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Old 05-18-2007, 03:39 PM   #29
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Airstream Nearly Killed My Parents

So thankful your parents are going to be okay! What a nightmare!

I sure do wish Andy would chime in on this one.



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Old 05-18-2007, 04:05 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleRadio
I hadn't thought about a cracked tongue or frame, though. A poor weld (which is completely feasible considering Airstream's QC incompetencies) could be the root cause.
I hope the insurance company gets their engineers to review it.
It really sounds like something catastrophicly wrong. You and you're parents know how to load a trailer and the trailer wasn't exhibiting unstable behavior up until the accident. The idea that you need to weight each axle before you can go camping is a bit absurd. As much as I'm a huge fan of WD hitches I think with that size truck and trailer you could probably tow just fine without it. Not that I'd want to but just pointing out this is in no way a marginal situation. This setup should tow like a dream and other than these isolated nightmare situations it appears to do just that.

We also know many people experience blowouts and locked brake drums with out loosing control. Besides you looked at the running gear after the accident and saw nothing visually wrong. It's possible something shifted and then shifted back but you've looked extensively at this area.

I really think the hitch and tongue are the only other area that would lead to this sudden and violent loss of control. Flex or separation in this area might have been instigated by the increased stress going up hill especially if there was a downshift by the transmission. Once triggered I can see where this could quickly escalate. It might also be made worse by trying to apply the trailer brakes. Anything in the frame, tongue or hitch setup, including the weight distibution would be suspect. A crack or bad weld might be "invisible" until stressed.

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Old 05-18-2007, 04:11 PM   #31
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Tony, I am sorry to hear what happened to your parents, and glad they survived. Do you know yet if there will be any issues with their recoveries, or is the prognosis good?
I have read your account, both of what happened to them, and what happened to you. Without seeing the coach, the symptoms sound like a sudden shift in weight to the rear, causing a negative tongue weight situation. This happened to me when I was hauling a heavy object in a UHaul two axle trailer, the object shifted to the rear of the trailer, and started dragging the truck all over the place. It is possible there may have been a lot of water changing position from the front to the back, unloading the tongue.
Is there any way at this point to check levels of fresh and waste water?
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Old 05-18-2007, 04:21 PM   #32
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Thanks for your concern (for everyone's concerns). My dad was released on Monday, my mom, this past Wednesday. Both are living with my sister for the next few weeks to ensure proper care and attention. Both are still quite battered and sore, moving slow, but in good spirits.

Not sure water or waste water shifting could've caused this accident. Like I said before, it didn't reoccur on other hills to/from Florida. Nor apparently did it happen on hills to/from Myrtle Beach for my parents.

Also, I'm not sure if the tanks ruptured or were punctured (for what it's worth). We saw waste water all thru the inside of the trailer, although the bottom of the trailer seemed intact and relatively undamaged (like the 4 tires). I'd like to post some photos of all this at some point.
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Old 05-18-2007, 04:42 PM   #33
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If everything else is tight, that is about the only thing that makes any sense. Is there any way you can weigh the tongue? It may be possible the weight is under what it is supposed to be, and that coupled with low fresh water in the front, and 75% full holding tanks, and a transverse dip or hump in the road to get everything sloshing, could have all combined to cause the problem. Kind of like links in a chain, if any one of them isn't quite identical, no issue, but that one in a thousand getting together can and often does cause disaster.
Here is a scenario, purely a "just suppose", all weight figures are pulled out of the air:
The trailer is supposed to have a tongue weight of 600 pounds, but really only has a tongue weight of 470.
The propane tanks are almost empty, leaving a tongue weight of 410.
Fresh water level is at 15%, or 8 gallons.
Grey water is at 60%, or 25 gallons.
Black water is at 75%, or 30 gallons.
water weighs roughly 8 pounds per gallon, you have a deficit of 42 gallons of fresh water in the front, further reducing the tongue weight by 40% of 336 pounds, or 134 pounds, leaving tongue weight of 336 pounds. While towing, the trailer is usually nose down a couple of degrees, unless ascending a grade, then it goes slightly nose up, causing even more weight from the water tanks to shift to the rear, say another 75 pounds of tongue weight, leaving a tongue weight of 261 pounds. 99 times out of a hundred, when this happens, nothing happens, but then maybe you hit a slight dip on the right side of the road, just when you began the ascent, causing the water to slosh right, then left, increasing the oscillation and combining with the lowered tongue weight to cause disastrous sway which would feed on itself until loss of control was inevitable.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this dataless hypothesis, and you never know, some of it may be part of what happened.
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Old 05-18-2007, 04:54 PM   #34
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I thought 2005 Classics had disk brakes?

