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Author Topic: Beware a very serious Dingy Towing Danger  (Read 2067 times)
Dick & Trish
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« on: September 12, 2010, 10:10:13 pm »

Check how difficult it is to turn your steering wheel on your tow vehicle when you have it set to the towing position.  I always noted that our 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee steering wheel was extremely difficult to turn without the engine running.  My suspisions were confirmed when the mounting bracket litterally tore the frame off the Jeep.  Luckily we had just exited I75 in  north Chattanoga when our Jeep rammed the back of our coach.  Damage to the Jeep was extensive (broken radiator, windsheild washer bottle, and a ripped off front bumper); however the rear of our coach was saved with only minor fiberglass damage by the VIP Tow Brake system that instantly engaged the Jeep brakes when electric wires were severed.

I have since watched Jeep Grand Cherokees being towed around corners.  The steering wheels may start to follow the coach on hard pavement, but untimately they seemed to be dragged around the corner.  Multiply this by the rear swing action of the coach going down the highway and think of bending and breaking a piece of wire. 

I have religiously checked my rig at fuel and rest stops but I never dreamed of having a mounting bracket failure litterly rip the frame apart.  However, it is scary thinking of how many possible accidents are going down the road.   Thank goodness our accident happened off of I75 and only involved our own personal vehicles and we didn't hurt or kill any one.

Please check your tow vehicle as to how hard it is to turn the steering wheel when you are in the tow position and also have your mounting area regulary inspected for stress cracks or other damage.
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ron.dittmer
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« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2010, 08:46:43 am »

Dick,

Thanks for sharing.

When you say "Ripped" off the frame, what exactly failed?  Mounting bolts?  Towbar brackets? Frame of Cherokee?  One side or both sides?  What brand of tow bar and bracket do you have?  Requesting many details, and any pictures if you have them.

We tow a 2006 Jeep Liberty.  I will pay very close attention to this.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2010, 11:15:20 am by ron.dittmer » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2010, 03:46:19 pm »

Hi Dick,

Thanks for the warning and sharing your experience.  I agree with Ron, please provide more details and pictures.  What failed, the bracket, car frame, bolts, welds?

I tow a Jeep Wrangler and am very interested.

Thanks, Bob
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« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2010, 03:59:26 pm »

Dick, As I said before, I'm so glad you guys are safe!  Thanks so much for sharing. I've been checking back every week or so to see if you'd posted your warning yet. I think it's a very important bit of information to share for an owner of any brand of RV. 
 Cheers
Cheers!


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« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2010, 08:51:31 am »

Not to make light of a potentially serious issue but keep in mind that all vehicles with power steering are very difficult to steer when the engine is not running. This does not necessarily mean the wheels won't track properly when under tow. Generally speaking, it's the towed vehicles "Caster" that causes the wheels to follow the arc of turn. The same thing that causes a vehicle's tendency to straighten when the steering wheel is released while moving ahead and to dramatically turn to an extreme when backing. Just like the front wheels of a shopping cart at your local Wal-Mart.

Example:
The steering wheel of our Edge is all but impossible to turn unless the engine is running. However, I've towed it almost 20,000 miles with no issues whatsoever.

Regardless, all members of a tow-bar, hitch, frame and frame mounting hardware must be periodically checked to insure safety.
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« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2010, 10:36:06 am »

i bet if you guys would get your tow car rolling it would be fairly easy to turn over trying to turn it setting still.
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« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2010, 09:24:33 pm »

Dick, I am sorry for your troubles.  I own an insurance agency and as I say every day, property is either repairable or replaceable.  Insurance will take care of the meaningless metal.....Insurance however can not fix people and I am glad you survived unscathed.

By the way, I was just on the phone with my good friend who is a service manager and also the owner of  our local Jeep dealership.  I too tow a 05 Jeep Liberty.  I voiced my concerns regarding the above.  He told me they have had some instances in older vehicles where the key tumbler in the ignition has worn over time.  When towing, one is supposed to turn the key to the first click. If the tumbler is worn and does not click or stay clicked, then when you are towing the key can and will fall back to the locked position. The wheels will then have limited motion or lock.  When this happens you are in big doo doo.... The tumbler in an ignition switch can and will wear over time and should be checked regularly. This is only a concern to us who need to have our wheels roll freely as opposed to regular drivers who blow by the first click and start the engine and never need that key position to work.

He did also say that after every 1000 miles I should check all my connections including the frame mounts....

Have a great day y'all.
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« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2010, 08:53:12 am »

I agree with both Igall & mciai2000 -

Ignition "tumblers" can become worn and sensitive over time.  As opposed to a single key being used in the switch at all times, a lot of keys, fobs and doo-dads hanging from the ignition switch over time can induce a lot of wear to the switch, creating faults and failures.  Obviously, assuring that the column is unlocked is necessary, too.

While yes, without the power steering pump working, a power-steered vehicle's wheel is hard to turn, it shouldn't make too much difference in a dynamic, or forward-moving steering change.  With power steering, you're relying on the pump's power to alleviate the additional load that a modern car's more severe or "qucker" steering ratio provides.

