Help! Camper sway - Page 4 - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-16-2014, 05:29 PM   #43
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Weighing the Tongue

It's very easy to weight the tongue weight of your trailer in your driveway using a bathroom scales and a jack. I do this at least once a year.

1. Level your trailer (or if you like put it at the angle you tow),
2. Block your trailer wheels so it doesn't roll,
3. Release any rear trailer jacks,
4. Put a bathroom scale under the nose of the trailer,
5. Place a board on the scale to protect it,
6. Place a jack on the scale's board (I use a bottle jack but any jack will work),
7. Align the jack so it lifts the tongue in the ball area,
8. Using the scale jack. lift the trailer off it's front jack,
9. Read the scale,
10. Lower the scale jack to rest the trailer on its front jack,
11. Read the scale again so you're reading the weight of the jack & board,
12. Subtract the weight of the jack & board from the weight of the tongue, recorded in step 9.

If anyone sees any thing wrong with this process please let me know,
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Old 09-16-2014, 05:54 PM   #44
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Depending on the scales you can get weights for each axle or the vehicle & trailer separately or for all three or 4 axles at the same time. In the latter case, where the scale is long, you can usually just pull the TV off the scale and weigh the trailer attached. I use a bathroom scale and a couple of blocks of wood to get the actual tongue weight by lowering it onto the scale with the tongue jack.
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Old 09-16-2014, 11:57 PM   #45
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Norm, we have a Sherline scale and we use it sometimes. We have first gone to truck scales though. I would say that it is fine to get your tongue weight at home that way but for a newbie, with bathroom scales, it may not work. A newbie would be lucky to manage with a Sherline. When you, Norm, use a bathroom scale, you know what you are doing. Put that coupler up or down an inch too much and your tongue weight is way off. A newbie does know that and even a veteran can goof it up.

Being hooked up and weighing at a truck scale will hopefully give tongue weight as set up (which may be incorrectly in someone else's case). A newbie at home will also do all kinds of things that you would never think of such as get the tongue weight while some stabilizer jacks are down. And of course tongue weight is not worth anything without total weight of vehicle and trailer.

So weighing at home is of limited use unless you already are very familiar with the setup and know your total weight number. Everyone does not have your knowledge and experience and if they try to do what you are doing, they will not get a correct result even though you do. And they will not know that their result is incorrect. Truck scales minimize the mistakes that can be made.

I have been miffed at numbers that we have had even at a truck scale because it is easy to get the situation wrong. And with a Sherline also. And have had to figure out what is what occasionally. I could sure goof it up with the bathroom scale. I know this is not really what you are asking but I am just pointing out the situation with regard to many others. I haven't liked those bathroom scales since I was in my thirties!
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Old 09-17-2014, 01:18 AM   #46
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Well Norm, Ive got a question for you. What is the reasoning for using your jack on the scale with the added weight and having to subtract its weight ? I use a 450 lb home scale, chock the trailer wheels, drop the tongue jack on the scale and once the ball is clear....bingo tongue weight.
My SD 17 weighs 364lbs loaded, pretty much the same as I see in the real world weights list. Yes it is 2" higher than when towing but I really don't think the results would be any different dropping the tongue down the few inches to be in the towing stance. Next time I check it I'll try it to fine out.
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Old 09-17-2014, 06:38 AM   #47
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I'm not sure I understand all the objections. My intent was to describe what I do. Over the years a number of people have asked.

I used to weigh my tongue quite regularly because it was important when I was towing with the CRV plus I'm a numbers guy. As well I like being able to do it myself, it's in my nature.

As well as doing my tongue weight I use the town's transfer station scales to weigh my trailer. There's no charge and I can do it when ever I want.

Cathi,
As to accuracy, it is important that you measure the tongue weight in the area of the ball and that the trailer be level or in its towing attitude, an inch or two off from the ball location or an inch or two up or down will have little effect on accuracy. As to stabilizer jacks I mentioned releasing the rear jacks.

Knowing the tongue weight even in a 'ball park sense' is valuable.

I am not opposed in any way from people spending money on a Sherline or professional trailer scale weight.

As to bathroom scales, I use them almost daily to remind me of the importance of getting control of myself, we even carry the scales in the trailer. Now that I'm older I wish I paid better attention to the scales when I was younger.

