Proper connection method for trailer safety chains

I give up, what's the right way to do this.
Extensive perusing through catalogues and online keeps turning up a short
length of chain with an open ended "S" hook that presumeably engages a
hole in heavy steel flat stock or a heavy steel hoop of some sort, on the
bumper of the towing vehicle.
I can't believe the "S" hooks on the end of the safety chain is it. What
retains the S hook to the hole or hoop? I also have a hard time
believing an S hook wouldn't just get straightened out (and let go) if it
got seriously yanked on by a heavy enough unhitched trailer.
There has got to be something off the shelf better than this? Combined
with other research I've done on the subject these past several days, I
can't help but conclude that every trailer safety chain installation is
something "custom cobbled" by each individual who tows a trailer, this in
the absence of anything that looks like a universally approved and
accepted safety chain "system" (chain, connection and connection
receptacle) that would instill confidence at a glance. Perhaps this is
because 99% of the time a trailer doesn't become unhitched and it's
irrelavent that the secondary system is (near) useless?
I dunno, but for that 1 % occurance seems like you'd want something near
as reliable as the primary system.
I realize the question is not exactly metal working but I figure I'm legal
in asking here on account of I need to incorporate proper safety chain
connections for an RV bumper I just built and I'm not happy with anything
I've found "store bought" that I can configure a connection for.
Besides, I bet there are a bunch of you here that have had first hand
experience (good and BAD) with this very situation.
Have I just been looking in the wrong catalogues and websites or is safety
chain technology "state of art" as lacking as it looks?
Any insight on the subject would be most appreciated.
Dennis van Dam
Reply to
Dennis van Dam
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Open hooks are all I've ever seen on factory-installed chains. Hopefully, if anyone forgets to securely latch the hitch, the trailer will separate before the vehicle gets to a roadway or highway. Gravity holds 'em in place fairly well, but they can unhook.
If a faulty hitch would unlatch at driving speeds, I don't think it would be good to have a trailer jerking (perhaps sideways) on the back of a moving vehicle. This situation would most likely cause the tow vehicle to be uncontrollable. So instead of one loose trailer, the single crisis becomes a compounded uncontrolled mass. It's still a nasty situation any way you look at it.
Pulling trailers is a serious responsibility. A large chipper separated from a commercial truck near Pittsburgh recently. In a vehicle that got hit, one child survived, badly injured, but the father and sibling were killed. The driver was high, according to a news report.
I don't know how new the feature is, but a friend's camper is equipped with a breakaway switch (this of course requires the camper's battery to be in good condition, and that the operator connects the breakaway cable correctly) . If the vehicle and camper should become separated, the battery in the camper lights the camper's brake lights, and energizes the electric brakes. That might not sound like much of a safety feature, but it could give a driver in a trailing vehicle time to react intelligently.
A neighbor told me about an incident where someone removed their receiver pin from their hookup. The trailer and hitch bar dropped in a parking lot and no injuries happened.
Put a lock on the hitch pin, and paint a torque stripe, or punch marks on the ball stud and nut where they meet the bar. Locktite the nut if you don't weld it. Always check everything. Listen for anything abnormal.
It would be a bad idea to not have insurance for towing.
WB .............
Dennis van Dam wrote:
Reply to
Wild Bill
Pretty much my own assesment (albeit in the absence of personal experience or hearsay accounts).
I agree (especially from the standpoint of the driver of the towing vehicle (who's responsibility it was to avoid the situation in the first place) but I'm assuming prevailing logic/law is that the marginally controllable safety chain restrained trailer is better than the disconnected loose cannon trailer particularly as it's every bit as likely to diverge into oncoming traffic as it is to come to rest in the ditch on the right side of the road.
Yikes! Exactly what I'm looking to avoid (on behalf of the friend whose small RV I just fabricated a rear bumper for, with which he wants to tow a small trailer in order to haul a couple of motorcycles along.
