Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Trailer Driving 101 - Part 1 Driving Forward

This is my 40 foot trailer with the little piggies I haul on Thursdays.  I haul about 500-650 pigs each week in this trailer at one time.  They weigh about 10 - 15 pounds each.  Its a pretty light load, but a long load for my pickup.  My entire rig only weighs about 27,000 pounds when I'm loaded.

 I have a few friends who have livestock, but don't regularly drive the truck & trailer.  One friend asked me for a tutorial or lesson on driving with the trailer.  Even if you don't drive trucks or trailers, please scan the post & read the tailgaters section (thank you for your consideration).

So, here goes.  My dad was a great driving instructor when I was learning how to drive!  He has the MOST patience of ANYONE that I know.  He is also inventive & would spend hours letting me learn how to drive.

I did start driving a truck & trailer as soon as I had my permit (14).  Mostly, at that time I only drove in the tight spots at horse shows & backed the trailer into the place we wanted to be parked at the show (had to have a good view of the arena, with all of our friends around us).  This was because Mom has no depth perception & would always run into things, or get stuck with our 2 wheel drive truck.  But, she didn't enjoy letting me drive on the highway.

First, you need to know about how long the trailer you are pulling is.  Is it a 40 foot gooseneck (like I haul on Thursdays) or a 12 foot bumper hitch?   Most typical livestock trailers are about 24 - 28 feet.  It is also good to know how wide your trailer is.  Typical widths are 6 to 8 feet wide.  Good indicators are wether the wheel wells are inside or outside of the trailer.  Most wheels are about 6' 5" apart.

Gooseneck versus Bumper Hitch - Basics

Goosenecks will follow in your truck tracks.  You can turn MUCH tighter with a gooseneck.  Just watch your cab especially if you have a short-box truck & turn too tight.  If you are loaded, you need to watch your trailer tires when you make more than a 90degree turn.  You will be sliding the tires in the back & front axles & could potentially pop one off of the bead if you are toooo loaded & turn tightly.

Bumper Hitch trailers are great for going forward, but a little different to back.  A bumper hitch will turn tighter behind you & will have much different tracks than your truck tires. (*I will add more here later, because I haven't pulled a bumper hitch in about a month)

I would recommend getting to know how your trailer drives without a load and in wide open spaces.  Its NOT always possible, so just try to keep these few things in mind.

1 - Always turn at least 1 second later than you usually would, per 10 feet of trailer.   Meaning that if you have just a 12 foot trailer; just count "one Missippi and" between the time you would normally turn a corner and the time you NEED to with a trailer.  This will give you the extra travel room to prevent your trailer tires to jump the curb or hit an obstacle.

      For instance, with my 40 foot trailer, when I want to turn left, I drive 4  (& a half, cause I like extra room) seconds farther forward BEFORE I turn SHARPLY to the left.  If you are driving a Gooseneck, you can turn sharper than with a bumper hitch.

2 - If you are going to turn right, you need to first hug the left side of your lane before you turn the corner to the right.

     If it is an especially tight right hand turn, (and you have a long trailer) you might need some of the next lane to the left of you.  Plan AHEAD and share respectfully. 

3 - If you have mirrors that adjust OUT and away from the truck, pull them out as far as they will go & then adjust BOTH of your mirrors so that you can see your trailer tires and the area next to your trailer.

4 - You now weigh a LOT more than you did before you hooked up your trailer.  So you will need to plan farther ahead to stop your rig.  If you are heavily loaded, you will need even farther ahead to stop.  This also needs to be considered when you choose your speed.  SLOWER is better.  But, you do need to consider the flow of traffic & people passing you, might disturb your load (animals).

5 - TAILGATERS!!!  (THESE PEOPLE DRIVE ME NUTZ!!!) If you can not see BOTH mirrors of the rig in front of you, they have NO CLUE you are back there!!  It is rude to drive so close that you can't see their mirrors!  And it is DANGEROUS!  Please consider this the next time you are following a semi-truck.  Think about how far back you need to stay.  If you do decide to drive closer, you are taking your own life in your hands.  I usually hope a cow pees on the people following me!!  I have seen it happen, & I thought it was a great lesson to the angry man in the little blue car!  I only wished he was driving a convertible!

