For all those towing trailers...

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Postby Captain Goddammit » Wed Jun 27, 2007 5:07 pm

Bay Bridge Sue wrote:
Token wrote:
Captain Goddammit wrote:But you still can't change one basic law of physics: a trailer that weighs more than the tow vehicle can push you around and get out of shape, no matter what your rig is rated to handle.


Using this logic, all of those fancy 30+ foot travel trailers out on the American roads can only be pulled by fully loaded dump trucks.

There are a lot of folks towing #10000 and #12000 campers with 3/4 ton pickups. Even with #1500 on the tongue the trailer is heavier than the truck.


No... that's why they have trailer brakes. Done all the time, and it's no dif than a tractor hauling a loaded trailer. Also, that's why a lot of the big travel trailers have a 5th wheel system rather than a conventional hitch system now... easier to handle, and better handling and load distribution.

(BTW - 3/4 ton is the load capacity, not the weight of the truck. My 3/4 ton P/U weighs about 3 tons empty...)

bb


Nope, nope, nope.

Alright, class is in session. Pay attention and everyone lives.

Tractor-trailers and fifth-wheel trailers behind pickups carry about half the weight of the trailer on the truck. That's how 20,000 lb. semi tractors can tow 60,000 pound trailers. When they are hitched up, the truck weighs about 48,000 lbs. Same thing but on a smaller scale with pickups and fifth-wheel trailers. It's NOT the same thing as towing a bumper-hitch trailer that has relatively little tongue weight, and puts that tongue weight behind the truck's rear axle where it lightens the front end and makes matters even worse.

When you tug a trailer that weights twice what your truck does, the trailer has more traction and inertia than the truck. Try stopping on an uphill gravel road with that setup, see if you can get going again. The trailer will always "win" if it is heavier and you get in a screwy situation, whether it's a sudden swerve or whatever.

Oh, and 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, and 1-ton isn't really the load capacity, it's an old term that stuck around from the '30s and has little to do with actual ratings nowadays. It's just a popular name for identifying light-, medium-, and heavy-duty pickups.
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Postby skibear » Wed Jun 27, 2007 8:19 pm

Captain Goddammit wrote:
But you still can't change one basic law of physics: a trailer that weighs more than the tow vehicle can push you around and get out of shape, no matter what your rig is rated to handle.

So yeah, it WILL do it, but when you have to slam on the brakes, while going around a curve, you'll get a physics lesson.


I once towed a 4400lb car to the crush yard using a 4000 van!
Car had a strap-on tow bar but it had all 4 wheels on the ground.
A bit scarry but only 10 miles at a slow speed.
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Postby Token » Wed Jun 27, 2007 10:49 pm

Captain Goddammit wrote:There's a unit called the Prodigy... great set... you can probably search it on RV.NET for more testimonials, I bought mine after reading what everyone on there said.

Read page 2 of manual. Tell me what the boost setting table is for.

Here is the link to the PDF of the manual: http://www.tekonsha.com/instructions/Pr ... %20web.pdf

Tekonsha explains nicely what the purpose of a good brake controller really is.

"First it must be understood that in an ideal situation the tow-vehicle brakes should stop the tow vehicle and the trailer brakes should stop the trailer. However the trailer brakes should provide a little additional drag on the hitch to help keep the combination straight. This is especially important at the beginning of braking."

read the whole thing here: http://www.tekonsha.com/instructions/Te ... 020062.pdf

I think this is a pretty good external cite that illustrates a piece of equipment designed to make towing a trailer that is heavier than the TV safe and sane, and both of us happen to own it and love it.
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Postby Captain Goddammit » Thu Jun 28, 2007 8:54 pm

Token wrote:Read page 2 of manual. Tell me what the boost setting table is for.
I think this is a pretty good external cite that illustrates a piece of equipment designed to make towing a trailer that is heavier than the TV safe and sane, and both of us happen to own it and love it.


Yeah yeah...
Unloaded dump trucks have a 50,000+ pound tow rating... but you'll never see one with a loaded trailer behind an empty truck! Gee, why not? They'd be well within the factory ratings...

You CAN tow stuff that's heavier than your truck, that point is granted.
Is it safe? Nope. If you get onto something slippery like gravel on the road in a curve, or make a swerve to avoid something, is that heavy trailer likely to pull your truck whichever way it wants to? Yep.

How many of you have seen the aftermath of a heavy trailer/light tow vehicle combo that got out of shape and jacknifed?

