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Old 05-22-2009, 08:43 PM   #1
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Question Sway Issues First Time in 15 Years

I am nearing the point of exhausting my ideas of what to do to remedy a sway issue that has just begun when towing my Overlander with my 1975 Cadillac Eldorado. In the past, this combination has worked well so long as mountainous terrain is not on the route. First of all, this is what has changed since I last towed my Overlander with the Cadillac:
  • Changes on Overlander
  • Changes on Cadillac
    • Four new Cooper Lifeliner Classic II Radial Tires
      • P235/75 R 15-XL
      • Mounted and Balanced with New Brass Valve Stems
      • Original Steel Wheels Straightened & Trued
    • New Front Rotors (replaced pair worn beyond safe resurfacing)
    • Rear Drums Resurfaced and Shoes Adjusted
    • Power Steering Pump Overhauled
My first try towing the Overlander after the above modifications produced very pronounced sway at speeds between 38 and 45 MPH (didn't try to go beyond 45 MPH). The weather was dry and warm with near constant 20 MPH winds out of the South (I was traveling East) -- the road was an improved two-lane state highway with several modest grades. Periodically the wind would gust to about 35 MPH -- not terribly unusual in this are and I have towed with this combination in similar conditions in the past. I had my Reese Staight-Line Hitch with classic Dual Cam Sway Control adjusted in the same manner as in the past with coach loading typical for travel.



Returned home from the above and did the following:
  • Increased air pressure in Cadillac's tires to 34 PSI from the recommended 32 PSI and increased the pressure in the air suspension to 20 PSI from minimum of 15 PSI.
  • Increased air pressure in Overlander's tires to 55 PSI from the recommended 50 PSI.
  • Checked lugs on Overlander -- all were between 90 and 100 ft. lbs -- adjusted all to 100 ft. lbs.
  • Checked lugs on Cadillac -- wll wee at least 100 ft. lbs. -- I think tire dealer may have gone wild with impact wrench.
  • Shortened weight distribution chain by one link and verified that the saddles were riding in the cams properly.
Trial 2 with the following results:

Sway was decreased tremendously but still not as stable as in the past. Semis pushed rig far more than ever in the past. The weather for this test was warm and sunny with very light breezes out of the South. Travel was along the same state highway utilizing the same speeds as before. Tried a 5 mile stretch of I-57 -- white knuckle city -- every passing truck caused noticeable sway -- I will never have another brake control that doesn't have the push button remote control -- I was able to have both hands on the wheel while applying the trailer brakes as needed. There was very pronounced sway when traveling through a valley known for unpredictable cross winds. Decided not to push my luck and returned home.



Third set of adjustments:
  • Increased air pressure in Cadillac's tires to 36 PSI from 34 PSI.
  • Backed off Air in Cadillac's air springs to the recommended 15 PSI.
  • Increased air pressure in the Overlander's tires from 55 PSI to 60 PSI.
  • Did not make any changes to spring bar adjustment.
  • Checked lugs on both car and trailer -- all to desired specs.
I thought that this had done the trick -- on the same strech of state highway everything was rock stable and I could travel at 55 MPH without any indication of sway. The weather was warm and sunny with gusty breezes ahead of a Thunderstorm. Next, it was to that same 5-mile stretch of I-57. Was able to accelerate to 55 MPH cruising speed without incident but upon descent into the valley, sway began to increase with each turn of the wheels -- applied trailer brakes and slowed to 45 MPH sway dissappeared until a group of eight semis passed travling in excess of 65 MPH -- sway was instantaneous and pronounced -- was controllable with the trailer brakes.



