Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Beginning... The Failure of the Fifth Wheel Pin Box

I found the cracks when I was un-hitching in the Madison Campground. When I found 'em they were just small, almost only hairline cracks. Disturbing, but not yet; "Oh My God!" ... they were still just only; "Damn, I could have gone a long time without that." :)

But, it was gonna be a couple days before the only game in town, that I could find, could do anything. So we looked around till Saturday morning... and, did the alternator replacement when that fried the next morning. :)

Then Saturday morning I hitched up and pulled the rig 14 miles west into West Yellowstone. Made that a long slow trip, not wanting to stress those cracks any more if I could avoid it. They could have been there for a couple days, I didn't know.

I got the rig, running slow with the emergency flashers goin' all the way to town. Just as we made the turn off of the Yellowstone road onto the main road in town, the cable that ran to the break-away brake snagged on something, and jerked the plunger out, locking the brakes.

Now, those small cracks were no longer, small cracks... When the trailer STOPPED, the 10,000 pound and more truck... Didn't... or at least, not very fast. oooooooffffffffffffff!

It jerked those cracks from cracks... into Tears and Hitch Failure.

*Failure of Attachment of Fifth Wheel Pin Box to Main Beam*

I sat in the intersection for many seconds, scrambling... as angry drivers cursed me for blocking the road. At least I was told they were. I was focused on getting the brakes released. Good thing for those Nasty Drivers, that I didn't hear 'em. That kind of ARROGANCE and lack of consideration is NOT something I deal with to awfully well. ;)

Finally, I got the plunger reinstalled, and the rig moving again. This time, with the main beam fractured and several other welds popped and torn...

*Example of other structural breaks from the twisting pin box*

I had another mile or so to get to the repair location. That was a long slow mile, moving at four or five miles an hour, with the flashers going... and rude drivers so intent on getting to their "Vacation" activities that they couldn't allow a man to deal with a serious breakdown, without their infantile gyrations...

Sometimes... What the hell is the rush with some folks? Take it easy, slow down. You'll get a more harmonious outcome! :)

So... we got there... and I went to work peeling the skin to get to the failure, and see what the total damage was...

*Getting the removable part of the Pin Box Out of the Way*

*The Fifth Wheel Hitch Area Opened Up for Inspection and Repair*

This is when we found cracks and pops on most of the supporting beams, that came when the brakes locked.

To come in the next post... the repair that wasn't a repair... yuck! !!!!!

The last thing here is this. This failure came NOT because of the Gooseneck adapter I use. If THAT was the problem it would have happened a long time ago, and the geometry simply don't support that argument.

But, if you look at that picture where I'm removing the front part of the pin box? You'll see that Jayco designed and built this rig with a "Long Style" pin box. Now... THAT is an issue.

My complaint and claim? IF you are going to utilize that sort of a design... You have to accept that you are putting a hell of a lot of stress on the frame... from the VERTICAL impacts over the many miles it will be hauled. Vertical impacts that are going to slam that frame whether it's sitting on a fifth wheel hitch or receiving those same impacts Vertically through a gooseneck adapter.

Those impacts are the SAME, with either attachment method. The geometry, the distance between the pin box king pin and the truck bed are the SAME, Fifth Wheel or Gooseneck. The lever length is the SAME. The gooseneck has greater flexibility and movement, reducing lockup over fifth wheel and REDUCING potential stresses from that but otherwise, the lever and it's forces are pretty much the same... The ROAD IMPACTS are the issue, NOT, the type of attachment.

ACCEPTING that reality, YOU AS THE MANUFACTURER must build the frame that the hitch is attached to, with a weight of material suitable to endure those Impacts... if you intend to sell it,with integrity, to someone.

Jayco, and MOST, Fifth Wheel manufactures, did not, and do not do that.

That frame is insufficient weight for long term heavy duty use. It is insufficient to build a car trailer that's gonna haul a Yugo. Honestly? I knew they don't build the things like they should, but I was still surprised by the light weight tubing they used.

So... we'll be adding several gussets, a heavy bracing member behind the attachment point, all intended to distribute the stresses more evenly across the frame. The idea is to eliminate the "Focusing" affect of how they built the rig. The way those stresses are now focused down on two welds...

It's also my intention to figure out how to scrape the beans together to install an Air Ride Fifth Wheel pin box, to reduce those un-avoidable  Road Impacts.

Taken all together, I believe our work will return our Rig to serviceability, and truthfully? Better than it was.

One more time, where a couple of rednecks fix the "Design" of engineers who allowed their work to be co-opted by the bean counters and "Bottom Line" bozos running the show.

Sound Kinda grumpy about it don't I? :) Yeah well, I kinda am. When I screw up, I admit it. In the end, I admit it, and try to do better the next time. Those guys, just keep running the line that they do good work and refuse to accept the reality, that they are Screwin' the Pooch... and cheating people. Bottom line, what they do is something they just can't be proud of.

So... this next week we'll get on to the final and real repair, and reconstruction of things, so we can get back on the road...

Takin' It As It comes

Return to the main site of goin' RV Boondocking or Visit my Sister website Motorcycle Touring on Freedom Road


Cindy Kingma said...

