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Old 10-12-2021, 11:26 AM   #1
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Why do trailers become detached while driving?

Hi All,

I have a 2017 Rockwood Roo towed by a 2021 Silverado 1500 3.0L. I am somewhat new to towing trailers. Took the trailer camping this weekend and everything went great. We have a WDH that came with it and it seems to be in good shape. I am somewhat paranoid about the trailer uncoupling while driving. Its never happened to me before, but it has me wondering what circumstances tend to provoke a trailer detachment, aside from having an accident or rollover? Is it a defective hitch or large bumps? I am trying to figure out the physics of a scenario that might cause it to become unhitched, hoping to avoid it, obviously. I obviously use both safety chains already, but I don't ever want to have to put them to the test. I tried googling the answer but all I get are law firms advertising their services.

Thanks in advance!
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Old 10-12-2021, 11:36 AM   #2
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Hi All,

I have a 2017 Rockwood Roo towed by a 2021 Silverado 1500 3.0L. I am somewhat new to towing trailers. Took the trailer camping this weekend and everything went great. We have a WDH that came with it and it seems to be in good shape. I am somewhat paranoid about the trailer uncoupling while driving. Its never happened to me before, but it has me wondering what circumstances tend to provoke a trailer detachment, aside from having an accident or rollover? Is it a defective hitch or large bumps? I am trying to figure out the physics of a scenario that might cause it to become unhitched, hoping to avoid it, obviously. I obviously use both safety chains already, but I don't ever want to have to put them to the test. I tried googling the answer but all I get are law firms advertising their services.

Thanks in advance!

I had a boat trailer jump off the hitch once. A combination of the trailer coupler being improperly adjusted from the factory and improper ball alignment when I latched the coupler. I was going uphill at about 30 MPH and it simply hung back on the chains. I blocked the trailer wheels, raised the tongue, and rehitched. When I got back home I readjusted the coupler and never had the issue again. Fortunately no damage done.
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Old 10-12-2021, 11:40 AM   #3
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If you are asking about a bumper pull camper and not a 5th wheel or goose neck, the video below will give you some idea of how the coupler works and how it grabs the ball on your hitch. it does a great job of explaining how to adjust it incase you need to.

there are several ways a trailer can be come detached: ball breaking/shearing, nut holding ball not properly torqued (250 or more ft lbs), hitch failure on tow vehicle, draw bar not secured or failure, coupler out of adjustment or failure, wrong size hitch ball.

the only time i have had a trailer become detached is due to my negligence and not adjusting the coupler on a trailer i had borrowed. my safety chains saved the day.

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Old 10-12-2021, 11:40 AM   #4
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From my experience most trailer separations fall into two categories. Equipment failure and Operator Error.

Most separations are due to operator error. Failure to make sure coupler is properly closed and latched would be high on my list of such events.

With a Weight Distribution Hitch it's customary to lower coupler onto the ball, latch/lock, then using tongue jack lift the back of the tow vehicle some to make hooking up spring bars easier. This lifting is a test of the coupler connection and if it was inadequate the coupler would separate NOW.

If one carefully goes about their hookup proceedure, starting with when the ball mount is installed and pinned on the hitch/drawbar, and continuing on to locking coupler, attaching spring bars, safety chains, and breakaway cable, things should be just fine.

From there things are pretty much beyond the operators control as long as they drive in a reasonable manner, trying to avoid the big bumps (often marked by highway departments) and stay at reasonable speed.

Trailer hitches are fairly well overbuilt and if kept within their rated capacity metal fatigue is a fairly rare occurrence but it always pays to look for the early signs like cracking at welds or loose bolts on hitch/drawbar.


In short, a good hitch, careful attention to detail when hitching, and good driving habits, will prevent what you fear.
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Old 10-12-2021, 11:41 AM   #5
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I'm thinking it's mostly because someone forgot the coupler safety pin, or lost it and a makeshift pin didn't work..
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Old 10-12-2021, 12:16 PM   #6
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From my experience most trailer separations fall into two categories. Equipment failure and Operator Error.

Most separations are due to operator error. Failure to make sure coupler is properly closed and latched would be high on my list of such events.

With a Weight Distribution Hitch it's customary to lower coupler onto the ball, latch/lock, then using tongue jack lift the back of the tow vehicle some to make hooking up spring bars easier. This lifting is a test of the coupler connection and if it was inadequate the coupler would separate NOW.

If one carefully goes about their hookup proceedure, starting with when the ball mount is installed and pinned on the hitch/drawbar, and continuing on to locking coupler, attaching spring bars, safety chains, and breakaway cable, things should be just fine.

From there things are pretty much beyond the operators control as long as they drive in a reasonable manner, trying to avoid the big bumps (often marked by highway departments) and stay at reasonable speed.

Trailer hitches are fairly well overbuilt and if kept within their rated capacity metal fatigue is a fairly rare occurrence but it always pays to look for the early signs like cracking at welds or loose bolts on hitch/drawbar.


In short, a good hitch, careful attention to detail when hitching, and good driving habits, will prevent what you fear.
X2

All great advice and worth a reread!
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Old 10-12-2021, 01:11 PM   #7
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No. 1 thing. Get yourself a 5/16" coupler locking pin. If you drop the coupler onto the ball and you can't get the the 5/16" coupler locking pin through the coupler lock hole, then you are not locked onto the ball. If properly locked the locking pin will slide right in. Secure it with spring wire and you are all set. (they're cheap, so buy two)

https://www.walmart.com/ip/CURT-2501...-Long/48349583
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Old 10-12-2021, 01:36 PM   #8
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Cross the safety chains!

It's not obvious, and if you've never seen it before, you will do it wrong.

