Concours Owners Group (COG) Forum

Motorcycle Talk => Motorcycle Safety => Topic started by: Patrick on August 02, 2015, 09:31:49 pm

Title: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Patrick on August 02, 2015, 09:31:49 pm
I recently purchased a 2000 Lees-ure Lite Excel trailer from another COGger.  When I took it on a maiden voyage behind my '05 C10, it started fishtailing at about 50 mph.  The trailer is rated at 255#, but I don't know if that includes the mattress and awning, so let's say it is under 300#.  I tried moving the load around to change the tongue weight.  Using my 50# fish scale, I varied the tongue weight from 53#, to 42#, to 23# to 20#.  It would still fishtail between 50 and 60 mph.  I tried changing the tire pressure on the trailer from 35# to 25# and then to 20#.  No change.  Then I rotated the tires on the trailer.  Still nothing.  I could hear the left wheel hum a little when I spun it in a quiet corner of the garage, so I pulled the hubs and found the inner bearing on the left side was bad.  I cleaned most of the rust off the spindle and put in new wheel bearings, races and seals on both wheels.  Still fishtails somewhere between 50 and 60 mph. The tongue length is 1.5 x the distance between the wheels.  When hooked to the bike, the front of the trailer is less than 1" higher than the rear of the trailer.  The hitch on the bike is higher than the rear axle on the bike.  I am running a stock Dunlop on the back (about to change to a Bridgestone BT45) with 40# of tire pressure.  Rear shock is also set at 40#.  Any suggestions are greatly appreciated...
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Ranger Jim on August 02, 2015, 09:59:16 pm
I have a Lee-sure Lite Excel that I sometimes pull behind my 2000 C10. For the record, the Lee-sure Lite Excel is right at the limit for towing with a Concours  as it is easily approaching 50% of the tow vehicle's weight. Doesn't mean you can't pull it safely but you'd better be paying attention the whole time (particularly when stopping or slowing for a curve).

Some suggestions:

1.  Your tongue weight should be in the 20-25 pound range. Heavier takes too much weight off your front tire.
2.  Be sure you don't have the trailer loaded heavier on one side than the other (balance your load).
3.  If it has trailer brakes be sure (absolutely sure) that one side isn't dragging. If it doesn't have brakes, be sure that both wheels spin equally freely.
4.  Check the balance on both the trailer tires. Also confirm the air pressure is the same in both tires.
5.  Check your motorcycle's tire pressures. When towing I run about 40 lbs in the front and 44 in the rear.
6.  Check your motorcycle's steering head bearing tension.
7.  Stiffen your motorcycle's rear suspension settings.

These suggestions MAY help. Try to pay close attention to what happens just before the trailer starts to wag.

Good luck and let us know how it's going.



Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: ChipDoc on August 02, 2015, 10:43:04 pm
Good suggestions, Jim.  I was thinking it might be the tongue weight being a little light (about 25lbs should be right) or possibly the hitch is not quite centered in relation to the motorcycle frame.
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: 2linby on August 03, 2015, 04:50:44 am
I have a Lee-sure Lite Excel that I sometimes pull behind my 2000 C10. For the record, the Lee-sure Lite Excel is right at the limit for towing with a Concours  as it is easily approaching 50% of the tow vehicle's weight. Doesn't mean you can't pull it safely but you'd better be paying attention the whole time (particularly when stopping or slowing for a curve).

Some suggestions:

1.  Your tongue weight should be in the 20-25 pound range. Heavier takes too much weight off your front tire.
2.  Be sure you don't have the trailer loaded heavier on one side than the other (balance your load).
3.  If it has trailer brakes be sure (absolutely sure) that one side isn't dragging. If it doesn't have brakes, be sure that both wheels spin equally freely.
4.  Check the balance on both the trailer tires. Also confirm the air pressure is the same in both tires.
5.  Check your motorcycle's tire pressures. When towing I run about 40 lbs in the front and 44 in the rear.
6.  Check your motorcycle's steering head bearing tension.
7.  Stiffen your motorcycle's rear suspension settings.

