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Old 08-20-2004, 11:05 AM   #15
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There is far more to "proper rigging" than just the brand and rating of a hitch.

Two thirds of "all" loss of control accidents is because of the hitch/tow vehicle combination.

What tow vehicle were you using when the accident happened?

Repairing you trailer correctly as opposed to patch it up, dictates the end cost.

As I explained to you in an e-mail, minimum cost to put that coach back into road worthy condition, is at least $30,000.00, and probably closer to perhaps $40,000, again to do it correctly.

There are so many factors that you cannot see from your photo's.

As an example, are the axles OK? Is the frame bent? How many main bows must be replaced? How many outriggers are damaged? How far has the shell be knocked out of alignment? How many other stresses to the shell are there that the photo's cannot show? Replacing any interior panels is impossible, as that same material is no longer available. That being the case, a substitute must be made, but at what cost? These are just a few questions that photo's don't answer.

If you want to do it yourself, be prepared to spend at least $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 for just parts.

Want to use "used" parts? Good luck. You normally will find that to be a big waste of money, and time. You cannot easily remove segments and quarter panels, without some tell tale appearances.

It spite of the cherished memories, I would suggest that you find another trailer, and start from there.

If you tell me what tow vehicle was involved, I will do my best to find the cause of the accident for you. I also must know the exact hitch, and it's rating.

Andy
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Old 08-24-2004, 03:42 PM   #16
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I'm not sure what type of hitch it is; I know it is a Reese, but didn't find any other model information on it. The bars say V5, Max gross trailer weight 10,000 lbs, max hitch weight 1000 lbs, and 1-1/4 spring bars. This is what has been used for the Airstream at least since 1982, probably since it was new in 1977. The tow vehicle, as noted in a previous post, is a 2003 Chevy Silverado, Z71 off road package, tow package, 3.7 ratio, locking differential, short box, reg cab and sportside. Chevy has so many different combinations of options, but according to the chart in the owners manual this vehicle is rated to tow well above what was required.
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Old 08-24-2004, 03:49 PM   #17
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David, your short wheelbase didn't help you much. I had a Chevy Blazer in the past, pulling a SOB box type trailer of only 21 feet. Wouldn't care to do that combo again. Your pickup is only a few inches longer in wheelbase, than the last generation full size Blazers.
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Old 08-24-2004, 04:23 PM   #18
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I would hesitate restoring the damaged trailer. Unlike Andy's wrecked model that was repaired, this one was wracked and warped. The repair would exceed the value of the trailer. I would part it out or buy a simlar model that needs work and rob parts from the wrecked unit.

It is costly enough to repair and restore an Airstream that has had far less damage/
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Old 08-24-2004, 05:00 PM   #19
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Tell us more about the circumstances of the crash, we could all learn from them.
Thanks,

Ron
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Old 08-24-2004, 07:50 PM   #20
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davidp.

What you have (had), is like a Peterbilt tow vehicle with the largest hitch that Reese made.

Therefore I doubt that you moved "any" tongue weight, as one "must" do.

With that truck. you should have used the "smallest" rating hitch Reese had which was a 550 pound rating.

Research data, from over 20 years, bears out that you were "grossly" over hitched, and really, you were a predictable accident, looking for a place to
happen.

The fortunate thing however, is that your OK.

I have authored a brief article about hitches, that will be in the September issue of the Airstream Life Magazine.

I also, will have an article, that will go into great depth about hitches, in the December issue of Airstream Life Magazine.

Stay tuned.

Andy
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Old 08-24-2004, 07:55 PM   #21
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Well, now that the pros have spoken, it appears that if you got the $$, they got the beer!

My vote would be to take whatever insurance gets ya, and find a similar coach and start over...even if you gotta spend some $$ getting up to the standard your old one was at....in the long run, it could be less expensive then repairing your old friend as much as I can understand that might not be what you want to hear.
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Old 08-24-2004, 10:54 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In
davidp.


Therefore I doubt that you moved "any" tongue weight, as one "must" do.

With that truck. you should have used the "smallest" rating hitch Reese had which was a 550 pound rating.

Research data, from over 20 years, bears out that you were "grossly" over hitched, and really, you were a predictable accident, looking for a place to
happen.

The fortunate thing however, is that your OK.

Andy
#1: Best thing is you & your passenger are OK.

#2: I'd look for another trailer, sorry.

