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Old 09-10-2020, 09:41 PM   #1
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Trailer: 2020 19’ Long Gone
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Our cracked egg

This is a cautionary tale about sway. It is a long post so bear with me or just skip the story. We had a 2020 19’, picked up in February in Sumas, camped our way home to Colorado and prepared for a whole summer of camping trips. Then Covid arrived and our plans fell like dominos. Nonetheless we managed to cobble together several local-ish trips to state parks, which was wonderful. Altogether we had spent 20 nights camping and really loved the trailer. As a reference, we previously owned an Escape 17B which we took to Newfoundland and back, and prior to that we had a Scamp 16.

A few weeks ago we were coming home from Western Nebraska, traveling on a highway just west of Sterling, CO (far northeast part of the state). On a dry road with gusty but not heavy winds and almost no traffic we had a sudden and violent sway event that spun the trailer across the road and flipped the car completely. The trailer ended up on the passenger side with broken axles, the car landed on its tires. We opened the door and walked away with our 2 dogs who were harnessed in the back seat. We were incredibly lucky in countless ways, including that we all were uninjured and that no one else was injured. We even landed off the shoulder of the road, not impeding traffic.

So what happened? We don’t know. I was driving and our speed was maybe 55mph. We had the fastway weight distribution hitch and trunnion sway control bars, the tanks were empty and this time we did not have bikes on the back. We tend to travel lightly and the trailer did not have a microwave or AC. In the rear hatch we had an outdoor rug, hiking poles, the electric cord and the dogs beds. The front storage had our chocks, water hose, levelers and plastic blocks. The front under bench storage had dog food, shoes, and a few other lightweight items. Our car was a 2018 Highlander XLE with new tires. We had checked everything before leaving that morning, tire pressure, hitch/coupler attachment etc. Though we don’t have decades of towing experience neither are we total newbies. The week before we had driven on the freeway in the same configuration but with 2 road bikes on the back and did not have a whisper of a problem. We have towed on far worse roads in far worse conditions of wind, rain, traffic and so forth and have never felt a wiggle.

The sway was so violent and so fast that I did not have time to reach for the manual trailer brake. Both of us had practiced finding it while driving in case we needed to use it. It was over before either of us could blink. We have thought and reviewed countless times and keep coming up with a big ‘we don’t know and probably never will.’ Both car and trailer were totaled, the coupler came off the ball, the chains were twisted around from the flip but held. One trunnion bar stayed attached, the other went through the storage box.

We wish we had a clear causation pathway or even a maybe. The Farmers Insurance agent in Sterling said that that road is known for shallow ruts from heavy truck traffic and that if you get one wheel out of one it can flip the car. However, we had not noticed ruts, so can’t really say that was the issue.

We have always been seat belt wearers, the types that buckle up before opening the garage door. We also have a hammock and harness system for the dogs (60# goldendoodles). The hammock part attaches to the four headrests and prevents falling on the floor in case of a sudden stop and the harnesses attach into the seat belt slots. If you travel with dogs we strongly encourage this. Not only are the dogs perfectly fine but they did not become 60# projectiles in the event.

The good news, besides being alive to tell the tale, is that we were well insured for both car and trailer. People were incredibly nice, the tow truck drivers had us put the dogs in one of their air-conditioned trucks on a 100 degree afternoon. The next day I emailed Escape to tell them of our sad loss and let them know we wanted to order another trailer. I immediately got a call from Linda saying that someone who had ordered a 19 that was ready to go into production had just then cancelled and did I think we could get our build sheet in within the week. We did and will get our new 19 in October.

Our sway and flip is the third one that I know of with an E 19. The other two had fairly obvious extenuating circumstances with load, wind, passing semis etc. This one is a puzzler, enough so that I have hesitated to write it up. It may be worth knowing about, even though we have done more second guessing than can be imagined and still come up with nothing. We are getting back on that horse(power) and riding again. There is much camping to be done.
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Old 09-10-2020, 09:59 PM   #2
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Sure would like to know the cause. Only one I know of was a result of a broken frame.
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Old 09-10-2020, 10:49 PM   #3
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I think those frame issues were addressed by Reace with reinforcement gusset plates sent to all owners free, and labor cost was paid by ETI to install them. But that was 4-5 years ago.....
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Old 09-10-2020, 10:54 PM   #4
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Sorry to hear about the incident.

Every time someone says that they are safe because their trailer has tandem axles or because they use a weight-distribution system it reminds me that majority of trailer sway incidents resulting in crashes that I have seen reported involve tandem axle trailers with WD hitches. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with those features... they're just not magic solutions.