Those of us who learned to drive a "stick" and/or had a manual transmissions on older or smaller import cars know that ANY forward motion, no matter how slight, reduced steering effort by something along a factor of 10x.

I cringe when I see newbie drivers crank their wheels without any forward motion these days.  While the pump makes it possible for you to do so, all that happens is that that you're now forcing that wear and load on the front end components instead of your shoulders and biceps.
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« Reply #8 on: September 15, 2010, 09:12:53 am »

Assuming that all is well with your ignition lock, to otherwise assure your toad's steering complies with your directional inputs, I would have to imagine you must think of your toad as a sailboat.

With a sailboat, the only means by which you have any directional control is by assuring you have adequate forward motion.  Absent any forward motion, you have no control by means of force vectored either against your keel and/or rudder - or in this case, your tires and steering components.  That's why even in a storm, a wise sailor maintains forward power or motion either through a reefed mainsail or having the "iron sail" running with some measure of forward thrust or motion applied.

The Chattanooga area is quite hilly, so lots of decelleration, and perhaps coupled with the tight turns necessary on many of those exits, perhaps your Cherokee was denied enough forward travel to assume proper steering control, absent a fault in the column interlock?
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« Reply #9 on: September 15, 2010, 09:18:15 am »

I'm just a wannabe at this point.  However, the situation you present is indeed, quite serious and expensive - but perfectly illustrates the situations I'll be faced with in what I hope will not be in the too-distant future!  I'm doing my best to learn from y'all in your real-world situations.  The lessons I can learn the "easy way" are preferrable to those learned the hard way.
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ron.dittmer
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« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2010, 11:56:30 am »

I "Get It" concerning the steering wheel lock warning.  I know to make darn sure the key is in the "Exact" position.  Our 2006 Jeep Liberty has only 34,000 miles on it so things are still relatively new, but with age, I could see potential for trouble.  Maybe if we spray WD40 in the ignition switch and work the tumblers around to assure the key stays put.

A related note:  The key we use for towing is a "Dumb" key we had cut at a Walmart.  It cannot start the vehicle, only unlock the steering wheel.  We figured it to be a theft deterrent.  Any determined thief can figure a way to unhook the tow vehicle, but at least he won't be able to start the car and drive off.  We also use heavy duty locks key'd alike, instead of those rings/pins and chain connectors.
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« Reply #11 on: September 15, 2010, 01:49:23 pm »

Wow - great tip, Ron!

While familiar with "valet keys" (which can start a car), didn't know there WAS such a thing as a "dummy key"!  How did you find out such a key could be fabricated?

Is that something buried in the esoterica of your Liberty's Owner's Manual, or did you or your key grinder just know how to do it?

I always wondered what you'd do when you'll wander into a service station or diner if you couldn't keep an eye on your rig.
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ron.dittmer
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« Reply #12 on: September 15, 2010, 11:59:35 pm »

I simply walked over to Walmart's key making guy and said.....Please cut me a key from this one.  He said he can, but it won't start the car.  I said, that is very good, please proceed.  After his perplexed look followed by my explanation for it's purpose, he made me a key.

I had "Dummy" keys for both tow vehicles over the years, our 2006 Jeep Liberty today, and our old tow, a 2000 Toyota MR2 Spyder.
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Dick & Trish
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« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2010, 07:50:17 pm »

I used, and still believe in, Blue Ox products.  The frame was litterally ripped off the Jeep.  It was where the mounting bracket attached and it looked to be about 4" across and 4" to 5" long on both sides of the frame.  I can't begin to tell you how shocked I was at the failure as I have dealt in Heavy & Highway machiner all of my adult life and I am used to seeing mechanical failures. 

I once again urge all of you towing 'any' vehicle to inspect how difficult it is to turn your steering wheel when your vehicle is in the 'ready to tow mode'.  I don't necessarily believe the problem is only associated with the Jeep Grand Cherokee. 

I would also recommend that whenever your vehicle is on a lift to change the oil, etc. that you have a mechanic inspect the attaching area for any metal fatique.

It was only through my stict belief in preventive maintenence that I found a cracked frame on my 96 Beaver Monterey last year.
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Dick & Trish
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« Reply #14 on: September 16, 2010, 08:03:13 pm »

I apoligize to all of you who responded to my initial comments regarding our dingy break away situation.

It has been quite busy around our family the past few weeks.  I just now figured out how to respond so hopefully I'll get with the program and treat all of you to more timely information.

My wife and I just picked up our new 3100 at Phoenix Cruiser yesterday and we are in Michigan tonight to have the VIP Tow Brake system installed on our 2006 stick shift Toyota Corolla.

We are very excited about our new RV and have only praise for the folks at PC.  They all did a great job to make our purchasing decision a pleasant one.  We looked at several brands and models of RV's over the past couple of years and we feel comfortable that we made the right decision to go with PC.

Dick
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