Towing problems - new vehicle, old trailer

Discussion in 'First Time & New Camper Owners' started by JohnnyTraveller, Oct 9, 2021.

  1. JohnnyTraveller

    JohnnyTraveller New Member

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    Greetings all!

    Just new to the fun game of pop-up trailer camping and towing. Wife and I tossed our old tent after labour day and got a new to us trailer.

    Vehicle: 2021 Grand Cherokee L equipped with type iv towing package and engine upgrades.
    PUP: 2008 Fleetwood Utah.

    So i hook everything up. Trailer is attached to 2” ball, cross the chains and attach the emergency brake wire, plug in the trailer to the truck. No problems! Start towing down my street and feel the weight of the trailer being pulled. No big deal for me.

    I turn on to the next arterial road (60km/h max) and I’m driving 50ish and i start to get this sensation that the truck and trailer are having a tug of war match. Like the truck feels like the trailer is pulling back and forth (now swaying was occurring). FIgure maybe it was some pot holes and drive onto a smoother road. As I’m driving i find I’m getting the feeling pretty well the whole trip. It was the most stressful 80km drive ive ever had.

    I still cant figure out what happened and am not looking forward to driving home on Monday. Anyone ever have this experience before? Please help!
     
  2. Rik Peery

    Rik Peery Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Are you level after hooking up, do you have bikes etc loaded on the rear bumper, etc...more weight from the axle forward took care of swaying for me...
     
  3. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    I have a Fleetwood Utah myself and tow with a Toyota 4 Runner so kind of similar setup you have. The biggest key is to make sure the unit is level or more nose down on your setup, keep as much stuff as possible in the front of the camper . On my unit I find the Utah is a little nose light when it’s dry but when I load it down and keep heavier stuff over the wheels or in the front the camper it tows far better. I also use a sway bar when towing that helps keep it tracking a little better. Although it’s not a cure if you have a balance issue. I tow in the mountains a lot and tunnel effect wind loves to toy with trailers so I’m very familiar with sway. Towing does require a little more handling and slower speeds especially with these smaller wheel base trucks with a heavier camper like ours. I still have minor issues driving 65 on four lane interstates especially with a lot of big rigs or uneven road but slowing down to 60 it smooths right out so I had to find the camper’s happy medium. I try to avoid driving with a full water tank if I can help it as that water sloshing can actually be felt in the car and it isn’t comfortable for me at least . It also could be a wheel issue if your tires haven’t been replaced within five years. Had that happen to me as well, not quite sure what was wrong but as soon as I replaced my tires at the shop some of my sway problems went away. Good luck. Swaying is extremely scary so I’m very familiar with your apprehension.
     
  4. eoleson1

    eoleson1 Well-Known Member

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    As the other two posters said, it's likely a loading issue, but just a suggestion: when you tow it next, dial up the brake controller on your data information center and keep an eye on it. Make sure the Jeep isn't trying to randomly apply the brakes.
     
  5. JohnnyTraveller

    JohnnyTraveller New Member

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    Thanks Rik! I’ll take a look at my loading when i pack up. I was sure most of the weight was forward of the axle. Never had swaying though.

    I attached a picture. It was relatively level i thought.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 9, 2021
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  6. JohnnyTraveller

    JohnnyTraveller New Member

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    I’ll answer a few things on this. Definitely appreciate the advice JM.

    So the problem wasn’t swaying. It was more of a push and pull feeling. Hard to explain. I have considered getting a weight distribution style hitch.

    The weird part was once i hit 20-30 mph was when the issue would start. Anything less than that and never had the issue. Also, the water tank was empty (we filled up when we arrived at the park). Also, my understanding from the previous owner is that the wheels and bearings were all replaced last year.

    Is it possible that there can be too much play in the truck side hitch receiver with the hitch itself?

    Other than that, I love the camper. Slept through the rain storm and had no leaks inside. These Fleetwoods are great trailers. :D.
     
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  7. Dingit

    Dingit Well-Known Member

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    That does seem strange. The only time I've had something that felt like a gentle push-pull was when I towed without the brakes hooked up in stop-and-go traffic and not while moving steadily. (It's also a 3000 lb popup. You know: illegal brakelessness. Don't do that. :) )

    Are you sure your ball is the right size? Seems more likely to have ball play than receiver play (no jokes here please).
     
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  8. tombiasi

    tombiasi Well-Known Member

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    When you tow a trailer pushing and pulling is normal.
     
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  9. Sjm9911

    Sjm9911 Well-Known Member

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    You may want to try airing up the rear tires in your tv also. That may help some. We cant really tell if your trailor is dead on even or not from the picture. You may need to lower the hitch a tad.
     
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  10. xxxapache

    xxxapache Well-Known Member

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    Tongue looks high to me
     
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  11. davido

    davido Well-Known Member

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    What's your tongue weight capacity on the Jeep?

    500 pounds?

    What is your trailer's tongue weight, and its overall weight?

    The tongue weight needs to be 10% to 15% of the overall weight. 15% is better than 10%. However, the tongue weight combined with the weight of cargo in the back of the jeep shouldn't exceed the 500 pound rating. You're carrying two propane tanks, and you have a front storage compartment.

    Some paper napkin math:

    Base un-loaded tongue weight of trailer (no propane tanks, no battery, no cargo, no water): 275 pounds
    Add a battery: 325 pounds.
    Add two full propane tanks: 401 pounds
    Add cargo to the forward cargo area of the trailer: 475 pounds.
    Add water to the tank (that sits slightly forward of the trailer's axle, so we'll say that your 165 pounds of water really adds 40 pounds to the tongue: 515 pounds.

    Take the 500 pound tongue rating of the tow vehicle.
    Subtract the weight of cargo in the rear of the tow vehicle: 450 remaining capacity.
    Subtract the weight of the hitch draw bar: 430 pounds remaining capacity.