Borrego Dave,
Using the trailer's jack does effect the accuracy since the jack is away from the ball area. This distance will provide a less accurate number but may be adequate for many people. Honestly I never considered using the tongue jack, probably because when I weigh the trailer it is already disconnected from the tow vehicle.

I have found this thread particularly interesting, particularly Carol's comments, going from a non-sway condition to a sway condition by changing tow vehicles. Meghan's situation is almost identical, unlike Carol, she doesn't know the numbers but does know her Town and Country towed the trailer easily.

There has been an attitude that a bigger tow vehicle is better, obviously it's not that simple.
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Old 09-17-2014, 08:03 AM   #48
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Just to add to Norm's suggestions:

I use a piece of 4x4, about 14" long, standing up between the hitch and the scale surface, and just lower the tongue weight onto the scale by retracting the tongue jack until the scale peaks. The tongue jack is never more than 1/4" off the ground

I "Zero" the scale with the 4x4 resting on it first.

Some bathroom scales will require a "Bridge" to put weight on both sides of the scale to get an accurate weight.

I buy scales at the Flea Market for $2-3 and verify the weight with me on them against a known good(?) digital scale I have at home which, in turn, is synced to an atomic clock's display, which I can verify every day at 01:55 GMT (LOL)
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Old 09-17-2014, 09:02 AM   #49
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We sometimes forget how "not that simple" it is when it comes to towing. We adjust, fiddle and research our way to an understanding and towing configuration that works. Solving problems is a great learning experience. How accurate or precise ones measurements and configuration need to be is somewhat a function of the overall situation.

Towing a 16 ft. with a CRV or Subaru where tongue weight precision is more critical than towing a 13 ft. with a Ford Escape. I would only need a benchmark that I can use to test impact on tongue weight of loading changes or modifications.

Trouble shooting a sway condition knowing tongue weight in a ballpark fashion and being able to make a repeatable measurement that shows amount of change is a good tool for trouble shooting.

Jack behind ball by a few inches or exactly level is less important than taking the measurement the same way each time for confirmation that your tongue weight is where it was when it towed well, or moving in the direction you wanted it to.
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Old 09-17-2014, 11:32 AM   #50
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Just a thought

We often discuss how European Tow ratings, for basically the same vehicle, are higher than North American mratings, I wonder if this thread gives a hint why.

This thread suggested to me that Pickup trucks need heavier tongue weights to tow successfully, suggested by Carol's post comparing towing with here Subaru versus her Ford where she had to increase the tongue weight to tow well with the truck.

Is it possible that the famous North American rule of thumb of 10-15 % exists because of trucks? (Actually I believe the U-haul manual suggested 5-15% but I sure most people have 10-15% as a 'North American' standard.)

It's obviously not 10-15% in Europe when you consider their vehicles and trailers.

Of course this post is NOT science but now I wonder about pickups and their light rear ends. By the way we're still at 7% towing our Scamp 16 with our Odyssey; the Odyssey is rated for 350 pounds on the tongue and the Scamp's tongue is 200 lbs.

Maybe bigger and heavier isn't better. No one take offense, just musing.
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Old 09-17-2014, 04:00 PM   #51
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Obsessing over trailer and tongue weights is a futile endeavor. As you travel the trailer will change weight as with the tongue weight change. Once you've determined that you're somewhere in standard range (tongue weight 10% to 15% of trailer weight and neither exceed the tow vehicle's rating) you're good to go. It's not an exact science.
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:15 PM   #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by honda03842 View Post
Is it possible that the famous North American rule of thumb of 10-15 % exists because of trucks? (Actually I believe the U-haul manual suggested 5-15% but I sure most people have 10-15% as a 'North American' standard.)
I suspect the American rule of thumb was introduced because of long overhang vehicles. Trucks and full size sedans have about 4' overhang (the distance between rear axle and the hitch). European vehicles have rear wheel arches inside rear bumper :-)

I'm experiencing sway quite often when tow Scamp 16 with my full size sedan at speeds > 60 mph.
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Old 09-17-2014, 05:28 PM   #53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by honda03842 View Post
We often discuss how European Tow ratings, for basically the same vehicle, are higher than North American mratings, I wonder if this thread gives a hint why.

This thread suggested to me that Pickup trucks need heavier tongue weights to tow successfully, suggested by Carol's post comparing towing with here Subaru versus her Ford where she had to increase the tongue weight to tow well with the truck.

