4x4ing with a trailer

Submitted: Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:03
ThreadID: 31623 Views:3204 Replies:18 FollowUps:21
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Folks, just need some tips on what to do when you get stuck with a trailer and the only way to go is back. Going up a track or a sand dune and you run out of steam, you didn't quite make it and the only way to go is back. Not easy is most situations. Difficult enough reversing with a trailer and what is there isn't too much head room to control the trailer?

Never been 4x4ing with a trailer or even seen any one stuck with one so I am interested to know what others do. The need for a trailer to pack everything is fast approaching but it might just be too much trouble...

For day trips and weekends its easy enough to leave the trailer at camp etc but what about extended touring when you won't be coming back to the same spot you started from?

All the adds show that their trailers can go where the 4by can, true. But what to do when you get to spot that needs a second attempt.


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Reply By: V8troopie - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:23

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:23
Did you see the gadget they showed on the new inventors (ABC program) this week? Might be just the ticket for your assumed dilemma.
I have driven over enough sand dunes to convince me that a trailer is too much trouble there for this old bloke. Maybe if you're young and like shovelling sand....
AnswerID: 159724

Follow Up By: Grumpy in WA - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:25

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:25
I did see that gadget and I was impressed for sure. That's what go me thinking about this situation (again).
FollowupID: 414362

Reply By: Wayne (NSW) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:26

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:26

A hand winch and some recovery is a must, just like having a spare tyre. You should not go away with out one.

If the trailer is stuck you can winch it back, unhitch and move the vehicle. The uses are just about limitless.

AnswerID: 159725

Follow Up By: Grumpy in WA - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:39

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:39
Have lots of recovery gear but I have a winch mounted on the front as I am too grumpy to use a hand winch. I guess I might need one if I go an buy a trailer. Thanks.

But there are so many poeple out there with off road trailers, are they only ever use in soft road conditions? i.e un sealed roads etc. Is it just the idea that you might possibly go any place with a camper trailer etc that exciting but few rarely do?
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Follow Up By: Wayne (NSW) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:46

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:46

I took a convey of 3 camper trailers and 3 vehicles with out trailers. We were able to get the CT to the camp sites that did include some interesting tracks and when we got to camp set up the campers and did day trips from camp. The best of both worlds.

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Follow Up By: Member - Bware (Tweed Valley) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 17:27

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 17:27
Hey Grumpy,
' But there are so many poeple out there with off road trailers, are they only ever use in soft road conditions? i.e un sealed roads etc. Is it just the idea that you might possibly go any place with a camper trailer etc that exciting but few rarely do? '
You can substitute the word 4wd for trailer in that sentence and it is still correct. But that doesn't mean much; what are you going to do with yours is the only thing that's relevent :-)
FollowupID: 414387

Reply By: Member - Bware (Tweed Valley) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:29

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:29
Excellent question! I don't know. A few years back the wife and I took a 'short-cut' which was a narrow, hilly track which got progressively steeper and the surface became slick clay. After an hour of driving we came across a locked gate not shown on our old map. It took a 20 point turn to get the Troopie facing back the way we had come. I don't know what we could have done if we had a trailer as well. It was steep and narrow and nowhere to put the trailer if you unhooked it to be able to drive past it and re-hook. I guess being properly prepared ( ie using a current map, although state forest maps hadn't had their 20 year update at that stage LOL) we would have known that there was a gate but it could just as easily have been a fallen tree or landslide that had just occured that no one knew about.
AnswerID: 159726

Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:33

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:33
G'day Grumpy,

I've towed a trailer to a lot of places. If you can travel with others this is good as a recovery solution, the hand winch is good, lots of straps is good but most important is to have a quality tow point on the rear of the trailer. Also not such a bad idea to practice reversing in awkward situations as this is the best way out.

Kind regards
AnswerID: 159727

Follow Up By: Grumpy in WA - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:44

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:44
How do you use the quality tow point on the rear of the trailer? Not sure I am fiollowing here. Can the 4x4 and trailer be snatched backwards? I wouldn't think so but I have no idea, hence the post.

Ex truck and road train driver so the skill for backing up in not the issue, its just the difficult situations I might end up in.

And the boss and I usually travel on our own, the volume from teh kids keeps others away :-) . Mmmm
FollowupID: 414368

Follow Up By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:58

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:58
G'day Grumpy,

The idea is that to pull a trailer backwards so it will need a connecting point (have a full tow bar on the rear of mine). And the plan is to tow the whole rig (4wd and trailer) backwards - hence a solid connection. I have been fortunate to not have to use it this way BUT I have used it for pulling vehicle (and trailers) forward. To be honest, like Roachie, I have not found towing a trailer a problem, notwithstanding that the thing can go up to 1.4 tonnes in weight.

