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Thread: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

  1. #1
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    Default Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    I've been posting a thread in the Bilge (Prayers for a little girl) about an accident suffered last week by members of my family. I'm posting here for those folk who never venture below decks because I think this is an issue that all of us should be aware of.
    Long story short: My 6 year old grand-niece was in a minivan with her family when a boat and trailer separated from a pick-up truck going in the opposite direction. Horrible collision with eleven people being sent to the hospital, all released except my grand-niece who remains in a coma with severe head trauma. She's stable, but the future is very shaky.
    Criminal charges are pending against the pick-up driver, so it's my guess that he didn't have safety chains or tie-down straps.

    So, at the beginning of this boating season, let's all of us double check our hitchs, chains, tie-down straps, wheel bearings and anything else you can think of.
    It's so easy to forget something in the rush of launching and retrieving our boats at a busy launch site.

    Safe boating!
    Rich
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    The problem is: those who are likely to heed your words are not the ones who are likely to need them <sigh>. But a reminder never hurts.
    David G
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    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    It's worth the thought-"What happens if I slam on the brakes" when hauling things. I walked by a truck in a parking lot this afternoon. There were four 6x6 posts 10 or 12 feet long held onto his roof racks with 2 rubber cargo straps. No good! I hope and pray that your grand-neice pulls through.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Prayers for you and your family, Richard.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Best wishes for the little one's speedy recovery from here in Oz.

    Mike
    Visit us to see how we help people complete classic boats authentically.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Tragic reminder, worth sharing, thank you. Hope and prayers for your family.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Thanks for sharing this & my thoughts are with you. Best to her!!!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    That's a wretched thing Richard. I was pulling a Uhaul trailer with my pickup on a busy interstate once when the hitch ball nut fell off; lots of swaying and noise but the chains did their job and saved a disaster. Best wishes for your family. Rick

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    And those tie down straps - The manufacturer of my dual axle boat trailer built to carry a 2 1/2 ton boat decided a 3/16" grade 30 chain was adequate for a bow chain. First time I hauled the boat up the ramp the hull shifted slightly and the chain exploded, shooting chain bits all over the place. Trailer is now rigged with a serious chain and mondo shackles. The trailer manufacturer doesn't even offer a heavier chain - reckon they have good lawyers.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Huson View Post
    And those tie down straps - The manufacturer of my dual axle boat trailer built to carry a 2 1/2 ton boat decided a 3/16" grade 30 chain was adequate for a bow chain. First time I hauled the boat up the ramp the hull shifted slightly and the chain exploded, shooting chain bits all over the place. Trailer is now rigged with a serious chain and mondo shackles. The trailer manufacturer doesn't even offer a heavier chain - reckon they have good lawyers.
    Bill,
    My mother (she was also in the minivan and suffered cracked ribs) lives in New Bern. The accident happened down in Atlantic Beach by Morehead City. My grand-niece is still in a N.C. intensive care unit and will remain there until she is stable enough to return to her N.Y. home.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    I am sad to hear that your child was harmed and angry that it could been prevented.

    I do trailer my boat but I make sure it is secure. I installed a new pulley with a strong flat belt for my 14 foot runabout's trailer after an old (synthetic) rope snapped. My first feeling when that happened was worry not frustration as I knew what could have happened on the highway. I use straps every time and always put them a few feet aft of the hulls widest point. I then shove the boat harshly in several directions and start over if there is any movement. I also never leave loose items in the boat during trailering. I use a cargo strap around the hitch in lieu of chains, and then loop it thru a structural member of the car and tie it such that none of it touches the ground to prevent abrasions. I am forced to do this because the idiots who made my trailer were to stupid to leave a place to put a proper size chain.

    I do this BEFORE I leave the house and before I leave the boat ramp.

    It is not that hard to safely secure a boat, and Incidents like this (I hesitate to use the term tragedy because although it is indeed tragic the word Tragedy makes me think of something that harmed someone out of the blue. From what I have read so far this was no innocent accident but dangerously negligent practices rearing their ugly head) make me more careful every time I hear of them. If you can't be trusted with a trailer chain and some straps how can you possibly be trusted with a motorboat or car.
    I am going to be feeling paranoid every time I hear an odd noise from the trailer for a long time after this (I am already like that but now I will be thinking about it more)
    I may be 21, but youth does not require stupidity, and I have known better than to act like the boat owner in question since I was a child.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Here's a tip, take it or leave it.Applies to bigger boats than most discussed here. I find it wise to belay the boat to the aft part of the trailer with a line run to the bow eye. If you stop quick and the winch stand goes, at least you have a hold back.

