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Old 05-18-2007, 06:57 PM   #41
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Again, what was the weather like at the time of the accident? High crosswinds? Mechanical causes, unless severe and dramatic, just seem unlikely. I believe that an imbalance - i.e. - too light of a tongue load - would have been obvious early on - especially for someone with towing experience. On the other hand, with due respect for "severe and dramatic," is it possible that the hitch failed?
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Old 05-18-2007, 07:00 PM   #42
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When you think about going up a slope, it might be possible for a properly loaded trailer to suddenly go unstable on a particular grade.

Imagine the slope increasing slowly and steadily. At zero slope, maybe 12% of the weight is on the tongue. As the slope increases, the front of the trailer slowly becomes higher than the rear. The weight pushing down on the tongue begins to drop. At some very specific slope, the weight pushing down on the tongue will eventually change to zero, while the weight pulling back (and down to some extent I guess) on the hitch would rise to a very high level. In other words, the forces would change magnitude and direction in a whole bunch of unpredictable ways.

I have no idea what that specific slope would be, and it would certainly be different for every tralier/hitch/tow vehicle combination. And every rig combination must also have a particular weight balance at which it becomes dangerously unstable. So it's possible that the grade might have steepened up at that exact spot by an infinitessimally small amount, just reaching the limit of the stability of the rig. Or, some other small change in force (shifting water, road surface change, etc.) tipped an already marginally stable rig into sudden instability.

If my theory is correct, two very similar rigs, loaded in the same way, climbing at exactly the same speed, ought to both lose stability at more or less the same place on the climb. On the other hand, my theory could be completely worthless.

Someone with some road vehicle dynamics analysis experience would have to weigh in here. I can do ok with aerospace vehicles, but trailers are well beyond my training.
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Old 05-18-2007, 08:40 PM   #43
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My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your parents. Regardless of the cause, and yes we would all like to know why, it was and will be very traumatic for all of you. All of us are here for you. Keep us posted and we'll keep thinking good thoughts for all of you.

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Old 05-18-2007, 10:58 PM   #44
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Dear LittleRadio,
I was absolutely horrified to read your account of your parent's accident.

...and so relieved to finally read your post, much further along, of their release from the hospital and stay with family. Thank you for that.

Best wished to your folks,
-jd.
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Old 05-18-2007, 11:13 PM   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AgZep
When you think about going up a slope, it might be possible for a properly loaded trailer to suddenly go unstable on a particular grade.

Imagine the slope increasing slowly and steadily. At zero slope, maybe 12% of the weight is on the tongue. As the slope increases, the front of the trailer slowly becomes higher than the rear. The weight pushing down on the tongue begins to drop. At some very specific slope, the weight pushing down on the tongue will eventually change to zero, while the weight pulling back (and down to some extent I guess) on the hitch would rise to a very high level. In other words, the forces would change magnitude and direction in a whole bunch of unpredictable ways.

I have no idea what that specific slope would be, and it would certainly be different for every tralier/hitch/tow vehicle combination. And every rig combination must also have a particular weight balance at which it becomes dangerously unstable. So it's possible that the grade might have steepened up at that exact spot by an infinitessimally small amount, just reaching the limit of the stability of the rig. Or, some other small change in force (shifting water, road surface change, etc.) tipped an already marginally stable rig into sudden instability.

If my theory is correct, two very similar rigs, loaded in the same way, climbing at exactly the same speed, ought to both lose stability at more or less the same place on the climb. On the other hand, my theory could be completely worthless.

Someone with some road vehicle dynamics analysis experience would have to weigh in here. I can do ok with aerospace vehicles, but trailers are well beyond my training.
I think you are on to part of the equation. What weight distrubution bars are being used? I believe even the 750 lbs. bars could significantly transfer enough tow vehicle rear axle weight forward to the front axle leaveing the rear axle lightly loaded.
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Old 05-18-2007, 11:24 PM   #46
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Speedy recoevery to your parents! I know how being upside down in a truck feels. I was lucky only bruses and pulled muscles. I was wearing my seatbelt and airbag did not activate.

The recall was for the 06's with disc brakes. Brake Caliper bolts were failing.
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Old 05-18-2007, 11:28 PM   #47
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I am so very sorry to hear of your parents accident. I am glad that they are getting better.
On the cause of the accident.
In my opinion:
In your first post, post #1 you too experienced this sudden violent fishtailing on a slight up grade. I presume you were towing the trailer with a vehicle other than the one that your father was driving at the time of the accident.
You went on to say that your father had replaced a tire that had worn out. Your father asserted that the axles/wheels had caused this and that the brakes were not working correctly as the stopping distances were poor?

