RV wipes out, totaled, only 20 minutes after couple buy it

    Photo: Washington State Patrol. (Click to enlarge.)

    A couple’s new trailer was totaled 20 minutes after they bought it on Tuesday in Poulsbo, Wash. The couple, from Auburn, Wash., were heading south on SR-3 in the center lane around 3 p.m. when the travel trailer began to sway behind their Jeep Cherokee, according to Washington State Patrol Trooper Chelsea Hodgson.

    The driver told troopers she was unable to regain control and the trailer flipped over in the left lane and landed on its top. “Unbeknownst to them, the trailer has pressure treated 2×6 boards underneath, making the trailer heavier than they believed,” Hodgson said. No one was injured and no traffic citations were issued. From komonews.com.

    From the editor: Keep in mind this Quick Tip we published recently in our RV Daily Tips Newsletter: If your trailer starts to sway, a natural reaction will be to hit the brake pedal – a sure-fire recipe for a major disaster! “Applying trailer brakes manually will usually dampen a sway, and cause the trailer to follow the tow vehicle rather than to jack-knife.” How do you do it? Reach down and slowly slide the manual override lever on your trailer brake controller to apply braking power to the trailer, while keeping your tow vehicle freely rolling. From Trailers & Fifth Wheels Made Easy


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    Tom Wenzler

    Lactose intolerant on the ice cream but I do wish I could have some.


    Written June 26, 2018???

    Sharon B

    I can’t believe that a Jeep Cherokee was used to pull that travel trailer. I did a lot of research prior to purchasing my 16.5 camper. Although my Mitsubishi Raider pick up truck looks like it can haul anything….it can’t. I am limited in my hauling capacity so it took me a long time to find a camper that would be compatible with my truck hauling capacity and my needs. I checked every day for over a year on RVTrader.com where I found my little charm that was located in a different state. I also decided to keep the load way under my hauling limit. I had to forget about those beautiful small Airstreams and focus on my limitations. Prior to my purchase I bought all the essentials needed: a weight distributor/ anti sway system, EMS with all the bells and whistles, and other needed items for safe hauling and camping. Thankfully I purchased my little dream from a very honorable distributer way up in Wisconsin. The owner checked out everything to make my trip safe installing a brake system and adjusting my trailer brakes. I live in Miami, Florida so it was not a few hour drive to Wisconsin.
    If this lady did her homework… which surely she did not, she should have reviewed the weight of that trailer and her vehicle capacity. She possibly bought this trailer from a lot where they should have told her about her maximum hauling capacity she needed to maintain a safe travel. I am willing to bet she just put it on her hitch and went.

    Mike Sokol

    I also wonder if they had a brake controller in their Cherokee and if it was set up properly. If not, just stabbing the brakes to avoid a road hazard can let the trailer “push” the tow vehicle, especially if you’re in any kind of a turn such as a lane change. Of course, the bigger the tow vehicle in relation to the trailer the less this effect comes into play. And failing to load the trailer for 10% to 15% of its weight on the tongue doesn’t give you enough extra traction on the rear wheels of the tow vehicle. Another thing I’ve seen and experienced is the pendulum effect of the trailer bouncing the tow vehicle up and down from going over a bump in the road. Without a weight transfer hitch to shift trailer tongue weight to the front wheels of the tow vehicle it can cause the front wheels of the truck to lose traction. Any of these things by themselves might not cause a wreck. But add up two or more of them and it can create a perfect storm you can’t recover from.


    I feel for the driver of the jeep. If that person would have properly done all of the homework necessary, it may have prevented the entire thing. Like most everything, if you do not understand how it works, you WILL have problems. Yes, they have things like road side service for those that don’t know or can’t fix a flat tire. When it comes to towing and driving an RV, there is alot MORE to learn and respect than putting gas in it and driving 70mph down the fast lane….. oops, towing 70mph in the fast lane? Not in California. Towing ANYTHING, 55 in one of the 2 slow lanes ONLY. In California I have seen alot of idiots, yes I said it, from towing U-Haul trailers doing 80mph in the fast lane and car pool lane to motorhomes and buses weighing well over 15 tons doing the same. I do not want to be anywhere near them when they fail to stop in time. Just the other day I had a motorhome pass me using the fast lane while I was doing around 65 to 70 in the middle lane. (California highway speed limit). It really doesn’t matter how much money you have, the real question here is, Do you really have NO respect for the other drivers on the road? PLEASE, do your homework, obey the traffic laws, and and be a COURTEOUS driver. It will only benefit YOU. SAFE TRAVELS.


