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Old 05-09-2003, 12:53 PM   #1
 
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Post Tow vehicle on fire

I've just read a thread on the RV Forum, that should be mandatory reading for anybody towing a trailer.

If you didn't know that before, it is not a smart idea to tow a trailer with a vehicle not rated for the load.


You may want to check all that by yourself at Tow vehicle started on fire WHILE DRIVING

or just read my summary:

"posted by L.D. Shreveport, Louisiana:

<.... in 1977. We were pulling a 27 foot travel trailer with a vehicle that was not properly matched to the trailer. The weather was hot,....
< I began to see small puffs of smoke on occasion and when I pulled to the side of the road to check under the hood, the car began burning really well. ..... The car was three months old and a total loss.

< The fire report showed the cause of the fire was the direct result of pulling a trailer with a vehicle not rated for such loads. The insurance company paid the claim and no one was injured. >

Now, of course, some people are saying: "Who cares, that's what insurance is for......". The fact that people's lives were endangered will never cross their mind. Think about that happening, let's say in the Baltimore tunnel ?......

I kept the first post for last, it really makes the point:

summary:


posted by Darrell110 from Milwaukee, WI:

< On a hot August day in 2001, while driving back home with my 1998 Chevy van, pulling a Jayco 21c, I noticed a great deal of white smoke in my side mirrors.....

< I pulled over.....by the time I got around to the back of the trailer, my wife, 2 kids and 2 dogs were exiting the van.... I noticed flames under the hood....... All I could think to do was unhitch the trailer.....we pushed the trailer back about 15 feet - just dragging the jack on the pavement.

< What caused the fire? We discovered a trail of transmition fluid on the road. All I can think is that a line broke, spraying fluid on the engine, catching it on fire.

< We lost all of the gear in the van, it just went up in flames so fast! >

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Old 05-09-2003, 02:00 PM   #2
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Interesting picture. Looks like it was a full sized GM conversion van which is built on the 1500 chasis. Conversions weigh more than their standard passenger van counterpart. The passenger vans are only rated to tow 6,600 lbs. with the towing package and the older optional 5.7 or Vortec 5300 in the new vans. I wonder what this guy was pulling?

I'm doing an upgrade to my van because I see a bigger A/S in my future. Our new GMC Savana passenger van on order will have the Vortec 6000 engine 4.10 rear end, and an external transmission cooler. It will be rated to tow 9,900 lbs which should take care of my future Airstream lust.

I'm hoping it will come in before the Midwest Forum Rally. I've got the current van for sale so it could be gone at anytime.

Jack
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Old 05-09-2003, 03:37 PM   #3
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locking trans dipstick

hi all,

general motors switched to a locking transmission dip stick about 12 years ago.

it prevents engine fires by not allowing an overheated tranny to "burp" fluid onto the exhaust manifold.

all newer models have it.

if you are towing with a g.m. product from or before '88 it may be in your best interest to change to a locking dipstick.

they are easy to spot, they are red with "trans fluid" written on them. instead of the old "ring" style.

i agree, a good fire extingisher is a towing must have item!

john
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Old 05-09-2003, 05:33 PM   #4
 
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We lost the transmission on our van 6 years ago. I remember the smoke filling the cabin. We were less than a mile from the interstate exit, and Mike wanted to go on. I had him stop, and stop right now.
I am not a mechanic, he had been. But, even though I am very "thrifty" (OK, I'm real cheap), I chose to pay to have the van & trailer towed from the interstate, instead of taking the risk of a possible fire. I never regretted it. Even less after seeing these pix. (we were carrying about everything of value we own in there. The van was insured, not the cargo)

Quote:
I agree, a good fire extingisher is a towing must have item!
I suppose you must have read the original thread, page 3.
For those who did not, or missed my post on why it's a must to make sure your fire extinguisher works , please read it now.

I think it's something worth repeating often.
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Old 05-09-2003, 07:05 PM   #5
 
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update:
Quote:
general motors switched to a locking transmission dip stick about 12 years ago.
I just checked with the "boss": our 1990 van does not have a locking dipstick.
I take it, your about 12 years ago is about right. Maybe 1988 on some vehicles only?
or maybe you forgot we are in 2003 ? 12 years ago was in 1991 ? or something like that.
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Old 05-09-2003, 07:19 PM   #6
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maybe

chantal

i had a '88 k1500 4x4, a new dipstick showed up in the mail around '91.

at least i didn't need to track one down!

if the van is retired from towing i wouldn't worry about it.

there are millons of chevys running around without a locking dipstick.

my guess is that it was for the 700r4 trannys that they had quite a problem with.

mine preformed flawlessly for 250k.

just lucky i guess!

john
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Old 05-09-2003, 07:22 PM   #7
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reread

your signature,

your van having a big block would have a 4l80 tranny (old turbo 400).

that could be why you never had it updated. no need.

john
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Old 05-09-2003, 08:00 PM   #8
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A fire extingusher should be a required item in the tow v.
However; you need to know how to use one. As a former fireman I know most folks have no clue on how to put out a fire and run out of agent by just spraying the agent over the real fire.

