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Old 09-09-2013, 12:03 PM   #1
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Basic things a New (bee) Trailer Owner Should Know

Basic things a New (bee) Trailer Owner Should Know

In no particular order.

The weights of your trailer listed by the manufacturer may not be your reality. The manufacturer is in the business of selling trailers. The dry weight and tongue weight claimed may be optimistically low . You need to go to a scale to know what your rig really weighs.

Most vehicle tow ratings need a formula to calculate the true trailer towing capacity. For most North American vehicles the passenger weight, cargo, fuel, etc. will subtract from the listed tow capacity found in the operator manual. Again, a scale is the only certain way to know your rig.

Too little tongue weight can be as bad as too much tongue weight. Too little tongue weight can cause the trailer to not track well. To the extent that your tow vehicle capacity and trailer allows, a bit more tongue weight is better than less.

Always cross your trailer safety chains. It is required by law in some states. Do not ever twist the chains to shorten them. Use a bungee cord to hold them up if necessary or apply made for the purpose replacement hooks to shorten. I use a heavy rubber band or piece of bicycle inner tube over the open end of the chain S hooks as a keeper if a hook keeper isn't provided.

Be certain to use a properly rated tow hitch and proper sized trailer ball. The trailer should sit level when connected to the tow vehicle. This is particularly important with dual axle trailers. If your trailer has electric trailer brakes you will need a brake controller. One is not necessarily included in all vehicle trailer towing packages. A proportional controller generally gives better performance over a more basic timed unit.

Most special trailer tires are speed rated to 65 mph. Speed rated is not speed limited. Tire pressure can affect the speed range. Too little tire pressure is a greater sin than too much pressure. Consult your tire manufacturer information.

Trailer Power.
Most all trailers have an AC power system (like in your home) and a 12 volt DC power system (similar to your car battery). You should familiarize yourself with where the power panels are located. The AC power will have circuit breakers. Typically the DC system has fuses for protection.

The AC power is supplied though a cord from a campsite power pedestal, or by a 120 VAC home type receptacle by using an adapter (commonly called a "Dog Bone"). If using a temporary extension cord it is best to use a #12 AWG rated cord. Some trailers may have a generator or inverter to supply AC power (most often at some limited capacity compared to pedestal power). The 12 vdc power may be supplied by the trailer battery or by a built in charger/converter supplied by the 120 VAC cord system.

Typically the interior and exterior lighting of your trailer is supplied by the 12 vdc system. If your interior lights work when plugged into the AC power system, but don't if you unplug, then you are using the charger/converter only and likely you have a battery related problem. Other 12 vdc equipment is the trailer breakaway emergency braking system, propane gas detector, possibly your smoke detector?, furnace control and fan power, refrigerator control power when on propane, refrigerator when on 12 vdc select, sound system, fresh water pump, bath fan, and any slide out or jacking motors.

When your trailer is not plugged in to AC power the battery will be drained. Even just sitting, the battery state of charge will deteriorate through internal resistance and chemical reaction. Most trailers also have a Propane Detector which is constantly connected and drawing power from the battery. You should never run your battery below 50% charge. It significantly reduces the service life of the battery. The battery should be a special deep discharge type battery, not a typical vehicle starting battery.

Typically the 120 VAC power feeds your home type power convenience receptacles, air conditioning, microwave, and refrigerator (when on 120 VAC select). The convenience receptacles should be Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter GFCI protected. Often this is accomplished by using one feed thru type receptacle. If you lose one section of receptacle power and the circuit breakers are all OK, then check for a tripped GFCI receptacle. A common place to locate that GFCI is in the bathroom. Larger trailers will likely have more than one GFCI receptacle common to a group of receptacles.

Your propane tanks valves are required to be secured in the off position before entering any tunnel. Fire regulations state that open flame appliances like a refrigerator running on propane must be turned off before entering the pump apron area of fuel filling stations. (Running a refrigerator on 12 vdc select is OK.) Your trailer propane tank controls have an automatic flow limiter. Always turn your propane valves on very slowly. If the valve is opened quickly it may trigger the flow limiter and prevent your gas appliances from operating. For safety most propane manufacturers suggest that propane tanks should be secured in the off position while traveling.

If your propane detector starts beeping turn off your propane tanks. If no propane smell is detected, next check the battery voltage. Propane detectors have a low voltage monitor. That monitor will trigger if your battery discharges too much (typically below the 50% charge mentioned earlier) or there is some other 12 vdc power system problem.

