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Old 06-08-2013, 12:30 PM   #1
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Fishtailing when braking

Our rig is a 2006 Classic (30 ft.) with Dexter axels, Dexter hydraulic disc brakes, Dexter hydraulic actuator, and a Hensley hitch. The unit has had all of the Airstream recalls performed. We tow with a 2010 Ford 250 that has Ford's ITBC and has the gain set at 7.5.

Recently the trailer fishtailed quite severely on a down hill slope when the brakes were applied at around 35 mph. This is the first time that I have experienced fish tailing with this rig in four and a half years of use.

My first thought was that I had experienced a braking problem. We pulled all four wheels and examined all four calipers without finding anything that might cause the fishtailing. All of the pads appear normal. None of the rotors show any signs of overheating or scouring. When the actuator is activated, each tire was checked individually and each stopped as one would expect. When the actuator was stopped, each tire would spin freely.

I am now wondering if there is a hitch problem, or some sort of interaction between the hitch and the brake controller gain setting. I would appreciate hearing from anyone that has experienced similar behavior as to the cause of their problem.

If you do not wish to post directly to this thread, then please send me a private message.

Many thanks in advance.
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Old 06-08-2013, 12:34 PM   #2
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Are the strut bars on the Hensley tight? Was it raining when this happened? I've seen a couple (as in two or three) that did this, but it was from poor road conditions, loose strut bars, or the driver ran off the road and overcorrected.
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Old 06-08-2013, 12:56 PM   #3
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In addition to the above, are you sure you have the brake controller set high enough. They should pull back on the TV when braking...not pushing the TV. Was it a true fishtailing, or the "Hensley Bump"?

I have always "heard" that Ford's ITBC was compatible with the electric over hydraulic discs, but I wonder. Do you have an experienced friend with controllers? Do you have access to a quality controller to experiment with?
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:00 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nickmeloy View Post
Our rig is a 2006 Classic (30 ft.) with Dexter axels, Dexter hydraulic disc brakes, Dexter hydraulic actuator, and a Hensley hitch. The unit has had all of the Airstream recalls performed. We tow with a 2010 Ford 250 that has Ford's ITBC and has the gain set at 7.5.

Recently the trailer fishtailed quite severely on a down hill slope when the brakes were applied at around 35 mph. This is the first time that I have experienced fish tailing with this rig in four and a half years of use.

My first thought was that I had experienced a braking problem. We pulled all four wheels and examined all four calipers without finding anything that might cause the fishtailing. All of the pads appear normal. None of the rotors show any signs of overheating or scouring. When the actuator is activated, each tire was checked individually and each stopped as one would expect. When the actuator was stopped, each tire would spin freely.

I am now wondering if there is a hitch problem, or some sort of interaction between the hitch and the brake controller gain setting. I would appreciate hearing from anyone that has experienced similar behavior as to the cause of their problem.

If you do not wish to post directly to this thread, then please send me a private message.

Many thanks in advance.

You simply need more trailer braking.

Andy
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:03 PM   #5
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True fishtailing would indicate not enough trailer braking. Like Rich said I would work on making sure the controller was set high enough.
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:20 PM   #6
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True fishtailing would indicate not enough trailer braking. Like Rich said I would work on making sure the controller was set high enough.
It is also possible that the controller is set too high. If the trailer brakes lock up, much of the directional control of the trailer will be lost and the trailer can move sideways almost as easily as it can move straight ahead.

Tim
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Old 06-08-2013, 01:29 PM   #7
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Shot in the dark, but you checked trailer wheels/calipers - how about the truck? Also, going downhill, did you downshift at all to use your engine for braking a bit?
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Old 06-08-2013, 02:00 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by SteveSueMac View Post
Shot in the dark, but you checked trailer wheels/calipers - how about the truck? Also, going downhill, did you downshift at all to use your engine for braking a bit?
With Ford's tow/haul, the transmission downshifts automatically when the brakes are applied.
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Old 06-08-2013, 02:46 PM   #9
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Strut Bars and Weather

Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63 View Post
Are the strut bars on the Hensley tight? Was it raining when this happened? I've seen a couple (as in two or three) that did this, but it was from poor road conditions, loose strut bars, or the driver ran off the road and overcorrected.
The strut bars are tight, and rain was not an issue.
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Old 06-08-2013, 02:56 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by dznf0g View Post
In addition to the above, are you sure you have the brake controller set high enough. They should pull back on the TV when braking...not pushing the TV. Was it a true fishtailing, or the "Hensley Bump"?

I have always "heard" that Ford's ITBC was compatible with the electric over hydraulic discs, but I wonder. Do you have an experienced friend with controllers? Do you have access to a quality controller to experiment with?
It was a severe fishtail. The gain setting of 7.5 has been in use for about 4.5 years with no prior problems.

Ford states that the ITBC is compatible with E/H systems. Dexter states that their actuator is compatible with the Ford ITBC. My experience over the past 4.5 years has supported the above statements and has been trouble free.

We are on the road and about 3,000 miles from home.
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2006 30' Classic
Dexter hydraulic disc brake system
Centramatics wheel balancing & Dill TPMS
Hensley hitch & Maxim skylights
Voyager Camera System WVOS713
2010 FORD F-250, ITBC, 6.8 liter V-10 gas, with VIAIR on-board air system
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Old 06-08-2013, 03:08 PM   #11
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Truck

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Originally Posted by SteveSueMac View Post
Shot in the dark, but you checked trailer wheels/calipers - how about the truck? Also, going downhill, did you downshift at all to use your engine for braking a bit?
I made a visual inspection on the truck for broken welds around the draw bar attachment area and did not spot anything.

When the fishtailing occurred, I had applied the brakes in preparation for (and prior to actually) downshifting. Ford has done an excellent design job of integrating the CPU's control of the throttle, cruise control, and gear selection to control speed in both uphill and down hill directions. Except on extreme grades, the truck has controlled truck speed without the first sign of fishtailing.
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2006 30' Classic
Dexter hydraulic disc brake system
Centramatics wheel balancing & Dill TPMS
Hensley hitch & Maxim skylights
Voyager Camera System WVOS713
2010 FORD F-250, ITBC, 6.8 liter V-10 gas, with VIAIR on-board air system
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Old 06-08-2013, 03:11 PM   #12
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If one or more wheels were locking up or if some brakes are not functioning it could cause the fish tail problem. You sure you don't have some brakes locking? Usually disk brakes are as good as it gets but even they have problem. Stuck calipers, frozen calipers, contamination from oil or brake fluid can cause lockup problems. If you have been locking the tires, you will have flat spots on your tires. Also you will get lockup quicker when it is wet so you may need to back off on the gain some in the rain. Also I have seen disk brakes stop working when they get wet. If this process is no even on all 4 wheels, that could be an issue as well.

Does this problem get better when you manually actuate the brakes which usually reduces sway?

Perry
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Old 06-08-2013, 03:34 PM   #13
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FWIW, I usually give the Ford brake controller a click up when going down steep mountain grades. But i know there aren't too many hills like that in Florida.
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Old 06-08-2013, 03:47 PM   #14
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Did the AS lock up?
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