Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

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Elliot
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Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Elliot » Wed Sep 16, 2015 4:40 pm

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ELLIOT’S GRUESOME TRAILER WRECK – A TALE OF WARNING


This is deeply embarrassing. I really do know better. But after 16 days of joyful sleep-deprivation, Common Sense was taking a long siesta that afternoon.

And I am old enough to be immune to embarrassment. All that matters is to keep other Burners from making a similar mistake. This was a life-threatening situation.


To my profound relief, the actual wreck did not happen.

I am not particularly superstitious, but there is an old saying:
“God looks after fools and drunks.”
Well, that day, I was about as foolish as I have ever been. Yet nothing serious happened.


Here we go:


Image

Black Rock City, Thursday September 10, 4 p.m.. One symbolic bicycle left to load, then next stop Reno, for a nice dinner.
Note trailer is essentially a semi-trailer – the axles are at the rear. (It started life as a boat trailer.) This is usually not a problem -- I load accordingly.

The concept is to load the major weight over the axles, and only light stuff in the front. And I did not forget this. But the concern foremost in my mind was to get all that Stuff onto the trailer at all. So I accepted a bit of extra stress on the trailer-frame. And on the whole, the trailer is very strong.
Note taller stack of Treasure in front, and how trailer is sagging. It is normally completely flat.


Stopped for fuel in Gerlach, but otherwise intended to go straight to Reno.

However…. Last year I stopped at the rest area just west of Wadsworth – and discovered a flat tire. So at the last moment I decided it would be “sound practice” to stop there now also.



Image

This is what I discovered. First, I noticed the trailer was very low. But the tires were OK. Then I looked at the coupling.



Image

The coupler had broken completely off. The trailer was hanging by the little bracket for the latching lever (the piece with the padlock). There was about 3/8” of weld bead remaining on each side.

Another quarter mile, or one more bump – whichever comes first – and the trailer tongue would have dug into the relatively soft asphalt interstate. (The safety chains being largely symbolic – another embarrassing item.)

The trailer would either have stopped instantly, or cart-wheeled ass-over-applecart. Either way, I would have been on the evening news. Probably nation-wide.
Traffic would have run into the debris-field. Some would have tried to steer around, and lost control. The speed limit is 70 or 75 out there, and many go faster.

This is the stuff of nightmares; of life-long guilt.

And none of it happened. By – quite literally – a thread of steel. And a stubborn instinct to not abandon safety altogether.



Image

With a sawsall borrowed from Big Dale in Reno, I cut off the stump of the coupler, drilled holes, and bolted on a replacement coupler.
I also installed a serious safety chain.
And I pulled the trailer to Dale’s house, where it remains for the time being.


No comment necessary. Just don’t do what I did.
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maladroit
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by maladroit » Wed Sep 16, 2015 4:48 pm

Holy baby Halcyon. I almost dropped a little load of my own here when I saw the pic of what you discovered.

I think you'd actually have been dragged quickly and mercifully to a stop, or near-stop due to the chains hanging on for a while before breaking, and the rear positioning of the trailer axles would have kept things a little more stable during the frightening bit. The tongue is too low to really consider an acrobatic event.

Glad you're safe! Good lesson for all.

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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Joeln » Wed Sep 16, 2015 5:06 pm

Lots of luck and just enough caution...
Glad everything turned out ok. :oops:
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by tamarakay » Wed Sep 16, 2015 5:32 pm

maladroit wrote:Holy baby Halcyon.
I interrupt this thread to applaud this. I can't stop laughing. Thank you.

Elliott, glad you caught it in time. Love you dearly.
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by GreyCoyote » Wed Sep 16, 2015 5:47 pm

This was clearly a failure of design/execution and not one of poor loading, driving, or neglect by you. I'm REALLY glad you caught this before things went completely bad. Good on ya, Elliot!!!
Last edited by GreyCoyote on Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by some seeing eye » Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:04 pm

Big Dale and Linda are the best BM have to participate-plenty-o burners and ePlayans love them!

Thankful no catastrophic breaks!
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by ygmir » Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:16 pm

first and foremost: so happy you and others are ok!!!
"it's better to be lucky than good".......I live that. Hail the Norns!!

Interesting that the 3/4"? plate of the ball mount also bent. I wonder why? seems the load didn't change? Perhaps too much tongue weight and bouncing? Yeah, mild steel is neat in that it bends way before it breaks.
does the trailer have brakes?
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Captain Goddammit » Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:17 pm

Well now I feel bad. It's the old "no good deed goes unpunished."
This is actually all MY fault.

I found that loaner bike of yours, number 20 I think?, out on the playa and brought it back to you... remember that?
That's the one last bike that broke the goddamm thing isn't it.

