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Old 07-17-2004, 07:39 PM   #1
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Do I need sway control, weight bars and a good tow vehicle?

Just got back from a thousand mile vacation tonight. Met up with the folks in Mackinaw for the second midwest rally.

Great time as Jack will be posting pics when he gets home and settled.

Really great to see all the folks that could make it.

Now for why I posted this do I need.....

On the way home, we were going down I-75 south. No more than 75 miles into the trip home, we came across a VERY BAD rollover wreck that involoved a 2 door Chevy Blazer and what looked like a 23 foot SOB. We got there about 5 minutes after it happened. Most of the folks that stopped were RVers and we all had our fire extinguishers out and were trying to help the folks who looked ok, but there pooch who was in the coach, ran away. The SUV and coach were a TOTAL loss and both these two folks were very luck to be alive after seeing the wreckage first hand....

Now for what I found interesting as I walked away as police and rescue arrived:

No sway control, no weight bars. Just the electrical connector and the hitch ball. Nothing else....nada, zip, no provision on the hitch or the coach for it. They just had it sitting there on the back end of this high center of gravity SUV. Winds were fairly strong at times today as well.

All four tires on the SUV were ok. It looked, but can't be sure that all the tires on the coach were also in tact.

Which brings me to my final observation, the wheelbase of the 2 door Blazer (approx a '96- '98 model) was WAY short for a coach this size and had a high center of gravity.

In the end, this *MIGHT* have been avoided if the proper hitch gear were purchased and a better suited tow vehicle. Instead, these two people nearly killed themselves, lost their dog, lost all there belongings as well as the tow vehicle and the coach.

Just though I'd share what we came across today for all the folks on the ropes about getting the right gear.

Eric
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Old 07-17-2004, 11:59 PM   #2
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Hearing about family vacations turning into tragedies such as this one is becoming a far too familiar story these days. And to make a short story long, here is why...

I decided to take this summer off to travel across the country and in so doing, I needed to purchase a new/used tow vehicle for my 31' A/S. Where was I going to find information on this subject? Well, where else? Here, of course. On the best forum the 'net has to offer. After reading countless threads on the subject from the many knowledgeable folks regarding tow vehicle specifications, weight distribution hitches, anti-sway bars, henley hitches, trailer brakes, tongue weights, tire ratings, etc., I went searching for my dream tow vehicle. Well, nobody was selling their Hummer for 10k so I had to settle on a Chev.

When friends and family inquired about my new truck, they were surprised to see how big it was. "Did you really need a 3/4 ton truck? Don't they have a rough ride?" Well, I would explain, once the trailer is hitched and if any passengers jump on board, the ride is actually quite pleasant. And with the load range E tires inflated to 80 p.s.i. and larger disk and drum brakes, the driver has much more control than with a 1/2 ton truck. Then it started. Their eyes began to glaze over.

Some would ask "What are all those attachments to the hitch?" Well those are the weight distribution bars. I would explain to them how they could be adjusted to distribute weight to the front tires of the truck to alleviate any front-to-back rocking that the tongue weight of the trailer would create on the tow vehicle. By now they were beginning to yawn.

"Do you need to have brakes on the trailer or will your truck be able to stop it?" No, I explain, with the size and weight of the trailer, the brakes are not nearly sufficient. It is not just a question of stopping power, but being able to stop and maintain control at the same time. The brake controller mounted in the cab of the truck needs to be adjusted so that during sudden braking, the trailer brakes will be initiated before the tow vehicle brakes. Otherwise, if the tow vehicle brakes are initiated first, an emergency stop would tend to jack-knife the trailer, especially while descending down a hill and/or around a bend. "zzzzzzz"

Occasionally someone would ask "Why did you get an extended cab since you don't have a family?" So I would explain how the longer the tow vehicle is and the shorter the distance between the rear tires of the tow vehicle and the trailer ball there is, the less sway there will be when passing or being passed by large vehicles such as semi-trailers or when fighting cross winds, especially around sharp bends. By now, anyone still listening was in such a deep daydream that they couldn't even appear interested out of politeness.

Do you see what my point here is? The average person simply wants to buy the newest and kewlest SOB with push-outs and pop-ups and tip-outs and then pull it with something he/she can drive to and from the office every day with. And when you try to explain the techno-babble (as they call it) to them, they don't want to hear it. I have witnessed too many people who hook up a trailer as Eric has described, and so long as the ass-end of the car isn't scraping along the pavement, then it must be "Good enough!" or "I'll just drive slow!"