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Richard my friend, sympathy and prayers for your family.
    Thank you for sharing this painful story, someone else might learn and save another. Please keep us posted.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Hope all will be well.
    I had a breakdown in common sense when hauling my 22 foot boat out at the end of the season a few years ago. Having trailers with different size balls and stupidity was the cause. Put the big boat onto the 1 7/8 ball (I was positive I had changed it) and lost it part way home. Safety chains held, the boat was fairly well balanced and I only realized it came off the hitch when I looked in the rearview and saw the bow of the boat drifting left and right. Pulled over on the shoulder with no mishap, could have been so much worse. I have sawed off the 1 7/8 receivers and replace all with 2 inch balls. I might be stupid but I wont make that mistake again.
    (The wife was with me so you know I heard about it.)
    Oldad

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Jones View Post
    So, at the beginning of this boating season, let's all of us double check our hitchs, chains, tie-down straps, wheel bearings and anything else you can think of.
    It's so easy to forget something in the rush of launching and retrieving our boats at a busy launch site.

    Safe boating!
    Rich

    Yes, indeed. I hope your grand-niece makes a full recovery (we're pulling for her here in Seattle):

    1. The ball on the hitch and the coupler on the trailer need to be the same size.
    2. The drop or rise on the draw bar (ball mount) needs to put the ball at the right height so the trailer rides level.
    3. Safety Chains. Need to be attached in an "X": the right chain goes the left staple on the hitchl; the left chain goes to the right staple. Neither too long nor too short. Too short and the trailer can't turn tightly enough; too long and the tongue of the trailer will hit the pavement if it coms off the ball.



    4. Use proper tie-downs. The people I know that schlep race cars around like Ancra brand web tie-downs and straps: http://www.ancra.com/ Built in the US to mil specs.

    5. Don't forget to stop every hour or so to check everything. Things have a way of vibrating loose.

    6. Check your wheel bearings and make sure they're properly greased. Wheel bearing failures can be catastrphic. When I was 12 or so, we were driving north on I-75 near Dayton, Ohio in a full-size van. A tractor trailer headed south burned a bearing on one of its front wheels. The entire wheel assembly came off: tire, wheel, brake drum, etc. It climbed up over the median barrier, into our lane and into the air. I remember seeing this ginormous wheel hit the pavement in front of the car in front of us, bounce over it and hit us dead center in the van, right in the engine block. It ripped the engine block off the frame of the van and moved it about a foot aft. If it hadn't been for that, I think somebody would have likely been killed. As it was, we were lucky. No serious injuries -- mostly seat belt bruises and lots of tiny cuts from the explosion of safety glass. I think my dad (the driver) got the worst of it. The brake pedal flipped up about 180 degress from the force of the collision and whacked his knee at pretty good velocity.

    [edited to add...]

    One other thing...if you carry stuff on your roof -- whether you've got a factory rack or bars, or Yakima or Thule rack system -- please honor the [seemingly low] load limits they spec. The reason for the low load limits on these is that when you brake hard (or come to a sudden halt in the case of an accident), the stuff on your rack has momentum and all that kinetic energy goes into ripping the entire rack off the roof and turning it and its load into a projectile.

    Lets be careful out there.

    Here's Curt Manufacturing's Towing 101: http://howto.curtmfg.com/index.cfm.30.html
    Last edited by Nicholas Carey; 04-17-2012 at 02:21 PM.
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  16. #16
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    That figure shows the safety changes improperly hooked to the vehicle. The hook should come up through the vehicle's eye instead of being hooked over from the outside of the eye. I know because I did the same thing last fall and the chains came off when the hitch came off the ball. Luckily, all that happened was that the trailer hit the back of the car and dented the lift gate.

    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...eally-ARE-CRAP

    I have since switched to using quick links in place of the safety hooks because they cannot be put on incorrectly.

    Brian

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    My deepest sympathy Richard, and my best wishes for your niece's recovery.

    Having recently hauled a Dragon 840km up from Sydney, I also cannot too heavily emphasise checking and double checking. If you have a sizable load like a Dragon triple check it and recheck it every time you stop, particularly if the journey is a long one.
    “For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.” Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Palmer View Post
    That figure shows the safety changes improperly hooked to the vehicle. The hook should come up through the vehicle's eye instead of being hooked over from the outside of the eye. I know because I did the same thing last fall and the chains came off when the hitch came off the ball. Luckily, all that happened was that the trailer hit the back of the car and dented the lift gate.

