Trailer Surging

May 31, 2002
Filed under Trailer How To

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Q. My wife and I recently purchased a fifth-wheel trailer and had a very uncomfortable ride as we traveled. We felt as if we were constantly being pushed and pulled by the trailer. We originally described the feeling as surging, but it may have been more of a porpoise like action with the tow vehicle and the trailer. The cabinet drawers in the rear kitchen came open several times, and one drawer completely disengaged from the cabinet. The stovetop became detached from the stove. After three days of driving, we were totally exhausted. Our tow vehicle is a 2000 GMC 3/4-ton extended-cab, light-duty shortbed pickup. It’s a 6.0-liter V-8 with automatic transmission, trailer package, locking rear differential, 3.73 rear axle and heavy-duty suspension package; it’s tow rated at 9,200 pounds. Tire pressure: 55 psi (front) and 60 psi (rear).

The trailer is a 2001 Glendale 25MGT. Dry weight is 7,100 pounds; gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) is 9,160 pounds. It has twin axles with shocks and 70 psi in all four tires. The only added weight was approximately 40 gallons of water, and 70 pounds of personal items in the front bedroom of the trailer. The hitch is a 16K Reese Kwik Slide. If you have any idea as to the cause of this very uncomfortable ride, and what we can do to correct this situation, we would be very thankful.

– R. & N. B., Arlington, Texas

A. Unfortunately, that fore-and-aft surging you felt is quite common with trucks towing fifth-wheel trailers. The feeling is worse on some roads than others, but even a slight bump on a smooth highway can produce a bit of the effect. Depending on the truck wheelbase, trailer length, distance to the trailer axles from the truck axles and so on, the push-pull effect can be very different for different vehicles over the same stretch of road. In some cases, if all your equipment is in good shape and properly set up, there’s nothing you can do but grin and bear it.

Fortunately, we can make a couple of suggestions for your lashup. Installing good-quality shock absorbers may help the damage problem with the drawers falling open as you travel. The shocks reduce the bounce, which helps reduce the drawer sliding. You might consider installing an aftermarket suspension system. MOR/ryde — (574) 293-1581, www.morryde.com — manufactures three different replacement suspension systems for trailers. We’ve tested all three, and they all deliver an improved, smoother ride for trailers. Finally, installing an air-ride trailer pin box may also help reduce the shock effect. Contact Trailair — (800) 998-4238, www.trailair.com — or check out the Trailair article in the Trailer Life, June 2002 issue. While there ‘s nothing you can do to completely eliminate ever feeling that push-pull surging effect, some aftermarket items can at least ease the problem. .

– J.J.


Jeff Johnston, TL technical director, started RVing at age 6. During his more than 20 years as a writer/photographer, he has worked for Truckin’ and Four Wheeler magazines before joining TL’s technical staff in 1985. Johnston also has produced an award-winning travel video and TV commercials.

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