Is it possible that the famous North American rule of thumb of 10-15 % exists because of trucks? (Actually I believe the U-haul manual suggested 5-15% but I sure most people have 10-15% as a 'North American' standard.)

It's obviously not 10-15% in Europe when you consider their vehicles and trailers.

Of course this post is NOT science but now I wonder about pickups and their light rear ends. By the way we're still at 7% towing our Scamp 16 with our Odyssey; the Odyssey is rated for 350 pounds on the tongue and the Scamp's tongue is 200 lbs.

Maybe bigger and heavier isn't better. No one take offense, just musing.
A couple of things Norm - 1st one is I do not own a Ford truck & I didn't have a full sized truck either So I didn't as you suggest in your previous post jump to a much bigger tow vehicle - my new truck is less than a 1' longer than my old Subaru & only an inch or two longer than your new van The truck weighs in at about the same weight as your new van - give or take a few pounds depending on which trim package you choose. The Outback is also not what most would call a light vehicle it in fact weighs in many years at about the same weight as a Toyota Tacoma truck.

I did not change tow vehicles simple to get more towing capacity as you suggest. I unlike your self was never able to get a real good solid tow with the Subaru Outback pulling my Scamp 16' with a tongue weight of under 10% of the loaded axle weight. Which is why I found I needed to exceed the Subaru's tongue spec by about 40lbs to get it. Which was the #1 reason I changed tow vehicles as well as the fact that due to the amount of miles I covered over six years of pulled that trailer behind the Subaru it was starting to show a lot of wear and tear issues I had not had with previous Subaru's with more miles on them. Those repair issues where starting to really sting the pocket book.

I can only suggest the difference between your experience with a light tongue weight and mine is I don't stick to the lower speeds of travel that you have indicated that you do. I do tend to use freeways and travel at speeds closer to 65 mph than 50 mph. BTW my new truck didn't have any sway issues at speeds under 55mph either - only when I went over that limit.

I would also suggest as has been discussed here many many many many times that the difference in tow ratings in NA vs Europe has a lot to do with the fact that most of Europe has set national speed limits when towing. Many of them are equal to 55mph or less. Also the engines as you know that are offered in the same cars are not the same as what is offered in NA - the European vehicles have far more torque meaning they are better at towing.
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Old 09-17-2014, 06:08 PM   #54
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There was a very good article posted about the differences in laws, licensing and speed limit differences that explained the N. American tow capacity vs. European ones. Yes speed was a big factor and speed impacts sway a great deal. All this not terribly relevant to OP requesting help with their sway issues.

One can get weighed at truck stops, furniture moving companies, feed stores & gravel pits. Find the closest one and weigh tow and camper, go home and drop the camper, go weigh just the tow vehicle. Difference is trailer weight.

Any of the suggestions for getting tongue weight should get you an approx. tongue weight which you can change by adjusting load until you see an improvement in handling.

Someone said earlier adjust for no sway at the highest possible speed then drive slower than that. As for light truck bed weight, load an extra couple of coolers full of good beer and ale, park next to me. Trip home handling might not be as good as coming out but with a robust hangover your won't mind driving really slow.
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Old 09-17-2014, 06:30 PM   #55
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I see a lot of non-truck owners worrying about trucks being "light". Certainly in the winter, when snow and ice are a concern, adding ballast only makes sense.

But, a typical pick-up TV will gain about 50-60 lbs with a hitch, another 200-300 lbs in tongue weight and yet another 200 lbs in "Stuff" in the bed, and is really no longer "Light" in back. From my own experiences in towing with a mid-size pick-up, any concerns about being light on the rear wheels while towing is a non-starter.
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Old 09-17-2014, 06:32 PM   #56
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerDat View Post

Someone said earlier adjust for no sway at the highest possible speed then drive slower than that. As for light truck bed weight, load an extra couple of coolers full of good beer and ale, park next to me. Trip home handling might not be as good as coming out but with a robust hangover your won't mind driving really slow.
that may have been part of the problem with the first tow I did with my new set up & had the sway issue! I was heading to the NOG meet and as I had to cross the border I could only bring a dozen of the good Canadian stuff that some US member attending the meet had requested... I am not a fan of the US stuff whether it be beer or coolers (the US coolers are not the real stuff we get up here either) so I had even less weight in the back of the truck coming home.
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