    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...eally-ARE-CRAP

    I have since switched to using quick links in place of the safety hooks because they cannot be put on incorrectly.

    Brian
    In Oz we use D-shakles that go through a spigot plate on the sides of the tow-bar:



    In this instance the whole removable bar is also shackled and the spigot plate has enough room to take an extra D shackle on each side from the trailer.
    “For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.” Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    This is a horrific tradgedy and I feel terrible about this. For someone in the transportation industry (me) it is a nightmare. I intend to bring it up at next weeks employee safety meeting.
    For my boat I use chain with shackles and black electricians tape to "mouse" them and the cable "break-away" brake actuator connection.
    (Black tape = sailors best friend. I always keep a small roll in my pocket when I'm at sea "3-M super 33").
    The boat is also safety chained onto the trailer. Using the "hang it up to dry" by the hitch rule for the truck, or loaded trailer is the standard. This is where you need to know nothing can get loose.
    I think the old DOT rule for tie downs is they must contain three times the weight of the load, which is good practice. The new rules are more complex, if anyone wants to study them they are here - http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/cargo/cs-policy.pdf



  20. #20
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Lots of good tips here. Thanks.
    I once forgot to flip the latch down on the hitch. Luckily, it was only a short, slow one mile ride home and nothing happened. But, the safety chains would have stopped the trailer. I now put a pin through the latch just to make sure it can't somehow pop open.
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    I think the chains in the first picture are too long. Here in NZ they are supposed to prevent the trailer hitch from digging into the road.

    The chains in Duncan's pic look correct.
    There is nothing quite as permanent as a good temporary repair.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    In over 55 years of trailing boats, most of the bad things that can happen have happened. Some were the result of forgetfulness, some resulted from manufacturing poor quality or defects and some were just the work of gremlins. The only time a chain S hook came off the car tang was when it was hooked from the bottom. If chains are large enough to not slide under the coupler, I cross them over the hitch in front of the ball which keeps long chains from dragging and will likely prevent the tongue from hitting the ground if it falls off. Most trailers have been Ok except the current large tandem axle one from Magic Tilt which came with garbage Chicom running gear, brakes, wheels, hubs, springs, etc. Magic Tilt was of zero help in fixing things so they are on my s***t list.
    Tom L

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    I'm hearing plenty of negatives on magictilt lately.

    I generally loop my safety chains through the tang on the receiver and then hook the S-hook into one of the chain links to bring things to the appropriate length. I don't think I've ever noticed anyone else doing this so I wonder.... is this bad practice?
    We must go too far in order to know how far to go. Yeah.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Quote Originally Posted by Figment View Post
    I'm hearing plenty of negatives on magictilt lately.

    I generally loop my safety chains through the tang on the receiver and then hook the S-hook into one of the chain links to bring things to the appropriate length. I don't think I've ever noticed anyone else doing this so I wonder.... is this bad practice?
    I have done that in the past, way in the past, with my skiff trailer. S-hooks are illegal here now unless they have a "mouse" or Clip.
    Edit to add; I still do that but I use shackles or similar.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Quote Originally Posted by Figment View Post
    I'm hearing plenty of negatives on magictilt lately.

    I generally loop my safety chains through the tang on the receiver and then hook the S-hook into one of the chain links to bring things to the appropriate length. I don't think I've ever noticed anyone else doing this so I wonder.... is this bad practice?
    I was taught in my CDL School the proper way to shorten the chain in to twist it until the desired length is achieved... I also always change out the bent hooks for cast hooks with keepers. 20 years ago I saw the result if a two snowmobile trailer vs. a regular cab pickup truck, the tongue passed threw the windshield between the driver and passengers head. Scary lucky that it was not a fatality.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Trailer hitch: a matter of life and death

    Sat in my car at a rest area one time and watched a small boy 'playing' around a parked truck/travel trailer combo. The kid pulled out the safety pin which holds the large pin that locks the receiver to the truck. Wasn't even his family's set up. His parent's, completely unaware of what he was up to, called him away and he ran to his parents, dropping said safety pin. They took off. I waited for the truck owner to come out of the restaurant and told him what had happnened. You just never know...

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