Listers, I have followed this thread with interest and felt as though I
should put in my two cents worth as I have had extensive experience
towing two wheel trailers and four wheel trailers with no brakes,
electric brakes, and surge brakes. I have used hydraulic and electronic
brake controllers, and I have had flat tires and wheels come off (one
time even the whole hub) on both two wheel trailers and four wheel. I
have towed with sedans, station wagons, sport utilities and PU trucks.
I have used two different types of equalizer hitches and the friction
type anti-sway devices. I have talked to numerous experts and have
tried to learn by others experience, mistakes and misfortunes. Here is
what I have learned about sway, control, wind buffeting, etc.:
1. the heavier the tow vehicle in relation to the towed vehicle, the better.
2. the longer the wheel base of the towed vehicle the better.
3. two wheeled trailers track better and are less prone to swaying
because they tend to follow the towing vehicle and have little influence
on it but load capacity is limited.
4. four wheeled trailers have more capacity than two wheeled and can
have more braking capacity (if so equipped).
5. four wheeled trailers are more prone to cause sway or the dreaded
"oscillation of death" as they want to keep going in a straight line
i.e. if the towed vehicle's rear-end is pushed slightly to one side this
will cause the tongue of the trailer to be moved to one side of the
front wheels of the towing vehicle. In effect the trailer has
"understeer" and wants to keep going towards the side. Obviously, it
can't. Then the situation can reverse and so on until, in the worst
case, the trailer actually pushes the towing vehicle either off the road
or into a jack-knife skid (see #1 above).
6. wheels can come off and tires go flat on both two wheel and four
wheel trailers and you may not even realize it. Once, a wheel came
rolling by me before I knew anything was wrong. The danger with four
wheel trailers is that (if loaded) each tire may be carrying near it's
max. rated weight. When one tire goes flat the other tire on that side
takes on additional weight requirements which can cause it to fail
perhaps before you even realize that the first tire/wheel has a problem.
7. electric brakes with either an electronic or hydraulic control is
the ultimate set-up. This allows you to activate the trailer brakes
going down hill without using the towing vehicle's brakes. If the rig
starts to sway going down hill--a common occurrence, a slight tap on the
trailer brake control will straighten out the whole rig. Electric
brakes can be utilized on both two wheel trailer and on four (one axle
8. tongue weight is very critical. Most experts say 10 to 15% of the
trailer weight should be on the tongue. Too little is as likely (or
more likely) to make a trailer sway as is too much. I favor at least
15% (see #10)
9. any weight put on the back of the tow vehicle tends to lift the
front wheels of the towing vehicle and make it more prone to wonder and
perhaps sway. A load leveling device (air shocks or air springs) may
help slightly but only tend to level the vehicle, not put much if any
additional weight to the front of the towing vehicle (see #10)
10. the only way to safely tow a heavy trailer is with an equalizer
hitch. The receiver must be heavy enough for the tongue weight
involved. The height of the ball should be set so that the trailer is
slightly nose up. The height of the front of the tow vehicle and the
back should be measured. The bars (of the right size--yes they do come
in different sizes depending on the tongue weight) should be attached
and put in the position which will lower the front AS WELL AS the back
of the towing vehicle an equal amount. If this has resulted in the
tongue of the trailer being too low, then the ball mount needs to be
raised (a taller ball can also be had).
11. an anti sway device may also be needed although in my experience
and equalizer hitch offers some anti-sway. And Reese makes a very
expensive and complicated equalizer hitch which has anti sway cams built
into it. I have no experience with this set-up.
I am currently pulling a 6000 lb. trailer with a 1300 lb. race car
inside. The tongue weight is near 1000 lbs. It has four wheel brakes
and two 7500 lb (rated) axles--a special order item. The wheels are
16.5 with 8 ply truck tires. I have a class three receiver, an
adjustable ball mount with a 2 5/16 ball, a Reese "trunnun (s?)" type
equalizer hitch (with the largest bars--1 1/4) and two friction
anti-sway devices--one on each side. The tow vehicle is a 1 ton GMC PU
with a 454 and 4 wheel drive (not normally used when towing). It has a
3.73 rear end and a turbohydromatic 400 automatic transmission, an
engine oil cooler and an auxiliary trans cooler. I have towed 90,000
miles with this set-up and it is wonderful! No sway, unaffected by
trucks, 80 MPH possible, complete confidence. The only problem 5.5 to
7.5 MPG. Except for the slower acceleration and slightly increased
braking distance, you wouldn't know the trailer was on behind the truck.
When towing I try to drive as I do in my race car and look as far ahead
as possible. I allow additional distance between my vehicle and the
one(s) in front of me. I religiously check my tire pressures, the
hitch, the load and the bearings of the trailer (feel the hub) whenever
I stop. I have complete confidence in my rig and in my driving. It is
the other guys I worry about. Especially those towing rented trailers!
I hope this helps someone.
Dick Buckingham, Jr.
Race Chairman - SOVREN
Truck driver wannabe
Eric Swanger wrote:
> As far as the number of axles are concerned, I have had TWO flats on a
> double axle trailer in one trip with one spare. That second axle was very
> nice to have. Not to mention it's much safer and more stable.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: S800Racer@aol.com <S800Racer@aol.com>
> To: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>; email@example.com
> Date: Friday, October 29, 1999 5:07 PM
> Subject: Re: Tow vehicle
> >In a message dated 10/28/99 10:30:07 PM, firstname.lastname@example.org writes:
> >I have a single axle trailer with a tilt bed. Works really nice and pulls
> >like a dream. Rock solid around town and highway. Would like to add
> >brakes to it. The truck already has an electric brake control unit
> >installed. Can this be done or am I looking for pie in the sky again? I
> >haven't checked with any trailer places yet but have not been able to find
> >any info on adding after market brakes for trailers in my catalogs or on
> >net. Any ideas?>>
> > If all you are looking for is an open trailer, you might be better off
> >purchase one with electric brakes already installed. You should be able to
> >find a dual axle open trailer with electric brakes for less than $
> >If you can find a dealer who will take a trade-in, you might not be out of
> >pocket all that much. I also recommend a dual axle trailer over the single
> >axle if you are towing something as big as a car over any significant
> >distance. It's just a matter of safety. You're going to have flats and
> >blow-outs sometime, somewhere.. If you have a dual axle set-up, it's no
> >deal. If you have a single axle trailer, it can be an adventure at best
> >a nightmare at worst.
> > Doug Meis
> > dual-axle open trailer with electric brakes -- bought new for $1,200.00