I can think of two things can go wrong with a properly loaded trailer like this:
  1. If the hitch height is not right, the trailer won't be level and as a result the load won't be evenly distributed between the axles. If the nose is high the load is higher on the trailing axle, and that's stable; if the nose is low the load is higher on the leading axle and the trailer is less stable.
  2. If the weight distribution system is adjusted for too much load transfer (too tight) the tug's rear tire traction is reduced and the rig is less stable.

I have no idea if either of these were issues in this case.
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Old 09-10-2020, 10:56 PM   #5
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In recent memory yours is the third 19 reported to have rolled due to sway. The first I recall is Rbrandenstein that rolled in FLA I believe and towing with a Chevy Traverse. The second was offered for sale recently on ebay with almost identical damage shown in photos yet no history as to what happened.

Very glad to hear of the good outcome; are you going to buy another Highlander to tow with?
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Old 09-10-2020, 11:02 PM   #6
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The issues with the frame of the 19' only applied the original 3" tall frame, which was replaced by the current 4" tall frame. Those issues are irrelevant to the current model.
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Old 09-11-2020, 06:45 AM   #7
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My first thought would be that using a maximum 5,000 lb rated tow vehicle to tow a 3,250 lb dry weight trailer gets you real close to maximizing the package. Accounting for wind resistance, that 3,250 lb trailer becomes much heavier.

I’ve towed several too heavy things in my younger years with tiny tow vehicles but it was scary.

My recommendation to anyone is to give yourself plenty of tow capacity/vehicle weight between the tow vehicle and the trailer.

Take a 100 lb person and have them drag a 75 lb sail behind them going 55 mph. Something bad is going to happen.

Glad your a okay!
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Old 09-11-2020, 06:46 AM   #8
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Sorry to hear of your accident. Really fortunate that no one was injured, including the canine members of your family. Bravo for "getting back on the horse." There have been a couple of reports in this forum of a trunnion bar going missing. I wonder if it is possible that one of your trunnion bars dropped off, but instead of harmlessly sliding down the road it flipped up and briefly wedged between the highway and the trailer frame causing a violent misalignment between trailer and TV before going through your storage box?
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Old 09-11-2020, 08:40 AM   #9
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Lacking anything certain (or even probable) about the cause of this event I'm not sure how this serves as a "cautionary tale about sway" per se, but I'm very relieved that all living things walked away 'OK' so maybe the info about proper use of restraint devices is the caution in the tale.

In any case, sorry for the loss (of replaceable hardware), congratulations on your very good fortune (regarding the important things), here's hoping you (and the rest of us) never again suffer a similar experience.
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Old 09-11-2020, 09:52 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ditchrider View Post
Sorry to hear of your accident. Really fortunate that no one was injured, including the canine members of your family. Bravo for "getting back on the horse." There have been a couple of reports in this forum of a trunnion bar going missing. I wonder if it is possible that one of your trunnion bars dropped off, but instead of harmlessly sliding down the road it flipped up and briefly wedged between the highway and the trailer frame causing a violent misalignment between trailer and TV before going through your storage box?
I was thinking the same thing. It sounds like you had some sort of instantaneous failure or mishap that caused your accident. Of course, the wreckage probably hid the evidence, whatever the cause. Sorry you went through that, but I am glad you and all your loved ones are safe and sound.
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Old 09-11-2020, 10:06 AM   #11
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winds east of mountains

I have flown a lot going into Denver from all directions and in a clear sky you can find some strange and at times violent winds as a result of that BIG pile of dirt west of Denver. I usually would have flight attendants sit before descending in that area.
I also flew a light twin aircraft in that area and found odd winds that I might not have expected. The only thing different from what I tend to do is have a tow vehicle that is
much heavier than my trailer. Glad everything worked out ok and everyone is safe.
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Old 09-11-2020, 10:14 AM   #12
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Cracked Egg

I had a situation where the trailer came off the ball. Could that have happened? In my case we attached the trailer in the cold of winter and, in retrospect, didn't get the ball all the way into the socket. The trailer came un-hitched in the middle lane of an Interstate. Thank goodness for safety chains. The trailer started swaying badly. I slowed and the trailer bumped into the Tahoe and stayed there while I worked my way to the shoulder.
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Old 09-11-2020, 10:28 AM   #13
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Wonder if the axle broke loose from the frame? Just speculation of course.
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Old 09-11-2020, 10:31 AM   #14
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Wow, glad you’re OK!! The one thing you mentioned that got my attention is possible ruts that might have caused the sway. It got my attention because I just got home from a trip to eastern Montana. I was camped in a very remote area and had to tow out for 10 miles on a dirt road. It had rained hard the previous night, and although the dirt road had gravel on it, it was extremely soft. On the uphill sections, I had to go fast in 4WD, with steady pressure on the accelerator, because both the trailer and my tow vehicle (a 2017 Chevy Colorado), were sinking a couple of inches into the surface of the road and creating shallow ruts as I proceeded down the road.

