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Thread: Trailer sway

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
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    Virginia
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    Default Trailer sway

    I am looking for suggestions and advice to reduce the amount of trailer sway and push.

    My tow rig is a 1999 Chevy Tahoe (4WD), with an 18ft open trailer. Total weight of the trailer and car is
    about 4500lbs, with probably another 1000 lbs in the back of the Tahoe (tires, tools, people).

    On the prior tow rig that I used (1995 Jeep GC), I installed air bags in the rear to raise the rear when towing, this did help reduce the sway and push.

    Instead of air bags on the Tahoe or helper springs, would weight distribution hitch be a better
    solution?

    Air bags or helper springs would be about $300.

    I found Curt Round hitches for about $160 plus shipping, and Curt Trunnion for about $286. Are there dramatic differences between the styles and prices of these hitches?

    Thanks,
    Todd Cohen

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
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    Decatur , GA, USA
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    Default

    Most of the problems I've seen with trailer sway were the result of inadequate tongue weight. Have you eliminated that as a possible cause? I haven't heard of "push" as a trailer problem - what are you referring to?

    On a completely OT subject, I dismantled a 200 SX and have a 2.0 engine sitting around that I need to get rid of. Would you be interested? (I also have a complete IRS set up for the car if you are interested, and you have the mounting points needed to make the conversion).
    Tom Lyttle
    Decatur, GA
    IT7 Mazda - 2006, 2008 SARRC Champion
    ITS Nissan 200SX - finally running correctly
    FP Ford Capri - waiting for a comp adjustment
    GT3 Dodge Daytona - what was I thinking?

  3. #3
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    Jan 2001
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    Default

    Tom is correct--Make sure the tongue weight is correct. This is very much dependent on where you tie down the race car. Find the correct spots and mark them so you can repeat at every tow.

    If it is not improved, time for a stouter tow vehicle or lighter trailer.

  4. #4
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    Sep 2003
    Location
    Virginia
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    Default

    Not sure how to describe the push, maybe it occurs when the trailer sways.

    I am thinking I need to get the rear higher when towing, helper springs or air bags.
    I do remember after I got the air bags on the Jeep, the sway decreased, but at times it would occur.

    Tom, I can always use engine parts, I have no need for the suspension parts. I will be at VIR for the National (working), and probably driving at VIR for the Double in May, you planning to attend one of those?
    I am sure we have meet and talked at Road Atlanta and at the Runoffs (Topeka?).
    Todd Cohen

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
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    Decatur , GA, USA
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    Default

    I'll be at SARRC/MARRS, so I'll bring the engine to you there. I've talked to you before at VIR, at least. My parents are from Monroe, and I know I mentioned that, if that helps the recollection.

    See you there!
    Tom Lyttle
    Decatur, GA
    IT7 Mazda - 2006, 2008 SARRC Champion
    ITS Nissan 200SX - finally running correctly
    FP Ford Capri - waiting for a comp adjustment
    GT3 Dodge Daytona - what was I thinking?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Colchester, CT, USA
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    Default

    You should have no problem pulling an open trailer with the Tahoe, even without air bags. As everyone said, my first thought is you don't have it sitting on the trailer corretly.

    I think they say 10% of the trailer weight should be on the tongue? Sportscar just did a trailer segment where they showed how to weigh the tongue with home scales. Do that before you spend a dime on anything else.

    yes, if the rear of the truck is REALLY sagging maybe you have too much tongue weight. I think most of my race cars have had the middle directley over the front axle of the trailer. (as a rough estimate on where to position it)
    Jeff L

    ITA Miata



    2010 NARRC Champion

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  7. #7
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    Oct 2002
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    newington, ct
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    Default

    I tow with a '04 Tahoe and can say that by moving the race car just a few inches, it changes things quite a bit.

    Someone mentioned this as a possible aid to reduce the sway. I haven't looked into it too far though as it's really a matter of just finding the sweet spot on the trailer. Like others suggested, I've marked where the car needs to be placed.
    Dave Gran
    Real Roads, Real Car Guys Real World Road Tests
    Go Ahead - Take the Wheel's Free Guide to Racing

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
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    Rocket City, Alabama
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    Default

    A couple of thoughts,
    What Tom said is absolutely correct. Get the tongue weight right. Then start considering other things.

