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Old 09-21-2017, 09:37 AM   #1
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Sway control anyone?

Check out this video. Rare for something like this to be caught on camera.

Overturned camper slows traffic on Garden State Parkway

Glad no one was hurt. That is a very busy road on any given day. What can we learn from this? Proper loading and hitch set up would probably prevent this to begin with, but if sway starts I suppose I would let of the gas and gently initiate the trailer brakes with the manual lever on the brake controller.

Also a good reminder why no one should ever ride in a travel trailer.
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Old 09-21-2017, 03:04 PM   #2
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Although most crashes are not caught on video, that's changing as dashcams become more common. There are lots of videos trailer crashes involving sway, and I have noticed some patterns:
  • tandem-axle trailers are supposed to improve stability, but almost all of these videos show tandem-axle trailers swaying to destruction (including this one)
  • large and truck-based tow vehicles are supposed to be safe, but almost all of these videos show large tugs (this one is Ford Expedition, based on the same platform as the F-150)
  • various bits of hitch hardware are supposed to required for safety, but most all of these videos show piles of WD spring bars and other hardware being used... although many videos have too little resolution to make the setup clear (I can't see what's on this rig, but it's hard to imagine that size of trailer on a Expedition without WD)
It's not enough to just have the truck and the hardware. They must be used properly - the "proper loading and hitch set up" which Dave mentioned - and the trailer must still be within the limits of the tow vehicle and equipment.

I also noticed that the propane tanks which some people seem to believe will surely blow up and kill us all if there is any incident are actually flopping around on their hoses (because most propane tank holders are junk, although we don't know if these specific ones were even clamped down) and there is no explosion, or even fire. These are even the larger and heavier 30-pound size, not the 20-pound size we have on our trailers.

I'm a little surprised that the tug didn't get turned over by the trailer. Couplers won't roll 90 degrees without binding, so this hitch, coupler, or tongue must have broken (or possibly just twisted somewhere). WD hardware restricts motion even more, likely causing some tow vehicles to roll when the trailer falls over.
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Old 09-21-2017, 03:17 PM   #3
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This video is a little longer and shows the sway start and get worse. Way too light on the tongue?

www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=26&v=v74hW8xE1-8
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Old 09-21-2017, 03:43 PM   #4
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This video is a little longer and shows the sway start and get worse. Way too light on the tongue?

www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=26&v=v74hW8xE1-8
That's better editing - you can see the sway start, and how quickly it builds. The image is also much more clear, although I still can't pick out the WD hardware.

It is interesting that the sway does not seem to be initiated by a sudden movement (such as a lane change), or by wind and a large object passing or being passed. This thing must have had really marginal stability at that speed.

I don't see the brakes go on. I wonder if the driver was attempting to control the sway by applying power, or by just steering.

In the sheer speculation category...
The trailer appears to have two waste tanks behind the axle; I wonder if they were both full?

The camera car driver did a good job of staying out of the event, but I would have backed off even further if I saw even the beginning of that sway.
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Old 09-21-2017, 03:49 PM   #5
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My money's on two causes: excess speed and driver stupidity.
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Old 09-21-2017, 04:00 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
It is interesting that the sway does not seem to be initiated by a sudden movement (such as a lane change), or by wind and a large object passing or being passed. This thing must have had really marginal stability at that speed.
If you can believe the youtube comments it appears someone connected to the family posted that a tire blew. Hard to tell from the video but maybe on the passenger side of the truck?
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Old 09-21-2017, 04:25 PM   #7
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My money's on two causes: excess speed and driver stupidity.
X2. And I don't even watch the videos. With regard to trailers, bad loading has to be very high up. Some people think that they can load ridiculous amounts and all in the wrong place.
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Old 09-21-2017, 05:50 PM   #8
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If you can believe the youtube comments it appears someone connected to the family posted that a tire blew. Hard to tell from the video but maybe on the passenger side of the truck?
Saw no evidence of a blown tire, but I doubt that would have caused it anyway. The sway simply increased more and more, while the driver apparently attempted to keep the same speed or higher throughout. Improper loading (low tongue weight) seems to me a more likely culprit than a tire.