Carefully visually inspect your roof system at least 2 times per year. Use proper compatible sealant (EPDM trailer roofs are common) or Eternabond tape to repair any questionable roof areas. When looking at a used trailer any evidence of added sealant and repair maintenance is a good thing. It indicates that the owner inspected and cared. Finding no evidence of any roof repairs on an older trailer is not necessarily a good thing.

At least twice per year storage and other outside access compartments should be checked for evidence of moisture damage. Always be aware of discoloration of the vinyl floor covering. It can be a sign of water leaking into the trailer. Remove drawers and open cabinets to check for leaks also. Finding and repairing leaks early on is very important in travel trailers. When you change the A/C air filter always inspect for signs of water leaks. There is a roof seal for the roof mounted A/C unit which has a history of leaking over time.

The seals around windows and doors should also be periodically inspected. If the seals deteriorate then water can get in. (Opinion: I recommend against using silicon seal. Once silicon seal cures I know of nothing which will properly bond to it. Not even more silicon seal. It needs to be THOROUGHLY cleaned and removed before resealing. I like Sikaflex 221 polyurethane as one sealant example. BoatLife Life Caulk, moisture cure polysulfide rubber, is another good sealant, but it is not recommended for plastics like plastic vent flanges. It is available at most marine stores. It is usable for long after any expiration date on the tube. Polysulfide is rated good for EPDM use. To verify compatibility search using polysulfide "Thiokol".)

You typically will have 3 tanks mounted low (under) in the trailer. One is for toilet waste called "Black" water. One for sink drains called "Gray" water. One for potable water or drinking water typically referred as "Fresh" water. Some larger RV's and trailer may have additional duplicate tanks of one type or another. It is best for weight and fuel economy to empty the tanks before traveling, or at least minimize how full they are.

Your sinks and shower can typically be supplied by one of two methods. At a campsite water is supplied by connecting to a hose bib with a white hose. In that mode your water pressure is supplied directly from the camp city water system. The fresh water tank doesn't need to be filled for hose connected city water use to work.

The other supply method is to use the water from your fresh water tank mentioned previously. That water needs to be pumped up to pressure by using the 12 vdc water pump. When you are on the camper fresh water tank supply you will likely hear the pressure pump operate when a faucet is opened. That is normal. It is also normal for the pump to come on occasionally to build up system pressure. If the pump is noticed to run more often than is usual overnight when nothing is in use, you may have a water leak somewhere.

I prefer not to fill my fresh water tank if not needed. If I don't fill it I avoid carrying the weight and also avoid draining it. We use a temporary method for occasional toilet use when city water hookup is not available. I fill a number of peanut butter jars with water. Those plastic jars are stowed in the sink or in a basket. After the toilet is used, the flush empty valve is operated and then a single jar of water is used to flush and refill a bit. We use wipes for cleaning our hands. I know, not a method for everyone...

The fresh water tank and fresh water piping system needs to be periodically sanitized using a special procedure. Consult your manual.

Please feel free to add to this thread. vic
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Old 09-09-2013, 06:00 PM   #2
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Holy smokes... That's a lot of awesome info, especially for a noob like me... ( we are picking our small TT next week ).
Thank for sharing.
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Old 09-09-2013, 07:43 PM   #3
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Just curious. Why do we cross our safety chains? I've always done because that's what you do. I just can't see a technical reason to do it.
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Old 09-09-2013, 08:24 PM   #4
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In most states, the law reads that the chains are to prevent the trailer from striking the ground if it should come loose.

I guess crossed, the chains have a chance of catching your TT tongue if it comes off the hitch ball.

I just always did it because that's what Dad did.

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Old 09-09-2013, 08:45 PM   #5
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Yep...that's the correct answer. It's all about physics. (BTW... I have seen it work on a trailer going 35 on a city street.... came off the hitch, wobbled a bit, but the guy kept his cool and brought it to safe stop. Crossed chains and strategic braking kept the hitch from hitting the ground). That being said, I continually look at rigs going down the road with their crossed chains dragging and sparking on the asphalt (ie, too long). I don't think that would do much good.
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Old 09-09-2013, 08:52 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by dougtoms01 View Post
In most states, the law reads that the chains are to prevent the trailer from striking the ground if it should come loose.

I guess crossed, the chains have a chance of catching your TT tongue if it comes off the hitch ball.

