Title:
Hitch accessory storage device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to hitch accessory storage devices and methods of use thereof. The storage devices of the present invention are used to mount and store hitch accessories when not in use, i.e., when a hitch accessory is not mounted to a vehicle. In certain preferred embodiments of the invention, the hitch accessory storage device comprises (i) a frame having a floor support, a wall support, and a hitch accessory support running between said floor support and wall support and (ii) a locating pin, wherein the locating pin is configured to be received by a through hole located within a hitch accessory.



Inventors:
Simon, Doug (Columbia, MO, US)
Application Number:
11/784312
Publication Date:
01/17/2008
Filing Date:
04/06/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47F5/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PUROL, SARAH L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP (ST. LOUIS, MO, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A hitch accessory storage device, which comprises: (a) a frame having a floor support, a wall support, and a hitch accessory support running between said floor support and wall support; and (b) a locating pin, wherein the locating pin is configured to be received by a through hole located within a hitch accessory.

2. The hitch accessory storage device of claim 1, wherein the through hole is located in a tubular plug portion of the hitch accessory, wherein the tubular plug portion is adapted to be removably attached to a hitch receiver of a vehicle.

3. The hitch accessory storage device of claim 2, which further comprises a plug stop, wherein the plug stop (a) is located below the locating pin, (b) makes contact with a bottom surface of the tubular plug portion of the hitch accessory, and (c) enables the hitch accessory to be held in a substantially horizontal position.

4. The hitch accessory storage device of claim 1, which further comprises a bridge pin, wherein the bridge pin is configured to be inserted into a through hole located within the locating pin.

5. The hitch accessory storage device of claim 4, wherein the bridge pin secures the hitch accessory to the locating pin.

6. The hitch accessory storage device of claim 1, wherein the locating pin is integrally formed with said hitch accessory support.

7. The hitch accessory storage device of claim 1, wherein the locating pin is removably attachable to different locations of said hitch accessory support.

8. The hitch accessory storage device of claim 1, which comprises multiple locating pins, wherein each locating pin is configured to be received by a through hole located within a separate hitch accessory.

9. The hitch accessory storage device of claim 1, wherein the hitch accessory is selected from the group consisting of cargo carriers, tow bars, tailgate tables, and bike racks.

10. A method for storing a hitch accessory device, which comprises: (a) providing a frame having a floor support, a wall support, and a hitch accessory support running between said floor support and wall support; and (b) sliding a through hole located within a hitch accessory onto a locating pin affixed to said hitch accessory support.

11. The method of claim 10, wherein the through hole is located in a tubular plug portion of the hitch accessory, wherein the tubular plug portion is adapted to be removably attached to a hitch receiver of a vehicle.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein a bottom surface of the tubular plug portion rests on a top surface of a plug stop affixed to said hitch accessory support, such that the hitch accessory is held in a substantially horizontal position.

13. The method of claim 10, which further comprises providing a bridge pin, wherein the bridge pin is configured to be received by a through hole located within the locating pin.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein the bridge pin secures the hitch accessory to the locating pin.

15. The method of claim 10, wherein the locating pin is integrally formed with said hitch accessory support.

16. The method of claim 10, wherein the locating pin is removably attachable to different locations of said hitch accessory support.

17. The method of claim 10, wherein the hitch accessory support comprises multiple locating pins, wherein each locating pin is configured to be received by a through hole located within a separate hitch accessory.

18. The method of claim 10, wherein the hitch accessory is selected from the group consisting of cargo carriers, tow bars, tailgate tables, and bike racks.

19. A wall-mounted hitch accessory storage device, which comprises a bracket having (a) one or more holes for receiving one or more screws for securing the bracket to a wall and (b) two locating pins, wherein a first locating pin is configured to be received by a through hole located within a hitch accessory and a second locating pin is positioned to make contact with a surface of a tubular plug portion of the hitch accessory.

20. The wall-mounted hitch accessory storage device of claim 19, wherein the second locating pin is positioned below the first locating pin, such that the second locating pin makes contact with a bottom surface of the tubular plug portion of the hitch accessory.