Hard to understand why the driver didn't simply slow down and manually apply the trailer brakes the moment the sway started, but perhaps he hadn't towed before and didn't know how.
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Old 09-21-2017, 06:13 PM   #9
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i once towed a horse trailer with a TV that was not appropriate it wasn't my rig and i was helping someone (i was very green about towing and trusted my friend) no control at speeds over 45 lots of sway. i just slowed way down and told her to sell her TV and never tow with it again! it was double axle horse trailer with equalizing bars and trailer brakes but that couldn't make up for a under powered /under weight /under wheel base improper TV. To be specific a bronco and a three horse trailer- scary but luckily we were not going far.
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Old 09-21-2017, 07:06 PM   #10
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When you apply the brake controller manually, do the brake lights come on?
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Old 09-21-2017, 07:13 PM   #11
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When you apply the brake controller manually, do the brake lights come on?
On our P3 they do, truck and trailer both light up
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Old 09-21-2017, 07:36 PM   #12
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If you can believe the youtube comments it appears someone connected to the family posted that a tire blew. Hard to tell from the video but maybe on the passenger side of the truck?
Interesting. I didn't notice any destroyed tires on either the tug or the trailer, but I wasn't looking for them and it might not be visible.

A bad tire on the tug would not likely cause the sway, anyway.

It's also possible that it was entirely operator error, and a family member decided to blame it on a tire that went flat due to sliding sideways on the road at high speed.
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Old 09-21-2017, 07:36 PM   #13
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My P2 setup instructions warn that the trailer brake lights will not come on when the manual lever is applied, which is why setup should be done on a deserted road.
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Old 09-21-2017, 07:39 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
When you apply the brake controller manually, do the brake lights come on?
Ideally, yes. With factory integrated controllers this should work. With aftermarket controllers, the only connection of the controller to the stop lamp circuit is through the switch on the brake pedal. If the wrong brake pedal switch connection is used, the controller applying power to it may not turn the tug's lights on, and of course then it wouldn't turn the trailer's lights on; of course if the controller is not designed to turn the lights on, it won't.

It is possible that the driver manually applied the trailer brakes, and we just don't see it... and it wasn't effective.
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Old 09-21-2017, 07:44 PM   #15
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Hard to understand why the driver didn't simply slow down and manually apply the trailer brakes the moment the sway started, but perhaps he hadn't towed before and didn't know how.
It's also possible that the driver read one of the many online recommendations to not slow down until the sway was under control, and/or that the driver could not reach the control lever while trying to drive.

Not knowing how to control sway doesn't suggest a lack of towing experience to me... just a lack of trailer swaying experience. I've only had a trailer sway once (not my trailer, not loaded by me, but improperly loaded) and that one didn't have brakes... so I've never had an opportunity to practice sway control by trailer braking.
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Old 09-21-2017, 07:47 PM   #16
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I watched the high-definition and longer version of the video again, paying attention to the tires. There's a good view of all trailer tires as the sway starts, and good views of all tires on each side as the rig covers three lanes. None of those tires "blew", and none even looked like they were at low pressure. So much for that excuse...
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Old 09-21-2017, 07:48 PM   #17
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That's true enough. Most folks who tow have no experience controlling sway unless they've encountered it before. But I would think some common sense applies here, and first instinct would be slow down. It's also possible they had no trailer brakes, but that omission would be downright incompetence or ignorance or both with such a large trailer.

Having said all that, it's something I'll never be able to test with my current setup, since I can't make it sway even if I wanted to.
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Old 09-21-2017, 08:15 PM   #18
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And then there is this scenario.
I was driving too fast for conditions ( gravel road with occasional washboard ) towing my tent trailer with my Subaru wagon.
Coming around a bend in the road, I noticed that the tent trailer was overtaking me. I did not slow down. I hit the gas, and the front-wheel-drive Subaru pulled ahead of the trailer. If I had slowed, the trailer would have passed me.
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Old 09-21-2017, 08:28 PM   #19
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The first instinct is indeed to slow down and people will wrongly hit the tug brakes.
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Old 09-22-2017, 05:21 PM   #20
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The first instinct is indeed to slow down and people will wrongly hit the tug brakes.
That's true. I'm talking about foot off the gas, and apply the trailer brakes manually. In any case, none of that happened here.
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