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Trucks, Trailers and Hauling for Shows

How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer


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  #21  
Old 12-17-2018, 12:10:03 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

I bought my Fairbanks 15hp Mine Hoist engine from a gent in Minden NV and it came with this story.

He spotted the engine in the front yard of another gent in Hawthorne NV around 1990 but it was another 10 years before he could get it bought. Seems that owner held several mining claims in central NV and had sold them to a big mining company around 1950. The hoisting engine was not part of the deal as the big company planned to strip mine the mountain, so the owner decided to haul his 15 Fairbanks out himself. He had a heavy homemade trailer (with no brakes) and a 1949 Chevy 1/2 ton P/U. For a little extra ballast he loaded the 300lb head sheave into the truck. Sounds like the first few miles went ok till the big drop down the mountain from 7,000 ft. to the valley floor. I guess after the first few turns the brakes were pretty well cooked and all the poor guy could do was hang on and try to keep it on the road. By the bottom of the hill speeds were over 100 mph (best guess) and the brakes were on FIRE! 3 hours later, fire out, nerves calmed, and probably some clean pants, he limped it home.

I would not want to be a passenger on that ride! No wonder the engine sat untouched for so many years. Good thing roads in Nevada were pretty empty back then, I'm sure he used every inch trying to straighten out the curves.

Engine and trailer weight had to be 11,000+ lbs. Towed by a 3,600? lb pickup. What could possibly go wrong?
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  #22  
Old 12-17-2018, 04:24:56 PM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

A friend towed a 25 HP oil field engine with a 4x4 GMC Jimmy. The truck weighed in at 1/4 the weight of the engine. He burned out 6 transmissions, and countless sets of brakes before returning the truck to the dealer as 'defective'. The dealer never asked him what he was towing! A 4x4 R-20 Suburban didn't fare much better. While going down a mountain on I-80, in PA, he burned out the truck and trailer brakes. Cops estimated he was going at least 80 MPH at the bottom of the mountain. It took him over 2 miles to stop, with 4 police cars behind him! The rotors on the truck front brakes got so hot they were nearly white hot. When he finally got the truck stopped, the front tires caught fire and blew out. The rears were smoking badly too. Luckily, a local fire department was having a fund drive nearby, and they got their truck there to put the fires out before the truck burned up. He got lots of tickets for that one!
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Old 12-18-2018, 11:07:01 AM
AngolaGravely AngolaGravely is offline
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

If your load starts swaying and you have electric trailer brakes, easiest way to stabilize the load is to mash the gas and lightly hit the brakes.

It's like pulling a string from both ends and it usually snaps the load back in line.

then stop and add more tongue weight.
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  #24  
Old 12-18-2018, 04:23:51 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

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Originally Posted by AngolaGravely View Post
If your load starts swaying and you have electric trailer brakes, easiest way to stabilize the load is to mash the gas and lightly hit the brakes.

It's like pulling a string from both ends and it usually snaps the load back in line.

then stop and add more tongue weight.
Sounds frightening.
I'd just hit the trailer brakes.
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Old 12-18-2018, 04:48:42 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

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Originally Posted by Tom Stockton View Post
Sounds frightening.
I'd just hit the trailer brakes.
Assuming you can reach it in time. Or the controller is not buried under the dash.

I didn't mean apply the tow vehicle brakes to slow down, just enough to light taillights and engage trailer brakes.


You surge brake guys are done for.
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Old 12-18-2018, 06:57:31 PM
Andrew Mackey Andrew Mackey is offline
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Angry Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

The brakes on my trailer are adjusted every time I load the trailer. they are set so that they will just about skid when the brakes are applied. they won't skid at speed, and I can actually stop the towing vehicle, although that is not good for the trailer.

