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HAVE TRAILER--WILL TRAVEL!--Part 7: Safety Equipment!       DFO812-7       13 July 1979

       1. I JACKKNIFED A TRAILER ONCE, & IT'S NO FUN! If the trailer is heavier than the car, & very heavily loaded, when you try to stop, the car stops, but the trailer keeps on going!--Then you're in quite a mess! Sometimes it will jack-knife & cause an accident!

       2. THANKFULLY, NEARLY ALL TRAILERS BY LAW ARE NOW EQUIPPED WITH THIS NEW TYPE OF AUTOMATIC HYDRAULIC BRAKING SYSTEM, so that if there is any pressure backward on the tongue, like when you start applying the car brakes, this pushes the tongue backwards, & the tongue is so made that it slides backward into a hydraulic cylinder which automatically applies the brakes on the trailer.

       3. SO THE TRAILER BRAKES ARE AUTOMATICALLY APPLIED EVERY TIME YOU APPLY YOUR BRAKES. If there is any backward push at all of any certain amount of weight on the tongue, the trailer brakes automatically apply. So you don't have to worry 'bout extra braking equipment like we used to have & like I described in the old Letter on "Have Faith, Will Travel" (No.150). You don't have to have the extra hydraulic brakes or electric brakes for the trailer. The trailer already has its own brakes & its own braking system which will function whenever your car brakes are applied, just by the weight of the pressure of the trailer on your car, as it pushes against the car when you apply your car brakes.

       4. THERE IS ALSO AN EMERGENCY HAND-BRAKE ON TODAY'S TRAILER ITSELF, a hand-brake on the tongue. You can set the hand-brake when you've got the trailer parked, or if you get stuck with the car & trailer on a pretty steep grade & you're afraid the car hand-brake won't hold so much weight, you can also set the trailer brake, which is very convenient.

       5. IT HAS ONE LITTLE INCONVENIENCE:--IF YOU TRY TO BACK UP without releasing the trailer brakes, you're going to have problems. The moment you push back against the trailer, the trailer brakes are automatically applied & you can't back up, unless you have remembered to release the little latch on the trailer tongue which releases the trailer brakes. There's a little latch on the tongue, a small lever that you pull up--not the big hand-brake lever that you apply the brakes with--but a little latch that you just simply pull, which disengages the mechanical functions of the hydraulic cylinder & releases the trailer brakes. So be sure you always lift that latch when you decide to back up your trailer, or you'll find it just won't back, because when you back up you're applying your trailer brakes. You're apt to hump up the hitch like a camel's back!

       6. SO IF YOU WANT TO BACK UP YOUR TRAILER OR PUSH IT AROUND BY HAND, BE SURE YOU RELEASE THE TRAILER BRAKES with that little latch that's on the trailer tongue. And be sure that when you're parking on a steep grade, or if you're setting a trailer up for any length of time to be stationary, that you apply the trailer hand-brake that's on the top of the tongue.

       7. MAKE SURE THAT YOUR TRAILER IS WELL-BUILT UNDERNEATH, that it has a good stout chassis framework underneath, a strong tongue, strong axles or independently suspended wheels. There's some argument over the advantages of single-axle or dual-axle trailers, or two-wheel trailers or four-wheel trailers--tandem-wheel trailers--trailers with two wheels on each side, one in front of the other. I used to have a dual-wheel trailer with dual truck wheels on each side, two wheels side by side on each side like truck wheels. My 35-foot trailer had tandem wheels.

       8. THE ADVANTAGE OF TANDEM WHEELS OR FOUR-WHEEL TRAILERS IS THAT IT SPREADS OUT THE SUPPORT OF THE TRAILER WEIGHT MORE & it's not just on two tires, but on four tires, which gives it more stability & is better support for all that weight, especially if you have a very large one. Of course then you have two more tires to worry about, but it gives a much better foundation for your trailer, as the weight is more evenly distributed, instead of all that weight on only two tires.

