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Fishtailing


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#1 mikeprior

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 01:03 PM

On my most recent cross country trip (St. Augustine Fl. to Lake Tahoe Ca.) I experienced three very serious instances of Fishtailing. After each time , I thoroughly checked my unit for possible mechanical issues. Additionally, I rearranged the weight distribution and made changes to the drag on the Anti-sway bar. After the third incident ( in Nevada) I removed the bikes and  rack and made the rest of the trip with them in the trailer. With each occurrence  I was on the fine line of loosing control and possibly flipping the unit. I started the trip traveling at my normal speed on open roads at the 65-67 MPH and finished the final 300 miles at 55 MPH.

 

My six previous crossings were made with a 2014 Tacoma Crew- Cab long bed, 4 wheel drive truck. For other considerations, I recently changed tow vehicles to a 2017 Toyota FWD Highlander. Although the ride, power and gas mileage was great, I'm starting to think that the new vehicle is the source of my problem.

 

When the fishtailing started, I started taking my foot off the gas and gently pumped the brakes---. Should I have tried to apply the trailer brakes? Speed up?? Is there a recommended procedure for this?

 

 

I'm unnerved and in desperate need of some answers here or I'll need to sell the unit and leave it in California.



#2 Carol Christensen

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 03:56 PM

Your experience sounds very scary.  I'm glad you were able to regain control each time but 3 fishtailing incidents is a bit much.  Tightening the sway bar control and slowing down were good choices.  I would think that taking the load off of the rear end by removing the bikes and rack was critical in keeping control of your rig.  Another thing to consider would be tire inflation being the recommended psi in both tires. 

 

I know that having a longer wheelbase is supposed to increase stability but don't know if that would affect the fishtailing experience.  So maybe your new vehicle was part of the problem but I think balancing the load is going to be necessary

 

IMO, your instincts on handling the problem when it began were right on  This is from "Trailer Loading and Towing Guide" 

Handling trailer sway...   If swaying occurs, steer as little as possible while you slow down.  Because of your natural lag in reaction time, quick steering movements will actually make things worse and cause the oscillation to increase.  Application of the trailer brake usually tends to help keep the vehicles aligned, while heavy braking with the tow vehicle may reduce trailer stability. Until the problem is identified and solved, travel at reduced speeds.

Of course, if you're hanging onto the wheel to keep control of the car, you may not be able to search for the trailer brake control.

 

You probably need more weight at the front end to balance the rear and considering what you've just been through, guessing isn't really good enough.  I think the most important thing you can do is to weigh your rig when it's loaded as it would be for a trip; water and everything else.  That will tell you just how balanced/unbalanced your rig is.  Here is a link to how we weigh ours.  I know it's kinda a load to read (pun intended) but spending a day checking your weights could really help give you peace-of-mind in your future travels.   One thing that is not mentioned in the below link is weighing each side separately, that's done by having one trailer wheel on the scale at  a time. 

 

How to Weigh your Casita and Tow Vehicle        


Carol Christensen
2005 17' LD Nova & 2001 Toyota 4Runner

pre-Nova was Ova-the-Rainbow 1999 17' LD (sold)



Don't believe everything you think.

#3 madjack

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Posted 01 July 2017 - 04:40 PM

99% of fishtailing is from too much weight on the rear of trailer and not enough on the tongue...the other 1% comes from improper tire inflation from side to side...your tow vehicle is not to blame...the trailer being hitched tongue high will amplify these problems, always hitch with the tongue level or very slightly nose down(my preference).......
madjack

p.s. the proper way to handle fishtailing is to slow down slowly and use the trailer brakes instead of vehicle brakes..........mj

Edited by madjack, 01 July 2017 - 04:44 PM.

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#4 Bluedog

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Posted 02 July 2017 - 07:54 AM

Have you checked the angle of the trailer when it is hooked up to the tow vehicle?

 

Take a level and place it on the side belly and see if the nose is lower to the front than rear. Casita wants this to be lower to level to the front as this reduces the likelihood of a sway.



#5 clairemr1

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Posted 02 July 2017 - 10:58 AM

are you using a WDH, weight distribution hitch or simply an antisway bar? if memory serves, casita HIGHLY recommends a WDH on the 17ft casitas. the 13 and 16ft lengths can get away with only the antisway bar. you might look into adding the WDH to what is posted above, might make a huge difference. good luck.........


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#6 borderbrae

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Posted 02 July 2017 - 01:00 PM

Scary situations for sure Mike. I'm glad you came through them OK. If you think back about the 3 incidents were there similarities in the road conditions or your driving? if so you will know you need to be extra careful in that type of situation. Sounds like removing the bikes and rack from the rear helped a bit. Most trailer tires are rated for 65 mph max, I don't care what the speed limit is I stick to either 62 or 63 and let the others go by me, unless of course it is under 65 then I abide by that. Out west some roads are rater much higher than I'd dream of pulling my trailer, for example it may be 45 or 50 and I'm more comfortable going 35 or 40. I get better mpg at 62 and even a few mph can give better control. I think others have given some good points for you to check into. Water adds a lot of weight and our fresh water tanks are all in the rear of the trailers. 


