Tip # 102, The KILLER of Caravans, Watch Out For It !! And a New Tip….

Submitted: Monday, May 15, 2006 at 21:41
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THE LONE RANGER IS BACK!! 8 days gone with horses… Hard Yakka, up at 4 in the morning in the cold and dark, saddling horses, by dawn it is already a long day…

Now back on track: We tend to get slack as a species in a familiar situation, and let our guard down… Then BANG, it happens! Hopefully when it happens, it is just a warning, and you survive the experience to get back "on the ball", without any damages. But it is in our nature to get more relaxed with familiarity all the time, letting our guard down, and that is when the potential is there for disaster. Like in ‘93 laying on our bellies on Game Patrol, looking at a few loner Bulls, bad attitude loners called “Dugga Boys”, Cape Buffalo in Zimbabwe, dozing out the heat of the day in a riverbed at about 50 yards: We were looking for a mean one estimated at 44” broad curl horn headed Dugga Boy that had killed two people; and it did not appear to be in this mob. We looked at each other said: “Naaaa, not here…” When BOOM up jumped two just below us that were bedded down out of sight about ten metres in front of us in the long grass… Just luckily for us they bleep off in the safe direction…. About a tonne of mean attitude each. And for any that might be interested, these are not the cute Cape Buffalo in the quiet herds you see on the Discovery Channel, these loners kill more people than you would imagine.. The "Dugga Boys" are the older bulls that have been run out of the herd by younger bulls, to wander alone slowly weakening in time and end up being drug down by Lions. They all have a bad attitude, and wander by themselves or in a small groups, very grumpy with things, no “nookie” or safety in the herd, and are usually covered with lion scars until they finally weaken to be eaten alive.. Very bad company… Up close to them on your belly, a .375 Holland and Holland Big Bore does not look like enough gun, I can assure you!!! Let your guard down and get careless, and that is when you get into trouble. Being a Ranger, out on the fringe of things, pushing the edge, even then sometimes you get too comfortable and familiar and you let your guard down… Getting into the xxxx can be a healthy reminder… This is what happened to me again, just a couple of weeks ago…

I was running down the highway, towing my 22’ Bushtracker with the F-250, when I hit one of those 2km stretches of quilted pavement with all the patches after the big wet this summer…. The exact speed, the exact right rhythm, and it happened: “Harmonic Motion” started a sway going…. Scared heck right out of me. AND IT HAD NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE IN ALMOST TWO YEARS WITH THIS VAN… The quilting in the road got worse and added to the harmonic sway in just the right timing to make it very bad, very fast…

It wasn’t till later when I tried to figure out what happened that it dawned on me. All this time, and never a hint of sway!! I had relaxed my routine always towing with a Mack Crew Cab horse truck, and with 8 water tanks in my van, I was using them hap hazardly when I should have been using them from back to front. I just happened to work out that this time I used them front to back by accident! I was light on the front and heavy in the back with empty water tanks in the front, full in the back, a recipe for disaster.. And I felt it when towing with the Ford!!

Now the TIP, I have numbered all the tanks at the valves, and regardless of which truck I am towing with, horses with or not, we will go from the highest number down like a countdown. We will use the water from back to front. And when I open tank four and shut off tank five, we will have four tanks left. It works well: Organized… Lessons learned the hard way…..

Even the most experienced sometimes need a little reminder.
You have just gotten one, a wake up call, and a good idea from the Lone Ranger…

Regards to all, and “Happy Trails”

POST SCRIPT: To any that have not read it, see TIP # 46, on Weight Distribution Hitches, the correct ball weight and loading in the van, and the right tow vehicle suspension upgrades for safety…

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Reply By: The Hob - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 02:30

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 02:30
I appreciate that tow ball weight should be heavier rather than lighter but I don't understand the Ranger's logic.

I would have thought that it would be better to use tankes from the outside in keeping the weight over the axles.

Coming from back to front after 4 of your 8 tanks would have 4 tanks of water in front of the axles. That's what I would call ball weight getting maybe in excess.

I don't have a van (as yet) so I don't know from experience. I respect your experience but can't understand the logic.
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Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 02:50

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 02:50
Hello Hob,
When you do Order, we give you about three months of coaching on all topics, what ever you need. Then on the Day of Delivery, we go over quite a bit as well, and you get a good Owners Manual. Now in direct answer to your question, weight on the ball is more stable than weight out the back.... The tanks fit across the van. The first two are basically over the leading wheel of the tandem suspension and add little ball weight, the next two add only a fraction of their weight on the ball...