Returned to my house, parked the rig and am at the point of trying to decided where to proceed from here. Some of my observations from the three trials:
  • I have never had sway with the Overlander in the past regardless of what I used as a tow vehicle. The Reese Straight Line Hitch has always been my hitch of choice.
  • The Cadillac's chages were 4,000 miles prior to these trials, and it towed my '78 Minuet to Bozeman, Montana and back without incident and absolutely no sway.
  • The wheels/bearings on the Airstream were no warmer than normal -- in fact appeared to be within 20 degrees of ambient temperature.
  • The Airstream's tires were barely warm for the second and third trials.
  • The Cadillac's tires were warm but I could hold my hand on the sidewall without great discomfort.
  • The Cadillac's front wheels/bearings were warm but not beyond what is normal for this car.
  • The Cadillac' rear wheels/bearing areas were hot -- it was not possible to hold my hand on the wheel center area -- particularly noticable on the driver's side.
  • The Overlander has sat on its pad behind my farmhouse for three seasons -- I know one of the worst things that I could do -- the axles were already in need of replacement, but now in addition to the arms being about 3 to 5 degrees up there is very little movement when the coach is raised with a jack by the indicated jacking point to change tires.
  • I was present for the new tire and wheel installation. The technicians were careful to follow my instructions about where to jack and utilized only hand tools in tightening the lugs on the wheel -- finished up with a professional grade torque wrench.
I am at a loss, but have an intuitive feeling that it has something to do with the changes on the Overlander. In the past, I have always run GoodYear Marathons (since 1980) -- but my local GoodYear dealer advised that there was a back-order situation and it could be weeks before he would be able to get a set of Marathons for me. The Carlisle Radial Trail were the only ST rated tires that I could find that had a recognizable brand name so I decided to go with them. In comparison to the Marathons (of the same size and load range) that came off of the coach, the Carlisle tires were wider/thicker and required deflating to squeeze them into the wheel wells -- there was adequate clearance once they were installed and reinflated.

Any ideas on what I might try next? I have towed the Overlander with my Suburban following all of its changes with nothing out of the ordinary observed -- but this was strictly on North/South improved state highways with many modest grades (6% maximum).

Kevin

P.S.: The Cadillac is the Eldorado in my Signature -- it has the front wheel drive that was utilized in the GMC Motorhomes of the same era. It has a shipping weight of nearly 5,500 pounds according to my data sheet.
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Old 05-22-2009, 09:12 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander64 View Post
I am nearing the point of exhausting my ideas of what to do to remedy a sway issue that has just begun when towing my Overlander with my 1975 Cadillac Eldorado. In the past, this combination has worked well so long as mountainous terrain is not on the route. First of all, this is what has changed since I last towed my Overlander with the Cadillac:
  • Changes on Overlander
  • Changes on Cadillac
    • Four new Cooper Lifeliner Classic II Radial Tires
      • P235/75 R 15-XL
      • Mounted and Balanced with New Brass Valve Stems
      • Original Steel Wheels Straightened & Trued
    • New Front Rotors (replaced pair worn beyond safe resurfacing)
    • Rear Drums Resurfaced and Shoes Adjusted
    • Power Steering Pump Overhauled
My first try towing the Overlander after the above modifications produced very pronounced sway at speeds between 38 and 45 MPH (didn't try to go beyond 45 MPH). The weather was dry and warm with near constant 20 MPH winds out of the South (I was traveling East) -- the road was an improved two-lane state highway with several modest grades. Periodically the wind would gust to about 35 MPH -- not terribly unusual in this are and I have towed with this combination in similar conditions in the past. I had my Reese Staight-Line Hitch with classic Dual Cam Sway Control adjusted in the same manner as in the past with coach loading typical for travel.



Returned home from the above and did the following:
  • Increased air pressure in Cadillac's tires to 34 PSI from the recommended 32 PSI and increased the pressure in the air suspension to 20 PSI from minimum of 15 PSI.
  • Increased air pressure in Overlander's tires to 55 PSI from the recommended 50 PSI.
  • Checked lugs on Overlander -- all were between 90 and 100 ft. lbs -- adjusted all to 100 ft. lbs.
  • Checked lugs on Cadillac -- wll wee at least 100 ft. lbs. -- I think tire dealer may have gone wild with impact wrench.
  • Shortened weight distribution chain by one link and verified that the saddles were riding in the cams properly.
Trial 2 with the following results:

Sway was decreased tremendously but still not as stable as in the past. Semis pushed rig far more than ever in the past. The weather for this test was warm and sunny with very light breezes out of the South. Travel was along the same state highway utilizing the same speeds as before. Tried a 5 mile stretch of I-57 -- white knuckle city -- every passing truck caused noticeable sway -- I will never have another brake control that doesn't have the push button remote control -- I was able to have both hands on the wheel while applying the trailer brakes as needed. There was very pronounced sway when traveling through a valley known for unpredictable cross winds. Decided not to push my luck and returned home.



