We have a Ford Expedition, recently upgraded from a pop up to a 26 ft Flagstaff Shamrock hybrid, ~3500 lbs empty. The drive home from the dealer, with just a standard hitch, was trecherous. We immediately had a Draw-tite WD hitch and one Draw-tite friction tyupe sway bar installed. ($600) One short trip was fine, no porblems. On our way back to the dealer yesterday (for an unrelated matter), we experienced dangerous sway-- all over two lanes-- at 60 mph on straight highway. We are now fearful that we will still have sway pop up unepectedly and are wondering if we shoud sell the trailer. Is the friction sway bar not enough? The hitch wrong? Do we need TWO friction bars? We have a trip to PA in two weeks-- winding highways and big dropp-offs, and are afraid to make the trip. Any suggestions? Tire pressure is fine on both trailer and truck, probably only a few hundered lbs of gear, evenly distributed. Thanks, Cindy
cindy, there are several things to check for or change to control the sway.
First, your wheel base is on the short side for a 26' trailer (should be no more than about 21-22'for a wheel base of 119")
Do you have passenger tires on truck? If so, the sidewalls may give too much.
What is the tongue weight (should be 10-15% of actual loaded wt. of trailer)?
Is the weight distrubution system setup correctly?
You would be better served by a better sway control system. There are several threads on this forum discussing the different options. The friction system may be the least effective.
You are wise to question this now and not after something has happened. Good luck.
Some people will say you have too long of trailer for that truck. I wouldn't, but some would.
You said something in the last sentance of your post that threw up a red flag for me.
Tire pressure is fine on both trailer and truck, probably only a few hundered lbs of gear, evenly distributed
My worry is that by trying to keep the trailer "balanced", or evenly loaded, that you have not put the correct amount of weight on the hitch. The amount of weight on a hitch makes a HUGE difference in the way a trailer handles. As a general rule of thumb, you need about 12-14% of total LOADED trailer weight on your tongue. Many trailers are not balanced this way from the factory for numerous reasons. For example, if your water and/or holding tanks are forward of the axles, the manufacturer may have intended the water tank to be full when traveling to get the right percentage of tongue weight. The inverse is true is the tanks are on the rear of the trailer behind the axles (as mine are). You may find that having a full tank of water hanging out back reduces your tongue weight to an unsafe level. I always have my wife load our trailer with the heaviest stuff in the front. You can't have too much tongue weight (unless the tow vehicle is sub-standard to begin with), and the more you have the better the trailer will follow.
The next thing to check is your hitch. More often than not the typical Weight Distributing hitch is not setup properly. This makes all the difference in the world. There is a reason Reese puts all those extra holes on the hitch head, so it can be adjusted!
Here's what you need to do to make sure the hitch is properly setup:
Level the trailer and the truck. Take measurements in both the wheelwells of the truck, and also take measurements from the ground to the top of the trailer ball and top of the coupler on the trailer.
Adjust the hitch head(if needed) to get the ball about 1-1/2" higher than the couple on the trailer. This number can change based on how stiff the trucks suspension is. 1-1/2" is a good starting point.
Hitch up the combo, and install your spring bars. You should not be afraid to put some pressure on the bars. Normally, most people will crank the trailer back up after latching it to the truck so the spring bars snap up easier. That should give you some idea of the pressure it takes for them to function properly.
After attaching the spring bars, lower the trailer back down and re-measure the wheel wells of the truck. You want to see that the truck settled evenly both front and back, and not that one axle settled a bunch, and the other raised up...etc. Ideally both axles should have settled the same, although sometimes the rear will settle a touch more. If the truck settled more in the rear than the front, take up another link on the spring bars. If it settled more in the front, let a link down. You get the idea.
Once you get the truck and trailer level when hitched, you can "fine tune" the springs bars by changing the angle of the hitch head. For instance, you may have found that getting the truck level required several additional links be taken up on the spring bars, and now the spring bars are touching the trailer's frame. You can tip the hitch head down (away from truck) a bit , which will allow you to get the same tension on the spring bars without using so many chain links. Ideally, you want the spring bars to arch slightly under under load, but still be roughly parallel with the ground.
I hope these steps helps you. You can see why so many dealers don't do all this, as it's pretty time consuming. It took me about 3 hours to get my rig setup properly, but it made a world of difference!
Beyond these things the only other thing I can recommend is getting new LT tires for your truck. LT tires (as opposed to P series) will have stiffer sidewalls and handle better than the bouncy P series tires.
