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Trailer steering

06/23/2008 8:52 AM

Is there a way of having a single or tandem axle trailer steer suitably for backing up.

We pull an industrial machine on a trailer equipped with a pintal hitch. The trailer and machine has a combined weight of about 4500 pounds. The trailer is pulled on the highway by a heavy straight truck. It normally has to be backed up into position over rough ground. No problem going forward and not a lot of problem backing up on smooth level ground if there is lots of turning space but in our application there is little turning room and the ground is usually uneven and the trailer wants to swing to one side or the other uncontrollably. If we could lock the trailer in line with the truck that would solve the problem however we would tear off the wheels from the axles because they would be dragged sideways as the heavy truck was backing up and turning to avoid obstacles.

Does anyone know of a steering axle or mechanism that would keep the trailer in line with the truck while backing up. Caster wheels would do this but would not be strong enough and caster wheels would not stand up to use at highway speed.

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#1

Re: Trailer steering

06/23/2008 11:13 AM

Here are a few ideas;

1. Larger diameter wheels move easier over rough terrain

2. Tandem axles will limit the amount of swing caused by rough terrain backing.

3. When all else fails use winch to pull the trailer in general direction while backing

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#2

Re: Trailer steering

06/23/2008 11:30 AM

Sure you could find some one willing to rig you up a trailer with steerable axe like a fire department ladder truck. Hope you have deep pockets.

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#8
In reply to #2

Re: Trailer steering

06/24/2008 5:43 AM

Fancy but don't ladder truck use fifth wheel? Also, I've not seen them backed with steerman in the back.

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#17
In reply to #8

Re: Trailer steering

02/23/2022 4:41 PM

Fire dept tillered ladder trucks do use a fifth wheel hitch, but it is bolted together partly so hydraulic hoses can go up thru to operate the ladder. I have steered one and backing is easy IF you keep your mind engaged and steer opposite what you would otherwise.

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#3

Re: Trailer steering

06/24/2008 1:35 AM

Wow am I hacked, I wrote what I will try to duplicate below, punched the button to review and I got a message saying page expired. It was gone.

Anyhow....

I'm assuming your trailer is short. They are tough to back up. One of the easiest cures is to lenghten the tongue by several feet if you can. You can't believe how much easier this makes backing a trailer up.

Other things which you may already know are: go as slow as you can; move the steering wheel slowly and don't move it far when making corrections; use the mirrors instead of looking out the back window. If you can't see the trailer in the mirrors, mount some arms on the back of the trailer which stick out far enough so you can see them in the mirrors.

Well, this is a real shortened version of what I had said previously. Good luck.

Randy

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#4

Re: Trailer steering

06/24/2008 1:46 AM

Increase the length of the tongue. the longer the distance between the trailer axel & the ball, the easier it is to back up.

Change to a 5th wheel set up. This is a similar solution to above. Reduce the distance between the ball & the centerline of the truck axle.

Both potential solutions reduce the angle of deflection.

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#5

Re: Trailer steering

06/24/2008 2:05 AM

There are "steering trailers" available where the tongue causes the front and rear wheels to steer. These have great advantages like not cutting corners when being towed and being great for reversing.

I've only seen them on farms and low velocity applications so I suspect there may be some "stability" issues when towing at highway speed.

It makes for some complexity since all wheels have to be able to articulate and there is a linkage diagonally across the trailer to enable steering of the rear wheels.

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#6

Re: Trailer steering

06/24/2008 2:26 AM

You can always put another hitch on the front bumper and drive the trailer into it's spot. Doesn't have to be used every time, but would sure help in the problem-sum times.

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#10
In reply to #6

Re: Trailer steering

06/24/2008 8:26 AM

I was going to suggest the same thing. My dad has been backing trailers with a hitch on the front for years...It also keeps you from straining your neck. A definite bonus.

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#16
In reply to #6

Re: Trailer steering

02/23/2022 4:35 PM

Yes, a front hitch is wonderful. And you can see much better where the trailer is going.

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#7

Re: Trailer steering

06/24/2008 3:12 AM

Saw this when the neighbours were moving in, Sat back and wasted 2 hours watching the countless times backing the 6x4 up the driveway..