21. The wall-mounted hitch accessory storage device of claim 19, wherein the second locating pin is positioned above the first locating pin, such that the second locating pin makes contact with a top surface of the tubular plug portion of the hitch accessory.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to and incorporates by reference U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/789,651, filed Apr. 6, 2006.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an apparatus which aids in storage and organization of vehicle hitch mounted products. Vehicle hitch mounted products, or accessories, have become popular due to an American automotive industry standardization of tow hitch ports integral to the rear frame of the vehicle. Most domestically produced utilitarian vehicles (i.e. SUV's, pick-ups, vans) feature a square, tubular port, or hitch receiver, intended for the removable attachment of hitches for towing purposes. Common to the market are numerous vehicle-mounted products which removably attach to the vehicle via the hitch receiver. These products include, but are not limited to, bicycle racks, ski racks, pick-up bed extenders, picnic tables, work surfaces and cargo carriers.

Hitch receiver mounted accessories generally feature a square tubular design which mates with the square port of the hitch receiver. Several different sizes of hitch receivers are common, but the two most popular accept hitch accessories with male protrusions 2″ square and 1¼″ square. Naturally these designs focus on the utilitarian aspects of the product while mounted to the vehicle since the accessory is of little use when not mounted to the vehicle. Seldom is much design attention focused on how to store accessories while removed from the vehicle. The tubular design necessary for mating with the hitch receiver typically causes the accessory to be unbalanced while resting on the ground and non-conducive to leaning against the wall of a garage or storage room. Unbalanced design coupled with the accessory size; which may be 40″ tall by 42″ wide, yields an apparatus that is extremely difficult to store and unusable when not mounted to the vehicle.

Patents to Smith (U.S. Pat. No. 4,352,432) and to Shepherd (U.S. Pat. No. 6,419,096) describe racks for vertical storage of bicycles which mount to the wall and floor of a building. An inclined bicycle rack mounted the wall and floor of a building is described by Goldstein in U.S. Pat. No. 4,316,544. Wall mounted racks are commercially available for the storage and organization of golf accessories, canoes, kayaks and other sporting goods equipment. These racks mount to the wall and, sometimes, the floor of a building to lend support to the rack and to aid in the organization of the building. Self-supporting, or free-standing, storage units for bicycles and other equipment are commercially available, but these designs typically occupy a larger floor space due to the necessity of additional support at the floor when a supporting wall is not utilized. Occupying a larger floor space often defeats the purpose of utilizing a rack for storage and organization.

Hitch accessories for the specific purpose of transporting a specific item on the exterior of the vehicle, i.e. bicycle racks, cargo carriers, and golf club carriers, may only be used occasionally and are not intended for long term or permanent storage of the transported items when mounted to the vehicle. This may require the utilization of a separate rack mounted inside a building for storage of these items.

Currently there are no commercially available devices for efficiently storing hitch receiver accessories and utilization of their specific storage function when not mounted to a vehicle. Accordingly, there is a need for an apparatus to store, organize and provide utilitarian function to receiver hitch accessories when not mounted to a vehicle.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a device for the storage and organization of hitch receiver accessories. The method of accessory storage allows the accessory to be mounted to the storage device in an identical, upright position as when mounted to a vehicle. Accessories such as bicycle racks and cargo carriers may still have a utilitarian use when mounted to the storage device. A cargo carrier may be used as a storage shelf and bicycle racks may be used for the storage of bicycles in the same manner as if the rack were attached to a vehicle.

The storage device allows for the use of industry standard 1¼″ and 2″ hitch accessories. The method of accessory retention utilizes the through hole for the hitch attachment pin found on all hitch accessories. A locating pin identical in diameter to the hitch pin used for each hitch size aligns and locates the accessory on the frame of the storage device. The pin does not restrain the accessory from rotating about the locating pin, so a second point of contact provides support to the bottom side of the accessory receiver protrusion, or plug, to retain the accessory in an upright position. To assemble the accessory to the storage device the user axially aligns the hitch pin hole in the plug with the locating pin and slides the plug onto the pin until the plug contacts the side of the storage device. The plug is then allowed to rest on top of a plug “stop.” The plug stop is located in such a manner as to locate 1¼″ or 2″ plugs in a horizontal position. To transversely retain the accessory to the storage device a bridge pin is inserted through a hole at the exposed end of the locating pin. This is the same style of fastener used to retain the hitch pin when the accessory is mounted to a vehicle.

