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Old 07-28-2016, 06:08 PM   #21
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My wife has never been willing to get behind the wheel while hooked to a trailer. I respect her choice, although I tried coaxing her a time or two.
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Old 07-28-2016, 08:49 PM   #22
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British Columbia
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Mr Lynn:

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!
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Old 07-28-2016, 09:14 PM   #23
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Thanks, Warren, for the detailed report. It must have been traumatic, and I'm glad you all (except the vehicles) emerged unscathed.

So the Boler was swaying violently on a downhill grade. Is hitting the manual trailer brake the best thing to do in that circumstance? I'm asking because I have no idea; I'm new to towing (aside from a U-Haul utility rental on rare occasions, and those had surge brakes). Would hitting the TV brake have been a bad idea?

You had an 'equalizer' (weight-distributing, I assume) hitch, and even that wasn't enough to prevent the fishtailing. I have only the single anti-sway bar that Casida sold to the PO with our trailer. Your experience makes me wonder if I need more hardware.

Perhaps others can suggest how best to avoid what sounds like an almost unavoidable situation.

/Mr Lynn
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Old 07-28-2016, 10:19 PM   #24
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Trailer: 1979 17' Boler
British Columbia
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Truck drivers have told me that stepping on the accelerator is a good strategy when your trailer begins to fishtail: pulling hard on it to get it lined up again. Unfortunately, when headed downhill into a curve towards a narrow-looking bridge, that was not a possibility.

Hitting just the trailer brakes was the second strategy recommended. I have not done either -- the only other fishtailing experience I've had is with a small utility trailer, and it came back into line once we passed the washboard section of road.

The weight-distributing (equalizer) hitch made a big difference to how stable the trailer felt, even if it was a bit of over-kill for a small Boler. I am considering adding airbags to the rear end on my next tow vehicle. And I am also hoping to find a Bigfoot with tandem axles -- another friend of mine has said that compared to a single-axle trailer it has much less tendency to sway.

When I first bought the Boler in Edmonton (about 17 highway hours away from home), the salesman put it on a simple ball hitch, and gave me a 4-pin to 7-pin connector and pointed me down the highway. So off I went with nothing but a simple ball hitch and no brakes.

He said I should be fine: after all, I was only driving through the Northern Rocky Mountains. Since then I've learned he freely gave me very bad advice indeed.
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Old 07-28-2016, 10:35 PM   #25
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British Columbia
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I have a 17' Escape and a RAV4.
I use a Pro Series weight distribution hitch without sway bars. In eight years, I've not experienced sway except for the one time I made a radical lane change. From that incident, I know what sway feels like. It was brief and trailer and tow recovered quickly.
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Old 07-29-2016, 12:55 AM   #26
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Warren, I'm not sure I would agree with a tandem axle being better for sway. In almost 50 years of towing I've only had one sway experience, a utility tandem axle that I had loaded with way to much weight on one side. Not saying that your load was wrong and I'm glad you both are OK but sometimes external forces throw things out of kilter and you're on an E ticket ride. I like tandems or duals better but for flat/blowout reasons over a single axle.
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Old 07-29-2016, 06:48 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Warren Wilson View Post
The weight-distributing (equalizer) hitch made a big difference to how stable the trailer felt
When you mention "equalizer", do you mean the Equal-i-zer brand WD hitch, or was it a standard WD hitch? Did you have some anti-sway device?
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Old 07-29-2016, 05:20 PM   #28
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Name: Warren
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Yes, Carl -- I mean a WD hitch -- around here I guess the brand name has taken over. Can you recommend an anti-sway device?
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Old 07-29-2016, 06:51 PM   #29
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No, sorry Warren, I know many will say 'equalizer' hitch to describe any weight distributing hitch, but since that's also the name Equal-i-zer picked for a hitch that supposedly helps prevent an accident like you had, I just wanted to clarify.
As for anti-sway devices, my Trillium came with a standard WD hitch and a regular friction-type anti-sway. I'm planning to eventually upgrade to something like an Equal-i-zer or Reese Steadi-Flex. Not sure if it could have prevented or helped in a situation like you had, but I'd rather play it safe.
My experience is mainly with my Coleman popup, I'm towing it with a Reese 350 Mini, which also acts as an anti-sway device. Similar principle as the two systems mentioned above. Works very well.
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Old 07-29-2016, 09:26 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Lynn View Post
Is hitting the manual trailer brake the best thing to do in that circumstance? I'm asking because I have no idea; I'm new to towing (aside from a U-Haul utility rental on rare occasions, and those had surge brakes). Would hitting the TV brake have been a bad idea?

