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Barry Wolk

The Phoenix Rising - Disasters tend to happen in 3's

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DISASTERS TEND TO HAPPEN IN THREES

8-10-2006 I carelessly damaged my Mark II as I pulled it out of the garage to go to a Press Preview of the Willistead Classic. It's parked on a four post lift, in the down position during the summer as I park the Porsche on top for winter storage.

I pulled too far over and took off the Mark II emblem and left a very nasty set of gouges in the paint with the lift's support cable. I went to the Press Preview anyway.

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I loaded up the Porsche and had a friend, who moves cars professionally, tie it down for me for transport. I had positioned the car so that it lent some noticeable tongue weight.

Friday 8-11-2006

My employees and I spruced up the work truck for travel. I had just had every system service and checked on the truck. I wanted an uneventful ride. I drove home and packed and loaded the truck for a fun weekend at a Concours that we helped develop.

We shortly encountered some construction that required some lane changes and the trailer handled pretty well. We made it about 30 miles when disater struck. I had been traveling in the left lane of a freeway and exited on a continuation of M-14. This is one of those left-entrance ramps and I wanted to end up in the right lane. I had a clear shot at a lange change and moved over at about 45 miles an hour. The road was crowned and slightly curved.

I felt the truck start to pull and I knew I had a problem. The trailer started to fishtail quite forcefully. I had read, and I had pacticed, using the brake hand controller in the event of a bad sway to drag the tow vehicle down in speed and straighten out the sway. I used the hand controller and it had no effect the first time. Apparently I didn't leave it on long enough as it has to build up pressure in 24 pistons. The second time I tried I got almost immediate results and the truck straightened out as I was headed for the concrete median wall.

By this time the trailer had done about 4 wags. I pulled away from the median as the 4th wag smacked the driver's side tail of the trailer against the median. That seemed to interrupt the pending catastrophy and shoot us off across the sholder and two lanes of the e-way. I was now headed for what I perceive to be a ravine. My wife remembers it as a large ditch. I was now somewhat in control. At least I was headed in the same direction as the rest of the traffic.

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The ravine was fitted with a guardrail that probably saved our lives. Unfortunately, that impact tore the Porsche loose from its mountings and slammed it into the passenge side wall and rear door of the trailer.

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The only thing that kept the Porsche from crashing ino the lounge was the spare tire for the trailer. It wedged the front tire of the Porsche up against the winch.

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The Porsches's pretty messed up, but repairable.

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The trailer suffered some structural damage, but also can be repaired. I'll have to find a donor trailer.

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I believe what happen had to do with the newly installed load distributing and sway control hitch. One of the torsion bars dropped out of its socket and hit the pavement as did the chain cinch it was attached to.

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One of the torsion bars, the one that hit the pavement, shows signs that it worked its way out of its socket as its wear pattern shows.

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I believe what happened is that the torsion bar fell out of its socket as we crested the crown of the road. This is when there would be no tension on the bar. The hitch is fitted with a pull pin that must have worked its way out or rolled over to reveal its tapered side. The conditions must have been just right and allow the torsion bar to drop out.

The torque that the trailer went through with one of two torsion bars exerting torque on the frame was amazing. The 2" solid steel hitch insert bent to about a 20° angle. It looked like tubing that had bent. Very scary.

While this may have been an unfortunate couple of days I believe I am fortunate to be amongst the living.

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BTW, I believe we have chosen the name for our trailer. It will be forever known as "The Phoenix" Appropriate on so many levels.

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Benefits of AACA Membership.

Barry,

I grasp the magnitude of these vehicular tragedies because I understand the concepts of "one of one" and "hand-fabricated".

It would appear that you might be able to repair the Lincoln without repainting the complete car. The Porsche seems to need some fairly extensive surgerey, but I'm sure it's fixable especially if you had it insured with a reputable company.

It is The Phoenix which would seem to be of greatest concern. You just finished building it, didn't you? If it is the same trailer which I think it is, I have been following its re-birth in one of the Hemmings publications; it surely is a beautiful rig. What did the insurance adjuster make of this situation? Its "restoration" seems as if it could be the most challenging aspect of the entire situation.

Best of luck.

Jeff Dreibus

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Barry, I think last week was bad for a lot of people. Between my work truck having a broken-off spark plug, to my other two cars being stranded between it and the garage forcing me to tear down my fence to get them out, to backing my car into a metal pole and smashing the bumper, I was there with you.