The four tanks in front of the axles do not put the total weight on the ball, only a portion of it equal to the percentage of the distance from the center of the suspension to the towball. When you do come for a visit, I will draw some pictures and run the sums for you. In my case it could add maybe 100 kg max to the tow ball. I have the reserves in tow ball capacity in both of my tow vehicles of more than that... OK?

Another way to picture it: Even dead in the middle between the tow ball and center of the suspension, a 200 kg weight only adds 100 kg to the tow ball, being shared by the suspension and towball... Vans routinely go out of here 100-150 kg on the tow ball and even the little tow vehicles like Landcruisers have a 350 rating... Also, most would only have 4 tanks, maybe 5, I am the rare exception with 8. With the normal run of van, only 4 tanks, two forward and two aft of the suspension, the towball weight will in fact increase, but not enough to cause you concerns... And safety is more weight on the ball... Not out the polar end, that is where you get into trouble... You want the shift of weight to run forward, as the reverse will unknowingly get you into trouble, hence the purpose of my latest TIP... OK?

We can talk more when you are here... Yes, we do know what we are doing...!

Happy Trails, Ranger

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Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 02:57

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 02:57
One more little detail, my front tank is drinking water, but your idea of the order of one off the back one off the front alternating while a bit complicated to route, could work otherwise... But the rest of the van had better be very well balanced. My way increases the tow ball weight in the safe direction for stability, and since drinking water is in the front, it is the best option.. You want to be sure you are heavy on the ball. The ADR Institute recommends 10% on the ball, but we think that could be exceeded for increased stability.. Of course depending on the tow vehicle, hitch, and size of van.

Cheers.... Ranger
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Reply By: Yogi and Muffin - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 18:40

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 18:40
Hi Steve,

Sounds like a close call and a salutary lesson for all of us. As a pilot of 30 years I am very well aware of the dangers of complacency. Weight and balance in an aircraft is absolutely critical and although there is a greater margin of safety with a Bushtracker iti s still very important.

The other fact that piloting has taught me is the value of a written check list. I believe that a quick thought as to what the weight and balance of the vehicle will be before driving away that morning should be included on a written check list. The value of a check list for other items eg: windows left open, TV antenna up etc. is obvious.

By the way what recovery technique did you use and did you have a level ride system attached at the time?

Yogi & Muffin

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Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 20:01

Wednesday, May 17, 2006 at 20:01
Hello Yogi Bear,

Look, my van is 22' long, and heavier than most as I am testing double gear like two air units, and other multiple systems, 8 water tanks, and more than you really want to hear about... My van is always part of our R & D program... So the WDH is MANDATORY, also by law for Fords...

As to RECOVERY, A VERY GOOD AND IMPORTANT QUESTION. My brake controller is really mounted way to low to reach in a panic, i am not the one that mounted it, my Ford was perviously loved... But the best thing to do is let off on the accerator and use the manual over-ride... I repeat with not enough emphasis, in my opinion, having done more towing than most LET OFF THE ACCELERATOR AS YOU PRESS ON THE MANUAL OVER-RIDE ON THE BRAKE CONTROLLER... What this does is pull back on the van to couteract the sway. Some people suggest speeding up to pull the van back in line BUT THAT IS RISKY AND VERY DANGEROUS.... !!!

What you want to do is throw out the Anchor on the van to pull it back in line, putting the brakes on puts out a drag on the van to conteract the sway. What you DO NOT WANT TO DO IS PUT THE BRAKES ON THE TOW VEHICLE HARD IN A PANIC IN SEVERE SWAY, that can upset the tea pot in a big way... Now I never had sway, my brake controller was too low to reach, so I has some anxious moments as I just let off the accelerator to coast to a slower speed... But that is not the correct way to handle the situation. Imagine that the caravan has a big sway up, you want to pull back on it to pull it back into line. You do that by using the Mechanical Over-ride on the brake controller. Speeding up as some will tell you, could work, but it could also get things way out of control and is not an option a 90-100kph....

The best lesson learned is to mount the Brake Controller in an easy access point, and play with the mechanical overide lever once in a while....

Best Regards, Lone Ranger..
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Follow Up By: TroopyTracker - Thursday, May 18, 2006 at 05:33

Thursday, May 18, 2006 at 05:33
Before installing my WDH I had afew "moments" so to speak. Found that by activating the van brakes with the controller ASWELL as putting my foot to the floor on the go peddle set it staight instantly. With WDH installed and properly adjusted the whole rig feels like it's on tracks in comparison.

Just accelerating on its own though, could get you worse off I would have thought.