The storage device mounts to the wall and floor of a building at a slight incline. The upper end of the storage device is rigidly attached to a wall by screws while the bottom end rests on a floor without being rigidly retained. The storage device is installed at approximately a 10 degree angle relative to the wall. This incline reduces the amount of force the screws in the wall must support. The storage device mounts to a wall to support the potential load of several hundred pounds that may be placed on the device and minimize the amount of floor space necessary to mount the device in a garage or other storage area.

Features are designed into the apparatus to allow the storage and organization of other related accessories, such as hitch pins, bungee cords, nylon load straps and hitch balls. Through holes in the frame allow hitch pins to be inserted and stored in an easily accessible horizontal position. Bungee cords and other load retaining straps with typical “S” shaped hooks may be hung in a vertical position from through holes at the top of the storage device to avoid tangling. These same through holes are sized to allow the threaded portion of hitch balls to be inserted and retained to the storage device by the threaded nut of the hitch ball.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an exploded left side perspective view of a vehicle hitch receiver and cargo carrier.

FIG. 2 is a detail view of a portion of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is an assembled view of FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is an exploded right side perspective view of a vehicle hitch receiver and tow bar.

FIG. 5 is a detail view of a portion of FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is an assembled view of FIG. 4.

FIG. 7 is a left side perspective of the storage device.

FIG. 8 is an exploded view of the storage device frame.

FIG. 9 is an exploded detail view of the strap brackets.

FIG. 10 is an exploded detail view of the movable plug support.

FIG. 11 is a subsequent exploded detail view of FIG. 10.

FIG. 12 is an assembled view of FIG. 10.

FIG. 13 is a left side perspective of the storage unit with hitch accessories.

FIG. 14 is a right side perspective of the storage unit with hitch accessories.

FIG. 15 is an exploded perspective of a cargo carrier and movable tube bracket.

FIG. 16 is an assembled view of FIG. 15.

FIG. 17 is an exploded perspective of a cargo carrier and an alternate embodiment of the tube bracket.

FIG. 18 is an assembled view of FIG. 17.

FIG. 19 is an exploded perspective of a cargo carrier and a second alternate embodiment of the tube bracket.

FIG. 20 is an assembled view of FIG. 19.

FIG. 21 is an exploded perspective of a tow bar and movable tube bracket.

FIG. 22 is an assembled view of FIG. 21.

FIG. 23 is an exploded perspective of a hitch ball and accessory bracket.

FIG. 24 is an exploded perspective of a hitch pin and the storage device.

FIG. 25 is a perspective view of another alternate embodiment of a hitch accessory storage device, showing how a cargo carrier may be stored thereon.

FIG. 26 is an assembled view of FIG. 25.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A hitch accessory storage device of the present invention supports and secures vehicle receiver hitch accessories (e.g. cargo carriers, tow bars, tailgate tables, bike racks, or other accessories) while the accessory is not mounted to the vehicle. Two exemplary accessories that may be supported by the storage device include a cargo carrier (FIGS. 1, 2 and 3) and a tow bar with hitch ball (FIGS. 4, 5 and 6).

A typical hitch receiver-mounted cargo carrier 1, as shown in FIGS. 1-3, is removably attachable to the hitch receiver 2; which is generally integral to the vehicle frame and protrudes below the rear bumper 3. The hitch receiver 2 is of a square, tubular shape with a nominally size square opening 4. The cargo carrier 1, as do all hitch receiver-mounted accessories, has square, tubular “plug” 5 that telescopically mates with the hitch receiver 2. A hitch pin 6, fabricated of steel round stock, is used to attach the cargo carrier 1 to the hitch receiver 2. A nominally sized round through hole 7 perpendicular to the side surface of the cargo carrier male protrusion, or plug 5, is aligned with a similarly sized round through hole 8 in the side surface of the hitch receiver 2. The hitch pin 6 is inserted through both holes 7, 8. The hitch pin 6 is transversely secured by a bridge pin 9 inserted into a through hole 10 perpendicular to the outer surface of the hitch pin 6.

In a similar example, as shown in FIGS. 4-6, a receiver hitch tow bar 15 telescopically mates to the hitch receiver 2 and is removably attached via the hitch pin 6. Most commercially available hitch receiver mounted accessories attach to the vehicle in the manner described above. All hitch receiver mounted accessories referred to herein are of this general design. FIGS. 4 and 5 also show a typical hitch ball 16 removably attached to the tow bar 15 via a threaded hex nut 17.

