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Old 08-05-2013, 02:27 AM   #1
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Jack-knifed & totaled...advice

Recently went out in our brand-new Freedom Express Coachmen 302fkv and had it go out of control and end up jack-knifing and flipping in the middle of the highway. Want some advice...something was not right! Obviously! We are not sure if it is our fault or if we were sold something above our weight. Thank God no one was hurt!!

We were pulling with a Denali Yukon XL with a towing weight of 8400 pounds. We were told the dry weight of the Freedom Express was 6800 pounds which we thought was plently of weight to spare. Then at the lot after the wreck, on the door has a sticker stating the dry weight of the camper is 7468???

We had a Blue Ox performance sway WD hitch with 1,000# bars (I was told anyway) installed and everything clicked into place when I set it up. I did it as tight as I could manage to get it (I think chain link 7 or 8). The company where we bought the trailer installed the hitch and WDS. We drove around town and then got on the highway. We were fully loaded and had about 450 pounds of water in the rear as there was no water fill up on the way to the campground 2 hours away.

The truck had some sway when driving, but when we started to accelerate to 30-40mph on the highway, the trailer began to sway and then immediately swayed WILDLY behind the Denali. The trailer brakes manual control had no effect what so ever. We were being slung all over the road and i/o have the truck get flipped, we tried to get off the road and as we did, the trailer flipped over and our Denali did a 180 and ended up sitting on top of the trailer tongue. The hitch was completely pulled out from our car.

This was obviously a horrible and scary experience with no one injured...and now the camper and truck are totaled.

Any advice?? I do not believe that I did anything incorrect in the set up and have no idea why the trailer began to sway so aggressively. We did not over correct when it began to sway. Is it possible there was an error in the set-up? From what I understand, the sway bars should not allow this to happen?? It almost seems as if one of them came off where it attaches to the trailer's tongue. One was on the ground at the accident scene with both bars still connected at the hitch?

Any thoughts? My insurance has no interest in pursuing if there was anything installed incorrectly?

I may be out of internet range over the next few days as we are now going to be tent camping where I don't have cell service!

The pic is right when we were leaving.


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Old 08-05-2013, 02:36 AM   #2
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Yikes! What a nightmare! I have no experience in this but am commiserating.

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Old 08-05-2013, 02:38 AM   #3
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Sorry my pic didn't post. I also tried to upload some pics of the wreck, but they would not go either.
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Old 08-05-2013, 03:00 AM   #4
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Did you test your electric brakes while initially driving around?

Also I wonder if you had your receiver pin come out? I can't imagine that much sway at 40 mph with everything set up correctly.

You are correct though in thinking the trailer was too heavy for TV. Never believe a salesman.
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Old 08-05-2013, 03:56 AM   #5
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What was the tongue weight? Sounds like you had too much weight behind the trailer axle. Sway control is not sway prevention, it can only help to a certain point, once you're past that point.....
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Old 08-05-2013, 06:14 AM   #6
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WOW!! I can't imagine. Glad no one was injured. I also wonder if something broke on the trailer, like an axel bracket. Something had to be real bad to cause such a sway at that speed.
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Old 08-05-2013, 06:21 AM   #7
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swaying trailer accident

I have worked on trailers and built a few. It sounds like the previous poster said there was too much weight aft of the axle(s). Center of Gravity is also a crucial element when loading. A trailer might have bike racks, closets, empty compartments towards the rear but if 60-65% of the weight is not forward of the axle the trailer can get dramatically unstable. Activating the trailer brakes can smooth out the swaying but it is still unstable and leads to a "white knuckle" driving experience especially when a big truck passes you.
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Old 08-05-2013, 06:29 AM   #8
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I can think of many things that might have caused it from driver error to poor construction. but tire inflation is my Number one suspect... I often explain that two pressures all but guaranteed to be wrong are the one molded into the side wall (It is proper if the tire is carryig it's maximum load) and the one on the sticker in the vehicle (usually low in the case of RV's but.... not always) Other tire issues (Failure) can cause strange things to happen.

As to what to do next.. Depends on how often you move the rig.. If it's at least once every month or two, try a Class A.
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Old 08-05-2013, 06:36 AM   #9
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Sway is generally caused by a lack of tongue weight (10% of trailer gvw min.), which may or may not be amplified by tire side walls flexing (or water sloshing from one side of the tank to the other?). Generally, there is fair warning of the situation. The rig doesn't enter into anything like this all at once? If you ignore the warning, which will require you to correct the wheel for minor sway, it can/will get progressively more violent and potentially end up just as you did.
That's been my experience anyway, FWIW. -Al
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Old 08-05-2013, 06:50 AM   #10
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I am not familiar with you hitch. Is it a friction type?

Also tire inflation, weight balance. Water tank aft of the axle should be prohibited.

Was the hitch set up before the trailer was loaded? It should be set after the trailer was loaded.

What a horrible experience for a first experience. If you get another rig, hire a professional to set it up and make sure it is right and get some instruction on driving and setting up the rig properly. I would not trust the truck or RV dealer to do this properly.

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Old 08-05-2013, 06:53 AM   #11
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Having the proper tongue weight is essential. Sherline makes a small scale (~$125) that easily measures that. I wouldn't setup a new tow without it. That said, I towed a 24' enclosed racecar trailer with a 2004 Denali XL. Our weight was right up there at 8,000 lbs and though it was not the most easy tow, it did go straight down the road when setup correctly. That is the unfortunate lesson here. Any sway is bad, and speed only makes it worse, so if it doesn't go straight, something (setup or tongue weight) is wrong.
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Old 08-05-2013, 07:14 AM   #12
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A TT will sway unless you have enough tow vehicle to control the trailer instead of letting the trailer control the tow vehicle. There have been numerous articles about the denali and youkon and most suv's not having a long enough wheel base to control the TT. The SUV's are 1/2 ton vehicles at most with soft mushy suspensions which wd hitchs and anti sway bars will not make up for. Your first clue that you dont have enough tow vehicle to control the trailer is the trailer sway.
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Old 08-05-2013, 07:27 AM   #13
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Wow sure glad you are all ok.

Something defiantly went wrong in a bad way.

I also learned that you can't trust a dealer when it comes to setting up your hitch. On my own truck they wanted to go home. They could not get the receiver hitch to fit on my truck due to the factory body kit. So instead they used a 18 inch long receiver extension to make it all work.

Wife and I did one trip like that. Did not look right to me. A friend told me it was not legal. And thanks to lots of reading it was not. I fixed the issue on my own took me 5 mins to do this.

I stopped at a different shop and they helped me set up everything correctly. Went back to the dealer to return the extension. Which in turn they told me it is fine to use one.

Also they did not tell me how to set up the wdh properly. And even the brake switch cable they looped through the safety chain. Which I found out later was not correct.

So end of the day never trust the dealer.
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Old 08-05-2013, 07:32 AM   #14
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My guess would be that there wasn't enough tongue weight which is supposed to be about 10% of the total trailer weight.

Not sure exactly how to choose which chain link in a WDH is the correct one but someone that uses one might post.

Glad that no one was injured or killed.

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