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Old 11-16-2020, 06:07 AM   #1
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My Combination is Safe and I Know It

Many people who visit or frequent this site want to know if the combination they are using or contemplating is going to tow well under normal conditions and also be safe in an emergency. Many owners don't know that there is a difference. Some intuitively suspect there is a difference but don't understand it.

Perhaps the worst situation are those who have a combination that tows like a dream under normal conditions, it is comfortable, the handling is firm, and steering is responsive. If they have to make a modest dodge or swerve, the vehicle does so confidently and the trailer tracks marvelously. The engine is powerful, the brakes are large and strong and the vehicle never heats up. The only hint of an issue is that the trailer does let it presence be known, it pulls back just a bit on the vehicle from time to time. All this leads them to believe their combination is safe and stable, when in reality the trailer is too large and heavy for the vehicle and the system can slip out of control in the rare case the trailer momentarily is not tracking well with the vehicle, perhaps in a panic swerve, high winds, sharp defending corner or some combination.

So this thread is to ask, how do owners know with reasonable certainty their combination is safe and will inherently return to normal should a situation occurs where the trailer gets far out of track. As a point of interest, setup can make a big difference in how the combination handles and feels. good setup will make it easy for the combination to move like a integrated unit in step and in track. A poor setup will not only dramatically increase the frequency the combination gets out of track and out of kilter, it can also make an otherwise stable combination unstable. But with very few exceptions, setup cannot make a combination with a too large trailer stable when it inherently is not even though it can reduce the opportunity for an unstable event to occur.
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Old 11-16-2020, 06:35 AM   #2
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"So this thread is to ask, how do owners know with reasonable certainty their combination is safe and will inherently return to normal should a situation occurs where the trailer gets far out of track."

Clipped from post #1.

Brian,

An interesting question and I'm sure comments from all towing combo camps will answer.

I think this is a multi faceted challenge and I'll skip the list and get to the punch line.

10 years of ownership, about 5 trips / year, local to SC, NC, and VA only so far therefore I don't qualify myself as a coast to coast full timer.

In that description I have not had the rig get squirrely at all. It allows for comfortable driving.

And for those that know the route from SC to Virginia Highland Haven you're going up and down I-77 into the mountains and that is a wind warning, about a 7% grade and then a pretty curvy run into VAHH. The rig handles it calmly and gets the job done. Also we go to a NC SP that the last the last 30 minutes is a paved two lane improved cow path as it curves around hills, streams etc.

What I can almost see from your post is a driving test with your fully loaded setup and standards for uniform evaluation. A drivers test approach that includes YOUR combo.

I do increase my following distance while towing, extended mirrors for better rear visibility, it's not a race, scan for hazards and other drivers etc.

For the record, 2007 30' Classic Ltd Slide Out, 2005 Dodge Ram 2500 5.9L Cummins QCSB 6 speed, Equal-I-Zer, Dexter disc brakes. Gear to enjoy my camping days and trying to Be Prepared tool wise.

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Old 11-16-2020, 07:11 AM   #3
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My thoughts on this issue are fairly simple. I don't have the time, resources, or knowledge to test out various towing combinations myself. Therefore, I rely on testing and published information that are provided by the manufacturers of tow vehicles, trailers, hitches, etc. I think it's safe to argue that the information provided by manufacturers is provided because most people can't test various rigs, and they are looking for something to help them make an informed decision. I believe that the responsibility to pick a safe combination falls on the buyer, and that learning about all the variables is important. Many people tend to focus entirely on maximum towing capacity, which is only one small part of the equation.

My answer to the original question is that I consider all the published information and I pick a combination of vehicles and equipment that falls within the manufacturer's recommendations and limits. Do I know for a fact that this combination is safe with absolute certainty? No I don't. However, it's the best decision that I can make with the information that I have available to me. I feel confident that if I remain within the published limits for my equipment, then I have the best chance for a safe combination.
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Old 11-16-2020, 08:09 AM   #4
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Regarding "safe" I was interested to see that the accident rate for RV including travel trailers is actually markedly lower overall than for passenger vehicles. Probably obvious that there are a lot of factors involved in that like: average age of drivers, credit scores, probability of driving impaired, likely licensed, etc. Interesting nonetheless and helps explain why insurance rates are not affected on tow vehicle coverage.
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Old 11-16-2020, 08:57 AM   #5
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The only thing I can offer having towed with vehicles ranging from an F-150 to an Audi Q7 to a Ram 2500 and using a variety of hitches from an Equalizer to PPP types is that every combination feels different.
The “best feeling” of the bunch was the 2500 with the PPP type hitch. You can still feel what is happening but the experience is smoother and less tiring.
My only emergency experience, an unexpected need to dodge a vehicle at 50 plus mph on an off camber curve was a purely reflexive yank on the steering wheel resulting in the truck and trailer doing exactly what I told it to do with no drama.
I was amazed that we survived that and hope never to have to experience anything like it again.
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Old 11-16-2020, 09:27 AM   #6
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"But with very few exceptions, setup cannot make a combination with a too large trailer stable when it inherently is not even though it can reduce the opportunity for an unstable event to occur."
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Agreed!

