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Old 03-08-2008, 09:23 AM   #1
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Sway, Big trucks, accidents?

Hi everyone! We're in the active shopping phase of airstream hunting and I have heard way too many stories from people lately about big trucks passing, sway, and people rolling the trailer & tv. Can someone please give me an idea of how common an issue this is?

A good friend of mine, who is very conscientious rolled her Suburban and trailer (non-airstream) this past summer. What can we do to lessen our chances of this happening?

Thanks for your thoughts!!


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Old 03-08-2008, 09:45 AM   #2
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Hi Liz, and welcome to the forums.

There are lots of threads here discussing sway control (use the Search tool to find them), but the bottom line is having a properly set up load equalizing hitch with sway control, a properly sized tow vehicle, and maintaining a safe speed are the answer. I use an Equal-i-zer hitch and tow around 62.5 mph. I have pulled my 23' Safari (6,000 lbs GVW) behind my F-150 (rated to pull 9,000 lbs) in some very windy conditions and never had any trouble from passing trucks.


PS: The Airstream's shape is a big advantage over a slab sided white box on wheels trailer in windy conditions.

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Old 03-08-2008, 09:45 AM   #3
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Hi Liz,
Can and does happen though I haven't heard about that happening with many Airstreams from the forums. Lots of factors in play here - driving speed, road conditions, attention to the road, type of tow vehicle (size & weight have to be matched up), traffic conditions and type of hitch.

I would never recommend towing a trailer without some sort of hitch support like a Equal-i-zer, Hensley, Pull-Rite, Reese, Blue Ox... Lots of brands out there and equal number of folks who swear by 'em. A good brake controller also helps you regain control of a trailer that is begining to fishtail...

Go do a search on hitches & brake controllers and start reading. There is a whole bunch of info in the forums on this very topic. Do a search on "towing" and read up on experiences.

It's all here!
Bill & Kim
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Old 03-08-2008, 09:48 AM   #4
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Hi Liz. In my opinion the risk of rolling a rig or getting into an accident isn't nearly as high as it might seem reading posts on these forums, but prudence is the order of the day. The short answer is that there's no simple answer to your question. I'd suggest educating yourself on the art and science of towing. Here's a good primer to get you started...RV Towing Tips - Home page

Good reading!

Gary & Debbie
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Old 03-08-2008, 10:01 AM   #5
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The best you can buy for towing

One of the best reasons to get an Airstream is safety. Yes, there are many accidents out there with folks violating most of the prior mentioned safety precautions. Keep in mind that because of the design of an Airstream, low wind resistance, low center of gravity, torsion suspension, frame rigidity and more, it is considered by many the safest and easiest trailer on the market. If set up properly with the adequate tow vehicle, and driving rationally at reasonable can't be beat for safe towing.

This of course is an opinion.

Travel is in my blood, adventure is my passport, aluminum is my favorite construction medium, and therefore, an Airstream was my destiny.
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Old 03-08-2008, 10:17 AM   #6
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Not so common I'd say when you consider the huge number of tow rigs running down the road every day - the disasters get lots of exposure on the forums and everyone has an opinion on the causes. Common sense driving goes a long way toward safety.

A properly setup rig with particular attention to the weight distribution hitch with anti-sway bars will deal with any sway or truck buffeting problems.

You do not have to spend a lot to get a stable rig but proper setup is key. The Airstream dealer setup our Safari with a Reese Dual Cam and it is rock steady in all road conditions.

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Old 03-08-2008, 10:33 AM   #7

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Thumbs up What All Have Said Here....

Take time and use the Forum to do some research, a lot of very informed

folks here. Just like Mother Nature, there are Big Bucks and Little Bucks,

It's what your are comfortable with spending. Most important to match the

T/V, trailer, brake controller and hitch. Good luck and keep us posted.

p.s. we love photo's
AF #1

"Sticks & stones can break your bones...and hail will dent your Airstream"

So when is this..."old enough to know better" supposed to kick in?
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Old 03-08-2008, 07:00 PM   #8
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The key is properly setting your trailer up to tow which includes some form of sway control. Tractor trailer trucks passing you do set up a wave of air that can cause your trailer to pull towards the passing truck as it goes by. The amount of force the wave has in it depends upon the winds you are towing in and the difference in the speed of your vehicle compared to the passing truck. Also adding into the equation is level of the road. Generally your trailer is more subject to sway when you are going downhill than up.

In essence, severe conditions of sway usually are caused by multiple factors. The right combination can put you in the throws of severe sway. So you do things to lessen your chance of sway. Some of these include using a weight distribution hitch which is properly set up, some type of sway dampening device, and having the proper sized tow vehicle.

