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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.
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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

Larry
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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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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!
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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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Old 08-25-2014, 02:04 PM   #11
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Did you buy them donuts? That would have made me willingly get up and move my car! Mmmmmm... DO-nuts!
Donuts all around, says hubby.

It helps to never go down a little side road or into a place where the exit cannot be seen but not always possible. We have had to do that backing up thing, too.
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Old 08-25-2014, 02:33 PM   #12
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Worst trailer story I have was not my trailer but a friends I was helping. He had a 14' enclosed utility trailer and I was helping him move some things. He had let someone else go pick up the trailer for him and hook up the trailer. As we were driving down the interstate, traffic in front of us suddenly came to a stop. As he started braking hard we heard a pop then a bang then felt something hit the truck. Next thing we saw was the trailer passing us in the medium strip just before it started flipping. Luckily it stopped in the medium and did not cross it or hit any other cars. Upon investigation of what happened his friend that picked up the trailer had used the wrong stinger and hooked up the trailer with a 1-7/8" ball on a 2" hitch.

Safety chains were also to light for the trailer. Not a good day of moving.
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Old 08-25-2014, 03:27 PM   #13
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It helps to never go down a little side road or into a place where the exit cannot be seen but not always possible. We have had to do that backing up thing, too.
+1. The first week we had the trailer we took a wrong turn on to some little road in Oregon. We knew right away it was the wrong road, but with our novice skills we couldn't back out onto the county highway -- it was uphill with a sharp angle. So we ended up driving down the road. Came to a bunch of guys who were apparently salvaging tires and wheels. They couldn't help us because they were in filthy clothes and didn't want to get into the car. But a ways further down the road we found a farm with a yard big enough to turn around in.

Not quite as bad as the time I took the trailer to a do it yourself car wash only to find out the trailer is too tall for said car wash. Had to back up around one sharp left turn, an "S" curve, and then a hard right to get back on to the street. I was by myself so there was a lot of what Donna calls "GOAL" (Get Out And Look). Fortunately, it was the end of the day, and there was only one other car. The good news is that after that I felt much better about my backing skills.
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Old 09-18-2014, 03:18 PM   #14
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We just returned from Yellowstone back to Washington state. I was coming down a 6 % grade when my 15 foot Escape started to fishtail severely. I was able to use brake/brake controller to stabalize. It was very scary. We pulled over and everything looked fine. The only thing that was different on this trip was that we had a 'hitch and haul' on the back of Escape. It had appx 60 lbs of gear on it. Would this be enough weight to the rear of the axel to cause the fishtailing?

We do have the stabilizer hitch/rods which were on and we use them religiously. We put the gear that had been on the 'hitch and haul' inside and had no further problems.

Thanks for any advice.

- Jane
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Old 09-18-2014, 04:13 PM   #15
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I think that the extra 60 lbs behind the axle lightened the tongue weight to much. If your going to use the hitch and haul put more weight forward to offset.

Cheers
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Old 09-18-2014, 05:51 PM   #16
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Thank Doug. Will follow your advice!

- Jane
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Old 09-18-2014, 06:54 PM   #17
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I like the idea of taking a professional driving/towing instruction as suggested by others on this forum. My towing tips would be to keep your tow vehicle and trailer well maintained, keep your speed down even if you think you can go faster, think about going down hill the same as up - slower and use a lower gear, have minimum 3 seconds preferably 5 seconds between you and the guy ahead.
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Old 09-18-2014, 09:12 PM   #18
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I like your advice gharper
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Old 09-18-2014, 11:06 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by angler24 View Post
We just returned from Yellowstone back to Washington state. I was coming down a 6 % grade when my 15 foot Escape started to fishtail severely. I was able to use brake/brake controller to stabalize. It was very scary. We pulled over and everything looked fine. The only thing that was different on this trip was that we had a 'hitch and haul' on the back of Escape. It had appx 60 lbs of gear on it. Would this be enough weight to the rear of the axel to cause the fishtailing?

We do have the stabilizer hitch/rods which were on and we use them religiously. We put the gear that had been on the 'hitch and haul' inside and had no further problems.

Thanks for any advice.

- Jane
This happened to us once while on the highway, but we were on a flat freeway near Chilliwack. Had been traveling for about an hour when the fishtail started. Quite scarry.

A location shift in the weight carried has a dramatic effect on the tongue weight for the 15' in particular. The location of the axle being near the middle of the trailer has close to, but less than, a 1:1 effect on the tongue weight. Put 60 lb on the rear receiver and the tongue weight is reduce by close to that amount. (Actual ratio is: distance from axle to rear load point/distance from axle to ball hitch point)
You have to be careful with weight distribution for the 15' in particular as you discovered.

PGDriver summed up the problem pretty good.
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Old 09-19-2014, 05:37 AM   #20
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I'm also relatively new to towing. Was real new until towing 6700 miles from Chilliwack to North Carolina. A friend once rolled their trailer with the following error: tried to steer out of the swaying. I was told in those conditions to use brake controller to put braking onto the trailer while exerting slight acceleration until swaying stops. Next, get to the side of the road to figure out what is wrong. I'm sure others will have their own opiniond, but this makes sense to me.
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