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Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Friday, May 19, 2006 at 22:04

Friday, May 19, 2006 at 22:04
Hello Matt,
While this potential sway problem might only ever occur about 1 or 2 per 100 vans, it could be serious... On the day of delivery we give people some driving coaching on how to test it on the shoulder of a road. But I don't want your last comment to stand as I really don't think it is the safe way to handle it...

And all due respect to you, I would not want someone to react to it like you did. If you think about it, what if the brake plug was not too good, a fuse blown, or something else, you could have accelerated into the face of a bad situation. At least if you just put on the brakes manually with the slide bar on the brake controller you will instantly feel if they are working or not. And that brake drag on the van pulling it backwards will snap it back into shape right behind you. That is the priciple reason for the slide bar...

I would still say my best advice is caravan brakes alone, letting off the accerator. But thank you for your input.

Kind Regards from a well meaning Lone Ranger....
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Follow Up By: TroopyTracker - Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 05:14

Saturday, May 20, 2006 at 05:14
I'm not sure you understand my post. By pressing the accelerater at the same time as activating the van brakes, the "stretching" of the whole outfit is only enhanced. The net result is no increase in speed, in fact I am still slowing down. 'Fraid I don't have that much poke under the bonnet-yet- 6.5 chev in the pipeline. Standing on the loud pedal at highway speeds means waiting afew seconds before you even feel acceleration, so if the brakes weren't working I'd know straight away. On that topic, I have had the tekonsha Prodigy have a brain melt once and had to stop the van without it's brakes working, I was lucky I was on the flat and don't plan on doing it again. Using the cars power as well as the vans brakes might be a little more complicated I suppose and if were to take only one action I'd grab the slide every time. Would say it's good idea to practice putting your hand to it and activating the slide occasionally so we you need it your hand is on it straight away without taking your eyes of the road. Worth keeping in mind when installing/(having installed) the brake controller as having near your ankle or on the wrong side will make this whole method difficult to impossible.


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Reply By: Bushtracker - Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:45

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 at 18:45

On the issue of safety in towing, the weight distributing hitches are an advantage as they do help with stability on the highway, and should possibly be considered for mid size tow vehicles like Toyota, from about an 18’ van and up. Yes, they are an advantage from a safety perspective if you have to make a high speed traffic hazard move on the highway. However, they are only one part of the package, and should not necessarily be the primary focus, as there are sometimes deeper more serious issues to be dealt with. It is not the answer to problems such as a poor mushy stock suspension on the tow vehicle or improperly loaded caravan that has too much ball-weight or even more dangerous- Too little tow-ball weight. Often the weight distribution hitch is touted as the cure all, but is just a panacea for the problem of a poorly equipped tow vehicle or improperly loaded caravan. Also it is very important that the vehicle and tow-bar manufacturers maximum weight specifications not be exceeded at any time.

For the tow vehicle, we would recommend a proper graduated heavy suspension spring system. They are graduated for a nice ride empty (a bit firm like a sports car), but they get down on a heavier part of the spring when loaded. From ARB it used to be called “Heavy Progressive” now something different for the IFS Cruiser. The problem is really that the vehicles have too light of a suspension when new. That is OK for the city use, and necessary as ladies would not like the ride with a heavier suspension when not loaded with gear, so they would not sell in their unloaded empty new vehicle state, just off the ship. Those who travel much, immediately put on gear such as tow bars, bull bars, long range tanks, dual battery systems, snorkels, roof racks, air compressors, fridges in the back, tool kits, and more; and then the stock original suspension is woefully inadequate let alone safely carrying a van on the back as well. What we are really talking about is the high speed traffic hazard avoidance ability on the highway….. You want that firm upright control, not the wallow like a pig with a backpack on…. You can accomplish that best with the proper suspension upgrade, or help the bad situation of a mushy suspension with the Load Leveler system to try and make up the difference…. But we recommend the former as the first priority for the tow vehicle..…

