Bouncing Trailer - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-27-2006, 12:15 PM   #1
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Trailer: 1978 Volkswagen Westfalia
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Sometimes while we are traveling, we see a trailer bouncing up and down and then swaying side to side.

Can any one tell me what causing this? Trying to talk hubby into a small 13 foot trailer and seeing a trailer doing this isn't helping.
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Old 11-27-2006, 12:37 PM   #2
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Jan,
Trailer bounce can have several causes. Tires may be unbalanced or have a flat spot. Wheels may be bent. Most common in small travel trailers is an old axle with no flex in the rubber torsion bands located inside the axle.

Sway is usually caused by too little weight on the tongue. This can be fixed by loading more carefully. If all else fails, an anti-sway bar can be added between the tow vehicle and the trailer.

Tom Trostel
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Old 11-27-2006, 01:52 PM   #3
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I agree that wheel or tire imbalance can cause a trailer (or a car) to bounce, even on a perfectly flat road. If the bouncing doesn't go on forever, it can be the result of just hitting a bump, with a suspension which does not have enough damping, relative to the trailer weight and spring stiffness. Since people almost randomly choose suspensions for trailers, it could be just a bad setup.

The damping in most trailers with leaf springs comes from friction between the leaves, and in rubber-sprung trailers it is the rubber itself; neither one is adequate by automotive standards, so a very small fraction of trailers are equipped with shock absorbers, just like cars have been for several decades. Since shocks can usually be added (I put a pair on my Boler), this is a fixable problem.

I do not agree that sway is caused by too little weight on the tongue: if it were, every RV trailer in Europe would be swaying all over the place. It is caused by all sorts of instabilities in the trailer design, aggravated by unfortunate matching with the tow vehicle, and then permitted by the lack of control in the trailer suspension. Increasing tongue weight in many cases affects some of these factors, as do weight-distributing hitch systems.

I guess if I were trying to convince someone that a small trailer can behave properly I would point out that proper equipment and configuration will lead to good towing, as demonstrated by many thousands of small travel trailers on the road. Some are bad, but no type of vehicle should be judged by the worst examples of the type.

By the way, if you're trying to convince someone that a trailer with a rubber torsion axle is sound, I wouldn't talk about "rubber bands" - that sounds bad. They're actually solid rubber rods in most cases, and would be better described as "bushings" or "blocks"
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Old 11-27-2006, 02:27 PM   #4
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We have the 1978 VW Westfalia, which we love but hate in cooler (cold) weather and hot weather. Hubby has decided that he has froze his butt off driving one too many times and wants to do something different (which to him, is camping in a tent).

We have a Saturn 4 cylinder VUE that we traveled in this year. Well, I froze MY butt off one too many times in the tent and I WANT something different. He is at least agreeable enough to "talk" about a small trailer.

But, he says he doesn't want to "tow". Notice he doesn't say anything about parking a trailer (hecko - he used to park airplanes in the service so a 13 foot trailer would be the least of his worries).

I want a small trailer and the sooner the better in my opinion. We have about 5 more years until we retire and I think a small trailer would fit our needs perfectly.
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Old 11-27-2006, 02:30 PM   #5
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Jan, did you get my PM?
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Old 11-27-2006, 03:40 PM   #6
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Jan, did you get my PM?
You mean the one about the camping pod??? Yep, I even personally spoke to the owner.

The pod is $3,995 and then you have to buy the trailer. While that would allow me to use my current camping equipment (less the tent part), the cost could be more than a vintage trailer.

I'm thinking that maybe we could take a "vintage trailer" and put a double bunk bed type arrangement in the back. That would make it perfect. Hopefully, that wouldn't add to much weight. I would most likely remove the "gray water", water holding tanks, etc. Just don't need that and it would certainly lighten up the trailer. One gallon of water is 8 pounds so removing those items could make it towable for us.

Still have to convince hubby to tow.
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Old 11-27-2006, 04:11 PM   #7
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Quote:
I do not agree that sway is caused by too little weight on the tongue: if it were, every RV trailer in Europe would be swaying all over the place. It is caused by all sorts of instabilities in the trailer design, aggravated by unfortunate matching with the tow vehicle, and then permitted by the lack of control in the trailer suspension. Increasing tongue weight in many cases affects some of these factors, as do weight-distributing hitch systems.


