Monday, July 28, 2014

Teardrop Trailer Road Emergencies

No matter how much you prepare, there may be a time when you have to deal with a teardrop trailer emergency on the road. Emergencies can come in many forms and while it's a little easier to anticipate what might happen with a much smaller trailer, they still need to be planned for and dealt with.


I received a blog comment from ML on a roadside emergency that happened while towing a teardrop trailer. The teardrop fell off the hitch and ML was fortunate enough to get some help from the local Jiffy Lube. The employees used a jack and some wood scraps to lift the teardrop back up onto the tow vehicle hitch and ML was able to get back on the road. However, many other emergencies can be avoided or remedied by keeping a few things in mind and carrying a few extra items in your car.

Flat Tires

A flat tire while towing can be one of the most common road emergencies. Of course, you can get a flat on both the trailer and the tow vehicle so be prepared to deal with two different types of emergencies. First of all, remember to bring a spare for both the trailer and the vehicle and visually check them every few months. Also be sure to have a jack that can be used on both as well as a lug nut wrench.

When you get a flat tire or blowout on a trailer, you will be able to feel the extra drag and the trailer may begin to sway. When this happens, slightly accelerate to level out and then slowly drive your way to safety. Get as far off the road as possible. Most states require that you travel in the right hand lane when towing, so pulling over during an emergency should be easier. Many insurance companies require that you don't remove or repair the tire yourself, so having roadside assistance is as important as having a spare.

To avoid having a flat, regularly check the tire pressure in all your tires and replace them every few years. When driving, keep an eye out for road debris, check your side mirrors regularly and stay below the speed limit.

My friends at the Long Long Honeymoon have a detailed and well documented video on how they survived a blowout on their Airstream Classic trailer—on the side of busy highway.


Hitch Issues

If you are a new teardropper, it takes a while to get used to using a hitch. When I hitch up the Sunflower, I have to be fully focused on what I'm doing or I'll forget something.

When hitching, you want to make sure the trailer coupling is completely over the ball on the hitch, the tongue lock is completely down, the safety pin is engaged and locked through the tongue lock, the safety chains are connected to the vehicle hitch (crossed so they don't drag on the ground) and the wiring harness is fully connected with the wiring kit on the trailer. You then want to drive forward a few yards to check the hitch connection and also have a partner check your running lights, brake lights and turn signals. To avoid hitch issues, regularly check all hitch components and don't exceed the weight limit on your hitch.



 Smoking Bearings

While on the road, you might see what looks like a smoking engine up ahead, but it turns out to be coming from a trailer. These are the trailer axle bearings burning out. A burned out axle can cause separation of a tire from the axle and a major road accident. Bearings prevent friction in the axle, but require regular greasing to reduce that friction. Machine shops recommend that you check the grease on the bearings every other year, but if you tow your trailer a lot, have them greased every year. Many RV or utility trailer manufacturers or sellers will perform this service.



Emergency Items
Here are a few items that you can carry in your tow vehicle or teardrop trailer that will help to put your mind at ease in case an emergency pops up.


Emergency Light Kit

We keep a 12-volt emergency tow light kit in our vehicle to use on the both the teardrop and our utility trailer. They cost around $30 and can be magnetic or attached via a harness.

Duct tape

Veteran and survival expert Mykal Hawke has said in the past, "Duct tape could save your life." It may also save your teardrop trailer...or your kayak.

Last year, we were coming back from kayaking at a lake in California. A thunderstorm was rolling in and the heavy mountain winds tore one of our kayaks and part of the kayak rack from the top of our Kia Sportage. The kayak went flying down the highway in a big, orange blur. Fortunately, our fellow teardrop friends were driving behind us and managed to slow down the minimal traffic and pull the kayak to the side of the road. We used our giant roll of duct tape to hold down the rack and get the kayak back to camp—with barely a scratch.

Having duct tape in your car at all times can help with minor repairs to broken or busted doors, windows, hatches, ice chests and other plastic or metal items.

Bungee cords

Our friends and owners of the Stargazers teardrop, were camping at Benton Hot Springs when a wind storm decided to show up. Their teardrop hatch had been left open and a strong gust of wind flipped it backwards across the roof and busted the hinge that runs along the top of the trailer. To get home (without the entire contents of their trailer falling all over the road) they duct taped and bungee corded the hatch down and drove extra slow.

Other items...

These small items don't take up much room, but can give you more peace of mind: extra hitch safety pins, road flares, flashlights, screwdrivers and wrenches, First Aid kit, two-way radios.



Photos by The Williams Family, ecustomhitch.com, How Stuff Works and Sears.

7 comments:

  1. A couple of 12' ratcheting tie-down straps can be very useful, and a lot more secure, than a bungee cord if you're dealing with a hatch or a door that won't stay closed. Be sure to pad (with a rag or something) any place that the strap comes in contact with the exterior surface, to prevent marring the finish.

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    Replies
    1. Perfect! Thanks Drew. Yes, we have two ratchet straps that hold down our ice chest and we use them for our kayaks as well. I would keep them in your vehicle trunk at all times.

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  2. This is required reading for any teardropper. Never leave home without things that stick, tie, jack, or flash! Thanks for another great blog post, Christina.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the topic tip, ML!

      Stick, Tie, Jack and Flash. Wasn't that a band from the 70's?

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    2. If not, should have been. :)

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