There are physics involved here that just don't seen to match up? If the brakes locked up the trailer would not fishtail just from brake lock up. If there is sufficent weight on the hitch its actually very hard to get a trailer to fishtail. 15% weight is the suggested minimum safe weight on the tongue. Anything less could casue fish tailing according to DOT. The only time you ever see fish tailing on big rigs is when they are towing two tailers and the second is a dolly type with NO hitch weight. Wheel hop could cause fishtailing though regardless of weight distribution. But wheel hop usually occures when there is a mechanical failure in the suspension. You say the suspension was in tact tho? If your father hit the brakes and the trailer brakes failed that could cause real trouble and most anything could happen including the trailer to fishtail and push the truck around. There are some real issues here and they may not be what your parents think. Get an investigation of the wreck from a pro.

And God bless a quick recovery for your parents.
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Old 05-18-2007, 04:58 PM   #35
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What does the state patrols accident investigation show???????
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Old 05-18-2007, 05:25 PM   #36
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Best of wishes on your parents speedy recovery!!!

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Old 05-18-2007, 05:26 PM   #37
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How often did your parents pull their trailer...how many times had it been out on the road???

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Old 05-18-2007, 06:19 PM   #38
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Haven't gotten a copy of the state trooper accident report.

My parents have used this trailer at least 3 times each year since they bought it. Us kids have borrowed and used it an additional 2-3 times each year as well.
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Old 05-18-2007, 06:21 PM   #39
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hasn't been considered yet?

The Henschen axels would seem to be a good place to look. If all is as you say with two occurances with different TVs in different places, the axels loading and unloading, especially if the pair is not doing the same thing, can produce a great deal of steering. If upon examining the crash site and the tires, there is no evidence of a locked wheel (flat spots on the tires) then I'd be looking hard at the axels or shocks. A manufacturing defect in just one set of cords could go unnoticed for a long time and by some unusual set of loads and coach attitude start an oscillation that would increase in magnitude and be uncontrollable by normal means. The same would be true of a shock that was installed upside down or that had a failure in the interior valves.
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Old 05-18-2007, 06:24 PM   #40
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I had a ball joint go out on the front of my truck a couple years ago while towing my Airsteam and I totally lost control. Fortunately, I wasn't going very fast and was able to safely pull over to the roadside and stop. Just another thought...

John
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Old 05-18-2007, 06:57 PM   #41
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Again, what was the weather like at the time of the accident? High crosswinds? Mechanical causes, unless severe and dramatic, just seem unlikely. I believe that an imbalance - i.e. - too light of a tongue load - would have been obvious early on - especially for someone with towing experience. On the other hand, with due respect for "severe and dramatic," is it possible that the hitch failed?
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Old 05-18-2007, 07:00 PM   #42
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When you think about going up a slope, it might be possible for a properly loaded trailer to suddenly go unstable on a particular grade.

Imagine the slope increasing slowly and steadily. At zero slope, maybe 12% of the weight is on the tongue. As the slope increases, the front of the trailer slowly becomes higher than the rear. The weight pushing down on the tongue begins to drop. At some very specific slope, the weight pushing down on the tongue will eventually change to zero, while the weight pulling back (and down to some extent I guess) on the hitch would rise to a very high level. In other words, the forces would change magnitude and direction in a whole bunch of unpredictable ways.

I have no idea what that specific slope would be, and it would certainly be different for every tralier/hitch/tow vehicle combination. And every rig combination must also have a particular weight balance at which it becomes dangerously unstable. So it's possible that the grade might have steepened up at that exact spot by an infinitessimally small amount, just reaching the limit of the stability of the rig. Or, some other small change in force (shifting water, road surface change, etc.) tipped an already marginally stable rig into sudden instability.

If my theory is correct, two very similar rigs, loaded in the same way, climbing at exactly the same speed, ought to both lose stability at more or less the same place on the climb. On the other hand, my theory could be completely worthless.

Someone with some road vehicle dynamics analysis experience would have to weigh in here. I can do ok with aerospace vehicles, but trailers are well beyond my training.
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