In your second post, post #5, you described what you saw in reguards to the wrecked vehicles, tires still inflated and didn't show misalignment wear. You elaborated on your fathers tow vehicle, but not the tow vehicle you were driving when your episode occured.

In your 7th post, post #22, the brake magnets had to be replaced because they were shot. I assume you mean that they were worn down to the windings (turns of wire in the electromagnetic coils).

1. What wrecked the one tire that your father had to replace? How was it wrecked? Worn on the sholders/ One sholder? In the middle? Was it cupped?
2. Why was the stopping distance poor and inconsistent?
3. Why did the did the brake electromagnets require replacment so soon?
4. Did they have to replace the shoes when they replaced the electromagnets?
5. Are the inside of the Brake drums discolored?

I believe what you are looking for in an intermittent problem. And I believe it is in the brakes.
Here is why I believe it is in the brakes.
I believe that somewhere in the brake wiring system there is a place that was feeding a low current from the +12 VDC battery line to the brake wire. Not full current by any means but a low current just the same. This would explain the poor stopping distances. By the brakes being on most of the time, they were hot and past fade or very near fade.
Brakes wear at different rates, that is why no two wheels require the same adjusting when you adjust the brakes.
When your father took the trailer back (post #1) after having replaced the tire the only good brake had destroyed this would explain the inconsistant braking and the destroyed tire.
As for both the instability occurancies, I believe that the one good brake caused them both. Something was causing the 12VDC feed to increase when going up hill. There was probally a slight bump in the road as well.

Where my spare tire is located it is very close to where the cord that connects to the tow vehicle goes into the body.

If this is where your spare tire is also located, in the front underneath between the frame runners where the tow vehicle cord goes in to the body, this could be what is causing the problem or a worn TV cable. Ever pull off forgetting to unplug the cable from the two vehicle?
It could also be something rolling around where the brake wires run causing the +12 VDC wire to be pressed, in varying pressures against the Blue brake wire.

I would inspect every inch of the tow vehicle cable for fraying, burning and or chaffing.
Based on what you have given us, I believe this to be the most likely culprit.
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Old 05-18-2007, 11:29 PM   #48
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Wow! But Airstream may not have any "real" liability. The axle manufacturer does. They come axle and hub already assembled.
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Old 05-19-2007, 12:29 AM   #49
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Little Radio,

From what you describe I think there was clearly more than one factor involved. Don't be too quick to blame just the trailer. While there might have been something about the trailer that contributed or precipitated the uncontrollable sway or fishtailing there might likewise have been some inherent feature of the tow vehicle, including yours, that also contributed to the loss of control. An inherent feature isn't necessarily a defect or defective design. Taken individually a feature can seem like a good thing, but certain combinations might result in undesirable handling.

For instance your Dad's Dodge 2500 when reviewed by Truckin magazine reported, "With the trailer in tow, the quicker steering that the testers liked around town promptly became a disadvantage, causing busy steering and making over-corrections all too easy."

Also, your description of the accident reminded me of a time when I had an accident driving a police car equipped with a limited slip differential. The department went with the LSD thinking it would help with traction in snowy conditions, but it had an adverse effect on dry pavement during emergency runs. Different types of of LSD produce different adverse effects on dry pavement. LSD is mainly for use off-road. Some on-road bad effects are sway and fishtailing (what happened to me).

Is you truck and your fathers truck both newer Dodge 2500 and 3500 models? Do both have LSD's? I'd look for what the two trucks have in common with each other, other than just that the fishtailing occurred with the Airstream in tow.

It's been my experience from having investigated hundreds of accidents that they most often result from a combination of factors, not just one defect or problem.
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Old 05-19-2007, 01:16 AM   #50
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AS or any company that sells a product is liable for the entire product. If their is a failure of a component that they bought from a vendor they are still responsible. The in turn can go back to the vendor and recoup damages but AS....or Ford...or Chevy are responsible for the WHOLE PRODUCT. Check the laws.
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Old 05-19-2007, 05:05 AM   #51
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I discounted the tow vehicle because the problem occured with two different tow vehicles. The common denominators seemed to be a slight upgrade, acceleration and I'll bet a few unnoticed bumps in the road. Did you notice derated braking (poor brake performance) with your tow vehicle as well?
Rather than trying to access blame (point the finger), first try and figure what was causing the problem (be purely academic), then armed with that knowledge take the appropriate action.