I'm a NUT for details. Any safety chain connection configuration should be ABSOLUTE in it ability/strength to retain a trailer that becomes disconnected underway (which should be a virtual impossibility if it was secured properly in the first place but if that *impossibility* was an *absolute*, we could run without safety chains at all).
Given that the impossibility of inadvertant disconnection is not an absolute, and further given that it's required by law (everywhere on the North American continent, I assume) I'm looking to configure and fabricate a safety chain connection that will be 100 % effective in retaining a disconnected trailer at speed (as defined by the breaking strength of safety chain).
No doubt better than not having it. (But not by much in 70mph rush hour freeway traffic). (-8
Wild Bill, thanks for the reply.
Dennis
Reply to
Dennis van Dam
I meant to imply that gravity holds the "hooks" in place fairly well
WB
Reply to
Wild Bill
In addition to what Wild Bill posted, I'll add that you don't want the chains to hold if the hitch fails at speed. The chains are really there to satisfy a misplaced regulatory concern.
The more experienced construction types will tell you NOT to "X" your chains, but to run them straight from each side of the tongue to the hitch plate. It results in a slightly more stable configuration if the hitch were to let go. It might pull sharply to one side or another, but is less likely to start wagging like a happy dog's tail.
Also, run your "S" hooks UP from the bottom, rather than down from the top of the safety holes. And twist the safety chains before hookup to remove all but the minimum necessary slack for turning. Those two actions will almost positively prevent a chain hook from hopping out of the hole.
I pull a trailer about four times a week, and have never had a hitch failure, but sure -- it could happen.
In Florida (and I'll bet this is a Federal DOT thing) any trailer with electric brakes MUST have an emergency battery-backed-up breakaway tether.
LLoyd
Reply to
Lloyd E. Sponenburgh
WB,
I took your meaning just as you intended, that the hook, once engaged to the "hole" (open side of the hook facing downward I assume) would be mostly inclined to stay put, but, as I surmise and as you state, it's not out of the question that they can bounce out.
I just don't understand why, if a backup system is going to be employed "just in case", that the integrity of that system doesn't amount to more than just "lip service" (which is what the "S" hook system looks like to me).
Like I say, I'm hard pressed to ignore (glaring) details. (-8
Dennis van Dam
Reply to
Dennis van Dam
The S hooks should be hooked from the bottom. Do not hang them on the receiver like you would hang a clothes hanger in a closet. Insert the end of S hook from the bottom. I have never seen one become unhooked.
i
Reply to
Ignoramus14396
Well.....that fits with how lame the whole S hook approach comes across (keeping in mind that I'm a total towing neophite). Most of what I know about "official procedure", I've found out in the last week. (But I have been towing an (empty weight) 900 lb single axel trailer for the last few years (for the first time in my middle aged life.))
Interesting, given that I just came across "official" literature expounding the need to "X" the safety chains to make a disconnect situation more "stable". (LLoyd, just to be clear you don't misunderstand my response, I'm not taking exception to any of your statments, in fact they reinforce my uninformed perception that "sumpthin ain't totally right" with the whole backup system if the primary system fails.) Reading between the lines, clearly the best defense to a hitch disconnect is....never to have one!
LLoyd, thanks for replying and thanks for the insight. This is an eye opener.
Dennis
Reply to
Dennis van Dam
In article , snipped-for-privacy@m> I give up, what's the right way to do this.
I don't have a trailer, but what I have recommended to non-mechanical friends that do is to replace the S-hook with one of those chain-connection links with a cut in one of the long legs and a hollow nut that can be rotated until it bridges the cut, mechanically completing the link. (These are called "quick links". A shackle would also work, and can be wired for security.) One can tighten the nut with a small wrench, making loosening and failure quite unlikely.
Joe Gwinn
Reply to
Joseph Gwinn
Duly noted and concurrent with LLoyds post. I, as indicated in prior post, assumed they should be hooked from the top (as a coat hanger, to use your example).