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#7 RADAR1

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Posted 02 July 2017 - 05:55 PM

All my towing has been done with either rear wheel drive or all wheel drive, except once when I had to tow with our front wheel drive tow vehicle. The weight transfer off the front wheels due to weight on the hitch was more noticeable with the front wheel drive car since the tires would now spin a bit on wet road startups. A weight distribution hitch might help put more weight on the front wheels and keep them on track better. 

I've never attempted to tow with our bikes behind the camper, too much weight on the rear for my liking, and it increases the susceptibility to sway, even if you load up the front, simply because there is a lot of mass in the tail wagging the dog.

Glad you survived without losing control!

62 MPH seems to be a magic number for the sway threshold to show its ugly head.


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#8 Rob and Linda

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Posted 03 July 2017 - 02:31 PM

< snip >

 

 

I'm unnerved and in desperate need of some answers here or I'll need to sell the unit and leave it in California.

 

Mike,

 

Have you seen this:  ?  

 

Rob


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#9 Mark Watson

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Posted 05 July 2017 - 07:34 PM

I routinely practice moving the brake controller brake lever when underway. If I ever have to use it, hopefully the practice will help find and apply trailer brakes. 


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#10 Meadowlark

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Posted 09 July 2017 - 11:39 AM

I bet those were some heart stopping moments. We tow with a Tundra long bed 2 wheel drive and routinely drive 62 mph. Virtually everything goes in the bed of the pickup, not the camper itself. On his solo walkabouts, my husband installs the rear bumper hitch to carry a bicycle and then he puts two five gallon jugs of water in the shower. While it probably doesn't completely balance the load it has to help. We haven't had a sway rear it's ugly head but boy, it doesn't take much. Somewhere on this site is a link to a You tube video showing an Aussie losing control of his ''caravan" camper after passing a 'road train'..(That's what they call the TRIPLE trailers that the big rigs tow in  Australia".

 

I think, after reading this, I'll go and practise using the trailer brake instead of the truck brakes.

 

I'm never comfortable driving in some states like Texas, where some highways have a speed limit of 85 mph. That's just too darned fast for me, no matter what I'm driving.

 

I can understand you being unnerved, but it shows that you have a lot of brains and can understand what a dangerous situation sways are. If you take all of the advice here, especially the load balancing, speed, and tire pressure, hopefully you won't have to sell your egg.


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#11 Hot Toddy

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 11:18 AM

I encountered a tiny bit of fishtailing after we replaced the tires on our Casita. We had been towing level, but the tire change caused the tongue to tow about 2" proud, and suddenly fishtailing. I was able to manage it with the anti-sway bar, but it completely went away after removing the 2" rise out of the ball on our hitch. Now we tow level if not slightly tongue heavy on the hitch. Point being to make sure that your tongue tows level or slightly lower than level. You will experience more fishtailing with the tongue above level. Best of luck!

 

Toddy


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#12 Rob and Linda

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 01:02 PM

< snip > Point being to make sure that your tongue tows level or slightly lower than level. You will experience more fishtailing with the tongue above level. Best of luck!

 

Toddy

 

Air under the trailer 'lifting' the nose and effectively reducing tongue weight?  Whatcha thank?


Rob & Linda, Hurst, Texas
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#13 clover

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Posted 10 July 2017 - 02:31 PM

 

< snip > Point being to make sure that your tongue tows level or slightly lower than level. You will experience more fishtailing with the tongue above level. Best of luck!

 

Toddy

 

Air under the trailer 'lifting' the nose and effectively reducing tongue weight?  Whatcha thank?

 

When LHC/Larry installed my new high lift leaf spring axle two years ago, our Casita was running significantly tongue down. He said the leaf springs would finally settle in/down with some time, however it was best to run slightly tongue down vs up. 

 

We carry a cargo basket with probably 250-300# of gear in it most of the time & sometimes more. More often than not we have a full fresh water tank, empty black water and empty gray water tank. Only full propane tanks on the tongue, nothing extra put into the bathroom. I use a Curt anti-sway bar only. I've never had any unusual fishtailing, even in high winds. I did have fishtailing before the anti-sway bar in high winds with no basket on the back and a generator on the tongue. I tow with an F350 crew cab, long bed PU.

 

Plainsman hauls a large Honda dirt bike on the back of his SD 17 without issues. 

 

All that said, I wouldn't stop being suspicious of something else going on besides the distribution of the weight in the trailer. The 16' Casita is notorious for being unforgiving with weight on the back end and prone to awful fishtailing moves, however the 17' has historically been more stable. 


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#14 borderbrae

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Posted 24 July 2017 - 02:17 PM

I'm really curious what the OP decided or found out about the sway. 


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#15 Meadowlark

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Posted 08 August 2017 - 06:31 PM

Madjack, when you say to use the trailer brake to slow the trailer down, what does this entail? I have a lever on the bottom of my brake controller. If I need to use it to stop a sway, do I apply it slowly and gently (right...when my heart is racing 99 million beats per second)  do you apply...let go...apply...let go or just one steady pull?


These are the voyages of the small ship, "Grus Egg".

2011 17" Spirit Deluxe, "Grus Egg"

 

"Civilization began when we stopped eating horses and began riding them."