These suggestions MAY help. Try to pay close attention to what happens just before the trailer starts to wag.

Good luck and let us know how it's going.

#1   I've towed plenty miles with my Connie and all the above will help.  Also make sure your saddle bags loads are equal in weight.
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Flat-spot on August 03, 2015, 06:25:01 am
Many years ago I had the same problem with a full size (but rather short at 16') camper behind my 3/4 ton Suburban.  It was finally solved when a very experienced employee at the camper dealership helped me lower my hitch.  Had to buy a new adjustable one.  He noticed that the front of the camper was higher than the rear and told me it should be slightly lower or at least level, but never higher.  It worked.  It never wagged again.  This may or may not apply on your much smaller scale.  Good luck.
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Patrick on August 03, 2015, 02:37:11 pm
Thanks for the suggestions, guys.  I will give them a try. 
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Dave Scott on August 03, 2015, 05:24:35 pm
I don't tow trailers with the bike, so take this with a grain of salt.  is it possible that the wheels on the trailer are not aligned?
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Thud300 on August 03, 2015, 11:13:19 pm
My thought exactly... shouldnt be too hard to check the alignment. Sounds like the thrust angle created by the two wheels isn't centered on the tongue.

Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Patrick on August 09, 2015, 04:18:35 am
Thanks again for all the tips.  I made significant progress today by following many of your suggestions. 
I emptied the trailer to get the tongue weight down to about 27 lbs.  I emptied my saddlebags to make sure the weight on the bike was evenly distributed.  Steering head bearing seems snug but not too snug.  I set my bike tire pressure to 40 lbs front and 44 lbs rear, and set the trailer tires to 20 lbs each.  Rear shock is up to 50 lbs and dampener set all the way out at 4.  I don't think there is much I can do about the trailer alignment, because the torsion bars are welded on and aren't adjustable from what I've read. 
I took it out for a test ride and it held fine at 65 mph.  I went back home and had the wife follow me in the truck with a bunch of camping gear, stopping every few miles to add a little more weight.  Added an empty cooler on the tongue, and we went along at 70 mph.  Filled the saddlebags with sleeping bags and pads.  Still smooth sailing.  Filled the cooler with simulated ice and beer (a pair of tire chains that were handy).  No issues.  I only went 30 or 40 miles in total down the slab, but it was a promising start.  Tomorrow I will load it up for a camping weekend and take it out again.  I remain cautiously optimistic, and hope it will be ready to take to Ride the Ribbon next month!
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: ChipDoc on August 09, 2015, 10:34:41 am
I emptied the trailer to get the tongue weight down to about 27 lbs. 

Added an empty cooler on the tongue, and we went along at 70 mph. 

Filled the cooler with simulated ice and beer (a pair of tire chains that were handy).  No issues. 
I'm really glad you had no issues, but if the dead-empty tongue weight is 27 lbs AND you're carrying a full cooler between the trailer and the motorcycle, you've definitely got too much tongue weight.  Those tongues are almost all adjustable; try lengthening yours a bit.  It doesn't take much.  Alternatively, put a significant load behind the trailer's axle, which will also reduce the tongue weight.
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Camper Dave on August 09, 2015, 11:08:20 am
Yep, with a trailer it's all a balancing act.
I remember once attempting to stop rather quickly. It took all the weight off the back tire, which locked up with ease. But it also shift the load inside the trailer. After the stop, I noticed quite a wiggle coming from the trailer. Had to stop and slide most of the heavier items to the back to get the balance right again.
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Flat-spot on August 09, 2015, 12:37:27 pm
In the early '90's I rode with a friend to a week-long shootin match in north Michigan.  He picked me up driving his Suzuki Samurai pulling a 4' x 8' x 2' box trailer he had just built.  He did a nice job on it.  We popped the lid and added my weeks worth of guns, ammo, and camping gear to his.  Pretty good load.  Couldn't go more than 55 because of fishtailing.  He thought he had screwed up building it.  When we got there he straddled the tongue and popped the hitch loose.  Good thing his other hand was on the tongue or it would have WHACKED his nards HARD. :-[ ::) ...... :D :rotflmao:  We loaded it to come home BEFORE we hitched it up.  65 mph dead straight all the way home.  :great:




Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: gPink on August 09, 2015, 02:06:52 pm
gonards?
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Flat-spot on August 09, 2015, 02:53:29 pm
 :D :truce:  Where'd that "r" come from?  :-[  I'm not even gonna fix it.
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Patrick on August 09, 2015, 04:08:56 pm
I know loading the cooler on the tongue isn't a good idea; I was just testing it. I won't even bring the cooler on the first few trips.  I'll just put a collapsible cooler in the back of the trailer and fill it at my destination.  Another problem is, there is very little storage space behind the trailer wheels without putting stuff on top, and I don't want to do that either.
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Ranger Jim on August 10, 2015, 11:37:00 am
From my experience with my Lee-Sure Lite Excel, the storage space inside the trailer is mostly over the axles or behind them. I find PLENTY of storage space for things like sleeping bags, cooking gear, etc. My unit also has an aluminum storage box (mounted behind the trailer's axle) that is the same length as the trailer's width (goes the entire width of the unit) that carries my camp chairs, awning (with poles), entry carpet (actually some indoor/outdoor carpet), tire changing tools (breaker bar with a socket) and the trailer jack handle (short length of rebar that's been ground down to fit in the holes on the trailer's jacks so I can level the unit). I made up a cooler carrier on the tongue but the cooler is transported virtually empty and I add the ice when I get to my destination.  The bike carries our clothes and minor odds and ends. I keep the tongue weight in the 20-25 lbs range and run 40 lbs of air in the trailer tires.

I find when pulling it with the C10 that you really have to be alert and extra cautious because sudden stops are NOT going to be easy. I give myself LOTS of reaction room and also am very selective about when/where I attempt to pass.  I also see a significant drop in fuel economy due to the aerodynamic drag.

Remember that the trailer will "understeer" (it will turn inside the bike's turning radius) at low speeds so be very aware of where the trailer is when you are pulling into or away from fuel pumps. Backing it up is also (ahem) interesting with a C10 (much easier with the Goldwing).
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Patrick on August 10, 2015, 01:37:21 pm
Thanks, Jim.  I don't have the storage box underneath, so by the time I get my awning, poles, a rollup table and entry mat inside, it's pretty full.  I'm going to try folding the mattress differently to see if I can get a little more space over the axle. 
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: ACISROC on August 10, 2015, 03:32:15 pm
 PhoenixRefugee,
                           On my trailer I added about 2 feet to the length of the tongue bar and that solved my problem.

 PhoenixRefugee is cool  :great: :great: :great:
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Canadian Steve on August 14, 2015, 08:10:31 pm
The tongue should be slightly lower than level WITH the weight in the trailer. Above level can result in sway in any bumper pull trailer
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Patrick on August 14, 2015, 10:01:46 pm
So if I extend the tongue at an upward angle, it should lower the front of the trailer and solve both the length and the angle issues?
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: ACISROC on August 14, 2015, 10:47:44 pm
 I myself would keep the trailer tongue as straight and square as possible. My ball hitch is already lower than the trailer level even when full.I extended the tongue by remounting it two feet forward of the original spot and I tied in new bracing of 1/4" aluminum 4" wide bar stock.
                           Granted I am no engineer, but angling up the tongue to meet the hitch, would serve no purpose but to lower ground clearance and angle up the taillights? Unless of course you added an angled 45 degree step up, if that is what you mean. ( I did not like school but loved metal shop  :beerchug:)
                                                                                                         Steve


Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Patrick on August 14, 2015, 10:51:16 pm
I think I read somewhere that the hitch ball should be higher than the rear axle on the bike, so lowering the hitch to match the trailer height could  just trade one issue for another, couldn't it?
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: ACISROC on August 14, 2015, 10:58:18 pm
  P.Ref,
 I just looked at my bike and my hitch is about 3" higher than my rear axle. My hitch is the ones built for C-10's that are V shaped and detach at the top of the V on both sides. Like they use for unigo trailers. It is built by DMC sidecars. :motonoises:

 I have built my own trailer from a harbour freight and to lower the trailer I attached the axle on top of the springs rather than below them with the U bolts provided.