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Old 05-19-2007, 06:38 AM   #52
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I missed LittleRadio's response in thread #8 where he stated that it was not windy. If his information is accurate (---and I'm only questioning his source - not his reporting) we can certainly put that cause aside - but the effect of a sudden gust of wind cannot be ignored as others have suggested. Most all of the major bridges around the world have high wind warning signs - or procedures to shut the bridge down in the event high winds are present. There's a reason for these precautions and, in some instances the warnings are very specific to high-profile vehicles and RVs.
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Old 05-19-2007, 08:13 AM   #53
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Years ago I was hauling slab wood from a sawmill on a utility traler. I had moved many loads without problems. The loads were put on the trailer with a lift truck. One time they had a longer then usual load and it loaded heavy to the rear. On the way home, on a back sideroad going up a slight grade, the trailer started violently swaying. Lucky for me it wasn't tied on so it dumped into the ditch. I don't know if this helps with this story, but I always keep my trailer loaded heavy on the front now.
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Old 05-19-2007, 10:40 AM   #54
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Quote:
Originally Posted by overlander63
If everything else is tight, that is about the only thing that makes any sense. Is there any way you can weigh the tongue? It may be possible the weight is under what it is supposed to be, and that coupled with low fresh water in the front, and 75% full holding tanks, and a transverse dip or hump in the road to get everything sloshing, could have all combined to cause the problem. Kind of like links in a chain, if any one of them isn't quite identical, no issue, but that one in a thousand getting together can and often does cause disaster.
Here is a scenario, purely a "just suppose", all weight figures are pulled out of the air:
The trailer is supposed to have a tongue weight of 600 pounds, but really only has a tongue weight of 470.
The propane tanks are almost empty, leaving a tongue weight of 410.
Fresh water level is at 15%, or 8 gallons.
Grey water is at 60%, or 25 gallons.
Black water is at 75%, or 30 gallons.
water weighs roughly 8 pounds per gallon, you have a deficit of 42 gallons of fresh water in the front, further reducing the tongue weight by 40% of 336 pounds, or 134 pounds, leaving tongue weight of 336 pounds. While towing, the trailer is usually nose down a couple of degrees, unless ascending a grade, then it goes slightly nose up, causing even more weight from the water tanks to shift to the rear, say another 75 pounds of tongue weight, leaving a tongue weight of 261 pounds. 99 times out of a hundred, when this happens, nothing happens, but then maybe you hit a slight dip on the right side of the road, just when you began the ascent, causing the water to slosh right, then left, increasing the oscillation and combining with the lowered tongue weight to cause disastrous sway which would feed on itself until loss of control was inevitable.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this dataless hypothesis, and you never know, some of it may be part of what happened.
Terry
Your thoughts seem to me to be the better explanations of what might have happened.
Added to that, was the hiway rutted at all? highways get ruts in them from heavy trucks, sometimes you can see them and sometimes you cannot, the ruts are usually a different width from passenger cars and pickups which contributes to a rolling motion side to side or rocking. the tires of cars and trucks tend to follow the ruts but since they are different widths sometimes they ride in the hollows and sometimes they are on and off the ridges between the ruts. The TV may have been trying to stay in one set of tracks, the trailer may have been trying to stay in another track. A slight driver correction turning either way when the trailer is trying to go the other way can cause problems, sometimes slight, sometimes severe. Or dropping off the side of the pavement while the load on the tongue is lightened can and will cause violent sway.
Im sure there were several factors.

But the main thing the parents lived to travel another day.
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Old 05-19-2007, 03:09 PM   #55
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hi little radio...

good to read your folks survived.

2 observations...

1. i notice you wrote the brakes shoes/magnets had already been replaced once on a barely used 2005?

that seems odd in itself, why? were they worn out or dragging?

one brake engaged or stuck or intermittently grabbing could trigger instability.

2. did ANYONE from the dealer or j/c service center actually TOW/DRIVE the rig?

seems IF there were regular problems or a specific issue your father felt while towing, a technician could reproduce it out on the roadways...

please let us know the final analysis...

cheers
2air'
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Old 05-19-2007, 04:08 PM   #56
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I'm thinking brakes, too

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2airishuman
hi little radio...

good to read your folks survived.

2 observations...

1. i notice you wrote the brakes shoes/magnets had already been replaced once on a barely used 2005?

that seems odd in itself, why? were they worn out or dragging?

one brake engaged or stuck or intermittently grabbing could trigger instability.