Thanks for the heads up.
Dennis
Reply to
Dennis van Dam
It isn't like the trailer is going to suddenly stop. It was, up to the moment of departing, going just as fast as your tow vehicle.
Wes S
Reply to
clutch
Joe,
I'm very familiar with "quick links". Replacing the S hooks with such would address the issue of happenstance S hook disconnect, BUT, while I don't have rated capacities of the varous sizes of quick links at the ready, I'm pretty sure the largest quick link that could engage (fit through) a given size chain link (for trailer safety chains, I'm thinking 1/4" chain on the small end and 3/8" chain on the large end), would not be close to the strength of the chain, not even the genuine "Maillon Rapide" French made (as opposed to the not as robust Made in Taiwan version).
Still, a good suggestion.
Also, (and I don't mean to split hairs, a quick link really does constitute a far more positive connection than an S hook) it doesn't speak to my consternation about what is proper accepted standard that also instills confidence in the user......but then again maybe it does.
There is (with some user savvy procedural adjustments as pointed out by previous posters) a standard, it just doesn't address the confidence issue! In other words, I have my answer, the nature of it is as it appears to be, either go with status quo or come up (cobble) something custom the gives me the warm and fuzzy I'm looking for.
Joe, thanks for the reply.
Dennis
PS Bet most of you are starting your day. Time for me to crash. Thanks again.
Reply to
Dennis van Dam
Yeah. They do not become unhooked this way.
Also make sure to properly balance the trailer.
i
Reply to
Ignoramus14396
Hm, if the chains are not X-ed, then if the trailer becomes unhitched, the trailer tongue would hit the pavement, and grap at the first pothole with bad consequences. right or wrong?
i
Reply to
Ignoramus14396
As you've noticed, the 'standard' safety chain comes from the factory with an 'S' hook. I strongly suspect that this configuration is DOT approved as a minimum. And we always treat safety issues as a minimum. Beyond that, the manufacturer will have to take additional liability if they offer anything else.
As for the strength of the 'S' hooks, the straightening resistance of the hook is about the same as the breaking strength of the smaller diameter chain.
I've always been concerned with the relative ease with which the hook can come off of the tow hitch. As a fix, I've seen folks use the screw side replacement link to hook it to the vehicle. I do not believe this meeets state or national DOT standards since the hook portion is no "permanently attached to the towed vehicle" (a requirement). Given the standard 'S' hook, it's probably better to slip the hook through the hitch and hook it around the chain.
The purpose of the chains is to guide the trailer in case the hitch comes loose. We have had a least two fatal accidents in recent years where a trailer came loose. One involed an acquaintance who was killed and his daughter injured when a tandom axle car hauler came unhooked, when across the median on the interstate, hit his car head on. Both vehicles were doing around 60 mph.
As for the strength required, keep in mind that the tongue guides the trailer and that the chains should be tight enough that the trailer can't get very far away from the hitch. 12" or so of slop is about the max. This means that there shouldn't be huge jerks like you would see while trying to pull a stuck vehicle. This also shows why the guidelines are to cross the chains with the crossing under the hitch point. That allows the shortest possible chain length while still providing adaquate free play in the chains.
Dennis van Dam wrote:
Reply to
RoyJ
My fairly large 24' enclosed car/cargo trailer came with screw links on the safety chains. Not likely to unhook on their own. Safety chains are supposed to be fairly short and to cross under the hitch. The idea is if the hitch separates the chains catch it and hold it up off the pavement so it doesn't dig in. You'd notice the separation pretty quickly as things would get squerrily and you'd hopefully be able to stop without incident.
Breakaway brake systems are required on all trailers required to have brakes, generally anything over 1,000# gross trailer weight. They are the next line of defense intended to keep the trailer from careening out of control should it completely separate i.e. both hitch and safety chains fail.
