third of an acre is roughly 20% grade from street to the alley behind, where I have a 15’ x 70’ gravel parking pad alongside a 4’ retaining wall. I have to drag the boats out of my walkout basement and down 150 feet of yard to where the trailer is parked.

Even parking the trailer is a challenge. Both my street and the alley behind are dead ends with not enough room at the ends to back the trailer around attached to the car. I have to pull ahead of the parking area, disconnect the trailer and haul it manually around 180 degrees and drag it (over 2-B stone) at an angle into the parking area and hitch it to my motorhome for security. In retrospect, it may be as much of a pain to use the trailer as it has been to drag the boats out of the basement, around to the front yard, carry up a flight of 6 steps (my front yard is 6’ below the street level) and hoist onto roofrack.

May need to find a 2-car garage nearby to rent to store boats and trailer. But in this hilly town such facilities come dear. My neighbor, with a similar property, had to spend over $25,000 to have her property massively re-graded to allow a 2-car garage to be installed. I think I would sell the place and move before I put that kind of money into it. I could probably get the parking pad paved for $2000 which would simplify orienting the trailer.

Maybe I need to post a personal ad: “Boyfriend wanted. Don’t care which of your parts are missing/don’t work as long as you have a garage or barn I can use.”

(come to think of it, I used to have that – dysfunctional beau with functional barn. Kinda makes the trailer hassles not seem all that bad in perspective…)

Hey Willow…

– Last Updated: Jun-15-15 1:03 PM EST –

No barn, sorry. :>(

How 'bout a date anyway?


Do you have a riding lawnmower?
I hook my trailer up to the lawnmower and move it all over the place in my yard.


Alas, not an option

– Last Updated: Jun-15-15 2:59 PM EST –

Would love that Ken, BUT......My yard is literally a ski slope, and not a bunny slope at that. No way to drive a riding mower on it. Plus no place to even get it to the yard from the street or level area to park it or put up a shed. There is a steep 6 foot drop from the sidewalk to the yard in the front (with dense privet hedge along the 80' of walk). In the back there is a 4' high retaining wall along the alley. I can walk down the tapering slope at the end to get to the alley parking plot but would be hard-pressed to get a tractor down or up there.

It was a dumb place to buy for somebody with hobbies like I have -- the walk out basement with 9' ceilings is the only saving grace for boat storage. I can hang em from the ceiling and still walk under neath. But it's an awful purty house with huge rooms, 3 big covered porches that I live on in the Summer and it's surrounded by trees and flowers.

People who are unfamiliar with Pittsburgh can't grasp what we deal with here as far as terrain. We have streets here that cross slopes so steep that the two directions are lanes differing in elevation by several feet and separated by a retaining wall. We have more stairways to get to different levels of residential neighborhoods than any other city in America. You can click on this map to see some of the most exceptional flights (photos scroll in the lower left of the screen).

The whole geography of Pittsburgh is that of a deeply stream and river cut plateau. We even have cable cars that make the ones in San Francisco look wimpy.

This is the reason why we Pittsburgh gals (and guys) have such shapely legs....

Thanks, FE, but it would be like the Capulets and the Montagues. I’m a kayaker, after all (left the canoes to the ex).

Hitch receiver insert to reduce clanking

– Last Updated: Jun-15-15 6:33 PM EST –

You can buy a device that, basically, cushions the metal parts from clunking against each other. I do not know the name of the item but my husband got one for his Tahoe. Ask at a hitch shop.

For some reason, the clunking was not as bad in any of the three vehicles I towed with.

Pittsburgh Hills
Yeah, folks whom have never seen Pittsburgh will never understand the hills and the yards. I started out in Beechview on Fallowfield Ave. I was down there a few years ago car shopping and my poor worn out Honda barely made it crawling up Fallowfield.

Pittsburgh is also home of the steepest road in the US, Canton Ave at 34% grade. Canton is just over the hill from where I started out on Fallowfield.