You had an 'equalizer' (weight-distributing, I assume) hitch, and even that wasn't enough to prevent the fishtailing. I have only the single anti-sway bar that Casida sold to the PO with our trailer. Your experience makes me wonder if I need more hardware.

Perhaps others can suggest how best to avoid what sounds like an almost unavoidable situation.

/Mr Lynn
Applying only the brakes to the trailer using the brake controller leaver is ALWAYS a better choose then using the vehicles brakes and/or accelerating if the trailer starts to sway. You can do a practice of it a few times on an empty road to see what it feels like. Pulling the lever only to allow the trailer brakes to catch and quickly let them off once or twice is often enough to stop sway.

If you already have an anti sway bar then you have all the hardware you most likely need for the size of the trailer you have. Unless the weight of the trailer is causing the front of the tow vehicle to rise more than an inch or so ... than a WDH would be in order as to much weight off the front of the vehicle can make for an unsafe tow as well.

Unfortunately having an anti sway bar attached is not a 100% guarantee either.

The only other thing you can do is make sure your trailer is loaded well, not just level. Not to much weight up high or side to side or at the extreme front or rear. Remember the state of your trailers stability will change simple by running with water in a tank located behind the axle & or if your propane tank is empty, if you do not have enough weight on the tongue to start with to allow for that.
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Old 07-30-2016, 09:43 PM   #31
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If dangerous sway occurs, applying trailer brakes only is the best procedure.

In terms of prevention, the number one thing is to make sure at least 10% of the trailer's total weight rests on the hitch. For a 2500 lb trailer, that's 250+ lbs. Number two thing, if desired, would be some sort of sway control device. Friction bars are helpful, but a WD hitch with built-in sway control is better. I liked using the Andersen No-Sway hitch in the past because it is light and clean. With my Hauley I don't use anything, but I make sure hitch weight is adequate, and it hasn't even hinted at a sway in thousands of miles. And boy did I have the side gusts, coming home through Wyoming this month.
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Old 07-31-2016, 12:25 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Magee View Post
If dangerous sway occurs, applying trailer brakes only is the best procedure.

In terms of prevention, the number one thing is to make sure at least 10% of the trailer's total weight rests on the hitch. For a 2500 lb trailer, that's 250+ lbs. Number two thing, if desired, would be some sort of sway control device. Friction bars are helpful, but a WD hitch with built-in sway control is better. I liked using the Andersen No-Sway hitch in the past because it is light and clean. With my Hauley I don't use anything, but I make sure hitch weight is adequate, and it hasn't even hinted at a sway in thousands of miles. And boy did I have the side gusts, coming home through Wyoming this month.


As Mike has indicated applying brakes to the trailer ONLY is always your best option. Applying brakes to the vehicle can/will make the situation worse.

Having an anti sway bar is an added safety item but it should not be something you rely on to fix a sway issue &/or from actually stopping the trailer from doing a big wag. Personally do not attach one to my trailer until I had done some test runs with my set up to make sure it is as solid as I can get it without the anti sway bar on it.

How much tongue weight you need to obtain a solid tow in all travel conditions are going to change greatly between various tow vehicle and trailer combos. No two set ups are the same.

For example I pulled my 16' Scamp with a small cross over SUV that was very solid at highway speeds and high cross winds & big truck passing with only around 10% of its totally loaded trailer weight on the tongue. Same trailer in the same state on a different larger tow vehicle required closer to 15% of the total weight on the tongue before it would stop doing little wiggles at highway speeds with light side winds or trucks passing.

That later combo was also the one and only time in thousands of miles of travel in the past 10 years that I had to use the lever on the brake controller to stop a sway situation that was going south fast!

