Towing the Bigfoot safely - Fiberglass RV

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Old 08-10-2007, 01:11 PM   #1
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Lainey's Avatar
Trailer: 1989 Bigfoot 17 ft and 1989 Li'l Bigfoot 13 ft
Posts: 538
When I brought the trailer home (over 525kms) it was dry, and had no problems at all with handling or sway. On our recent trip I took the loaded trailer over 700km to Calgary, then on through Banff, Lake Louise, and back home through Rocky Mountain House, so a mix of some mountain grades and some faster highway driving. Again, no problems with handling or sway, not affected by wind or semi trailers passing. When I hook up the rear suspension of the truck only moves about 1” at the most, and the nose is not in the air.

The trailer came with the previous owner’s Eaz-lift friction sway control (right side) and a weight distributing hitch, both of which I have not had hooked up. The weight is listed at 2884 lbs with a 265 lb tongue weight, but I have not weighted it loaded. The truck's tow rating is 6,100 lbs, with a 610 lb tongue weight.

Should I get the WDH and SC adjusted for my truck and be using them? Or is it unnecessary if the trailer is handling fine and I remain vigilant about how I am loading the trailer?

Would a WDH help with fuel consumption at all?

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Old 08-10-2007, 01:34 PM   #2
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Name: Mike
Trailer: Bigfoot 25 ft
Posts: 7,317
There are several things that effect towing stability. To me, the most important is the way the trailer is engineered. Just because a name brand manufacturer built it, does not mean it was built perfectly. The manufacturer is trying to balance floor plans and sell ability with construction. Sometimes there are compromises. Other people will have different views, so read all and see what applies to you.

1. A WDH is for people that do not have a beefy enough tow to carry the load. It sounds like yours is plenty.

2. The hitch weight should be between 10% to 15% of the total trailer weight. Yours is a little light at 9.1%. Then depending on how you load your trailer and where the load is positioned, it all can change. Keeping the back light will really help. Also, where is the water tanks and are they full or empty CAN greatly effect the stability. All these things CAN cause sway if the trailer has other engineering issues.

3. Axle Camber really helps to eliminate sway. Should be about 1.5°, NOT more then 2°.

4. Position of the axle in relation to the over-all length of the trailer. As a poor-boy rule of thumb, the center of the axle or tandem axles should NOT be less the two thirds the way back from the hitch. You may have noticed that most 18 wheelers have their axles all the way back. If the axle is further forward then the 2/3rds position, I would have it really checked out. You have the tail waggy the dog thing happening.

Hooking up just the sway bar is like adding insurance. You may not ever need it, but it is good to have.

Just some food for thought. I hope this helps,

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Old 08-10-2007, 02:03 PM   #3
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Trailer: 1989 Bigfoot 17 ft and 1989 Li'l Bigfoot 13 ft
Posts: 538
Thanks Mike! The trailer layout has the fresh water tank in in the right rear, with the kitchen along the middle left. Bathroom at the left rear. Seems as well balanced in design as they could get. When loading, I packed most of the weight in front of the axle except for our clothing and bedding towards the rear.

Sounds like I should get the sway control set up as a safeguard. (Can I back with it on??)

How will the hitch receiver and trailer tongue heights affect the tongue weight? Maybe I should also look at the drop (or not dropping) to the ball on the hitch receiver in relation to the tongue weight?
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Old 08-10-2007, 02:26 PM   #4
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Name: Mike
Trailer: Bigfoot 25 ft
Posts: 7,317
That’s the rub. I am told, you should disconnect the sway bar to back. Not too hard, just an inconvenience.

If you fill your fresh water tank, that could really throw off your balance. Poor-boy guestimate = 7lbs/gal. So 30 gal X 7 = 210 lbs extra on the tail. (PS: On the new brochure I just got, the specs say the tongue weight is 315 lbs.)

