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Old 07-22-2010, 11:18 PM   #1
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Fishtailing Airstream

Hi All,
I am new to the trailer pulling of an Airstream. I have just bought a 1989, 32 ft, Excella and am pulling it with a 02, Chevy,1500 HD with an 6 liter gas engine. I knotice at speeds of about 65 mph the trailer rearend would fishtail and I would have to put on the breaks to stop it. I have an equilizer hitch and was told to was set up right. I went to the locial RV store and they told me to add stableizers bars to both sides of the receiver. Will this hepl? The trailer was not over loaded and most of the weight was in front of the axels. I was also told that a bad wheel bairning could be the problem. Can someone give me some advice on stableizers bars. and what might be my problem?
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Old 07-22-2010, 11:32 PM   #2
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With any 30+ foot rig you need sway control.

If you have an equal-i-zer hitch they're supposed to have sway control built in although they are not the most effective hitch in that regard. How sure are you that it is set up right? Do you have the weight distributing bars? Are they the right size? Are they being snapped up tight enough? How do you know? Can you post a photo of your hitch setup so we can see what the deal is with it?

Many people with the larger rigs use high tech hitches, pullrite, hensley, propride. They do make a huge difference in sway.

There are also friction bars, which will help, or you could switch to a Reese dual cam hitch, which will help.
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Old 07-23-2010, 12:51 AM   #3
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Fishtailing Airstream

Greetings elzavb!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Airstream ownership.

There are any number of things that could be contributing to your problem including such things as:
  • Does your Silverado have LT tires of the proper size and weight rating for your truck? Are the tires properly inflated? Improperly inflated tires or tires that are not intended for truck use can both contribute to a sway problem.
  • Is your trailer level when hitched to your truck? Whether nose high or nose low, a coach that isn't towing level can be less stable. Different drawbars can be purchased to achieve a level or very nearly level attitude with all of the major hitch brands.
  • Has the hitch been checked for worn parts, particularly the friction material if it is an older Equal-I-zer? Most of the major hitch manufacturers support their products with replacments parts that can be purchased through most RV dealerships. If the hitch is one that came with the coach, is it known whether the spring bars are matched in weight rating (mis-match ratings could impact handling)? Are the spring bars riding properly in the brackets on the trailer's A-frame? Even a modest error in the way the spring bar and bracket meet and align can cause issues with handling.
  • Are the tires on the coach ST or LT rated and of the proper size and load range? If the tires are P-metric they will cause sway problems continually. If the tires are not robust enough or are not properly inflated, sway problems can be the result.
  • When the coach was loaded with provisions were the heaviest items packed over or ahead of the axles? If an excess of packed weight finds its way behind the axles, sway can result.
  • Is the onboard fresh water tank full? On some coaches, the ride is much smoother if the fresh water tank is full.
Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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Old 07-23-2010, 07:57 AM   #4
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This is the very first time I have said this to anyone.... You are flirting with disaster (I have said that, but not in the situation to follow) You are under horse powered for certain with a trailer that big and heavy. Even a V8 would be taxing on a trailer that big. You can put all the fancy tires and even one of those Hensely things, but your truck is just not big enough for what you are towing.

Now someone else will tell you I wrong and you should not worry about it.
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:11 AM   #5
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All Kevin's suggestions are sound. Possibly the addition of a friction sway control device would help. This may be what your dealer is calling stabilizer bars
My preference is running tires near max inflation to obtain sidewall stiffness.
It should be noted, just for safety, that most trailer tires are rated for a max. speed of 65.
I think you are near the upper limits of a half ton vehicle due to softer suspension and maybe passanger tires rather than LT (light truck) however I see many doing it and i know some one will take me to task for that comment. A little overkill never hurts.
Good luck with finding the problem
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:14 AM   #6
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Not the Issue

The OP is concerned about stability of his trailer at high speed. This is not a question about the competency of the TV to get it up to speed but rather what is happening when he is there. He also said that it was a "6 liter" engine, not a 6 cylinder.

To answer the question, previous posts are pointing in the right direction. A weight distributing hitch is supposed to "equalize" the weight between trailer and TV. The problem is when folks say they have an equalizer hitch, when many times they don't. The Equalizer is a brand name and it does have built in sway control. By asking the question about adding sway control, I doubt that you have an Equalizer. Your hitch might be set up correctly to distribute the weight but that is not your concern at this point. I would take it to a reputable dealer and ask them specifically about your capacity to control sway and then see what they say. You might indeed be looking at upgrading your hitch. This forum will give you many good ideas. I for one like my Equalizer.
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:19 AM   #7
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It is my understanding that to straighten a rig under fishtail conditions is to maintian speed and utilize the manual slide on the brake controller to activate the trailer brakes only. And not to slow down using your vehicle brakes. NOTE: please advise if this is incorrect!

The single time I felt a fishtail, my immediate reaction was to hit the brakes on my truck to slow down. But it did not seem to affect the fishtail - and it actually FELT like it was making it worse. Then I remembered the tip above.... I increased my speed a bit while engaging the trailer brakes at my controller. Straightened out immediately. Whew. After that, I decided to add sway control to my hitch.