So I'll pass on a bit of sage wisdom that my father told me and which comforted me as I bemoaned the tragedy of my situation:

<span style="font-weight: bold"><span style="font-style: italic">"Do you have cancer? Are you dead?"</span></span>

I think maybe it helped a little. Sorry about your mishap. I definitely feel your pain. Kudos for being able to continue to the show after scratching your beautiful Lincoln--I probably would have been frantic for a week!

This, too, shall pass...

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Barry,

I grasp the magnitude of these vehicular tragedies because I understand the concepts of "one of one" and "hand-fabricated".

It would appear that you might be able to repair the Lincoln without repainting the complete car. The Porsche seems to need some fairly extensive surgerey, but I'm sure it's fixable especially if you had it insured with a reputable company.

It is The Phoenix which would seem to be of greatest concern. You just finished building it, didn't you? If it is the same trailer which I think it is, I have been following its re-birth in one of the Hemmings publications; it surely is a beautiful rig. What did the insurance adjuster make of this situation? Its "restoration" seems as if it could be the most challenging aspect of the entire situation.

Best of luck.

Jeff Dreibus </div></div>

It just happened today. I'll be reporting it on Monday. I'll probably have to find a donor trailer to repair it properly.

Actually, I've been going over the repair in my mind and I think I can fix it as well as anyone.

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Barry...

Looking at the photo of the trailer / torsion bar.

For the weight and size of what you are towing, it looks awfully flimsy to me.

I tow only 5200# with a Dodge Dakota. My "Reese" anti-sway & load levelling bars are "FORGED STEEL". What concerns me is the "U" Flange that is affixed to your trailer's frame. The unit I have fits entirely over the frame, and, each unit is affixed with "2 horseshoe bolts EACH" with a "steel plate on the trailer frame underside that is "pulled tight for equal torque". To boot, the sway bars fit into a heavy duty hitch, and, a receiving unit on the trailer frame.

Electronic Brake Control: Did you perform the normal adjustment after about 25 minutes after starting out on your trip? This is the "adjust the tow vehicle to the trailer adjustment so both are in "synch".

Have had my own panic situations in adverse conditions with no problems so far.

Again, based upon the photos, the trailer-to-tow vehicle anti-sway/load leveling set up looks weak considering the weight your are towing.

Glad you are OK. The car and trailer can be fixed.

Peter J...

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I'm not a fan of the "Valley" style equalizer hitch. My fear of them is what you think had happened. The bar drop out of the bottom of the hitch. I use the "Reese" style. My pieces on the trailer to attach the chains are similar to yours. I did put some welds on them, just to make sure they didn't go anywhere.

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Hi, Dave...

I have no fear of the "Valley" hitch system, as I so noted. It has worked for over 12,000 miles of towing, and, as I mentioned, 5200# G.V.M. in my case.

Please elaborate about any failures you experienced, or, heard of so we can all learn for our own safety.

One thing I do know, is a safe anti-sway bar/load leveling system is a must for stability (especially for air drag left & right depending on what lane one is in when an 18-wheeler, or, bus passes you.)

I remain that Barry's trailer frame shackle-to-chain & sway bar looks flimsy "based upon the photo".

Peter J...

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Peter, It isn't a case of having expericence with a failure. I've just always been lery of the idea sticking the end of the rod UP a vertical hole, therefore perfer not to use it. If the clip fails or didn't seat, the bar could walk down the hole and possible come out. The "Reese" style has the end captured in two cups.

When we were in Asheville, I'm sure while we unloaded/loaded you didn't notice what it required to unhook/hook up the bars on my truck. I can pull the bars up by grabbing the hook with my fingers and pulling. With the 3500 series truck pulling an approx. 4500lbs load, it doesn't need much load on those bars. In my case, the major thing they are doing is keeping the trailer from wanting to purpoise down the road behind me (especially on the concrete interstates).

Barrys piece on the trailer looks like mine. Remember, with the bars attached, they are trying to pull that plate down through the frame rail. The only thing I might have done differently would be to put some weld on it, just to make sure it wouldn't try walking the frame rail.

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Guest imported_MrEarl

Barry,

so sorry to hear of your accident(s) but also thankful you all are OK. Sounds like it could have been much worse. I'm sure you'll figure this one out too. Take care

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Sorry to read about these events. Wouldn't the towed vehicle stay centered if the tie downs were crossed? Left wheel to right floor rail and vice versa?

