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How to control sway after it starts?

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  • How to control sway after it starts?

    On the way back from the lake today, I ended up having to tow a small boat home behind my camp trailer (due to breakdown in original tow vehicle). My camp trailer has the hitch and wiring installed, so I agreed to do it. Any speed over 45 mph the swaying started, and once when caught by a gust of wind, I nearly lost the boat. It was swaying badly, pulling my trailer, and nearly tipped over. (Because of the circumstances, there was no way to match the trailer and tongue the way it should be, and they weren't as level as I'd like) My question is, once you get a good sway going, almost to the point of losing control, what is the best way to get it stopped? Slowing gradually didn't seem to help, nor did stopping with the brakes. I'd like to know in case this ever comes up for me or anyone else out there.
    So come on experts, let me know what to do in this situation. thanks


  • #2
    Re: How to control sway after it starts?

    So you were towing a camp trailer and a boat behind that? In most if not all states, it's against the law to "double" tow unless the 1'st tow has a 5th wheel/gooseneck hitch. As to your question, normally on a single tow, slowing the speed usually stops or minimize the sway.

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    • #3
      Re: How to control sway after it starts?

      If the sway was getting to the point of wrecking or turning over it should have been stopped and not driven!
      What exactly were you driving and towing? I know better than to ask if these vehicles had brakes....
      sigpic

      1981 ChrisCraft 210 Scorpion K,175 Johnson SeaHorse

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      • #4
        Re: How to control sway after it starts?

        towing 2 trailers, that was the problem, the 1st trailer probably stated moving around a little bit (no big deal) then just transformed to the other trailer 10X

        usually not a good idea

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        • #5
          Re: How to control sway after it starts?

          The answer is to floor it until the sway goes away and after you change your pants, drive slower...

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          • #6
            Re: How to control sway after it starts?

            First trailer was my 20 ft. camp trailer with brakes, boat was a small (15 ft) with single axle trailer. It isn't something I intended to do, and hope to not do again. But I was wondering about how to get out of the problem once in it.
            Tandem towing under 55 ft is legal here.

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            • #7
              Re: How to control sway after it starts?

              For a single trailer, manually applying the trailer brakes without applying the tow vehicle brakes is very effective to stop swaying. It would probably also work in a double trailer situation if the lead trailer is considerably heavier than the end trailer.

              Sway is an oscillation about the trailer's yaw (vertical) axis that takes the back end of the tow vehicle along for the ride. Sway can be a problem when the trailer is large relative to the tow vehicle and the trailer's inertial yaw axis (vertical axis running through the trailer's centre of mass) is close to the trailer's mechanical yaw axis (the axle(s)). In other words, when you don't have enough tongue weight.

              Adding the second trailer puts more weight on the lead trailer's axles and simultaneously unloads the tongue, which can turn a marginally stable setup into an unstable one. The best double trailer setup (and the only legal one in many jurisdictions) is to use a 5th wheel hitch for the lead trailer, as 5th wheel trailers have their centre of mass well forward of the axle and will not be negatively affected by the tongue weight of the second trailer. If you're using 2 ball-type hitches, make sure the tongue weight of the lead trailer in the fully assembled "road train" is at least 10% of the sum of the lead trailer's weight and the end trailer's tongue weight.

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              • #8
                Re: How to control sway after it starts?

                Originally posted by sharps45 View Post
                Tandem towing under 55 ft is legal here.
                where is "here"?
                sigpic First "BIG" fish!!

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                • #9
                  Re: How to control sway after it starts?

                  Originally posted by Seon View Post
                  So you were towing a camp trailer and a boat behind that? In most if not all states, it's against the law to "double" tow unless the 1'st tow has a 5th wheel/gooseneck hitch. As to your question, normally on a single tow, slowing the speed usually stops or minimize the sway.
                  Actually only Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota have laws that state the first trailer must be a 5th wheel. The other 22 states that allow tandem towing only have max length requirements...and a couple have special permit requirements...
                  Glastron Owner's Club - Help start the club.

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                  • #10
                    Re: How to control sway after it starts?

                    You should have dropped the boat after the first occurance. Many people have enough trouble getting one trailer set up correctly, much less two. Getting two pivot points in perfect unison takes work. Since it's over, I would have down shifted to activate the camper brakes if surge. If electric, about all you can do is slow down. If the camper does not have brakes at all, you should have never agreed to begin with. There is no instant cure for sway that I know of, other than having it set up correctly to begin with. I realize that these were special circumstances, but that was not wise decision.

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                    • #11
                      Re: How to control sway after it starts?

                      Originally posted by cdoliver View Post
                      The answer is to floor it until the sway goes away and after you change your pants, drive slower...
                      This has worked for me but only towing one trailer.

                      1988 VIP Vixen 2000
                      5.7 OMC Cobra

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                      • #12
                        Re: How to control sway after it starts?

                        Okay, I've been chastised for my good intentions. The haul was only about 18 miles, and except for the wind gust I kept it under good control.
                        I have electric brakes on my trailer, but didn't think of them at the time (I was busy sucking seat cushion into my nether region). Before I would try anything like that again, I would definitely do a better job of matching the trailer tongues, weights, and heights. The accelerate out of the sway sounds counter-intuitive, but makes sense when you think about it. How often do you get swaying when pulling up a grade?
                        Anyway, thanks for the advice and the wet noodle whipping.

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                        • #13
                          Re: How to control sway after it starts?

                          Originally posted by sharps45 View Post
                          The accelerate out of the sway sounds counter-intuitive, but makes sense when you think about it. How often do you get swaying when pulling up a grade?

                          I concor with the speeding up.
                          I had rented a trailer once that must have had a crooked axle or something but if I ever got above 50mph the trailer would start swaying (trailer was loaded properly). If I gave it brakes it would get worse but flooring it would straighting it right out. It was a tug of war all the way home and when I did get home and unloaded, my ball hitch's nut was two, maybe three threads from coming off!! Thing swayed so much it un-tightened my ball...
                          2000 Wellcraft 186ss Volvo Penta 5.7GS/SX

                          Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety

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                          • #14
                            Re: How to control sway after it starts?

                            I can definitely add a bit to this conversation, first all since you were only going 18 miles you should've left the boat and came back for it, now having said that since that isn't what you did and chose to risk wrecking all three vehicles, when sway starts the last thing to do is apply the brakes of the TV, a slight accel of the TV will sometimes straighten things out and then you can slow down to a safe tow speed, you can also apply the trailer brakes, but since you had a third vehicle in tow not sure honestly how effective that would be. Hope that next time you give serious thought to this tow arrangement and it's potential problems. Goodluck.

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                            • #15
                              Re: How to control sway after it starts?

                              There is no debate on this at all. Dealing specifically with the question at hand, the ONLY safe way out is to accelerate until the sway subsides, then gradually reduce speed until you are at a safer speed. Trying to manually apply trailer brakes not only is unrealistic in a panic situation, but it also drastically increases the odds of the trailer wheels locking up, which inevitably leads to a jacknife.

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