Mentors+trailers – page 2 – chief delphi current electricity examples

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We have a big 16×7 footer with a rear ramp door, purchased on a grant from Ingersoll Rand Foundation (one of our mentors used to work for them). We wouldn’t need anything this big for moving things to events, but it is great on-site storage and (with the graphics) is a great billboard both on-campus and when we roll in parades. We’re currently using it as a garage for a golf cart we’re building into a major air cannon, and some field element pieces. It isn’t too bad to get to suburban events, though I still don’t know how I got it turned around in the St. Louis parking lot in 2015 when I hit a dead end. In our case, the booster club bought it with the grant and donated it to the school board, so they’re covering licensing and liability insurance.

The team does not have a truck/van; we’ve been paying various mentors and coaches over the years for use of their full-size pickups when necessary. If we ever found ourselves without a mentor/coach with a truck, we did the math and figured that it would be much less expensive to rent a large pickup a few weekends a year than to maintain, license, and insure one, even if it were donated.

Wheelbase, wheelbase, wheelbase. The longer the wheelbase on the tow vehicle, the better it will tow in a straight line. We tow with a full size F-150 crew cab with a 5.0L v8 (mine), or a full size Dodge ram with the eco-diesel. I’ve also towed with a twin turbo diesel suburban (the best tow vehicle I’ve used) to a GMC Yukon Denali. The Yukon was probably the worst of the group – it liked to wiggle around a bit too much for my taste.

Also – tongue weight on the trailer is very important. We’ve done this by hit or miss. Load up the trailer, usually with weight forward. Take it for a drive on the freeway with cars passing you. Adjust weight as necessary. Make a trailer loading map, laminate it, and put it on the wall inside the trailer.

Also – if you have a round nose or v-nose, front shelves are awesome. Mount the spare high on the internal wall out of the way, or on the tongue. I prefer inside the trailer so it doesn’t rot. Wasps love to make nests inside spare wheel sun covers. Include an oversized jack with the trailer – most truck jacks aren’t good for this application. Include lug wrench, breaker bar, hitch lock, and lockable wheel chocks (so they don’t get stolen).

Electric brakes are a must-have, especially if there’s a chance you will drive in slippery conditions and you have a decent sized trailer. Any slippery conditions at all including rain or even gravel roads will result in drastically longer stopping conditions. Driving in heavy traffic also makes them necessary. The first time someone pulls close in front of you you’ll realize how important they are. Surge / hydraulic brakes are all well and good, but too often they result in the trailer "pushing" the tow vehicle right around into a jackknife, or lengthening the stopping distance too much. Along with the electric brakes you’ll want an electric brakeaway device and a built in rechargeable battery for the breakaway system. Make sure it is self-charging and has an easy-to-access external self test.

We have an enclosed equipment trailer, something around 7x18ft, with tandem axles and electronic brakes. It’s maybe 1klbs empty and 2-3klbs loaded. We added a number of tie-downs inside, and will likely add several more. It has been a phenomenal asset to have a nice, solid, trailer.

Since many of the trailer-specific things have been covered well, I’ll talk about tow vehicles. I’ve towed it with a Toyota Tacoma, Ram 1500, Ram 2500 HD, Honda Ridgeline, and maybe an F150 (we’ve used it for many years now). They towed something in the 3k weight range without drama. The Ram 2500HD was hilarious overkill and the Tacoma/Ridgeline were comfortable. The other vehicles ranged somewhere in between.

I can talk about cars/trucks for all day and half the night… so I’ll try to keep it short. Lexus GX470 Sport: 8 seats, 5k-6.5k tow capacity, tow package pre-wired for 7-pin brake controller, comfortable, handles stupidly well because of KDSS, mid-size SUV so it’s not a total gas pig/behemoth to park, global chassis/lots of available parts, one of the most reliable vehicles ever made, and durable as all get-out. I picked up a fully-loaded 2006 Sport for ~$10k last November and love it. It has 185k on it and I cannot believe how well everything on it has held up. For the money and for what I wanted to get out of a tow/family/robotics/off-roading/winter DD vehicle I could not find anything better. Having 8 seats available at an event to ferry kids around has been awesome too.

We’re also in the 6×12 single axle v-nose camp. Hauls our whole pit setup with not much extra room. Every time we load up, I think about how much I’d love a bigger trailer, but the reality is that we don’t have any space in our pit for more things anyway!

I tow with my 2007 Tacoma Pre-runner with towing package–6500 lbs towing capacity. It performs just fine on short hauls but cruise control is basically not an option with a fully loaded trailer…it can’t figure out how to handle hills. This is something I’ve heard from a lot of Tacoma owners who tow. On long runs (we’ve done up to 6 hours), not being able to use cruise control is a pretty big bummer. When its time to replace my truck, I’m very torn as to whether or not I’ll step up to full-sized or stay in mid-size. I’ve heard some pretty positive reviews of the latest Colorado…

I’m seeing lots of support for tandem axle trailers in this thread and I’d like to add some counterpoints for the benefits of single axle. First, in the event of a small-scale demo where you only need to bring the robot and a couple of ancillary items, you can hook up to a larger variety of vehicles like smaller SUVs and don’t have to worry about a brake controller. In the offseason, it’s very nice for to have some team representatives out doing outreach while you’re, ya know, spending time with your family, etc. If you’ve got the only tow rig around, you’re locked in to being anywhere the trailer needs to be. Also, we’ve had to get the trailer into and out of some tight spots for various reasons and a small single axle trailer is a lot easier to deal with.