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Author Topic: Trailer recommendations?  (Read 2983 times)
pickpaul
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« on: August 06, 2011, 08:44:29 PM »

Hi Guys,

For reasons too complicated to go into right now, I may need to buy a trailer before I get my bus. In addition to storing stuff for the next few weeks, I'd like to be able to use it to put my car in to drive across country. Any recommendations for brands/types to look for or to avoid? My plan is to get either an MCI 8/9 or an 80's Prevost which will become my tow vehicle.

Thanks, Paul.

P.S. I want a black one to match my eventual bus paintjob (I know, gets very hot, don'r care, must have :-) )
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« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2011, 10:00:57 PM »

Watch closely, these things get spec'd on price, not performance.

All sorts of little stuff matters, and gets left off the cheap ones.

Not enough, or no tie downs are a big one, single small light per side, no decent place for the license plate, skinny chains, weak tongue jack, cheap wiring, no mud flaps, barely a fender...

You want brakes on ALL the axles, not just one, if you are going to put a car and stuff in it.

Door hardware and seals that are taken from the commercial trailer world means you have re-build-ability and available parts, as well as a more robust security.

sounds like a good plan, solve today's problems with tomorrow's accessories.

happy coaching!
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pickpaul
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« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2011, 10:43:47 PM »

Great advice, thanks. What is the largest size I can tow behind a 40ft bus and not get in trouble in any state?
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« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2011, 01:53:06 AM »

To be completely legal in all 50 states you would need to be at 55 feet combined because they are a handful of states that still have a 55 foot restriction.  Various people have mentioned that interstates have no length restrictions, but who stays on interstates with an RV?  I skirt the 65 foot rules at 67 feet, but I also travel mostly on interstates.  I don't go out East much where 60 and 55 foot restrictions are more common.

Enclosed trailers are all pretty similar in construction.  The differences come in the details like type of axles, spacing of frame members, and things like undercoating on the frame.  Some trailers have even reduced the aluminum skin thickness from .030 to something thinner.  Many trailers come standard with spring axles to reduce cost.  My personal preference is to always get torsion axles on an enclosed trailer so the cargo isn't beat up as much,

The least expensive enclosed trailers tend come out of the south particularly southern Georgia.  The cost of doing business is probably less there I guess.  Two almost identical enclosed trailers priced out in Minnesota versus Georgia can be $2,000 to $3,000 difference.  They won't be the same brand so there could be other differences that affect the price.

Enclosed trailers don't handle salt well.  I bought an enclosed trailer cheap last year that was corroded all to heck from salt.  Even the aluminum siding was eaten away by the salt.  I had to do at least 40 hours of metal work including hiring out 12 to 15 hours of welding.  All of the aluminum siding had to be replaced along with new electric brake assemblies and new brake drums.  My smaller enclosed trailer was purchased new and has been used a dozen times at most in the winter.  Even it has some holes in the aluminum from salt exposure.
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« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2011, 04:55:01 AM »

I just bought a trailer, about my sixth.  This time I went with a 20 foot box - depending on what you mean by "car" and "stuff" you can get away with less.  I custom-ordered and spec'd out a heavy duty frame, floor joists every 12", colour coated aluminium no-rivet exterior, full plywood paneled interior, white  ceiling, insulated, pre-wired for AC on the front vent, two vents, four interior lights with dual switches, 7.5' interior height, 5.5' tongue length (1 foot extra) and dual 5200 lb torsion suspension axles with 12" brakes.  It's completely undercoated, and my last one was 8 years old and had essentially no frame rusting.

You need brakes on all wheels, it's a requirement in some states and provinces.  You can probalby get away with a smaller trailer, but you need at least 2' longer than your car.  My trailer, empty, weighs 4,000 lbs, but it's gvwr is 9950, and even that is well under it's axle ratings - I like it that way.  A more typical 20 box trailer will weigh 3600 lbs, have a gvwr of 7,000 lbs, for a payload of only 3,400 lbs and will handle poorly at that loading, and the tires will be very close to their load limit.  

