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broken trailer tongue

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  • broken trailer tongue

    I had a customer call me up yesterday morning yelling and screaming that the trailer he bought from me about 3 months ago is falling apart and what a piece of crap it was. He tells me that either I didn't weld one side of the tongue to the frame or the weld wasn't good enough and broke. Seeing he lives about a 100 miles away I suggested he take a picture of the problem and e-mail it to me. He sends me one picture of the left side of the tongue, sure enough it's not attached to the frame any longer. The first thing I'm thinking is maybe when the trailer was framed out we just tacked it and forgot to finish weld. I told him to carefully bring it back to me so we could repair it and check over the rest of the trailer. This morning he pulls up with it and I immediately go right to the left side of the tongue and take a look. The weld was fine, It ripped the metal, so I get up and start walking around the trailer to find the problem. He had mounted a tool box on the tongue and the right side of it is caved in, yes you guessed it, he jack knifed the trailer and it's my crappy work to blame. It took me almost an hour and a lot of patience to explain why the tongue was ripped off and wasn't covered under warranty. In the future I think I am going to have to put a stupidity clause in my warranty policy. The first picture is the one he sent me. The others I took, he still thinks he shouldn't have to pay for repair as it's only three month old.
    Attached Files
    Last edited by dabar39; 04-06-2007, 09:46 PM. Reason: should say first pic is same view as the one he sent me

  • #2
    more pics

    there is one picture of it in front of my shop the day he picked it up and the other two he sent me after he had it for a few weeks
    Attached Files


    • #3
      This is the reason I agreed with my insurance company when they said I could save several thousand dollars a year if I signed saying that I would not work on trailer hitches, truck side or trailer side. No accounting for the moron that has no idea they they could have damaged their own trailer.

      I gladly send this kind of work away and my only regret is that tomorrow I will be following it on the highway when it falls a part, because the owner's neighbor's friend's son has a pocket mig and fixed it for a real good price, just a six pack. Now I have to buy a new suit to go to the funeral.

      Good luck on the stupid clause in the warrantee. Maybe a test to see if they are qualified to but instead



      • #4
        jacket knife trailer

        thats the first thing that they say the weld broke the weld broke. does he want you to fix the tool box. looks like he cuter a little sharp. its funny how guys has the *alls to say that the weld just broke.i dont know. it just broke. and you get it and you see right off how it happan just by look at it. stupidity clause that funny thanks for the pics. dabar39


        • #5
          Not to be the *****'s advocate, and I'll probably catch some flack for this, but I'm not going to say it's completely the owners fault. Did he jack knife it and initiate damage to the unit, yes. If a tongue is designed and built properly, it should be able to handle the forces that mildly crush a thin walled aluminum tool box. The point at which the tongue to frame failed is a considerable distance from the application stress of a jack knife. In other words, that particular weld had mechanical advantage working for it instead of against it. Judging by the pictures it is an 7K lbs capacity trailer. Personally I wouldn't build a tongue on that size trailer with that small of angle iron. In fact, I don't use angle iron tongues, period. They are either channel or preferable box tubing with a third, centered member running parallel with the trailer frames along the center line of the trailer back to the first cross member. The rest of the trailer can pretty well fall apart, but the tongue is the life line of a trailer and needs to be over built if at all possible. Not to say that "stupid clauses" aren't a good idea, I've thought about putting one together myself. The flip side is that as professionals, we are held to a higher level of design and fabrication. That's why we have jobs. If everyone could weld and fab, then we'd be in big trouble. That's why they come to us to have things done right. Anyway, just my $.02 SSS
          Last edited by SkidSteerSteve; 04-07-2007, 08:42 AM.


          • #6
            I'm sure the customer is thinking "It is obvious that you should of made the tongue much stronger because you are supposed to anticipate the tool box being mounted there & the fact that it would be jack knifed & damaged." Remember that no one is responsible for there own actions anymore, it is ALWAYS someone elses fault. I applaud you for sticking up for yourself & not just fixing it for free.


            • #7
              I'm sure the customer is thinking "It is obvious that you should of made the tongue much stronger because you are supposed to anticipate the tool box being mounted there & the fact that it would be jack knifed & damaged."

              yea, you could have done that.... but it would have been the equal to a military trailer that the duece and a halfs pull. It would have withstood a hurricane and being dropped off a cliff... but he couldn't have pulled it !

              If you DO fix it.... offer to cut the corners off that step bumper that crushed the box !!

              Stupid people should have to pay for the right to be that way !!! Reminds me of a sign I saw hand lettered on the back of a flatbed plant truck where I work...

              "If idiots could fly, this place would be a ( the "F" expletive deleted) airport"



              • #8

                I agree with most of your comments about the trailer, but in my defense when you take a box truck weighing in at about 16,000 pounds and look at the construction of the rear bumper area of the truck there is a major disadvantage to the trailer (especially seeing the trailer weighs in at 880 lbs empty). When you put that much upward pressure on the tongue there has to be an equal and opposite reaction elsewhere on the tongue, the weak link was the tearing of the steel frame. I have built several hundred trailers in my time and this is the first one that has come back for any kind of failure in the tongue construction. Also if you take a good look at pictures you can also see how the jack has been bent by leaving it in the down position and hit on something and the 7 pin connector had to be changed from it not being plugged in and dragged on the road way and also one of the hooks on the safety chains has been bent as if he forgot to unhook it or he has previously dropped the trailer off the ball. Also what the pictures don't show real well is the spare tire mount being bent from hitting something and the right side fender and tail light damage from side swiping an object. All of this in less than three months of service. One more point to add this truck had over 120 degrees of turning radius before making contact with bumper (60 degrees in either direction) that should be more than suffiecent radius to prevent a jack knife condition. All of my trailers are built to the customers specific use intended, a maximum load of 6 soda machines weighing about 350 lbs. each and 6 snack machines weighing about 200 lbs. each giving a pay load of about 3000 lbs. 2"x3"x1/4" can handle that kind of weight with no fear of fatigue or failure. I do use box tubing on some of my tongues and plan on using it on all trailers to come. Dave
                Last edited by dabar39; 04-07-2007, 09:57 AM.