In addition you actively practice sway avoidance. For example, I watch my speed, I don't pass going downhill, I don't allow (if I can help it) a tractor trailer to pass me going downhill, I watch behind me and move a little further to the right (if possible) if I detect an fast truck passing me. Some other things include avoiding hard braking in a downhill situation, looking out for strong cross winds when you are coming out of a wind protected portion of the road, and finally knowing what kind of vehicles produce a lot of turbulence (auto carriers, tank trucks, busses or class A motor homes, large box trucks).

Even with all this, one might still get into a situation. Just understand that safety is a full time job and not only do you have to take care of yourself, but you need to be vigilant of the other vehicles on the road.

Jack Canavera
AIR #56
'04 Classic 30' S.O.,'03 GMC Savana 2500,'14 Honda CTX 700
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Old 03-08-2008, 09:14 PM   #9
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Some years back we had a not-great tow vehicle with not-great load balancing bars and a not-Airstream travel trailer, and white knuckle trips (sway) were not unusual.

Based on experience, we have corrected all three and the problem literally no longer exists. World of difference.
The Slowsky's
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Old 03-08-2008, 09:48 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by bakerliz
A good friend of mine, who is very conscientious rolled her Suburban and trailer (non-airstream) this past summer. What can we do to lessen our chances of this happening?

Thanks for your thoughts!!

Hi, Liz. A friend of mine rolled his Suburban / SOB combination too. His Suburban was rated to tow 7,800 lbs of trailer and his first toy hauler was rated at 10,000 lbs; But the one he rolled [second toy hauler] was rated at 12,000 lbs. He also raised the Suburban 6"s and installed huge off road tires. He claims that he was going down hill and was being passed by a big rig. He said he thinks one rear tire on the Suburban went flat. He said that the trailer started to sway and wouldn't stop swaying; I asked him if he hit the trailer brakes to stop the swaying and his answer to me was "Are you supposed to do that?" He had a good hitch that was set up right, but everything else, including his towing knowledge, was wrong. The truck and trailer were totalled, he's too scared to ever tow again, and that's good for the rest of us.

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Old 03-09-2008, 05:54 AM   #11
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I have tracked the ocurrances within our 100 unit local club that has about 60 active trailer rigs operating. We have averaged two accidents per year over the last 10 years. Some of the accidents are small like just running off the road due to falling asleep or construction. but we also have had a number of roll overs and rear end collisions. The causes are many but loss of control resulting in going off the road is a pretty common. Reaction time of the driver and skill are critical to avoiding big problems, once the accident starts to occur.
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Old 03-09-2008, 06:24 AM   #12
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As I remember, the last two for certain and probally three rollover accidents involving Airstreams were probally caused by the absence of anti-sway devices of any sort.
Carefull examination of the pictures provided indicated this.
Notice in the photographs that there is only the "snap ups" for the weight distribution bars.
This item which has been removed from ebay, the pictures have been removed but when I examined them showed no evidence of sway control.
Just go with a good sway control of any type (friction, dual cam, dual cam high performance, hensley, pro-pride or pull rite) and set it up correctly and you should be ok.
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Old 03-09-2008, 06:57 AM   #13
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Hello and welcome to the forums. There is an abundance of information here, and a considerable amount of experience.

An adequate tow vehicle, a weight distributing hitch system, and all the experience you can gain are the secrets to safe towing.

Opinions will vary widely about all of the hardware. As to the experience factor, I believe all will agree. Watching your speed and situational awareness are the keys in learning to tow safely and comfortably.

Have fun and learn as you go.
Jeff & Cindy
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Old 03-09-2008, 03:51 PM   #14
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Arrgh! I wrote a huge post addressing everyone's replies and I've lost it! I *thought* I hit submit. Aack!

Anyway, thank you to all of you. And to those people with long posts-- extra thanks! As a former professional baker, I remember hearing "long recipes are learning recipes" and so it goes with Airstream posts.

I really appreciate the detailed information and I feel way better prepared. I may not have internalized everything yet, but I know where to find it and I understand it generally. And I have all of you to thank for it.

My husband went to look at '64 Overlander today. He said it was great but that someone else already put a deposit on it. Who knows, maybe it could still work out. It's not over till it's over, right?

We saw a 1956 trailer last week that was cute, but too small and in need of too much work for us right now.

Problem number 2: I think our driveway is too steep to get the trailer up to park it at the house. Booo! Time to find a new house, I guess! :-)

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