Level Towing

Submitted: Saturday, Apr 29, 2017 at 21:31
ThreadID: 134764 Views:5702 Replies:6 FollowUps:8
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Has any one had trouble getting a level set-up when towing a Forward Fold camper trailer? Have a 2000 Rodeo and a new Mars Spirit F/F trailer and have just had a set of Heavy Duty springs fitted but still have trouble with ride height and comfort.
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Reply By: 508 - Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 03:56

Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 03:56
How heavy is your camper on the tow ball? Maybe you need an adjustable height tow hitch to set your camper ride level.
AnswerID: 610687

Follow Up By: RMD - Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 08:13

Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 08:13
Sounds like he needs to take some ball weight OFF, not adjust the heaight of what is already causing the problem.
The trailer may be poorly designed and is far too heavy on the towbar/ball. The vehicle can normally deal with a reasonable towball weight without needing new springs.
FollowupID: 880628

Follow Up By: Member - Scratcher - Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 09:53

Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 09:53
The camper is a standard unit and is set up like all the forward folds on the market. the new springs have a rating of 350 Kg. The down weight of the hitch is around 260 Kg.
FollowupID: 880629

Follow Up By: RMD - Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 11:19

Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 11:19
160 on the ball maybe, the trailer must have lotsof stuff forward of the axle and practiaclly nothing behind the axle. Try locating all moveable items to rear of the axle so it begins to balance it all up a bit.
260kg is more than a 2 1/2 ton caravan.
The high ball weight will be rotating the vehicle around the rear axle and lifting the front up too much no matter what springs you have in the rear.
If raised much at all the front will begin to wear tyres because the constant alignment is being held in a different position to normal.

You haven't mentioned how far the ball is from the rer axle. Some towbars can have their ball too far away from the rear axle and that makes any ball loading excessive on the rearsprings and bend chassis too.

Is it possible to have the tongue redrilled so the tongue goes further into the receiver and therefore the ball is as close to the axle as possible. That makes a big difference to the stresses imposed on the vehicle chassis and suspension and increases stability when towing.
FollowupID: 880633

Follow Up By: 508 - Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 11:52

Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 11:52
Have you checked your owners manual for towing specifications, you may be over the limit. Is your maximum tow weight with brakes 1800kg on your 2000 Rodeo, clearly 10% of 1800kg = 180kg on tow ball shows your over the limit.

Looking at the Mars forward fold campers design shows rear axles are set far back, meaning it will be hard to get weight off the long tow bar.
FollowupID: 880637

Follow Up By: Michael H9 - Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 15:13

Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 15:13
The ball weight on a Mars Spirit forward fold is supposed to be 160KG. If yours is 260KG then there is something wrong on the trailer somewhere.
FollowupID: 880642

Follow Up By: 9900Eagle - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 07:08

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 07:08
Micheal, the ball weight shown on the manufacturers plate is the weight it comes out of the factory at.
They will have a tow ball weight at tare which is the 160kg, and then should they have a maximum tow ball weight for the trailer.
FollowupID: 880654

Reply By: Sigmund - Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 14:11

Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 14:11
Any idea of the weight of the load in the Rodeo?
AnswerID: 610693

Reply By: Sigmund - Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 14:24

Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 14:24
Just by the way, stiffer springs in the rear may not help much. Just turns the axle into a pivot, lifting the front end.
AnswerID: 610694

Reply By: splits - Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 20:31

Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 20:31
If you really do have around 260kg on the tow ball then it is too much. Even then you must have a lot more weight in the back of the car for it to still be sagging after fitting heavier springs.

I looked up the specifications for a 2000 Rodeo on two sites and both had the towing capacity listed at 1800kg. Your trailer may be under that limit but something so short in length with nothing all that far in front of or behind the axle should not need a ball weight anywhere near 180kg let along 260kg. It does not have long heavy ends to swing around like big caravans and should therefor tow well with less than 10% ball weight.

I have a Hilux from back around that era. It has a maximum towing capacity of 1800kg and a maximum of 180kg on the tow ball but the towing information in the handbook says a weight distribution hitch must be used for any ball weight above 90kg. The same may apply to your car but a WDH can not be used in rough off road conditions because of the risk of the angle between the car and trailer exceeding a certain limit. If that happens the tow bar, the chassis or the hitch can easily be damaged.

A WDH levers the rear end of the car up taking weight off the rear axle and redistributing it between the front wheels of the car and the wheels of the trailer. That is why some manufacturers say they must be used. Your heavier springs don't take weight off the axle and they can not redistribute weight. All they do is lift the rear of an overloaded car and make it look good.