Meanwhile, we will unfortunately continue to hear about sad stories like this one.

bbb
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Old 07-18-2004, 12:04 AM   #3
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OK that cut's it.......

Will you folks PLEASE pick up a Rand-McNally and READ IT! In the back it gives all the state laws for requirements of towing. Pick the hardest on rules and set up for that. Sure enough, sooner or later, you will roll through that state.
As for the Blazer with the SOB, the sway control would definatly changed the outcome of his mishap. I've been towing ours (62' Overlander) for near 20 years with a 104" wheel base Ford Bronco with only 2 "seat creamers" due to outlaw truckers that think it's funny to see us hang on to our rigs. Little did they know I have more time in than them and the proper equipment.

Oscar
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Old 07-18-2004, 12:23 AM   #4
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I am a firm believer in both the spring tension bars and the sway bar.



The spring tension bars, either the ones with the chains or the new one like on the equalizer hitch are really helpful in maintaining driver control over the unit. The equalizer hitch advertises no need for a sway bar, but I have added one on my rig just to be a little more confident.



The idea of towing something with none of the above is like asking for an accident. When you place X number of hundred of pounds of weight further back on the tow vehicle than its rear axel the result will be less down force on the front wheels. This all equals less driver control and could possibly result in more loss of control once you get into a maneuvering situation.


I would advise everyone to invest in these items........It's very cheap insurance!
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Old 07-18-2004, 08:46 AM   #5
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Yes I'm often amazed at what folks think they can get away with. I'm remember reading on one of these forums a guy talking about pulling his 31' with an Exployer - I kept on waiting for something to happen and it did - lost trailer and vehicle - they were OK. People just don't understand basic physics.
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Old 07-18-2004, 09:22 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken J
Yes I'm often amazed at what folks think they can get away with. I'm remember reading on one of these forums a guy talking about pulling his 31' with an Exployer - I kept on waiting for something to happen and it did - lost trailer and vehicle - they were OK. People just don't understand basic physics.
Yup...and until you actually stand less than a foot away from a fresh crash with blood all around, smashed up vehicles, broken glass everywhere and two folks standing through the side windows all beat up, it really hits home.

These are images that I will not soon forget for a long, long, long time. Sure I've driven past as the emergancy folks move folks around, but this is the first that I've been to right after it happened.

Ironically, just before this wreck, an SUV was carrying a trailer of kayaks (sp). For those who know I-75 has a 70mph speed limit. I was going my comfortable 62 mph as ususal (seems to be the sweet spot with our rig). Anyway, this guy clearly was going 70 mph or more. After passing us, we found ourselves fortunate he got a good distance up as he lost one of his boats from his trailer, a stranger found it and pulled it off the road...even a few more miles up, the guy, clueless he had lost anything was being told by another passer by that he lost part of his load.

One last tid bit to share.

Back up in the UP of Michigan in the Pictured Rocks area of H-58 (for those that know, it's all gravel and sand in the woods), this very nice young couple we helped lost control of thier mini van. Turned out the wife was from Russia and did not know how to drive so they picked this road to learn.....bad idea as the long and short of it was that the car lost control hit a tree on the side of the road and that tree if not there would have rolled the mini van down the 15' drop off.

Needless to say we had a very interesting trip these past 10 days.

Never a dull momemt.
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Old 07-18-2004, 11:00 AM   #7
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Michigan has to have the least courteous, cell phone talking, lane changing, speeding, light running, newspaper reading, tailgating, in their own little world non-drivers in the nation. Add to this the SUV/minivan craze and the geniuses who refuse to understand they aren't cars (or their living room) and adjust driving habits accordingly. Note all 3 accidents/incidents were single vehicle, check the headlines from today's local paper.

Welcome to the crash and burn state, I deal with these idiots daily, drive defensively because they will take you out in an instant and not have a clue why it happened.

John
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Old 07-18-2004, 11:02 AM   #8
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Jumping to conclusions is perhaps just as bad an idea as is failing to prepare properly. It is not helpful to anyone to prejudge the cause of an accident or to make too many assumptions too early.

As far as sway control - you should know if you need to do something about improving handling well before it becomes a factor in a catastrophy as it shows itself in many ways. The key is that the driver has to notice what the rig is doing and then take early and prompt action if it is not right.

For load leveling - if your rig has plenty of weight on the steering wheels and your headlights don't shine in the eyes of oncoming cars, you might not need it.

I know a lot of folks towing trailers who use neither and drive quite safely, thank you. But that doesn't mean that those with larger trailers or less appropriate tow vehicles or other situations may not find that sway control and load leveling make for a more comfortable and, perhaps, safer ride, either.