#3: Without knowing what angle the hitch head is set to or the amount of loading you had on the spring bars I would NOT be comfortable stating that you were grossly over hitched or that no tongue weight was distributed (moved). Hitch head angle, strength of bars, and how many 'links' are used 'move' the tongue weight, this is measurable & adjustable. The trailer should also be as level as possible when hitched. Your tow vehicle is a bit short but there are many factors not in evidence here that can contribute to the accident.
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Old 08-25-2004, 09:19 AM   #23
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#3: Without knowing what angle the hitch head is set to or the amount of loading you had on the spring bars I would NOT be comfortable stating that you were grossly over hitched or that no tongue weight was distributed (moved). Hitch head angle, strength of bars, and how many 'links' are used 'move' the tongue weight, this is measurable & adjustable. The trailer should also be as level as possible when hitched. Your tow vehicle is a bit short but there are many factors not in evidence here that can contribute to the accident.
Given Andy's expertise, his recommendation for a smaller hitch is no doubt accurate and is probably a "best practice" moving forward.

That said, I do believe that at least some tongue weight was distributed; the local Airstream dealership hooked it up exactly the same way I was taught when I had it serviced, as did the dealership where my grandparents had it serviced over the years. When hitched, the trailer was quite level; the first time I pulled it I had it weighed to make sure it was in the correct range. My grandfather (an engineer) towed it with a 1979 Ford Econoline conversion van for long trips - even participating in a Caravan through Mexico in the early 1980's. At least a few times for weekend trips he towed it with a 1976 Chevy Silverado; all with the same Reese hitch that I still have and used.

Would the sway control equipment have played a role?

David
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Old 08-25-2004, 09:52 AM   #24
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What you have (had), is like a Peterbilt tow vehicle with the largest hitch that Reese made.
how is that? is it just the heavy spring bars? I thought he said it was only a half-ton truck...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In

Therefore I doubt that you moved "any" tongue weight, as one "must" do.
How would the rating of the spring bars affect this? I understand how having too stiff a hitch setup could damage the trailer over the long-term, but how do we know that tounge weight wasn't being transferred?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In
With that truck. you should have used the "smallest" rating hitch Reese had which was a 550 pound rating.
we're still talking about spring bar ratings, right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In
Research data, from over 20 years, bears out that you were "grossly" over hitched, and really, you were a predictable accident, looking for a place to
happen.


Andy
I'm sure the engineering data will be provided in the articles, right? (I'm just teasing; please don't get upset!!! )

seriously...I want to avoid being classified as a "predictable acciedent, looking for a place to happen"...or a statistic.
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Old 08-25-2004, 10:53 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by davidp
Given Andy's expertise, his recommendation for a smaller hitch is no doubt accurate...

David
I acquiesce in the face of overwhelming evidence .
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Old 08-25-2004, 10:53 AM   #26
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Chuck.

In actual road tests, using 1000 pound Reese torsion bars and the Reese "straight line" sway control, with a 1/2, 3/4 and one ton trucks, towing a loaded 31 foot Airstream, demonstated handling problems.

As a rule of thumb, a 1000 pound "dual cam" Reese hitch should be used on larger cars, which are hard to find any more, when towing a 31 foot Airstream trailer.

Same trailer, with a 1/2 ton truck, should use a 750 pound hitch.

Same trailer, with a 3/4 or one ton truck should use a 550 pound hitch.

Why, (very briefly), unless the bars are bending a minimum of and inch or so, (more is superior) the hitch will not provide much sway control.

The harder it becomes for the bars to rise on the saddles, the better the sway control.

One of the devices used during these tests was called "Safety Tow." It was a electrical, automatic sway control, that eliminated a sway by the rapid "automatic" application of the trailer brakes. It might have pulsed the brakes on up to full application.

The sensor was mounted at the very rear of the tow vehicle. The control panel was mounted on the left side of the dash. It had two lights on it. A green and a red.

In normal operation, the green light stayed on.

When "any" degree of towing instability took place, the "red" light would "blink" warning you of that instability.

Using that as a guide, changing different ratings of Reese torsion bars, displayed a huge difference in handling stability. (Refer back to the above recommendations.)

Further tests were made by altering tire pressures. As another example of that devices value, on the loaded test 31 foot Airstream, (mine), tire pressures were set to 60 psi. Dropping the pressure to 50 psi on "ANY" tire, caused the red light to again indicate instability. All four tires, one at a time, had the pressure dropped the ten pounds and at the same time, increasing the pressure on the last test tire, back to 60 psi.

All of us, as we travel, can lull back as we travel the freeways, therefore become unaware of other small changes such as the wind speed and direction.

The Safety Tow, would clearly indicated "instability" when quartering winds or gusty winds were present, suggesting that you reduce speed until stability returned, which it normally did.