It's just a case of taking some care and driving to the conditions, you'd be surprised where you can go and with some sensible recovery gear (and some time) you should be able to get out of most jams. Have sough recovery help on two occasions where it was easier for someone to pull me forward (and they were in front to do so) rather than muck around trying going backwards.

Kind regards
FollowupID: 414371

Reply By: Member - Roachie (SA) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:42

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:42
I've towed the Ultimate over some fairly ordinary tracks. On a crossing the Simpson last year, I got about 2/3rds of the way up one dune and realised I'd been too optemistic in my gear selection (3rd low...should have been in 2nd low).
I reversed down the dune about 100 meters without any difficulty....the trailer wheels actually tend to stay in the snad ruts for the most part unless you really stuff up at the tiller!!! lolol
I've also been in some sticky situations in the High Country and have managed to keep safe and my sanity in tact.
For the most part (and sometimes it's easier said than done, I admit), you need to weigh up the situation before you get yourself into a nasty position in the 1st place.
If I see a track I don't believe I can drag the camper up, I simply don't attempt it.
AnswerID: 159730

Follow Up By: Grumpy in WA - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:48

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 15:48
I was thinking the get out and look policy was the best one, I guess in the begining I would get out and look lots and as time went on confidence with the trailer would increase.

But as was stated earlier what do you do when you hit that point when you say, $hit, I should have turned around 200m ago.
FollowupID: 414370

Follow Up By: Member - Bware (Tweed Valley) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 16:31

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 16:31
I think that in the situation I described, if I had a trailer, and not knowing the condition of the track, I could have
a) given the track a miss and stuck to the main road (not much fun; why did I buy a 4wd?),
b) unhitched the trailer and driven the whole track first then return and hitch trailer if track was OK (hardly a short-cut then),
c) just gone for it then possibly find yourself working into the dark extricating yourself from the situation while it starts to rain and the kids are hungry, whinging and fighting.
Having pointed out what I think is one of the draw-backs of a trailer, I'm not writing them off at all. In fact with a 4 year old and a baby and a dog, a trailer is something I'm seriously considering!
FollowupID: 414377

Follow Up By: Member - Roachie (SA) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 16:39

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 16:39
Foe me it would be option (a)..........I'm no hero....if there are 2 ways of doing something or going somewhere, I'll pick the easy way every time.

So, you ask, why did you buy a 4x4 if you're gunna take the easy way?

Answer, cos there are places where both the easy way and the hard way require a 4x4, that's why!! I have ended up in places where I've thought "$hit, what the hell am I doing here???" That's the time to have a smoko (I don't smoke), think about the options and approach the issue rationally. If that means reversing down a steep hill cos you can't get any further up, then so be it.......do it VERY SLOWLY and be prepared to stop and reassess as often as necessary.

It is sooooooo difficult to talk about these sorts of issues on a forum like this cos there will always be different sets of circumstances that each situation throws up.


FollowupID: 414379

Follow Up By: Member - Bware (Tweed Valley) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 16:57

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 16:57
Totally agree with option (a), and I didn't mean that if you own a 4wd you should charge off into any track you come across. As you stated it's always about the cicumstances. In our case we thought the short cut would get us to where we were going with the bonus of some great scenery, birdlife etc (which it was) but we ended up back-tracking and getting to where we were going in the middle of the night and that was without a trailer! Hopefully if we do get a trailer I will be wise enough to take option (a) in a similar situation :-)
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Reply By: The Rambler( W.A.) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 16:23

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 16:23
Your question is probably why I don't tow anything, as I have seen people with awfull problems towing trailers on the Creb Trek and on the track into Walcott inlet.The day may come when I will get an offroad camper but I think if you can be comfortable camping in a tent it saves a lot of hastle and fuel.It also is a lot easier to explore those unmapped tracks that go whereever.
AnswerID: 159740

Reply By: Trekkie (Member - WA) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 16:32

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 16:32
The starting point is with the trailer - Most well made Camper Trailers have a good distance betwen the tow bar and the axle - this allows for easier reversing (couple of months ago I got several trailer loads of sand for the garden - do you think I could reverse the trailer, but I never have any trouble with the Camper)

The other more important issue is to keep a good line on the way up the hill or sand dune. If you change your line and the trailer ends up at an angle to the vehicle thats when you will have trouble. I have always found that when I feel I am in trouble to just let the vehicle slow to a stop in as straight a line as possible - Never any problems to reverse out then.
AnswerID: 159743

Reply By: Member - Norm C (QLD) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 17:08

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 17:08
Some good points made already. Certainly the long drawer bar is very helpful.