The key issue is the driver. A good driver will not take off down the road unless he or she has a good understanding of the needs and capabilities of their rig. A good driver makes sure he or she is driving a properly configured and maintained rig. A good driver compensates for his or her experience and for the size and characteristics of the rig. A good driver is sensitive to what the rig is saying on the road and adjusts driving or takes other action as needed to improve safety. And a good driver realizes the **it happens no matter how well prepared, how well equipped, or how experienced and knowledgable they may be.

I also realize that even daring to suggest that the driver is the key can be an issue. Raising this point in HA discussions has put me in the doghouse more than once. But the very fact that people can become so angry and do such nasty things as they do when questions are raised about their silver bullet just underscores the importance of the issues involved and the need for effective and rational consideration of the contributing factors and underlying assumptions.
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Old 07-18-2004, 11:59 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Leipper
For load leveling - if your rig has plenty of weight on the steering wheels and your headlights don't shine in the eyes of oncoming cars, you might not need it.

I know a lot of folks towing trailers who use neither and drive quite safely, thank you. But that doesn't mean that those with larger trailers or less appropriate tow vehicles or other situations may not find that sway control and load leveling make for a more comfortable and, perhaps, safer ride, either.
I know everyone has their own believes in what and how to tow a trailer. But I strongly disagree on the load leveling statement above.

Just because your vehicle doesn't seem to be lifted much in the front doesn't mean that you don't need to level the load. There is not a lot of weight on your front tires under normal circumstances, and there is even less there once you apply a load to the rear of the vehicle.

Even a hundred pounds of hitch weight which sounds like very little is more than you think. Remember this weight is added to the very rear of the vehicle and by doing this it presses down more on the rear tires and removes weight from the front tires.

If you get into a handling situation the movements of your trailer swaying back and forth can increase the down force on the rear tires and this in turn will decrease the pressure on the front tires. The result is less control.

One point that I would apply as a rule is if you need trailer brakes for the trailer, then you need load leveling and sway control too.
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Old 07-18-2004, 01:23 PM   #10
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That was a pretty interesting article John. I think that cell, reader, etc are now everywhere. Downtown on 94 west here in Chicago, a year or so back, a without getting too graphic, a woman was driving about 50mph--- let's just say it was that time of the month and she needed to change. Totally unreal. Beyond words.

I will say this about the proper gear. It goes beyond one single need. There are several considerations. Few of which (and I know that there are exceptions) are valid reasons for not getting the needed equipment. Sway control is a MUST for any Airstream size RV, be it an SOB or not. Period. Nuff said. In this particular case, hands down alone might have helped stabilize the rig. Heck, I see pop ups sway like the wind. Although small, it can't be safe.

I see it two fold....protecting your life and that of folks around you. I won't speculate as to the cause of the main accident I brought up, but as I said, given what I saw as this guys hitch platform and gear, it was pretty clear to me that in this particular case, the proper gear (including tow vehicle) **could** not for sure, but **could** have saved him and his wife (or ladyfriend) a whole world of hurt and loss. I say this simply due to looking at the whole picture. Short wheelbase on the SUV (clearly it was overloaded) for a 23' coach. No sway or weight bars (and this car needed it--bad).

I almost forgot to mention the woman towing a 22' or so trail lite RV. One of her wheels was SO BAD out of balance you could see it bouncing. I gave her a WIDE area (several miles) between us after she passed.

Also forgot to mention the 5th wheel that was going about 80-85 mph as he passed us. About 20 some odd miles after he passed us, I saw him on the side of the road with a blowout on his coach. Looked like he had the proper gear, he was just a maniac on the road.

One more thing....as a consumer, it is our responsib to research what we need. However, it is also the sales org that sells you the stuff to make sure what they are selling you will work. Not saying this is the case here, but I have heard far too many times of sales folks saying sure, when in reality, it should have been a "no way in hell" type answer. Folks can be the trusting type and sometimes that can get folks into trouble. Then again some folks can be plain blind be it on purpose, or not doing their homework. Vacations should be fun, not a horror like this......

