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Old 08-14-2005, 12:50 PM   #1
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A very scarey sight (bad sway)....& ?????

Greetings.

Last week we was in Manchester, NH for a wedding. My wife and I had a day to kill so we decided to take a drive to Portsmouth.

While we were on the highway, we saw what I think was a large-ish suv, maybe an Envoy or Suburban, can't remember. The SUV was pulling a cargo type trailer. One of those low, but flat jobs that you haul lumber or building material. I would guess that is was 15 feet long and 6-7 feet wide.

The SUV was entering the expressway and was accelerating to get in front of a semi truck that was in the right lane.

As the SUV entered the expressway, we noticed that the back end of the trailer was sort of fish-tailing, and it looked at first like the driver was checking out how the trailer was handling.

A few seconds later, the SUV and the trailer were going all over the place! At one point, it looked like the was going to flip over. This thing was totally out of control, and thought that this was it for the driver.

There were also huge skid marks along the stretch where this was happening. Finally the SUV skidded off the expressway onto the shoulder, but somehow he managed to wind up straight and in the direction of traffic flow.

At this point, everyone behind the SUV held back in traffic, and as we passed, the driver emerged from the SUV and sort of waved that he was OK.

This happened so quickly. A matter of seconds. Which is why I don't remember the vehicle. Due to the size of the trailer, I did not see any WD or sway attachements.

This was truely disturbing, as it is our worst nightmare realized, but by someone else with something much smaller.

I immediate started to think how I would get out of a bad sway situation like the one we just saw, and I shocked myself, by not really remembering proper procedure.

I think that you are supposed to accelerate, not brake or even coast. But I am not sure.

I think it may be a real good time to get the resident experts to give a review of how to handle a situation like this. Or any other comments.

I listening!!! It really was a scarey moment.

Thanks.

Jonathan
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Old 08-14-2005, 01:07 PM   #2
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jonathan,
I have a Hensley hitch and no matter what crazy moves I try it does not sway.
Mine is a 31 footer.
Then again, my trailer came with the hitch and I have no towing experience with any other hitch.
Al
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Old 08-14-2005, 01:10 PM   #3
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Rivet Regaining control - reducing speed ...

Accelerating may help, if your in a position to accomplish this ....

A more purdent approach would to apply (manually - by hand) the trailer brake. This will assist in placing a temporary sway situation under control and also reduce the overall speed.

It is the 'Tail-wagging-the-dog' ... so attempting to control the 'tail' is a good approach.
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Old 08-14-2005, 01:13 PM   #4
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lev

if a trailer sways, off the gas, off the tow vehicle brakes, and apply full trailer brakes!

99% of trailers at my work that sway are due to light or negative tounge weight. the other 1% are top heavy. you would not believe some of the junk we tow behind our trucks. thank heavens they all have trailer brakes. air or electric!

john
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Old 08-14-2005, 01:25 PM   #5
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Johnathon,
I drive the interstates...a lot...too much IMHO and see incidents like you saw on an almost weekly basis. I was on I-95 S just below the VA border in NC when I came up on an Excursion PSD towing a cargo style work and play trailer he was running about 55-60 and it would start swaying, about the time it would hit the lane lines on both sides he would slow down and it would come back under control. When I passed it, two thing came to be obvious...1) TV was overloaded. 2) There were no signs of WDH or Sway control. 3) The guy was an idiot to have towed the thing that far under those conditions...BTW the vehicle and trailer had PA tags on it. In my observations nearly 30% of the trailer/tow vehicle combinations on the road are either not set up correctly or unsafe period and quite often are being driven in an unsafe manner...like 80+mph Most of the cargo/utility type trailers I see are not set up for sway, WDH and quite often even brakes are lacking.

As far as controlling sway johnhd's advice is dead on. We have several trailers at work, I have actually stopped in a rest area and re-distributed the cargo on one of them when it had been loaded incorrectly at the shop...I was not happy about that deal at all. I have also refused to tow a trailer that was obviously overloaded. It is not only my life but the lives of the people I share the road with. ( off soapbox...for now ) I wish the HP had a stronger presence to be able to remove unsafe rigs of all sizes from the roads.

Aaron
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Old 08-14-2005, 03:23 PM   #6
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John nailed it

Quote:
Originally Posted by john hd
...if a trailer sways, off the gas, off the tow vehicle brakes, and apply full trailer brakes! ...
Jonathon,

Interstate issues can take many forms. You may be interested in what we encountered on last year's Disney trip. I was towing my 26' Overlander with my 3/4 ton Suburban (Reese dual-cam anti-sway):

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom's Disney Trip
...We had a bit of excitement on the interstate about 30 miles away from Disneyworld. Traffic was moderate, and I was in the middle lane doing around 65 mph. There was a minivan three or four lengths ahead of me in the left lane, and I could see him coming up on a tire laying on the road.

Thinking he would probably swerve left to avoid it, I sat up in my seat just in case he slowed before swerving into my lane. None of the above - he drove his right hand tires OVER it. In slow motion, I watched the tire sail 15 feet into the air as it headed in my direction. Abruptly swerving to the right, and then trying to correct, the Airstream started to fishtail.

I think I could have straightened it out with just the throttle, but I didnít practice reaching for the electric brakeís manual lever for nothing! I hit the electric brake lever hard, and punched the gas. Everything straightened out almost immediately. Funny thing was that while I busy trying to save the Overlander, from Kimís perspective it appeared the tire was going to hit me. She was apparently trying to figure out how she was going to steer while I picked rubber out of my teeth (or vice-versa ). Due probably to the slipstream around the Airstream, the tire missed us completely. I donít know how the people behind us fared, but we didnít hear anything on the news about it...
Tom
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Old 08-14-2005, 05:13 PM   #7
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Thanks for the replies.