Also, I'm 65, In my experience towing 45 years or so, both Commercially (CA class A) and privately I have observed towing with most longer wheel base vehicles helps stability in quick/emergency (I've had a couple) lane changes and stopping. Semi's not withstanding, We are talking passenger type vehicles pick-up's, cars and vans, etc.

So IMO, the same tow weight rated but different wheel to wheel length vehicles will react to an emergency very differently. Longer is better for controlling a bad situation.

I also agree with DENNIS C. The best info you can get is from the manufacturer of said vehicles. Practical experience combined with manufacturers rating would be my only way to guide my choice of TV and trailer combo. I don't have access to and would not take my trailer or TV to a test track.

Don't forget the importance of proper loading and weight distribution before you hook up. That can make a good set up, really bad in a hurry.

Don't let the tail wag the dog!

-Dennis
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Old 11-16-2020, 10:23 AM   #7
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Hi

What you really are talking about is the stability of the "control loop" that runs from your brain to the TV / Trailer combo. There are wonderful measures of a control loop (phase margin / gain peaking ). That's not particularly easy to measure in this case. You simply don't have the test gear ...

Indeed folks that *do* have the test gear have measured this stuff. They pretty much all show that as you go faster, phase margin decreases. ( = you get less stable ). Somehow that does not come as a surprise. They also show that loading the trailer high ( = weight high) or back ( weight in the rear) does the same sort of thing. If that comes as a surprise, you haven't been reading many threads

Since nobody ever loads their trailer like I do mine, there is no way to look at what I can (or can't ) do and *assume* that their trailer will work the same way. Sorry about that

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Old 11-16-2020, 10:28 AM   #8
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Is it safe ?

All interesting and good points. One possible add to this is driver attention to surroundings, technique and speed which can quickly undo a safe setup. Not to mention the Suprise knucklehead drivers around you.

Starting with a tow vehicle and in consideration of above many others on forum have gone from a 150/1500 to 250/2500. For us, this was the best added insurance even though on paper, the lesser was capable and mostly comfortable using Eas-lift WD with 1000lb bars on 25ft Intl 6300 if max / water loaded.

Over 6yrs of towing original combo even higher elevations (and rpms) without issue, with exception of grades/manual downshifting quick stops/maneuvers was enough to always sense a “not quite enough / anxious feeling”. This Stress being real or imagined weighs on the mind.
Even though on paper we were in and below spec. Most times traveling with minimal tank water depending elevations keepIng light.

From this “‘sense”, finally going to the side of “overkill” up to a 2020 2500 diesel, latest safely features and In our case rated to pull 3x our trailer and 2x previous payloads.

Wife always now asking to tow because she too can feel this added confidence even from the passenger seat.

The more you tow, the more you know.

Only danger left is no more excuses moving up to a longer AS!
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Old 11-16-2020, 11:05 AM   #9
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Great question ... how do I know?

First of all until we pick-up our Internation 25 I had only towed a 16' T@B with a Hummer H3 so basically had little experience. Since I am a bit obsessive with the "need to know" mindset I began the long and indepth process of research. I began with hundreds of hours of YouTube watching of Airstream owners (their good, their bad, thir ugly). Researched Tow Vehicles and of course discovered the there is a difference between the sales person who tells you what you what to hear and the vehicle specifications of the manufacturer. I also included my auto mechanic of over 20 year who is a caravan owner. I also ran the numbers before I purchased our tow vehicle to ensure it married to our Airstream (this is before we picked it up). I further researched the WD/sway control systems - settled on the Reese dual cam. Our truck weighs more than our trailer. Our truck has the complete tow package, off road and is classified as an F-150HD. We run with K02 10 ply tires and GY Endurance on the AS. All this then required the "test". Our major test was 5 day 400 miles driving in the Canadian Rockies, boondocking. We have since add several thousand miles of Freeway, winding country roads, backwood forestry logging roads. Been in Rain slick and awful crosswinds. We never exceed the recommended 65 miles an hour speed and I have been trained in defensive driving. So how do I know - planning, research and experience. Oh yes, I don't take risks ... call it 75 years is a great teacher.
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Old 11-16-2020, 12:19 PM   #10
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Even the good combos can be defeated. Had a fellow elderly WBCCI member who had a van/Hensley combo who I quickly assessed (after riding with him to dinner), had passed the time where he should have retired from towing. He suffered from a, lead foot, inattention, and other issues. It all caught up with him on a curve where he finally lost it and put his Airstream and van on its side. Luckly both he and his wife were not seriously injured but he never towed again.

Obviously I have been careful with a good sized tow vehicle pulling my heavy Airstream along with good hitch. I feel with over 17 years with the same trailer, tow vehicle, and hitch that I made a good decision based on the many miles I have towed.