Glad this forum is here to help guide folks. Although there are some strong opinions, I would think that the majority (sorry some of you folks in Canada-- not all folks in Canada mind you) have very good advice when it comes to tow vehicles and gear. Sometimes it may come across like you need a Semi to tow, but at heart I think folks here in the states do have some overkill. If that is the sin on our side of the line, I'll gladly take it as in this case, it could have helped...all Intrepid/34' Airstream jokes aside.
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Old 07-18-2004, 03:00 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnG
I strongly disagree on the load leveling statement above. ... Just because your vehicle doesn't seem to be lifted much in the front doesn't mean that you don't need to level the load. There is not a lot of weight on your front tires under normal circumstances, and there is even less there once you apply a load to the rear of the vehicle
I guess I should have put in bold and used big fonts and repeated myself and done other things to emphasize "when there is plenty of weight on the steering tires"

Some pickups with a short overhang and a heavy duty suspension hardly notice 800 pounds on the rear bumper. Some modern vehicles with active suspensions can also shift load to some extent. My B-van has the front axle at near max ratings even without anything on the rear - and this isn't all that uncommon in pickups either, especially with some of the older and very heavy diesel engines.

The key, as I stated is "when there is plenty of weight on the steering tires" and I think we agree on this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnG
If you get into a handling situation the movements of your trailer swaying back and forth can increase the down force on the rear tires and this in turn will decrease the pressure on the front tires.
I am not sure what to make of this ... back and forth has little or nothing to do with up and down (unless you are ripping the tires loose from the road).

If your trailer even gives you hints of swaying back and forth for God's sake slow down and get it fixed ASAP. If your loading causes you to have any indication that you are loosing steering or stability control ... ditto.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnG
One point that I would apply as a rule is if you need trailer brakes for the trailer, then you need load leveling and sway control too.
Brakes, are yet another (almost) independent variable. In terms of this assertion I think of U-Haul as one contrary example. The brakes on the trailer do very little for normal control improvement. The do not have any impact on hitch to axle distances or trailer loading. They are there to help control the trailer when braking and to serve as an emergency means to force control in potentially dangerous situations.
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Old 07-18-2004, 03:27 PM   #12
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These issues have been illustrated well over a number of threads here. What hasn't been addressed is the blatant disregard for the safety of the general motoring public that some folks exhibit. If folks want to absolutely be ignorant of physics, improperly load their trailers, use the wrong rating of hitch and ball, and are clueless about weight distribution and sway control, and are willing to try to kill themselves and their families, I guess that's their choice. My concern is when their wanton disregard of life and limb spills over into the next lane, oncoming traffic, or folks ahead or behind them. I ALWAYS give those folks wide berth when I can, but if some idiot loses it while passing ME, I don't stand much of a chance!

Education is the key. Yes, Brian, there are many many folks who drive without WD or sway control. They have no clue about how tire pressures affect handling, or what the physics are of hundreds of pounds of weight applied laterally on a 6' lever on the rear axle of a moving vehicle. Those of us who HAVE WD and sway control, and at least make a rudimentary attempt at understanding the physics involved in what we do are at risk, but less at risk. Those who DON'T give themselves the best possible chance from the start are doomed to be in the shoes of the couple that Eric described some day.

Every time they come home, they can congratulate themselves and say "Well, we cheated death again today!" One day physics will catch up with them. Brad... when those folks go into MEGO (my eyes glazed over) when you discuss towing, make sure you slap them into reality and do your best to make them understand exactly what they're undertaking. Remind them that instead of driving a 5,000 lb weapon that's reasonably maneuverable, they're now driving a 12,000 lb weapon that's pretty much just a juggernaut. We all share the same roads. It's up to us to educate the uneducated when we find them for ALL of our safety!

Roger
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Old 07-18-2004, 03:35 PM   #13
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Bryan,

Sorry, I didn’t mean my post to seem so aggressive. All I really wanted to do was stress that load leveling and sway control is really necessary when you’re pulling something as heavy as our big shiny toys.

I think it’s a bad idea to ignore these items as they may very well be the ones that save your life.

Side to side action of the trailer along with the bounce created by the road of a vehicle moving over it all contribute to a loss of down force to the front tires. This loss may become hazardous if it is sufficient to cause a loss of the steering tire traction ability.

I know a lot of people that pull some very heavy boats and use nothing other than the 2” ball and electrical hookup for their trailers. Many of which don’t have any type of brakes on the trailer. Even though the tongue weight of these trailers is very light IMHO this is a bit unsafe as well.

I guess it would be best to just say that if your feeling that it might not be too safe, then you may want to add some features to make it a bit safer and more comfortable to tow.
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Old 07-18-2004, 03:41 PM   #14
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Rog is right, the main reason I started this thread was due mostly to the fact that this was not only my first time on scene on a wreck that I was in the mix before rescue arrived, but what I had observed in the wreckage and an observation that some folks just don't realize when it comes to having close to the right gear for the job.

Some folks have horseshoes and 4 leave clovers all around them...some don't...I met several this trip that had neither and it was time to pay the piper.
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