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Old 05-09-2003, 12:53 PM   #1
 
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Post Tow vehicle on fire

I've just read a thread on the RV Forum, that should be mandatory reading for anybody towing a trailer.

If you didn't know that before, it is not a smart idea to tow a trailer with a vehicle not rated for the load.


You may want to check all that by yourself at Tow vehicle started on fire WHILE DRIVING

or just read my summary:

"posted by L.D. Shreveport, Louisiana:

<.... in 1977. We were pulling a 27 foot travel trailer with a vehicle that was not properly matched to the trailer. The weather was hot,....
< I began to see small puffs of smoke on occasion and when I pulled to the side of the road to check under the hood, the car began burning really well. ..... The car was three months old and a total loss.

< The fire report showed the cause of the fire was the direct result of pulling a trailer with a vehicle not rated for such loads. The insurance company paid the claim and no one was injured. >

Now, of course, some people are saying: "Who cares, that's what insurance is for......". The fact that people's lives were endangered will never cross their mind. Think about that happening, let's say in the Baltimore tunnel ?......

I kept the first post for last, it really makes the point:

summary:


posted by Darrell110 from Milwaukee, WI:

< On a hot August day in 2001, while driving back home with my 1998 Chevy van, pulling a Jayco 21c, I noticed a great deal of white smoke in my side mirrors.....

< I pulled over.....by the time I got around to the back of the trailer, my wife, 2 kids and 2 dogs were exiting the van.... I noticed flames under the hood....... All I could think to do was unhitch the trailer.....we pushed the trailer back about 15 feet - just dragging the jack on the pavement.

< What caused the fire? We discovered a trail of transmition fluid on the road. All I can think is that a line broke, spraying fluid on the engine, catching it on fire.

< We lost all of the gear in the van, it just went up in flames so fast! >

See all pictures here, here is one of them:
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Old 05-09-2003, 02:00 PM   #2
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Interesting picture. Looks like it was a full sized GM conversion van which is built on the 1500 chasis. Conversions weigh more than their standard passenger van counterpart. The passenger vans are only rated to tow 6,600 lbs. with the towing package and the older optional 5.7 or Vortec 5300 in the new vans. I wonder what this guy was pulling?

I'm doing an upgrade to my van because I see a bigger A/S in my future. Our new GMC Savana passenger van on order will have the Vortec 6000 engine 4.10 rear end, and an external transmission cooler. It will be rated to tow 9,900 lbs which should take care of my future Airstream lust.

I'm hoping it will come in before the Midwest Forum Rally. I've got the current van for sale so it could be gone at anytime.

Jack
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Old 05-09-2003, 03:37 PM   #3
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locking trans dipstick

hi all,

general motors switched to a locking transmission dip stick about 12 years ago.

it prevents engine fires by not allowing an overheated tranny to "burp" fluid onto the exhaust manifold.

all newer models have it.

if you are towing with a g.m. product from or before '88 it may be in your best interest to change to a locking dipstick.

they are easy to spot, they are red with "trans fluid" written on them. instead of the old "ring" style.

i agree, a good fire extingisher is a towing must have item!

john
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Old 05-09-2003, 05:33 PM   #4
 
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We lost the transmission on our van 6 years ago. I remember the smoke filling the cabin. We were less than a mile from the interstate exit, and Mike wanted to go on. I had him stop, and stop right now.
I am not a mechanic, he had been. But, even though I am very "thrifty" (OK, I'm real cheap), I chose to pay to have the van & trailer towed from the interstate, instead of taking the risk of a possible fire. I never regretted it. Even less after seeing these pix. (we were carrying about everything of value we own in there. The van was insured, not the cargo)

Quote:
I agree, a good fire extingisher is a towing must have item!
I suppose you must have read the original thread, page 3.
For those who did not, or missed my post on why it's a must to make sure your fire extinguisher works , please read it now.

I think it's something worth repeating often.
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Old 05-09-2003, 07:05 PM   #5
 
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update:
Quote:
general motors switched to a locking transmission dip stick about 12 years ago.
I just checked with the "boss": our 1990 van does not have a locking dipstick.
I take it, your about 12 years ago is about right. Maybe 1988 on some vehicles only?
or maybe you forgot we are in 2003 ? 12 years ago was in 1991 ? or something like that.
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Old 05-09-2003, 07:19 PM   #6
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maybe

chantal

i had a '88 k1500 4x4, a new dipstick showed up in the mail around '91.

at least i didn't need to track one down!

if the van is retired from towing i wouldn't worry about it.

there are millons of chevys running around without a locking dipstick.

my guess is that it was for the 700r4 trannys that they had quite a problem with.

mine preformed flawlessly for 250k.

just lucky i guess!

john
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Old 05-09-2003, 07:22 PM   #7
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reread

your signature,

your van having a big block would have a 4l80 tranny (old turbo 400).

that could be why you never had it updated. no need.

john
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Old 05-09-2003, 08:00 PM   #8
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A fire extingusher should be a required item in the tow v.
However; you need to know how to use one. As a former fireman I know most folks have no clue on how to put out a fire and run out of agent by just spraying the agent over the real fire.

