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Old 10-28-2014, 01:03 PM   #1
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Opinions on the subject of hitches and their set up

I am struck by some of the opinions that are put forward here on the board about hitches, weight distribution, and sway control. Posts often report distances traveled with a certain setup and speak authoritatively about the optimum performance of it.

Here is an interesting excerpt from the introduction of a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) paper published in 2008 on “Stability and Control Considerations of Vehicle-Trailer Combination”:
“Handling behavior of articulated vehicles is more complex and less predictable than that of non-articulated vehicles. This poses challenges to non-expert drivers of light vehicles, who occasionally tow recreational trailers and may not have good understanding of dynamic complexities of a vehicle-trailer combination. The task of controlling the vehicle becomes the most difficult when the system becomes unstable. Apart from rollover, which is not discussed in this paper, the articulated vehicle may experience two types of instability in the yaw plane. The first one is a divergent instability such as jackknifing, in which the hitch angle increases without experiencing oscillations. This occurs when, at a particular operating condition, the understeer gradient of a vehicle-trailer combination becomes negative and the speed is above critical velocity. The second type is dynamic in nature and may lead to oscillatory response with increasing amplitude known as snaking or sway.”
Something for us all to keep in mind, many miles of incident free towing may well be representative of luck vs. truly optimum equipment and its set-up.

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Old 10-28-2014, 07:25 PM   #2
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Interesting excerpt from the engineers at SAE. I believe inexperience with towing a trailer might be the number one reason for mishaps. When I hook up, the vehicle driving dynamics change dramatically, especially braking and turning. I'll bet folks select a fifth wheel or motorhome just to forgo the battle of towing a conventional trailer.

Hitch design has improved and certainly makes the vehicle trailer combination a little more stable. Oversized tow vehicles helps a bit too. But no one brand of hitch is going to make towing a trailer like just driving the vehicle. I think the main thing is experience towing. Those who do it more likely have less mishaps. I think one of the scariest thing a parent does is toss the car keys to a 16 year old driver.

So have a good hitch for your trailer and vehicle of course. (However there are just a lot of business people out there who tow their excavating equipment or what have you with NO weight distribution or sway control at all.) Most important is your "towing mindset", watch speed, allowing for extra stopping distances, slow on curves, watch the speed down hills, be aware of weather and wind, and on and on.

Your hitch isn't going to make you smarter.


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Old 10-28-2014, 07:48 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Alphonse View Post
Here is an interesting excerpt from the introduction of a Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) paper published in 2008 on “Stability and Control Considerations of Vehicle-Trailer Combination”:
For anyone who might be interested in the full text of this paper --

the document may be downloaded free of charge here.

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