As a result, my 19 was swaying in a way I had never experienced before. I have Escape’s WDH and have never, ever noticed any sway, even in strong cross winds. It was going back and forth to the point I considered slowing down but didn’t for fear of getting stuck. I was going between 35 and 40 mph. It was very harrowing. I made it to pavement without incident, but my heart was pounding.

So I’m wondering if possible ruts in the highway might have caused your sway incident, as surmised by your insurance company?? If I had been going any faster than 40 mph on the dirt road, I might have had a bigger problem than I did. Again, I had never experienced any sway whatsoever with my 19, and it’s combined with a mid-size pickup rated to tow 7,500-lbs and a payload of 1,385 lbs. And equipped with a WDH.

Indeed, farther into the trip I had strong cross winds, sustained 40 mph with gusts over 50, and did not have any problem whatsoever going 60 mph.. But that was on a smooth, paved highway.

Something to think about, for sure. And again, I’m so glad you’re OK, and glad to hear you’ve got another one in production!!
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Old 09-11-2020, 11:55 AM   #15
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Whew. I'm glad you are all well and that you got so lucky with a new 19 right away.

Just reading that increased my pulse rate.
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Old 09-11-2020, 12:05 PM   #16
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Please Explain Weight Distribution system "Too Tight"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
Sorry to hear about the incident.

Every time someone says that they are safe because their trailer has tandem axles or because they use a weight-distribution system it reminds me that majority of trailer sway incidents resulting in crashes that I have seen reported involve tandem axle trailers with WD hitches. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with those features... they're just not magic solutions.

I can think of two things can go wrong with a properly loaded trailer like this:
  1. If the hitch height is not right, the trailer won't be level and as a result the load won't be evenly distributed between the axles. If the nose is high the load is higher on the trailing axle, and that's stable; if the nose is low the load is higher on the leading axle and the trailer is less stable.
  2. If the weight distribution system is adjusted for too much load transfer (too tight) the tug's rear tire traction is reduced and the rig is less stable.

I have no idea if either of these were issues in this case.
Hello I am a new member , Could explain item #2. What do you mean by
weight distribution system and load transfer. Are you referring to the load shifting o its own or system that is meant to shift the load. Also could you explain the term "Too Tight"
I'm sorry if I don't understand but I'm sure the information indispensable.
Thanks
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Old 09-11-2020, 02:08 PM   #17
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I thought the WDH does not help the "sway". Would you considering adding a sway bar of some sort next time to your WDH? I might consider this myself.
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Old 09-11-2020, 04:27 PM   #18
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Towing

Sure glad to hear you are ok. I’ve driven that area several times with near identical rigs save for the fact that I’ve not had the WDH hitch you had. I have been in violent weather in that area twice. Each time I skirted large severe weather systems adding about
100 miles to my projected daily total. The 19 and 21 both rocked but never swayed, fishtailed, porpoised or in general got hard to control so your situation is a new one on me too. Those outflows from thunderstorms can send out some strange winds for sure.

The insurance man’s comments about deeply worn paving are disturbing to me. In Iowa when studded snow tires were all the rage,
Interstate 80 developed grooves you could see and feel. When the light was right and you were topping a rise you could sight where the paving met the horizon and see the “groove”.

What kind of a tow vehicle are you going to use to pull your new trailer?
Iowa Dave
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Old 09-11-2020, 05:10 PM   #19
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Yes, we have another Highlander now. Had not planned on it and wanted a used one but they are scarce as hens teeth for the XLE with tow package.
Catherine
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Old 09-11-2020, 05:18 PM   #20
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Highlanders

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Originally Posted by outwiththedogs View Post
Yes, we have another Highlander now. Had not planned on it and wanted a used one but they are scarce as hens teeth for the XLE with tow package.
Catherine
I’ve had good results with both of ours, towing both the 19 and 21 with the 2012 and the 21 with the 2018. Your write up was excellent an covered about every aspect that I would have
questions about. That said, a combination of factors which cannot and hopefully will not be duplicated, makes this incident a “more than meets the eye” mystery. Thanks for sharing.
Iowa Dave
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