How To Install A Folding Swing TongueStory And Photos By John Tiger
Published: Fall 2013
Shortening your rig by a few inches may make the difference between storing your boat and trailer in your garage and not.
Your boat might sit outside all winter because it's too long to fit inside your garage with the door closed. If that's the case, you might benefit from adding a swing or removable trailer tongue. Many new rigs come with this as a standard or optional feature. If yours didn't, no worries: It's a fairly easy task to add one.
A folding or removable trailer tongue usually adds a few inches of overall length to the trailer. But the benefit is that by simply removing one pin, the tongue can be removed or folded to the side for more clearance in tight garages. A swing or removable tongue can shave off as much as two feet when in the storage position; oftentimes, that's just enough to allow the boat to fit where it couldn't before.
Measuring your tongue is critical before ordering the kit. Most are 2" x 3", 3" x 3", 3" x 4", or 3" x 5". Fulton makes kits in all these sizes, rated by weight capacity. Kits are available in either bolt-on or weld-on styles. If you're not a highly qualified, experienced welder, buy the bolt-on style. A poor welding job on the trailer tongue is a recipe for disaster.
If your trailer has brakes, you must install a coupling or a flexible hose section for the brake line that runs through the trailer frame. The tongue section cannot be folded back for storage without this feature because the brake line will collapse and break. Check into this with a local trailer repair shop before attempting to install the folding coupler kit.
The electrical harness for the trailer lights must be carefully extended to ensure that it's long enough to protrude from the extended tongue, and also "fished" through the hinge section so it doesn't get caught or folded inside when the tongue is folded for storage. It's advisable to use a section of loom or other protective covering where the harness passes through the folding joint.
When cutting off the original tongue, care must be exercised to not damage the trailer wiring or brake line. This is done by moving both away from the cutting line, then bending the tongue slightly out of the way as the saw cuts through the tongue. This way, the wires and brake line can be held out of the way as the cut is completed.
The safety chains must be extended to reach the hitch. In addition, they should be reattached to the tongue behind the hinge section, not forward of it. The hinge bolts must be torqued to the specification noted in the installation instructions, then checked periodically for tightness. If welded, the welds should be checked for cracks. The tongue forward and rearward of the hinge joint should also be visually inspected for cracks and fatigue.
Finally, care must be taken to ensure that when the tongue is folded forward into the towing position, the hinge pin protrudes completely through the hinge and is secured with the clip. For this story, the Fulton 3" x 3" hinge kit was installed on a 20-foot Allison Boats trailer.
What You'll Need
Aftermarket trailer parts and accessories manufacturers like Fulton make retrofit kits that can be installed in an afternoon using tools that you probably have in your garage. The Fulton kits range from $70 for the smaller models to over $120 for the largest. Note the special Torx bit for installing hinge bolts. The newer kits include only the hinge and installation hardware; the original coupler and tongue section is reused.