When you connect the trailer safety chains, cross them over so the left chain connects to the right eyelet and the right chain connects to the left eyelet. The crossed chains form a "cradle" that catches the trailer coupling above the road and keeps it from catching in a pavement crack/hole.
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Old 10-12-2021, 01:52 PM   #9
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It's not obvious, and if you've never seen it before, you will do it wrong.

When you connect the trailer safety chains, cross them over so the left chain connects to the right eyelet and the right chain connects to the left eyelet. The crossed chains form a "cradle" that catches the trailer coupling above the road and keeps it from catching in a pavement crack/hole.
That’s good if your chains are attached to the trailer with some separation, I have some that both chains are in the center and one trailer that has a single safety chain. You just need to check and see.
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Old 10-12-2021, 02:03 PM   #10
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Really?

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That’s good if your chains are attached to the trailer with some separation, I have some that both chains are in the center and one trailer that has a single safety chain. You just need to check and see.
Really? How could they ship such dangerous configurations? If I had one of those, fixing that would be the very first modification I'd make.
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Old 10-12-2021, 02:13 PM   #11
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From my experience most trailer separations fall into two categories. Equipment failure and Operator Error.
There is a third cause that is becoming, unfortunately, increasingly more common. That is sabotage/vandalism. It's a good idea to use an actual locking pin/padlock with a key for the coupler latch lock and the hitch receiver pin. Even then, after leaving your rig unattended for any length of time it's a good idea to check for security of those items. There is also a Tik Tok video challenge out now encouraging miscreants to loosen people's lug nuts.

America is getting to be more like Mexico where you have to pay a local a few $ to watch your stuff to keep people from messing with/stealing it. Except in Mexico, you are actually paying for security. In America, the person you paid to watch your stuff would probably just walk away with your money as soon as you turned your back.

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Really? How could they ship such dangerous configurations? If I had one of those, fixing that would be the very first modification I'd make.
Most new travel trailers I have looked at have both safety chains attached to a single point behind the coupler.
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Old 10-12-2021, 02:16 PM   #12
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Really? How could they ship such dangerous configurations? If I had one of those, fixing that would be the very first modification I'd make.
Yep.

Of the couple dozen trailers I've owned (TT/race car/farm/utility/dump/dolly) and the hundreds I've seen, trailer manufacturers are all across the board when it come to mounting the safety chains to the tongue area. Many just use a single bolt/weld location near the front of the tongue and crossing them has no effect.
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Old 10-12-2021, 02:32 PM   #13
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Do not be distracted while hitching up. Have a process.
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Old 10-12-2021, 02:37 PM   #14
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Yep.

Of the couple dozen trailers I've owned (TT/race car/farm/utility/dump/dolly) and the hundreds I've seen, trailer manufacturers are all across the board when it come to mounting the safety chains to the tongue area. Many just use a single bolt/weld location near the front of the tongue and crossing them has no effect.
About the only trailers I can recall seeing with separated attachment points since the mid-90's (when I bought my previous trailer) were U-haul trailers.

Weight Distribution Hitches of late seem to use the area where separate attachment points would be so chains are now just attached where frame comes together at coupler assy.

Chains are really not part of the "detached while driving" issue. They are just there in case the operator boo-boos or something fails.
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Old 10-12-2021, 02:40 PM   #15
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Do not be distracted while hitching up. Have a process.
And do it yourself, rejecting well meant assistance.


That is unless a physical handicap prevents you doing it yourself and then just do a visual check before hitting the road.
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Old 10-12-2021, 03:15 PM   #16
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I lost a utility trailer because i had to much weight twards the back and no pin in the coupler and a bounce caused enough up force to release. Saftey chains did there job before it hit the back of to vehicle.
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Old 10-12-2021, 03:17 PM   #17
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And do it yourself, rejecting well meant assistance. -- worth emphasizing. My one and only trailer disconnect discussion started with both of us asking "I thought you latched the hitch!" Nothing damaged but a lesson learned.

Mismatched trailer ball and coupler are a point of failure. My camper and boat use different sizes and different hitches but looks easy to grab the wrong ball at Walmart. Don't assume your coupler/ball is the same size as everyone else's. At least the coupler won't fit on the ball if it's too big -- but not v.v.

Other than U-Haul trailers I don't think couplers are adjustable (but none of mine are at home to check). Proper ball and proper coupler is vital.

Disconnects are rare. Other than my own (!) I can probably count those I've seen on one hand. YouTube "trailer fails" videos notwithstanding.

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Old 10-12-2021, 03:26 PM   #18
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I lost a utility trailer because i had to much weight twards the back and no pin in the coupler and a bounce caused enough up force to release. Saftey chains did there job before it hit the back of to vehicle.
Didn’t it fishtail?
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Old 10-12-2021, 04:07 PM   #19
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I lost a utility trailer because i had to much weight twards the back and no pin in the coupler and a bounce caused enough up force to release. Saftey chains did there job before it hit the back of to vehicle.
I had a likewise situation with a utility trailer, but did not end as well. Because of too much rearward weight, the trailer tongue popped up after uncoupling and put a put a dent in both the bumper and hatch door on the Jeep. My chains did nothing to avoid this because of instant upward travel of the tongue.
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Old 10-12-2021, 04:56 PM   #20
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Previous posts have noted how important safety checks are. In another recent discussion is was noted that if your brake pin is pulled due to a trailer disconnect, your trailer brakes are applied at 100%. Even with chain hookup, you could loose control of trailer and it may roll and be completely destroyed. Consider that the individual trailer brakes applied are not going to save your trailer, but to save others around you from getting killed (as best as can) from the disconnected trailer.

Just so you know what the brake pin pulled may do with your trailer on a disconnect.
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