Snatching out a 4B and trailer from the rear is not as easy as it might seem. Most of us can reverse our trailer pretty well, but doing it under power while being snatched is not easy, particularly if they are not is a perfectly straight line to start with.

I've found the best thing is to disconnect the trailer and get the vehicle free, then reassess. Not always possible of course.

The best thing is not to get stuck in the first place (HA HA). Consider the trailer and potential recovery routes before taking on a difficult section.

We also try to manage our load based on conditions. When fully loaded, we have 200 lt water and 80 lt diesel on the CT (diesel on drawer bar). As far as possible I try to time my water and diesel fills so that we are not fully loaded for the most difficult sections. Again, not always possible.

The theory (offered by many CT builders), that the CT will go anywhere the vehicle will is a bit misleading. Of course, if the vehicle gets through, the trailer will follow. But the trailer might prevent the vehicle from getting through in the first place.

No matter how well set up the trailer is, it does restrict movement to some extent.

Despite all this, we are happy to take the trailer to most places. This year it will do Bore Track, Walkers Crossing Track, Mitchell Falls, Kalumburu, Cape Leveque, etc etc. But when we venture into the Simpson, it will stay at Birdsville. I don't fancy reversing down Big Red with the trailer on.
AnswerID: 159747

Follow Up By: Member - Matt M (ACT) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 21:55

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 21:55
"The theory (offered by many CT builders), that the CT will go anywhere the vehicle will is a bit misleading."

Nice to see someone recognise this point. I own a KK and, of course, it is one of their major selling points. But as you said Norm, somewhat misleading as a line to offer potential buyers as it does affect your vehicle's ability to get through in the first place.


FollowupID: 414462

Follow Up By: Trekkie (Member - WA) - Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 03:04

Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 03:04
Norm, my 4WD mate and myself each took our Kimberley Kampers accross the Simpson 2 years ago - in places it was tough going. We did part of the WAA line and part on the Rig road - took our time and only had to reverse up on 2 dunes. You dont have to go over Big Red. There is another smaller dune you can get over. Would not hesitate to do it again.
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Reply By: dags666 - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 17:51

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 17:51
Hi grumpy I do a lot of beach driving and just bought a camper trailer. I find the trailer treat like the car let the tyre pressure down on the trailer the same as the car normally I let them down between 25 to 18 depends on load and conditions. that comes with experience but if you do get stuck un hook the trailer get the car out if need be let a bit more out of the tyres trust me 2 pound could make all the difference. Throw your snatch around the tow ball and pull it out exactly as if you are pulling out a car just remember when you slow down the ball will tend to dig in. I all so got 2 tow points put on the back of my trailer so I can also tow it backwards. Ps make sure the jockey wheel is up and the handle secure or you will tear it off. Dags
AnswerID: 159751

Reply By: Willem - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 20:47

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 20:47

I have gone the trailer way as well after many years of doing without one. If I travel with company I am most usually leading the trip. My worry is also what to do when confronted with a difficult situation.

Last year I went down a track to a beach(without a trailer) somewhere near Esperance and found rocks I could not get over and had to do a 10 point turn to get out as my vision was blocked by the stuff in the back of the truck.

This year I am going on a number of serious Offroad treks and it remains to be seen how the trailer will handle the situations as there are usually many times when one has to Back-up!!!

AnswerID: 159801

Reply By: GUPatrol - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 21:11

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 21:11

There is a big difference driving/towing up a sand dune and reversing if you can't make it than towing up a steep rocky track in the high country...
Reversing with a trailer in sand is pretty much straight forward, in the high country not so...
THis is a real case, a friend of mine was towing his camper behind me (the reason why he took his camper was because there were three other vehicles in the convoy... Coming up a steep hill, lost traction (not a matter of power) but traction, no problem reverse and try again, didn't make it, this time however reversing didn't work, trailer went sideways and jacknifed, but because the trailer was pulling on the car (electric brakes don't work backwards) the car would not stop and continued to jacknife to the point of getting dangerous.
It did stop but any attempt to move it would have it on a worse more precaurious position, in this case if he was on his own, a hand winch or anything would have been a wast of time, he couldn't even get out of the car!!!!
In the end, we pulled him up by the vehicle in front.
Long draw bars: Yes as previous comments, OK to reverse... try them in the high country on a tight turn.... the amount of terrain they need to turn makes them very hard to use in tight tracks....
Another situation, all OK but rained overnight, trying to come back even the easy way, going down hill for those with trailers was almost impossible, those with override brakes (cannot be controlled) and lockup due to the weight of the trailer pushing on the car, those with electric brakes had similar problems, they tried no brakes and it was slightly better but then the car got pushed too hard...
We ended up hooking up a snatch strap behind the trailer to keep it straight....