In summation, personal opinions were eliminated by using the Safety Tow.

Some 30 years ago, a person by the name of Bob Jubinville, from New Jersey, invented the Safety Tow, and obtained 18 out of the 20 patents that he applied for. Unfortunately, he died shortly thereafter, and his son did not share the same interests as his dad. We sold many Safety Tows, some 30 years ago, but lost track of the son, a long time ago.

Perhaps the time is right for this device to again be on the market. It certainly more than proved it's worth when demostrated at many rallies, long ago.

Typical comments ranged from "wow" to "unbelievable" to "how fast can I get one". It took less than an hour to completely install that unit.

If anyone knows the whereabouts of Jubinville Junior, please lets us know.

The December issue of Airstream Life, will contain even greater details about hitches, rigging, sway conrols and the like.

Hopefully, the above will lay to rest some of the seemingly unanswerable questions about "what is proper rigging" for a load equalizing, full sway control hitch.

Oh yes, the friction type sway controls, all scored low, in actual road tests, compared to the Reese straight line.

Stay tuned.

Andy
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Old 08-25-2004, 11:45 AM   #27
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...The accident was on the freeway, and when things came to a stop the Airstream was on it's side (roadside), jack-knifed against the rear drivers side of the tow vehicle and the rear of the tow vehicle was about a foot off the ground.....
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Given what was presented in this thread – and no knowledge of any private correspondence, I would like to offer my views of your setup and subsequent accident with the 2003 Silverado standard cab short bed Tow Vehicle with appropriate tow capacity, the ’77 31’ Airstream Trailer, and the Reese weight distributing hitch.

My comments below pertain only to the information presented in the Forum. No anti-sway device was mentioned (other than Andy's latter posting), so please consider only the information as presented pertinent to the hookup.

Inland RV wrote:

“What you have (had), is like a Peterbilt tow vehicle with the largest hitch that Reese made.”


I would submit that your Silverado was well matched for the 31’ Sovereign – probably even close to the upper limits – but definitely not “overmatched” for the job. When the trailer was put on the ball, you probably observed some rear end squat, which you should have adjusted out with the Reese Weight Distributing Hitch.

Inland RV wrote:

“Therefore I doubt that you moved "any" tongue weight, as one "must" do.”

There is no requirement for transferring any weight at all, as long as the tow vehicle maintains a correct stance after the load of the trailer tongue is applied to the ball. Weight transfer is only necessary to bring a tow vehicle to a proper “stance”. If the rear measurement point (usually the wheel well) lowered, 1”, then a properly set up weight distribution hitch will also provide for a 1” drop (lowering) of the front measurement point. If you were, indeed, towing with a Peterbilt, you probably would have observed absolutely no rear end squat, negating the requirement of a WD hitch.

I assume there was rear end squat, and I further assume that you adjusted the WD hitch to properly “balance” the vehicle. My apologies if these assumptions are in error.

Inland RV wrote:

“With that truck. you should have used the "smallest" rating hitch Reese had which was a 550 pound rating.”

As per the Airstream website, the EMPTY weight of a 31’ ’77 trailer is between 5005 lbs and 5070 lbs with recommended hitch weights ranging between 620 and 715 lbs.

For argument’s sake, let’s assume a conservative case…that the trailer was loaded with only 500 lbs of “stuff” – propane, water, clothing, food, bedding, . Let’s also assume that the driver follows the Airstream published recommendation of carrying between10% to 15% of that weight on the hitch tongue (somewhere between 550 and 760 lbs.).

Then a worst case situation occurs – an accident involving the trailer/tow vehicle combination.


The first thing a litigation attorney will ask in deposition following an accident could be phrased something similar to….”Mr. X, were you aware that the loaded weight of your trailer was over 5,500 pounds, that the manufacturer’s minimum recommended hitch weight is between 620 and 750 lbs, and yet you had only a 550 pound rated hitch on your Tow Vehicle”?

What argument do you have at that point for defending a hitch with a 550 lb rating?

Anyone who can comprehend “Ned and the First Reader” should be able to infer that that the ratings are “up to, and not to exceed”...any tongue load above 550 lbs requires a higher rated equalizing bar.

Inland RV wrote:

Research data, from over 20 years, bears out that you were "grossly" over hitched, and really, you were a predictable accident, looking for a place to happen.