Third set of adjustments:
  • Increased air pressure in Cadillac's tires to 36 PSI from 34 PSI.
  • Backed off Air in Cadillac's air springs to the recommended 15 PSI.
  • Increased air pressure in the Overlander's tires from 55 PSI to 60 PSI.
  • Did not make any changes to spring bar adjustment.
  • Checked lugs on both car and trailer -- all to desired specs.
I thought that this had done the trick -- on the same strech of state highway everything was rock stable and I could travel at 55 MPH without any indication of sway. The weather was warm and sunny with gusty breezes ahead of a Thunderstorm. Next, it was to that same 5-mile stretch of I-57. Was able to accelerate to 55 MPH cruising speed without incident but upon descent into the valley, sway began to increase with each turn of the wheels -- applied trailer brakes and slowed to 45 MPH sway dissappeared until a group of eight semis passed travling in excess of 65 MPH -- sway was instantaneous and pronounced -- was controllable with the trailer brakes.



Returned to my house, parked the rig and am at the point of trying to decided where to proceed from here. Some of my observations from the three trials:
  • I have never had sway with the Overlander in the past regardless of what I used as a tow vehicle. The Reese Straight Line Hitch has always been my hitch of choice.
  • The Cadillac's chages were 4,000 miles prior to these trials, and it towed my '78 Minuet to Bozeman, Montana and back without incident and absolutely no sway.
  • The wheels/bearings on the Airstream were no warmer than normal -- in fact appeared to be within 20 degrees of ambient temperature.
  • The Airstream's tires were barely warm for the second and third trials.
  • The Cadillac's tires were warm but I could hold my hand on the sidewall without great discomfort.
  • The Cadillac's front wheels/bearings were warm but not beyond what is normal for this car.
  • The Cadillac' rear wheels/bearing areas were hot -- it was not possible to hold my hand on the wheel center area -- particularly noticable on the driver's side.
  • The Overlander has sat on its pad behind my farmhouse for three seasons -- I know one of the worst things that I could do -- the axles were already in need of replacement, but now in addition to the arms being about 3 to 5 degrees up there is very little movement when the coach is raised with a jack by the indicated jacking point to change tires.
  • I was present for the new tire and wheel installation. The technicians were careful to follow my instructions about where to jack and utilized only hand tools in tightening the lugs on the wheel -- finished up with a professional grade torque wrench.
I am at a loss, but have an intuitive feeling that it has something to do with the changes on the Overlander. In the past, I have always run GoodYear Marathons (since 1980) -- but my local GoodYear dealer advised that there was a back-order situation and it could be weeks before he would be able to get a set of Marathons for me. The Carlisle Radial Trail were the only ST rated tires that I could find that had a recognizable brand name so I decided to go with them. In comparison to the Marathons (of the same size and load range) that came off of the coach, the Carlisle tires were wider/thicker and required deflating to squeeze them into the wheel wells -- there was adequate clearance once they were installed and reinflated.

Any ideas on what I might try next? I have towed the Overlander with my Suburban following all of its changes with nothing out of the ordinary observed -- but this was strictly on North/South improved state highways with many modest grades (6% maximum).

Kevin

P.S.: The Cadillac is the Eldorado in my Signature -- it has the front wheel drive that was utilized in the GMC Motorhomes of the same era. It has a shipping weight of nearly 5,500 pounds according to my data sheet.
Kevin.

Any form of air lifts or air bags, defeat the whole purpose of a load equalizing hitch. That pressure must be at an absolute minimum.

Not likely, but shot axles could contribute to the problem.

Checking them out takes 30 seconds.

The next test would be a visit to a scale and measure as follows.

1. The separate front and rear weights of the tow vehicle, without the trailer.

2. The trailer tongue weight.

3. With the rig ready for travel, the front and rear weights again on the tow vehicle.

4. The trailer weight with the tow vehicle pulled off the
scale.

5. Comparethose weights and that hould give you the answer your looking for.

6. Are the hitch bars striaght when not in use, or have they taken a set?

Andy
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Old 05-22-2009, 09:30 PM   #3
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I would suspect the new tires on the Caddy is causing the problem.

On our Airstream I am using the same tire size (P235/75 R 15-XL) and type you have on your Caddy . Even though they are rated for extra load the side walls are big and still a little soft IMHO. They do however work great on the Airstream.