I just always did it because that's what Dad did.
That does seem to make sense but I think it would only work if you were accelerating. Maybe we should see if Mythbusters could test it for us (I am clearly watching to much TV lately).
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Old 09-10-2013, 04:29 AM   #7
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Nice work VicS1950. Thanks for sharing this resource for new owners and reminder for "regulars"

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Old 09-11-2013, 12:19 PM   #8
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This thread is now a "sticky" here in the new members forum.
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Old 10-06-2013, 08:34 PM   #9
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Goodyear Marathon ST information

The above Goodyear Marathon ST tire information related to speed and pressure located at Tire Rack seems to be truncated. Here is the full link.
Add www to the front and paste

Some jpeg's of the PDF information are attached in case the PDF goes away. vic

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Old 10-07-2013, 12:01 PM   #10
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Just sharing a lesson learned...even though you AC power plug to your trailer looks similar to the old 3 prong dryer plugs and will probably fit...don't try plugging in to a 220 volt plug. RV need 120 volt power and I've seen what happens when I connected 220 to it by accident. After replacing my microwave, TV and converter...well let's just say I'm more careful.
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Old 10-17-2013, 08:37 AM   #11
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Thanks for the electrical heads up.

A Few Roof Inspection and Maintenance Tips

I mentioned in my New (bee) post above that a trailer roof should be inspected at least 2 times per year. My schedule is Fall and Spring. I figure the Fall inspection catches things before they have a chance to do damage over winter storage. The Spring inspection should reveal any problems caused by the harsher winter temperatures and conditions. Many manufacturers recommend more inspections during the year.

It occurred to me that maybe a few hints as to what to look for would be appropriate. I have little experience with RV roofs proper, but I have over 40 years of roof maintenance related experience including various membrane roof types. I'm certain that there are more detailed roof inspection overviews on the World Wide Web, but this should at least provide some basic information.

An undamaged, properly installed good quality roof membrane material should be good for many decades of service. 50 years is commonly bantered about for EPDM service life in my area of the northeast. Problems and leaks are usually related to seams, joints, improper coatings, and phyical damage. Transistion areas to other materials such as metal or plastic sheeting sets up differences in expansion and contraction. It doesn't help us that as an RV is rambling down the highway the entire frame and structure is shifting about with most every bump.

In the past I have mentioned that I lay down planks and padding for roof work, and I still do at times. I have since become more confident about my 2001 23b roof. Now I first step gingerly around to test that the roof is solid before applying my potentially 225# foot solidly to the roof surface. I have learned that there is a small area in the right front that I will not walk upon. So, I can't say that I recommend walking willy nilly over your roof surface, but after some careful checks if you find the roof solid you should be fine.

Some membrane roof basics.

On the RV's that I've seen, the membrane material itself is glued onto the roof substrate. That prevents the roof membrane from lifting due to wind forces.

Transitions to other materials (metal, plastic, plumbing, HVAC, etc.) need to be sealed to the membrane system. That is accomplished by clamping a pliable sealant material to the membrane (typically along the sides, gutter), or by pouring a self leveling sealant (generally two part type) onto the areas of transition (transition to curved walls, pipe vent stacks), or by using a compression gasket such as where the HVAC unit rests upon a support frame to seal to the membrane.

The pourable sealant areas are easily identified by the pools of sealant which are found wherever it is applied. The clamp areas often will have a bit of sealant oozed out between the clamp device and the membrane. The HVAC gasket can often be seen by getting down to eye level at the roof.

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My suggestions for general inspection in no particular order includes:

Check all poured sealant seals to assure adhesion to the membrane or sheet material and to look for alligatoring or stress lines.

A visual inspection is effective. Any areas which may appear doubtful can be checked by trying to lift or push the sealant with a fingernail. It should not lift from the membrane. Alligatoring or stress lines can indicate that the sealant is being pulled. Random spider cracks are not generally a concern, but any continuous long cracks should not be ignored because that may indicate future failure areas.

Check for anything protruding up against the membrane.

Any little bumps or humps should be investigated. Along the edges of my 2001 roof I have noticed what feel to be staples which have worked their way up out of position. I considered using a padded or cushioned hammer to try to bump them down, but I concluded that the potential damage wasn't worth it. My repair for those areas has been to use a mesh with lap sealant, or Eternabond Tape patches over the bumps.

Check for any cuts or abrasion on the membrane surfaces. It is better to add sealant which isn't needed than to suffer the consequences of a leak.

