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Old 06-17-2013, 07:56 AM   #1
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Does the tail wag the dog?

You often see people on here referring to the "the tail wagging the dog", but what does it actually mean? My Airstream tows quite obediently and the only really noticeable effects I feel on the tow vehicle are the drag as I'm accelerating and the slight push as I'm slowing down without brakes; I wouldn't call that wagging.

Who has experienced the tail wagging the dog? What was happening to make you think it was happening? If you experienced it, what did you do to make it stop?

I may be asking a bit too much but can we stick to actual experience rather than theorizing? We'll get into all sorts of unsubstantiated claims when talking theory!
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Old 06-17-2013, 08:05 AM   #2
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When we are passed by a fast moving truck or in gusty side winds, I can feel the trailer behind me being pushed before the bow wave hits the truck. The truck by itself does also see the same effects, but to a lesser extent. Therefore, the trailer (tail) is effecting the performance of the towing vehicle (dog). In an extreme example, you catch a soft shoulder with a trailer wheel and it has a major effect on the stability of the total package. Ask "Foiled again". I even noticed it this weekend while towing a 5,000 lb. sailboat on the interstate.
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Old 06-17-2013, 09:07 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dwightdi View Post
When we are passed by a fast moving truck or in gusty side winds, I can feel the trailer behind me being pushed before the bow wave hits the truck. The truck by itself does also see the same effects, but to a lesser extent. Therefore, the trailer (tail) is effecting the performance of the towing vehicle (dog). In an extreme example, you catch a soft shoulder with a trailer wheel and it has a major effect on the stability of the total package. Ask "Foiled again". I even noticed it this weekend while towing a 5,000 lb. sailboat on the interstate.
OK, so I'm interpreting the wagging thing as always being bad when really it's any event where the trailer's movement affects the tow vehicle. That can be as minor as some simple feedback like the bow wave of the trucks sweeping past, or major like Foiled Again's disaster. I've dropped the wheels of my Airstream off the edge of the pavement in a construction zone (fortunately onto a slightly lower pavement and not soft stuff) and felt it only as feedback to prompt me to correct, but that's still the wagging effect, right?
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Old 06-20-2013, 09:47 PM   #4
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A dog's tail weighs but ounces . . we've all seen sight predators use their tails for counterbalance in fine turns or twists.

It is the principle expressed that a lightweight trailer can exert an enormous effect upon a heavier TV due to centrifugal force. Those forces far exceed the static weights involved.

The outward force increases from the center of rotation. Trailer weight is one part, and distance from hitch ball to either TV rear axle or outwards to TT axles is the other.

There is a point where the TV rear axle will lose traction, big trailer or small. The devil may be in the details, but the expression is to beware of any trailer size or weight.

I think of this for those who've given their TT a cutesy name . . when that bitch is trying to pass the TV from either side then that name ain't so fun[ny] any more.

There's a point where it gets far enough out there it ain't coming back . . or our actions at the wheel make it so.

.
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Old 06-20-2013, 10:29 PM   #5
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It is a feeling I feel in my stomach when there are crosswinds or a big truck passes. It doesn't fell dangerous, just noticeable. As I am feeling like the trailer is wobbling, I look in the rear view mirror to see the trailer tracking arrow straight, which makes me think it is totally unseen by other motorists around me. It really think that having nearly 10,000# behind me I am going to feel it, especially on windy days. When there is no wind, it is almost like the trailer isn't there until an 18 wheeler comes by.
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Old 06-21-2013, 08:19 AM   #6
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Does the tail wag the dog?

Yes...some more so than others.

In my experience our single axle Safari was a wagger. Much more noticeable when being towed by our somewhat marginal short wheelbase Jeep GW. Crosswind gusts and 18 wheelers not comfortable at all.

Not so much with our 95 Burb, the wag was still there but the longer WB and heavier TV made it much harder to detect. The dual axle Classic towed much better even with the same hitch with friction sway control.
Bringing that forward, a three axle AS would feel even more stable.

But don't let the FEEL lull us into thinking that the sway has been eliminated. A properly set up rig is the most important safety component we have control over...lets do all we can to make them as safe as possible.

Bob
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Old 08-04-2013, 03:01 PM   #7
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There are things to reduce the tail wag...THE FIRST IS MATCHING THE TRAILER WITH THE TOWER GVWR.. ie the GVWR of the dog must exceed the the GVWR of the tail Travel trailer. Second is a load leveling hitch.
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Old 08-04-2013, 03:57 PM   #8
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The tail (Airstream) will always wag the dog (tow vehicle) even if yiou don't feel it, especiall when the hitching is not correct, or towing with just a ball.