As shown in FIGS. 7-8, one embodiment of the storage device, generally indicated 20, includes five subsystems to securely store accessories in an organized and compact manner, namely, a frame generally indicated 21, a floor support generally indicated 22, a wall support generally indicated 23, strap brackets 24 and movable plug supports generally indicated 25. The frame 21 consists of a top section 26 and bottom section 27, both of square tubular steel, that are rigidly secured end-to-end by a u-shaped connector 28 and machine screws 29. A floor support 22, constructed of tubular steel, provides contact support to a building floor 30 for the storage device 20. The floor support 22 is rigidly attached to the frame bottom section 27 by a machine screw 31. The wall support 23, constructed of tubular steel, is rigidly attached to the frame top section 26 by a machine screw 31. Providing vertical support for the storage device 20, the wall support 23 is rigidly attached to a building wall 32 by screws 33. In FIG. 9 two strap brackets 24 are rigidly attached to the bottom surface of the wall support 23 by screws 34.

A movable plug support 25 is releasably retained to the frame 21 by a locating pin 35 (FIGS. 10-12). The plug support 25 consists of two side links 36 fabricated of steel and a plug stop 37 of round tubular steel. The side links 36 are welded to the plug stop 37 at a distance to allow the side links 36 to straddle the frame. To assemble the plug support 25 holes 38 in the side links 36 are aligned with a similar sized pin hole 39 in the frame top section 26 (this assembly works similarly for the frame bottom section 27) then a locating pin 35 is passed through the holes 38 in the side links 36 and the pin hole 39 in the frame. The locating pin 35 is transversely retained by an external retaining ring 40 inserted into an annular groove 41 in the locating pin. In FIG. 12 only the left side is shown. An external retaining ring 40 is similarly assembled to the right side of the locating pin 35. The locating pin 35 diameter is nominally the same as a hitch pin 6. The outer surface of the plug stop 37 rests tangentially against the top surface of the frame 21. Several holes similar to the pin hole indicated 39 are provided in the frame 21 to allow assembly of the plug support 25 in alternate locations. Disassembly and removal of the plug support 25 is the reversal of the procedure just described.

The storage device 20 is capable of holding several types of hitch receiver accessories simultaneously in multiple locations. FIGS. 13 and 14 show several accessories removably attached to the storage device 20. A tailgate table generally indicated 45, a cargo carrier 1 and tow bar 15 are just a few examples of typical hitch receiver-mounted accessories that may be secured and organized on the storage device. It is an object of this invention to allow accessories, such as a cargo carrier 1 and bicycle racks to be mounted to the storage device 20 in an identical position as they would be used when mounted to a vehicle. This upright position will allow the use of the accessory for its intended purpose, i.e. storage of bicycles, while the accessory is mounted to the storage device 20. Other related accessories, such as hitch pins 6, hitch balls 16 and nylon load securing straps or elastic cords 46 have specific locations provided on the storage device 20.

