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Old 03-06-2003, 08:07 PM   #1
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Exclamation Picked it up and was it EXCITING!!! (Long post)

I just picked up my first Airstream, a '78 31'Sovereign International. I have a '82 Suburban, 3/4ton, w/454, and a TH400 to pull the trailer. I have installed a Reese Load Equalizer, 1000# load bar set up w/o the Dual Cam Sway system ( soon to be purchased!). I used the Reese 8" drop adjustable hitch bar set with the mount on the second from the bottom to attain the 19.5" ball height recommended by Airstream.

I hooked up the trailer and set the load bars per the instructions by Reese; only on the second link on 1000# bars. The trailer sat nose high, the Surburban did not deflect at all, front or rear. I checked the trailer's brakes and all was well. Tire pressures were according to Goodyear's recommendation (side of tire).

I departed from the PO home and entered the highway about 10 minuets later. Within 2 miles I nearly lost the entire show. The sway started when the first truck approached the rear. I covered two lanes of traffic RIGHT NOW!!! Applying the trailer brakes manually (I saw the Long, Long Trailer movie!!) slowed the swerving and I brought the trailer and Surburban under control and to the side of the road. The truck that was passing slowed and blocked the back of my vehicle until I was safely off the road.

After collecting my wits I began a systematic adjustment of the problem, which is still not solved. I first increased the load bar preload. This seemed to help measurably. Still no measurable deflection of the front or rear truck height. Away I went.

40 miles later stopped and I loaded all of the 'stuff' that resided in my truck to the trailer's front area. I believed the reailer was not providing enough tongue weight. There was no H20 in any tank, the trailer was completely empty (almost as delivered from the factory), and there were no propane bottles installed. This seemed to help some.

40 or so miles later I lowered the ball height to the lowest possible setting and the trailer sat level. This, too, improved the trip.

The result of all of this work is that the trailer made it home the 600 miles it need to go, but it was a handful the entire time. If I was alone (no other traffic) everything was smooth and steady, however, if there was other traffic the trailer tried to take over and sway was very pronounced.

I'm sure I've done some things wrong, but I need some guidance to improve the trailer's handling or this will not be much fun.

How do I measure the tongue weight? Total trailer weight? Balance the hitch assembly? What questioins have I forgotten to ask?
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Old 03-06-2003, 09:41 PM   #2
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Picked it up and was it EXCITING!!! (Long post)

Greetings Dinoburb!

While your trailer may have been a bit light on the tongue without the propane tanks, I suspect that something else is at play as well. The one thought that did occur to me as I read your post was something that was mentioned at several rallies that I have attended regarding Suburbans near the vintage of your rig with factory receiver hitches. I know the main mention regarded 1/2 ton Suburbans, but may have also included 3/4 tons as well. It seems that the hitch had a tendency to shear off its attaching bolts and/or experience elongated bolt holes that would allow the hitch to shift and in worse case scenariors fall off entirely. I know that this has caused me to place having the hitch bolts torqued and a thorough visual inspection on my '99 Suburban each time its oil is changed during the towing season.

The other thought that I had regards a problem with a tire and/or wheel on the trailer. A bent wheel could potentially cause a greater tendency toward yaw; and I am not certain, but I suspect that a problem with the belts in the tire's carcass could cause a tracking problem as well - - I had all kinds of directional stability issues with my '75 Cadillac and a knowledgeable tire service center identified the culprit as two tires with defective belts - -one on the front and one on the rear. Checking the tread wear characteristics should point to a problem with a wheel, tire or alignment via abnormal or unusual tread wear.

The Reese Dual Cam setup should help, but I suspect that there is also some other issue that needs to be addressed. I towed my '64 Overlander (26' and 6,000 pounds) with my K1500 Chevrolet Pickup for nearly two seasons without a sway control - -just standard Reese weight distributing hitch, and never experienced sway to the extent that you describe.

I don't have a solution, and this is one of those problems that can take a tremendous amount of detective work as the cause may not be entirely obvious. I know that my Overlander is very sensitive to proper hitch height and angle; and over the years I have learned that it is happiest when towed with four links of its chain "dropped" when utilizing the Dual Cam Sway Control with 750 pound spring bars.

Kevin

Kevin
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Old 03-06-2003, 09:48 PM   #3
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Well, I'll give it a shot.