I really like working with the the Dicor Lap Sealant Self-Leveling product. It is very sticky and will flow into any low areas. Be very aware that it will not stay in place on vertical surfaces because it will sag and drip. I was successful using it on the upper gutter edge on my roof by using a very small amount as I moved the tube tip along. The Dicor flowed in and improved the seal to metal transition.

Adding roof repair mesh to the sealant repairs will add strength and help improve the sealant effectiveness where the previous sealant has been stressed at material transitions. The roof repair mesh also gives the self-leveling sealant something to help keep it in place. I found that by using the roof repair mesh I was able to seal over staple bumps close to the edge and continue over the edge angle when necessary. I used sealant with mesh as a quick repair where my plastic A/C cover showed some cracking.

Here is some text for Alpha roof systems. The basics apply to all roof systems just be certain to use compatible sealants.

During routine cleaning (3-4 times a year), all caulk and sealants should be inspected for voids or cracking. If the caulk is cracking, pull up any loose caulk. Do not use any tools, such as a putty knife, that could puncture the rubber roof membrane. If you cannot pull the caulk off by hand, it is still adhered to the roof and should be left alone.

Clean the areas to be re-sealed using regular soap and water. The area must be dry before continuing.

Apply a generous amount of Alpha Systems 1010 Sealant over the top of any existing caulk in the area being re-sealed.

To order products now, call 800-462-4698. Please allow 3-5 business days before product ships from our facility. Shipping charges will be added to your order.

Solvents should not be used during cleaning. Solvents can damage existing caulk and may weaken plastic parts that are present on the roof.

In the back of your owners manual under maintenance is a section showing all areas that are to be sealed and information on the type of sealant used. Your Jayco dealer is your best source for purchasing aftermarket product.

Some related links.

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Old 11-17-2013, 05:16 PM   #12
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Other flammable gases than propane may trigger your Propane Gas Detector.
(As always, the original thread/post can be accessed by clicking the blue arrow after the member name in any quote box.)

Originally Posted by VicS1950 View Post
The propane gas detectors in RV's are not sophisticated enough to discern propane from other flammable gases. The basic purpose of the RV units is to warn of the presence of flammable gas, not really detect a specific gas type. Given the fairly basic design there are many things which the detector may respond to. I'm quite certain that some RV anti-freeze makes the list because some do contain alcohol.

As to other triggers. Propane was once a common propellant in aerosol cans. Many manufacturers try to avoid it because it is flammable, but it is not uncommon to find it in your household products. In some cases the products themselves include alcohol in the ingredients.

Some more detail is below for those who may be interested. vic

Caution and Environmental Hazard

Many propellants are flammable, so it's dangerous to use aerosol cans around an open flame. Otherwise, you might end up with an accidental flamethrower. Another possible danger is inhalation: Some aerosol cans, such as whipped-cream containers, use nitrous oxide, which can be harmful if inhaled in mass quantities. To learn more about the propellants used in aerosol cans, check out this site.
Up until the 1980s, a lot of liquefied-gas aerosol cans used chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as a propellant. After scientists concluded that CFCs were harmful to the ozone layer, 70 nations signed the Montreal Protocol, an agreement to phase out CFC use over the next decade. Today, almost all aerosol cans contain alternative propellants, such as liquefied petroleum gas, which do not pose as serious a threat to the environment.

Typical Propellants

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)

Aerosol propellant grade LPG consists of high purity hydrocarbons derived directly from oil wells, and as a by-product from the petroleum industry.
They consist of a mixture of propane, isobutane and n-butane. These propellants are used in most aerosols today, and have been used for many years in household aerosol products.
These gases are flammable, and this is reflected in the classification of aerosols which contain them.

Di Methyl Ether

This is an alternative liquefied propellant, and is more common in personal care products, and some air fresheners.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

These liquefied propellant gases used to be very common prior to the discovery that they were affecting the ozone layer. They are no longer used in consumer aerosols in the western world. They are however permitted in inhalation aerosols, as used in the treatment of asthma.

Non-soluble compressed Gasses. (e.g. Compressed Air and Nitrogen)

These are sometimes seen in consumer products, and are an environmental alternative to LPG.

Soluble compressed Gasses (e.g. Carbon Dioxide)

This is another alternative to LPG, but has limited use, mainly with alcoholic systems, such as air treatment products, deodorants and personal care products.
Originally Posted by VicS1950 View Post
Not that anyone asked...