These are not extreme treks, normal tracks good quality off road campers and good vehicles and experienced drivers.

I don't discard trailers but everyone who owns one should ask themselves the very same question you asked in this forum and should do some training before heading off...
With company (in a convoy) they are OK, every situation can be resolved but on your own, you can quickly get into trouble.
AnswerID: 159806

Follow Up By: V8 Troopie - Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 01:25

Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 01:25
GUPatrol, you make a point about electric trailer brakes not working in reverse.
When I had the electric drum brakes of my trailer apart I moved the magnet in both directions just to see what would happen. The brake shoes opened in both cases.
Later, with the brakes reassembled and the wheel back on I jacked it up, spun it hard in reverse and applied the runaway brake activator. The brake locked up
So, the electric brakes I have DO work in reverse. I know, the brake plate comes comes in a left and right version so perhaps they are designed to work better one way though I have a suspicion that it is just the hand brake cable attachment that determines on which side the brake plate goes.
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Reply By: Member - Matt M (ACT) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 22:03

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 22:03
Got to say that I am enjoying reading the thoughts put forward in this thread as a CT owner.

I often think about recovering the trailer if need and wonder whether the jockey wheel, or more specifically the support, would stand being dragged out of mud or rocks when it is digging in under load. Particularly on the likes of the KK which is notorious for its high ball weight. I have wondered whether some kind of skid plate attached underneath the front of the draw bar would be a useful addition. This way (in extreme situations) you could disconnect and drag the trailer forward without damage to the jockey wheel. Any thoughts?

The other point that I have found useful is to understand the value of a recce. We have sometimes disconnected the trailer and I leave the family to have a cuppa and leg stretch while I have driven on ahead to check the 'pucker factor'

An ounce of prevention, I guess.

AnswerID: 159813

Follow Up By: Trekkie (Member - WA) - Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 03:15

Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 03:15
Matt, I think you are spot on with the idea of a skid plate. Couple of years ago when trying to get off the beach near Esperence needed to disconnect the CT and winch the trailer up. The hitch was like a plough. We found a piece of old corrigated iron and that solved the problem. Should put my mind to it and design a skid place to fit under the hitch.
FollowupID: 414493

Follow Up By: johnsy1 - Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 08:10

Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 08:10
Matt my solution was to bend a old small bbq plate in half and bend the nose up then weld a tow ball (heavy gussets) about 2/3 the wayback and two large nuts to take your d shackle underneath right on the bend for the nose. This doovey has been used as a sand anchor .trailer skid and hi.lift jack base all on one trip so if you have the space some thing to live on the a-frame. As a thought a plow disk would be also work and cut out the bending for those without a press.
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Follow Up By: Russel & Mary - Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 08:31

Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 08:31
Hi all, if you're carrying a shovel, you can place this under the jockey wheel and lash it to the a-frame to act as a skid. Rus.
FollowupID: 414506

Reply By: gen3rules - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 22:51

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 22:51
buy an enduro bike and if you are not sure go for a quick spin and see if it is possible. If not find another way then load the bike back on and continue on.
AnswerID: 159819

Reply By: Member - Duncs - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 23:30

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 23:30
Ok I've been stuck 3 times with my trailer on. And I mean stuck.

Once my mate winched me out backwards no problem, all done in about 5 min.

Second time, level ground looked firm but it was sloppy mud and I sank like a stone. As she sank I realised I had left the recovery gear at home, oops. I was on my own.

I managed to back up about 150mm and un hook the trailer. I then rocked the car back and forth for some time not really getting anywhere. Eventually I stopped the car as far back as it would go in the hole and filled in fromt of the wheels with some railway ballast that was near by and the car drove out. I then recovered the trailer, the jockey wheel was not on. I then sat the kids on the back of the trailer while I fitted the jockey wheel and re attached it to the car. All up about 3.5hours. Lots of fun.

Third time I was in the Vic Hich Country and simply lost traction on a wet slippery track that got too steep. Trying to back down the trailer jacknifed. First I chocked the wheels on the car. I jacked the trailer on the high lift and pushed it off a number of times to get the trailer in line I then continued to back down the hill and had another crack, slightly differnent line and a bit more momentum saw me comfortably to the top. About 15 mins.

