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Old 06-12-2011, 09:10 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by barts View Post

One of the interesting things about many trailer sway incidents is that the driver's reactions form an integral part of the dynamic system that causes the problem to occur. Often the best driver reaction is to not react to the trailer sway; e.g. steer straight ahead to avoid pumping additional energy into the oscillations - and instead to apply moderate braking with just the trailer brakes ( with the brake controller).

As you've already figured out, slowing down (especially on downhills) is important.

- Bart
I have to agree with Bart, about all of it, but especially driver reaction. I've seen a couple of Police videos of accidents involving large trucks where the drivers have over-reacted and made a minor incident into a major one. I guess the message is to stay alert, try to feel what your set up is doing before taking your own remedial action. Easier said than done, I know, but it could save your life.

Glad this incident ended safely; it serves to remind us all that going downhill is the tow drivers` biggest worry. Slow, always slow.

Steve; also known as Mr UK Toad

"You can't tow that with that!"
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Old 06-12-2011, 09:18 PM   #16
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Going 70 downhill in a crosswind is askingfor trouble.

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Old 06-12-2011, 11:33 PM   #17
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Ain't Monday morning quarterbacking fun...

1. Fortunately you've been spared having to pay the ultimate price of the damage to your rig (and more!) while learning this valuable lesson about trailer handling...

2. A SHORT wheelbase TV at SPEED and in a cross WIND while traveling DOWNHILL is a recipe for impending doom - but you now know that!...

3. I'm not in the habit of advising others on how to operate their rigs - I just know that when conditions on the road begin to make me 'uneasy' when towing, the first thing I do is SLOW down, especially down hill or in windy conditions...

We ALL know that reducing road speed decreases the chance of a 'tail waging' trailer problem...right? Experience will alert you to those possible 'sway' conditions - those little hairs on the back of one's neck can be a valuable 'tell'...

Tow safe out there...
Ray & Pat; Morada, CA
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Old 06-13-2011, 12:15 AM   #18
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Hi, reading your story got my heart pumping, thinking about how you felt during this ordeal. I'm very happy that no-one was hurt.

(1.) Was it driver's error?

(2.) Are the tires of both the tow vehicle and trailer set right?

(3.) Is the trailer or tow vehicle improperly loaded?

(4.) Do you have a WD hitch and is it set-up properly.

(5.) Or could it be a combination of these, or all of the above.

What ever the cause, I hope you can share it with us so this, or worse, doesn't happen to anyone else.

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Old 06-13-2011, 03:55 PM   #19
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I live in utah and the roads many people die going down the cayon roads , a great brake controller and a sway controller are your best your props going down hill in utah is a challange alot of times without riding your brakes all the way escpically out to park city.
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Old 06-13-2011, 04:30 PM   #20
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GLAD you are OK!

Thank you for posting - your post and the responses may save someone else's life. We've all made misjudgements in our Airstreaming adventures - and yours had a happy ending. whew.

I must agree about speed. I recently changed out my wheels and tires - 16 inch rims and Michelin LT tires - because most 15 inch trailer tires are just crap. None are rated for more than 55 mph. (Of course 90% of people with trailers have the tires dry rot in a campground or yard... so why make them for the 10% who will wear them out?

Even though I'm safer at 70 mph than ever before I still prefer to avoid going that fast especially downhill. My Chevy 2500 Silverado tows like "it's not even back there" but when it comes to braking - the biggest honkin' tow vehicle in the world will get reminded it takes a lot longer to decelerate and stop. EVEN with the trailer's brake controller on the grabby side.

I've had people cut in front of me and slow down, then look back in horror as they heard my 8 tires squealing and my engine downshifting frantically. I don't want to kill them (well I do, but without messing up my truck or Airstream!) but I just wonder why they think I can stop like I'm riding a Schwinn?

Don't take any hectoring tones too seriously.... but do take the good advice very seriously, downhill SLOW DOWN.... it's not just about towing capacity it's about braking capacity. OH, and DO test out your brake controller's adjustment every day when you start out, and even test it gently on a rural downhill just to know what it can do as an "anchor" to pull you straight in line when your life could depend on it.

Be safe out there, Paula
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Old 06-13-2011, 11:38 PM   #21
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In terms of braking, descending hills in the same gear one climbs them in is the right approach. This spring we went into Death Valley via the Panamint Range; this is a 9.3% grade descent. We were turning 3200 rpm in 2nd gear @55 mph, and periodically using the brakes to scrub off excess speed. If we lived in the Rockies, I'd fit an exhaust brake as the diesels just don't develop the braking torque needed on very steep descents.

I am glad we sprung for the disc brakes when I replaced the axles; the trailer really stops quickly now when needed; we'd had a couple of emergency stops caused by inattentive drives and the rig just came to a stop very quickly.

The best approach when descending grades is to keep it at 60 mph or below.

