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Old 07-22-2010, 10:18 PM   #1
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Fishtailing Airstream

Hi All,
I am new to the trailer pulling of an Airstream. I have just bought a 1989, 32 ft, Excella and am pulling it with a 02, Chevy,1500 HD with an 6 liter gas engine. I knotice at speeds of about 65 mph the trailer rearend would fishtail and I would have to put on the breaks to stop it. I have an equilizer hitch and was told to was set up right. I went to the locial RV store and they told me to add stableizers bars to both sides of the receiver. Will this hepl? The trailer was not over loaded and most of the weight was in front of the axels. I was also told that a bad wheel bairning could be the problem. Can someone give me some advice on stableizers bars. and what might be my problem?
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Old 07-22-2010, 10:32 PM   #2
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With any 30+ foot rig you need sway control.

If you have an equal-i-zer hitch they're supposed to have sway control built in although they are not the most effective hitch in that regard. How sure are you that it is set up right? Do you have the weight distributing bars? Are they the right size? Are they being snapped up tight enough? How do you know? Can you post a photo of your hitch setup so we can see what the deal is with it?

Many people with the larger rigs use high tech hitches, pullrite, hensley, propride. They do make a huge difference in sway.

There are also friction bars, which will help, or you could switch to a Reese dual cam hitch, which will help.
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Old 07-22-2010, 11:51 PM   #3
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Fishtailing Airstream

Greetings elzavb!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Airstream ownership.

There are any number of things that could be contributing to your problem including such things as:
  • Does your Silverado have LT tires of the proper size and weight rating for your truck? Are the tires properly inflated? Improperly inflated tires or tires that are not intended for truck use can both contribute to a sway problem.
  • Is your trailer level when hitched to your truck? Whether nose high or nose low, a coach that isn't towing level can be less stable. Different drawbars can be purchased to achieve a level or very nearly level attitude with all of the major hitch brands.
  • Has the hitch been checked for worn parts, particularly the friction material if it is an older Equal-I-zer? Most of the major hitch manufacturers support their products with replacments parts that can be purchased through most RV dealerships. If the hitch is one that came with the coach, is it known whether the spring bars are matched in weight rating (mis-match ratings could impact handling)? Are the spring bars riding properly in the brackets on the trailer's A-frame? Even a modest error in the way the spring bar and bracket meet and align can cause issues with handling.
  • Are the tires on the coach ST or LT rated and of the proper size and load range? If the tires are P-metric they will cause sway problems continually. If the tires are not robust enough or are not properly inflated, sway problems can be the result.
  • When the coach was loaded with provisions were the heaviest items packed over or ahead of the axles? If an excess of packed weight finds its way behind the axles, sway can result.
  • Is the onboard fresh water tank full? On some coaches, the ride is much smoother if the fresh water tank is full.
Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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Old 07-23-2010, 06:57 AM   #4
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This is the very first time I have said this to anyone.... You are flirting with disaster (I have said that, but not in the situation to follow) You are under horse powered for certain with a trailer that big and heavy. Even a V8 would be taxing on a trailer that big. You can put all the fancy tires and even one of those Hensely things, but your truck is just not big enough for what you are towing.

Now someone else will tell you I wrong and you should not worry about it.
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Old 07-23-2010, 07:11 AM   #5
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All Kevin's suggestions are sound. Possibly the addition of a friction sway control device would help. This may be what your dealer is calling stabilizer bars
My preference is running tires near max inflation to obtain sidewall stiffness.
It should be noted, just for safety, that most trailer tires are rated for a max. speed of 65.
I think you are near the upper limits of a half ton vehicle due to softer suspension and maybe passanger tires rather than LT (light truck) however I see many doing it and i know some one will take me to task for that comment. A little overkill never hurts.
Good luck with finding the problem
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Old 07-23-2010, 07:14 AM   #6
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Not the Issue

The OP is concerned about stability of his trailer at high speed. This is not a question about the competency of the TV to get it up to speed but rather what is happening when he is there. He also said that it was a "6 liter" engine, not a 6 cylinder.

