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Old 08-24-2014, 10:38 PM   #1
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Towing tips for newbies or how to avoid towing horror stories

Towing tips for newbies or towing horror stories and how to avoid them

On another thread a poster (kmart) suggested that newbies to towing may benefit from a where more experienced driver to towing share some tips. I'd also like to read some towing horror stories and how to avoid the same.

I've driven thousands of miles in a large Ryder rental truck when our family moved. Driving down steep mountain inclines/passes was always a bit unnerving. My boss, who has experience towing stick trailers, had a nerve-wracking experience years ago coming down the Coquihalla Highway with the trailer which was too heavy pushing the truck down the incline. He had his family with him and this experience was etched into his memory. He became very conservative after that. We followed his example when choosing our tug (Frontier) which has double the towing capacity for our 17b.

So with that as an intro, are there any towing tips, horror stories any experienced drivers have to share with us.

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Old 08-24-2014, 11:05 PM   #2
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Both of my bad experiences were towing with an '87 Subaru GL Wagon that had brakes the size of a soup can lid ( and not much more effective ).
I had towed my boat down a long series of hills, trying to avoid using the brakes as much as possible.
Approaching a T junction with a stop sign, wife and daughter in the car, I was asking myself if I would stop, and what I would do if I couldn't. I drifted to a stop as a semi raced past on the highway I had been approaching.

So I was aware of the brake situation with the Subaru when I started my decent on the Coquihalla, towing my tent trailer. I chose the far right lane and was feathering the brakes and geared down, doing 80 kph, but I was fast approaching a semi with four-way flashers. He was doing maybe 40 kph.
I looked in my mirror and there was a steady stream of cars doing 110 kph in the centre lane and 120 kph in the far left lane. I couldn't accelerate ( it was a &^$#!! Subaru ) to the speed of traffic. I had to stand on the brake, prompting my wife to ask what that smell was.
That smell was $300 to re and re the brakes ( a job that had been done two weeks previously ).
In both cases I was towing a trailer without brakes, with a woefully under-equipped vehicle, driven by an ignoramus.

2009 Escape 17B "Toad"
2008 Toyota RAV4 V6 Sport
North Vancouver, British Columbia

What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?
- Bertolt Brecht
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Old 08-24-2014, 11:47 PM   #3
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My first paragraph has a blasted auto-correct error(s) in it. I think my intent comes through but am embarrassed by the sentence and am unable to edit it now. Liz says I should have let her edit it before posting (and to think part of my day job is writing). Basically, please share some towing tips or horror stories.

Glenn Baglo shares a great story! Thanks

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Old 08-25-2014, 01:17 AM   #4
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As a fellow in OCD department -- do not ever worry about an inadvertent error! Most will probably not see it and the remainder really do understand how things go awry. We were in Chilliwack Wednesday to talk about options for our 21 due in January when you left with your new 17. Happy travels!

I do not yet have towing horror stories (although there was an incident while I was driving on a trip from Seattle through Idaho on I90 with a Uhaul trailor in tow that somehow made
Hubby think that the remainder of the trip to Nashville should be accomplished with only him at the wheel. He did get very tired and grumpy and by the time we got to Missouri he decided that I could be trusted drive for a couple of hours -- we both were very relieved!) though they may not be avoidable in the long run. I'll try to follow your lead and get advice before we head out with our 21.
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Old 08-25-2014, 08:48 AM   #5
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Our first trailer was a 15 ft trillium. Which was awesome! But of course we thought we had to have a bathroom so we bought a 25 ft stick trailer which was on paper well within the capacity of our Chevrolet Tahoe. On our maiden voyage we hardly got to the city limits on the highway and the trailer started whipping so badly I suspect we used all
The two lanes of divided highway and out friends behind us thought for sure the trailer was going to flip . I quickly learned about tounge weight which was nearly impossible to properly achieve in this trailer . We sold it later that year, As the axles were clearly in the wrong place.
MacRae, 21ft
2016 GMC Yukon SLT
St.Albert Alberta
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Old 08-25-2014, 08:56 AM   #6
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Tow at a moderate speed to enjoy the experience and conserve fuel. Plan the drive between overnight camp spots according to time and distance, thereby relaxing and enjoying the trip.
"Never argue with an idiot. They only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience." George Carlin
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Old 08-25-2014, 09:50 AM   #7
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Avoid small fast food parking lots,. Dunkin Donuts wasn't happy the day I had to have nearly everyone clear the lot so I could turn around and go out the entrance.
Happy Motoring
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Old 08-25-2014, 10:04 AM   #8
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The small parking lot comment made me smile. Whenever I accidentally get into a tight spot I follow this routine.
1. Have my wife get out to direct me. ( no matter how humbling)
2. Make as many passes as necessary to get free
3. Break into a few bars of the old country music standard "Give me forty acres" as I'm back on the road!
It's amazing how quickly you can drive yourself into a corner. Never ceases to amaze me.
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Old 08-25-2014, 10:13 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by padlin View Post
Avoid small fast food parking lots,. Dunkin Donuts wasn't happy the day I had to have nearly everyone clear the lot so I could turn around and go out the entrance.
Did you buy them donuts? That would have made me willingly get up and move my car! Mmmmmm... DO-nuts!
Tim and Julie
2013 Escape 15B
2014 Nissan Frontier, Previous 2012 Santa Fe
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Old 08-25-2014, 12:45 PM   #10
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Since we seem to be allowing non-Escape stories...

Many years ago I was involved in a club which used an old travel trailer as a portable event headquarters, and to transport equipment. We had a pickup truck, so we towed the trailer to some events. After towing without incident to an event, at the end of the event equipment was loaded back in, and we hit the highway to head back. At about 100 km/h (60 mph) the trailer started violently swaying, and after some a scary minute or so of countersteering, accelerating to straighten out, and coasting down in speed, we were parked on the shoulder and wondering what happened.

The trailer had a storage closet just inside the door, which was near the rear of the trailer. Other members had piled equipment into that closet, instead of loading it on the forward part of the floor as it was at the beginning of the day. We had not unhitched for the event, so the change in load distribution wasn't apparent during hitching up... we didn't hitch up again. When I checked at the side of the road, I think the coupler was actually pulling up on the ball.

My mistakes, never repeated:
  • I allowed others to load the trailer without personally overseeing the load distribution.
  • I failed to check tongue weight before towing.
  • The ball was mounted in the truck's bumper/hitch, which may have been too high for the trailer's coupler height... I don't recall, but I also don't recall checking for a level or (for this single-axle trailer) a slightly nose-down attitude.

The rig also had no trailer brakes, but even though they would have been useful in this incident, lack of brakes is not a sway-inducing error, the sway was not initiated by braking of the truck, and no one should depend on brakes instead of having stability. The brakes were likely needed.... just not for sway.

The trailer was likely (we never weighed it) within the total and tongue weight limits of both the full-sized truck and its hitch. That's not enough for safety.

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