When hooked up, fresh water filled, loaded and ready to leave on the trip; the truck should be level. Also, the trailer should be level. So, buy the proper drop hitch if needed to make it level.

What is the over all length of the trailer? How many inches does it really measure (the brochure says 17’-5”)?

How far back is the center of the axle measuring right down the center line of the trailer?

PS: FYI, I tow my 17’ Casita with NO WDH & NO Sway bar. I can say I have towed at the maximum speed limit in Arizona and with cross winds of 60 mph in the Mojave Desert. The trailer tows wonderful. I now have a Dodge Pick up, but had a Chevy Tahoe.
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Old 08-11-2007, 06:16 AM   #5
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Trailer: 2004 Bigfoot 17 ft ('Beastie')
Posts: 564
Lainey (and Mike),

I read your posts with great interest, since I also have a new-to-me Bigfoot 17. I gather you are towing your Bigfoot with a pick-up truck. I agree. If there are no towing problems, forget the WDH altogether. I'm towing mine with an Eaz-Lift sway control and really haven't tried to tow without the sway control. I also had Air Lift bags added to the rear coil springs of my Jeep GC before getting the Bigfoot. So far, I'm pleased with the set-up after towing almost 3000 miles. I like the security of the sway control, although it may not be absolutely necessary. You'll have to decide if you need sway control with your set up.

I'm finding out you have to travel light with a Bigfoot 17, even more so than a Casita! According to the sticker in the closet, my cargo carrying capacity (CCC) is only 300# with fresh water tank and propane tanks full. I agree that whatever you carry in the trailer should be up front to maximize tongue weight. You might also want to travel with the fresh water tank less than full for the same reason.

Fuel economy? I don't think a WDH or "trim" is going to make a noticeable difference. BTW, I get 12-13 mpg towing the "big box". The trailer should be as close to level as possible, but I prefer slightly tongue down for reasons other than sway control. The rear end of the trailer is less likely to drag and you can set up for the night without unhitching--just drop the rear stabilizer jacks and raise the tongue jack a little. Unfortunately, I have not achieved this yet, as I'm still a little tongue high.
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Old 08-11-2007, 06:25 AM   #6
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Trailer: 1989 Casita Spirit Deluxe
Posts: 2,055
On removing the sway control: I just loosen mine until there is zero friction. If I have to stop to check in, that is when I do it. If I don't stop, then I do it at the camp site. The reason for removing is so that you won't bend it. If it's a fairly straight back in and I haven't had the opportuntity to remove or loosen it, I have left it in place.
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Old 08-11-2007, 06:40 PM   #7
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Trailer: Bigfoot 17 ft (15B17G) / Chevy Astro AWD
Posts: 84
The Bigfoot is really easy to tow. With the Astro, I can barely feel its presence.

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Old 08-12-2007, 10:35 PM   #8
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Name: Brian
Trailer: Boler (B1700RGH) 1979
Posts: 5,000
How will the hitch receiver and trailer tongue heights affect the tongue weight? Maybe I should also look at the drop (or not dropping) to the ball on the hitch receiver in relation to the tongue weight?
When you lift the front of the trailer higher, it moves the mass of the trailer back a bit, reducing the hitch weight (and vice versa). If the Bigfoot is running nose-high, then lowering it to level (as it is carried by the truck) will increase the hitch weight. Just how much depends on the height of the centre of mass - rather than trying to calculate that, I would just measure the tongue weight at the current height and level.
1979 Boler B1700RGH, pulled by 2004 Toyota Sienna LE 2WD
Information is good. Lack of information is not so good, but misinformation is much worse. Check facts, and apply common sense liberally.
STATUS: No longer active in forum.
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Old 08-13-2007, 03:30 PM   #9
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It occurs to me that running with the nose high also rams air underneath the trailer, which may have lifting effect, plus create some perhaps unwanted behavior when the trailer is off to one side in a curve or when a truck's bow wave hits it.

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