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Ask Dave: Why does my trailer “snap, crackle and pop” on turns?

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club. Today he answers a question about a fifth wheel trailer that’s noisy during turns.

Dear Dave,
I just upgraded from a bumper pull to a Forest River Sabre 36BHQ 5th wheel. I’ve noticed a lot of popping and metal-to-metal sounds coming from the suspension on the trailer, but only during turning. It “pops and moans” whether they’re mild or sharp turns. Is there something I should be worried about? —Erik

Dear Erik,
Although this is very fun at breakfast time, it’s often very embarrassing at the campground! When a dual- or triple-axle trailer is making a tight turn, only one of the tires can “pivot” through the turn. The other one or two will get pulled sideways on the ground. This is known as “scrubbing.” It not only causes excess tread wear, but can even bend the wheel and drum to the point it looks like it will pop off.

The tighter the turn, the more the bend! I’ve witnessed tires actually come off the rim during a show setup when a forklift is used and turns them too tight! The popping and cracking you are hearing is coming from the metal components underneath being pulled laterally. The wheel and hub are rubbing against other metal such as the leaf springs, hangers and bolts, and anything that is bolted or welded to the axle or even the frame.

Most of the time you will hear dealers and owners claim this is normal and part of camping and typically it doesn’t cause much damage. However, there are a few things you can do to reduce the noise and damage.

I recently ran a company for 10 years that had three technicians covering the country pulling a 21’ trailer with dual axles at 8K GVWR. We experienced the camber and popping noises until we replaced the stock equalizer between the leaf springs with a Dexter EZ Lube with wet bolts. You can get them on Amazon here.

This did not reduce the twisting or camber of the wheel and rim, but greatly reduced the noise after we inspected and tightened everything else underneath. During the installation we noticed the springs had shifted and the clamps were loose as well as a few other components. Plus there was a crack in a weld at the axle.

One trailer still had a slight popping sound and we used a forklift and moved it back and forth and found the frame of the trailer was shifting. So we welded on some reinforcement and it was much better. The Dexter product also reduced the “chocking” back and forth we had before.

One other trailer had a popping noise coming from the hub and we found the lug nuts were not tightened to the proper torque. This is a no-no, as our units were DOT and that is part of the daily inspection.

Another option is the MORryde system I saw at the Hershey Show.

So I would recommend first inspecting all your undercarriage connections to make sure they are solid. Also verify the noise is not coming from your equalizing hitch. If it is, check to see what the OEM recommends for maintenance and lubrication. Then you might want to invest in a cushioned equalizer.

One last tip: Always straighten out your rig for the last couple of feet after the turn – either going forward or backing up.

Hopefully, we’ll get some comments from others on what they have done or used in this situation.

Read more from Dave here

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Eric
18 days ago

The first combination weight distribution/anti-sway hitch I got had instructions to not lubricate the point where the bars meet the “cams” (or whatever they are called). The groaning and grinding noises were terrible, and made a towing trip miserable. I’ve lubed that point with grease ever since, and the sway control is still just fine.

Wolfe
25 days ago

My WDH had cams that rode in the hook of the spring bars and SHRIEKED metal-metal on even modest turns and chittered in sharper ones. I cut two rings of 2″ PVC pipe and placed them over the cams… instant silence. When they wore thin, cut two more rings.

Irv
25 days ago

If your Equalizer hitch is making noise, it’s not lubricated to manufacturer specs before every trip. I’ve had to relube during trips after several thousand miles.

Tommy Molnar
25 days ago
Reply to  Irv

I have an Equalizer hitch and don’t recall seeing anything about “lubrication”. I DID get the plastic ‘pads’ that go under the weight distribution bars and got rid of all the squeaking that it used to produce.

Ray
25 days ago

I found the suspension under my RV trailer had only the bare minimum capacity to handle the stated GVWR. I eventually replaced my leaf springs with springs rated for the same GVWR and was surprised at the extra thickness and additional leaf in the store-bought springs versus the factory installed springs.