The next day I was asking about directions to get from A to B via some pretty steep tracks and the Policeman I was talking to said what will you do if you get stuck? This applies whether or not you have a trailer on, and I think Roachie alluded to it. Stop, boil the billy and have a think. Work out a sensible strategy for getting out of trouble and then do it. Each situation is different, the most valuable piece of recovery gear you can own is a level head.

AnswerID: 159826

Reply By: Member - Doug T (QLD) - Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 23:55

Friday, Mar 10, 2006 at 23:55
Hello Grumpy
Thats a brilliant question cos i got a brilliant answer, been there done that, Towed an O'Brian Off road trailer across the Simpson via Rig Road 1997 and found that when i had to reverse back down a dune the trailer followed the wheel ruts and kept straight ,If you go to the O'Brien's web site http://www.obrienstrailers.com.au/ and click the button for trailers then the Explorer model you will see my old white Rocky and Trailer taken in the Simpson .
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AnswerID: 159836

Reply By: Mayso - Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 01:17

Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 01:17
Hi there,
this worried me too when i got mine.
Mine has a 6' draw bar and that helps, and a large fold up jockey wheel.
ive had no real probs towing with my 60 (which has dual lockers). You can snatch out of a bog hole no prob with a big jockey wheel. Fit recovery points to the rear of the trailer.
As said b4, don't atempt anything you are uncomfortable with.
I wouldn't go for a week+ trip without my trailer now.
AnswerID: 159847

Reply By: rash1 - Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 15:36

Saturday, Mar 11, 2006 at 15:36
We replaced the jockey wheel with a spare wheel same as trailer mounted on stubb axle with full bearings.
2 advantages.......spare set of bearings and able to tow trailer unhitched
AnswerID: 159936

Follow Up By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Monday, Mar 13, 2006 at 14:58

Monday, Mar 13, 2006 at 14:58
G'day Rash,

How did you do that? Any pictures? Main question is, did you attache the stub axle to the trailer or the jockey wheel?

Kind regards
FollowupID: 414915

Follow Up By: rash1 - Monday, Mar 13, 2006 at 22:02

Monday, Mar 13, 2006 at 22:02
Hi Beatit......wev'e actually got this on our boat trailer
The stub axle is attached to the trailerso that when the trailer is of the vehicle the wheel is on the ground
If you have a trailer that is to heavy to lift you would need to leave to still have a jockey wheel
Sorry no pics

FollowupID: 415060

Follow Up By: Member - Norm C (QLD) - Monday, Mar 13, 2006 at 22:14

Monday, Mar 13, 2006 at 22:14
Interesting thought. I'm trying to picture it. The front wheel is clearly not stearable I assume. Mounting the wheel so it is in line with the trailer wheels and not on an angle parrallel with the draw bar seems an issue. Unless the wheel is mounted between the drawer bar rails???

On a boat trailer with a single bar over the last metre or so to the coupling is would be pretty simple.

Comments rash1.
FollowupID: 415065

Follow Up By: rash1 - Tuesday, Mar 14, 2006 at 21:42

Tuesday, Mar 14, 2006 at 21:42
Hi norm
Yes i can see with the A frame you would need to mount the wheel between the rails.......and yes ours is not stearable

FollowupID: 415316

Follow Up By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Wednesday, Mar 15, 2006 at 09:05

Wednesday, Mar 15, 2006 at 09:05
Hi Guys,

Been thinking (bit of a worry so don't tell the bride) something could be made to do this job. A skid is OK and that may well be where I end up but as I said been thinking that a simple rig could be made. A bit hard to describe but if you got a bar that had a hub say half way (so that you can attach the spare when needed), a towball close to the trailer end (to take the trailer hitch) but the trailer end also needs to be attached to the trailer (to stop it from sinking in the middle) so a a vertical "T" piece at the end of this bar that sits between the "A" frame would take care of that. In front of the towball it need to hinge to give pulling direction (been thinking about how to make this as well) and the car end would just accomodate a rated shackle to attach ropes or cable.

The result is not much unlike the effect on a boat trailer except it is hinged. The device needs to be only as long as it needs to accomodate a wheel in front so it is not much more to carry as the spare is already allowed for and it is large so will hace a good footprint.

Will let you know if this project makes it past the planning phase.

Kind regards
FollowupID: 415407

Reply By: Grumpy in WA - Monday, Mar 13, 2006 at 12:22

Monday, Mar 13, 2006 at 12:22
Thanks everyone for taking the time to reply, lots of good advice here. No closer to a decision but at least now I feel a little more informed that I did before.
AnswerID: 160213

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