On the caravan, the ADR recommendation is 5% to 10% on the tow ball. The vans have to be loaded properly, not out on the fore and aft polar ends, but as much over the suspension as possible. Too much weight out on the polar ends will cause fore and aft rocking that can damage the van and vehicle on a bad track. It can also cause the killer of caravans: sway. The van must also be loaded for the proper percentage on the tow-ball, too light and it is prone to sway; too heavy and it overloads the tow vehicle and lightens the steering by lifting the weight off the front end of the tow vehicle. In the case of maximum ball weights of heavily loaded vans, it can reduce the steering and braking capability, and in that case for some tow vehicles the weight distribution hitch should be viewed as a mandated necessity. But it is not to correct an improperly loaded van that is too heavy on the front end, and it is worth little on the van that is loaded so as to be too light on the hitch, which is even a more dangerous situation. If the van is too light on the front, the higher percentage of weight on the back of the van contributes to the sway potential of “the tail wagging the dog”. This sway action can build on itself with what is call in engineering language: “Harmonic Motion” -Where the movement builds on itself with disastrous effects, bouncing off the springing action of the suspension or moving in harmony with bumps on the road, to build increasing motion. This dangerous condition of “harmonic motion” can build to the point of getting totally out of control even to the point of turning a van over. It should also be noted that the WD Hitch alone is not an anti-sway device, but can improve handling. An anti-sway device is another bit of gear altogether that is an option on the WD Hitch from Hayman Reece for instance. After correcting the other problems, then assess if the weight distribution hitch is necessary. With larger vans and smaller tow vehicles it is advised, but the first two conditions in our view are to be corrected first. You should not have a false sense of security that the weight distribution hitch is going to cure all ills, while disregarding the tow vehicle suspension and proper loading of the van... Those priorities come first. And then, yes the Weight Distribution Hitch is a safety advantage for proper control of the vehicle in a high speed hazard avoidance situation. However, as I have said, the Weight Distribution Hitch is not by design an anti-sway device on it own. That is a separate piece of equipment. The WD Hitch does improve handling, by taking some of the load off the rear of the tow vehicle and transferring downward pressure on the front of the tow vehicle to improve the steerage, and so is an advantage for that high speed abrupt maneuver; but does not cure all problems. The first two conditions of a proper suspension and loading of the van are the predominant issues.

Off road the weight distribution hitch is of reduced value. In fact they only work on the flat. The bars will bend if you try and go over a jump-up, or raised cattle grate; or down into a wash-out on a dirt track. There is an off-road version in preliminary development, but it has to be proven not to be too heavy or bulky, contributing to the weight problem. We await further testing on that in the future.

So in summary: Yes they are a safety advantage, but should be viewed as such and not a cure all for other problems addressed above.

Kind Regards from the "Lone Ranger" Trying to look afta ya.....
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Follow Up By: Bushtracker - Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 21:03

Thursday, Jun 15, 2006 at 21:03
This is a copy of a freak accident report, and the roll over of Mike and Margarets Bushtracker. It is an extremely rare situation, and is a followup of TIP # 106 on the Latest Toyota Suspension Upgrades Suggested.... Here goes:

The Lone Ranger here, and Mike and Marg have just left my office. I am putting in this entry with their blessing, with the accident cause, and aftermath. With my recommendation, the insurance company have written off their 18' van.

In their words, it was an elongated "S" bend in the dirt road, traveling at 45-50kph, when they came on to a "wash out" in the road. The wash out, had a pothole in it half the size of the road, and looking at it later there was 3" of loose gravel on the sides of the road as well. The van hit the washout and pothole, "bucked" and got out of control, vehicle lost control and went over to the side of the road, a bit of a jack knife, and the van rolled over. In their words: "a mixture of bad road conditions and it being a bit of a freak accident."

They are in here today, ordering a new van, one foot larger and larger suspension in 19', and we are jamming up the Schedule to do all we can to get their new van out as soon as possible.

NOW THE IMPORTANT PART: Since this is a roll over freak accident, why am I putting this on the BOG? There is something very important to learn from this. Their 100 Series Landcruiser has the stock original springs and only air bags added in the original coils. I have printed out the TIP # 106 on Suggested Landcruiser Suspension Upgrade and we have discussed it.. I suggest all travelling with Landcruisers take this Tip to heart. Would it have prevented the accident? This is not fair to say yes. But in all fairness the answer is at least MAYBE and it would have certainly extended and improved the range of control in this kind of freak "out of control" accident. They say they understand the upgrade now, and are going to do it to their 100 Series.

A suspension upgrade might be a bit argueable for a smaller van like an 18', but I will argue that in the extreme of conditions it can make all the difference in the world. Thank God that no one was hurt. Incidently, they did have the WDH (Weight Distribution Hitch), and had the van properly loaded. The only piece missing, per my TIP on the WDH is the Tow Vehicle Suspension itself. I would suggest this is a complete package, per my TIP # 46, on the WDH; there are three components to the total safety package: Properly loaded van, and Tow Vehicle Suspension upgrade, and the WDH itself.

Boggers with 100 Series Toyotas, see the TIP # 106 on the Owners Forum... Good reading, good insurance... Good thing to do, and it could save you with a little better control if the freak accident situation were to occur. You will just have a little more control, with the suspension upgrades, that you will with the stock one...

Counting our Blessings, Lone Ranger at Bushtracker

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