Most people fail to do this, but the cable from the breakaway switch should be clipped somewhere other than the trailer hitch. If say the bolts holding the receiver hitch to the truck or the tow bumper to the truck fail, you loose both the hitch and safety chains in one shot. If the breakaway cable is also attached there it will do you no good. If the breakaway is attached to the frame or other separate point then it can activate the brakes properly.
When you're pulling a trailer that weighs a good deal more than the tow vehicle, you have to be really careful that everything is correct. Some people have the impression that you should never tow a trailer that weighs more than the tow vehicle. This is incorrect and trailers that weigh 2x the tow vehicle are quite common. Indeed the 20,000# tractor pulling the 60,000# 53' trailer is quite normal. Most horse, car and equipment trailers when loaded also weigh more than the tow vehicle.
The Sherline tool site has a section on towing tips and they sell an inexpensive tongue weight scale as well.
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It's worth checking out since it has a lot of good info on towing safety, proper loading, etc.
Pete C.
Reply to
Pete C.
Wrong. X-ing the chains is not for the purpose of shortening them; that's what the twisting is for.
The logic behind X chaining is that it simulates a single tow point. The truth is that when the hitch is un-done, the chains provide a positive feedback mechanism for fishtailing. Do the mind experiment, and you'll see how, as the tongue veers, it's quickly yanked back in the oposite direction by X-ed chains.
Straight chains almost guarantee a fast veer to one side, but usually that's a quasi-stable position as long as the (one actually in tension) chain is kept in tension, because as the tongue moves near center, it's pulled back to the same off-center position by the same chain. Carefully setting the length of the chains to the absolute minimum necessary for turning (by cutting or twisting) helps minimize the veer angle.
LLoyd
Reply to
Lloyd E. Sponenburgh
Dennis van Dam wrote in article ...
.
misunderstand
"X"-ing the safety chains underneath the trailer tongue does two things.......
First, it will provide a cradle for the trailer tongue should it become disconnected - likely preventing the tongue from hitting the road surface....one of the primary purposes of safety chains.
Secondly it allows for shorter safety chains. Bring the chains straight forward requires a certain amount of slack to allow for turning. The chain on the outside of the turn must be longer as the space increases in a turn.
With the "X" the safety chain sorta' pivots at the "X" and doesn't require a lot of slack to allow for the turns....again, a shorter safety chain that is more likely to hold the trailer off the road surface.
As far as the "S" hooks go, common sense has to apply here. Most small trailers with a hitch weight of 150 pounds or so, can be safely supported on the "S" hooks - again, with the chain "X"ed in the middle which shortens the fall and resulting pull on the "S" hook. "S" hook material on OEM safety chains is not the same soft stuff that the Home Depot "S" hooks are made of.
Of course, one would not use an "S" hook on a pintle hook towing a Caterpillar bulldozer. Many of these setups have a couple of keyholes cut into the crossmember where gravity holds the chain link in place on the towing vehicle.
Reply to
*
And doncha just HATE the way a pintle hitch "trailer hitches" you down the road on a slightly undulating surface?
I've had the damned things nearly push me off the pavement!
LLoyd
Reply to
Lloyd E. Sponenburgh
My dad and I always bolted the chain through the holes on the hitch back to itself. Not short enough to cause problems when cornering, but enough to take up the excess.
I've had a trailer tongue break on me, was a wooden home-built utility trailer, maybe 6'x8 ', we were using to haul chunks of dead elm to the brush dump. We filled it up that one day, I got the fun of hauling it to the dump. Got to the dump, hit a huge pothole and the wooden tongue broke at the hitch's bolt holes. The X-ed chain kept it from hitting the ground, but I wasn't going very fast. We got the thing dragged over to the brush pile and unloaded, then I just shortened the chains up and hauled it home, very slowly, that way.
I'd replace that S-hook on the factory-supplied chains with something a little more positive and still loop them through the hitch holes and fasten back to the chain itself. X-ing is optional, but it saved my bacon that time.
Stan
Reply to
stans4

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