Thank God for safety chains! - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-26-2012, 08:11 PM   #1
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Name: Mike
Trailer: Scamp 13
Arizona
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Thank God for safety chains!

We survived a towing trial-by-fire today; one I sincerely hope you'll never have to experience yourself. While cresting a climb, in the passing lane, at about 60 mph, we hit what amounted to a speed hump. The trailer tongue disengaged from the hitch ball. Thankfully the safety chains held, the driver of the U-Haul truck we'd been passing reacted cool & calm, letting us over to slow and access the right shoulder. Miraculously, the only damage was a scratch to the hatch of the tow vehicle. The foot of the tongue jack was smoking (probably the asphalt it had plowed), yet it was undamaged and fully functional. After a brief prayer of thanks, we re-hitched and continued homeward ... hyper-cautiously.


The adrenaline rush left me shaking, nauseous, and somber. It's simply impossible to avoid thoughts of what the results might have been. The lever had remained in the locked position with the pin in place! This situation was extreme and rare and there was no warning. Regardless, it would appear I need to make an adjustment! How do I know what's proper and safe?


From eHow: "When the lever is flipped to the locked position, the clamp is pulled up against the underside of the hitch ball. Proper adjustment is critical to the safe operation of a trailer, so an adjusting nut is provided on the toggle bolt.The fit should be snug but not binding. Too loose, and there's a danger of the coupler becoming disconnected from the hitch ball."
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Old 08-26-2012, 09:03 PM   #2
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Wowser! Hope your stomach and heart are back in place . I can't imagine, though I have read of this before.

A few years ago we had a fgrv member that this happened to, if I remember right it was on I-5 or 99 durning sunday rush to get home returning from taking her boy's to a scout event. Her husband wasn't with her. She like you made it over with the help of surrounding car's seeing her situation and holding back traffic to give her free rein to safety.....

Glad the driver you were passing was paying attention and helped you out . Sorry your tow vehicle got Knicked in it all, but I am sure compared to what could have happened a Knick is do-able! Thankfully you nor anyone else was hurt.

I have had hitch lock down a couple of times like you describe, but something told me it was wrong and to start again. Sure enough, it was hung up just like yours. But thankfully I caught it before I took off. Glad your here to tell your story! I am sure you are too!
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Old 08-26-2012, 09:20 PM   #3
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Mike,
I had this happen on our Scamp 16. The latch failed to lock against the throat of the ball because the previous owner had modified the receiver.

To this day after we have hitched up and locked the ball in place, I jack up the trailer tongue and attempt to lift it off the ball. When I see the back of our tow vehicle begin to lift I feel I have a safe ball to receiver connection.

In our case the anti sway bar held things together.
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Old 08-26-2012, 10:24 PM   #4
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Sorry to hear your first outing was so eventful! Nothing like a good heart stopping first towing experience! I sure hope the rest of your trip went better and you enjoyed your new trailer!

The false ball lock is unfortunately something that happens and I am grateful to have been taught to always crank the tongue back up once I think the ball is locked as Norm described to make sure it really is. You would be surprised actually at the number of times that it doesnt actually lock on correctly but you will find that more times you hook up the more you will know by looking at it or by the feel of how it locked whether or not it locked correctly.

If your trailer tongue was digging into the ground as you describe you may want to consider shortening up your chains a little bit. The theory behind crossing the chains is they are suppose to act like a cradle for the tongue should it come loose.

Hope your next trip goes a lot better!
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Old 08-26-2012, 10:52 PM   #5
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Name: Mike
Trailer: Scamp 13
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It was neither first tow experience nor a false lock. It is an improperly tensioned lever/clamp. Which brings me back to my question, this time stated more succinctly: What is the procedure for assuring proper tension on the ball clamp? I can easily access the nut, intend to tighten, but need to know proper torque.
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Old 08-26-2012, 11:07 PM   #6
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AND the idea of jacking the tongue up to ensure it is properly locked on is a VERY good idea. Just not a 100% perfectly foolproof idea. How many of us have been UNHITCHING, and have undone the latch, and then when jacking it up, had the whole thing become jacked up as if it were still fully latched on? Then it suddenly lets go, allowing the tug to drop back to its normal ride height.

If it can do that when UNHITCHED, it is not a 100% foolproof way to test if you are fully latched!

If the hitch itself has some "slop" in the mechanism, the same thing is about to happen, even though it is correctly hitched, latched and cross-pinned.

In the case of the original post, the hitch was done up properly, latched and pinned, yet a "speed bump" caused things to go all kittywampus, with only the safety chains preventing a real catastrophe. Yes an adjustment of the hitch latch is required to eliminate some "slop" in the mechanism.

