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Ask Dave: My trailer pulls to the right. Is there such a thing as TT tongue alignment?

Good morning, Dave,
We just made the trip to Kentucky from Florida, the fourth since we purchased our travel trailer. My question: Would this trailer (or basically any TT) have a “tongue alignment”? In our travels this trailer has pulled great with our F-150 (special tow including trans / gears). But on the last one trip, it seemed to pull to the right, to the point that I felt I was fighting to keep it straight. We had our sway bar in place and at lockdown fairly tight, at one point. I checked tire pressure, axles, spring hangers, everything I could think of. (I have a little background in mechanics.) Large tractor trailer rigs have special tools to check axle to fifth wheel pin alignment and is very critical to keeping the truck and trailer in line while traveling. However, I am not sure if this applies to travel trailers. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you. —Marc, 2018 Keystone Springdale 271RL

Dear Marc,
I have not heard of any “tongue alignment” procedures or inspections other than a unit that has had some type of damage due to an accident or jackknifing. However, axles can get out of alignment side to side or top to bottom. I ran a company for the past 10 years that had three trucks and trailers, installing a pressure washer in fast food restaurants. We had constant issues with axles due to the rough construction problems at the sites. We had unusual tread wear several times and it took quite a while to find a service center that could actually diagnose the problem. Most of the local shops just did a quick tape measure diagnosis and blamed auxiliary brakes and weight issues.

Finally, we brought in MD Alignment out of Des Moines, Iowa, to shoot video content on proper alignment for RV Repair Club. We had them look at the trailers while they were there, and with their laser equipment found the problems. The fix, however, was not so easy as there is typically very little adjustment you can do other than bending an axle. We chose to replace the axles with an upgraded version. We had a local Dexter and Lippert wholesale distributor where we could purchase them at a great price. Wish they would have been able to install them, but they were wholesale sales only.

But something I never heard from my drivers or experienced myself the few times I took to the road was a pull from one side or the other. And in your situation, it towed well for the first three trips and now it pulls to the right? I would start by checking the bearings and brakes, as this has been more of a culprit in our situations.

Also, check to make sure you didn’t load anything unusual compared to your other trips, i.e., something heavy on the right side of your rig. It’s a long shot, but I have also had a pull in our trailers when we had an uneven load due to the 200-pound machines all stowed on one side.

Another test would be to take another trip to see if it’s a continual problem and in all directions. It doesn’t take much for wind to hit the “billboard” you are towing and have the same effect. If it continues, then after verifying the bearings and brakes, I would find a trailer specialist and have that checked out.

We have quite a wealth of experience among our readers, so hopefully we can get some feedback, as well.

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.

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Eric
2 months ago

I bought a new Pace 24′ box enclosed car hauler back in 2008. On my first long trip, I could see in my mirrors that the trailer “pointed” to the shoulder on the long interstate straightaways. To put it another way, it was noticeably crab-tracking.
I measured from the tongue to the center of both side’s wheels, and the measurements were different. Then, as there was no adjustment provided, slotted the axle-to-frame bolt holes until I could move the right side wheels forward, and the left side wheels aft. I had to do that to both torsion axles on both sides to get the movement needed, and it was a lot of work, as no one has invented a bit that drills oval holes yet, but now it tracks straight. The tires wear normally and evenly, so it worked.
It did not steer the tow vehicle to one side before it was realigned, however. It seems that would be caused by excessive drag on one side, either brakes, bearings, or a bent axle causing a lot of tire scrub.

Last edited 2 months ago by Eric
Kyle Petree
2 months ago

Here in ABQ we have a shop that specializes in what I call “Mid-sized” trailers. Not the 18 wheeler types (although they do some work on those) but more large goosenecks and whatnot. I had a really strange tire wear problem and took it to them to diagnose. They did a laser alignment to the pinbox on both axles and after new tires the problem has not returned.

Byron
2 months ago

Marc, this only applies to vehicles with leaf springs. I would check the u-bolts on the axles. If they are loose, it can shear the center bolt that holds the leaf spring together. If that happens the axle will shift and cause the vehicle to dog track or pull to one side. I have had many vehicles do this in the 40 plus years I’ve been a mechanic. You can check it by having someone follow you and look at how the trailer tracks. You can also take a tape measure and measure the distance from the axle to the eye bolt on the end of the spring. The distance should be the same on all axles. If you have torsion suspension on your trailer then there is another problem. I hope you find the problem

Snayte
2 months ago

Could be the WDH if he uses a friction type. I have an Equalizer and noticed that after making a right turn the rig would tend to feel like it was pulling that direction. I added the L-bracket pads and the problem went away.

Bill
2 months ago

I would swap the tires from one side to the other. If four tires then maybe 2 at a time. My car had a slight pull to the left and after swapping tire positions the pull disappeared. Tread separation was diagnosed and new tires were installed even though probably only one was bad. Good Luck!

McTroy
2 months ago

That sway bar has to be tightened when the rig is very straight. If it was even slightly crooked that could cause the situation. I would start with a review of the WDH. Both bars have the same tension? Then confirm the sway bar is set correct with a very straight line.

mimi
2 months ago

Tire pressure????

Bob p
2 months ago
Reply to  mimi

He said he checked tire pressure.

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