It was a big gust of wind that started the trailer fishtailing immediately and dramatically. We had just seen the camper in front of us buffeted across the highway, and I was saying "Watch . . ." when things went rapidly to hell.
Because Ingrid was driving carefully, trying to feel things out, we were going about 10 KPH below the speed limit downhill around a corner onto a bridge. She might have had her foot off the accelerator, allowing the trailer weight
to bear on the tow vehicle but in that situation accelerating was not an option.
I should make the point again that I mentioned my wife's lack of experience not to blame her, but to highlight what a lousy start that is to towing a trailer. We were headed to Inuvik and having covered 900 K, we still had 1,700 K to go. I really wanted to share the driving!
As for other variables, the tires
were brand new, first trip on them, the bearings freshly packed, the equalizer hitch nicely tensioned so both the TV and the trailer sat level even with adequate tongue weight
, the weight
in the trailer kept above the axles as much as possible.
I believe part of the problem was the overall configuration of the rig: short wheelbase tow vehicle (FJ Cruiser), small, short-wheelbase trailer (Boler 1700) with a single axle
. Once the fishtailing began so dramatically, we were just along for the ride.
On the other hand, we are both going to be practicing reaching for the manual controller on the electric brake so that it becomes muscle memory -- and I am going to be more religious about adjusting the trailer brakes
whenever I pack the bearings to ensure we can get a real solid grab from them: I was previously happy just to feel a braking effect from the trailer brakes
so that the FJ did not have to supply all the braking.
Other than practicing grabbing the manual controller on the electric brake so there is no fumbling in an emergency, my only takeaway from this is that it can happen to anyone.
In the last 7 years we have covered 10s of thousands of kilometers with that setup in what I would have thought of as much worse conditions: steep mountainous terrain, muddy, slippery switchbacks, rocky and potholed roads, beaver-flooded logging roads. And there on flat pavement at a very moderate speed it went rapidly south.
But we are both here to play with our grandchildren this weekend. THAT is important!