As far as the comment that the vehicle was “grossly over hitched”, I submit that there is no detriment at all to being “over hitched”, as long as the weight distributing bars are set properly when hitched to an appropriately rated tow vehicle. Reese currently incorporates links that are about 1” in length, allowing for accurate settings of lift arms rated to1200 lbs . If you were towing a popup or similar lightweight trailer with a tongue weight of less than 300 lbs, then MAYBE too much load could be transferred to the frame of the trailer, but trailer frame design is not in question here.

As far as an accident looking for a place to happen, from the information presented here about your hookup, again assuming that the Reese was properly set up, a working brake controller, properly serviced and adjusted brakes, and other tow and trailer equipment in working order, I offer, in my opinion, that you were about as conscientious and conservative in your choice of TV/Trailer as could be expected.

Personally, I fail to understand how any accident could be attributed to being “grossly over hitched”, maybe Inland RV could provide specific occurrences. Weight distribution happens when the end of the lift arms (however they are configured) are stressed (sprung within their elastic limit) in order to transfer weight. It should not matter wether or not it is done by a 2" lift on a 600 lb arm or a 1" lift on a 1200 lb arm (as long as the stresses [loads] DO NOT EXCEED THE MANUFACTURERS RATING). Sway control requirements aside, ANY lift of an arm (even a 1200 lb arm on a "light" trailer will require a couple of inches of lift) should be enough to gaurentee a proper range of "spring action" over most any terrain at appropriate speed.

Andy’s comment is something akin to “the accident occurred because the hitch had too much of a safety factor”.

Perhaps Inland RV will share the data he refers to with the Forum. I, for one, am most interested in the breakdown of RV accidents attributable to inadequate Tow Vehicles, aged or impaired drivers, inadequate or absent safety equipment, deficient brake systems, or other category that data from State, Federal, Insurance Company Investigations, may be available and shared with the public. If the accident mentioned is attributed to sway control (or lack of it), there has been precious little discussed ANYWHERE about the requirements or parameters of sway control - how can you measure the value of sway control without measuring the number of accident incidents in which lack of sway control has been a factor? Now, I know first hand how important sway control is, I am not minimizing its importance, simply pointing out that there are no industry (or minimum) standards to compare one hitch against another.

But “Grossly Overhitched”? – In my opinion, I think not - unless you have been doing business with Can-Am and removed your rear wheels just to see how it would handle as a 50’ integral unit.

Believe it or not, Reese actually has a warning NOT to do this on their website:

http://www.reeseprod.com

Talk about CYA to protect from litigation by stupid people.

Actually, the initial install and setup PDF’s should be required reading for anyone towing anything more than a pop-up, even if you don’t have a Reese hitch.

In synopsis, in analyzing the safety of any our personal TV/Trailer/Hitch hookups;

Take time to familiarize yourself with your present setup, and be cognizant of any “new” equipment on the market which may help you enjoy safer and more enjoyable trips.

Be very, very careful when taking advice from anyone within this Forum, on a sales floor, or in anecdotal conversation…..the final responsibility for a safe tow rests solely on you, the driver.

Use your head, if you don’t have any common sense, borrow some, but by all means adequately assess all opinions of what constitutes a “safe tow”.




Inland RV wrote:

The fortunate thing however, is that your OK.


Andy is 100% correct on this point. It indeed is providential that you walked away from this incident, and, perhaps just as importantly, have chosen to share this experience with us. We should not sit in judgment in these matters, it is important to learn from the (possible) mistakes of others to insure that we (individually and as a group) do not duplicate the misfortunes of others. Honest and objective debriefings by those involved in accidents or near misses are the only means we have of learning those horrific and expensive lessons other than experiencing them ourselves.

If there were other parameters or mitigating circumstances contributing to the accident, I beg of you to include them in this thread for our communal edification.

I thank you for giving the Forum the opportunity to learn from your misfortune.
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Old 08-25-2004, 01:45 PM   #28
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Why, (very briefly), unless the bars are bending a minimum of and inch or so, (more is superior) the hitch will not provide much sway control.

The harder it becomes for the bars to rise on the saddles, the better the sway control.
so its not really a matter of how much weight is or is not being transferred, but how much of a squeeze is being put on the spring bars...or more accurately, how much tension is on the bars, and their response to it. that actually makes me feel good, because when my rig is all set up, the spring bars do have a bit of a bow to them. I was worried that this might be a bad thing, but perhaps not. (I have never felt so much as an incling of sway from back there. all I feel is "weight" on the steep hills! ).

what I don't understand is how the tow vehicle's weight rating enters in to this. The force on the spring bars comes from the trailer's tounge weight. It would seem to me that the amount of "bow" in the spring bars wouldn't change based on the suspension of the tow vehicle.
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