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How To Install A Folding Swing Tongue

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

Trailer swing tongue

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. 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 around $70 for the smaller models to more than $120 for the largest.

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 2 feet when in the storage position. Oftentimes, that's just enough to allow the boat to fit where it couldn't before.

Measuring your trailer tongue is critical before ordering the kit. Most are 2 by 3 inches, 3 by 3, 3 by 4, or 3 by 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. If you have questions or are inexperienced in any aspect of this, have your completed job inspected by a qualified shop.

Trailer tongue parts

1. Here are all the parts that I used. I also bought a new section of tube and hitch as I wanted to extend the tongue a little. But oftentimes this is unnecessary, and all that is required is simply to cut the tongue tube and add the hinge — no other parts required. Extending the tongue meant that I needed to buy longer safety chains, too.

Measure tongue and scribe

2. Measure and scribe the tongue for the cut using a square and tape measure. A sawzall makes the cut easily.

File of edges

3. Smooth the edges using a metal file.

Trailer tongue hinge hardware

4. The hinge comes with all the necessary hardware; note the special Torx bit for installing hinge bolts.

Drill holes for hinge bolts

5. Slip the hinge temporarily in place and use this as a template to drill the bolt holes through the tongue tube.

Install hinge bolts

6. Install the hinge bolts, tightening them as specified in the instructions.

Hinge pivot bolt installed

7. Now install and torque the hinge pivot bolt.

Trailer lighting harness

8. Pull the trailer light harness through the hinge section.

Hinge securing pin installed

9. Install the hinge securing pin with a clip.

Tongue and hinge in towing position

10. Install the new tongue and hinge in towing position. I've placed the old tongue in its former position to give an idea of how much longer the new one is. I also had to replace the chains with longer ones to reach the tow hitch when the trailer is coupled to the tow vehicle.

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, avoid damaging 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, when the tongue is folded forward into the towing position, ensure the hinge pin protrudes completely through the hinge and is secured with the clip.


John Tiger

Contributor, BoatUS Magazine

John Tiger is a freelance boating writer and frequent contributor to many magazines.