Always aim the agent at the "base" of the flame and not at the flames.

Garry
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Old 05-09-2003, 11:31 PM   #9
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Re: reread

Quote:
Originally posted by john hd
your signature,

your van having a big block would have a 4l80 tranny (old turbo 400).

that could be why you never had it updated. no need.

john
My 88 Big Block Burb with TH400 has the locking. My 75 Jimmy doesn't. Never been a problem but I think I just may go hunt one down.
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Old 05-09-2003, 11:37 PM   #10
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Reading the first post,

What caused the fire? We discovered a trail of transmition fluid on the road. All I can think is that a line broke, spraying fluid on the engine, catching it on fire.

I don't see a link between overloaded tow vehicle and the fire. Couldn't have this happened with any vehicle?

Secondly,
The fire report showed the cause of the fire was the direct result of pulling a trailer with a vehicle not rated for such loads.

I wonder, how did they establish that?
I understand that a transmission can overheat and fail under a heavy load, but why fire? Isn't that speculative?Correlation does not mean causation.

However, it would be most interesting to see a post dedicated to explaining exactly how overloading your tow vehicle causes problems.

P.S.
femuse,
There are many uncertain things in life, but an overloaded tow vehicle is something that will definitely not become an issue for you.
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Old 05-09-2003, 11:56 PM   #11
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fires and all...

....around here when fuel prices go up there seems to be an increase of auto fires....and they are NOT the Volkswagons....funny there sees to be a relationship between the two....'specially if there is a lease involved....or a long term pay plan and the vehicle looses value because it isn't very fuel efficient...huummm...geof
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Old 05-10-2003, 12:04 PM   #12
 
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Quote:
I understand that a transmission can overheat and fail under a heavy load, but why fire? Isn't that speculative?
I am not much of an expert, but it looks like transmission fluid is extremely flammable. So, what happens if you overwork the transmission?
Quote:
...engine fires......an overheated tranny.... "burp" fluid onto the exhaust manifold
I think it's a bit more than speculation.
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Old 05-11-2003, 10:53 AM   #13
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WOW!

Let me say that I have several fire extinguishers between the Babmi and the tow vehicle.

I have an '80 Olds and it has towed a 3000lb boat without the gears or extra trans cooler for years. Still runs like a champ. I have 175k on it. It has the old stlye sticks in it. Both my '96s have the locking sticks. I suspect the reason I have never seen my trans stick "burp" was becasue I have always towed below what the max recommended weights should be and not towed anything like I stole it!

To answer the question of what overloading your tow vehicle can do, well, there is an extreme worst case picture posted here, however, if you are over the weight limits set by the manuf, then loss of control, overheating, bearing failures, trans failure, tire failure, brake failures, etc.

Buy a vehicle that is more than you need and you will never go wrong. I am surely not suggesting buying the biggest and baddest vehicle out there. My comments are strictly like this...if the trailer weighs 6300lbs loaded, make sure you have 8,000lb towing capacity. If the trailer weighs 10,000lbs loaded, make sure your tow vehicle can tow about 12,000lbs.

In my case, the Bambi's fully loaded GVWR is 4600 lbs (approx). The Caprice is rated at 5,000 lbs. I am at the high end, true, however, knowing B-Body cars for over 14 years, I know first hand that the car can safely pull 6,000lbs perhaps a bit more. The B-Body was rated somewhat conservitively since they didn't want the car to take away from more profitable truck sales, which it did and as such the patform was ended in 1996. Factually, most of the '96 trucks rated at 8000lbs only had a different frame (for obvious reasons) while most of the other components were exactly the same or very, very similar (engines, trans, axles, cooling).

Ford still makes body on frame cars and sell them under serveral different names, however, none of the engines in those cars I believe are even rated at 5,000lbs.

Either way you look at it, I'm under what the advertised capacity is as well as the unofficial capacity that I and others factually and well documented know the car can safely tow.

There are others not as fortunate.

Eric
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Old 05-11-2003, 02:56 PM   #14
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......if the trailer weighs 6300lbs loaded, make sure you have 8,000lb towing capacity. If the trailer weighs 10,000lbs loaded, make sure your tow vehicle can tow about 12,000lbs.

That's a simple common sense advise, I like that.
I fall somewhere in between, more than 8000 lbs but under 10,000, I suppose somewhere about 9,000 lbs realistically. The unit is rated for 8500 GV but I should give myself room for error and a bit more flexibility.

So I erred on the side of 12,000 lbs with my tow vehicle. It is actually only 10,000 for trailers and 12,000 for FW.

Looking at the unit and contemplating all the weight, and then looking at my B-body does not inspire me.

Also I agree about the B-body. It's overall the best value in vehicles in the 90's IMO. Lots of power, torque, good mileage, and reliability, and cargo room is incredible in wagons. It's more stable than SUV yet carries just as much with better MPG not to mention handles better. I believe with towing package you got 3.23 gears standard. With regular sedans, you got 4.3L and 2.73 rear as base. Even with 3.23, I think I am turning pretty low on highway, with that overdrive.
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Old 05-11-2003, 05:47 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by ipso_facto


That's a simple common sense advise, I like that.
Ipso... you'd be surprised at how little common sense is out there though....