To answer the question, previous posts are pointing in the right direction. A weight distributing hitch is supposed to "equalize" the weight between trailer and TV. The problem is when folks say they have an equalizer hitch, when many times they don't. The Equalizer is a brand name and it does have built in sway control. By asking the question about adding sway control, I doubt that you have an Equalizer. Your hitch might be set up correctly to distribute the weight but that is not your concern at this point. I would take it to a reputable dealer and ask them specifically about your capacity to control sway and then see what they say. You might indeed be looking at upgrading your hitch. This forum will give you many good ideas. I for one like my Equalizer.
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Old 07-23-2010, 07:19 AM   #7
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It is my understanding that to straighten a rig under fishtail conditions is to maintian speed and utilize the manual slide on the brake controller to activate the trailer brakes only. And not to slow down using your vehicle brakes. NOTE: please advise if this is incorrect!

The single time I felt a fishtail, my immediate reaction was to hit the brakes on my truck to slow down. But it did not seem to affect the fishtail - and it actually FELT like it was making it worse. Then I remembered the tip above.... I increased my speed a bit while engaging the trailer brakes at my controller. Straightened out immediately. Whew. After that, I decided to add sway control to my hitch.

The above does not disregard that you may be under powered, may not have your WD hitch adjusted precisely, and may need to get sway control added as well --- but I wanted to share in case you were *in route* and could benefit from another technique to help re-establish control....

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Old 07-23-2010, 07:33 AM   #8
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What front tire pressures you holding at? Increasing the front tire pressures stiffens the sidewalls and reduces tail-wagging-the-dog oscillations that might amplify the trailers motions. (start at normal man'f spec and go up, don't read the MAX pressure on sidewall and use that, talking 6, 8, 10 psi boost)

How is the rubber wearing on the TV & trailer tires, a close inspection might show some alignment issues?

Might be time to weigh the tongue to ensure you have enough weight on the ball...
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:07 AM   #9
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Balancing Act

Quote:
Originally Posted by elzavb View Post
Hi All,
I am new to the trailer pulling of an Airstream. I have just bought a 1989, 32 ft, Excella and am pulling it with a 02, Chevy,1500 HD with an 6 liter gas engine. I knotice at speeds of about 65 mph the trailer rearend would fishtail and I would have to put on the breaks to stop it. I have an equilizer hitch and was told to was set up right. I went to the locial RV store and they told me to add stableizers bars to both sides of the receiver. Will this hepl? The trailer was not over loaded and most of the weight was in front of the axels. I was also told that a bad wheel bairning could be the problem. Can someone give me some advice on stableizers bars. and what might be my problem?
Like an airplane, weight and balance is critical to pulling a trailer. The idea of the weight being in front of the axles is not the key, the airstream owners manual usually will note keep the bulk of the weight over the axles as much as possible and you should know what the tongue weight is loaded the way you are. Photos would help everyone look at how it looks hooked up on level ground, rig should be level with the vehicle. There are a zillion questions, but sounds like you need an RV place that can drive the rig after setup to advise you what's missing or broken.
You'll drive yourself crazy and spend tons of money needlessly trying stuff.
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:15 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by aftermath View Post
He also said that it was a "6 liter" engine, not a 6 cylinder.
My bad, thought I read 6 cylinder, everything is just fine, carry on, I know nothing. 32 foot eighties trailer pulled by a 1/2 ton should be just peachy then.
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:18 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 62overlander View Post
This is the very first time I have said this to anyone.... You are flirting with disaster (I have said that, but not in the situation to follow) You are under horse powered for certain with a trailer that big and heavy. Even a V8 would be taxing on a trailer that big. You can put all the fancy tires and even one of those Hensely things, but your truck is just not big enough for what you are towing.

Now someone else will tell you I wrong and you should not worry about it.
Frank, that Chevy IS a V8, isn't it? And the trailer's dry weight is 6,300 or 6,500 lbs, depending on if it has a dinette or not, with a tongue weight of 700 or 800 lbs.