The extra tongue length is an option.  It reduces tongue weight for a given load, it makes the trailer handle better and sway less, and it's real value is the trailer won't hit the corners of the tow vehicle when you are trying to back into that tight spot.  With a 40' bus, and a 1' hitch extension the over all length of a typical 20' box trailer with a standard 4.5" hitch will put you right around 66' feet long, maybe a few inches less.

Hope this helps.

Brian
« Last Edit: August 07, 2011, 04:58:37 AM by bevans6 » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: August 07, 2011, 05:13:54 AM »

Brian and others make a lot of good points.  

Even though a trailer is "customed ordered" you certainly will discover problems with it later on, no matter who it is that manufacturers it.  I did the very same thing, ordered it brand spanking new, I found exposed wiring, open shorts, unpainted areas, and substandard materials used (to save money I assume).

The old expression "You get what you pay for" doesn't seem to apply anymore.  

Seriously consider the "extended tongue option" it will save you a lof of headaches later on.  16" - six lug wheels or better and electric brakes.  (My trailer Paul, is 22' is 2400# and has a 10,000 GVW I believe, 400# on the tongue, measures 64'7" bumper to bumper)  You can see more of this related subject here:  http://boxcarokie.com/2011/06/05/trailer-project-i/ about half way down the page.

BCO
« Last Edit: August 07, 2011, 05:20:32 AM by boxcarOkie » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: August 07, 2011, 07:46:56 AM »

Brian touched on it, but there are two basic suspension systems:  leaf spring with a "walking beam" (if two axles) and torsion type. 

The leaf spring system is typically used on less expensive trailers.  It has been around forever and does a good job, but tends to be pretty stiff, as the springs are pretty short.

The torsion system has some similarity to the Torsilastic suspension on Eagle buses in that the system uses rubber encapsulated in a tube to provide the "spring rate".  Here is one system:

http://www.dexteraxle.com/torflex_axles

One of the main "real life" differences between the two systems is that the trailer does not have to be parallel to the ground on the spring type system (the "walking beam" takes care of equalizing the axle load).  With the torsion system, the trailer must be parallel to the ground for the axles to carry equal loads. 

Translated, that means hitch  height is more critical with the torsion system.  That is not an issue if you are using the typical 2 inch square receiver, as there are a ton of different drop height versions and a couple of adjustable height hitches.  Here are some examples:

http://www.etrailer.com/dept-pg-Ball_Mounts-sf-Adjustable_Ball_Mount.aspx
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Jim Shepherd
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« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2011, 08:03:42 AM »

I thought a walking beam was 1 axle with a 2 wheels mounted on a beam working off  the one axle and can be rubber or steel springs ? and the one most trailers use are a equalizer type with 2,3 or 4 axles don't know for sure now days but it was that way it was in the past


good luck
« Last Edit: August 07, 2011, 08:09:08 AM by luvrbus » Logged

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robertglines1
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« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2011, 09:04:56 AM »

We ran a 10,000 GVW trailer with stainless rockguard in front and sealed under frame. Get what you can for the buck capacity wise,keep it clean(washed after use) of road salt and grime-keep rock chips repaired and any sign of corrosion treat it.stay ahead of problems. one quick test if you go inside and close door and can see light any where; it's not very tight is it? especially in the floor.  A vent is a must. We are shopping for a replacement trailer now and will do it the same way again. One addition I would like to have this time is Stainless sides but I think that is more a dream than reality. The alum served us well for many years.  I do think the GVW is most important; weight your vehicle weight plus trailer plus at least 10 percent for margin=minimal weight in my opinion    Bob
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« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2011, 09:11:58 AM »

Clifford, you are correct when it pertains to semi-trucks and trailers.  They have one pivot point and a beam that connects two axles.  The industry clearly calls that a "walking beam" suspension.

On car type trailers the two springs are connected to what the industry calls an "equalizer".  If you look closely at it, it looks like a small "walking beam".  I have heard car type trailer manufacturers use the term "walking beam" applied to the "equalizer".  However, when I did a search just now, I see that the term "walking beam" is not applied to small trailers.  I have been saying it wrong for perhaps 3 decades Wink.  You learn something new every day.