The utility trailer this fellow was towing almost certainly not a braked trailer, due to the size, thus no brake controller.

It seems that there is an agreement that the best way to try and get out of a situation like this is to ONLY brake using the brake controller's manual brake lever.

Thanks John HD for that bit of potentially life saving information.

Common sense again seems to play a big part as well.

Boy. Something like this really makes you think.

Jonathhan
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Old 08-14-2005, 06:09 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wahoonc
Johnathon,
I was on I-95 S just below the VA border in NC when I came up on an Excursion PSD towing a cargo style work and play trailer he was running about 55-60 and it would start swaying, about the time it would hit the lane lines on both sides he would slow down and it would come back under control. When I passed it, two thing came to be obvious...1) TV was overloaded. 2) There were no signs of WDH or Sway control. 3) The guy was an idiot to have towed the thing that far under those conditions...Aaron
Aaron, there's a fourth factor in this particular episode... the Excursion. The rear spring stack isn't heavy enough to keep the axle centered under the rear end, causing rear-end steering. This would be accentuated if it was the 7.3l diesel because of the front-end-heavy situation it caused in the early Ex's. I had similar experiences with my 34' WITH sway control until I figured out what was really going on.

There are fixes available tho... It's just unfortunate that Ford doesn't acknowledge that this is a problem, publicize it, and fix it.

Inadequate tire pressure in either the tow vehicle or trailer will contribute as well as inappropriate loading.


Roger
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Old 08-14-2005, 09:00 PM   #9
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Johnathon,
While it's true that braking the trailer is your number one choice in a sway situation, you are correct that acceleration will also help. Ideally, you'll do both. Most people automatically decelerate, though - often, it's an avoidance maneuver or sudden deceleration manuever that starts the sway anyway. If you have a trailer with no brakes (like that landscape trailer), or if your brakes fail, then accelerating is your best bet.
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Old 08-14-2005, 09:40 PM   #10
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I like Fords...

Quote:
Originally Posted by 85MH325
Aaron, there's a fourth factor in this particular episode... the Excursion. The rear spring stack isn't heavy enough to keep the axle centered under the rear end, causing rear-end steering. This would be accentuated if it was the 7.3l diesel because of the front-end-heavy situation it caused in the early Ex's. I had similar experiences with my 34' WITH sway control until I figured out what was really going on.

There are fixes available tho... It's just unfortunate that Ford doesn't acknowledge that this is a problem, publicize it, and fix it.

Roger
I have made a lot of money privately re-engineering Ford problems. Current re-engineering includes retrofit of coil springs on Expeditions originally equipped with air ride suspensions. Oh, and re-spec-ing 2004 F150's so they don't chew up front tires...
On an almost unrelated note, I don't know if you have been told or not, Roger, but newer-model Crown Victorias seem to be having a problem with excess underhood temps while idling in police duty. The car will sit, idling, for an hour or so, then the driver will attempt to respond to a "code 3" call, and the engine will suck the plastic intake manifold into the engine, with catastrophic results (for the engine, anyway). This seems to be more a warm-climate problem. You haven't lived until you've spent hours pulling little pieces of previously melted and then hardened plastic out of an engine...
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Old 08-14-2005, 09:53 PM   #11
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Another bad trailer story...

We were traveling home 3 weeks ago and were privilege to watch a trailer come completely free from the TV. It was both lucky and amazing that the trailer trailed relatively straight down the road. This allowed all following cars to let off of the gas, apply breaks and fall back away from the stray trailer. Additional luck came when the trailer did finally head for the median. The combination of slow deceleration and the good timing of an emergency vehicle turn around prevented the trailer from heading into oncoming traffic. It was an amazingly helpless experience for all.
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Old 08-15-2005, 09:23 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63
but newer-model Crown Victorias seem to be having a problem with excess underhood temps while idling in police duty. The car will sit, idling, for an hour or so, then the driver will attempt to respond to a "code 3" call, and the engine will suck the plastic intake manifold into the engine, with catastrophic results (for the engine, anyway).
We have an Impala! And an Intrepid which is almost as bad as the Crown Vics! The Intrepid is on its fourth or fifth set of rear struts in 70k miles. Poorly designed mounting brackets! Fortunately we have EXCELLENT dealer support.

Roger
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Old 08-15-2005, 10:56 AM   #13
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It is not only my life but the lives of the people I share the road with. ( off soapbox...for now ) I wish the HP had a stronger presence to be able to remove unsafe rigs of all sizes from the roads.
=========================

Ummm, that makes me ask:
Ever used your cell phone to report that kind of situation? I have! And in one notable case, was called back and told the outcome! Guess the guy did not believe he had to comply with towing regs!
If you do make the call, give as complete a description as possible for both the TV and the trailer, lisence numbers if possible, current location, direction of travel, and how the rig appears to be handling!
DON'T BE AFRAID TO REPORT THESE GUYS!!!

Elizabeth in Iowa
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Old 08-15-2005, 11:15 AM   #14
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Interesting we get a Hensley in here first thing.

But this was a utility trailer that was probably improperly loaded apparently attached to a tow vehicle with a wheel base, rear overhang, and suspension that don't help trailer handling very much.

To me, the key issue is a driver who didn't take the hint early. If you have an unstable rig you get off the road and fix it. You don't proceed to get on a freeway and try to get up to speed.

Sway doesn't just spring up un-anounced. It is an indication that something is wrong that starts mild at low speeds. A good driver paying attention to his rig will take heed of what it tells him before it has to shout and demand attention.

But then, some folks ignore the engine fault lights on the dash panel, too.
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