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Sorry to read about these events. Wouldn't the towed vehicle stay centered if the tie downs were crossed? Left wheel to right floor rail and vice versa? </div></div>

Maybe. The inertial forces at work in the impact make have done structural damage to the car. Thankfully the car just seems to have superficial sheet metal damage. The trailer is going to need some serious work, but I'm up to the task.

The rub is that everything that I did held up perfectly as shown by the uneventful trip home with a standard hitch. I will rebuild.

Oh-Oh! More pictures!

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Barry,

I stay permanently "behind the curve" so I didn't find your ealier thread with all of the "Phoenix" photos until just now. I, too, can now be painted green (with envy) for your skill and ability to create such a fantastic toy box. It is indeed the project I have been following in Hemmings. It must be a real "downer" to have this happen so soon after completion, but I am certain that you will rise to the task of putting wings back on the "Phoenix" and once again get her "airborne".

Jeff Dreibus

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Thanks Jeff. Which Hemmings site has info on my trailer project?

8-12-2006

Now I'm angry. Let's see if you come to the same conclusion.

First, let me describe the way the system works. A round tube torsion bar system does work well under normal circumstances.

The 2 x 2 solid steel bar that fits into the receiver on the tow vehicle is held in place with a hardened steel shaft with a spring pin passing through a hole in the end of it, holding it in place. That shaft becomes an extension of the vehicle as it is tied directly to the vehicle frame. I believe it was bent when the trailer nearly jackknifed.

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The 2 5/16" ball is mounted to the new equalizing hitch, not the hardened steel shaft, as is normal for a non-equalized hitch.

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The equalizing hitch is attached to the hardened shaft through the vertical shaft drilled with additional holes for height adjustment. A proper height is selected and proper shims are installed to make the ball tip slightly toward the trailer. This angle is important because it will change slightly when the torsion bars are put in tension.

The bars are put in tension by a cam device that snugs up the chains, transferring the load equally to the trailer and the tow vehicle. You are suppose to level out the trailer and tow vehicle and then apply tension to the bars by equally counting the number of links and setting the tension devices on both sides. 8 links produced no tension. 6 links was nearly impossible for me set. 7 was just right.

Each chain tensioner is fitted with a safety device that keeps the tensioner closed. These parts did not fail. The tensioner is fitted to the frame with a set screw. They supply different length screws for various frame widths. These clamps are snugged in place, but are mainly held by the spring tension pulling them straight down on the frame.

The objective is to make the trailer and tow vehicle a unified structure so that "porpoising" is minimized. The sway control comes from the round tube connection. The torsion bar has a diameter that is smaller than the tube it fits into. It is designed to move freely when not cocked in the opening by the tension provided by the chains. The rubbing of the round bar in it's receiving tube is what gives you sway control as that resistance is what makes the tube intentionally bind when needed.

There are many times that the tension drops and the round bar is free to move in its socket. It is held in place at this time, on this model, by a tapered, spring-loaded pin that allows you to push the round bar into place without pulling back on the pin.

That pin fits into a groove in the round bar that is designed to stay engaged with the groove, keeping it from falling out of the socket.

After a sleepless night I went back to the shop and made a closer inspection of the mechanism.

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My first observation was that the pins were nowhere near as long as they could have been, based on the depth of the groove. Even so, they should have stayed in.

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I then observed that the beveled face of the pin didn't line up with the locating grooves that are supposed to firmly position the pin.

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If the beveled pin were allowed to rotate 180° the round bar would never stay in as it would simply push the pin back by sliding down its ramp. These pins didn't rotate 180°, they only rotated about 20-25°, enough for the pin to work its way out and disengage the safety device.

To check my hyphypothesis I used two metal plates with straight edges inserted all the way into the locating grooves. You can clearly see that they are not within any tolerances that I (or anyone else) would find acceptable.

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This manufacturing flaw wasn't the total cause of the failure though. The springs installed to keep the pins in place are made of either very cheap or very thin spring steel. They offer little resistance to the pin being pushed out of place.

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This is the last link in the failure. The top round bar is the one that fell out. The one that stayed in has a nice crisp edge while the one that fell out has a ramp-like edge that would definitely shorten the effective length of the pin.

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In my opinion it was the cumulative manufacturing flaws that led to the torsion bar dropping out of its socket.