Jim
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Jim Shepherd
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« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2011, 10:03:26 AM »

If you ever watched a jet liner land and notice the wheels they use a walking system fwiw

good luck
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« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2011, 10:25:47 AM »


This what you boys are talking about?

BCO
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« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2011, 10:56:55 AM »

That is the equalizer system Don if one axle gets to high or to low the other will come off the surface, with a walking beam both tires stay on the ground with the same psi what ever the terrain is.
The thing they shot to moon had a walking beam system lol I forgot what they called it  

good luck
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« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2011, 10:59:16 AM »

This what you boys are talking about?

I am guessing you painted this?  They don't ever seem to look that good from the factory.
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« Reply #14 on: August 07, 2011, 11:07:05 AM »

That's funny Brian I bought a nice looking painted tandem trailer in OKC from Terry's the mark a lot they put the price on with lasted longer than the paint you can still read the price lol 

 Good Luck
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« Reply #15 on: August 07, 2011, 11:09:58 AM »

This what you boys are talking about?

I am guessing you painted this?  They don't ever seem to look that good from the factory. 

Yeppers, from the ground up.  It is Pewter and Smoke Gray.  It has add on's, definitely not factory.

BCO
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« Reply #16 on: August 07, 2011, 11:13:00 AM »

That is the equalizer system Don if one axle gets to high or to low the other will come off the surface, with a walking beam both tires stay on the ground with the same psi what ever the terrain is.

good luck

You carry blocking? 

When I have a flat, I can pull up the good axle ahead or behind the flat, up onto the blocks, which elevates the tire without jacking the trailer, and change it out that way.  Old trucker trick.

BCO
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« Reply #17 on: August 07, 2011, 02:32:56 PM »

I had  a trailer with the dual springs with the equalizing link, and I couldn't keep ahead of replacing the nylon bushings in the springs and the various joints.  I grew to really hate that thing after a couple of rebuilds.  I also couldn't keep the wheels aligned, it would start to dog-walk after a few thousand miles.  My last two trailers have had the rubber torsion, one was Dexter and the current one is Al-ko ( http://www.al-kousa.com/ ).  I think the steel springs are good for a light trailer, but if you are over 8,000 lbs very often the torsion axles really perform better, my cars move around a lot less inside.  That said, my landscape trailers are the steel springs, but then I don't really give a hoot how they ride or handle, they mostly carry garbage to the dump!   Wink

Brian
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« Reply #18 on: August 07, 2011, 04:20:07 PM »

I've built two trailers using the torsionelastic type axles. Both have dual axles, one being a horse trailer and the other being a box enclosed one. One advantage of the torsion axle is that the axle is adjustable. The shaft is splined and the wheel assembly can be mounted to the shaft in various positions. This allows you to adjust for height. The other advantage is that should you have a flat on one tire you can still limp along on the other.
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« Reply #19 on: August 07, 2011, 04:47:01 PM »

I have two 14000 GVW tag trailers. one with the rubber torsion and the other with springs and center equalizer. I will never have another one with the rubber suspension. When the trailer is empty  and I pull it with something that the trailer is not quite level that set of tires does not have enough pressure and will drag when the brakes is applied, I don't use the brakes when empty but if so this is the way it is, and also sometime the wheels are not even on the ground, Give me the old springs any time. I keep the center pin greased and I do not have a problem with wear, I pull a 277B skid steer with attachments, and I am to the limit legally.     .
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« Reply #20 on: August 07, 2011, 04:55:07 PM »

Both systems have their good and bad points. The spring types require more maintanance if you travel a lot of miles but parts are readily available. The torsion type do not equalize the weight from axle to axle and as stated require more attention as to being level. They can also put a lot of stress on 1 axle through bumps and such by isolating all the weight on one axle. I have had several Haulmark trailers over the years and they vary from model to model. I believe they probably have a low, medium, and higher priced version of each length trailer they sell. Look at the top of the trailer. If it is a cast aluminum framework that the roof and the sidewalls attatch to it is a higher end trailer. If the roof radius's down to the sidewalls much as our bus roofs look it is generally a lower end trailer. Also something to consider is if you plan on pulling it ever with a pickup. A v nose really pulls easier in that case. The bus won't know the difference. Also look for a 102" wide trailer. You can find a lot of differing trailers out there.
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« Reply #21 on: August 07, 2011, 05:01:19 PM »

I was told that my "rubber filled", torsion suspension would take a set and settle.  That gave me less distance to bottom the suspension and I suppose the ride deteriorated after 10 years.  I was supposed to jack up the trailer and set it on blocks when not in use.  The owners manual said that.  That never happened.