So, if you're coming to the Playa, and can't load enough stuff into your truck to make it as heavy as your trailer, you just gotta slow down. Every rig is safe when you take the speed out of it.
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Postby Token » Fri Jun 29, 2007 1:40 pm

The Governor also has a few things to say about trailering. A good read for sure:

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/dl648/dl648pt12.htm
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Postby capjbadger » Fri Jun 29, 2007 2:24 pm

I had one of the bolts sheered off of the wheel on the way back home. Got all the way into Sacramento to get gas when I noticed the wheel looked wrong. If the other 3 bolts hadn't held, I very likely wouldn't be posting right now. The safe speeds probably saved us. :shock:
Seems the lug nuts had worked loose and let the wheel wobble enough to snap the bolt.

Always do a safety check on your trailer before heading out!

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Postby gyre » Fri Jun 29, 2007 8:40 pm

I hope you changed all of the hardware.
Hardware that gets even a little loose or doesn't fit right, can be damaged under load.

I know of a case of multiple suspension failures due to rough galvanizing in the mounting hole for a rod end.
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Postby capjbadger » Sat Jun 30, 2007 9:01 am

gyre wrote:I hope you changed all of the hardware.
Hardware that gets even a little loose or doesn't fit right, can be damaged under load.

I know of a case of multiple suspension failures due to rough galvanizing in the mounting hole for a rod end.

Yeah, had to. When they tried to put in a new bolt, a huge chunk of the hub fell off. Had to replace the whole hub. :shock:

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Postby gyre » Sat Jun 30, 2007 10:01 am

Nice to find out in the garage rather than at speed on the highway.

For anyone unfamiliar with the subject, hub failure can result in the suspension digging into the ground and the vehicle rolling.
Usually it is the result of a ball joint failing.
I had this happen as I slowed down to enter the airport.
I had large tires and it was a tightly built european car, so the car dropped over the wheel and skidded to a stop. That was a very lucky outcome.
Suspension failure usually means a bad crash.
In my case, I blocked both lanes of the airport entrance.
You might not expect it, but they get quite testy about that.

Over torquing can cause that kind of failure.
Just after getting off the freeway, we had two wheels on a friend's car fall off almost at the same time.
Since then, I always hand tighten my own lug nuts.
This often means getting hot and dirty in front of the shop.
I haven't had any wheels fall off though.

And it's nice to be able to get them off by hand too, when you're by the road in the dark.
And if you have aluminum rims, be sure to grease the part that mates to the steel hub, being sure not to contaminate the rotors.
I had two rims recently that would not come off with any force.
I finally had to go find some liquid wrench to change the tires.
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Adding a trailer hitch to my box truck

Postby motskyroonmatick » Tue Feb 19, 2008 11:50 pm

My box truck did not come with a trailer hitch. I would like to add one and a Prodigy (I think) brake controller. The truck is an Isuzu NPR 12000GVW with a 175 hp diesel coupled to a manual 5 speed. The box is long making the potential point for the hitch ball 9' behind the center line of the drive axle tires. I already have to watch tail swing in tight maneuvering situations. Ultimately I would like to be able to pull a car trailer with a 3000lb vehicle on it. I wonder if there is a rule of thumb to follow concerning what is too far for the hitch to be from the axle to be considered safe?
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Postby Captain Goddammit » Wed Feb 20, 2008 7:41 am

There isn't a specific rule, but you're correct about the general idea.
I've driven to BM lots of times with a duallie pickup and camper, pulling a car trailer with a 5000 pound mutant vehicle on it. I started out using a long hitch extension to reach past the camper, then later I lowered and lengthened my trailer tongue so it could go under the camper all the way up to the truck's hitch, and there WAS a significant difference in stability at freeway speed. (It was rock-solid!)

This year I'm in the same situation as you, pulling the trailer with a motorhome that has a shorter wheelbase and long rear overhang. I'm going to get a weight-distributing hitch, the kind with the long spring bars that attach a few feet behind the trailer tongue.

I could shorten the trailer tongue now if I wanted (it turns pretty damn wide) but I'm gonna leave it long because that also helps freeway stability... you might consider stretching your trailer tongue too. You can't easily change your rear overhang, but you can easily add trailer length, which is the next best thing you can do. I have a few trailers, and the longest ones always pull nicest.