6 -  Know your hitch, & double check everything for saftey!!! Hitch your truck & trailer, then check it again!  Always check your entire rig each and EVERY time you get out of your rig.  Make it a practice to walk around starting at the front and check the following things.  (Put your light & flashers on & it will make it easier)
Front bumper (going towards passenger side)
Anything hanging under the front?
Truck Lights good?
Front Drive Tires good?  Inflated, tread good?
Passenger side - Anything hanging?
Trailer Marker lights good on front of trailer?
Back Drive Tires - Both inflated good?  (kick inside dual too!)  Anything hanging?
Hitch - All saftey chains hooked?  Hitched properly?
Trailer Marker lights on Side of trailer good?
Underside of trailer (LOOK, REALLY look!)  Floor looking good from underside?  Anything hanging, boards sagging?
Trailer tires - Good tread, Good inflation?  Anything hanging underneat axle?
Trailer gates - Latched properly?  Saftey Latch too?
Blinkers all flashing??  Bright enough & CLEAN enough to be seen??
Marker Lights all good??
    Follow same checks for driver's side as you come up to the front.  CHECKING IT ALL AGAIN!!! You can see different things from each side!

There's the basics for now.  I think that I have covered everything.  A little knowledge up front & a quick run around the rig always saves some time in the long run!!  Beter to notice a sagging floor board now, before an animal falls through!  That quick run around the truck will also let you make a list of things (like marker lights) that you need to fix after you haul this load.

Just slow down a little, plan ahead for turns and stops.  And you should be good to go!

By the way, I still count in my head the extra seconds when I'm hauling the big trailer.  But, I also make really wide turns when the trailer isn't hooked up (drives my husband nutz!)

Happy hauling!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'm a GIRL, but I'm not dumb!

So, yesterday I get to take our truck to the shop.  Nothing, major, just a bunch of little things.  It is nearing 100K miles and the engine warranty will run out.  I wanted the dealer to check it out during the normal oil change, with a parking brake issue, and there was a recall on a steering part in the front end.

As always, I have 3 kids in tow.  I drove 2 hours to get to this dealer, and had my wonderful mom meet me to pick us up.  I get there and the "Service Advisor" hurries to check me in.  As I am trying to explain the front end issues and the recall, he lets me know "that he's seen this in over heavy duty trucks, like 2500's."  "You'll need some serious front end work done, not just the U-Joints in your front hubs.  You'll need a new pitman arm and some steering parts to make it stable." 

 Hmmmm, so you glance under my truck, say I don't need the recall part, even though the dealer sent me a card with my VIN number on it that says it does. And then you can tell me that I'll need $2500- $3000 worth of work on my front end?  INTERESTING, since I had my front end looked at twice in the last month by 2 different shops.  Once when I had the clutch bearings replaced before Thanksgiving.  I asked him if the front end looked good & he saw anything else that needed done.  He told me that my U-Joints were the noise that Honey had heard & they would need replaced in the next month or so.  Good deal.  When I had new front tires installed, I asked the service man at Goobs to check out the ball joints & steering, because I still noticed shaking when I hit a bump.  Goob's man said it all looked good!  He did also mention the U-Joints were going to need replaced, but that was the only thing he could see.

Interesting.  The dealer guy, Dennis, called me 2 hours, and asked "WHERE ARE YOU??".  (take a deep breath) I'm at my parents, like I told you, I was going to have someone come pick me up.  "Oh, thats right, you did tell me that."  "I was going to have you look at the underside of this truck.  It has some SERIOUS problems!"  (DEEEP breath)  "You are going to need to replace the upper and lower ball joints and the pitman arm like I told you.  And the technician says that if you don't replace them soon you're going to need a NEW AXLE"  I take a deep breath.  The repair total had escalated to over $3000.

I told him I didn't know what to say.  I told him that it was interesting that two different people had looked at the underside of my truck and did not see that any of these things were wrong.  "Well, they weren't trained Dodge Mechanics, and they weren't inspecting the steering system"  (REALLY Deep breath)  "You know, this is amazing, you diagnosed all of these problems with a glance under the truck, that no one else had seen in the past month," I said.  He again disagreed with me that anyone qualified had looked at the front end.  (WOW, you don't have to be a "DODGE" man to tell if the ball joints are bad).  I told him that I was very frustrated and didn't know where he and I had gotten off on the wrong foot.

