Diesels are appreciated the world over for a variety of reasons – they’re tough, repairable, and comprise the hearts of some of the most capable machines in existence. What they lack in horsepower they more than make up for in torque, which makes them leaps and bounds better than other fuel types when it comes to pulling heavy cargo.
In the case of our new 2015 Chevrolet 2500 Duramax, cargo mainly comes in the form of “BlownZ,” a heads-up class drag racing, fourth-generation Camaro that recently had a best time of 4.38 at 169 mph at the Street Car Super Nationals (SCSN) in Las Vegas. As light as she is, BlownZ and all of her accoutrement – repair tools, spare parts, communications gear, and so on – total out to several thousand pounds and require an enclosed trailer to haul around to various drag racing events.
During our recent drive to and from Las Vegas, we got to see just how capable this machine was as it hauled an enclosed trailer several hundred miles using a brand new hitch from B&W Trailer Hitch. Dubbed the Turnoverball, the hitch acts as a gooseneck-style unit that helped greatly to make the trip there and back as painless as possible, and can deploy and hide away to make the bed serve dual functions at the drop of a hat.
Turning Over the Turnoverball
Speaking to us was B&W’s Beth Barlow, who helped us understand the background of the Turnoverball and how it has been central to the company’s growth for several years. “Roger Baker and Joe Works founded the company in 1987, building truck beds out of Roger’s garage,” she said. “Roger retired back in 2005 and Joe became the sole owner at that point.”
With clear direction and great products including the Turnoverball, B&W has now grown to 350 employees and 225,000 square feet. “We have evolved in many ways and we are constantly learning how to do things differently as we grow,” said Barlow.
Since 1990, the Turnoverball gooseneck hitch has been a soaring success for the B&W. By offering a product that made sturdy goosenecks feasible in modern-day pickup trucks, the Turnoverball did away with crude and potentially dangerous methods used in the past. “At the time, most balls were simply welded in place or had a large ‘door’ that was cut into the bed, with a ball that could ‘fold down,'” said Barlow. “Roger and Joe saw the downsides to this approach and set out to create something better.”
Therein lies the main draw to the Turnoverball hitch. As Barlow explained, the Turnoverball made it so “a ball is stored where it is used, is not lost, and allows the bed to be flush when not in use.” Easy installation added to the Turnoverball’s appeal, with minimal modifications to the truck and comprehensive instructions to help installers figure out the product.
And what about safety and regulation compliance? Not to worry, as Barlow explained: “In the past 20 years, we have used state of the art testing equipment that applies static and dynamic testing to conform with SAE J2638, the latest in gooseneck testing standards. On top of this, B&W has a pristine safety record with our products. I have never heard of a Turnoverball dislodging. The pin under the bed goes through both sides of the gooseneck ball.”
Before we get to the meat of this story, it’s important to note that the installation of the Turnoverball kit makes permanent changes to the vehicle.
As the saying goes, “location, location, location” was a prime concern before beginning the installation. What we mean is that we had to determine where to install the Turnoverball hitch to make use of its signature stowaway function, while also staying viable as a trailer hitch. Once our measurements were made – exact numbers can be seen below – we were able to proceed.
Heavy though the truck may be, our Bendpak Ranger lift handled the hoisting job with ease. We removed the spare tire to make way for easier access. At this point, the instructions suggested deploying a “simple mechanical lifting device” to hold the hitch in place in later steps. With our Duramax’s frame layout the way it was, we found this unnecessary as the hitch was supported by frame rails.
The heat shield was next on the list. A cut-out was made directly over the exhaust between the two crossmembers that sit above the rear axle. The fender liners on either side of the rear axle had to be removed to reach the opening between the bed and frame.
A four-inch hole had to be drilled into the centerline of the bed, so we had to measure out where to make our mark for drilling. The instructions told us to measure out to 44.75 inches, since this a standard-length bed. Widthwise, we measured the halfway point between the wheel arches, which came out to 25.5 inches. We used a basic drill bit to mark the exact spot, and then went to town with a four-inch hole saw. Any burrs left over were filed down for safety’s sake.