Sorry Elliot.
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Elliot » Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:26 pm

:shock:
GC: Yikes! I just assumed it was a forging.

Yes, it is a Hammerblow. Class 3, 5000/750 pounds.
I am surprised that the material is only 3/16 thick. I assumed it was the strongest part of the trailer, so I never looked closely at it.

And yes, I know about "assumed" -- "that word can make an ass of you and me".

I do not know the builder. It was reported built for a specific boat, then something catastrophic happened to the boat. I paid $400 for it in 2008. With "Lincoln turbine" alloy wheels, but junk tires. We have pulled it well over 50,000 miles.

I feel it was perfectly OK for a sensible load. What I did was gross abuse. I scaled it in Reno, but I am not confessing the numbers to anyone.
Last edited by Elliot on Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by VultureChow » Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:32 pm

No one was hurt and things worked out. No lifelong guilt. A lesson learned and changes made.

Thanks for posting your experience as a cautionary tale, but don't best yourself up too much. We all make assumptions and decisions that in hindsight seem stupid or reckless.
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Elliot
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Elliot » Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:36 pm

:lol:
Good 'un, Captain! We actually received dozens of "new" bikes, and that was part of the problem.

The drop probably bent by the leverage of the coupler as the coupler swung downward. That is, the jaws ran out of free movement on the ball. But I will never know that for sure. Doesn't really matter, since the trailer will never be overloaded again.

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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by motskyroonmatick » Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:46 pm

Here! Here! for safety stops!!!! Good instincts Eliot!!!!
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Elliot
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Elliot » Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:04 pm

.
Yeah, it may have been the established habits/instincts from 27 years of trucking that convinced me to stop at the rest area.

Looks like this is the coupler in question:

Image

Bulldog 2B4H 2" Ball 3" Channel 5K Coupler

Model 2B4H
Forged 2" hinged ball socket head
High Profile "T" latch
Steel 3" square or rectangle tongue mount
16-1/4" Overall length
5,000 lbs. capacity gross trailer weight 028382 2B4
Painted finish

(Mine says Hammerblow Corp. No. 2B on it.)

So... forged, and not modified. (I see that GC is in the middle of updating his post.)

But anything will break under enough load.

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Elliot
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Elliot » Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:15 pm

VultureChow wrote:...
...don't beat yourself up too much. We all make assumptions and decisions that in hindsight seem stupid or reckless.
True, and I am learning to accept that. (Remember... "Yes, yes, yes...." :wink: )
But this was too much like toying with a loaded gun. Never again.

To be sure... I am not fretting over this at all. No worries. No regrets. Just a lesson that I wish to share, so others can avoid similar.

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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by GreyCoyote » Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:18 pm

Elliot: I was able to get on to a better computer where I could zoom-in and see the coupler. The failure was not where I originally thought it was and the tail of the coupler became clearly visible on the bigger screen. Damn these old eyes anyway. :mrgreen:

As to forging vs cast: basically the same difference when it comes to welding. Forgings start-out as a casting. The material is the same, only the way the grain flows is changed. Very hard to weld without short-cracking!

In the end, you are fine, and that's all that counts!
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Aurelia » Wed Sep 16, 2015 7:47 pm

Whew!

Elliot's adventure

xoA.

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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Elliot » Wed Sep 16, 2015 8:06 pm

Ah yes... castings of malleable and ductile iron can no doubt be forged. I'm just more accustomed to thinking of forgings as made of high-grade steel alloys, such as in race car crankshafts.
Wonder if we can find out what my coupling is made of? The shape of the coupling suggests to me that it was designed quite specifically for welding to the trailer. But... the specific material is kind'a academic.

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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Patsh » Wed Sep 16, 2015 8:18 pm

Elliot, I'm so glad you caught this before it failed completely!
Thank you for posting this... I hope it will prevent such a disaster from happening, even if only for one person. Good lesson learned!

Whew! :shock:
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by A-RockLeFrench » Wed Sep 16, 2015 8:53 pm

Holy Hell that's a close call.

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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by southern crone » Wed Sep 16, 2015 9:30 pm

Glad your ok, Elliot. I read about a recall on hitches a few weeks ago but don't remember the brand. Do know they were made in Alabama.

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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Elderberry » Wed Sep 16, 2015 9:35 pm

All's well that ends well. Thank goodness.
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Jackass » Wed Sep 16, 2015 10:13 pm

Many weren't so lucky as is always evident on the roads going to and from. Nothing happened, that is an excellent finale...
Sooner or later, it will get real strange...

