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Old 03-18-2019, 12:01 PM   #1
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Scrambled Egg (Our 19)

We had a serious accident recently while towing our Escape 19. While we don't like to discuss this, we want our experience to hopefully help others from having the same fate.

While traveling on I-10 in Florida at about 70mph we were passing a semi doing 65 and our Escape 19 started oscillating badly causing us to lose control of our Traverse and trailer. We swerved in front of the truck, the trailer flipped on it side, and we hit and then slid along the guardrail. Fortunately, the truck driver was alert, noticed our crisis, and immediately started braking to avoid running over us. The car did not flip and the airbags did not deploy. Other than the emotional and mental shock, we were not injured.

After two years of trailering and about 15,000 miles on our 19, this was a new and terrifying experience. We had already towed from St. Louis to Gulf Shores, AL and were on our way to Clearwater, FL. and had not noticed any bad behavior. There were some wind gusts we could feel, but nothing too bad. The turbulence of the truck plus possible wind gusts must have caused the oscillation. We do not have a WDH hitch and I do not know our tongue weight. I presumed we were OK because all of our previous travel seemed fine. I can only imagine that our tongue weight was on the light side and unique conditions caused it. I also read that manually putting on the trailer brakes can help stop the sway, but it happened so fast and got out of control so quickly that did not even seem to be an option. I have also come to learn that some WDH hitches also help with anti-sway/oscillation.

Our trailer is being evaluated at the Camping World in Tallahassee to see if it can be repaired. Our car is reparable, but about every body panel is being replaced. We are happy we will get our car back and hope the trailer gets fixed.

We aren't sure how we will handle trailering if we get our trailer back. We do not want to give it up but we will be gun-shy of highway travel. These are the changes we plan to implement:

1. I plan measure tongue weight. One site suggested always emptying the fresh water tank since many trailers, like the 19, have it behind the axles. The weight of the water reduces tongue weight.
2. I am getting a WDH/anti-sway hitch. I like the Husky model, which some forum members recommended.
3. We will stay in the right lane and go less than the speed limit.
4. We won't be passing any trucks. (Although a truck passing us could cause a similar effect.)
5. We will practice reacting and hitting the trailer brakes quickly.

If anyone has constructive thoughts and recommendations, they would be appreciated.
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Old 03-18-2019, 12:41 PM   #2
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Sorry to hear about your mishap. It is my belief that the WDH w/sway control should prevent this in the future. If you are still in FL or near the coast, I'd look for a boat repair shop before I'd use Camping World for repairs. Wishing you folks the best.
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Old 03-18-2019, 12:52 PM   #3
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Sorry that you had such a traumatic experience but very happy to hear that no one was injured.

I'm sure you'll be a bit apprehensive around semi's when you get back on the road. My experience is that passing semi's under similar conditions shouldn't be an issue. Yes, you "feel" the effect but it doesn't create a dangerous situation. I've always been a great fan of a WDH. Now, with my F150, I probably don't need it but I use it anyway. On my recent long trip I passed countless semis without incident.

So, hopefully, after you start towing with a WDH, you'll feel the difference and that'll restore your confidence so the point where you're not reluctant to pull out and pass a semi.

Good luck on the repairs.

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Old 03-18-2019, 01:07 PM   #4
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The same thing almost happened to us on our very first trip with our 19. We tried passing a semi going up a hill, and our Escape started swaying very badly. Fortunately, I had practiced using the manual brake, and by using that, I was able to stop the sway, because the trailer was definitely going to flip if not.

We did not have a WDH at that time, but my first purchase after that trip was the Fastway E2 (I did not really have a choice, as my wife was done towing if I did not). It makes a tremendous difference.

Good luck on your repairs, and don't let this stop you from enjoying your trailer.
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Old 03-18-2019, 01:08 PM   #5
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So sorry for the "incident" in the pictures your axles/wheels appear strange looking angle, no flats were there?
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Old 03-18-2019, 01:31 PM   #6
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Sorry to learn of your accident. Hopefully repairs are possible. I’m sure you’ve concluded it could have been much worse. We are WDH believers and do not tow without one regardless of the distance. Tongue weight and side to side loading on the trailer as well as tire pressure and tire sidewall stability on both the tow and the trailer are very important considerations every time out. Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with. We’re only a couple hundred miles north of St.Louis.
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Old 03-18-2019, 02:13 PM   #7
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Wow, I think that must be every RV'ers nightmare! So glad you were unharmed and are willing to tell your story as I'm sure others will learn from it. Much appreciated!

Stories like yours are one of the things that prompted us to purchase a Hi-Lo trailer for our previous RV. Since I was pretty inexperienced with trailers, the traveling (Lo) position of the trailer made me feel more secure in windy situations or scenarios where passing a semi such as you encountered. Also, we did have a WDH w/sway control but still experienced some sway in windy conditions.