In preparation for the next few steps, we looked at lines that would get in the way underneath the truck and relocated them. In the case of our Duramax, all we had to relocate were the brake lines.
To fit the new crossmembers included in the kit, a V-shaped notch was cut into the bed flange just above the passenger side frame rail (the exact position of the notch along the frame rail was irrelevant; you’ll see why in a little bit). The front crossmember slid in, with its bolt-hole side facing the rear of the truck, and went across to the other frame rail. We could now rotate the crossmember 45 degrees counterclockwise, and push it forward toward the cab as wedging pressure on the crossmember left it standing at a 90-degree angle.
At this point, the Turnoverball’s center section was held up for staging purposes. This was to confirm that the receiver socket was “offset” toward the rear of the truck. We didn’t have to remove any of the exhaust to do so, but rather pushed it out of the way.
Now came the rear crossmember. The gap between the bed and the frame rails is wide enough to slide the crossmember across, but a good deal of the paint was scraped off along the way. Once it reached the other frame rail, the crossmember was rotated 90 degrees using an adjustable wrench and some good ol’ elbow grease.
With some help, we raised the center section up to the hole in the bed and guided it until it was perfect. While still holding it up, the front crossmember was slid back to meet the center section and bolts were hand-tightened to mate the two together. The same was done with the rear crossmember.
Once that was finished, it was time to install the side plates. Bolt guides featured notches that, once engaged by bolt shoulders, would prevent the bolts from backing out. The bolt guides went into the frame and rotated around so that they emerged from the bolt holes in the frame rail, with the threads sticking out.
The side plates went directly onto the exposed bolt threads and were installed using flat washers, lock washers, and nuts. They also bolted into the crossmembers for extra security. With these pieces in place, we tightened the bolts on the center section to securely sandwich it between the two crossmembers.
Squaring the hitch would make sure that it was not out of place, and was done by measuring the distance from the hitch to the bed crossmember that came with the truck (i.e. not part of the Turnoverball kit). We noticed a small discrepancy in the alignment and corrected it before moving on to torquing all of the bolts.
The home stretch was upon us as we took on the latch pin release handle. It was inserted through the slot in the end of the center section of the driver’s side of the truck. The handle’s eyelet eventually met the square hole in the latch pin, making the handle in line with the latch. Next, the handle was secured to the pin with a carriage bolt and locking flange.
Safety chain U-bolts comprised the final step of installation. As with any trailer, safety chains act as a security measure to prevent a de-coupled trailer from careening off the road and potentially causing injury and damage. In the case of gooseneck trailers, the chains have hooks that connect to sprung U-bolts.
For the Turnoverball, these U-bolts were installed by first drilling half-inch holes under and up through the bed, lining up with the pre-made holes already in the hitch. Once all four holes were drilled up and through the bed, the U-bolts were dropped in and fixed with springs so that they would sit almost flush with the bed when not in use, but also keep safety chain hooks pressed to the bed when in use.
With our Turnoverball hitch installed, we put our spare tire back up under the bed and made a hole to the fender liner to accommodate the handle. Smooth operation of the Turnoverball was confirmed as we pulled the handle out until it stopped, turned it clockwise to unhinge the tow ball, and then were able to make the tow ball functional or hidden. We applied a dab of grease to the square shank of the tow ball for easier use in the future, and then re-locked the tow ball by repeating the first two steps in reverse.
For a clean, effective, and relatively simple installation that gave us gooseneck capability, the Turnoverball hitch was a fine match for our Duramax, and proved effective and reliable as we made our way to and from Las Vegas towing BlownZ and her precious parts. We look forward to a lot more use out of our Turnoverball as we look to what 2016 has in store, with plenty of drag racing events (and possibly camping expeditions?) on the agenda.
If you’d like to make the leap to gooseneck with B&W to help you out, be sure to visit the company’s website, and stay up-to-date on all the latest and greatest via its Facebook page.