It seems like there was a full-on attack on the trailer-hitch industry a few years ago and then… nothing.
There were half a dozen new offerings from all and sundry who attempted the age-old problem of hitching up trailers and caravans to their prime movers. Some were brilliant, some half-hearted, while there were others who kept (secretly) hammering away to come up with an even better and simpler way of achieving a seemingly-simple task.
McHitch was one of the more successful companies back then. It released the UniGlide offroad coupling, of which there have since been minor improvements resulting in the current Platinum Series – which also boasts a plethora of adaptors to engage with Treg, Trigg and AT35 couplings.
Progress a few more years and McHitch has launched the equally impressive, world-first all-terrain Automatic Trailer Coupling (ATC). Yep, that’s right, the process of hitching your trailer, or van, to your tow vehicle is done automatically… to an extent. There are a few manual steps that require you to dismount from your stead.
Attaching the ATC is an easy process. With the removal of the old off-road hitch, the new ATC simply bolted on to the camper trailer. The opposing end was just as simple to bolt on. All that was left to do was reverse into the trailer.
The release lever simply drops into position and you’re ready to go once the jockey wheel is wound up, the electrical plug plugged in, the safety chains attached and the two safety mechanisms of the ATC engaged.
The idea behind this trailer attachment is nothing new. Just look at the trucking industry and you’ll note that pretty much all ‘dog’ and ‘pig’ trailers are hitched via a similar mechanism. What Joe has done successfully is refine the idea to rid all rattles and coarseness and deliver a user-friendly version to the car and 4x4 industries.
There are no sloppy or loose fittings akin to the truck versions, plus Joe has gone the whole hog and had the system ADR-approved. Kits range from two-tonne ($350.00), two-tonne with brake over-ride ($350.00), 3.5-tonne ($395.00), 4.5-tonne and six-tonne ($595.00) for caravans and light trucks. Handbrake kits are also available for most.
With our trial ATC and McHitch handbrake kit installed, we figured it was time for a three-day family camping trip. To test the system, in respect to on-road smoothness, we took things nice and easy and stuck to the blacktop; big ticks here. And yep, we had many double-takes from fellow campers as they wondered past.
Next up we tackled a few off-road obstacles, as well as unhitching and re-hitching the system in awkward positions. It gets a double-thumbs-up from me for ingenuity, ease of hitching and unhitching in all terrains, and also how well it allows the trailer to move unhindered when off-road. In addition, the price is fair compared to most others on the market.
The automatic system will only work if the horizontal pin is within the receiver plate range. When outside that range the user needs to adjust the height of the trailer (via the jockey wheel) and/or the alignment of the trailer to allow proper engagement.
Given you still need to wind the jockey wheel up, plug the electrical leads in, attach the safety chains and connect the two safety mechanisms of the ATC, this, in effect, partially negates the pros of the automatic part of the system. In reality, you can’t reverse, auto hitch and drive away. At the end of the day the system may save a few seconds but, for mine, I’d be happy with a drop-on system more akin to the McHitch Uniglide Platinum system. It has the same universal swivel system via a universal joint, but simply lowers (via the jockey wheel) onto a vertical tow pin.
You also need to be careful, when reversing into the hitch to engage, that you don’t bump your trailer too hard. Make sure the handbrake is fully-engaged and even chock the wheels as a precaution.
The last gripe we have with the ATC is that the handle has the potential to rip skin off your leg. It folds away in one direction, but catching yourself in the opposite direction will end in tears. When we mentioned this to Joe, he informed us of a rubber cover upgrade for the release handle.
For more information visit www.mchitch.com.au
Get the latest info on all things 4X4 Australia by signing up to our newsletter.