Won't a modern truck with a medium-size 300 HP V8 pull that load safely, if it's set up right?

[edit]: ah, OK, I wondered if you were thinking 6-cylinder...
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Old 07-23-2010, 08:53 AM   #12
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Your 89 is a heavy trailer with lots of composites (floor, cabinetry). Time to take that puppy to some truck scales and find out exactly what is going on. If you have too much weight to the front, you can adjust. Yes, adding anti-sway equalization is a must. Look hard at the alignment of the trailer axles, too. Add water to the freshwater tank - various recommendations in the forums here suggest half a tank or more, as does the original owners manual.

When all is said and done, the real answer is to slow down until you have the issue under control. I solved my issues by buying new tires for the tow vehicle but I still didn't feel safe in a half ton Suburban from a braking standpoint. I ended up with a heavier truck ... your mileage may vary. Mine sure has.
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Old 07-23-2010, 09:02 AM   #13
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Greetings from the Florida Panhandle

First off, welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us.

The OP did not mention if he even has a trailer brake controller. Some newbies don 't think that they need one. His truck should be sufficient for the job, but needs to be set up right. We need some further info and even photos before we can give really good advice. From his description I am unclear to exactly what type of hitch system he has.

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Old 07-23-2010, 09:40 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by funkill View Post
It is my understanding that to straighten a rig under fishtail conditions is to maintian speed and utilize the manual slide on the brake controller to activate the trailer brakes only. And not to slow down using your vehicle brakes. NOTE: please advise if this is incorrect!
Laura
THe above is correct. If it is just a passing truck slight acceleration will accomplish the same thing as the wall of air passes, the goal being to keep tension between the truck and trailer. In a severe case of the wiggles the trailer brakes only are needed.
I suspect most of the accidents that are caused by sway are a result of driver over reaction

I have delivered new trailers of all brands for many years and have never experienced a serious sway incident. but then I get passed by a lot of hurrying people, and have on occasion seen them "parked" in the median a few miles down the road
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Old 07-23-2010, 09:55 AM   #15
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First off elzavb, welcome to the forums, you will always get a lot of advice on here, you need to sort through it to see what works for you.

Like another noted, it sounds to me that elzavb doesn't have an Equal-i-zer Hitch - The “American Original” with 4-Point Sway Control and Weight Distributionbut rather a small "e" non brand name "equalizer hitch as it doesn't sound like it has torsion bars. I hope the OP posts what brand/model he does have so we can help him sort it out.

That said, I am with Frank, I think this trailer is too much for the truck elzavb has. Can you do it, likely, does that make it right/safe......???? After towing with a 1/2 truck for a number of years, 4 years ago I switched to a 3/4 ton truck (it happens to be a diesel, but that is not the important part). I like the margin of safety it gives me and my family (well ok, I like the diesel too http://www.airforums.com/forums/images/smilies/wink.gif.).

The fact is that while many of our vehicles have the towing capacity for our trailers, most don't have the GVWR for the trailer hitch weight, people, canoes/kayaks, generators, wood, bicycles etc. etc. I found after calculating that my cargo weight, I was right on the border of making us overweight with my 1/2. With the 3/4 ton, weight is never a worry (within reason), throw it in the back, throw it on the roof/cap, hook up the trailer and go (assuming proper maintenance, tire pressures etc.). That comfort margin is worth the few extra bucks. As a matter of fact I purchased a 3 year old truck that was in great shape and likely cost less than a lot of new gassers that folks buy.

In any event, the elzavb really needs to give us more info on the hitch setup they have. They should know that most folks on here pull with a Reese Dual Cam setup or an Equalizer brand setup (what I have). Other folks go up the ladder and spend the bucks on a Hensley, Pullrite, ProPride etc. I have thought about one of those, but I have been very pleased with the Equalizer, up and down mountains, rain, snow, ice (yes that's right) wind, slamming on the brakes due to morons (no I don't follow too close), it has always tracked straight and true. Of course there is some common sense involved in that too, but then that is kind of what we are talking about here......