Always aim the agent at the "base" of the flame and not at the flames.

Garry
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Old 05-09-2003, 11:31 PM   #9
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Re: reread

Quote:
Originally posted by john hd
your signature,

your van having a big block would have a 4l80 tranny (old turbo 400).

that could be why you never had it updated. no need.

john
My 88 Big Block Burb with TH400 has the locking. My 75 Jimmy doesn't. Never been a problem but I think I just may go hunt one down.
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Old 05-09-2003, 11:37 PM   #10
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Reading the first post,

What caused the fire? We discovered a trail of transmition fluid on the road. All I can think is that a line broke, spraying fluid on the engine, catching it on fire.

I don't see a link between overloaded tow vehicle and the fire. Couldn't have this happened with any vehicle?

Secondly,
The fire report showed the cause of the fire was the direct result of pulling a trailer with a vehicle not rated for such loads.

I wonder, how did they establish that?
I understand that a transmission can overheat and fail under a heavy load, but why fire? Isn't that speculative?Correlation does not mean causation.

However, it would be most interesting to see a post dedicated to explaining exactly how overloading your tow vehicle causes problems.

P.S.
femuse,
There are many uncertain things in life, but an overloaded tow vehicle is something that will definitely not become an issue for you.
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Old 05-09-2003, 11:56 PM   #11
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fires and all...

....around here when fuel prices go up there seems to be an increase of auto fires....and they are NOT the Volkswagons....funny there sees to be a relationship between the two....'specially if there is a lease involved....or a long term pay plan and the vehicle looses value because it isn't very fuel efficient...huummm...geof
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Old 05-10-2003, 12:04 PM   #12
 
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Quote:
I understand that a transmission can overheat and fail under a heavy load, but why fire? Isn't that speculative?
I am not much of an expert, but it looks like transmission fluid is extremely flammable. So, what happens if you overwork the transmission?
Quote:
...engine fires......an overheated tranny.... "burp" fluid onto the exhaust manifold
I think it's a bit more than speculation.
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Old 05-11-2003, 10:53 AM   #13
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WOW!

Let me say that I have several fire extinguishers between the Babmi and the tow vehicle.

I have an '80 Olds and it has towed a 3000lb boat without the gears or extra trans cooler for years. Still runs like a champ. I have 175k on it. It has the old stlye sticks in it. Both my '96s have the locking sticks. I suspect the reason I have never seen my trans stick "burp" was becasue I have always towed below what the max recommended weights should be and not towed anything like I stole it!

To answer the question of what overloading your tow vehicle can do, well, there is an extreme worst case picture posted here, however, if you are over the weight limits set by the manuf, then loss of control, overheating, bearing failures, trans failure, tire failure, brake failures, etc.

Buy a vehicle that is more than you need and you will never go wrong. I am surely not suggesting buying the biggest and baddest vehicle out there. My comments are strictly like this...if the trailer weighs 6300lbs loaded, make sure you have 8,000lb towing capacity. If the trailer weighs 10,000lbs loaded, make sure your tow vehicle can tow about 12,000lbs.

In my case, the Bambi's fully loaded GVWR is 4600 lbs (approx). The Caprice is rated at 5,000 lbs. I am at the high end, true, however, knowing B-Body cars for over 14 years, I know first hand that the car can safely pull 6,000lbs perhaps a bit more. The B-Body was rated somewhat conservitively since they didn't want the car to take away from more profitable truck sales, which it did and as such the patform was ended in 1996. Factually, most of the '96 trucks rated at 8000lbs only had a different frame (for obvious reasons) while most of the other components were exactly the same or very, very similar (engines, trans, axles, cooling).

Ford still makes body on frame cars and sell them under serveral different names, however, none of the engines in those cars I believe are even rated at 5,000lbs.

Either way you look at it, I'm under what the advertised capacity is as well as the unofficial capacity that I and others factually and well documented know the car can safely tow.

There are others not as fortunate.

Eric
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Old 05-11-2003, 02:56 PM   #14
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......if the trailer weighs 6300lbs loaded, make sure you have 8,000lb towing capacity. If the trailer weighs 10,000lbs loaded, make sure your tow vehicle can tow about 12,000lbs.

That's a simple common sense advise, I like that.
I fall somewhere in between, more than 8000 lbs but under 10,000, I suppose somewhere about 9,000 lbs realistically. The unit is rated for 8500 GV but I should give myself room for error and a bit more flexibility.

So I erred on the side of 12,000 lbs with my tow vehicle. It is actually only 10,000 for trailers and 12,000 for FW.

Looking at the unit and contemplating all the weight, and then looking at my B-body does not inspire me.

Also I agree about the B-body. It's overall the best value in vehicles in the 90's IMO. Lots of power, torque, good mileage, and reliability, and cargo room is incredible in wagons. It's more stable than SUV yet carries just as much with better MPG not to mention handles better. I believe with towing package you got 3.23 gears standard. With regular sedans, you got 4.3L and 2.73 rear as base. Even with 3.23, I think I am turning pretty low on highway, with that overdrive.
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