    I am going to guess that if you are pulling the rear end down, even on a 1/2 ton tow vehicle you have TOO MUCH tongue weight and it will also cause trailer sway. Use adjustable height hitches to keep the trailer level or nearly level once you have the proper tongue weight. Too much rake in the trailer will also contribute to sway whether it is single or tandem axle. You don't say if it is single or tandem axle trailer but not keeping it level loads the axles incorrectly and will make the handling terrible.

    Just some thoughts for you. Set the trailer up correctly before throwing dollars at sway control, air bags or anything else. The friction type sway control may help, I use trunnion load control bars and cam type sway control but then again I am towing a 24' enclosed trailer.

    Good luck and you will find a lot of good information online at the sites like Reese and e-trailer. Be sure to read the instructions to some of the hitch installations and you will learn an enormous amount about proper loading.

    YMMV,
    Paul

    Quick edit. When you mention push, I have to ask if you have electric brakes on the trailer? If not, surge brakes? At the weights you quoted, I would make sure I had electric brakes and a brake controller in the tow vehicle.
    Last edited by pballance; 04-06-2011 at 08:25 AM.
    Paul Ballance
    Tennessee Valley Region (yeah it's in Alabama)
    ITS '72
    1972 240Z
    "Experience is what you get when you're expecting something else." unknown

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    Chicago, IL
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    Default

    I have towed open trailers and did also find that car placement made a big difference. I switched to an enclosed trailer (I tow with a Sport Trac) and got a weight distributing hitch, wow what a difference that made!! money well spent and it can be used on any tow vehicle. good luck

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    South of Chicago, near Indiana.
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    Default

    As said placement of the car is critical to get the trailer to tow correctly. Since I shorten my 2 axel open trailer by cutting off about 8 inches from the rear and then beaver tailing it I have more trailer length in front of the center point of the two axels. On longer cars I have to load the car backwards to get the weight balanced with not to much or to little tongue weight.

    AS far as hitch ball height i like to have the trailer only slightly higher in the front when empty then get the car position on the trailer so the trail is then level. Your results may vary.
    Last edited by jimbbski; 04-06-2011 at 10:03 AM.
    1988 ITA Scriocco 16V #80
    MCSCC member since 1988

  11. #11
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    Nov 2005
    Location
    Mount Juliet, TN
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    Default

    Get a load-distributing hitch and an anti-sway bar. I have used them on my enclosed trailer for years. The load-distributing hitch transfers weight to the front of the truck, and the anti-sway bar absolutely eliminates any side-to-side movement.

    Hitch - http://www.etrailer.com/Weight-Distr...e/RP66542.html

    Anti-sway bar as Paul mentioned in the previous post.
    David Plott
    Atlanta Region #289721
    #54 1973 Datsun 240Z
    Mount Juliet, TN

  12. #12
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    Nov 2005
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    Mount Juliet, TN
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    Default

    Sorry, as Dave mentioned.
    David Plott
    Atlanta Region #289721
    #54 1973 Datsun 240Z
    Mount Juliet, TN

  13. #13
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    Jul 2002
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    Jacksonville, Fl. US
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    Default

    Same here, use a load distribution hitch and have never had an issue. One key which you have read is make sure the trailer is level, with the load as centered to slightly forward on the trailer wheels as you can get it. That is the way the trailer was designed and you will get good even tire wear.
    Once you load up, step back from the truck and trailer and put an eyeball to the entire rig. You can be tail heavy on the truck, but make sure the trailer is level. If you now have a good leveling hitch, you will never have issues.
    Charles Perry
    ITS #21 280zx

  14. #14
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    Location
    Virginia
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    Default

    What I am going to try is confirm the position of the car on the trailer to set good tong weight. I know that there is a sweet spot, since in the past when the car was too far back, there also would be sway.

    Additionally I am going to get a weight distribution hitch. Since they do include a height adjustable receiver, that may help prevent the rear of the Tahoe from drooping.
    Todd Cohen

  15. #15
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    Jan 2003
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    Rockaway, NJ
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    Default

    Todd - the weight distributing hitch will help a bunch for sway and porposing. I like it more than the friction sway kit shown from Harbor Freight - that works but you got to remember not to take any super tight turns.
    BenSpeed
    #33 ITR Porsche 968
    BigSpeed Racing
    2013 ITR Pro IT Champion
    2014 NE Division ITR Champion

  16. #16
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    Loaded the car on the trailer and setup one of the corner weight scales to check tongue weight and determine the correct position of the car for about 500 lbs on the tongue.

