Reese Tow Beast Tested
Product Review Revisited: Reese Tow Beast
Editor's Note: As we head into the Fall, it's time to load up all the toys and head for the sand dunes or your favorite high-country hunting spot. Having your trailer make it only PART of the way on this trip can certainly put a damper on things! So we pulled out one of our most-popular tech pieces from April 1, 2007. The basic information addressed here is still valid, and can be a good jumping off point for current product shopping you have in mind.
Reese towing products, founded 55 years ago by TJ Reese, has pioneered the technology that has set the standard for today?s advanced towing systems. In 1968 Reese was asked to develop tests related to towing heavy loads. These tests have now become industry standards called V5 and SAEJ684 which are now used by most leading hitch manufactures.
We tow a very heavy toy hauler which, when fully loaded, can range from 10,000-12,000. With the addition of our new sand car and with the fresh water tank filled we are now towing over 12,000 pounds with 1600 pounds of tongue weight. We had been using a Putnam XDR receiver which, after many years of service, bent and cracked. We were also using an underrated 10,000 pound weight distribution hitch with no sway control.
We decided to upgrade our tow hitch to the appropriately named 'Tow Beast' by Reese. This massive hitch is the largest rated tow hitch in Reese's product line-up. It features a huge 3 ½" cross member with a 2 ½" receiver opening and is rated at 12,000 pounds or 14,000 with a weight distribution hitch. Other leading hitch manufacturers' use a 2 ½" cross member with a 2" receiver hole and are generally rated at a lower weight rating.
We also upgraded to Reese's trunnion style weight distribution hitch. When a weight distribution hitch is used properly weight is transferred from the trailer to the front of the tow vehicle. Reese's Tow Beast weight distribution kit is rated at 1700 pound of tongue weight and a 17,000 pound trailer weight. These rating are well over our total weight and perfect for most heavy trailers.
To keep our heavy trailer stable on the road, we decided to use Reese's dual cam high performance sway control system. In the past we didn't?t use sway control and didn't seem to notice any sway while towing our trailer. Once we added the new sand car we did notice slightly more sway but nothing that was unmanageable with an experienced driver.
Traditional 'friction' sway control is a device that connects to the hitch and one side of the trailers tongue. It consists of two parts that slide in and out to resist sway of a trailer once it starts and must be tightened or adjusted each time it is used. While the traditional friction sway control devices works good, Reese?s patented dual cam system deters sway before it starts and does not require adjustment once it's properly set-up. It?s connected to the trailers tongue by heavy duty brackets while the other end is connected to the ends of the weight distribution bars via heavy steel roller wheels that sit in the bend of the weight bars. Reese claims the advantage to dual cam sway control is the ability to forestall sway as well as offering sway resistance.
Installation is somewhat involved but very easy for the average person to perform in an hour or two. Reese provides very detailed instructions which are easy to follow. Our old hitch had front, middle, and rear mounting points each secured with one bolt. The Tow Beast has a front and rear mount (the rear mount has a gusset for added strength) with the front mount having a wider surface area and 2 bolts securing it to the truck frame. An extra hole needed to be drilled into the frame for this second bolt. In our case we noticed our frame was slightly bent from pervious years of towing so, after straightening the frame, we added some metal strips on the top side of the frame in hopes of preventing this in the future. We used the middle bolt hole from the old hitch as well as another hole already in the frame to secure the rearmost part of our metal strips.
Setting up the ball hitch was pretty straight forward. Reese provides instructions for the proper height setting. One thing we noticed and really liked about Reese's adjustable hitch was the serrated washer design used in the upper bolt hole of the weight distribution ball mount. Our old hitch used a round washer with small teeth on it which should bite into the ball mount head and prevent the whole assembly from tilting downward while towing heavy loads. The area on the ball mount that it bites into is a smooth surface. This design worked great until we got our truck and trailer stuck in the sand. To get out we were yanked by another truck and this caused this washer to slip and the whole ball mount slipped and it titled downward. Once the washer slipped we could never get the bolt tight enough to prevent slipping even with us using a cheater bar on a wrench to tighten it. The only way we could fix it was to weld it together. The Reese ball mount has serrated teeth integrated into it, as well as on the large square serrated washer. It's highly unlikely this design would ever slip unless the teeth were somehow sheered off.
Installing the dual cam sway control, while still pretty straight forward, was the hardest part to set-up simply because we were not familiar with this system. The simple instructions from Reese were a huge help. Once the proper positions of the brackets are determined, 2 holes for each side are drilled into the trailer frame. These brackets and the attached adjustable cams are left on the trailer even when the truck is disconnected.
Now that everything is bolted in place, we are ready to connect our truck to the trailer. Using weight distribution bars without Reese's dual cam sway control, chains are connected to the ends of the weight bars and then connected to a snap bracket which is bolted to the trailer tongue. With the use of the dual cam sway control system the ends of the cam have a steel wheel which rides in the curved area on the weight bars. The chains are connected to a bracket which attaches onto the sway cam with the other end of the chain connected to the snap bracket. Being new to this type of sway control we were a bit confused the first time we connected to our truck. After doing it the first time it was very easy to do again. Very simple to connect and a very good design.
So how does it tow our heavy trailer? Smooth and very secure. We mentioned that we had not used sway control in the past and, while manageable, we never noticed how much sway and how 'light' the front of the truck felt while towing. With the Reese dual cam high performance sway control it felt like there was zero sway and the front end of the truck felt very solid. Almost as if we were towing an unloaded flat bed trailer rather than our 12,000+ pound toy hauler.
If we had to complain about anything with the Tow Beast and the dual cam sway control system it would be the larger 2 ½" receiver hole and that the dual cams are bolted to the trailer tongue. Just about every hitch you buy has a 2" shank. If you need to use a 2" shank for any reason you will need to use a reducer which Reese does provide.
Also with the dual cam sway control being bolted to the trailer it is not very convenient to switch to a different trailer if needed. However, we make sure to carry the reducer in our truck at all times, it is small and easy to use. Most people have only one large trailer and the need to swap the dual cam sway control to a different trailer is rarely needed. You could easily use your weight distribution bars and the snap brackets on a different trailer if needed with minimal work involved. For us and most users these complaints will never be issues.
Reese makes a wide range of towing products from multiple class' of tow and 5th wheel hitches to numerous accessories to fit any towing need. With 55 years of experience and innovative design, Reese will keep you safe and secure while towing to your favorite destination.