We’re about eighty miles in with the new Reese Sidewinder… just a few quick trips to the house and a trip to Jim Hogg Park in Georgetown. Enough for a general idea of how it’s going to work.
First, on the install, I ran into several issues. The pinbox is heavy, and I can’t get it into place by myself. I thought putting it in the truck bed and using the hydraulics on the RV and/or air bags on the truck to get it into position would work, but that proved only somewhat successful. I had to add a bottle jack to the mix to get the holes lined up, and get it bolted on. Since part of the routine maintenance with this is removing it annually, I’m going to have to find another solution. The leading contender right now is to pick up a cheap transmission jack from Harbor Freight, and using my truck bed as a platform.
Aside from the weight, the pin box brackets on the trailer frame did not clear the Sidewinder when turning. I had to take an angle grinder with a cutting disc to the brackets on the trailer – not the most confidence inspiring move – and reshape them accordingly. Then used some spray enamel to coat the raw edges to keep them from rusting. The material I removed is really non-essential, being that it facilitates lowering the factory pinbox but does little else. We still have four 1/2″ bolts holding each side of the pinbox – eight total, as designed, with plenty of material around the holes the bolts run through.
The last hiccup we ran into is the pinbox requires a custom wedge to hold the king pin still and allow the trailer to pivot at the turret. You do not want any sort of movement at the pin, or else you risk multiple pivot points, and a dangerous experience. I chose the B&W hitch partially because there is a custom wedge designed specifically for the B&W hitch, but either due to the hitch tolerances, or the wedge tolerances (the wedge cost an extra $60 or so), the wedge would only lock against the left side of the hitch head, leaving a gap on the right. And while there wasn’t enough movement with that gap to cause issues in my limited testing, it wasn’t exactly confidence inspiring. Fortunately, the SideWinder comes with a “Universal Fit” wedge that works great and has full contact with the hitch head, so we eliminated that issue as well as the custom part that fits worse than the generic.
Now, onto the great parts: we can turn a full 90°, and actually a little bit more. There is no longer any concern about hitting the cab of the truck. Stability when towing seems to be about the same as with our old hitch, and surprisingly, so is the ride. I was expecting a notable change in ride quality going from the Trailer Saver BD3 to the B&W hitch with AirBorne pinbox, but honestly didn’t find much difference – the truck rides like it is unloaded with either hitch – which makes me wonder how much my Kelderman suspension is to blame.
The new hitch makes more noise than the old hitch, but even in the distance so far, has quieted up a bit. I expect that it will become progressively quieter as the wear plates break in. I didn’t feel comfortable that the turret bolts are only torqued to 45ft-lb, even though they aren’t load bearing, so I used some Loctite Blue to ensure they don’t back themselves out. Reese recommends checking them with a torque wrench before every outing, something I may do a few times but I don’t usually make it a habit of checking all the numerous nuts and bolts with a torque wrench every time I hook up. The Loctite should keep them from backing off, but I’ll follow up with the wrench for a while to be sure.
Overall, the install was a pain and I wouldn’t really recommend it as a DIY install for most users. It isn’t particularly difficult, but the process may involve some fabrication that a lot of people aren’t going to be comfortable with. My preliminary findings of the handling are excellent, though, and I do suggest this as a viable option for anyone with a short bed truck who doesn’t want a slider taking up room in the bed.