I do have to take full ownership for the above situation though. I stopped to fill up the water tanks as I was getting close to where we would be camping. Having spent a lot of time working on getting that set up as stable as I could I was well aware that it did not take a lot of changes in the stowage of the trailer to change how it felt, particularly with a side wind. As I started off down a narrow pass at posted speed limit and there was some wind and the trailer started to do a BIG wag. Once I got it straightened using the brake controller lever I pulled over fast for two reasons #1 to let my heart rate recover and #2 to start searching for heavy items in the back of the tow vehicle to put on the floor of the trailer ahead of the axle to compensate for the weight of the water at the rear of the trailer had taken off the tongue.

Moral of the above is to always keep in mind when pulling a light trailer it does not take much to change the % of weight on the tongue - empty propane tanks &/or full water tanks may be all it takes to tip the scale in the wrong direction.

Another issue is when the trailer is too heavy on the hitch for the tow vehicle weight is transferred off the front wheels of the tow vehicle. This can result in loosed braking traction and steering control on the front axle of the tow vehicle, which is also very dangerous. This is where the use of a WDH is helpful BUT it is also possible to create an equally as dangerous tow set up using a WDH that is over rated for your trailer. An example of a not so good WDH hitch st up would be putting one that is rated for 800 or 1000lbs on a trailer that only has a loaded tongue weight of 400lbs or less, this can/will result in a not so good redistribution of weight

One thing is for sure one needs to weigh the trailers axle as well as tongue in a loaded state in order to even start figuring out what you need to do to set it up correct to achieve a nice solid safe tow.
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Old 07-31-2016, 04:33 PM   #33
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Condolences on the loss of trailer and tug.
Happy to hear you both made it out without injury to anything but your pride.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Lynn View Post
So the Boler was swaying violently on a downhill grade. Is hitting the manual trailer brake the best thing to do in that circumstance? I'm asking because I have no idea; I'm new to towing (aside from a U-Haul utility rental on rare occasions, and those had surge brakes). Would hitting the TV brake have been a bad idea?
Surge brakes work when the trailer is pushing forward on the tow vehicle. The pressure causes the hydraulics in the trailer to apply the trailer brakes. It is like having a 2nd driver automatically apply the brakes for you. (remember drivers ed when the instructor put the brakes on for you?)
e brakes work totally different and can be applied whether the trailer is pushing or pulling on the tow vehicle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Warren Wilson View Post
...we are both going to be practicing reaching for the manual controller on the electric brake so that it becomes muscle memory

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carol H View Post
Applying only the brakes to the trailer using the brake controller leaver is ALWAYS a better choose then using the vehicles brakes and/or accelerating if the trailer starts to sway. You can do a practice of it a few times on an empty road to see what it feels like. Pulling the lever only to allow the trailer brakes to catch and quickly let them off once or twice is often enough to stop sway.
+1
Once you've had the manual application resolve an incident, you don't forget about it working. Problem is, it is not an automatic reaction.

We try to manually apply the trailer brakes early every trip (both driver and passenger) shortly after double checking and adjusting the mirrors that seem to move when you slam the door. It reminds us both of where the controller is and the passenger knows they can apply the brakes when the driver is concentrating on steering/control. Simply because one tends to instinctively react as though a trailer was not behind them. This also ensures that the brake controller is doing its job.

We use the code word BRAKES to let the co-pilot they need to react. Looking for the little lever under the dash when you need your attention up front is a challenge.

<instinct is like the passenger pushing their right foot on the floorboards when they think they would be applying the brakes>
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Old 08-10-2016, 11:02 AM   #34
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Name: Warren
Trailer: 1979 17' Boler
British Columbia
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Thanks

Thanks for the thoughts and tips.

We've now bought a new (to us) FJ Cruiser to tow with, and are properly equipped to seek out a new trailer.

The upside of this accident is that I am now dusting off our kayaks, that have been neglected in recent years because we were showing such favoritism to the Boler. Wonder if I can remember how to do a roll.

Thanks again for both the sympathy and the ideas.
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