And about the Prodigy brake controller... I changed to one of those a few years ago, love it!
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Postby Mr.Powers » Wed Feb 20, 2008 2:48 pm

Glad I came across this, thanks for the info.
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Postby motskyroonmatick » Wed Feb 20, 2008 9:30 pm

The long trailer length makes perfect sense to me.
My situation will be just like pulling with an RV. In general I like to have my equipment set up for fail safe operation. In the best of worlds I would like it to be nearly impossible to jackknife the trailer while driving forward. The tail swing and tight turning radius of the truck will make a forward travel jackknife fairly easy. I'll have to do some experiments with the trailer I have and do what I can to mount the hitch as close to the axle as reasonably possible. I'm going to end up borrowing a trailer so extending the tongue is probably out. I will keep a longer ball to axle length on the trailer in mind as a positive aspect.
Is it easy to install a brake controller or would I be better off taking the truck to an RV place and pay for them to do it? I have no problem wiring in simple accessories but have no experience with controllers.
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Postby Captain Goddammit » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:11 pm

The old-style brake controllers required plumbing into one of the truck's brake lines, usually right by the master cylinder... not as big a deal as it sounds, although you had to bleed the brakes out afterward. They don't sell those anymore because they aren't compatible with anti-lock brakes.

The new all-electronic "inertia" brake controllers are ultra simple to install. Power and ground, a wire tapped into your brake light wire, and the (usually blue) wire that goes out to the trailer connector to energize the brakes is normally all there is to it.

You can handle it!
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Postby motskyroonmatick » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:16 pm

It seems to me that trailer brakes would draw quite a bit of power when activated. Does the circuitry require heavier duty than say 12 gauge wire. I imagine that the whole system is protected by a fuse as well. The controller manual will probably tell me all of this. Now to find a wiring diagram for my truck. :)
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Postby Captain Goddammit » Wed Feb 20, 2008 10:39 pm

They don't draw that much... I think 12 gauge is fine. Trailer drum brakes are self-energizing, they don't use the magnets to apply much force to the shoes, they use the rotational force of the drums to make the shoes grab harder. They do almost nothing when stopped.
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Postby motskyroonmatick » Wed Feb 20, 2008 11:20 pm

I just looked up a "typical" trailer brake wiring diagram and it seems like a very doable project. Thanks for the advice! Much appreciated.
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Postby Elliot » Thu Feb 21, 2008 1:48 am

:D
Great thread!
Let me join the chorus singing Service The Trailer Wheel Bearings, Invest In Fresh Tires, and Slow Down!
:D
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Postby mdmf007 » Thu Feb 21, 2008 8:02 pm

Get the biggest tires you can get on a trailer, solid chains, and the best hitch you can get.
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Postby Rat Bastard » Tue Mar 18, 2008 12:36 am

Last year I towed a 19' 7,000lb trailer with an MV on it made from a full sized pickup. I think my weight was close to max but I never weighed it. As we left Chicago I was fine. Then after getting out of the cities and on to I-80 I got up to 50mph+. It wasn't until then that I learned the massive sway problem I was getting. Almosted turned back home. 2000 miles at 45-50 mph is bullshit. We crashed for the night and stopped at an RV place in western Illinois. About $500 bucks later I had a rockin setup. My original was just a Texas collar type hitch. After spendin some money I had a weight distributing hitch and a sway bar. No more bouncing and no more swaying. I could cruise at 70 no problem. The tow setup was so good that a couple times I looked down and I was going 90. Didn't even realize it cause it was so smooth.

The tires on the tandem trailer were either a bit old or underinflated. As we were packing up my friend noticed a weird bald spot on one. Came to realize that the tread was ripping off. The edges of all four tires had lost their tread. So about another $500 later I had a set of new tires that I monitored the pressure on very closely to stay at 50psi.

I also have brakes on BOTH axles with a decent brake controller that is inertia controlled and has a slide knob for manual control. That slide knob is very handy for straightening out a sway.

One of the most difficult things I had to deal with other then all the above was when a semi passed me. My trailer would catch their wind and whip my Suburban along with it. Stuck to my lane by keeping the wheel straight and got used to some minor drift and anticipating it.

For this year I'm definately getting my MV weighed so I have my tongue weight proper. The setup I have on there now is awesome and stable but it won't hurt to tweak it by moving the MV forward or back a few inches. My only fear is to find out that I'm overloaded and would need another upgrade!

Here she is after her hitch upgrade...
Image

And after the tires.
Image

I do get a little sag in the ass end of my TV but the RV shop mounted my hitch a little high. It will be lowered before this year's trip. I also need to work on wind resistance. The tarp in the first shot was shreaded after 2000 miles. Said fuckit for the trip back home. Let the dusty bitch get wet, I don't care. :twisted:
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Postby Rat Bastard » Tue Mar 18, 2008 12:41 am

Oh yea, something else I did...