I'll quit going into details now, but about 2 seconds later, he called me RUDE and ABUSIVE.  Hmm, because I was questioning him, and his practice of diagnosing a problem (which there was a recall for a related part) in the driveway.  WOW!  He told me I had no Idea how a large truck worked.  INTERESTING.  Then how is it that I (not my husband) have put over 500,000 miles on 3 trucks (a 7.3L Ford F350, a 6.0L Ford, and now this 3500Ram).  I have never had to do an entire front end of this depth.  And certainly not at 100,000 miles.  I think the 7.3L had the ball joints redone at about 250K miles.

I have NEVER been insulted this much by ANYONE!!!  I was really upset and hurt by his words when I just questioned his diagnosis.

Wow, I think he just saw a little girl (I'm 5foot nothin for those of you I don't know in person) with 3 small children getting out of "her husband's truck" and heard "shakes when I hit a bump" and thought "SUCKER".  I don't believe anything a service advisor says.  I do have my oil changed by a mechanic, so they look at all the other details of my rig (I specifically ask them to look everything over).  But, I can and have changed the oil on all of my trucks myself, so that I am familiar with how everything in my engine looks.  When Honey drives, he says something if he notices a sound (like the U-Joints).  Wow, we all missed a totally ruined front end!  LOL!

Anyhow, the oil was changed.  He never bothered to check into my brake problem, and did not check the engine over (the 2 things that I DID want looked at).  So if you are in Iowa.  Do NOT go to Granger Motors, and have Dennis as your service advisor.

We will be buying a Ford again next time.  I think they have resolved all of their Diesel issues.  (We had a 6.0 Diesel last time, enuf said)

Sorry for the Total Rant!  I just had to get it off my chest.  I have talked with his manager, (he didn't sound that he was suprised) and will be writing a letter to the Dealer.  But, I will NEVER bother to grace thier door again!!

A good service department is worth its weight in gold!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Well, we've been running at full speed around here! Our list from the last 3 days...

Farm Wife Friday, It was my turn. So this means that 2 girlfriends and their kids come to the house and clean, organize, clean, eat, paint, clean, and decorate!!! WOW!! Those girls can really work!! My living rooms are now partially decorated. Yes, I know that I've lived in this house for over a year... But, I have a fear of decorating, or hanging something wrong. So, I just don't do it. My last house was done by my Grandma, after she couldn't stand (a year of)bare walls.

I will even have pictures on my walls of MY family!! I have curtains (& they're hung!!)! And Abby brought a great desk that she CurbShopped. Crazy, 'cause its a great little antique desk. MamaP is fixing some pictures for me & putting them in a custom matted frame of our last name that I bought.

AMAZING!! (& Honey even liked the house, its more AMAZING!!!)

Then after the girls left, I got a phone call that I was late to take Freedom & Ultimate to be ultrasounded. So, we hooked & loaded & ran. It was only 7 miles away, but I detest being late. (nevermind, that Honey forgot to tell me about the appointment).

Saturday, we left the house at 8 after choring & set up a portable Corral at the pasture and drove all the cows to the corral. We sorted & hauled 3 loads of cows & 2 loads of calves home. Just Honey & I with all the munchkins in the truck. Then we did chores in the dark & had Squeak's 2nd birthday party.

Yup! Momma's sad! My little man is 2!!! No longer a baby!! As I type this he is running around the house chasing J.Cowgirl with a rope, while he is wearing nothing but a hat & diaper. TOOO CUTE! Grandma, Grandpa, Auntie, NIECE, & nephew came down & celebrated with us too. It was wonderful, even if we were sooo tired our eyelids were drooping.

Today, we rolled out of the house at 7 (after choring) and hauled 3 more loads home, then went to work feeding everything & watering. We sorted & weaned the calves & rolled out hay for 3 groups of cows. The calves are eating ok, & went to the hay right away. Winter has hit, so we have to check all the waterers & put in tank heaters in some tanks, & chores generally take twice as long.

But, I LOVE THIS LIFE!! It was a wonderfull weekend working side-by-side with my Honey and kids! Even though, we're all dog tired, it was great!!