Yes, applying the trailer brakes will help stop sway from too little tongue weight, but that is only a stop gap measure. Been there, done that! I had my Charter-Mietz engine and a few others on my trailer when a sudden swerve to miss an idiot on a cell phone, broke several straps that were holding the C/M in place. The trailer began swaying at 65 MPH, and it was all I could do to get it stabilized and the truck and trailer stopped without tieing up I-80! When I finally got it to stop swinging wildly and making the truck switch lanes all by itself, I had slowed down to 20 MPH Luckily, several 18 wheelers saw what was going on and blocked the highway until I could get the truck and trailer back under control. When I got the truck off onto the shoulder and stopped, I found that the engine has moved 2 feet toward the rear of the trailer, completely unloading the tongue to the point where the ball was holding the tongue down Even standing on the trailer tongue, I couldn't get the tongue down! One of the truckers who had followed me had stopped behind me and came to my aid in getting the C/M back up front on the trailer, where it belonged. Thankfully, I had several more heavy duty straps in the truck to anchor it in place. The trucker said I was lucky I didn't hit the idiot in the car, and that I didn't flip the trailer. He said he could see daylight under the wheels of the trailer several times, and he thought it was going to flip at any time. I thanked him for helping me out, and we got back under way. Several miles up the highway, there were cops and a wreck on the side of the road. One of the cars was the one that cut me off. I pulled over and went back to one of the police cars and asked what happened. "Not sure" said the cop. I told him about the one car cutting me off, and that the driver had been on his cell phone. "That explains a lot" he said. The next day, it was posted in a news paper article that the one driver who had caused the wreck had stated he was having an argument with his wife on the phone, and was not paying attention to where he was on the highway. He had side swiped one car and then crahed into another driving all 3 cars off the road. Could have been me if I had hit him first! DONT USE YOUR PHONE WHILE DRIVING
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  #27  
Old 12-18-2018, 08:34:01 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

I like redundant straps on my load, just in case something goes
wrong with single one, the remaining straps will be sufficient.

Things I consider....
I had a hook break once. If ever a hook is bent, scrap it.
Consider wear on straps. I use sleeves & pads on anything rough.
Trailers flex, & tension can be reduced.
Over the years, I've made a mistake or two....or three.
With a wooden deck, I like to screw down 2x boards to keep the load located.
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Old 12-18-2018, 08:39:58 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

Think I told this story before, but worth repeating. Had a bunch of little military heaters to move to other yard using the Luv Tug, these were the little Petters engine diesel fired jobs on single axle trailers, each trailer maybe 4' long. I forget number of trailers, but enough that I could catch the rearmost one driving in a circle, I played around in parking lot doing circles and figure 8's before heading across town. Drive thru town went well until about a mile from the yard, after a momentary lapse in judgement, I found myself cresting a hill at about 45 mph, and the snake started whipping. The rearmost trailer was going airborne, bouncing off median then flying into oncoming lane then back again. There was oncoming traffic, the snake was timed just right, cars were swerving, I was white knuckling the steering wheel and pumping the already pathetic brakes, somehow got it under control, and miraculously did not hit a thing. Even the little trailer that took the brunt of the beating survived with just slightly tweaked sheet metal and lightly stretched motor mounts.
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Old 12-18-2018, 09:16:31 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

My wife is still learning how to drive, on her permit since her parents never let her learn it for whatever reason. She's really not that bad at it, but the inspector stressed her out when she tried a road test and failed because she was too nervous and made mistakes.

Something I am really big on with her is that she has to be able to back the car up by herself, the only input from me being if she is uncomfortably close to an obstacle. Eventually she'll have to learn trailer handling as well, but for the time being I don't have a vehicle capable of towing a trailer that she can learn it on.

On the other hand I was running farm equipment for several years before getting my driving permit, and would routinely back the manure spreader around a 90 degree corner into a target area so the scraper chain would fill it up. I intend to have her practice that same maneuver until she can do it consistently and with a smooth approach.

Way too many people out there nowdays that can barely back up their vehicle without a trailer. They get completely confused when you add a trailer to the mix, and watching someone back up an RV or boat when they aren't good at trailering alternates between hilarious and terrifying.