My MV is straped down at the axles with four heavy tow straps. However, it still bounces around a bit. That made two separate suspensions on the trailer causing the body of the MV to bounce around like crazy yielding "after shocks" from a bump in the road. It was solved by strapping the body of the MV down to the trailer as well. Broke a strap this way from not padding a pressure point but it made it handle better after bumps and such.
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Postby Elliot » Tue Mar 18, 2008 1:37 am

:D
Lemme teh'ya, I've been there. 30 years ago I moved from Michigan to California -- I-80, yes -- with a Ford stationwagon and a huge homemade trailer. Didn't get far before we suffered such a nasty fishtail that the rear hub caps popped off the car. Only thing that saved our skins was that I knew to give full gas and full trailer brake -- pulling us back to straight.

Went thru a lot of tires too -- car tires that I have scavenged, including snow tires. Good thing I had lots of them!

Today, I shudder to think of that trip.

Towing is very serious business!
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Postby Captain Goddammit » Tue Mar 18, 2008 6:26 am

Rat Bastard - I can tell which photo is which by all the playa dust on your Suburban in the later shot!
My trailer with mutant vehicle + lots of supplies weighed in at 8200 (but my trailer is a 10,000 that weighs 2400 empty). I didn't use or need a weight distributing hitch 'cuz I was towing with a 4-door one-ton duallie pickup with camper, solid as a rock. I've been worried this year because I'm gonna use a motorhome with a short wheelbase, about the same as your Suburban, with even more rear overhang.
After reading what you had to say I think I'm not even gonna screw around, I'm just gonna go get a W-D hitch from the start.
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Postby gyre » Tue Mar 18, 2008 1:59 pm

Improving the stability of your tow vehicle is always a good idea.
IPD and others offer anti-sway bars for RVs and other things.
If you have something too odd, custom made is not difficult.
Steering stabilizers help too.
There is one made for large vehicles called Safe-T-Pull.
It has springs and dampers on both sides of the front wheels and can help reduce damage to the steering too.
These improvements help even when not towing.
Higher rate springs are readily available now and you cannot get shocks that are too good.
You can tell the difference.

There is a known issue with shock wear on trailered vehicles.
Many disconnect the shocks in transit.
Besides strapping the body down, I think there are some other approaches.
Consult GRM-Grassroots Motorsports or other racing publications, Racecar Engineering, SAE.org etc


I helped a friend tow some vans home on a trailer recently with a Ford Ranger.
When he hit 50 the trailer began to sway badly and lifted the wheels of his truck off the ground at one point.
Could have been bad.
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Postby EB » Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:47 am

*bump*
Irony. You're soaking in it.
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Postby Rusted Iron » Wed Aug 13, 2008 9:05 am

This will be the first year that I will be towing a new, factory-built box trailer, after years towing home-made trailers. (One of which, was built out of a crushed travel trailer that we traded a chicken for... a cooked chicken, that is.)

I'm kind of intimidated by its goodness.
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Postby Captain Goddammit » Wed Aug 13, 2008 6:09 pm

gyre wrote:I helped a friend tow some vans home on a trailer recently with a Ford Ranger.
When he hit 50 the trailer began to sway badly and lifted the wheels of his truck off the ground at one point.
Could have been bad.


You even rode in a Ranger towing a van??
I've witnessed several accidents involving idiots... er, people, towing heavy stuff with small trucks. I've also witnessed several accidents involving stupid assholes... er, people, towing heavy trailers without the brakes hooked up and functioning.
There is no word strong enough to describe the ass-holiness of people who do this and crash into other innocent people.
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Postby gyre » Wed Aug 13, 2008 6:47 pm

I was in the chase vehicle.
He has a lot of experience and got all the wheels back on the ground again.
Most people wouldn't have.

He has towed much, much heavier stuff, power hammers and so on, but the shocks are worn now and we had to load it with the weight at the rear.
That was the problem.
Aerostar vans, by the way and with a 4 cylinder ranger.
Incredible what he has towed with it.
And it still runs.

A very short tow.
Still a cautionary tale.
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Postby unjonharley » Wed Aug 13, 2008 7:52 pm

Travel hint: The rabbit must die..

If you are towing a trailer

The rabbit realy must DIE
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Postby Captain Goddammit » Wed Aug 13, 2008 10:05 pm

"He has a lot of experience and got all the wheels back on the ground again.
Most people wouldn't have.

He has towed much, much heavier stuff, power hammers and so on, but the shocks are worn now and we had to load it with the weight at the rear.
That was the problem."

I'll tell you what "most people wouldn't have": Most wouldn't have GONE 50 MPH in an inadequate tow vehicle with an improperly loaded trailer! THAT was the problem!
Hell, I have lots of experience with trucks and trailers... difference is, I act as if I ever learned anything from it!
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