 In answer, I would say yes ;D
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: MAN OF BLUES on August 15, 2015, 04:23:27 pm
I guess I lucked out with my hitch trailer combo, it has tracked true from day one.
I think a lot has to do with the actual load over the axle, vs trying to "balance" the load for and aft to get tongue weight correct. (#25 max,#20 ideal)
if you start putting heavy stuff behind the axle, to try to balance the mass of the trailer, it will affect by a "pogo stick" effect, as when the tongue raises, the mass behind the axle is accentuated, and vice versa...  you can see his effect when you have like #20 tongue weight when level, then raise the toungue a foot, and my oh my, you gotta press down to balance it down to level again... at least in my findings, you really need that weight right over the axle, so when lifting or lowering the tongue height, you don't see a big weight swing... easiest way to accommodate that is to lengthen the pull tube.
my trailer sits perfectly level when being pulled, and you can see the height of the ball relative to my rear axle.
we've pulled this thousands of miles now, one up and two up, and carried a load well into #200 range, plus the trailer weight of another almost #200.
tires are rated for 60 psi, I run them at 50 psi.and lube the hubs before each trip. I have to look back continually to see if its still there, because I can't feel anything different about the ride... :great:
(http://i1327.photobucket.com/albums/u672/MAN_OF_BLUES/old%201/COG%20TECHNICAL%20PHOTOS/H-F%20TRAILER/076_zps50ec6d0e.jpg) (http://s1327.photobucket.com/user/MAN_OF_BLUES/media/old%201/COG%20TECHNICAL%20PHOTOS/H-F%20TRAILER/076_zps50ec6d0e.jpg.html)

I know you don't want to load stuff on top of the trailer, but my thought is, if its heavy stuff, it simply must be directly above the axle..
another thing may be that torsion bar setup... I have robust leaf springs, and weight tranfer does not effect load location side to side, maybe add some air bags to the suspension to stiffen it up?
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Flat-spot on August 15, 2015, 06:44:05 pm
^^^ M.O.B. just reminded me of something.  Trailers I've pulled (full size behind truck) have all carried 50 psi tire pressure, as does M.O.B.'s little trailer.
I went back to top of thread and noticed yours is much less.  Try 50 psi, see what happens.
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: ACISROC on August 15, 2015, 07:11:50 pm
^^^ M.O.B. just reminded me of something.  Trailers I've pulled (full size behind truck) have all carried 50 psi tire pressure, as does M.O.B.'s little trailer.
I went back to top of thread and noticed yours is much less.  Try 50 psi, see what happens.

 Mine tracks fine but I run mine at 25 lbs to get rid of the bounce.....

Flat-spot is cool  :great: :great: :great:
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: MAN OF BLUES on August 15, 2015, 07:13:00 pm
^^^ M.O.B. just reminded me of something.  Trailers I've pulled (full size behind truck) have all carried 50 psi tire pressure, as does M.O.B.'s little trailer.
I went back to top of thread and noticed yours is much less.  Try 50 psi, see what happens.

yeah, I check the rating on the tires before maxing them out, but running them low is asking for heat issues.. I check the tires and wheel hubs temp by touching them at every stop for fuel, and have never felt them get hot at all....


oh, and FS can attest I don't hold back from stuffing that trailer, he watched me unload it at the Johnson City National.... :rotflmao: :rotflmao: :rotflmao:
Title: Re: Help! Can't stop trailer from fishtailing
Post by: Flat-spot on August 16, 2015, 01:00:34 am
^^^   :-\ :character0029: :a102: