Close Call with a Camper Trailer

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darlingbooks's Avatar

Close call today

On our trip to Salt Lake City today, I made a bad mistake. I drove for 3 hours and we had stopped for lunch and a nap at a rest area 129 miles out of Salt Lake City on I84, in Southern Idaho.

Something about the trailer causes the back of the van to have a buzzing noise when the cable is attached, and the van is turned off. I have found that if I unplug the cable from the van, the buzzing quits, and I don’t worry about draining the batteries on either the trailer or the van. I will check this out when we empty the back of the van of the furniture.

After lunch and a nap Anne-Marie and I decided to change driving positions, and I groggy headed walked straight to the passenger side of the van and got in, and Anne-Marie walked around the front of the van and got into the drivers seat. Had I been the driver I would have stepped over the trailer hitch and seen the cable unplugged. She had no clue.

Anne-Marie drove 129 miles with no lights, and no brakes on the 34 foot trailer, clear to the RV park in Salt Lake City. Anne-Marie was complaining that it felt as if the van was skidding or on ICE when she was turning off of the freeway, and she barely stopped at the first light. She said that she felt the van sliding at the turn into the RV park, and barely stopped at the registration area. I looked and listened but could not hear the tires sliding. I looked at the hitch, and saw the trailer cable neatly coiled just like I left it.

The cable could have drug for 129 miles and ware off the plug-in head or wore the cable in to 2. Brake fade and brake fade. We could have had a horrible accident with 10,000 pounds of trailer pushing our van into any thing. The brakes seem to have recovered on the van. Now, I shall check the trailer cable every time we stop for anything.

We have talked about making a check list for things to do when stopping and setting up, and hooking up, and I think the time has arrived.


    Reply's to posting..

    1. Hi, glad to hear that nothing really bad happened to you or anyone else. You really need to find out what that buzzing noise is and why it has happened so you never have to disconnect you umbelical cord while on the road. The buzzing could be one of the relays for the trailer tow package on the van.
    You are fortunate, to say the least, and I agree you need to find the buzzing and correct it. That is not normal.

    However, I have done a simular thing...left the electrical connector unplugged after a short nights stay at a KOA while traveling. We had gone thru an immigration check point on IH10, and a trucker behind me called on the CB and told me my brake lights were not working, and I knew instantly what I had done. Seems I did notice it not stopping as good as normal.

      A Prodigy brake controller will show "NC" on the screen if you are Not Connected, a good feature. I also try to remember to always activate the manual trailer brake feature when starting out, just to make sure they are working right. I used to pull a 2,000 lb pop-up camper with a Sienna mini-van, no brake controller, and realize now I was somewhat lucky that my van brakes stopped that whole package. You were lucky too!

    My brake controller lights up with the adjusted numerical setting each time the brakes are applied. Yours should also. If you have yours mounted out of your line of sight move it. When my does not light the trailer lights are not activated either. Occasionally I have to replug the cable but never (yet) before I move.
    Neil and Lynn Holman
    FreshAir #12407

    Our Prodigy brake controller shows two dots in the display when not connected, and C when connected, then a number display when brakes are applied while connected.

    The buzzing noise could very likely be a relay that is a part of the trailer wiring package, and maybe a relay, in the rear of the van. I noticed this noise when refueling, and it sounded similar to a bass speaker when a radio is off station, just white noise, and at a very low volume. I remember our dealer saying to be cautious of leaving the umbilical cord plugged in for extended amounts of time, hours or overnight, with the vehicle not running, because it could drain the vehicles battery.


    Whenever we hook up, Anne-Marie insists on doing a walk-around check on all of the lights. This is a hold over from 12 years as a bus driver. This one time, it just wasn’t questioned.

    The brake controller is positioned so that the steering wheel just blocks the view of it, barely.


    I am sure glad to hear that everything turned out OK.

    Thank you for mentioning this incident. It is a very good reminder and lesson for us all.

    SuEllyn & Brian McCabe
    WBCCI #3628 --- AIR #14872

    Good wake up for all of us. Thanks!

    We drove home without our sway control that first summer we had the trailer, and since then we have made a checklist and use it every time we hitch and unhitch. If we stop for food or gas along the way, I always stop and take a long slow look at the hitch, just to make sure no one has fiddled with anything. Someone on here had a story of stopping for gas and another driver took a shortcut and stepped over the hitch and knocked the plug out. I also just want to make sure nothing has come loose. I'm ultra paranoid, but so far it has paid off.

    Our family photo blog

    You were very fortunate. It sounds like a good idea to relocate that controller so it is in line of sight while at the wheel. Thanks for posting as a reminder to us all to take extra precautions when heading down the road.

    Be safe out there.

    WBCCI/VAC #2699
    Air #

    I'm haunted by aluminum.
    Charter Member of the 4 Corners Unit...

    You are sooooo lucky.
    The van must have huge brakes
    Winston Salem, NC
    WBCCI 5218, Piedmont NC Unit 161

         12.  Thanks for sharing!

    I try to be just OCD enough to push the brake controller and turn on the parking lights every time we pull away from somewhere, but forgot once. Caught it before we got out of the park, but ...

    Did get to check the anti-locks as a silver Focus ran a red light in front of us on our last trip. I guess the trailer brake controller was OK, as it didn't swap ends on us.
    Missed by 6" but only that.

    Please go to

    Our organization is grateful that nobody got hurt during your ordeal. Please go to Dangerous for more on "Passenger cars that tow trailers"

    The decision to drive your trailer without working lights is alarming.

    That decision could have caused an accident not just to you... but everybody who was behind you.

    At least 50% of the time the lights do not work on these types of trailers and our organization got a law passed in Virginia to require 8 feet of DOT Type c-2 tape to be put on the rear of these types of trailers.

    U Haul along with Carry on trailers spent alot of money the next year because they did not want to spend the $10.00 dollars to do it. In fact Carry on trailers continues to not put on the tape unless the seller of the trailer request's.

    In fact they argued that they do not have to put it on because they are transporting it on a flatbead trailer and the utility trailer is not touching the ground in transportation.

    Go here to veiw the law..Reflector Tape Law In VA

    Then go here to see our press release..
    Dangerous Releases 2008 Accidents Statistics from Passenger Cars That Tow Trailers

    And see this accident in Georgia
    Major Accident In GA

    Please see our updates page at Dangerous The issue is what if you are drivng behind a person who chooses to do what you did?

    Here's a little project for you. The next time you're out and about take notice of the countless numbers of trailers being hauled daily on our roadways. Look closely and you'll see that many are improperly attached to the tow vehicle, don't have working lights, safety chains and are unacceptably maintained. Then ask yourself, why am I riding behind or next to this person trying to kill or injury me or my family


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