Handling issues (1979 Trillium / 2000 Subaru outback) - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-10-2014, 08:06 PM   #1
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Name: Stephen
Trailer: Trillium
Saskatchewan
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Handling issues (1979 Trillium / 2000 Subaru outback)

I recently bought a 1979 Trillium (1300) and towed it twice (~225 km, from the seller, and ~10 km, in the city) since purchase. I've noticed some handling issues, and I'm looking for advice.

First, some background:
- The tongue on the frame is bent. A previous owner probably did not lift the jack before driving - this side of the a-frame is bent inwards by about an inch (see IMG_4355 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!). I am going to get this straightened by a frame repair place.
- The axle is original. The wheels on the trailer show some negative camber (top if wheel deflected inwards). It is barely noticeable when the trailer is stopped, but more noticeable in the rear view mirror when driving.

I will be replacing the axle and getting the frame straightened (the last 10 km drive was to take it to the frame and axle shop). But I am wondering if the handling problems I have can be attributed to the axle problems, or if I might be missing something else.

What I experience is this:
- At low speeds (<40 km/hr), it feels as if the tow vehicle pulses (a front-to-back pulsing)
- When the trailer goes over moderate bumps, the trailer feels like it is jerking heavily (up/down) onto the car hitch. If the trailer tongue is banging that heavily down on the hitch, it must also be pulling up with similar violence. It is at times like this that I am glad that I have the chains! This jerking occurs when the trailer goes over a bump, but this motion also occurs at other times.

I drive the trailer cautiously and smoothly (smooth movements, graduate acceleration and deceleration, etc), so I doubt a behavioural component to this problem.

I suspect that this is mostly due to the axle problem. I assume that the worn-out axle will not have the same damping problems as a properly functioning axle. The 'surging / pulsing' behaviour surprises me. Could this be an issue of the tow vehicle power or handling? My car is a 2000 Subaru Outback, with 2000 lb towing capacity. The trailer is empty (just junk from the previous owner).

I'm waiting for a quote from the shop (axle with breaks and frame straightening), and I'll follow-up with how the handling sorts out later. I just hate to spend the money and miss something else!

S.
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Old 03-11-2014, 07:31 AM   #2
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Name: Jared
Trailer: 1984 19' scamp
Kansas
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I know the 2" receiver on my legacy left enough play for the hitch to move, and I think the unibody makes it feel worse, along with the light tongue weight trailers our cars can handle. I've never noticed it on my pickup.

I hammered wooden door/window shims in the top and one side of the hitch as a bandaid the first time I used it. It stopped the movement and the incessant banging at every bump. 3 years later, I still use the shims. Without them, I'll go nuts the first two blocks.
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Old 03-11-2014, 08:55 AM   #3
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Name: Bob
Trailer: 1973 Hunter Compact II
California
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Welcome to the group. I'm sure you find lots of answers to your questions.... here's some for starters.

1. I would pass on the wooden shims idea. There is a "U" shaped clamp available that will take all of the play out of the drawbar/receiver connection. I never leave home without mine.

2.`You have a 35 year old trailer. The hitch could be worn, damaged or, at the very least, needs the ball clamp adjusted for a snug grip on the ball. As long as it's in the shop it might just be a good idea to get a new hitch installed at the same time. (I did)

3.Is there a chance that you are using a 1-7/8" Ball with a 2" hitch? It's happened to a number of us.

4. If you don't get a new axle, at least get the existing bearings inspected and repacked.

Good Luck and let us know how it turns out.
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Old 03-11-2014, 11:00 AM   #4
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Name: Roy
Trailer: 1972 boler American and 1979 Trillium 4500
Ontario
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlatlandFlyFisher View Post
The wheels on the trailer show some negative camber (top if wheel deflected inwards). It is barely noticeable when the trailer is stopped, but more noticeable in the rear view mirror when driving.

I will be replacing the axle and getting the frame straightened (the last 10 km drive was to take it to the frame and axle shop). But I am wondering if the handling problems I have can be attributed to the axle problems, or if I might be missing something else.

...
I'm waiting for a quote from the shop (axle with breaks and frame straightening), and I'll follow-up with how the handling sorts out later. I just hate to spend the money and miss something else!