    With the car on the trailer as I towed last time, the tongue weight was 780 lbs.
    Moving the car back on the trailer, I got the weight down to 530 lbs.
    Looking at the tow rig with trailer and car, the rear of the Tahoe does not sag too much. The tools, spares and other equipment that are put in the back of Tahoe for race weekends, must be the source for most of the sag (Tahoe was empty for the tongue weight check).
    Todd Cohen

  17. #17
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    Definitely add in the cargo weight in the bed and passenger weight. The truck is a 1/2 ton so it's only designed for ~1000lb cargo and a driver. If you have two full-size people in the back seat and 500lb of trailer weight, you're already nearing that 1000lb. toss in a set of wheels & tires at 150lb and add more tools, and you're going to be past your truck's limit. Also keep in mind 500lb on the rear bumper is much harder on the rear suspension than 500lb directly over the rear axle.

    I would suggest moving some of that stuff to the trailer. can you strap the tires & tools onto the trailer and move the car around to adjust the tongue weight?

    I have a 3/4 ton F250 and a 24' enclosed, but I have all of my tools and spare tires in the nose of the trailer. the car gets strapped down with the rear bumper just clearing the door. drives great, albeit my truck is considerably larger than yours.
    And that's just using a regular hitch, no sway control, weight distro hitch, etc. Get it balanced right and you can get rid of some of those bandaids.
    Houston Region
    STU Nissan 240SX
    EProd RX7

  18. #18
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    Jun 2005
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    Kansas
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    Quote Originally Posted by tac911t View Post
    Loaded the car on the trailer and setup one of the corner weight scales to check tongue weight and determine the correct position of the car for about 500 lbs on the tongue.
    You're in a very similar situation to mine... I have a 1/2 ton truck, towing about 4800 lbs, plus 500-600 lbs in the back of the truck. After getting the tounge weight right (I run about 12% or 600 lbs), I put a set of air bags on the truck to get it leveled out. With this setup, I've had absolutely no issues in 5 seasons of towing, and I typically do 2500-3000 miles a year with the #50 Volvo in the rearview mirror.

    The bags are good for 100 psi, but I've never had to carry more than about 70 in them to keep the truck level. There may be even better pricing somewhere, but at the time, I found the best deal on the bags (Air Lift brand) at the local Camping World store. They were 200 bucks plus tax at the time, but are undoubtedly more by now.
    Gary Learned
    MiDiv
    Volvo 142E
    http://www.youtube.com/user/denrael

  19. #19
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    Mar 2002
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    Black Rock, Ct
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    You DO have trailer brakes AND they function, riiiiiigggght?
    What others have said: balance FIRST, THEN get load dist hitch. THEN add bags if needed. Load heavy things between the truck axles if possible.
    And, no matter what, make sure the trailer brakes work, and work well. Prodigy P3 controller or better FTW....
    Jake Gulick


    CarriageHouse Motorsports
    for sale: 2003 Audi A4 Quattro, clean, serviced, dark green, auto, sunroof, tan leather with 75K miles.
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    New England Region
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  20. #20
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    Jan 2003
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    Rockaway, NJ
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    Sort of a thread jack but here's a towing story. Easter Sunday, taking the 28 ft boat over to the marina for the spring commissioning. 8,000 lb boat on a 10,000 lb trailer, bought new about 6 seasons ago. Pulling onto the highway onramp - crunch noise, look back.....smoke. Pull over and realize the leaf spring on the left rear axle failed. Long story short, jacked it up and took off the wheel, thunk goes the axle. Jack up the axle and had some chain in the truck, wrap that around the axle and the trailer chassis, use a padlock to secure - only thing handy, shim it with some old wood from the side of the road. Jacked it down and had enough clearance to drive 2 miles to the truck/trailer repair shop! A piece of chain is a good thing to have on the truck!

    Nobody, I mean nobody was coming out to lend a hand on Easter!
    BenSpeed
    #33 ITR Porsche 968
    BigSpeed Racing
    2013 ITR Pro IT Champion
    2014 NE Division ITR Champion

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