Good advice too on tire pressures and how to brake when the trailer starts to sway. Best advice is to slow down, it's always tempting to drive to fast. Even with my setup I keep it right around 65-68 and I have a stouter truck and a smaller trailer than the OP. Can I tow faster, yep, is that smart? NOPE Again the safety of my family is paramount.
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Old 07-23-2010, 10:46 AM   #16
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So far you've gotten some good advice. I agree that you may have a borderline truck for the trailer—barely enough for the size and weight of the Excella. But I know nothing about Chevy's and their suspensions.

Some GM trucks earlier in the decade had problems with cracks in the hitch receiver assembly. Do some research on this and get under the truck and look for problems.

So, congratulations on getting an Airstream and having the courage to get out there and do it. Part of the learning is having experiences like you've had. Reading as much as you can in the Forums will help you be prepared for problems and knowing how to prevent them.

I expect you bought this from a private party who may not have maintained it perfectly. I think when people sell a trailer, they may have lost interest or not be able to travel anymore because of age and can't or won't take care of them well. It's just like buying a used car.

I don't know your level of mechanical skills, so I don't know what you can do yourself. An RV needs a high level of maintenance and owning one can be an expensive proposition. Over the years this evens out because camping is cheaper than motels; making your own food costs less than restaurants. Getting your new (to you) toy can be discouraging when you realize all you have to learn. You will learn it, it will take time.

It occurs to me that looking at the running gear on the trailer would be worthwhile. Have the wheel bearings been taken care of? Have they been repacked lately? Are they worn? Are the trailer brakes in good condition and adjusted properly? Do they work? Are the shock absorbers in good condition? Are the axles ok? As has been said, you may need to take the trailer to a good shop to check these things. It can be difficult to find a good shop and asking around is a good idea.

Your statements about the hitch are unclear. What you appear to have been told by an RV shop seems to contradict the assertion you have an Equal-i-zer weight distributing hitch. Who set up this hitch? You have been given the link to Equal-i-zer's website—look at the product and see if what you have matches what you see. If the hitch is not set up right, that could cause problems. The Equal-i-zer people will help you with questions about their hitch and how to set it up. WD hitches are frequently set up wrong and many of us have decided to figure it out and do it right. It takes some time to master, but then you know you've got it right.

Keep at it and eventually you'll be giving people advice on the Forum.

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Old 07-23-2010, 10:59 AM   #17
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First, welcome to the forums, lots of info here.
Your truck is not the problem. 1500HD is the same as a 2500 chevy, both have a 8600# gvw.(2500HD has 9200# or 9600# can't remember which).
You have a 6 ltr. 300 hp engine with a 4l80 trans and 4.10 gears.
I feel the problem is your hitch set up. Get the trailer level by using the weight distribution bars and use some type of sway control. As stated before tire pressure is very important. Trailer tires should be at max. and the tv tires should be at or near max.
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Old 07-23-2010, 01:47 PM   #18
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Welcome to the forums. It sounds like you have good advise so far so I will add only a little. First, just because the hitch you got from the previous owner was set up for his/her rig doesn't by any means make it correctly set up for your truck...unless you got the truck with the trailer or the previous owner had the exact same truck you have. Second, if the trailer shop says you need additional bars, you don't have and Equal-i-zer brand hitch because the bars can't be missed and they provide both sway control and weight distribution (equalization). Photos and actual CAT scale weights would be helpful in making suggestions beyond what you have already received.

Good luck and let us know more details...and enjoy your future camping trips. It's a great way to see the country and to just get away from it all.
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Old 07-24-2010, 07:57 PM   #19
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Gosh - if a 1500HD is the same as a 2500, then what fools are all the folks who bought 2500s.

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Old 07-24-2010, 08:22 PM   #20
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From reading the first post it seems to me he did not have bars on his hitch stating he needed them for both side of the hitch receiver.So he was just hooked up without W/D bars.Am I reading this right?
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