To stop the wag, rig correctly, properly and adjust it correctly as well.

Andy
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Old 08-04-2013, 04:03 PM   #9
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I noticed the other day when driving the pickup with no trailer attached that it still does all that wiggling around. You really cannot tell that the trailer is there until the 18 wheeler bow wave.
I think the reason for all the wobbling of the truck is bad asphalt roads with trenches worn in from heavy 18 wheeler traffic. The width of the wheel track on an 18 wheeler is slightly different than that of my pickup- so it can't find a comfortable place to track in those ruts caused by the 18 wheelers. It is constantly up and down the edge of the ruts. Where the ruts are is continually changing. The ruts are in the middle on a straight stretch of road, but get closer to the middle on an inside curve and closer to the outer edge on an outside curve.
I think the low profile wide 20" tires compound this phenomenon because I don't notice it as much in my Pathfinder with smaller 16" diameter, more narrow tires.
I also believe the age of the tires may compound the problem. Although they still have a little tread life left they are original to the truck that is nearly 6 years old.
Discovering that the wiggling was not due to the trailer was a comfort.
New tires might help, but there is nothing I can do about bad roads.
Maybe if I ever get another truck I can get 17" wheels instead of 20" wheels.
I may never get another truck. This one has 28,000 miles after 6 years.
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Old 08-04-2013, 04:33 PM   #10
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Re: Example of "tail wagging the dog"

See old Airstream marketing video, below (test begins at 1:50).

Airstream Performance - YouTube

While the extreme swaying and swerving on the SOB was induced, under certain conditions, this can occur during normal driving.

There are a couple of areas in Arizona where travel trailer rollovers frequently occur. Most are caused by a combination improper- or over-loading, excessive speed, downhill grade and sudden wind gusts. Occasionally, tire failure and/or a rapid lane change due to collision avoidance or the driver falling asleep, are also contributing factors.
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Old 08-04-2013, 04:45 PM   #11
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Tail wagging the dog?
That's pretty easy. It is when you look out the side window and see your Airstream.
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Old 08-04-2013, 05:51 PM   #12
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Two weeks ago I saw the tail wag the dog. Not an Airstream but a small SOB. He came over a small rise with trailer wagging. He was in our lane coming at us and all I kept saying was "Oh sh*t, oh sh*t!" Hubby had pulled over as far as we could. Last minute he got back in his lane, went the other way, hit a road sign, ended up upside down in the ditch with his trailer at a 45 degree angle on its side. This weekend we were on the interstate coming up on a full size pickup towing a trailer that was wagging all over. I was terrified until we got around him.
I have never seen our trailer wag even in high winds, although, I am sure it does.
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Old 08-04-2013, 06:17 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phoenix View Post
See old Airstream marketing video, below (test begins at 1:50).

Airstream Performance - YouTube

While the extreme swaying and swerving on the SOB was induced, under certain conditions, this can occur during normal driving.

There are a couple of areas in Arizona where travel trailer rollovers frequently occur. Most are caused by a combination improper- or over-loading, excessive speed, downhill grade and sudden wind gusts. Occasionally, tire failure and/or a rapid lane change due to collision avoidance or the driver falling asleep, are also contributing factors.
Interesting. Did you watch the trailer tires during the S curves? Couldn't help watching the rubber twist and bend without thinking about ST vs. LT tires!
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Old 08-04-2013, 06:23 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by dkrug View Post
Two weeks ago I saw the tail wag the dog. Not an Airstream but a small SOB. He came over a small rise with trailer wagging. He was in our lane coming at us and all I kept saying was "Oh sh*t, oh sh*t!" Hubby had pulled over as far as we could. Last minute he got back in his lane, went the other way, hit a road sign, ended up upside down in the ditch with his trailer at a 45 degree angle on its side. This weekend we were on the interstate coming up on a full size pickup towing a trailer that was wagging all over. I was terrified until we got around him.
I have never seen our trailer wag even in high winds, although, I am sure it does.
Glad you weren't hurt! Hope the other guys were ok too. I've seen others in that condition and it is just frightening!

It does seem the AS is better out of the gates on this aspect (the video Phoenix posted demonstrates that well). Still, I'll take as much help as I can get with my choice of hitch and slower speed. You can't control everything but you can raise your odds a bit...
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