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Old 01-23-2011   #1
Bend, Oregon
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 7
Unlucky buying first raft trailer...(repost)

American whitewater raft trailers changed hands around 2-3 yrs. ago? They still use the american whitewater name but also go by Pacific Coast Trailers.

Wish I did my homework.

Last Aug. I bought a trailer from them.

He was nice...until I got trailer home and gave a full inspection.

Sent trailer maker emails and phone calls. Responses were vague, hostile, or avoided.

Mid Sep., Won't answer my calls or emails.

I can only be accused of being a sqeaky wheel.

Here's the facts.

This was the webpage from Pacific coast trailers I was familiar with.

So when he posted this craiglist add w) a reduced price I negotiated with owner over phone.

Notice both those adds state a(Dexter) Torflex axle. .
This axle was part of the agreement reached on phone.

So after I gave trailer the insp. this is what I found.

Is that how a new axle should look?

I then contacted Dexter Torflex axles and they told me I should be able to find lot # on axle to do a history search on axle.

Dexter axle info-

I could not find # so I sent pics of axle to Dexter. I was informed that is was not a Dexter axle but a Al-kober axle.


I then called Al-kober and they also told me that I should be able to find a lot# in center of axle.

Where the number should've been you can see where somebody sanded off the #.

I asked the general manager of al-kober about this and I was informed that makes the axle void of warranty.

Any guesses why somebody would file off the lot/serial #?

Used axle?

Axle cut in half and then welded back together?

Either one of those concerns me with safety and liability issues...

Here's a photo of sanded off area mid axle.

I also paid around 200.00 dollars for an axle lock and stake pocket kit. I have neither but he still has my money....

Upon instruction from my bank I attempted to recover my money and return trailer through a visa recovery program. It was not the proper venue and all in all not a good experience.

It really sucks to plan and save for years for that raft/trailer and we can't use it as we've been instructed not to use trailer for best chances to recover money and return trailer.

Dealing with american whitewater/pacific coast is the worst business transaction I've ever been involved in.

So it looks like our next step is conferring with a lawyer and then small claims court.

Wish us luck...any advice appreciated.

I would like to see Mountain Buzz have a separate forum that is devoted to all trailers designed to carry all types of floatables from. There's not a lot of info for somebody lacking knowledge about trailers and this site (Gear talk) was the best out there for trailer info.

Ed Skieens

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Old 01-24-2011   #2
El Flaco's Avatar
Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,879
Yep - I would certainly take the first step by filing a small claim. Hopefully he's local to you so that you can actually get him to show up for court. Getting a lawyer for small claims court defeats the purpose ($), but paying an attorney $100 to write them a letter regarding liability might get his attention. This is a HUGE safety issue.

My experience: I bought a trailer many years ago for hauling building supplies, and wanted a sturdier axle. I had a welding shop out of Farmington NM put on a new axle, and when I picked it up & drove off, there was a significant amount of vibration at highway speeds. I called them from about 30 miles away, and they said vibration was normal when the trailer wasn't loaded. So I drove about 15 more miles - I was heading downhill on 160 out of Durango, and the whole left wheel and hub assembly broke free of the axle at a weld joint and bounced down the highway into another car at about 50mph. She was a 16 year old driver, and it hit the windshield frame right next to the driver's side. Any more than 3" to the left and it would have gone straight through the windshield and probably killed her.

Luckily my insurance carrier went after the fabricator and made them pay her damages and reimburse me for the trailer. But that shit was scary.

My recommendations:

  • Threaten them with a Better Business Bureau report, and tell him that you're going to file a lien (not sure if this transaction qualifies, but liens suck for businesses and he doesn't want to deal with it). Let them know that you are consulting with an attorney regarding the liability associated with a compromised axle, and that all documentation will show that if the axle ever fails, any liability (property, medical / death) will be directed at his business.
  • Send them a link to this post (noting that there are over tens of thousands of registered users) and let them know they can expect a similar complaint on every raft and whitewater forum you can find.
  • Tell them exactly what you expect them to do to remedy the situation; whether it's a swap out for a replacement trailer for what was advertised; or to have them arrange to pay a more reputable business to replace the axle. American pays the bill directly. I'd probably go with the latter, since they haven't shown to be the most forthcoming business. Have the new folks do a thorough weld check.
Good luck. Make sure you make it clear that you are not going to go away, and it would appear obvious to you that the amount of noise you'll make is not worth their cost to remedy the situation.

It sucks to deal with shady businesses. American / Pacific just made the list.

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Old 01-24-2011   #3
Bend, Oregon
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 7
El Flaco, Thanks for taking the time. That's all good advice.

That's a scary story about the tire/16 yr. old.

I fear the same thing with the trailer I bought from Pacific Coast Trailers & Products.

Major vibration and both tires off the ground! bouncing are a issue with this trailer. I had uhaul turn the ball on my grade 3 hitch around and then machine tighten it for me. I then drove the trailer around a 100 miles. pulled over and checked on trailer,...

I can vouch that safety chains and that little keeper pin work !!!

I was lucky...

Yep, vibrated the nut off ball hitch.

Same thing happens with the lug nuts on tires. Can't keep em' tight.

Thanks for those that sent private messages.

One of them suggested that the axle could be stolen? I never considered that. I do know that there have been a helluva lot of raft, driftboat, and utility trailers stolen from Oregon and Washington never to be seen again.