A minimum of 10% of the trailer weight must be on the tongue.
Having spent most of my adult life in law enforcement, I am an old guy now, I have seen my fair share of accidents and stopped quite a few swaying trailers. In almost every instance moving the load forward in the trailer stopped the sway.
If you read the owners manual in your trailer it will tell you that a minimum of 10% of the trailer weight MUST be on the tongue. This is one very important fact that most novice trailer owners or users are ignorant of.
An improperly loaded trailer can be deadly.
John
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Old 11-27-2006, 05:15 PM   #8
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I know it is redundant, but a very important part of towing is to make sure both you TV and RV are LEVEL when towing.

The tongue weight should be greater than 10%, only be cautious that you don't overload the TV rear suspension. If you do your tires will flatten causing the side walls to roll from side to side and your RV will sway even if you have a sway bar and WDH.

Experience teaches, communication enlightens.
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Old 11-27-2006, 06:13 PM   #9
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A minimum of 10% of the trailer weight must be on the tongue.
Having spent most of my adult life in law enforcement, I am an old guy now, I have seen my fair share of accidents and stopped quite a few swaying trailers. In almost every instance moving the load forward in the trailer stopped the sway.
If you read the owners manual in your trailer it will tell you that a minimum of 10% of the trailer weight MUST be on the tongue. This is one very important fact that most novice trailer owners or users are ignorant of.
An improperly loaded trailer can be deadly.
John
Amen
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Old 11-27-2006, 07:10 PM   #10
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Oh i have to Add my 2 cents in on sway. My other trailer is a 12k dual axle dump trailer and it gets squirrelly real fast if if the load is rear heavy. we are talking not being able to top 45 mph. Moveing a ton of stone by hand is a PITA but it stops the sway. That really is puting theroy to the pavement
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Old 11-27-2006, 07:33 PM   #11
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Sometimes too, correct tires correct issues such as this. Correct air pressure for the loaded trailer IS important also. Sway (IF its an issue is corrected with a sway contol set up that attaches to the trailer towbar and the hitch itself!!
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Old 11-27-2006, 07:38 PM   #12
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Oh i have to Add my 2 cents in on sway. My other trailer is a 12k dual axle dump trailer and it gets squirrelly real fast if if the load is rear heavy. we are talking not being able to top 45 mph. Moveing a ton of stone by hand is a PITA but it stops the sway. That really is puting theroy to the pavement
Does your 12k trailer have a pintle hitch. My first towing experience was with a 3k tilt bed utility trailer with pintle hitch and it almost put me in the ditch from swaying at only 30 MPH because I had little if any tongue weight(balanced load). One incident like that was enough for me. The pintle style hitch is more prone to swaying than the ball and socket used on our FGRV's but I now check that I have sufficient tongue load every time I hook on to either type.
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Old 11-27-2006, 07:46 PM   #13
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I just want to make it clear that in my comments I did not mean to minimize the importance of proper loading. "Proper" depends on several aspects of the trailer and tug, but it will always be positive (the hitch carries some weight), and erring on the high side (within the tow vehicle limits) is likely the safer bet. It's just that, as CD Smith mentioned, piling weight forward is not a cure-all.

Now my story...
I once towed a travel trailer to a club event to be used as the event headquarters, a routine task for us in those days. It was a relatively small and ancient stick-built, with a side door near the rear and a closet in the back, towed by a full-size but short-box Chevy pickup. It was fine on the way there, but I didn't realize that at the end of the event a pile of equipment had been tossed in that closet (because it was handy), instead of where it belonged. The trailer stayed hooked to the truck the whole day, so I didn't need to lift the tongue for hookup; since I didn't check the hitch weight I never noticed the change.

On the way home when we got up to highway speed that trailer - which was normally very stable - started swinging from the shoulder on the right to the adjacent lane on the left. We stopped (that was an "experience"), moved the load, and continued without incident. Lesson learned: now I check the hitch weight!

So back to the original point...
If anyone judged travel trailer towing by the sway they saw that day, they would never try it themselves. With proper operation that same trailer (a basic box with ordinary suspension, towed without any fancy hardware) was never a problem.
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Old 11-28-2006, 06:59 AM   #14
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Another thing to check is the condition of the tow vehicle. A lot of my trailer bounce disappeared when I replaced the struts (read shock absorbers) front and back on my Subaru.
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Old 11-28-2006, 09:45 AM   #15
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Mine was a horrible bouncer when I got it. It had a broken frame, and repair of that fixed it somewhat, but new tires did the trick for the most part.

