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Old 08-11-2006, 08:07 PM   #1
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Disasters Tend To Happen In Threes

DISASTERS TEND TO HAPPEN IN THREES

8-10-2006 I carelessly damaged my Mark II as I pulled it out of the garage to go to a Press Preview of the Willistead Classic. It's parked on a four post lift, in the down position during the summer as I park the Porsche on top for winter storage.

I pulled too far over and took off the Mark II emblem and left a very nasty set of gouges in the paint with the lift's support cable. I went to the Press Preview anyway.





I loaded up the Porsche and had a friend, who moves cars professionally, tie it down for me for transport. I had positioned the car so that it lent some noticeable tongue weight.

Friday 8-11-2006

My employees and I spruced up the work truck for travel. I had just had every system service and checked on the truck. I wanted an uneventful ride. I drove home and packed and loaded the truck for a fun weekend at a Concours that we helped develop.

We shortly encountered some construction that required some lane changes and the trailer handled pretty well. We made it about 30 miles when disater struck. I had been traveling in the left lane of a freeway and exited on a continuation of M-14. This is one of those left-entrance ramps and I wanted to end up in the right lane. I had a clear shot at a lange change and moved over at about 45 miles an hour. The road was crowned and slightly curved.

I felt the truck start to pull and I knew I had a problem. The trailer started to fishtail quite forcefully. I had read, and I had pacticed, using the brake hand controller in the event of a bad sway to drag the tow vehicle down in speed and straighten out the sway. I used the hand controller and it had no effect the first time. Apparently I didn't leave it on long enough as it has to build up pressure in 24 pistons. The second time I tried I got almost immediate results and the truck straightened out as I was headed for the concrete median wall.

By this time the trailer had done about 4 wags. I pulled away from the median as the 4th wag smacked the driver's side tail of the trailer against the median. That seemed to interrupt the pending catastrophy and shoot us off across the sholder and two lanes of the e-way. I was now headed for what I perceive to be a ravine. My wife remembers it as a large ditch. I was now somewhat in control. At least I was headed in the same direction as the rest of the traffic.



The ravine was fitted with a guardrail that probably saved our lives. Unfortunately, that impact tore the Porsche loose from its mountings and slammed it into the passenge side wall and rear door of the trailer.





The only thing that kept the Porsche from crashing ino the lounge was the spare tire for the trailer. It wedged the front tire of the Porsche up against the winch.



The Porsches's pretty messed up, but repairable.





The trailer suffered some structural damage, but also can be repaired. I'll have to find a donor trailer.



I believe what happen had to do with the newly installed load distributing and sway control hitch. One of the torsion bars dropped out of its socket and hit the pavement as did the chain cinch it was attached to.



One of the torsion bars, the one that hit the pavement, shows signs that it worked its way out of its socket as its wear pattern shows.



I believe what happened is that the torsion bar fell out of its socket as we crested the crown of the road. This is when there would be no tension on the bar. The hitch is fitted with a pull pin that must have worked its way out or rolled over to reveal its tapered side. The conditions must have been just right and allow the torsion bar to drop out.

The torque that the trailer went through with one of two torsion bars exerting torque on the frame was amazing. The 2" solid steel hitch insert bent to about a 20 angle. It looked like tubing that had bent. Very scary.

While this may have been an unfortunate couple of days I believe I am fortunate to be amongst the living.



BTW, I believe we have chosen the name for our trailer. It will be forever known as "The Phoenix" Appropriate on so many levels.
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Old 08-11-2006, 08:13 PM   #2
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is your trailer a heavily modified spartanette? if so, i think i ran across your site that showed the construction process... what a load of work! looked great, though!

either way, sorry about your accident. as joe dirt says... "it'll buff out"



jp
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Old 08-11-2006, 08:47 PM   #3
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Glad to hear you are okay. Sheet metal is easier to fix than flesh and bone.

What brand hitch is that? I would suggest that you upgrade to an
Equal-i-zer brand hitch for a rig the size of yours.
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Old 08-12-2006, 08:09 AM   #4
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I'll look into that brand. Thanks.