When the passenger side torsion was lost the torque of the remaining torsion bar put the trailer into a severe pull to the side that remained. It's indescribable how I felt at that moment as I've never encountered that effect before. Instead of diminishing sway the remaining bar was inducing it. Had I not applied the trailer brakes the trailer would have continued on its circular path clearly leading to a flip of either or both of the vehicles.

Does this qualify as negligence on the part of the manufacturer? I'm sure my insurance company will go after them to recover their costs. Is a retailer responsible for a product they sell? Keep in mind that this product is marketed and sold as a safety device. Is this an issue for NHSTA? Is that who would regulate this product or would this be a Product Safety issue?

I've heard from four people that they have observed round bar hitch failures, too.

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Barry, I can't say that this hitch caused your problem as I wasn't there, but I don't think that sway bar system is anywhere near as well made as the one that Novaman and I have. Those thin plates that hold the pins in are not what I consider a well designed system. Maybe Novaman/David can post a picture of his system.

In all honesty I'm not sure any of these systems are capable of handling the weight of your trailer. I realize that the next step up is probably the "hook and loop" hitch. This is "always" used on a heavy equipment trailer pulled usually by 2 ton trucks or a very heavy duty dual axle 1 ton pickup. These heavy trailers use air brakes only 99% per cent of the time.

Wish I had more time to get pictures for you.

I'm very saddened and disappointed in your loss.

Wayne

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The tow vehicle was an F-450. It towed the trailer just fine. A heavier truck would have made little difference. I take that back. Maybe a semi would have withstood the torque. Maybe.

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Barry, First off glad to hear you're ok.

The WD hitch set up you used is grossly under rated for your truck/trailer setup. From the looks of the pictures the bars are 600lbs load rating at best. I brought this up once before... Regardless of how the trailer can balance weight. You MUST carry a 12% tongue weight load. Some quick math puts that loaded tongue weight at about 1200 lbs.

YOU CAN NOT DEFY PHYSICS!!! The sway was clearly a case of the tail wagging the dog. You said it yourself. When you hit the crown of the road the bar was not under tension. That bar is suppose to have tension on it 100% of the time! Your tongue weight was not enough to keep the tension on the bar and then the trailer brakes were applied . This action put a great deal of load on the tongue in a split second. The pin had no chance of holding the under rated bar in place. Get rid of the mickey mouse WD hitch and get a real one click here Once again , I'm glad you're ok.

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So sorry for your incident?and glad that only sheetmetal was injured. I really admire your ?get-back-on-the-horse-and-fix-it? spirit.

I have the exact same WD hitch setup on a 24? all steel enclosed trailer which weighs in around 10K, depending on the car inside and pulled by a Dodge Ram one ton. I think South Paw is on to something?.the equalizer bars should be under sufficient preload that they would never ?drop out? even without the safety pins.

When I hitch up, I leave the weight of the trailer on the trailer jack as I install the bars. I put a pretty substantial preload on the chains BEFORE lowering the trailer jack and transferring the weight to the hitch. I suppose that if the truck crested an extreme and sharply angled fore and aft ?bump? a condition could exist where the preload on the bars would be neutral and allow them to drop (absent the safety retainer pin)?.but that would be an extreme situation.

BTW?the inventor of the WD hitch system used to demo it by hooking an Airstream up to an early front wheel drive Olds Toronado, then jack the car up, remove the rear wheels and drive the rig around the parking lot.

Best,

John

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Barry, First off glad to hear you're ok.

The WD hitch set up you used is grossly under rated for your truck/trailer setup. From the looks of the pictures the bars are 600lbs load rating at best. I brought this up once before... Regardless of how the trailer can balance weight. You MUST carry a 12% tongue weight load. Some quick math puts that loaded tongue weight at about 1200 lbs.

YOU CAN NOT DEFY PHYSICS!!! The sway was clearly a case of the tail wagging the dog. You said it yourself. When you hit the crown of the road the bar was not under tension. That bar is suppose to have tension on it 100% of the time! Your tongue weight was not enough to keep the tension on the bar and then the trailer brakes were applied . This action put a great deal of load on the tongue in a split second. The pin had no chance of holding the under rated bar in place. Get rid of the mickey mouse WD hitch and get a real one click here Once again , I'm glad you're ok. </div></div>

The hitch is rated for 14,000 lbs and 1,400 lbs of tongue weight. I couldn't get it any tighter.

You seem to miss the point that the wagging didn't start until the round bar fell out of it's socket. Up until then it was doing just fine.