It had been sitting for a few years when I picked it up. No doubt, flat spots.
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Old 11-28-2006, 05:27 PM   #16
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Hi, Jan and good luck in your search for a small, lightweight "hard-sided" tent - you will NEVER regret this upgrade to your camping style!

I have towed horse trailers, firewood trailers, moving trailers, etc and our Scamp 13 is the easiest thing I EVER towed ... you have to remind yourself it is even back there sometimes. I think your DH will be quite comfortable tugging one of these. There is virtually no reaction to passing big-rigs or reasonable winds (high winds = Geezers parked for the duration!).

One caveat - make certain the owners manual for your Vue clearly states it will handle the weight of a 13ft-er. We tow with a Mazda MPV, and must be very careful about what we pack in both trailer or tug - my DH loves this aspect ... no more antiques shops stops!

Hope you find the perfect Egg for you-2. Happy trails, LdB
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Old 11-28-2006, 06:44 PM   #17
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:
One caveat - make certain the owners manual for your Vue clearly states it will handle the weight of a 13ft-er. We tow with a Mazda MPV, and must be very careful about what we pack in both trailer or tug - my DH loves this aspect ... no more antiques shops stops!

Hope you find the perfect Egg for you-2. Happy trails, LdB

Our manual says 1,300 pounds - so it is going to have to be small. A Eriba Puck would really fit the weight but they are even more rare than 13 ft. Scamps.
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Old 11-28-2006, 10:06 PM   #18
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I run both my Bolers with about12- 15% tongue weight and have had absolutely no sway problems......again, one time, one of my sons or a friend loaded my son`s show car on an open car trailer and it was spotted about 8" further back than the marks drawn on the trailer deck and I started to hit legal highway speed the trailer decided that it was time for it to try wag my truck`s tail and we almost lost the trailer, car, and my truck because of the trailer sway......hopefully, never ever will I tow a trailer with with too low of a tongue weight as it`s just asking for trouble.......I am also of the opinion that with a properly loaded trailer, that a anti sway device is totally unnecessary, and is just a crutch for a badly loaded trailer........of course with an RV trailer which has changing loads with water usage and distribution during a trip, that a crutch may be needed in some cases....Benny
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Old 12-16-2006, 09:34 AM   #19
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Just returned from a trip down into southern Arizona. At a State Park near Nogales, AZ met a fellow camper couple with a small motorhome built on a Toyota pickup chassis. They had bought it used for a pittance, did some fixing up and were on a post-retirement trial run at full-timing.

My impression was that they were intentionally living and travelling well below their means. They had entertained the idea of a Scamp or other small FGRV, but they were a little aprehensive about towing a trailer when the Toyota became available.

So far - so good into this experiment about 2 months. The only complaint was fuel economy and performance on hills.

So, if you are fearful about towing, there are other alternatives.

The best advice, I think, is to do it as soon as you can and well before you can't. You don't need to have the "perfect set-up" at the get-go. You should build to that goal as you go along. Fix the major annoyances in your rig first, then start solving the minor ones. It's a never ending process that can allow you a healthy creative outlet.

Happy traveling.

Loren
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Old 12-18-2006, 09:50 AM   #20
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For the past two years I've had a Coleman popup camper, and now I have a U-Haul fiberglass camper.

The only time my trailers bounce is when I'm on I-294 or some stretches of I-80 or I-94 where these interstate highways were rebuilt with a cement top and NO asphalt. When they poured the cement there are high and low points (dips) in the slabs which are pretty much unnoticeable when you're driving in your standard, two-axle vehicle. But when you tow a trailer behind you, especially if your tow vehicle has a short wheelbase like our Honda Element, those slight dips in the cement become VERY noticeable and cause the trailer to bounce all over the place.

The solution?

Slow down to 55mph in the far right lane or speed up in the far left lane. The left lane is less travelled by large, heavy trucks and is usually much smoother. The far right lane always has the most use by heavier vehicles, so the concrete slabs are usually in the worst shape. The middle lane (if there is one) also has a lot of truck-traffic and is best to stay away from if you're getting lots of bounce.
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