I recall a 1977 Ford Granada I bought new. It came with optional Michelin Sport radial tires and handled very well. I bought a set of cheap snow tires and mounted them on the rear for the Winter. The car's great handling and control went out the window. The back end wallowed all over the place and I wasn't even towing anything. I took the car back and had them upgrade the snows to a more expensive set of snow tires. All was well after that. Lesson learned. Quality tires from then on.
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Old 05-22-2009, 09:43 PM   #4
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Just a off the top guess. Does the Caddy have rear leaf springs? Check for a broken or loose shackle.
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Old 05-22-2009, 10:16 PM   #5
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Sway Issues First Time in 15 Years

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumatic View Post
Just a off the top guess. Does the Caddy have rear leaf springs? Check for a broken or loose shackle.
The Cadillac has Cargo Coil OEM replacement rear coil springs with new OEM Air Ride Shocks converted to manual control. The Suggested towing pressure is 15 PSI and the maximum inflation pressure is 40 PSI.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Road Ruler View Post
I would suspect the new tires on the Caddy is causing the problem.

On our Airstream I am using the same tire size (P235/75 R 15-XL) and type you have on your Caddy . Even though they are rated for extra load the side walls are big and still a little soft IMHO. They do however work great on the Airstream.
The Cadillac originally had LR 78-15 tires from the factory. The P235 series is the closest my dealer has been able to find -- and finding one with whitewalls is even worse since most tires of this size are utilized with conversion vans. There aren't very many tires in this size and most are at one or the other extreme of the tire spectrum -- either economy price -- or premium price -- and for a car that averages less than 5,000 miles per year I have trouble justifying premium tires. Prior to this set of Coopers, I had GoodYear tires that were excellent and I had no issues towing the Overlander -- but my dealer could only find my tire size in whitewalls from Cooper unless I wanted to spend over $115/tire.

The tongue weight on my Minuet (525 pounds) is only about 200 pounds lighter than the Overlander, and I had absolutely no problems in the 4,000 mile tour of the Western US last summer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In View Post
Kevin.

Any form of air lifts or air bags, defeat the whole purpose of a load equalizing hitch. That pressure must be at an absolute minimum.
I know that this isn't the preferred setup, but it was standard on the car from the factory. I follow the suggested hitching sequence and haven't had problems prior to the past two weeks. Several years ago, I did have the system converted to manual inflation so that I could be sure that the 15 PSI minum wasn't exceeded when towing.

I am carrying the exact same equipment in the trunk of the Cadillac as I did last summer. I do know that the Airstream as 200 pounds greater hitch weight than the Minuet -- 725 pounds loaded as it is today. I have separate hitch heads for each trailer so that I don't have to change hitch head adjustments between coaches.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In View Post
Not likely, but shot axles could contribute to the problem.
I have already checked-out my axles using the check-list on your site. They are definitely due for replacement -- that would have happened this spring, but replacing the damaged blackwater tank pushed that time ahead at least one more year.

One of my reasons for using the Cadillac to tow the Overlander is that I know that it will give it the smoothest ride of my two rigs -- the Suburban didn't have any problems in a 50 mile tow over the same routes as the Cadillac following the changes on the Overlander.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In View Post
The next test would be a visit to a scale and measure as follows.

1. The separate front and rear weights of the tow vehicle, without the trailer.

2. The trailer tongue weight.

3. With the rig ready for travel, the front and rear weights again on the tow vehicle.

4. The trailer weight with the tow vehicle pulled off the
scale.

5. Comparethose weights and that hould give you the answer your looking for.
I will try to get this done after the holiday weekend. The only neary scales are at the Famers' Co-Op (only 3 blocks away). I have avoided going there as the approach to their scales is quite steep. The next nearest is 40 miles away.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inland RV Center, In View Post
6. Are the hitch bars striaght when not in use, or have they taken a set?
The bars are 800 pound Reese of the new style with the hooked ends. They are less than five years old and have only been used for towing about 1,000 miles. There is no evidence of a curvature or unusual set.

I have just about decided to shuffle tow vehicles tomorrow morning and hitch up the Suburban. For some reason, I am uneasy about the new tires and wheels on the Overlander. The technicians were very careful with everything that they did during the install. A computerized off-vehicle balancing machine was utilized -- I didn't ask but assumed that they checked the wheels for true and run-out as my usual shop does that as a part of every new tire installation. This is also my first set of Carlisle tires so I am also a bit concerned there as well.