My father taught me many years ago that accident avoidance is one of the most important factors in driving. That means paying attention to driving and the environment I am driving in. I've never forgotten that when hitched up, I am in control of my speed, aware of traffic around me, adjust my following distances, and awareness of the outside factors that can have a negative impact on my control of my tow combo. I've also avoided when possible getting into situations that may be clearly risky. The best thing you can do is control your speed which in turn improves your reaction time when situations occur.

Every tow combo has a breaking point where you can cross the line in it's ability to provide safe operation. Unfortunately we don't have the luxury to know or test to find that line. So to me, the best I can do is to stay aware, understand that my tow vehicle handles differently when towing, to keep my speed to a level where I have recovery time, and maintain safe distances between myself and vehicles in front of me.

Jack
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Old 11-16-2020, 01:18 PM   #11
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My Combination is Safe and I Know It

I am happy for you. Ultimate confidence like this will give you peace of mind and many nights of good sleep.
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Old 11-16-2020, 01:40 PM   #12
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Regardless of the setup and combination of trailer and tow vehicle, you'll never know exactly how safe it is until you experience the close call instead of the wreck.

Over 40 years of trailering and we've seen it all. A tornado all around us, blowouts (yeah, even when you check your tires you can hit something on the road that causes havoc), out of control neighboring drivers, a deer suddenly in the road way. And, that's when you really know if it is OK or not.

Worst ever was towing a slightly too heavy trailer with a Ford Explorer over a mountain pass with significant trees and drop-offs at dusk after a snow storm. Everything was calm on the 2 lane road and we were just creeping along until we hit black ice. Then the trailer took over and we were everywhere, saw the highlights of a huge semi coming toward us up close and we thought we were goners. But, we missed the semi, slid over to the other side of the road and managed to stop before we hit anything or fell off the edge of of the road.

And, that was the last time we towed a "slightly overweight" trailer. Shortly there after we invested in a bigger, heavier truck. Haven't regretted it at all!
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Old 11-16-2020, 01:51 PM   #13
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When operating a combination there are many considerations:

1) Sizing and weight capacities of the combination.
2) How the load/cargo is distributed in the trailer and tow vehicle.
3) Weight distribution hitch to unload the rear axle and move weight over the steering axle.
4) Mechanically sound condition of the tow vehicle including, brakes, suspension, tires, drivetrain and engine should be in good condition.
5) Mechanically sound condition of the trailer including tires, brakes and suspension.
6) Driver has the capability to tow in a safe manner, and is aware of what is going on while towing free from distractions.
7) Trip planning to avoid high speed roadways, avoid heavy traffic areas and opt for secondary highways with lower speed limits. (I shoot for 65mph as a maximum speed).

There may be more to add to this list.

When I see the Youtube videos of out of control swaying resulting in roll overs. I suspect that some of the points listed above would have been missed.
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Old 11-16-2020, 02:25 PM   #14
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I asked pretty much the same question when any of our new or out-of-state customers would say how dangerous driving was during our WNY Winters. It's only really dangerous if you don't know your vehicles limits and how it will react in an abrupt maneuver.
Find an unplowed lot and test it.

Bob
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Old 11-16-2020, 02:59 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ROBERT CROSS View Post
I asked pretty much the same question when any of our new or out-of-state customers would say how dangerous driving was during our WNY Winters. It's only really dangerous if you don't know your vehicles limits and how it will react in an abrupt maneuver.
Find an unplowed lot and test it.

Bob
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That is perfect advice for any vehicle. I always go out and play in the snow as soon as I can in any new vehicle.
Not sure it is the best advice with a trailer hooked up though.
This is one reason we have so many arguments about tow vehicles. Testing is likely to be very expensive!
I do love driving in the snow though... wicked fun!
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Old 11-16-2020, 04:23 PM   #16
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I just am not sure why this thread has value...seems like the answer is the definition of pornography. Besides, on this Forum everyone swears by what they have.

Larry
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Old 11-16-2020, 05:36 PM   #17
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I just am not sure why this thread has value...seems like the answer is the definition of pornography. Besides, on this Forum everyone swears by what they have.

Larry
I see it as an attempt to unravel more of the myth surrounding towing.
Not everyone will agree but I don’t see it as harmful.
So much towing advice is predicated upon incredibly biased advice.
This thread simply points out the obvious rationalization happening...
Is there harm in that?
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Old 11-16-2020, 05:45 PM   #18
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Is it getting some folks to review their setup and maybe ponder the murky side of these questions.

I think we all know this is a hot button topic.
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Old 11-16-2020, 05:51 PM   #19
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If it wasn't for this thread, I would be blissfully ignorant and happy with my setup

Now I am going to get a WDH to level things out.
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Old 11-16-2020, 05:57 PM   #20
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I do love driving in the snow though... wicked fun!
Even more fun with the 4matic in snomode.

No nothing so drastic with "Cloudsplitter", although I have done some pretty aggressive 58mph lane changes and stops.(without the copilot)

Bob
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