I think the changes you said you are going to make will mostly solve the problem but two things stand out: 1.) I don't know how realistic it is to never pass a semi. I think there will be times where you will have no choice. 2.) I don't know the specs of your current tow vehicle, but perhaps something a little heavier with a longer wheelbase would help with the "tail wagging the dog?" The shorter wheelbase of our Tahoe tow vehicle seemed to have a negative effect when towing the Hi-Lo.

Once again, glad you are (at least physically) OK and thanks for sharing your story!
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Old 03-18-2019, 02:14 PM   #8
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What a misfortune. After looking at the photos I was surprised at the large amount of damage to the tow vehicle and the less visible damage to the trailer. Though, as Jim pointed out, those wheels or axles have some issues as does the coupler and frame. It is good to know the vehicle protected you.

There was a similar accident about six years ago, in that situation there was significant damage to the interior. I believe the insurer scrapped the trailer, but someone purchased and restored it.
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Old 03-18-2019, 02:51 PM   #9
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The possible issue which was not mentioned is hitch height. With a tandem-axle trailer (especially with non-equalized suspension such as a Torflex), if the tongue is too low the trailer carries more load on the leading axle than the trailing, which is less stable; this is noticeable as low tongue weight (but only if tongue weight is checked). If the trailer is loaded so that tongue weight is good (12% of total weight is typical for an Escape) with the trailer level, then the trailer is hitched up so the the tongue is significantly lower (even a couple of inches), it will be much less stable. Tongue height or trailer level would be a good thing to check in the future.

Unlike some people, I don't believe that a WD system is magic, so it won't fix an unstable trailer. All of the planned changes are good, but none of the rest matter if the trailer is not loaded properly and nearly level. Start with the fundamentals; gadgets are added on afterwards. Most of the dramatic sway-related trailer crashes found in videos shared on web sites are of rigs which are using a WD system - it's certainly no guarantee of stability.

I agree that not passing trucks is not a realistic expectation. There is no reason why the trailer should have any difficulty with this, although avoiding passing or being passed by a large vehicle (truck or bus) at a point of high crosswind is probably advisable.
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Old 03-18-2019, 03:07 PM   #10
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I’m glad you “escaped” injury in this situation. I started towing my Escape 19 with the twin to yours - the GMC Acadia. (2013 with 5200 lbs. tow capacity. I picked up in Chilliwack with a 5000+ mile first trip. I immediately had Escape install the Anderson hitch and have towed over 21,000 miles so far. I remember some on this site stating to “try towing first without wdh” and then decide if you need it. Your situation was why I had the wdh installed at Escape. As tough as your accident was, I couldn’t imagine how that wreck would have been on my maiden voyage!
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Old 03-18-2019, 03:08 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by rbrandenstein View Post
3. We will stay in the right lane and go less than the speed limit.
Maybe this is obvious, but the speed limit doesn't matter to the stability of the rig - the speed does. For instance, 60 mph in a 60 zone is right at the limit but just as safe and stable as 60 mph in a 70 zone.

There is something to be said for avoiding a large speed difference with other traffic, so if you're on a road with a 50 mph limit, and road conditions (curves, etc) permit driving safely at 50 mph, you're better doing that than holding up traffic at 40 mph maybe dealing with some frustrated idiot trying to pass unsafely.
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Old 03-18-2019, 03:48 PM   #12
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The hitch height was correct, I believe. When connected and ready to go, the trailer was level. Not passing or going too slow is not realistic or wise, I concur. I guess what I meant is we are going to be a lot more cautious.



I don't think I had a tire blow out, but I don't know for sure. After being righted, both wheels on the down side where bent and flat.



There was also some interior damage. The medicine cabinet mirror is broken and the upper cabinets in the front driver side corner are broken. We lost some dishes and had to throw out our food.


I am also not a fan of Camping World, but we did not have much choice. With both the car and trailer out of commission, we couldn't shop around.