Barry
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Old 08-12-2006, 08:45 AM   #5
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Barry,
This is a strange deal. I am glad that you and your wife are ok.
You damn near lost a fair amount of nice hardware there... hope your insurance is current. But, as others said, the important thing is that you got away from it unscathed.
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Old 08-12-2006, 09:36 AM   #6
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Hi, Barry,

I'm glad you and the wife were able to walk away from this one.

I have a very similar hitch on my Argosy, and I have had one of the lift bars fall out in use. Fortunately, it was at very slow speed.

The hitch has metal plates welded into the circular cutouts. The notched part of the lift bars engages these metal plates, and that's what keeps them from falling out.

The drill is to insert them at about a 90-degree angle and then rotate them into position. Now I shake and push them to make darn sure they're engaged before pulling tension on them.

Anyway, your lift bars look like mine. However, when I zoom in on your picture of the hitch above, I don't see the plates inside the hitch that engage the notches on the lift bars.

So I need to ask - were you getting positive engagement of the lift bars in the hitch before you applied tension?

Feel free to tell me if I'm preaching to the choir.

Lamar
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Old 08-12-2006, 10:34 AM   #7
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Not preaching at all. This hitch has pins that are meant to engage the groove on the torsion bar. It has a pin that is similar to the latch plunger on a residential door, straight on one side and ramped on the other. It looks like the pin may have rolled, allowing the retaining edge to hit the ramped portion and worked it's way out.

I looked at the suggested equalizer hitch and it seems to be a much better design.

http://www.equalizerhitch.com/productinfo/
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Old 08-12-2006, 11:14 AM   #8
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You might also look at some of the heavier duty Reese hitches.

http://reeseprod.com/

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Old 08-12-2006, 11:18 AM   #9
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We are very glad that you and yours are OK. The photos make us sad. We wouldn't have thought that you could bend one of those hitch bars with a battle ship. We will be checking our hitch closely and often. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.
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Old 08-12-2006, 11:31 AM   #10
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Barry,

Sorry to hear about and see the damage to your trailer and Porsche. Glad to hear that you and your wife are unhurt. I have followed your trailer since you started posting on the Lincoln Forums and enjoyed following your reconstruction.

I have a problem with the round bar weight distributing hitch, ever since I saw a bar drop out at a local state campground when they were backing into a campsite and had to turn very sharp. The trailer was at almost a 90 degree angle to the tow vehicle and one of the bars dropped out. Lucky for them, they were going very slow. I think that the trunion style has an advantage over the round bars and I am glad that I have that type.

Hope the repairs are fairly easy and look forward to your next post.

Bill
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Old 08-12-2006, 12:47 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Barry2952

I looked at the suggested equalizer hitch and it seems to be a much better design.

http://www.equalizerhitch.com/productinfo/
I think it'd be a good choice, Barry. I swear by mine.
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Old 08-12-2006, 04:17 PM   #12
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I checked it out. It obviously doesn't have the same potential for easy failure but you'd have to agree that if the bolt that holds the torsion bar to the hitch were to break the same conditions would exist.

8-12-2006

Now I'm angry. Let's see if you come to the same conclusion.

First, let me describe the way the system works. A round tube torsion bar system does work well under normal circumstances.

The 2 x 2 solid steel bar that fits into the receiver on the tow vehicle is held in place with a hardened steel shaft with a spring pin passing through a hole in the end of it, holding it in place. That shaft becomes an extension of the vehicle as it is tied directly to the vehicle frame. I believe it was bent when the trailer nearly jackknifed.



The 2 5/16" ball is mounted to the new equalizing hitch, not the hardened steel shaft, as is normal for a non-equalized hitch.



The equalizing hitch is attached to the hardened shaft through the vertical shaft drilled with additional holes for height adjustment. A proper height is selected and proper shims are installed to make the ball tip slightly toward the trailer. This angle is important because it will change slightly when the torsion bars are put in tension.

The bars are put in tension by a cam device that snugs up the chains, transferring the load equally to the trailer and the tow vehicle. You are suppose to level out the trailer and tow vehicle and then apply tension to the bars by equally counting the number of links and setting the tension devices on both sides. 8 links produced no tension. 6 links was nearly impossible for me set. 7 was just right.