S.
The negative camber may be an illusion due to the body tapering in at the bottom.

I'd suggest comparing pricing for a new frame and axle vs patching the old.
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Old 03-11-2014, 11:02 AM   #5
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Trailer: 22' Airstream Formerly 16' Scamp
British Columbia
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Looking at your pictures it looks like fixing the bent tongue will be a good thing. But due to the all the snow in the photos and no side on picture of the trailer hard to say if the new axle will help or not but a new axle either way should help a little just not sure if it will fix the issues you have described.

Bob raised a good point in questioning if its a 2" hitch on a 1 7/8" ball?

What is the tongue weight on the trailer? I don't see a propane tank or a battery on the tongue in your photos which suggest to me the trailer is probable running way to light on the tongue which can result in the banging you hear when going over bumps

If its empty up front but stuff in the rear it may be way to light on the tongue. If you look at the Real World Trailer Weights thread it appears that the Trillium 1300 loaded would be about 1600lbs on the axle - so for a more solid tow you would be looking at a tongue weight of 10% or more 160lbs to 200lbs - well within your Outbacks tongue capacity limits (or at least it is with my 07)

Also make sure the trailer is level when towing not tongue up!
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Old 03-11-2014, 11:17 AM   #6
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I second the U shaped clamp to remove slop in the hitch/drawbar. I got mine from Amazon and I don't tow without it. About $24 as I recall.

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Old 03-11-2014, 11:19 AM   #7
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Another thing to keep in mind is there is a nut on the inside/underside of the trailers coupler that does need to be correctly adjusted from time to time.
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Old 03-11-2014, 11:22 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by Mike Kempin View Post
I second the U shaped clamp to remove slop in the hitch/drawbar. I got mine from Amazon and I don't tow without it. About $24 as I recall.

Sent from my XT901 using Fiberglass RV mobile app
You can also buy a them at Home Depot for just a few dollars
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Old 03-11-2014, 11:41 AM   #9
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Name: Dave W
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How much tongue weight do you have? I ask this because I experienced the same up and down jerking, when my tongue was too light.

To get a price on a new frame and axle, you could contact Joe Thoen at Trillium / Outback. (403) two seven two - 3929. He only makes 1300's, so his frame will fit your trailer exactly.
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Old 03-11-2014, 01:10 PM   #10
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Name: Francesca Knowles
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Jefferson County, Washington State, U.S.A.
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That frame is a mess, up front at least. Hey David- I see you're out there- aren't those bars ahead of the bottle tray add-ons? Wonder what that was all about.

To O.P.:
A competent welding shop could fix what we see, so I wouldn't replace unless the rest of the frame is messed up, too. Straightening the tongue will definitely improve tracking- the coupler itself on my 4500 was bent to one side when I got it. Fixing that made her track truer. Absolutely make sure you've got ball matched to coupler, and that the coupler itself is adjusted as snug as possible. Also, I agree that the "porpoising" you describe may well be light tongue as Carol and David suggest.

Per camber:

Bad camber would show on the tires as shoulder wear. If they're brand new, a po' man's test is to put some paint on the tread and take it for a ride. Paint will wear off in the same pattern as the rubber does, only much sooner/more visibly, of course.


Don't automatically presume the axle is shot before you eliminate these other possible anomalies. Just because it's old doesn't mean it's gone. (I'm still riding on my original!)
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Old 03-11-2014, 01:14 PM   #11
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You are correct Francesca, those bars are an owner mod. I suspect that they are for a battery. They are also bent.
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Old 03-11-2014, 01:23 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Tilston View Post
You are correct Francesca, those bars are an owner mod. I suspect that they are for a battery. They are also bent.
Well, that's a lot of (amateur?) welding in a small area, which perhaps coincidentally is also where the curvature is located. Looks like the jack's an add-on, too. Excess heating can seriously weaken steel...there's a possibility (however remote) that the frame bend might be a result of that.

Again recommending that a professional welder inspect the whole shootin' match...
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Old 03-11-2014, 01:47 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Francesca Knowles View Post
Excess heating can seriously weaken steel...there's a possibility (however remote) that the frame bend might be a result of that.

.
I noticed the trailer is also missing the lens cover on the front passenger side marker making me wonder if the tongue bend was possible the result of a little too much tail wagging the dog action as some point (also however remote).
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Old 03-11-2014, 04:20 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Carol H View Post
You can also buy a them at Home Depot for just a few dollars
Here is a link. HD web site shows 1.5" clamp only. Shop SUPERSTRUT 2-in U-Bolt Strut Beam Clamp at Lowes.com
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