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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by EspressoDude » Thu Sep 17, 2015 6:54 am

scary tale. thankfully there were no injuries or damage.

question: was the coupler welded to the square tube on the sides only, or did it have additional welding across the front end of the square tube and under the hitch?

looking at some online install instructions it mentions only welding on the sides. welding across the hitch = tear here
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Captain Goddammit » Thu Sep 17, 2015 7:13 am

Hey Elliot I think you need to go to a 2 5/16" hitch ball and coupler. 2" is too light.
It looks like your hitch on your bus failed under the weight and helped the trailer tongue to twist off.
Next, your trailer tongue looks way too wimpy. Needs some C-channel or heavy square tube welded on.

I'd go with a weight distributing hitch even though your bus certainly doesn't need it. They have extra benefits. Usually they are much beefier, and they prevent the possibility of the trailer bouncing off even if the coupler isn't latched.

Yeah I know... $$$$.... but I put forth the proposition that a small portion of next year's camp fund donations would be properly correctly and ethically used to acquire such necessary gear with which to transport all that camp infrastructure.
Craigslist... that's where I bought my $600 hitch for pennies on the dollar.
I know that trailer weighed a lot more than 2" coupling gear is good for! I bet absolutely no one would protest use of camp donations to beef up the hitch!
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by 666isMONEY » Thu Sep 17, 2015 7:41 am

Every year on my in and out of BRC I see overloaded trailers on the side of the road with either flat tires or broken axles. This year I saw one of those with 8-inch? tires and three (yes, 3) 55-gallon drums filled with water on the side of the road between Gerlach and Alturas.

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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Captain Goddammit » Thu Sep 17, 2015 8:52 am

Oh... boat trailer... That means it had hydraulic brakes... which aren't hooked up...
I'm thinking if you're going to bring this much and possibly even expand, it would be acceptable use of donation funds to acquire a 10,000 rated, electric brake flatbed trailer!
Or, add a third axle to that one, brakes, and a whole lot more steel to the tongue.
Or do what I do - don't bring half the shit I want to bring because it all adds up to too much!
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Captain Goddammit » Thu Sep 17, 2015 9:36 am

Image

I stretched and redid my own trailer tongue, notice there is double-stacked heavy c-channel welded on it.
That's where trailers fail, that's where you need lots of steel!

Elliot I know I'm saying nothing you don't already know, you have the same truck driving and hot rod building background as me. But if anyone else reading this wants to know exactly how to prevent this, here's how! 2 5/16" hitch ball, extra steel reinforcement on the trailer tongue (whether stretched or not) and heavy duty weight distributing hitch.
This allows me to concentrate on other failures such as shorting out electric system while pressure washing playa crud off motor!! (Turned out to be the MAP sensor plug... two days later... )
Last edited by Captain Goddammit on Thu Sep 17, 2015 10:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by AntiM » Thu Sep 17, 2015 10:02 am

Elliot wrote:
I feel it was perfectly OK for a sensible load. What I did was gross abuse. I scaled it in Reno, but I am not confessing the numbers to anyone.
Wowsa, so glad you stayed safe.


We scaled the pickup and utility trailer once. Something around 13K. So I can guesstimate ... yikes.

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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by Elliot » Thu Sep 17, 2015 10:38 am

Espressodude: The coupler was welded inside, across the top, at the front of the square tube. And it broke at the edge of that weld. So yes, this may have been a mistake by the installer.

But the coupler must have torn at the sides first.

And there is some indication that it began tearing on the way to the event. That "some indication" is rust on the first 3/4" of the tear, on both sides. I did not notice this rust until the next day, so it is possible it rusted during the first night in the rest area. But there is still no rust on the rest of the tear as of today, so most likely that metal was exposed to playa during the event.
A more thorough pre-trip should have found it.

Captain, yes, an upgrade may be in order. And yes, camp funds can be used for this.

A third axle is certainly an idea, but the existing axles are 3,500-pounders, which should be plenty. And more tires means more flats. The next idea would be to move the existing axles forward. But the short rear overhang gives me a fabulous advantage: It can be low to the ground without scraping. And I have to push vehicles onto this trailer all the time.
So the key is to load it correctly. Which I can do.

And yes, it is possible the ball-drop bent first. But the ball was level in BRC, and the rust I mentioned suggests the tear had already started. We cannot know for certain. It all failed from massive overload.

Best solution is less heavy Stuff, and correct loading (bulk of weight on axles). No more construction scaffolding as shade structure -- aluminum posts instead. No more rugs -- cloth instead. Half as many bicycles. Organize loading so all the heavy stuff goes in the bus. Then it will be fine.

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Re: Elliot's Trailer Wreck - A Tale Of Warning

Post by ygmir » Thu Sep 17, 2015 11:07 am

or even get others to help haul stuff out?
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