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I may be missing something here, but it appears that two items have not been mentioned. I do not see a tongue jack in the photos nor has there been any mention of using a hollow pry bar to help connect the chain to the trailer frame bracket. I pull a large trailer (28 foot interior) with a heavy car and I would never go with 7 chain links. I normally use 4-5 links. To do this, after the ball is connected run the jack down to lift both the trailer ball and rear end of truck just above where you want them. Then use the hollow pry bar to get extra leverage to get as few links as possible. 6-7 is way too loose (this was also mentioned in an earlier post.) My apologies if this is the procedure that was used, but it does not appear in the descriptions.

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">I may be missing something here, but it appears that two items have not been mentioned. I do not see a tongue jack in the photos nor has there been any mention of using a hollow pry bar to help connect the chain to the trailer frame bracket. I pull a large trailer (28 foot interior) with a heavy car and I would never go with 7 chain links. I normally use 4-5 links. To do this, after the ball is connected run the jack down to lift both the trailer ball and rear end of truck just above where you want them. Then use the hollow pry bar to get extra leverage to get as few links as possible. 6-7 is way too loose (this was also mentioned in an earlier post.) My apologies if this is the procedure that was used, but it does not appear in the descriptions. </div></div>

The trailer has (4) 6,000 lb screw jacks at each corner capable of lifting the entire trailer for tire or axle service. There's no need for a tongue jack.

Obviously your hitch is different than mine. I am an incredibly strong, 6-foot 5-inch tall, 270 lb. healthy male and I'm telling you that I would have had to use a two foot longer hollow bar to set the tensioner to 6 links.

So, in your opinion I had them too loose? You base that on the number of links? What if your links are 2" long and mine are only 1 1/2" long.

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The things I'll do for you Wayne. <img src="http://forums.aaca.org/images/graemlins/crazy.gif" alt="" /> Took all these tonight for you.

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Got some photos. Please ignore the scratches, rust, etc. I'm fixing to pull some major maintaince on this trailer. Including replacing both fenders and making one to swing out of the way so I can open my car door without scraping the top of the fender/bottom of door, and repainting trailer.

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More photos with descriptions

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Hi Barry,

Please don?t construe this as being argumentative, but when you cinched up the equalizer bars, was the trailer up on the front screw jacks and was the weight off of the hitch ball? I?m also a reasonably strong guy and I know I could never get the proper tension on my setup without the tongue jack supporting the weight as I set the chains with the hollow bar.

I?ve towed probably 35-40K miles with a similar setup and I?m trying to grasp what went wrong. Obviously, the safety pin that retains the bar that dropped failed to do its job and I agree that the mfg tolerances look sloppy (I?m going to check mine tomorrow!). Over the past several years I?ve parked the truck & trailer in various situations, some with the nose of the trailer up and the truck pointed down and I?ve never seen any slack in the chains that cinch up the bars.

Best,

John

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Thanks David! That's exactly the same system I have and you can see in your photograph the "pretension" you have put into the bars.

Barry, I feel that this hitch is much stronger than what you have. I still wonder if your trailer isn't a little too heavy for your towing vehicle. I wish you were nearby, I'd like to take a trial run with your rig, empty of course.

BTW, I bought another fender for my enclosed trailer last week to replace the one blown off by bad tires last year. Earl Beauchamp said sometime in the past that 5 years is about the limit on these trailer tires. I'm beginning to believe him. <img src="http://forums.aaca.org/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

Wayne

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<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">I still wonder if your trailer isn't a little too heavy for your towing vehicle. Wayne </div></div>

The F-450 with DRW is rated for 16,000 lbs. There's nothing wrong with the tow vehicle. It operated just fine all the way home from the accident scene (30 miles) with absolutely no wag and very little porpoising. All I used was a standard 2 5/16" ball with no load leveling or sway control. 2 + 2 = 4, doesn't it? Why do you guys keep coming back to the capacity of the tow vehicle.

The round bar and the chain cinch were found on the ground at the beginning of the incident. It doesn't take a lot of rocket science to see cause and effect here, does it?

Assuming that I didn't tighten up the chains sufficiently, all that should have happened is a lack of function. Under no circumstances should the round bar drop out of its socket. Wouldn't you agree?

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It would seem to me that with your dual-wheel F-450 you wouldn't even need a load-leveling setup. I've known people who've driven these things for years with very heavy trailers and indicated that for all practical purposes you almost can't make it swerve.

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