Glad you made it back safely! You did not indicate that you had any type of sway control, so I will assume you had none. It sounds like the dual cam will help solve the problem, if not, a Hensley or Pullrite would no doubt be the ultimate solution.

The easiest way to weigh your rig is at a truckstop, such as Pilot or Flying J. Some local sand and gravel pits may also let you weigh your rig. As a rule your hitch weight should be around 10-15% of your total weight. You would need a scale that you could set the jack on, that could measure up to 750# to measure it.

I have never had a sway problem with my Airstream.(1200 freeway miles last year) I have had sway problems with an equipment trailer, that I haul farm equipment on. Moving the equipment foward, increasing the tongue weight has always solved the problem on that trailer.

You could always trade the 'Burb in on a Dodge Intrepid
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Old 03-06-2003, 10:04 PM   #4
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I am no expert... so take the rest of this for what it's worth. You mentioned that "the trailer sat high". I assume that the front of the trailer was higher than the rear. On a tandem axle trailer this can be a bad thing... much of the trailer weight transfers to the rear axle, overloading the tires and suspension. The weight transfer also could result in your sway problem.

Determine the designed level height of your trailer hitch, which should be published in your manual (from the ground to the top of the inside of the coupler where the ball goes). Then measure the height of the Suburban's hitch ball. Since your 3/4 ton Suburban is not deflecting much these two measurements should be nearly identical or the ball could be 1/2" high to allow for some settling under load. If the hitch ball is too high, you need to adjust your shank or a longer shank. Proper hitch height, proper loading, and a sway control device should work fine.
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Old 03-06-2003, 10:32 PM   #5
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i posted my experinece of the tracktor trailer rig thet almost got me. was just as you told it . i didnt have my sway control tightened down . after adjusting my sway control no more problem. i was towing with a 97 2500 suburban. you also need to get the tounge weight set . i used the friction sway control . a friend of mine had the reese cam lock system and he didnt get it set right . he had a tracktor trailer on I-59 in alabama put him and his 34 footer in the pines. suburban and trailer total loss. i wouldnt pull a trailer one inch with out some sort of sway control. if you ever take the sway ride, you will say the same. as for people who dont use sway control ,your day is not far off. this excludes the hitches designed to compensate for sway. i dont have bucks for one of those hitches any way. lol
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Old 03-07-2003, 07:01 AM   #6
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Dinoburb

I also just picked up my first AS, a 71 Overlander and had similar problems. I picked up the trailer with a 4X4 dodge Pick up which normally sits very high. The trailer had a Reese load balancing hitch without sway control. Early in the first leg of my trip from Hilton Head to Atlanta I was white knuckled and realized that all was not well. At the first exit I stopped and visually realized that the trailer was riding very high in front and that adjustment was impossible with the short drop bar that came with the trailer. I limped to Atlanta and swapped the drop bar with a longer one that allowed me to level out the trailer. What a major difference. With the tongue high much of the weight was on the back axle which also will shift the center of gravity aft thereby taking significant weight off of the tongue. From Atlanta we went to Chattanooga, thru the smokies to Greensboro and then on home to Maryland with a much better ride. We are (as we speak) intalling the dual cam anti-swar control. One thing I noticed when the hitch guys installed the new drop bar was that they did not adjust the spring bar height properly per the reese instructions. You said you used only two links on your chain. You may want to re-examine that bar height set up (unloaded) per the reese instructions.

good luck
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Old 03-07-2003, 07:04 AM   #7
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sway

The only suggestions I may be able to share in this situation is to first read the information on trailer sway very carefully from the CanAm dealer site. I think the most important information they share is the aft tilt of the trailer ball. The simple logic of this little fact is uncanny.

Unfortunately, many trailer owners rely on misinformation to solve instability problems. I believe littly tiny adjustments to the load springs, weight distribution, tire preasure, an the aft tilt of the ball all play very important roles in stability. However, in the end you may always have a potentially unstable rig in an emergency.

I like others on the forum have solved potential in an emergency with a nosway hitch from hensley. I believe this is the best insurance anyone can buy. I've heard of and talked to people who have lost their entire rig because of a passing truck or the wheels of their trailer swayed onto a low berm causing their entire rig to end up with their tires in the air.

I think we hear and read of these accidents involving airstreams because airstream trailers are meant for the road and many airstream owners are using them for which they are meant.