A cargo carrier 1 is removably secured to the storage device 20 by aligning the through hole 7 in the cargo carrier plug 5 with the locating pin 35 of the plug support 25 and sliding the cargo carrier plug 5 onto the locating pin 35 until the side surface of the cargo carrier plug 5 contacts the side surface of the side link 36 (see FIGS. 15, 16). The bottom surface of the cargo carrier plug 5 rests on top of the outer surface of the plug stop 37. The locating pin 35 and plug stop 37 provide two points of contact to keep the cargo carrier 1 in a substantially horizontal, or upright, position. As used herein, a hitch accessory is held in a “substantially horizontal position” when it is held by a hitch accessory storage device of the present invention in a similar position (or similar orientation) in which the accessory mounts to a hitch receiver on a vehicle. This is accomplished by preventing the cargo carrier plug 5 from rotating about the locating pin 35 in the direction labeled R. The cargo carrier 1 is transversely secured relative to the storage device 20 by a bridge pin 9 inserted into a through hole 47 perpendicular to the central axis of the locating pin 35. As an alternate embodiment the movable plug support 25 could be fabricated as a fixed, non-movable support, such as when the plug support 25 is integrally formed with the frame of the storage device 20. FIGS. 17 and 18 illustrate a cargo carrier plug 5 being assembled to a locating pin 35 in a similar manner as described above and a generally u-shaped channel 48. The u-channel 48 is rigidly fixed in a horizontal position on the side of the frame 21. The cargo carrier plug 5 is prevented from rotational movement in the direction labeled R by the inside horizontal surfaces 49 of the u-channel 48. In another alternate embodiment a fixed plug stop 50 is rigidly attached to the frame 21 (see FIGS. 19, 20). A cargo carrier 1 is removably secured to the storage device 20 by aligning the through hole 7 in the cargo carrier plug 5 with the locating pin 35 and sliding the cargo carrier plug 5 onto the locating pin 35 until the side surface of the cargo carrier plug 5 contacts the side surface frame 21. The bottom surface of the cargo carrier plug 5 rests on top of the fixed plug stop 50 and is prevented from rotational movement in the direction labeled R thus retaining the cargo carrier 1 in a horizontal position. The method of hitch accessory retention to the storage devices 20 just described will accommodate the use of 1¼″ and 2″ sizes of hitch accessories. The diameter of the locating pin 35 is dependant on the size of hitch accessory being stored. Nominal diameter for a 1¼″ accessory is ½″ and for a 2″ accessory nominal diameter is ⅝″. Note that locating pin diameter 35 is identical to the industry standard hitch pin 6 diameter specific to each accessory size.

A tow bar 15 is removably secured to the storage device 20 by aligning the through hole 52 in the tow bar 15 with the locating pin 35 of the plug support 25 and sliding the tow bar 15 onto the locating pin 35 until the side surface of the tow bar 15 contacts the side surface of the side link 36 (see FIGS. 21, 22). In FIGS. 21 and 22 the tow bar 15 is secured by one point of contact and allowed to hang in a vertical position. The tow bar 15 could also be secured by two points of contact in a horizontal position in a similar manner as the cargo carrier 1 described above. The tow bar 15 is transversely secured relative to the storage device 20 by a bridge pin 9 inserted into a through hole 47 perpendicular to the central axis of the locating pin 35.

In FIG. 23 elastic cords 46 and a hitch ball 16 are shown being secured to the strap hangers 24. The strap hangers, rigidly mounted to the wall support 23, are fabricated with several through holes 55 to allow any load securing straps or cords with hooks to be hung vertically. The holes 55 are sized to also allow hitch balls 16 to be releasably attached to the strap hanger 24. The threaded portion of the hitch ball 16 is inserted through the hole 55 and the nut 17, generally provided with the hitch ball 16, is threaded on the hitch ball thus securing it to the strap hanger 24.

Storage of hitch pins 6 is illustrated in FIGS. 23 and 24. The hitch pin 6 is inserted into one of the pin holes 39 located in the frame 21 tube and transversely retained relative to the frame 21 by a bridge pin 9 inserted into a through hole 10 perpendicular to the central axis of the hitch pin 6.

An alternate embodiment to the present invention is a unit which mounts to a perpendicular surface, or wall, and is not supported by a horizontal surface, or floor. This alternate embodiment, as shown in FIGS. 25-26, consists of a generally C-shaped bracket 60 which is removably mounted to a wall via screws through its center face 61. Two pins 35, 62 removably attached to the C-shaped bracket 60 serve as attachment and retaining points for hitch-mounted accessories. A cargo carrier 1 is removably secured to the C-shaped bracket 60 by aligning the through hole 7 in the cargo carrier plug 5 with the locating pin 35 and sliding the cargo carrier plug 5 onto the locating pin 35 until the side surface of the cargo carrier plug 5 contacts the side surface of the C-shaped bracket 60. The top surface of the cargo carrier plug 5 rests beneath the outer surface of the locating pin 62. The locating pin 35 and locating pin 62 provide two points of contact to keep the cargo carrier 1 in a substantially horizontal, or upright, position. This is accomplished by preventing the cargo carrier plug 5 from rotating about the locating pin 35 in the direction labeled R. The cargo carrier 1 is transversely secured relative to the C-shaped bracket 60 by a bridge pin 9 inserted into a through hole 47 perpendicular to the central axis of the locating pin 35.