No, I do not know the correct torque to apply to the adjusting nut, but I hope that the correct number gets posted on here as I will then go out and verify the torque on the hitches on all of my trailers.
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Old 08-26-2012, 11:09 PM   #7
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I would use just a ball, or a ball & mount in my hand, tighten the adjusting nut and feel for play between the ball the socket, check operation of the lock lever and binding of the ball if you get it too tight. Probably your tongue weight is too much to just pick up on the tongue and feel for play as you adjust the nut with the trailer attached. I can do that with some of my light weight trailers, but no way with a heavier one. When you've finished adjusting, do the test with the trailer hooked up and crank it up with the tongue jack. Always use a safety pin or lock through the lever hole. Also when hitching up, be sure the trailer is on the ball completely, sometimes they don't drop on good, I've seen it happen where you can put the latch lever down but the ball isn't seated properly.
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Old 08-27-2012, 12:04 AM   #8
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Best ("only") description of adjusting I have been able to Google up is at:
Trailer service and use pointers for tough Alaska trailers

I have done essentially that "adjust it, try it, and then repeat the entire process" thing a few times, but I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to the safe construction and "tune up" of my vehicles. I sorta think that there should oughta be a "number" for "do up this nut to THIS torque and seal it with loc-tite" adjustment.

Oh- and by the way - OVER-TIGHTENING that nut can have some "interesting" consequences, too. About 10 (or more) years ago, I was heading off to the prairies to retrieve a Model A sedan from Saskatchewan. When I stopped in Kamloops, I found that the trailer coupler had such a good grip on the ball that the ball had come almost all the way UNSCREWED from the platform, despite having been checked before leaving the Lower Mainland. It had been installed (and checked) with a 4 foot "snipe" on a breaker bar with the correct size 6 point socket. I pulled on the snipe while bracing my feet on the bumper and lifting myself off the ground into a fully tensioned position. And the coupler STILL unscrewed the (lubricated) ball!
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Old 08-27-2012, 04:34 AM   #9
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Trailer: Trillium
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Quote:
Originally Posted by honda03842 View Post
......To this day after we have hitched up and locked the ball in place, I jack up the trailer tongue and attempt to lift it off the ball. When I see the back of our tow vehicle begin to lift I feel I have a safe ball to receiver connection......
Sound advice from an experienced traveller. Make it part of your hook up routine.

Glad to hear that it was only a scratch and that no one was hurt. We learn as we go and it sounds like you have taken this lesson to heart.

Scouter Dave
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Old 08-27-2012, 05:56 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by morz4 View Post
It was neither first tow experience nor a false lock. It is an improperly tensioned lever/clamp.
I have had the tongue not fully seat, false lock as you called it, and have been lucky enough to spot it. You don't think that is the case here so how did you determine this? What procedure did you use to determine that a adjustment is needed as I would like to check my set up? Thanks, Raz
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Old 08-27-2012, 07:18 AM   #11
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Name: john
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Quote:
Originally Posted by morz4 View Post
We survived a towing trial-by-fire today; one I sincerely hope you'll never have to experience yourself. While cresting a climb, in the passing lane, at about 60 mph, we hit what amounted to a speed hump. The trailer tongue disengaged from the hitch ball. Thankfully the safety chains held, the driver of the U-Haul truck we'd been passing reacted cool & calm, letting us over to slow and access the right shoulder. Miraculously, the only damage was a scratch to the hatch of the tow vehicle. The foot of the tongue jack was smoking (probably the asphalt it had plowed), yet it was undamaged and fully functional. After a brief prayer of thanks, we re-hitched and continued homeward ... hyper-cautiously.


The adrenaline rush left me shaking, nauseous, and somber. It's simply impossible to avoid thoughts of what the results might have been. The lever had remained in the locked position with the pin in place! This situation was extreme and rare and there was no warning. Regardless, it would appear I need to make an adjustment! How do I know what's proper and safe?


From eHow: "When the lever is flipped to the locked position, the clamp is pulled up against the underside of the hitch ball. Proper adjustment is critical to the safe operation of a trailer, so an adjusting nut is provided on the toggle bolt.The fit should be snug but not binding. Too loose, and there's a danger of the coupler becoming disconnected from the hitch ball."
awsome ,,,,wow,,, bet your heart was really thumping...
i add my prayer of thanks that you were wached over.
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Old 08-27-2012, 07:20 AM   #12
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I think that it was Norm that mentioned inspecting with a mirror helps as a quick double check.
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Old 08-27-2012, 09:03 AM   #13
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Still a newbie in many ways here...

Exactly HOW should the chains look under the hitch? Pictures, if you can!
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Old 08-27-2012, 09:23 AM   #14
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I'm sorry, but I always like to start with the obvious...
Prefire Scamp 13s had 1-7/8" hitches, post fire they have 2" hitches.
Do you have the right ball size?
Second, I have seen the latch set without being all the way down, so it could be that there is nothing wrong with the hitch at all.
As others have said check the latch with each hook-up.
On my 13 I usually just lift the tongue by hand to assure the connection, but using the jack is good if the tongue weight is high.
I too thank God every day for His protection,wisdom, and guidance.
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