The end result, drive as far as you can up the driveway, unhitch trailer, use a small AGV or manual guided electric "Carrier" to reverse the trailer from back of tow vehicle to vacant place, reverse tow vehicle out from that position, on to road and move trailer back to place where it is needed, reverse the tow vehicle back to trailer and re-hitch.

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#9

Re: Trailer steering

06/24/2008 6:58 AM

After 60 years of backing things up, including double articulated vehicles, I find it easiest to teach people to do so using the mirrors only.

For a single articulation vehicle (single or tandem axle trailer) the principle is: If there is too much trailer in the mirror steer (turn the wheel) to that mirror. Gently, mind you. This is to back-up straight. To describe a curve, just relax that rule a little. With just a little practise you'll find that you can place the trailer on a 'dime'.

You'll need big, good mirrors on the prime-mover, though, so as to give you good field of view.

I have often thought of developing just such a device as you request, but I decided that it was cheaper and easier to just learn to drive the thing. And much more satisfying. Then when you've mastered this, tape one eye closed, and try again.

Cheers,

Stu

ps. Please accept this in the spirit in which it is intended. I don't wish to 'teach Granny to suck eggs'.

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#11

Re: Trailer steering

06/24/2008 9:58 AM

This may seem to be a smart alec reply but it realy is not intended to be. Get someone who 1) knows how to handel a trailer and 2) is good at teaching (I have found that being good at something and being able to teach are two different things) and get some instruction. Having moved trailers from a 4 ft long welder to 90 foot long mobile homes, there is more to backing trailers than it seems at first glance. If you are a 2 or more person crew working this trailer all should have the training. Sometimes the problem it misscommunication between the drive and the "ground man". The Ground man should be the better at judging the curve the trailer is following as opposed to the curve you want. Stop and get out of the truck and look often, especially on soft ground as mistakes causing you to pull up and make a second try may cause ruts that can be almost imposible to get out of. Like a lot of other things, there a many more tricks and secrets that can make positioning MUCH easier. -- JHF

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#12

Re: Trailer steering

02/23/2022 4:25 AM

Probably not appropriate for your situation but the charity I work with in my spare time had a couple of 20ft shipping containers delivered a couple of years back. Our site is in the corner of a fishery, all off-road & narrow lanes between lakes. The lorry was a rigid with a Hiab & trailer. When the driver couldn't make a tight corner he simply used the Hiab to pick up the back of the trailer & swing it round.

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#13

Re: Trailer steering

02/23/2022 5:02 AM

This is off topic but some may find it useful. I have a small trailer that is not visible through any of my mirrors when towing. That and the short wheel base made reversing difficult. To solve the problem I salvaged a telescoping antenna from an old portable radio and fixed it to the rear center of the trailer. When towing forwards I collapse the telescoped sections and fold it down to the horizontal. When reversing I extend the telescoping sections and raise it to the vertical. I fitted a spring clip to hold it upright. Now when reversing I can see the top of the antenna through my rear window and know how the off angle of my trailer relates to the car. (usually if asked about it I tell enquirers that it is a radio controlled trailer which will always follow the car home)

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#14

Re: Trailer steering

02/23/2022 5:47 AM

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#15

Re: Trailer steering

02/23/2022 8:19 AM

The best advice is experience.

Place hand on bottom of steering wheel,and turn the wheel in the direction you want the trailer to go.(Some people do the opposite.It does not matter,which ever you feel most comfortable with)

Get extensions for your mirrors to get a view of trailer,and adjust so you do not have to twist your head too much.

Military vehicles are all hook and pintle type for rough terrain.The experienced drivers have no problem backing up,but novices have a learning curve.

Here is a link to give you some basics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1B5d_K2__4

After a while,it becomes second nature.

You cannot learn it by reading about how to do it,just general advice to get you started.

Find a vacant parking lot and practice.

Remember,a little steering goes a long ways at the back of the truck,so go slow and easy,and there will be a slight delay in reaction of the trailer due to slack in the pintle.

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#18

Re: Trailer steering

02/23/2022 4:49 PM

When the truck & trailer are straight, can you see the trailer? If not, put temporary bicycle flags on the very back of the trailer; cant them outward so you can see them from the truck. This isn't a cure or course, but it does help.

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