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Tom Suddard
Tom Suddard Digital Experience Director
12/1/17 10:53 a.m.


Photos by Tom Suddard and David S. Wallens

We’ve all seen them: giant, lumbering behemoths. They groan and struggle and sway, desperately clinging to what little stability they have.

No, we’re not talking about overweight dogs or someone’s pet hippo. We’re talking about dangerous truck-and-trailer combinations, and anybody who’s walked the paddock at an amateur race track knows what we’re talking about: things like a minivan hooked up to an enclosed trailer, or someone towing their Miata with a compact sedan.

Even normal tow vehicle-and-trailer combinations can have glaring issues. Picture flat tires, improper loading, and a lack of decent tie-downs.

When we first sat down to write a story about towing safety, we pictured handy tips, a happy-go-lucky attitude, and lots of photos of people towing properly. But then our inner pyro got ahold of us, and we started having this weird desire to sit back and watch the world burn. The story title changed to “When Towing Goes Wrong,” and it was all downhill from there.

Read the rest of the story

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth MegaDork
12/1/17 11:23 a.m.

So what you're telling me, what you're saying, is that a good driver can overcome terrible equipment, setup, and decisions? Because I'm a GREAT driver. laugh

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/1/17 11:43 a.m.
mazdeuce - Seth said:

So what you're telling me, what you're saying, is that a good driver can overcome terrible equipment, setup, and decisions? Because I'm a GREAT driver. laugh

That's a great takeaway. You have learned exactly what they hoped you would learn! Well done! laugh

rslifkin
rslifkin SuperDork
12/1/17 12:16 p.m.

An interesting thing on the car loaded backwards bit: depending on the length of the trailer vs the car and the trailer's axle placement, loading backwards is actually better in some cases.  Just move the car further forward on the trailer when you do it.  If stuff is positioned well, you end up with similar tongue weight but with less weight behind the trailer axles (ideally the heavy axle of the car should be pretty much right over the trailer axles or at least not behind the rear trailer axle).  

Given the ability to design my own car hauler, I'd push the axles back further than most and plan to load backwards.  It'll be more stable in the end but without the excessive tongue weight that loading forwards would give with the axles pushed back.  

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
12/1/17 12:19 p.m.

I can tow ANYTHING with my RN Truck.  Anyone who disputes that simply doesn't understand the POWAH of the 22R.

codrus
codrus UltraDork
12/1/17 12:33 p.m.
rslifkin said:

An interesting thing on the car loaded backwards bit: depending on the length of the trailer vs the car and the trailer's axle placement, loading backwards is actually better in some cases.   

 

Like this one? :)

 

 

Dr. Hess
Dr. Hess MegaDork
12/1/17 12:35 p.m.

I had the Esprit loaded on backwards for the trip from the PRC to Free America.  Perfect tongue weight that way.  Europas are shorter, so they can go on facing forward.  Plus they weigh half as much as an Esprit.

KyAllroad (Jeremy)
KyAllroad (Jeremy) PowerDork
12/1/17 1:06 p.m.

I can attest to the low tongue weight being a white knuckle ride.  I came over Sidling Hill in Maryland in an old 1/2 ton Chevy towing a 23' sailboat and as soon as I passed 55 mph it started walking me across three lanes (no trailer brakes btw).  It took everything I had and possibly divine intervention to keep the whole mess from taking me to the bottom in a ball of carnage.

 

edit:  I later towed the same sailboat with my '97 Explorer and it was FAR better than the old bow tie.

jimbbski
jimbbski Dork
12/1/17 1:13 p.m.

I tow all my cars backward on my open trailer.  This is due to the fact that I cut off a foot off the end of the trailer so that I could fit it into my garage. Later I "beaver Tailed" it so the wheels of any car are forced forward enough that loading backwards is required.

 

I have a story about towing but it was "flat towing" a car with a tow bar attached to the cars bumper mounts. It was an autocross car that I and a few friends ran at local events.  We would swap the tires before and after the event at the event site.  One time the lug nuts on one of the front wheels wasn't tighten enough and the LF wheel parted company while towing at speed on a major Chicago area expressway!  The tire bounced past the tow vehicle (Which I was driving) and ended up on the right shoulder of the oncoming traffic lanes.  We did recover the tire and no harm resulted except to the towed vehicle.  It had to be towed as the lug studs were to damaged to install a spare wheel.

yupididit
yupididit SuperDork
12/1/17 1:26 p.m.

Rasputia would've handled those test like a boss!

wae
wae Dork
12/1/17 2:39 p.m.

In reply to codrus :

We had to turn the 500ci-powered Fiero around backwards on the trailer because the weight from the rear engine was causing massive sway.  I'm guessing that's a pretty good option for most rear-engined cars.

fidelity101
fidelity101 UltraDork
12/1/17 3:10 p.m.

so whats the hives opinion on strapping a car down to a car hauler/trailer?

 

I use straps to the tow points on my car because it was shipped here on a boat there is one on each corner. I am loading the suspension a bit but I see people who just strap down the wheels. Which method is correct?

 

Straps to the frame or hold the wheels to the trailer?