The above does not disregard that you may be under powered, may not have your WD hitch adjusted precisely, and may need to get sway control added as well --- but I wanted to share in case you were *in route* and could benefit from another technique to help re-establish control....

Laura
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:33 AM   #8
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What front tire pressures you holding at? Increasing the front tire pressures stiffens the sidewalls and reduces tail-wagging-the-dog oscillations that might amplify the trailers motions. (start at normal man'f spec and go up, don't read the MAX pressure on sidewall and use that, talking 6, 8, 10 psi boost)

How is the rubber wearing on the TV & trailer tires, a close inspection might show some alignment issues?

Might be time to weigh the tongue to ensure you have enough weight on the ball...
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Old 07-23-2010, 09:07 AM   #9
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Balancing Act

Quote:
Originally Posted by elzavb View Post
Hi All,
I am new to the trailer pulling of an Airstream. I have just bought a 1989, 32 ft, Excella and am pulling it with a 02, Chevy,1500 HD with an 6 liter gas engine. I knotice at speeds of about 65 mph the trailer rearend would fishtail and I would have to put on the breaks to stop it. I have an equilizer hitch and was told to was set up right. I went to the locial RV store and they told me to add stableizers bars to both sides of the receiver. Will this hepl? The trailer was not over loaded and most of the weight was in front of the axels. I was also told that a bad wheel bairning could be the problem. Can someone give me some advice on stableizers bars. and what might be my problem?
Like an airplane, weight and balance is critical to pulling a trailer. The idea of the weight being in front of the axles is not the key, the airstream owners manual usually will note keep the bulk of the weight over the axles as much as possible and you should know what the tongue weight is loaded the way you are. Photos would help everyone look at how it looks hooked up on level ground, rig should be level with the vehicle. There are a zillion questions, but sounds like you need an RV place that can drive the rig after setup to advise you what's missing or broken.
You'll drive yourself crazy and spend tons of money needlessly trying stuff.
Experience is 95% of the equation, luck is 5%, and guessing is 0%.
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Old 07-23-2010, 09:15 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aftermath View Post
He also said that it was a "6 liter" engine, not a 6 cylinder.
My bad, thought I read 6 cylinder, everything is just fine, carry on, I know nothing. 32 foot eighties trailer pulled by a 1/2 ton should be just peachy then.
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Old 07-23-2010, 09:18 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 62overlander View Post
This is the very first time I have said this to anyone.... You are flirting with disaster (I have said that, but not in the situation to follow) You are under horse powered for certain with a trailer that big and heavy. Even a V8 would be taxing on a trailer that big. You can put all the fancy tires and even one of those Hensely things, but your truck is just not big enough for what you are towing.

Now someone else will tell you I wrong and you should not worry about it.
Frank, that Chevy IS a V8, isn't it? And the trailer's dry weight is 6,300 or 6,500 lbs, depending on if it has a dinette or not, with a tongue weight of 700 or 800 lbs.

Won't a modern truck with a medium-size 300 HP V8 pull that load safely, if it's set up right?

[edit]: ah, OK, I wondered if you were thinking 6-cylinder...
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Old 07-23-2010, 09:53 AM   #12
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Your 89 is a heavy trailer with lots of composites (floor, cabinetry). Time to take that puppy to some truck scales and find out exactly what is going on. If you have too much weight to the front, you can adjust. Yes, adding anti-sway equalization is a must. Look hard at the alignment of the trailer axles, too. Add water to the freshwater tank - various recommendations in the forums here suggest half a tank or more, as does the original owners manual.

When all is said and done, the real answer is to slow down until you have the issue under control. I solved my issues by buying new tires for the tow vehicle but I still didn't feel safe in a half ton Suburban from a braking standpoint. I ended up with a heavier truck ... your mileage may vary. Mine sure has.
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Old 07-23-2010, 10:02 AM   #13
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Greetings from the Florida Panhandle

First off, welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us.

The OP did not mention if he even has a trailer brake controller. Some newbies don 't think that they need one. His truck should be sufficient for the job, but needs to be set up right. We need some further info and even photos before we can give really good advice. From his description I am unclear to exactly what type of hitch system he has.

Brian
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Old 07-23-2010, 10:40 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funkill View Post
It is my understanding that to straighten a rig under fishtail conditions is to maintian speed and utilize the manual slide on the brake controller to activate the trailer brakes only. And not to slow down using your vehicle brakes. NOTE: please advise if this is incorrect!
Laura
THe above is correct. If it is just a passing truck slight acceleration will accomplish the same thing as the wall of air passes, the goal being to keep tension between the truck and trailer. In a severe case of the wiggles the trailer brakes only are needed.
I suspect most of the accidents that are caused by sway are a result of driver over reaction

I have delivered new trailers of all brands for many years and have never experienced a serious sway incident. but then I get passed by a lot of hurrying people, and have on occasion seen them "parked" in the median a few miles down the road
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