Those are some scarey looking pictures of those broken welds! We used to have a 5th wheel but rarely used it so recently sold it. I always worried about that king pin also. The 'home' ours went to its going to be stationary as guest quarters on neighbor's property. Sorry you had to find out the hard way how little and cheap the manufacturers build these types of RV's, Brian. Makes ya wonder how many others out there have failed like yours. And since you like to go over more primitive roads sometimes, you are doing the extra care your rig needs. I'm looking forward to the 'not good' repair you got in W Yellowstone. You figure to complain to that place?

Don said...

Sounds like you were pretty darned lucky to make it to where you can get a good repair.

You were mumbling a while back about going to another kind of rig. Sure you want to go for an air-ride attachment for something you are going to get rid of? Just asking. The one you've got now has worked for how-many-thousands of milse?

Jeff and Lori said...

Hi Brian,
I don't know anything about 5th wheel trailers or Jayco models but does this recall have anything to do with your problem?

Brian said...

Cindy; Yeah, I expect if people pulled the skin off, so they could inspect the frame, a sizable number would find cracks. I suppose I could complain, I expect all that would happen is I'd get all cranked up... I just don't have the stomach for all that noise any more... Most I'll do is tell folks to find a repair place OTHER, than in West Yellowstone. ;)

Don; Real dang lucky :) but, we'll get it done RIGHT here... Lesson Learned... Man, I hate to have to be a JERK to get things done correctly... and as for the air ride... I do want to change up rigs... and I'd do it right now today, had I the dinero :) with a good bit of luck this winter, that might change by spring (Here's hoping!) so... I figure I'll be selling/trading this rig... and to tell the truth, I'm pretty much wanting the knowledge that the thing is strong for the remaining time I haul it... and then be able to sleep at night, knowing I didn't pawn off a piece of dangerous "Stuff" on someone, sold or traded.

I figure we've got something over 60,000 miles of hauling on this rig... maybe close to 70... if I'd been smart enough to put an air ride on years ago, I expect this failure wouldn't have happened... so... another one of those "Best Guesses" of what to do... If we end up having to keep hauling this rig for a few more years due to economics, I'll be glad I have that hitch...

Jeff and Lori; Ours is a different model, and only a year older... But, Kinda looks like a lil' bit of a pattern don't it?

It sounds like they DID exactly what we'll be doin'... Really changes my opinion of Jayco quite a bit... and it had already been taken down several notches after ten years of fixing their Fine Craftsmanship. :)

I'd guess we've hauled more miles than most fivers get hauled, and they built, calculating that MOST don't get hauled, just sit beside the garage... and are willing to take the heat on the few that do rack up the miles... Fine way of doing business ;)

MyTinyTropicalGarden said...

Because of failures such as yours, we had our pin box inspected and have been satisfied that our set up should be able to handle any stress we may encounter over the next few years, barring accidents, of course.
This seems to be a common failure of frames in models especially made before 2008.

If you have fiver, a regular check made by and experienced welder once a year is worth its weight in gold, it's not as difficult to get under the shroud as it looks.

I'm sorry for your loss Brian, that setup looks pretty lame to me, it's criminal to expect those rigs to hold up going down the road. We used to have a Fiver with a gooseneck adapter and you are right, it should make no difference.

You are not alone, do a search under frame and pin box premature failure and you'll see it's everywhere and crosses several manufacturers.

Anonymous said...

Your comparison of gooesneck vs. fiver hitch configuration is interesting. As an engineer, I would say you are basically correct about the vertical loading between the two types of hitches being equivalent, but you are not considering the rotation load on the Eagle's structure. The rotational or torque load from the gooesneck is much higher than from the fiver. Couple this with, as you put it, "leaving the rig with just about a rigid suspension", and the twisting load on the front of your rig is very high. I suspect much higher than the design load. So while you have rationalized it as Jayco's poor long pin box design and their attempt to reduce cost, maybe it is your no suspension-gooesneck modification that actually caused the failure. Before spending the money on an air pin, maybe consult with a structural engineer to determine if the frame failure was from rotational or vertical fatigue. Knowing the answer to this question will also help you design a repair that will hold up. Now you're a reasonable guy, open to suggestions, so rather than spend so much time pointing a finger, why not get to the root cause of problem. Maybe, this is just an academic discussion, but I know and you know that there are always two sides to a story. Good luck with the repair and get back on the open road a.s.a.p.

Ted said...

Brian, Last post was from me; didn't mean for it to be "Anonymous". Ted

Unknown said...

So, lucky to get home as I had a complete failure of the pin box area on a Keystone Laredo. It is a 2003 model, bought used by myself, had it for about 5 years. Taken some longer trips the most punishing of which as on I-80 through Nebraska. Doing some research to see what not to buy in the future. I have seen a couple of posts that indicate a year to buy after (2008). Is there something I need to know about the year? Did manufacturers change materials? My trailer looks very similar to the pictures on this post- light duty steel. Having mine fixed but makes me worry about buying another from Keystone.

Unknown said...

Had a similar issue on a 2003 Keystone Laredo. Any information on any recalls for this 5th wheel? Also, reading that 2008 and newer may not have these problems, did manufacturers change the grade of steel to compensate after that time? Don't want to repeat history on another Keystone.