How To Install A Folding Swing Tongue

Story And Photos By John Tiger

Shortening your rig by a few inches may make the difference between storing your boat and trailer in your garage and not.

Closeup photo of a swing tongue on a trailer

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.

  • Photo of measuring the tongue and scribing for the cut using a square and tape measure
    Photo of a sawzall used to quickly cut off the tongue.

    1. The tongue is measured and scribed for the cut using a square and tape measure.

    2. Sawzall is used to quickly cut off the tongue.

  • Photo of filing the edges smooth before installing the hinge
    Photo of holes for hitch bolts have been drilled

    3. Edges are filed smooth before installing the hinge.

    4. Holes are drilled for hinge bolts.

  • Photo of installing the hinge bolts
    Photo of the hinge pivot bolt being installed and torqued

    5. Hinge bolts are installed.

    6. The hinge pivot bolt is installed and torqued.

  • Photo of the trailer light harness being pulled through the hinge section
    Photo of the hinge securing pin being installed with a clip

    7. The trailer light harness is pulled through the hinge section.

    8. The hinge securing pin is installed with a clip.

  • Photo of the new tongue and hinge in the towing position
    Photo of the new tongue and hinge in the towing position

    9. The new tongue and hinge in the towing position. Note the new tongue is longer than the old tongue, but not when folded. New, longer safety chains are required to reach the hitch.

    10. The tongue in folded position. Note that the wire harness has enough play to not be stretched when folding.

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. 

— Published: Fall 2013


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