    When I was looking for a brand new trailer, I needed a light weight one, as my towing capacity is 5000 lbs (I have an SUV). One guy at one RV place was adamant that I could buy and tow a trailer that was 4900 lbs as it was “under” my towing capacity! When I told him that you should never go close to your max AND that the food, water, and belongings would take me well over capacity, he told me the towing capacity was just a “guideline”. I walked away from that idiot and found a second hand trailer that weighs 3300 lbs.

    S Brandt

    I don’t know that it is the same dealer, but I have heard horror stories about some Seattle area and Poulsbo RV dealers not using due care in matching units to tow vehicles. There are so many out there who don’t realize the dangers and it is up to the dealers to stay informed and inform their customers.


    This looks like a very good or bad example of how bad some rvs are built. Go to KOMO news in Seattle and look at all the pictures of the CRAPY construction of the trailer deck. What a crime!!! Bottom line is buyer be ware.

    Captn John

    Salesman at CW told a customer he could not buy a 5er and they would not install a hitch in his truck. Buyer went off the cliff, loud and vulgar! Saw the same truck a year later at a local rally ~~ pulling an even heavier 5er bought same day CW refused him.

    Bob Gash

    All are excellent comments; however, sadly, the issue of overloading seems to be an unregulated, industry-wide problem.

    I recently read a review of a $171,000 class B motorhome that had a whopping 370 lb(!) total carrying capacity.

    The reviewer “gushed” about the build quality and features, but only barely mentioned the unit should probably go on a bit of a “diet”.

    Also, I’m sure all of us have witnessed trailers and motorhomes with obviously under-inflated tires – it’s a true wonder there aren’t more accidents like the subject of this article.

    [Ex: we’re currently parked next to an older trailer with extremely low tires on both axles. When I mentioned he might check them out and that I have an air gauge and compressor, he declined, stating “I know they’re nearly flat – oh well, it’s always something”.

    Mike and Chuck could likely write all day long on the subject of travel safety, but it seems the most dangerous/scary owners would simply claim “that’s the other guy”…


    In 2004 I purchased a 34’ travel trailer, I sold my half ton pickup and purchased a new Dodge 3500 Cummins diesel to pull the trailer. The trucks specification were rated for the weight of the trailer plus a safety factor. I also purchased the best and newest of electric brake control technology.
    My error was quickly pointed out by the service manager at the RV dealership, the new trailer was higher and 3.5K lbs. heavier than my old unit. The friction sway control and trunnion mount I wanted to use was maybe okay for my old unit but not rated for the new trailer. His recommendation a complete new hitch assembly built and rated for the load, $600.00 later, I was still a bit skeptical but was assured it would be safer and cheap insurance considering the total investment. The service manager assured me if you ever got the old set up into an emergency braking scenario and it starts to jackknife it would be a disaster.
    On my way home with the new truck, hitch and trailer it was very windy and rainy, we crossed an elevated area with strong cross winds. My wife looked behind us and the trailer was swaying a bit in the stiff wind but immediately corrected itself and followed behind. From the driver’s seat I could not feel or see the swaying or any indication of the crosswind. The dealer was right the proper rated hitch and sway control was worth every penny.
    Even thou I had towed many older and smaller trailers many thousands of miles with hitches that were adequate for the application there was a point where there useful life had been exceeded by my upgrading.
    When I purchased the new trailer I knew a large tow vehicle was required but in my ignorance I did not give much thought to that critical hitch connection. I am pleased that the service people at the dealership had my best interest and highway public in mind. The RV dealer weighted my set up on scales at local aggregate yard and spent quite a bit of time setting up my hitch and brake control to efficiently control the trailer.
    A few years later I was rear ended while towing the trailer by an uninsured, unlicensed, drunk driver with a borrowed car. In dealing with the car owner’s insurance company I mentioned that I wanted all of the towing components replaced on my truck along with the replacement of the trailer, totaled. They told me there was no indication of mechanical failure so they would not cover the hitch. My response was I will keep the copy of your denial and if there is ever a component failure I will hold you responsible. One week later my truck was in the RV shop having all of the hitch components replaced and my trucks frame inspected at the dealership for any failures along with a certifying letter of its roadworthiness.
    I have since upgraded to a diesel pusher and when I purchased the components to attach my toad they are all rated for the max towing capacity available, many more pounds than any vehicle I intend to tow. For the few dollars more I feel it is just a larger safety factor. It is cheap insurance for my investment and all our safety on the highways.