    Now take that 430 tongue capacity, and subtract your actual 515 pound tongue weight: -85 pounds.
    With this paper napkin math using made up numbers, you're 85 pounds overweight in the tongue. That's going to cause some sag in the back of the tow vehicle, lift in the front (which makes controlling the load a little dangerous), and extra stress on the tow vehicle. It's also going to give the impression of bouncing and maybe even surging down the road.

    The solution: A weight distribution hitch. How big of a hitch?

    515 (trailer tongue weight) + 80 (weight of the distribution hitch itself) + 50 (vehicle cargo weight) = 645 pounds. You need a weight distribution hitch in the 600-800 pound tongue capacity range.

    Once you've set that up, go ahead and really load up the tongue; you have plenty of room now.

    While you're at it, either get a weight distribution hitch that has sway control built in, or add a sway control bar. I added a sway control bar to my setup, and it's absolutely awesome.

    Again, these are made up numbers. Maybe the Jeep has a 600 pound tongue capacity, in which case you're still within the limit, without a weight distribution hitch. Maybe your vehicle prohibits WD hitches. Maybe your trailer's frame is a C-channel frame that isn't strong enough for WD hitches either. In those cases, you're kind of stuck tweaking what you've got.

    I went several years without a WD hitch, and am so much happier having it. My trailer is the same floorplan as yours, with an overall weight of about 3200 pounds loaded, and a tongue weight around 500 pounds loaded. So I'm kind of in that same boat where it's really easy to exceed the vehicle's tongue capacity.
     
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  12. JohnnyTraveller

    JohnnyTraveller New Member

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    Thanks David! I was talking to a camper next door to me and he swears by a WD setup (little smaller vehicle and little smaller trailer).

    The good thing from your napkin math was I don’t tow with water storage at all. Not till I get to the park (most parks in Ontario have the water to fill the tank when you drive in. Also my propane tanks were only half and 3/4ish full. Either way, i see your point and I guess my job is to get someone to install. WD system on to my trailer tongue.

    Now when you say surging, what do you mean?
     
  13. JohnnyTraveller

    JohnnyTraveller New Member

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    It seems close to even, but i get what you’re saying that its hard to tell. When i leave on Monday, I’ll find another flat spot and check level. I’m think i could maybe drop another 1/2 - 1” lower.
     
  14. bluespruce

    bluespruce Member

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    Have you towed a trailer that is close to weight limit before?

    When I bought our first popup 17 years ago I was very aware of all the movement in the back with that tow vehicle. Changed to a larger tow vehicle (Yukon XL) and the movement and towing was much more comfortable. First tow vehicle was a regular Yukon with the shorter wheel base and older worn out shocks. After a few other tow vehicles and now a second larger/heavier popup there is a difference in tow vehicles.

    with the current popup I have used 2 similar F150’s to tow. First was a 2016 with a shorter bed and the latest is a 2021 with a longer bed and max tow package. Same trailer but the movement with the current truck is much less. All vehicles were well under the tow and payload limit and they have all felt different. My wife said she doesn’t notice any difference for any of them but I do. I think I’m just more sensitive to all the movement.

    all that to say, with some experience you get used to it and have a feel for what is acceptable. Also, with some miles under the belt things get to seem normal and it’s less noticeable. But, if it feels very uneasy then there could be something wrong. Any chance you have a towing experienced friend that can take it for a spin?

    do you have a brake controller and is it working? That provided a lot of comfort for me with the first pup. I towed it one time for a trip 30 miles away without knowing I need a brake controller. Got one for the second trip and just knowing I could apply the brakes if needed was comforting. Doesn’t stop the movement but does provides a little piece of mind.
     
  15. Snow

    Snow Well-Known Member

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    Just curious what park you're at this weekend? .
     
  16. JohnnyTraveller

    JohnnyTraveller New Member

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    We’re at Laurel Creek in Waterloo
     
  17. JohnnyTraveller

    JohnnyTraveller New Member

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    Thanks for taking the time bud. The truck we have is a 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee L with the Class IV towing package and engine updates (coolant and transmission upgrades). Its rated for 6500lbs and I’m pretty sure with our trailer with a GVWR of 3500 should be enough.

    Now the only thing I dont have yet is a brake controller installed yet. Doing that after the weekend. I had a buddy suggest the same thing (as i pulled over on the side of the road half way here).

    As you said, it is my first time towing something. I’m pretty sensitive to what I feel in my vehicle, but my wife was feeling it too. Going to take it a lot easier and slower on the way home and have a buddy give it a drive to see what he thinks.
     
  18. Snow

    Snow Well-Known Member

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    Camped there a few times myself.. we have friends that are there seasonally.. one should be there this weekend..
     
  19. JohnnyTraveller

    JohnnyTraveller New Member

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    Thats funny! Small world! There are a couple seasonal campsites here that seem really great. Its a nice place. We’re really close to the washrooms and they’re pretty clean and well taken care of.
     
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  20. jeepster04

    jeepster04 Active Member

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    No idea what would cause your issues, Ive towed a popup weighing the same as yours (3500 loaded) and with a much smaller vehicle and Ive never had that sensation. I imagine with those two propane tanks on the front, you have a good amount of tongue weight. A brake controller will not help with a push pull issue while just cruising down the road. Did you feel of the trailers hubs to see if they were hot when you stopped? I wonder if something is wrong with the brakes (or the break away switch) and thats what youre feeling.

    I wouldnt think a Jeep with that wheelbase (121.7", mine is 104") would need trailer sway, but it does make towing with a short wheel base vehicle much less stressful. That Jeep also has trailer sway built into the ESP, but that should only engage when the trailer starts swaying.
     
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