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Old 01-25-2011   #4
Arkansas during the off-season Nomadic during the summers! :), Arkansas & Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 945
Just curious how the transaction went down. Did you give the individual the $$ before ever seeing the trailer? Because you said you inspected it when you got it home? Since you specifically negotiated for "custom" parts I would certainly make sure that you confirm the parts were added or present when picking up the item.

Then again I've never bought anything online. I just don't see how someone can feel comfy paying for something they don't get then and there.

Good luck on getting your money back. I am in the market for a custom trailer that is gonna require alot of fab work...Thank you for narrowing my list of potential businesses by 1 to hire for building it. I will make sure not to shop with those guys!
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Old 01-25-2011   #5
Missoula, Montana
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 84
What is the problem? Why didn't you inspect this stuff before you paid for the trailer? I have an american whitewater trailer, I don't give a shit what the top of the axle looks like. I guess you should sue the guy since he didn't deliver what was promised. You can probably end up getting another trailer out of the deal, maybe getting to keep the one you have.

So, does yours have screws which run through the plywood decking and through metal tabs underneath? They are self tapping screws. They will work out in time and then your deck will get all bouncy. I recommend putting locking nuts on them. I have nearly 100K miles on mine, still going strong.
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Old 01-25-2011   #6
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 22

Thanks for your post, I appreciate knowing where not to buy a trailer from.

Good luck.
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Old 01-25-2011   #7
Bend, Oregon
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 7
I paid with a debit card in full over the phone with the promise of a certified invoice that would be in the mail by the next day and that I would be able to pick up trailer in 4 to 5 days.

After the 5 days I called to confirm pick up and to ask why I had not received invoice. He postponed and said invoice was in the mail.

He postponed several more times not once calling me to let me know I would have to change my plans once again.

after several weeks I found out it was time to pick trailer up, after a 4 hour drive I arrived at destination.

I did give the trailer an inspection before I drove it away. I pointed out lights hanging out of the sockets? And cracks in the (1 sided?) MDO plywood. To notice the damage on axle you have to climb underneath trailer and really get your face up in or else it is easily missed. At the time I was already behind a schedule and having another one way 4 hour drive I needed to be on my way.

I do know more about trailers now than I did back then which was very little. I paid him good money and expected a fair and honest deal in return. My ability or lack of ability to inspect a trailer should have no bearing on what kind of deal I should get.

The accessories I paid for were,
One axle lock designed to fit through both wheel rims and then lock. I did pick this up with trailer but did not try to use it until I got home. It was too short as it would only go through one wheel. I was told to pay expenses to freight it back to him and he would then send me a new one. I told him no, that it was his mistake and he should pay freight. He then told me to throw axle lock away... and that he would send me a new one. He has not sent anything.

I also paid for a stake pocket kit. upon arrival to pick up trailer He went to get parts and came back with a handful of metal parts and explained that some parts were missing and that he would mail them to me. I've asked for a list of those parts. He has not sent me that list or the missing parts.

Before I left I was handed my invoice... And instructed to upgrade my hitch from my grade 3 to a grade 4?

After doing some research I have learned that a grade 4 hitch is more appropriate for towing something much larger than a raft trailer. Large yachts, 30 ft. plus travel trailers, etc.

I've also read that a grade 3 hitch is plenty enough hitch for a raft trailer.

I remember as I was driving the trailer from the merchants lot him yelling after me to be careful as my trailer is going to be extra bouncy?

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Old 01-25-2011   #8
Missoula, Montana
Paddling Since: 1996
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 84
Originally Posted by EJS12 View Post

I remember as I was driving the trailer from the merchants lot him yelling after me to be careful as my trailer is going to be extra bouncy?

Unloaded it will be pretty bouncy because the torsion axles aren't loaded by any weight, it's not a very big deal but you will see that trailer fly in the rear view mirror on dirt roads.

You debit card should be backed by protection if it's a visa or MC. Do you have all of his promises in writing? If you have in writing that he would provide one axle, and you can prove that he has installed something else then you have a pretty significant case against him. He has a duty to give you what he promised and you can sue him for what it's going to cost you to get exactly what he promised from someone else- so if you can find someone selling a similar trailer for $2000 or whatever, that's the amount you should seek from him. I bet if you get a lawyer and go down this road he'll come around pretty quick and make things right. When you win, you'll get more than what you paid and you'll keep the trailer, although a lawyer is going to cost you some money unless they're your friend.

It's a shame that you have to go there with it but if you can't live with that axle it's what you should do. I bet he got that axle as a factory second or something and that's why the serial number has been removed. I am sure that it's safe and if it tows down the road just fine then you shouldn't have any problem with it.
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Old 05-16-2011   #9
Berkeley, California
Join Date: May 2011
Posts: 5
This is all very interesting. Curious why no picture of the trailer this guy bought, other than the axel.
Doing my homework on this company, I have seen their trailers, they look good to me.
The flyer says there is a warranty at the factory... did this guy not warranty the axel when you showed up?
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Old 05-16-2011   #10
Bend, Oregon
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 7
Thanks for being curious....George.

Why no pics of trailer? Well, because I've never taken one. If you give me a good reason to post one for you I will?To me it's all about the axle.

What was your homework? Going to his website? I will admit that he has a nice webpage.

Did you also learn that he has packed up and moved to Bakersfield Ca.? That's according to the Jackson county sherriff.

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