    Jay French

    Mike Sokol’s comment above concerning people buying the largest trailer they can afford but not matching it to rated towing capacities of the towing vehicle is especially noticeable in the “Deep South” where everyone owns a truck but I have noticed F150’s pulling huge trailers as a rule rather than the exception.
    It does upset my wife when she has to follow me in the 2nd pickup with the golf cart plus generator in the bed. That little Cajun in no way will I trust pulling any trailer. She wonders why I won’t put it in the bed of my truck since we are going the same place & it will “Fit”.


    The first comment answers the question about extra weight from added wood. Previous owner must have done repairs with wood that he figured would not decay. Just could not figure why heavy wood would be added to a new trailer.


    It is my understanding this was a craigslist purchase, therefore the entire responsibility lies with the buying person. When I first read the story the it was stated their “new” trailer so I assumed it was a dealer screw up in the hookup and education of the customer. There are so many people who don’t research anything before purchase, just 2 days ago I saw a SUV come off I 24 wb to go to the local KOA. Instead of a W/D hitch they were using the class 3 hitch under the bumper with a straight receiver adapter that caused the front of the trailer to be at least 8-10” higher than the back. I can imagine how that hookup handled, plus the hitch weight had the SUV nose high. Some people are so ignorant I don’t believe anybody could offer info that could save them and everyone around them.


    Just got back from a month on the road. If I had a buck for all the overloaded pickup-trailer combos I saw, I’d be rich. Hey guys, if your rig and trailer looks like a V from the side, you have a problem.

    It seems like families want to take everything but the kitchen sink on their 4th of July camping trip. I can’t tell you how many pickups were loaded with coolers, bikes, and the proverbial full sized backyard BBQ!! Really?

    Weigh that sucker when it’s loaded and you’ll really be surprised!! Check your GVWR sticker. I suspect a lot of folks are running 1,000# or more over their truck’s capacity.

    D Wheatley

    There is a good video on youtube about loading trailers and swaying that applies here “trailer sway 101”

    Janet Groene

    I always recommend that towing customers get a three-way consult to match up the trailer with the tow car and the hitch including a professional hitch installation. There is always the chance that the right hitch on the right tow vehicle for the right trailer is installed by the wrong do-it-yourselfer.

    Mike Sokol

    I wonder how many of you have actually tested your trailer tongue weight after loading up for a trip. As you should know, the weight on the hitch should be between 10% and 15% of the actual trailer weight. So if your trailer weighs 5,000 lbs loaded, you need between 500 and 750 lbs on the tongue. A trailer with a GVW of 10,000 lbs needs 1,000 to 1,500 lbs on the tongue to be safe. Your first warning of overweight is simply the hitch on your truck. Note that a Class III (3) hitch is only rated up to 500 lbs of tongue weight, so 10 times 500 lbs equals 5,000 lbs max trailer weight. Thus a class IV (4) hitch is rated for 1,000 lbs of tongue weight and 10 x 1,000 = 10,000 lbs of trailer. And a class V (5) hitch is rated for 1,200 lbs of tongue weight and 12,000 lbs max of trailer. Of course there are other considerations such as your truck’s rated towing capacity, how much bed loading and people loading you have in your truck so as not to exceed the GCWR, etc… And remember that water in your holding tanks weighs 8.3 lbs per gallon.

    My point is that most of the math for figuring out safe towing weights is really simple, as long as you know the basic formulas. And of course there’s wiggle room in the calculations, so nothing is going to blow up if you get to 110% of rating. But if you’re running at 110% of rated load (or above) you’ve given up a big safety margin that you’ll need if something goes wrong. I believe this is another reason why so many tires blow on trailers, too much weight from all the stuff.

    Of course, this is just a quick review of tongue weights as they relate to actual trailer weight, but if I get time I might write a full article on the math and geometry of trailer loading. Hey, math is good for you since it explains how the world around us operates…


    As soon as i read “Jeep” I knew the problem. As others have said, totally absurd to tow more than a popup behind a micro-truck.

    True story: my dealer tried to sell me a 12000lb trailer to tow begind my Suburban – WAY over tow rating! I don’t think even half that weight (@TR) would have been great to do. My current truck is rated to tow 14000, and I drag 9K typically, making it drive nicely instead of on the edge of catastrophe.


    They should have watched the video…