*This Message was edited on 18-Jun-02 02:17 PM by Caddywhompus*
Thanks for the info. The water tank is in the back, and it is nearly full right now. Other than that, a few cans of beans, towels, etc., and the storage area in the kitchen is just about over the axles.
We will measure and adjust the spring bars, the dealer had them set at 5 up from the bottom, but said we could go to six up from the bottom if the ride was too stiff, which we did. We're going back to 5 and will tighten the factory set tension adjusting bolt on the friction bar for the ride back home.
In the meantime, the dealer said we should think about adding a second friction bar on the other side ($150 installed)(Why didn't he mention that initially??) He says our truck is "plenty big enough". That tent looks better all the time!!
I am no expert and I think all the advice others have given you is valid. But there may also be a very simple reason, the weight is too heavy in the rear of the trailer and the front (tounge) is too light.
From personal expierence, one time while towing a speed boat, it swayed all over the road. The trailer was not the original trailer and a friend told me the axels were too far forward to distribute the weight. The rear end of the trailer was very heavy because of the engine being in the back of the boat.
Well it was suggested on the way home to load all my gear in the front of the boat. We had all our camping gear and even some scuba diving equipment. I shoved everything as far forward as possible and the trip home was incredible. NO MORE SWAY problems.
I think since you water tank is in the rear of your trailer, this could be a very similar problem. Try traveling with less water until you get near or at your destination. Also try to load all the extras as far in the front of the trailer as possible. You may just find that's all you needed to do.
I know on my trailer I have now, it is almost toung heavy and I dont' get any sway at all, even when I was pulling it with my Bronco. Everyone told me the wheelbase was too short. I had a lack of towing power but it handeled fine.
My Dad was a truck driver for many years...he always thought we "tourists" were dangerous with trailers.
He said load the front of the trailer....
A balanced trailer will get you killed.
10 to 15 % of the total trailer wt should be on tounge. Trailer and truck connection should be level, not up.
Ignorance will kill you, do not give up.
You need to hire a professional to setup your trailer for towing. Why? From your posts you have lost confindence in your tow and you'll never be at ease while towing until someone sets up the trailer and tow rig correct for you. By getting advice here, which is very good advice, you going to chase the real problem and probably not solve the problem.
Once the tow is setup correct then you'll see what the posters here are saying is needed for a correct tow setup.
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if the water tank is behind the trailer axle this may e contributing to the problem especially if you travel with full tanks. I would not wast more money ont he friction sway bar, scrap them and get the dual cam system, add some weight to the fron of the trailer. If you have the money the hensley arrow will eliminate the sway problem all together, don't lose confidence, once you get used to properly setting up and hauling the new trailer it won't be as bad.
Sometimes, I sit fairly quietly when sway is mentioned and others recommend weight checking, a second sway control, the Reese Dual Cam, etc. Not this time. You need far more aggressive action than any of that. Frontier27 has the right idea. At this point I concur with his suggestion to immediately purchase a Pullrite or Hensley Arrow hitch. Why? The reasons have only partly to do with the physics. My recommendation has more to do with the mental aspects of your situation. You have had the bejeebers scared out of you and "partial" or "might help" bandaid solutions are not going to be enough to make you comfortable again. You will be so hyper-sensitive to any tiny amount of sway that your trips are likely to be unpleasant if something isn't done to eliminate sway, not just reduce it. Therefore, the question of which type of sway control works "best" is no longer the issue. You must put yourself in a position waaay past what most folks would need. For two reasons: as I said, you are now sensitized and scared. (With good reason.) Secondly, your rig obviously is more prone to sway than most. All those things mentioned by other posters, such as weight on the tongue etc. are all good things to check and will improve a bad sway condition. But I say it again, it will not be enough for you, now that you have had this bad an experience. Only the Pullrite and Hensley Arrow will eliminate sway. Pick whichever fits your budget and other factors. Anything else is a bandaid and will not assure you of zero sway. Any of the things mentioned so far probably will make things better, but not perfect. Unfortunately, you probably can't afford (mentally/emotionally) to undertake more "test pilot" stuff while trying to figure out what works best. Yes, the Pullrite or Hensley Arrow hitches are expensive. But it sounds like you have little choice now. I would hate to see you give up on a wonderful lifestyle when the answer is simply to get a different hitch. By all means, check the tongue weight, tires and the rest. But order a new hitch. Good luck to you.
*This Message was edited on 18-Jun-02 11:10 PM by Pulltoy*