When I bought mine I could get steel springs for an additional charge.  They came with beefier tires AND SHOCK ABSORBERS.  Springs without shocks ride bumpy, "I don't care who ya arrrr."(Thanks BK)

My sides were aluminum with their edges and screws sealed.  After 8 years I started getting "rust" on the alu around the wide head screws.  I took them out and put a nylon spacer under new screws and they didn't even tarnish after that.  Lots of screws and I used galvanized, like the original.

These things can be a serious bargain if you are patient and shop.  I disagree with whomever said cost doesn't change much.  It did when I was looking and talking to folks.

There is a new one out That uses laminated foam board and fiberglass panels.  No seams.  Imbedded wires and beams.PLUS PLUS.

I nearly killed myself with my16 footer.  I had test pulled it for 50 miles through the hills of Pa and all was well.  I hit WVa. on a down hill sweeper on the interstate and all hades broke out.  What a ride.  A tank slapper in motor cycle parlance.  Get a load distribution hitch with a damper.  Please.

You can have them delivered without the interior plywood skins installed.  Had I known I would have done that and had it shot or installed foam board.  I installed a fan after a few years so I could use it as a shop extension and AC would have been nice.  First thing I did was paint the floor with quality porch paint to prevent water damage.


John
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« Reply #22 on: August 07, 2011, 11:12:57 PM »

What are you folks recommending for the electric trailer brake controller.
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« Reply #23 on: August 07, 2011, 11:21:56 PM »

Call Ron's Hitch-n-Tow at 541 968 2249.  He won't be selling you anything as he is local.  Get a mfr and part number from him and shop the internet.

Nice guy,

John
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« Reply #24 on: August 08, 2011, 04:42:02 AM »

I use the Tekonsha Prodigy, a computer controlled G-force reading controller.  Highly adaptable, excellent performance.  They also have a newer version called the P3. 

Brian
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« Reply #25 on: August 08, 2011, 07:32:00 AM »

I have the P3 in the pick-um-up. Nice unit.
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« Reply #26 on: August 08, 2011, 08:04:19 AM »

I'm in a barbershop chorus-Masters of Harmony (8 time international winners) that we have a 28ft fifth wheel to pull our suits, risers and supplies with a Chev C2500 and 7.4 liter engine (gets about 6mpg at 60mph).  What I learned from the three axles and three sets of 12" electric brakes-it is almost impossible to keep electric brakes adjusted evenly.  They grab, and are very sensitive to the controller adjustments.  A good controller will have two adjustments-one for the proportioning between the car and trailer, and the other how hard the brakes hit-convenient for when you have a lighter load to not skid the wheels. The suspension is 3 sets of leaves.  Three axles look cool, but the outer tires skid when turning around the center axle and wear out rather quickly.

If I were doing it again, I would have two axles (the rear of the trailer is 9,000lbs, so two 6,000lb axles would work well).  I would use hydraulic over disc brakes-then you have guaranteed even braking all the time, and discs are always the best brakes.  For suspension-since your bus has an air system, put air suspension on the trailer!  Dexter axle company carries all these options now.  AND be sure to get the new sealed bearings.  We had a bearing go and two more about to go, with having only 6,000mi on the service.  So trailers with regular type bearings should be repacked yearly.  Good Luck, TomC
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« Reply #27 on: August 08, 2011, 08:05:15 AM »

I pull a 33ft v-nose.  It is an H&H, which is a lower end trailer as far as I can tell.  I started with a one-ton suburban (underkill, almost died), then a class 8 international (awesome but slow) and currently pull it behind an old chevy crewcab dually pickup (502 gas motor, I gets 8.3 empty, 5.5 full {ouch}).  I am going to pull it behind the crown rv that I'm currently in the process of buying as well, but I don't have any rv-specific towing advice, yet.