They also alter the handling characteristics by placing more weight on the outside rear wheel than the outside front wheel in corners or during emergency swerving. This will make the car prone to going into sudden oversteer instead of the factory designed understeer. That can leave you with your hair standing on end if you don't know how to control it, particularly when towing. under/oversteer

You are going to have to get some of that weight off the back of the car otherwise your chassis will be at risk of bending. The risk is much higher on lighter weight earlier model utes like yours and mine. If you have to lift the rear with aftermarket springs then the car is overloaded.
Bent Chassis

This bending problem is caused by the amount of heavy material located behind the rear axle. The weight of this material does not change but the stresses going into the rear end of chassis as it has to constantly lift this material suddenly or stop it falling quickly as the car goes up and down on rough roads will far exceed the loads on the chassis when the car is stationary. In other words, the end of your chassis will be flexing like a diving board with someone bouncing up and down on the end of it.

Not only can this bend the chassis but it can and has broken many axle housings. Your ball weight is on the end of a lever i.e. the distance between the ball and the axle. Whatever you put on the ball with be much higher on the axle. How much higher will depend on that distance.
AnswerID: 610697

Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 21:20

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 21:20
This reply is on the ball. Looking around at photos of bent chassis reveals that a high percentage of them had this type of trailer hitched behind. I don't know why they build campers like this. When you look at them they appear to have a well balanced box trailer with a long drawbar. They then have large boxes added in front of the trailer box that carry the heavy items like tinned food, generator and large fridge. The balanced trailer is unbalanced with the weight of the boxes in front. That makes for a heavy unloaded ball weight. You then end up with an even heavier ball weight when you load up the camper. The ball weight is appropriate for a trailer of over 2.6 tonnes, not a small one like this.

You have a recipe for disaster here, 260 kg on a tow bar with a maximum capacity of 180kg. This will reduce the steering efficiency with the weigh that weight that is removed from the front wheels. Your tug will drive like a ute with an overload of sand in the back of the tray to some extent. You will also be at risk of bending your chassis. Holden say that WDH (load levellers) should be employed at heavy ball weights, this will help on the open road but most chassis are bent in conditions where you have to remove the WDH.

I think you have two choices. Get yourself a new ute with a ball weight of 300 kg or more. Alternately ditch the camper and get one of suitable design for your tug. One of suitable design will be one where you can distribute your heavy items symmetrically around the axle.
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FollowupID: 880684

Reply By: jamesw - Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 22:16

Sunday, Apr 30, 2017 at 22:16
All of the forward folds have a higher ball weight than most middle weight caravans due to the design. I own a FF so I have some first hand knowledge. Fully loaded mine is 220kg on the ball, up from 160kg quoted. My vehicle is modified to handle that weight and it is within the limits. However if the vehicle in question has a ball weight capacity lower than the trailer then the options are very limited. Change the trailer or the tow vehicle. It is very unlikely that the ball weight can be lowered to the capacity of the current vehicle.
AnswerID: 610701

Reply By: Member - Scratcher - Monday, May 01, 2017 at 14:07

Monday, May 01, 2017 at 14:07
Thanks to all those concerned members that have given me a lot to think about. It may be time to upgrade the tow vehicle. Happy motoring.
AnswerID: 610714

Follow Up By: Batt's - Sunday, May 07, 2017 at 13:08

Sunday, May 07, 2017 at 13:08
Why would you need to up grade the vehicle to tow a camper trailer that's an expensive thing to do when all is needed is to set it up correctly. As mentioned 260kg ball weight is way over the top in my opinion it should not exceed 100kg your vehicle is really only there to drag it around and the trailer should be supporting most of the weight so it rides correctly. It sounds like some of the items in the trailer need to be relocated and realisticly the standard suspension being in good condition should be able to support it with ease.

Don't put it in the too hard basket yet for the easy way out just to encounter the exact same problems with the next vehicle which is likely to happen. You need to look at what gear you carry in the rear of the vehicle do you have storage draws and other items permanently mounted if so you need to talk to a few suspension outlets so they can figure how much weight you generally carry and then add on an approx amount when loaded for a trip so the correct springs can be chosen and get shocks to match you may find adjustable shocks are what you need as they can be adjustable to suit. I have adjustable shocks all round and have found them great when loading the ute up the help stabilize the vehicle and give you a comfortable ride when empty.
FollowupID: 880869

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