BTW. If you don't have car rental coverage on your auto policy, I advise getting it. We did not and we spent a grand getting back home.
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Old 03-19-2019, 06:15 PM   #13
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I can commiserate with you, way more than you know. Last September I was towing our 19’ with our Jeep Grand Cherokee and, although a novice (my husband was traveling behind me in another vehicle), had a nearly identical experience on I-90 in MT. The trailer was loaded for a camping trip with mountain bikes on the rear hitch and the Jeep had two paddle boards on top. We had a anti-sway hitch too. I had just begun passing a semi and was going under the speed limit, but using cruise control. The car started to sway/shimmy and I greatly feared hitting the side of the truck. I know I touched the brakes to disengage the cruise control and steered away from the truck, thinking the median would be safer to rub against than the semi (the state trooper said I’d slammed on the brakes because of the skid marks, but I have no recollection of that). (Again, novice “trailer trailer” here.) That’s the last thing I remember until coming to rest on the other side shoulder. The end result, no physical harm (and no airbags deployed), a totaled car (broken axels) and a totaled trailer, which also ended up on its side. Awful, awful experience and I truly feel for the emotions you are experiencing.
We pick up our new 19’ in May and have already bought a tongue weight scale. We will no longer put the paddle boards on top of the car (purchased inflatable ones for camping trips).
By the way, Tammi told us the water tank is over the axel, so doesn’t come in to play re: the tongue weight.
I’m truly sorry this happened to you to. We’ll be at the rally if you’re there. I intend to share my story then.
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Old 03-19-2019, 06:42 PM   #14
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Wow, what a first post to start with Tesa. Glad you are getting back on the horse and getting another Escape. Will you be at the rally in Osoyoos? We too pick up in May and are hedingthat way. Two things need to be clarified, the newer Escape with the raised rear floor is where the fresh tank is located and I believe it is behind the axles. The grey and the black tanks are in front of the axles. In addition, towing and cruise control, IMHO do not mix. My reasoning is that in an emergency, you need to brake or otherwise disengage the cruise, which takes away from your reaction time to handle the emergency situation. Not all emergencies require you to brake quickly.
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Old 03-19-2019, 06:46 PM   #15
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I agree about towing and cruise control not mixing, for me anyway! We’ll have to verify with the Escape people re: the water tanks when we pick up the trailer. And yep, we’re picking it up and heading to Osoyoos the next week.
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Old 03-19-2019, 06:47 PM   #16
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I too had an odd experience while towing in Wyoming. Coming down from a mountain, around a curve, a wind gust pushed me sideways over into the other lane, quite unexpectedly. Fortunately, nothing was in that lane, but it happened so quick and was scary. I was towing my 2014 E21 with my 2009 Ram which had a cap. I wonder if there is a connect. Both of the above accidents involved SUV's and my truck with a cap could be similar. I wonder if wind was the factor in the accidents?
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Old 03-19-2019, 07:21 PM   #17
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Bob & Katie,

Wow, what a terrifying experience! You must be full of trepidation just to pick up where you left off. Your story is a vicarious teaching and learning experience for us all.

We just went to visit our 19' Escape in storage today, anxiously anticipating our first outing this season. The first thing we'll do when we bring Last Best Place home is practice reacting and hitting the trailer brakes quickly.

So glad you're safe and willing to share your experience with us.

Klaus & Karen
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Old 03-19-2019, 09:18 PM   #18
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Has anybody in the Escape community tried one of the Hensley designed hitches?
I've watched a bunch of videos of "tail wagging the dog" trailer tow vehicle situations that resulted in a crash. Often the tow vehicle is large and the trailer is relatively small. I think if I were going with a travel trailer I would investigate the Hensley designs.
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Old 03-19-2019, 09:36 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TesaLD View Post
I can commiserate with you, way more than you know. Last September I was towing our 19’ with our Jeep Grand Cherokee and, although a novice (my husband was traveling behind me in another vehicle), had a nearly identical experience on I-90 in MT. The trailer was loaded for a camping trip with mountain bikes on the rear hitch and the Jeep had two paddle boards on top. We had a anti-sway hitch too. I had just begun passing a semi and was going under the speed limit, but using cruise control. The car started to sway/shimmy and I greatly feared hitting the side of the truck. I know I touched the brakes to disengage the cruise control and steered away from the truck, thinking the median would be safer to rub against than the semi (the state trooper said I’d slammed on the brakes because of the skid marks, but I have no recollection of that). (Again, novice “trailer trailer” here.) That’s the last thing I remember until coming to rest on the other side shoulder. The end result, no physical harm (and no airbags deployed), a totaled car (broken axels) and a totaled trailer, which also ended up on its side. Awful, awful experience and I truly feel for the emotions you are experiencing.
We pick up our new 19’ in May and have already bought a tongue weight scale. We will no longer put the paddle boards on top of the car (purchased inflatable ones for camping trips).
By the way, Tammi told us the water tank is over the axel, so doesn’t come in to play re: the tongue weight.
I’m truly sorry this happened to you to. We’ll be at the rally if you’re there. I intend to share my story then.
I am very curious about the anti-sway hitch you were using. Would you mind saying what kind (brand/model) it was? Thanks.
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Old 03-19-2019, 09:49 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnfrombigt View Post
I think if I were going with a travel trailer I would investigate the Hensley designs.

My $350 Pro Series ( without the sway option ) that I bought at ETI has served me well for 10 years. I can't imagine spending $2,000 on a Hensley, nor can I imagine how it could be better, towing my 17B with a RAV4.
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