I actually didn't know that regarding how to recover from a severely fishtailing trailer. The physics of it make sense at least. Been fortunate to never have it happen, but then most of the trailers I've pulled have been farm wagons or equipment at limited speeds in the field or on back roads. Or passenger wagons behind a steam tractor, at the brisk walk those move at.
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Old 12-19-2018, 03:50:25 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

Some backstory on my advice.

I own a landscape company and pull trailers daily at everything up to highway speeds.

Loaded right, Sway. Will. Not. Happen. Physics doesn't allow it.
Loaded wrong, it' a snake in the grass waiting to bite you.
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Old 12-19-2018, 04:50:09 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

Here's a nice short demo of trailer loading.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mW_gzdh6to
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Old 12-19-2018, 05:01:51 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

i used to work at a shop next to a trailer manufacturing company.
they always built trailers with the axles to the rear of trailer centerline
so even empty there would be tongue weight.

when i was in the Netherlands, i noticed that their trailers have the axles
right on center of the bed. Interesting!!
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Old 12-19-2018, 06:20:56 PM
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Exclamation Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

Axles to the rear mean for more weight on the hitch and rear suspension of the towing vehicle. Putting a heavy load on one of these trailers could exceed the ratings of both the hitch and tongue of the trailer, as well as the rear suspension of the towing vehicle. Wheels to the rear is OK for light loads, but are easy to overload as well.

I have seen several landscapers who have so heavily loaded their rear axle trailers that have actually picked the front wheels of the tow vehicle off the ground during heavy braking or acceleration! EEEEK! Not a pretty sight, especially if it causes a wreck.
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Old 12-19-2018, 06:48:48 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

I have a 6' x 10' tilt trailer that I bought new. I never did like the way it pulled with the axle being centered. Even with a lot of tongue weight it did not pull good.
I finally got tired of it and cut the hitch off and lengthened the tongue and bed one foot. I also replaced the wood, it had 2 x10s I used five quarter treated decking to make it a little lighter.
Now it pulls great! Here is the finished product.
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Old 12-19-2018, 08:46:55 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

Steve, we have the same trailer here that was bought new for moving the lawn tractors around. Your right, it tows horribly. I need to do the same thing as you did.
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Old 12-21-2018, 03:42:33 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

Over here it's illegal to have the axle, or centre of the axle group, in the middle. The axle has to be set towards the rear. By how much is the tricky bit. On our 8' trailer I think I put it back around the 4" mark. But it could have been 6.

Cheers Scott
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Old 12-21-2018, 06:52:08 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

I once picked up a antique desk many hundreds of miles from home. Because of the way it was made I could not get enough weight on the tongue. I carefully drove the 3 miles to a hardware store and could feel it trying to sway. I bought 150 lb of sand and strapped it on the small platform on the tongue. The guy at the hardware store thought I was crazy but the trailer towed perfectly at interstate speeds.
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Old 12-21-2018, 08:17:44 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

Kudos Frank to knowing the physics and acting on it before you wadded it on the road.
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Old 12-22-2018, 12:25:32 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

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Originally Posted by Frank DeWitt View Post
I once picked up a antique desk many hundreds of miles from home. Because of the way it was made I cd not get enough weight on the tongue. I carefully drove the 3 miles to a hardware store and could feel it trying to sway. I bought 150 lb of sand and strapped it on the small platform on the tongue. The guy at the hardware store thought I was crazy but the trailer towed perfectly at interstate speeds.
I did kind of the same thing. I was hauling a long I Beam and could not get enough tongue weight. I stopped along the road and picked up a few big rocks and put them on the front of the trailer, it pulled great then.
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Old 12-22-2018, 12:54:58 PM
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Default Re: How Not To Tow Or Back Up A Trailer

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I once picked up a antique desk many hundreds of miles from home.
Can you post a picture of the desk?
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