                • #9
                  We built an 8' x 20' trailer at work, two 6k lb axles, 2100 lb rated tires, 2 5/16 tongue rated at 10k lbs and was told its a 20k lb rated trailer. They balked when I told them the axles were good for only 12k lbs, the tongue 10k lbs, the tires 8400 lbs so we built a huge 8400 lb trailer. Sure nuff when loaded with Cat scraper motor in front, two huge scraper tires towards the middle and back combined with 55 mph and the roughest road this side of the Pecos it bent in half where the arms go underneath the deck. I was asked bout a warranty. I told them there is no warranty for stupidity and replaced the arms with 1/4 x 2 x 4 tubing and gave them a new warranty. Guaranteed till you start it up or hit the brakes, whichever comes first.


                  • #10
                    if the tongue didn't fail he would be after you to fix his truck all that force has to go someware


                    • #11
                      Right, wrong, my fault, their matter what the case, when things break on the road and someone is killed because a trailer crossed the center line, anyone (driver, owner, maintenance, builder, and so on) that had anything to do with a project is going to be in a courtroom for man slaughter (or worse, negligent homicide). One of the first things a good prosecutor is going to ask for is the engineering approval of a design. One needs to be able to prove beyond a shadow of doubt that their work is 100% or better. I'd rather rebuild a dozen customer's bumpers than the alternative...Just food for thought. SSS
                      Last edited by SkidSteerSteve; 04-07-2007, 05:25 PM.


                      • #12
                        broken trailer

                        dont mean to be picky but it looks as though the cross angle was only welded to the trailer rail on one side (or i am missing something in the picture)

                        also..the part of the tounge that is broke off is not bent (or not much) that would lead me to believe it is more than possable the weld pulled out first..putting all the strain on the other side witch then bent

                        bottom line is..tounge should have twisted like a pretzle...your tounge had insufficient weld.

                        no welds should pull out of the material..if they do..there was not enough weldment

                        perhaps you needed more area to weld?...

                        you could have brought your cross angle right to the outside of the rail...welded both sides and also brought your tounge to the outside of the rail..that would have gave you a lot more linear inches of weld?

                        you got off lucky with not being in court..i believe


                        • #13
                          clarification of a few things

                          First things first, The picture doesn't clearly show that the welds did not give. The angle iron on the frame ripped. Second item to note the tool box bent the tongue up on the right side bending the front crossmember, flexing it enough to pull several of the bolts through the planks. The angle on the right side of the frame if you look closely is also bent down and twisted and needs to be replaced. The front bulkhead of the trailer is also bent behind the tool box area. I have measured the trailer out and it is twisted about 3/4" out of square, not the frame but the upper rails. Now I am no engineer by any means but something had to give. If you put upward pressure on something the other end is going to want to go down. I had my girlfriend go back through the invoices and she found a total of 286 new trailers built by me and 90 some repairs in the last 4 years and only 3 comebacks for non construction related issues. As I stated earlier I am not an engineer, but put 16,000 pounds of rolling mass against something that is 880 pounds somethings going to give. I think my track record speaks for its self. In fact if you look at the majority of the utility trailers being built ( at least down here in Florida ) you will see it is quite common to use this method of construction. In fact there is several companies in Georgia that are building trailers with 2x2x1/8 frames and 2x3x1/8 tongues, I build with 2x3x3/16 frame and 2x3x1/4 tongue. And the final item to discuss is the owner wanted to take no responsibility in the damage done.
                          That was my main point I was trying to get acrossed to you, He doesn't think his jack knifing the trailer had anything with ripping the frame. Dave


                          • #14
                            Billie, I was thinking along similar lines. Of course, its very difficult to discern every detail from the pictures, but it does look like there wasn't enough weld attaching the tongue to the rest of the trailer. I realize you may have built several hundred trailers in this fashion with no failures, but that doesn't mean there's isn't a flaw in the design. A lot of times failures aren't truly realized until situations such as this, where the welds and desing are really stressed. Obviuosly, they failed in this situation. Now, I am not removing responsibility from the owner, as he is at fault. However, given what I can see, it does appear that insufficient welds contributed to the problem.


                            • #15
                              broken trailer

                              debar..i am not going to get into heated discussion over this..i agree with you that the owners ineptness was indeed the reason that caused the failure to happen ..but i also i was taught that the welded area of any material shoudl not "pull out" or "shear off" but either one piece or the other that were "joined" (in this case welded ) should break off somewhere between the "connection" (in this case, the weld) and where the extreme force that caused the failure was applie

                              if you ran head on into a wall with your car and and your wife was wearing her seatbelt and it failed and she went through the windsheild and was hurt badly...wouldnt you think there would be a lawsuit against the car company for the seat belt not holding her in

                              i am sure you build good trailers but like was stated earlier in this thread....liability does not end in "30 feet or 30 seconds" what ever comes first

                              you put the storie and the photos in the thread for opinions...i have given mine and you can take from it any thing (or nothing) and will not try and stand up for you or against you any further

                              work with pleasure


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