Good luck and happy airstreaming.
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Old 03-07-2003, 09:33 AM   #8
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Wow Scary ride!
Yes I too had a little fun getting my 59 home but no where near that. While we had the use of the tow rig that was set up to move the camper we did not have the draw bar that went with the sway control and leveler bars. We ended up using just my adjustable hight drop hitch. We adjusted it so the trailer was sitting a little nose low and it was a single axle trailer.
Thankfully I only had to move the trailer 40 miles. I had to move that trailer that day because the tow vehicle would no longer be available and the place it was stored at also had changes and I would not be able to leave it there till I had the right hitch. The hope was the hitch was in the camper after not finding it in the van. We had the friction sway control in the van and the leveler bars were in the camper. We think it was left on the tow vehicle and stolen.
I expected problems so we took it slow and never exceeded 50mph. Sure knew when you were getting passed!

I am currently shopping for a 88-91 Suburban 3/4. I hope I don't have the experiances you did.
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Old 03-07-2003, 02:40 PM   #9
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My first ride with the twinkie behind me was pretty smooth. I did notice that when semis passed or even small cars going about 90 the rig kind of "shook" the car a bit. I'm sure after 500 miles of that, I'd be pretty drained, but other than that, a pretty non-eventful commute.

I'll be watching this one closely though regarding the hitch setups to make sure mine is in the right place.

Regards,

Eric
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Old 03-07-2003, 02:48 PM   #10
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Sway?

I pulled our 30' home with no sway and no real problems. I could tell when someone was coming up as I could feel the "bump" when they entered the slipstream, but no major problems. I'm contemplating filling the water tank, hooking the rig up and taking it to the dealer to have them set the hitch head angle and see if I can swap out for smaller bars, he gave me 1200# bars for a 4,000# trailer(?). That and they are a hair too long, I slid one of the chain mounts on the tongue getting it backed in the driveway. How critical IS the head angle?
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Old 03-07-2003, 03:05 PM   #11
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Jason,

Are you able to do it yourself. The reason I ask is that my Reese can be adjusted and if yours can, you could save yourself a trip.

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Old 03-07-2003, 03:15 PM   #12
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Proper trailer setup

As has been noted this is a very important issue.

Mark Dall is right-on with the *information* posted on the Can-Am site. I could see how one can easily overlook the "ball tilt" part of the setup. The recommended amount is 15%, and I have to admit that I just guessed at it. I have a Reese adjustable so that one can set both the height and angle.

The key point here is how much a seemingly small angle can make on the tension of the equalizer bars; ie - when one increases the tilt angle, the result is MUCH more tension is required to set the chain link at the same link. That is one of the keys (others already mentioned) to transfer enough load forward onto the truck front axle. You may have experienced the converse with practically NO real load transferred. Was it fairly easy to load up the chain?

I also have the Dual Cam setup. I am sold on it and caution that the setup may need several trys to get the cam riding correctly in the saddle under load. First observation of where the U - Bolts go is misleading. I had to move them several times before they sat right!!

I too would love to be able to buy a 2500 Burb with a 454 and have all the truck you need for safe travel. You have that part sewed up.

When you find the culprit, please post it for us to learn about.

Steve in Sav'h
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Old 03-07-2003, 04:18 PM   #13
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Could somebody toss up a link to the Can Am site? I have heard several people talk about it but when I did a search I just came up with racing stuff.
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Old 03-07-2003, 04:55 PM   #14
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Here is the Can-Am site: Can Am Site

The fact that a 3/4 ton tow vehicle's rear suspension does not sag when a trailer is hooked up is not necessarily a good thing. The rear springs are hard as a rock. Insufficient tension on the weight distributing bars result in the entire hitch weight being born by the rear axle. The lever action between the hitch, the rear axle and the front axle is transferring weight to the rear of the truck, lightening the front. The ball mount angle and weight distributing bars must be set up properly to transfer the weight properly between front and rear axles. A more softly suspended vehicle allows the suspension deflection to guide in the setup process. A stiffly sprung vehicle implies that you need to weigh the axles individually to get the proper balance, because the suspension is not moving enough to guide your adjustments. Stiff springs are not necessarily good - my Airstream factory manual specifically recommends against stiff springs because "the rough ride pounds the trailer to pieces" (my words, but that's basically what they were saying!).
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