       9. IF YOU'LL REMEMBER THAT YOUR LARGER TRAILER IS PROBABLY HEAVIER THAN YOUR CAR, THEN YOU'LL REALISE WHY IT NEEDS FOUR WHEELS, NOT JUST TWO! In fact, in Europe I believe the four wheels are required on a trailer above a certain weight, although we have seen the trailers that have only two wheels that seemed to be about the same weight. But I think I'd feel a good deal more comfortable with a trailer with four wheels. Of course four wheels do add to the weight of your trailer & make it a little heavier. So that's another point to consider.

       10. FOUR-WHEEL TRAILERS ALSO USUALLY HAVE NORMAL PASSENGER-CAR WHEELS & TIRES, whereas the larger two-wheel trailers have to have large truck wheels & big heavy-duty truck tires. You might even be able to get a four-wheel trailer that has wheels interchangeable with your car, which would be handy in case of a flat or tire trouble.

       11. ALTHOUGH SOME TRAILERS ARE EQUIPPED WITH SPARE TIRES, MOST TRAILERS DON'T NEED THEM, because if you do have a flat on your trailer you can just pull over to the roadside, take the trailer wheel off, disconnect your car & drive to the nearest garage & get the tire fixed & bring it back & put it on again. Meanwhile the family is sitting in the trailer & life goes on & everything is convenient, which is another advantage to having a car & trailer--separate transportation in cases of emergency!

       12. YOU SAY, "WHAT ARE YOU TELLING ME ALL THESE THINGS FOR? I can pick up a camper book or a trailer book & read all I need to know about trailers & trailer travel!" Well, Brother, after 20 years in trailers & campers, I can tell you right now that you will never be able to learn all you need to know about trailers & campers & camping out from trailer brochures & camping books!

       13. I'M GIVING YOU SOME INFORMATION THAT'S MIGHTY VALUABLE & that you're never going to get from anybody else unless they've spent as many years in trailers & campers as I have!--And if they have, they're not apt to begin to give it to you, because they may not have survived it!--Who knows ?--Ha! Anyhow, I want you to survive it, & that's why I'm giving you all these important details. It can mean the difference between convenient, comfortable & safe trailer travel & living, & could mean life or death!

       14. SO BE SURE YOU DON'T HAVE A TRAILER THAT'S OVER THE SIZE & WEIGHT I RECOMMENDED (See Part 5), & be sure that you have a car, van or truck that's big & heavy & strong enough to pull it & handle it. It's not only pulling the trailer that counts, it's being able to handle all that weight behind you when you slam on the brakes! If your towing vehicle isn't heavy enough, the trailer can just shove it right out of the way! I know!--I've had it happen, so watch out!

       15. ALSO, YOU CAN HARDLY HAVE A TRAILER ANY SMALLER THAN THAT, unless you're a couple or have a very small family, because you really wouldn't have enough sleeping & living space, & you'll be quite cramped & crowded & uncomfortable, & not really enjoy it. But with a trailer body that's at least about 15 to 18-feet long (5 to 6-meters) & about 7 to 7 1/2-feet wide (2 to 2 1/2-meters), you've got a very comfortable trailer for full-time living & safe for travel.

       16. IN THAT SIZE TRAILER YOU CAN HAVE THE BEST INTERIOR ARRANGEMENT ALSO. I've always preferred the convertible dinette & bedroom in each end. The new modern trailers are very well equipped along this line. They usually have a bed/dinette in the front end that seats four to six people in the daytime, & that also makes down into a bed that sleeps a couple adults at night.

       17. IN THE REAR END THEY OFTEN HAVE THE NEW LARGE U-SHAPED SALON-TYPE DINETTE or dining room, which can seat as many as 10! Because it's semi-circular & is cushioned all the way around with a table in the center, you can easily seat eight people, & even squeeze in 10 if they're not too large! The table in the middle is pushed down to the seat level as part of the foundation of the bed at night.

Copyright (c) 1998 by The Family