Kevin
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Old 05-22-2009, 10:21 PM   #6
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I am not an expert on hitch setup - but with so many changes, the first thing I'd do would be to borrow a pickup truck or big SUV and repeat the test with a totally different tow vehicle. That way at least you'd get an idea whether the majority of the problem is with the trailer or the tow vehicle. Obviously if the whole thing gets no better most of the problem will be in the trailer - and those axles have had 3 years to get worse.

Of course everything Lumatic and Andy said surely apply too... but I like to chop problems in half and try to isolate their source.

Good luck and be safe!

Paula
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Old 05-22-2009, 10:25 PM   #7
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Sway Issues First Time in 15 Years

Greetings Paula!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Foiled Again View Post
I am not an expert on hitch setup - but with so many changes, the first thing I'd do would be to borrow a pickup truck or big SUV and repeat the test with a totally different tow vehicle. That way at least you'd get an idea whether the majority of the problem is with the trailer or the tow vehicle. Obviously if the whole thing gets no better most of the problem will be in the trailer - and those axles have had 3 years to get worse.

Of course everything Lumatic and Andy said surely apply too... but I like to chop problems in half and try to isolate their source.

Good luck and be safe!

Paula
That is exactly what I am planning to do tomorrow. I will be using my Suburban which has had no changes since it last towed the Overlander on a long vacation (six weeks) with absolutely no problems. We will see just what happens.

Kevin
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Old 05-22-2009, 10:27 PM   #8
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It's the tires, Kevin. The sidewalls are too soft. I had very similar problems towing my Bambi with my Astro. A tire change was all that was required.

Rog
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Old 05-22-2009, 11:14 PM   #9
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Years ago everyone towed with a car. We went to Sears and bought radials for our car to tow with. They were great ..we thought. Towing was a whole different ballgame. The trailer felt squirmy, you didn't feel in control and you weren't. Two trips and I had enough. Went back to Sears and bought new tires. Radials side walls are too soft for towing. We fulltimed for nine years in a travel trailer. I towed because my husband had to stay with the company trucks. At that time after some research it was determined that radials should not be used for towing. Hope this helps.
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Old 05-23-2009, 05:32 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander64 View Post
Prior to this set of Coopers, I had GoodYear tires that were excellent and I had no issues towing the Overlander -- but my dealer could only find my tire size in whitewalls from Cooper unless I wanted to spend over $115/tire.

Kevin
I can understand the issue with cost.

By comparison a set of radial tires on our Infiniti here in Canada cost over $200 each but by design and quality work very well for towing and handling.

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Old 05-23-2009, 06:09 AM   #11
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Overlander64,

Just one more thing that wasn't mentioned that I would check....you said the wheel bearings were greased on the trailer. If the techs left them too loose, you could possibly get some sway induced that the Caddy could not handle. So, I would just jack up the trailer and check to make sure the wheel bearings are not too loose. Good luck with finding and solving the problem.
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Old 05-23-2009, 09:02 AM   #12
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add the rear caddy wheel bearings to the check list as you mentioned they were very hot. while you have the power to tow, how beefy are those rear wheel bearings?
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Old 05-23-2009, 09:54 AM   #13
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You know it's the tires, as that's all you changed - assuming there's not something wrong with your new wheels, that's easy to check...

jack up the AS, check the wheel brgs for excessive 'play' as mentioned above - then spin the wheels and check for any 'wobble'...

Now back to the tires - I don't really see any need to go to radials on a trailer - bias ply tires have been around for years and work great, plus are less expensive to boot!

your new, 'fatter' radials have a much softer sidewall, which in itself may lead to the 'sway' problem...

changing the 'sway' profile by playing with the tire pressures would seem to also indicate it's a tire problem...on the trailer.

We've towed with radials on the TV forever, but have elected to stay with bias ply's on our trailers...and haven't had any sway problems...

now if your old AS tires were radial's, and you had no problems - then changing the size to that shorter, fatter, design would seem to point directly to your sway problem...

just some for 'thoughts' to toss on the 'fire'...

good luck...maybe your tire dealer will be willing to work with you through this ordeal, as he sure wants your repeat business, etc...maybe remounting a different set of trailer tires for a trial...
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Old 05-23-2009, 07:27 PM   #14
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