2. did ANYONE from the dealer or j/c service center actually TOW/DRIVE the rig?

seems IF there were regular problems or a specific issue your father felt while towing, a technician could reproduce it out on the roadways...

please let us know the final analysis...

cheers
2air'

I'm inclined to agree with this as well. If the brakes on an axle were to grab fully and unexpectedly, especially if it were to happen on just either the curbside or the streetside, it would seem to me that it would create an instant instability situation. Thing is, what would cause a voltage increase to a single axle or wheel. I'm just throwing this out there, but is there any way possible that the breakaway switch could be activating intermittently, even though it hasn't had the pin pulled?
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Old 05-19-2007, 09:02 PM   #57
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Gasp! So glad they are well on the way to recovery. AS mentioned before, if the other event happened with another TV then the TV is probably not an issue, but a catastrophic failure in the TV transmission occured..the results would be similar. I had a standard trans failure in a GM pickup...results..a locked right rear wheel...and a wild ride which spun the vehicle around at seventy MPH on the Maine turnpike. I was supposed to pick up a trailer the following day...which would not have been pretty.

How could this relate? Just like tounge weight, a locked wheel either on the TV or the Trailer could raise havoc.

Well, the important thing is your folks are doing better. LEt us know if the insurance investigators can figure it out.

Best of luck
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Old 05-20-2007, 02:19 AM   #58
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Yeeesh! Glad to hear they are doing better.
This thread has been a good object lesson for me. My TT is a 20' Avion (3300 GVW) and TV is a F250 HD Supercab Longbed Powerstroke.
In other words, I get cocky because my TV is as long at the trailer and the Engine block itself is a third of the wieght of the trailer. So what can possibly go wrong? Now I know.

Does your Dad do his own maintanance on the bearings? or does a shop do them?

Ive seen shops do some pretty goofy things, like overtightening the spindle nut, or using locktight on both the inner and outer bearings. When they get hot, things expand and theres no where for things to go and the bearing siezes. Once they cool down everything looks normal again.
Might be interesting to check the bearings and spindles for any scoring or flat spots.

Did the tire shop do anything goofy when they replaced that one tire?
I bought a Volvo a few years back that had 60 series tires on the drivers side and 65s on the passengers side. It took me a couple of months to notice it, but man, it would eat up those left hand turns.

Once again, glad to hear theyre recovering.
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Old 05-20-2007, 07:21 AM   #59
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How old is the hitch set up? Do they still offer a unit with a friction bar? Has the hitch been checked for damage or wear?
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Old 05-20-2007, 09:42 AM   #60
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Accident

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The Airstream web site lists the Empty Weights, Max Recommended Weights and Tongue Weights for many years, however it is incomplete as it only goes to 2003.
The tongue weight for a 2003 31 foot Classic is listed as 700 lbs.
That being the case, there would have to be approximately 600 lbs or better shifting around to cause the tongue to go light.

If the three water tanks load shifting around was a factor there would have been other accidents of this nature.

I feel the warning flags are the Brake problems mentioned in your post #1.
You are looking for a source of 12VDC to have gotten to the brake circuit.
Open every linear inch of the wiring that has the brake wiring in it and inspect it carefully from opening the 7 pin connector to the backing plates.
Has the plug from the trailer to the tow vehicle ever been changed, repaired of damaged?
You are not looking for damage that results in when a 12 VDC wire touches ground (Arcing, severed wires with copper balling at the point of cut, copper balls melted into the insulation etc) but a lesser amount of damage such as some black smoke residue on the colored insulation because the 12 VDC wire did not short, it merely powered the braking system.

Call your dads insurance company and demand to speak to the agent and at best the investigator. If you get to the investigator, tell him of the brake problems, do not embellish of hold a friendly chat. Just tell him what you wrote here.

“I too experienced sudden and violent fishtailing as I was ascending a 4-5% grade in Tennessee. My tow vehicle's sheer heft and size kept me from having the rear kicked out, but I wrestled with the trailer across 2 full lanes of highway, futilely dragging the trailer brakes as I accelerated. I only recovered after I applied my tow vehicle's brakes.”

“After repeatedly taking his trailer to the selling dealer to fix a laundry list of items which included tire alignment and brake issues, he finally made an appointment and took it to JacksonCenter. He specifically told the technicians that he was sure that the axles and/or wheels were out of alignment, and that the brakes were not working correctly. He told them that he had replaced a wheel because of severe wear as evidence of his first assertion, and that stopping distances were poor and inconsistent as evidence of his second concern.”

Or better yet if you have retained a lawyer, give him this information.
Remember, the stabilization systems being pushed today as an attempt to make cars safer utilizes the braking system, specifically the ABS brake system. They achieve the re-stabilization by applying varying brake pressure to individual wheels to achieve the desired results.
Nisson even uses the ABS system to achieve the four wheel limited slip differential effect on their four wheel drive vehicles instead of two limited slip differentials.

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