- Bart
Bart Smaalders
Menlo Park, CA
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Old 06-14-2011, 12:03 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Foiled Again
Thank you for posting - your post and the responses may save someone else's life. We've all made misjudgements in our Airstreaming adventures - and yours had a happy ending. whew.

Be safe out there, Paula
What she said ^
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Old 06-14-2011, 01:58 AM   #23
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My first thought would be to check the load weight distribution. You tend to fishtail with the weight shifted to the rear and speed will exaggerate the condition. After jackknifing a car transport trailer one time because I loaded it with to much weight on the rear. I always have more tongue weight when pulling now.
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Old 06-14-2011, 05:28 PM   #24
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Soo many loving, concerned folks, breaks my heart, no wonder people talk about AS forrum one of the best......
I have Reese weight distribution hitch with no sway control.
I am writing this response from Zion National Park leaving tomorrow for Las Vegas to make some money for the 2400 miles trip.
I will look into the sway control hitch once I get back.
Another interesting issue, I met an Airstream fellow in a KOA after Tetan National park pulling his 28' AS with a Volvo. According to him Volvo tow capacity is 3200lb and his AS Gross weight was over 7300 lbs. He was from back east and has driven over 20,000 miles some over the steep mountains with no problem except has to go slow uphill. His hitch was at the most 1 foot from the ground after the hook-up.
I could not belive it, however, I saw the set-up with own eyes, folks go figure?
Thanks again for all your advice and replies.
May God bless us all and keep us safe on the road.
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Old 06-14-2011, 05:40 PM   #25
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Zia, get the sway control hitch sooner rather than later, especially before you lose all your money in Vegas. The guy with the Volvo will be buying a new suspension, hitch receiver, transmission and engine someday if he doesn't lose control beforehand.

I'm glad you are ok and it appears lack of sway control was the major problem.

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Old 06-14-2011, 06:19 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by CrawfordGene
Just what is the Lexus 470? If it is the Lexus version of the 4Runner, it may be a little light for even a 20' trailer. And what tires do you have on the Airstream and what is their condition? They may have had poor traction allowing more sway than better or less worn tires.

We stay at 65 or below because it feels right. Because so many vehicles have large engines and can climb fast, it may be better to rewrite the rule to go down at the same speed as up—you can stop faster going uphill, so going slower downhill may be a better approach. The other version of the rule is to go down in the same gear as you went up, but with so many smooth shifting automatics now, who knows what gear you were in going up? Many newer transmissions will downshift automatically downhill, but you can manually shift down sooner. We've been in serious cross winds, once on icy snow, and have had no problems with sway, so I think there's a good chance something(s) can be upgraded to make for a safer trip.

It is the Lexus version of the Land Cruiser. Fine rigs, 4.6 V8 and lockers. Sometimes, sudden acceleration (if you have enough torque in your TV) works best. Frightening to commit to, but effective in the right circumstances. I'm happy you are all safe and sound!

I had a frightening incedent occur about 4 years ago. Two lane CA rural Hwy. My wife and 4 kids behind me in the minivan, me towing a 5,000lb boat, 2,000lb trailer (tandems & surge brakes), and 800lbs of camping crap in my bed. Some JERK, passed my wife and kids with a big rig coming at us fast. This yahoo had a newer Dodge Hemi and I thought "ok, he'll drop in between us"...oh No! Not Mr. I'm in a hurry and there is a big rig coming at us all. He passes her and the kids, and is now passing my 30 foot boat and trailer and my extended cab truck! Can you say "headon collision". The bigrig got on the binders, and took the median...I chose the mature approach and gave him the "youre number one" sign with my middle finger. THAT ticked him off!!! He got around me by 75 feet or so and..LOCKED EM UP! smoke was rolling off all four wheels. I hit the brakes, and quickly realized there was no way I was gonna stop in time. He was now out of his stopped truck, me bearing down, motioning me to fight! He didn't know it, but he was about to be dead...squished by nearly 10,000lbs of moving metal. The road was flanked by two large drainage ditches...about 3 1/2 feet deep, but sloping...i decided vehicular manslauter would wreck my day...I took the ditch...instantly selected 4wd while entering, and mashed the go pedal to the floor...yee haw! The trailer snapped straight and it tracked effortlessly around him. The wife had no idea what had just happened and I immediately called CHP on the guy. I'd never want to go thru that one again. As I'm sure your experience woulda scared the bajesus outa me too.
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Old 06-14-2011, 06:58 PM   #27
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check out these towing videos. May change your mind about what really is the right tow vehicle.

Can-Am RV :: Towing
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Old 06-15-2011, 01:39 AM   #28
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wow! my heart was racing reading your post. i'm so glad you are ok and that you posted.

i also have a lexus gx470 and i have a '67 Globetrotter. from what i've learned, the lexus is good enough to tow a vintage trailer of this size.

i have a lot more to learn but certainly will be careful about speed. so far, i have only driven locally, taking my "tin tent" (gutter airstream in need of a renovation) to the local beach camp grounds.

i'll be watching this thread to learn more!

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