Matthew Kennedy
Matthew Kennedy Reader
12/1/17 3:31 p.m.

In reply to fidelity101 :

Wheels, control arms, and frame all work.  Depends on the car, trailer tie down points, and straps.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
12/1/17 3:35 p.m.

I strapped my '66 Cadillac down by the axles once. With the soft suspension and the heavy car (well, 4500 lbs), there was a lot of movement.

I generally strap down by either the control arms or the chassis, but that's just because that's where my hooks are.

rslifkin
rslifkin SuperDork
12/1/17 3:36 p.m.

IMO, unless the car has very stiff suspension, you want to strap the body / frame and load the suspension a bit.  It'll keep the car from bouncing on its suspension while it's being towed, which should make the trailer ride / handle better.  

wae
wae Dork
12/1/17 3:57 p.m.

I've found the overall ride to be smoother with the wheels strapped down and the car's suspension free to work.  I used to always strap down by the body and take all the play out of the suspension, but I started strapping the wheels because I was concerned that if I wound up not unloading the car for a while it might damage the struts to be forced closed like that for months at a time.  I don't know if that's a thing or not, but it does improve the overall ride of the combined vehicle. 

Of course that might all be totally dependent on the suspension on the trailer.  I don't think there was a lot of thought that went in to the leaf springs that I have to deal with.

Vigo
Vigo UltimaDork
12/1/17 10:50 p.m.

Bravo to GRM for doing this test and writing honestly about the results. 

I want to say i feel nothing but vindication but i feel like that gives the exact opposite feeling to the article's authors as my first sentence did. 

Mixed messages? Life is complicated. But i can say with 100% certainty that i have never run my tow rig into any of you. 

Knurled.
Knurled. MegaDork
12/2/17 7:07 a.m.
fidelity101 said:

so whats the hives opinion on strapping a car down to a car hauler/trailer?

 

I use straps to the tow points on my car because it was shipped here on a boat there is one on each corner. I am loading the suspension a bit but I see people who just strap down the wheels. Which method is correct?

 

Straps to the frame or hold the wheels to the trailer?

 

My boss's dad used to race Top Alcohol.  In his trailer/mobile machine shop he had hardpoints in the trailer that he would use to bolt the dragster to the trailer, with strategically sized/shaped blocks of wood in between.

 

And that is for a vehicle that doesn't have any suspension at all.

 

If I was planning on trailering a car on a regular basis, meaning I actually owned a trailer, I'd rig something similar to attach the CHASSIS to the trailer.  For two reasons.  One, I have had two instances where the car bounced on its suspension on the trailer and it was scary as all heck.  (Once was a deerstrike that shoved the car back two feet, the other was when towing Quantum #2 through downtown Columbus while following a rallycrosser who was NOT towing a trailer, at a high rate of speed, and I saw the whole car bounce a foot to the side over one yump in a corner)   Since I'm somewhat of a rally/rallycross dork, it would probably involve pin stand mounts in the rockers.

 

And two, if the suspension is free to move, that is putting unnecessary miles on your shocks.  A tech article in an old issue of Circle Track recommended either bolting the chassis to the trailer, or just removing the fancy expensive shocks and installing solid links.  If you tow 500mi, that's 500mi of wear on your dampers that you don't even get to enjoy driving.

iceracer
iceracer UltimaDork
12/2/17 11:10 a.m.

The trailer has springs to absorb some of the bumps.   I never saw my ZX2SR move much when using the factory tie downs. 

HapDL
HapDL New Reader
12/3/17 4:38 p.m.

In reply to mazdeuce - Seth :

We're all great drivers, in our own minds.  Some actually are, the rest, well, not so much.

Recon1342
Recon1342 Reader
12/4/17 1:23 a.m.

Nicely written. The cardinal sin around here seems to be the overloaded hay-hauler...  

You simply have not lived until you've been behind one that blew a tire and scattered a couple of one-ton bales all over the freeway at 75mph...

accordionfolder
accordionfolder Dork
12/4/17 9:49 a.m.

I always post this video, but whatever. Too much tongue weight is much, much less evil than too little tongue weight. 

https://youtu.be/i2fkOVHAC8Q

edizzle89
edizzle89 Dork
12/4/17 12:10 p.m.
fidelity101 said:

 

Straps to the frame or hold the wheels to the trailer?

I have always been told strap down the wheel/axle/lower control arm to the trailer. The though process being that unless you strap the frame down so tight that the suspension is bottomed out that any suspension travel that is left will let the straps go from slack to tight when the car bounces on the trailer, that basically yanks on the straps over and over again and can cause them to brake.

mogguy
mogguy
12/7/17 8:13 a.m.

Tom and David obviously had to much fun doing the research for this article.

I had hoped that they might come up with some ideas has to how & where to get the trailer weighted when loaded so I'd have more than just a guess about the placement of the load?     A bathroom scale doesn't cut it. 

rslifkin
rslifkin SuperDork
12/7/17 8:24 a.m.

In reply to mogguy :

I usually go for as little weight behind the trailer axles as practical without giving more tongue weight than the tow rig can comfortably handle.  

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