This is what I have learned pulling this thing all over the country:

1.  I have the torsion axles.  I think they are way more stable than any leaf spring trailer I've ever pulled.

2.  Absolutely get brakes on all axles.

3.  I am a chronic overloader, so I would recommend the upgrade for wheels/tires, whatever that may be.

4.  If I were to get a 20 footer (which will fit a mustang-type car, but not much else) I would get the extended tongue.  If I were to get a 24-26, I wouldn't bother.  So, what I am saying here if you are looking at a 20 with an extended tongue, just get the 24 with a regular tongue, and have lots of extra storage for very little extra length.

5.  A 24 footer will be the easiest to sell later - this is a very popular size with the racers.

6.  Get 2 roof vents minimum.  I ordered roof vents, but they didn't install them and I took the trailer anyhow.  The heat cracked the windshield in my mustang in Vegas, and the trailer was under an awning.

7.  I use a weight distributing hitch, even when I pulled it behind my International class 8.  It is to put some "spring" in the frame, then load it back down to level.  This is due to the length of my trailer, and having a low-end trailer mentioned earlier.  With a shorter, better built trailer, this probably wouldn't be an issue.

8.  I have a 102" and wouldn't get anything else.  Wait until the third or fourth time you have to duke boys out of the window you'll be glad you have the room.  They'll hold about twice as much stuff too.  I only got standard height and I wished I had gotten it taller.  I'm only 5'8" and feel like I'm going to hit my head.

9.  My cars all sit low; I got a dovetail and like it.  You might not want to depending on where you are pulling.

10.  One thing I've learned is with a 24ft and longer trailer, you need to get the weight over the axles and on the rear, not in front.  You probably already have all the tongue weight you need.  It is a fight to move weight back, not forward like I was used to.

11.  I think 65ft is the best length to build with to be legal in the most states.  Having said that, I will be at 70ft with the crown I'm buying right now.

edit:  My trailer is a Horton Hauler, not an H&H.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2011, 10:19:25 PM by Uglydog56 » Logged

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« Reply #28 on: August 08, 2011, 08:37:44 AM »

What are you folks recommending for the electric trailer brake controller.


My personal recommendation is the Maxbrake (www.maxbrake.com).  It has a pressure sensor tied into the your air brake system so it brakes the trailer at exactly the same pressure as the bus.  It isn't dependent on an inertial sensor or anything like that.  The product is not inexpensive at $400 plus shipping.

Now, I know some folks don't like the idea of adding anything to the air brake system.  I put the sensor into an unused port on my brake pedal valve.  I think it is only tied to the primary system.  I didn't want the complexities of trying to read both the primary and secondary without causing air to bleed between the two systems.  I figure if the worst happened and the sensor broke causing an air leak I would still have the secondary system to get me stopped.

The hardest part of the whole project was running nearly 40 feet of 10 AWG wire to the batteries to get 12 volts for the controller.  ( I also had to run a 10 AWG wire to the trailer plug for the brakes.)  The second hardest part was figuring out which port on the brake valve to use.  I had to figure out which valve I have and get a manual from the Bendix website.
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« Reply #29 on: August 08, 2011, 09:14:45 AM »

ZeroC, I always used the Hayes air actuated controller like Brain said they are pricey but I like the Hayes a very small compact unit and no wires from the front you can mount it at the rear of your bus the last one I bought was 450 bucks you get real smooth braking with the Hayes air unit the price is the killer


good luck
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« Reply #30 on: August 08, 2011, 09:34:39 AM »

The Maxbrake could also be mounted at the rear of the bus.  The only thing you couldn't do is manually actuate the trailer brakes from the driver's seat.  With a bus you're probably not going to have issues with the trailer getting out of control.

I did look into air brakes when I replaced the brakes on my trailer.  Dexter only supplies air brakes on 10K and up axles.  I don't know that air brakes would really work with a bus anyhow.  Our brake systems aren't designed to supply air to an additional two axles.  I would have severely limited myself on vehicles that could tow the trailer if air brakes were even an option.
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Brian Elfert - 1995 Dina Viaggio 1000 Series 60/B500 - 75% done but usable - Minneapolis, MN
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