On the '96, I have the tow package and believe it or not, it came with 2.93s. I am looking to (hopefully soon) get my PCM reprogrammed at pcmforless.com after I get the 3.73s installed.

Regards,

Eric
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Old 05-11-2003, 07:08 PM   #16
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common.....Huh?

your approach to towing is interesting....the issue of common scense and towing though is not reality.....just because a vehicle will pull a trailer doesn't necessarly mean it is going to stop it and during a collision avoidance there are other forces at work....how many have taken a safety course on towing?....or even considered trying to update their skills?....."ain't going to happen!" till insurance companies make it part of a trailer policy....and enforce it buy not paying claims.....I wonder how many RV's are over loaded-non functioning brakes-riders in the trailer-bad/broken/non functioning hitches.....Ya just don't want to think about it....geof
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Old 05-11-2003, 07:30 PM   #17
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Geof,

I think I kind of eluded to the fact of a safe tow vehicle being more than just the ability to move not only in this post, but others as well. Since this post had to do with a vehicle fire and the comments on overloading, the first thing to address is an underpowered vehicle (which I think is where the conversation started) and then talk about the other issues, which again, I think I did.

The fact is simply that a good tow vehicle will be able to stop a rig less than what it's rated to pull should the brakes on the trailer fail (there are variables I am sure). Additionally there are laws regarding trailer brakes in almost every state. I can stop my rig fully loaded with my car without the tralier brakes, however, I would never do it on the roads since I have no need to. I like many on this forum (but not everyone on the road) maintain my vehicle throughly.

What's more is that you will NEVER get an insurance company to force people to "upgrade" skill sets across the country. It's much easier to raise everyone's rate. What you are talking about is having a certificate or a license to tow a trailer and that is regulated by the Secreatry of State and the governing bodies of each state. A politican that even hints of further regulation might as well look for another career since a trip or even dealing with the numbskulls at the secretary of state is more than enough to do what already needs to be done. Furthermore you won't get all the states to do it let alone agree upon it. Look at the Interstate Highway speed limit thing. Even with the Feds taking a high hand, there still are rogue states and few have the same speed limits or (sigh) fines. Also look at the blood alcohol level, only now after 10+ years are we actually close to a .08 across the nation. Mostly because the Feds threatened to withhold highway funds for those that did not toe the line.

The harsh, but true reality of insurance.

Regards,

Eric
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Old 05-11-2003, 11:22 PM   #18
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Eric,
One thing I wish is that Missouri would do something to slow down the 18 wheelers heading through. Its one thing to do the speed limit which is 70, but a large number of these guys are easily exceeding this limit by at least 10 mph. Worst highway is I44. I think the only two companies that comply are UPS drivers and Schnider trucking.

Quite honestly I prefer driving through Illinois even though it has a 55 mph limit for RV's and 18 wheelers alike. The trucks may still pass me while doing 55 but seem to only cheat to the 65 mph side. A lot of difference when on flat straight Illionois Interstates compared to Mo. where my 60 is much slower than the 18 wheelers who are doing 80 on curves and hills.

From what I have heard our fines in Mo. are low enough that the truckers will make more money by speeding through our state (saving time) and paying the fine.

Jack
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Old 05-12-2003, 01:21 AM   #19
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You know, it's funny that you mention that Jack. I have noticed that over the past 10 years, truckers seem to have gotten a whole lot worse. When we were kids camping with the family, it was somewhat rare for an 18 wheeler to be speeding so recklessly let alone pass (not to say it didn't happen at all).

I have too noticed that the 18 wheelers do speed very much. When I am not towing, I, like most people from around here push 80 mph on the Kennedy, and Edens (I-94). The funny thing is that the 18 wheelers are keeping up with us!

At any rate I agree 110% with you. Those trucks pack more hurt in them if they should ever loose it. Fines in IL are pretty mild too, Wisconsin however, look out, when they say 65, they mean exactly 65. They would pull their own mothers over for going 66 and hit them with a $175.00 ticket, let alone going faster.

Eric
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Old 05-12-2003, 06:34 AM   #20
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the bronze

eric

i have no doubt that our state patrol targets our friends from south of beloit.

but as you well know some of the people feel the interstate on a friday night heading north is a giant race track! then the same happens sunday night when everyone returns to chicagoland.

i get a good chuckle after being passed on the right (while i'm returning to that lane) by a bmw with chicago wheel tax stickers at 90 plus. just to see them at the side of the road with "officer friendly" just a few miles later, i always honk and wave.

as a cdl holder, i can tell you 3 things that will get you a vacation from driving automaticly, dui, 15 over the limit, and following too close.

even in your personal vehicle!

so those states with speeding trucks must lack enforcement, because the fines and penaltys for cdl holders are steep. the days of multiple licenses from different states are over.

so the next time yer up our way knock 'er back about 10 mph and enjoy the view!

otherwise, send me a couple of hundred bucks and i can escrow it for bail money!

john
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