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Trailer Hitch Play/

3213 Views 16 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Sembob
We have been having an issue that we get this undulating motion back and forth (left to right) when trailering our boat at higher speeds (55+). When it get's going it's pretty disconcerting.

I haven't been able to figure it out, but played with the triler hitch and the receiver last night and notice a bit of play in all directions (left to right, up and down and even fore to aft). I'd say 1/4-3/8 in some cases.


1) Think this could cause that?
2) How do you fix this?
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Trailer is loaded too heavy on rear. You need more tongue weight. Shift your load forward or redistribute weight forward on trailer.
I assume you are talking about play in the Receiver? The play you describe is normal and will not cause the symptoms you describe. Your issue is probably weight distribution, trailer attitude and rear overhang.

Try to have 60% of the weight of your trailer and load forward of the trailer axle. Is it difficult to lift the trailer to put it on the hitch? Maybe it has a weight of 100# or more at the hitch? That's good!

The trailer should have a slight downward slant towards the tow vehicle. Is yours leaning up towards the front? That's bad.

It's too easy to have a lot of raft hanging off the back of the trailer. Do you have more hanging off the back than you do hanging over the front of the trailer? That's also bad.
It seems obvious, but make sure your ball matched the hitch; a smaller ball will give an amazing amount of sway and can be dangerous.

Also, you need to figure out the sway, that can REALLY be dangerous. Make sure you load to the front, as others have pointed out.
Here's a link;
Controlling Sway Causes of poor tow

You don't say how big or heavy your trailer is, or what you're towing it with, but really, you want to figure this out soon.

Good travels!
Uneven tire pressure will cause your trailer to sway left to right.
Tounge weight

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Although lack of tongue weight is probably your problem look at your tires too. They should be ST (For Trailers) and Steel belted Radials with at least two belts in the sidewalls. The should be rated to 50 psi and run at 40 psi.

Jack up the trailer and spin the wheels. Do they run true or has the axel bent and make the wheels wobble?
I have to agree with tongue weight. Also check for uneven load distribution left to right. I now am very careful where things go in the trailer. I need the biggest weight along the center line and a good bit forward of the tires. I found with about 100 lbs on the tongue she rides so smooth I don't even know it's there. Get it wrong and it osculates back and forth unpredictably, very scary at highway speeds.

I now put the empty water jugs up front on the trailer and add water until it feels just right. It's amazing what 20 liters of water in just the right spot will do.
If I have to have one or two people sit on the back of the trailer to pick up the tongue without splitting a gut I know it's right.
If I have to have one or two people sit on the back of the trailer to pick up the tongue without splitting a gut I know it's right.
Hmmm, ok. I think that's the issue. With my raft loaded the dry box is behind the axle and the cooler is centered to slightly behind it. I have storage below the raft in front of the axle but I typically opt for loading it into the vehicle. Now I now that's the wrong idea.

I'll mess around with it - maybe even load my boat backwards and see how it handles.
Even after you get this figured out behave like a pilot.

Do a walk around before every flight.

Look over that ball and hitch like you didn't want to think about a fatality accident the rest of your life.
Chains aren't just for show.
When was the last time you packed your bearings. This could cause a tire wobble, eventually leading to the whole wheel coming off. If you trailer alot or your axles get wet this should be done near every year.
Though I doubt this is the problem and more tongue weight is your answer......

A friend of mine bought a double axle trailer that swayed like everything, no matter if it was empty or had lots of tongue weight. When I examined it I found the pivot points between the front and rear springs had rusted and were frozen in place. We ended up replacing them and putting in bolts with grease fitting on the ends.
I'd also guess tongue weight - the typical rule of thumb is 10% tongue weight. If your trailer and rig weigh a grand than you should be picking up about a hundred pounds on the tongue...

That said I have two motor boat trailers that have very little tongue weight ~ 30 lbs each for ~1k lb rigs and they don't wobble. I've even loaded one rear heavy on accident with negative tongue weight and it was fine. I actually heard that in the hitch; every time I hit a bump the hitch (receiver) would clank up and down. I stopped, took it off to check the ball and the boat tipped over backward. So I reloaded correctly and took off. I think in these cases the wheels are much farther back on the trailer creating a much longer distance from wheel to hitch. This makes them much easier to back and presumably much more stable when loaded poorly. Moral: you may want to think about length of your trailer... if balancing fails (which I doubt) you may think of extending the tongue if possible. That will depend on trailer design, but if you're running a converted sled trailer or something I'd bet a longer tongue would help in several ways.

oh, and loading trailers tongue heavy can also cause wobbling... but I don't think you could do that with a raft and trailer, but be careful if your loading really heavy things at some point. That was probably all covered in Shutzies link, but I didn't check it out.
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side note about bearings.

After our first Grand Canyon trip, as we motored out of Las Vegas and 4 hours into the desert the bearing gave out on our trailer. We rolled into a gas station and the friendly owner agreed he just might have a new one just for us. After we pulled the wheel and the pieces of the bearing fell out, he got cranky, told us to get our piece of s%^$ off his property and even started hooking his tow truck to our truck. The thing is, that damn trailer probably weighed a couple of tons, and without a bearing moving it at all was probably fatal to the axle, wheel, or whatever. In any case, calmer minds prevailed (I started filming and told the putz my brother was an attorney) we limped the rig off his property and I spent a miserable day in the shade of the trailer while the others ran back into Vegas to find a bearing.

Moral is; if you trailer, your trailer needs a repair kit as well, to include a bearing, grease, spare light bulbs and so on. Or, you can eventually have a similar adventure to mine. Sucky way to end a GC trip.
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Google :Hitch accessories , anti rattle etc.

I had the same issue with my travel trailer, drift boat, raft trailer. These devices take the slack or slop out of the stinger, receiver, pin combination.

The device, we purchased had 3 bolts on the bottom side and works very well. Mission accomplished!!

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Caverdan may be on to something. If it has leafs check to make sure none are broken. Happened to me once and caused lots of sway at higher speeds. Also weakened suspension will do the same.

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