Each chain tensioner is fitted with a safety device that keeps the tensioner closed. These parts did not fail. The tensioner is fitted to the frame with a set screw. They supply different length screws for various frame widths. These clamps are snugged in place, but are mainly held by the spring tension pulling them straight down on the frame.

The objective is to make the trailer and tow vehicle a unified structure so that "porpoising" is minimized. The sway control comes from the round tube connection. The torsion bar has a diameter that is smaller than the tube it fits into. It is designed to move freely when not cocked in the opening by the tension provided by the chains. The rubbing of the round bar in it's receiving tube is what gives you sway control as that resistance is what makes the tube intentionally bind when needed.

There are many times that the tension drops and the round bar is free to move in its socket. It is held in place at this time, on this model, by a tapered, spring-loaded pin that allows you to push the round bar into place without pulling back on the pin.

That pin fits into a groove in the round bar that is designed to stay engaged with the groove, keeping it from falling out of the socket.

After a sleepless night I went back to the shop and made a closer inspection of the mechanism.



My first observation was that the pins were nowhere near as long as they could have been, based on the depth of the groove. Even so, they should have stayed in.



I then observed that the beveled face of the pin didn't line up with the locating grooves that are supposed to firmly position the pin.



If the beveled pin were allowed to rotate 180 the round bar would never stay in as it would simply push the pin back by sliding down its ramp. These pins didn't rotate 180, they only rotated about 20-25, enough for the pin to work its way out and disengage the safety device.

To check my hyphypothesis I used two metal plates with straight edges inserted all the way into the locating grooves. You can clearly see that they are not within any tolerances that I (or anyone else) would find acceptable.





This manufacturing flaw wasn't the total cause of the failure though. The springs installed to keep the pins in place are made of either very cheap or very thin spring steel. They offer little resistance to the pin being pushed out of place.





This is the last link in the failure. The top round bar is the one that fell out. The one that stayed in has a nice crisp edge while the one that fell out has a ramp-like edge that would definitely shorten the effective length of the pin.



In my opinion it was the cumulative manufacturing flaws that led to the torsion bar dropping out of its socket.

When the passenger side torsion was lost the torque of the remaining torsion bar put the trailer into a severe pull to the side that remained. It's indescribable how I felt at that moment as I've never encountered that effect before. Instead of diminishing sway the remaining bar was inducing it. Had I not applied the trailer brakes the trailer would have continued on its circular path clearly leading to a flip of either or both of the vehicles.

Does this qualify as negligence on the part of the manufacturer? I'm sure my insurance company will go after them to recover their costs. Is a retailer responsible for a product they sell? Keep in mind that this product is marketed and sold as a safety device. Is this an issue for NHSTA? Is that who would regulate this product or would this be a Product Safety issue?

I've heard from four people that they have observed round bar hitch failures, too.
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Old 08-12-2006, 06:53 PM   #13
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I've never seen a 2" solid steel shank bend like that. Agreed that if the bolts that hold the torsion bars in place were to break, it would be catastrophic indeed. However, I've never heard of that actually happening with an Equal-i-zer. I have passed more than one rig dragging a round bar down the highway, though.

I'd imagine with the time, money and sweat equity you have in both the trailer and the Porsche, that you're as well insured as one can expect to be. Nonetheless, I'd expect to have to go to war with your insurer, as well as the manufacturer of the hitch. It is extremely beneficial that you have photodocumented the design and construction of the trailer, as well as the damage you've sustained as a result of the accident. Not wanting to sound dramatic, but if this leads to a redesign of this type of hitch, it could literally save many lives. Now that you have documented the rather chinsy design of this particular W/D hitch, I will advise others to run far away from it.
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Old 08-12-2006, 10:13 PM   #14
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barry

i have used reese hitches on both of my trailers, my airstream and a 20 foot wells cargo car hauler for years without any issue. both rigs are setup with friction sway control and 1000 lb bars.

i have no experiance with the round bar type and and often wondered how they worked (or not in your case) i can definately see the design flaw you mention. and with others mentioning bars falling out there must be a number of hitches out there with this problem.

i'm glad to hear you came out of this uninjured!

any thoughts about adding some kind of sway control to your new hitch?

john
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