There are some who recommend against using RV anti-freeze products containing alcohol. The claim is that alcohol can adversly affect some of the RV plumbing system components. I agree with that thought. Not so much because I'm certain that the alcohol will hurt things, but that Propylene Glycol anti-freeze (without alcohol) is less likely to deteriorate the plumbing parts. It may even help to keep seals soft and working properly longer by providing lubrication.

Read the product labels closely.

FWIW. vic
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Old 11-21-2013, 09:08 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by VicS1950 View Post
Per standards Special Trailer tires are speed rated to 65 mph, not 60 mph. Sorry to be a broken record, but anyone who runs their trailer tires at too low a pressure may be setting themselves up for tire failure and even handling problems. You don't need to listen to me, you can research what the experts recommend in the links below.

A Canned Response

Most special trailer tires are speed rated to 65 mph. Speed rated is not speed limited. Tire pressure can affect the speed range. Too little tire pressure is a greater sin than too much pressure. Consult your tire manufacturer information.

Personally I would not run my trailer tires at less than the max rated pressure listed on the sidewall. In my experience that mode gives good wear and puts the tire in a range for higher speeds.

Below is some specific information for
Goodyear Marathon Tires

Special Trailer ("ST") Tires

Goodyear Marathon trailer tires are widely used in a variety of towable trailer applications and are designed and branded as "ST" (Special Trailer) tires.

• Industry standards dictate that tires with the ST designation are speed rated at 65 MPH (104 km/h) under normal inflation and load conditions.

Based on these industry standards , if tires with the ST designation are used at speeds between 66 and 75 mph (106 km/h and 121 km/h), it is necessary to increase the cold inflation pressure by 10 psi (69 kPa) above the recommended pressure for the rated maximum load .

o Increasing the inflation pressure by 10 psi (69 kPa) does not provide any additional load carrying capacity.
o Do not exceed the maximum pressure for the wheel.
o If the maximum pressure for the wheel prohibits the increase of air pressure, then the maximum speed must be restricted to 65 mph (104 km/h).
o The cold inflation pressure must not exceed 10 psi (69 kPa) beyond the inflation specified for the maximum load of the tire.

More info is here:

If the link doesn't work then just add www. to this

What Carlisle says:


Underinflation is the number one cause of trailer tire failure. Low
inflation pressure elevates tread temperature, especially as speed

Review - Practices for Safe Trailer Tire Use

– Maintain air pressure at the maximum PSI recommended on the
tire sidewall.

What etrailer says:
Expert Reply:
Trailer tires should ALWAYS be inflated to the maximum psi rating as indicated on the tire without exception. The reason is that if under inflated, because trailer tires are built with a thicker side wall to handle more vertical load, a lower pressure will cause excessive heat build up and cause the tire to fail.
As always, the original thread/post can be accessed by clicking the blue arrow after the member name within any quote box.
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Old 01-12-2014, 02:56 PM   #14
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It is so that if the ball does come unhooked the tongue will be caught in the chains and maybe not fall to the road surface making it easier to steer to the side of the road
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Old 03-01-2014, 05:01 PM   #15
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All great information, thanks to all.
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Old 03-09-2014, 11:19 PM   #16
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Thanks for the sticky post - very helpful. I will be coming back to this after I pick my TT up, so that I do not forget all of the helpful tips.
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Old 04-21-2014, 03:28 PM   #17
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Since reading this I have noticed that my chains occasionally (but not always???) scrape the ground. I don't quite understand why and was curious how to go about correcting this. I do always cross the chains.
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Old 04-27-2014, 01:53 PM   #18
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Thanks for the infor, Vic. Will remember to keep this post handy. I do have a question regarding the emergency brake cable. Just got back from weekend trip. My son, helpful that he is, accidentally pulled the emer. cable pin out while unhitching. I assumed this locked up the trailer brakes but move the trailer back and forth while still hitched and didn't noctice any pull. He put the pin back in but now I worry, should I pull the wheels off to see if brakes are set? Do I need to take to a rv center to have brakes reset? Any suggestions would be appreciated.
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Old 08-11-2014, 06:56 PM   #19
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We cross are chains over to catch the trailer if it comes un hooked. Lol at least that's what I always hears
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Old 08-11-2014, 07:05 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by micron View Post
Since reading this I have noticed that my chains occasionally (but not always???) scrape the ground. I don't quite understand why and was curious how to go about correcting this. I do always cross the chains.

If your chains hang a little to low just twist them a couple of times before hooking them to your TV.
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