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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Motorhome Tire Squeal

We have a 35-foot Sunova with a Blue Ox tow bar system. The "towed" is a 2006 Jeep Liberty Sport automatic transmission, 4x4, equipped with a Brake Buddy. The system is great, easy to use and the Jeep tows great when we are on the highway. In normal turns and maneuvering it is also great. However, on some bends in the road like traffic circles, highway on/off ramps, etc., we hear what sounds like a loud tire squeal (like tires when brakes are locked). The brake system is not engaging and the steering is not locking on the towed vehicle. It has occurred both when braking and when not braking the motorhome. There are no visible signs of rubbing or tire wear and no smell of burning rubber; just the loud noise. I've talked with Blue Ox support, done Internet searches and spoke with other people who tow vehicles and no one has ever heard of this. I went over the installation with Blue Ox and it is totally within their specifications. My rear camera does not show anything out of the ordinary when this occurs, and it is very intermittent so I can't say exactly what conditions might cause it. Any suggestions how to isolate this and/or ideas of what it could be? Bob D., (Toms River, NJ)

I have to say, Bob, you've stumped me also. I've not heard of this exact problem. Do you feel any type of subtle tug; as if the Jeep brakes suddenly, but for an instant? I can only offer a couple of suggestions. First, be sure the Jeep's front end is in alignment and all tires (on both vehicles) are pressurized according to the weight they are carrying. Be sure to include any cargo you stow in the Jeep while towing. And secondly, to maybe pinpoint it better, have someone ride in the Jeep while you're towing and turning. Be sure this is permitted based on local restrictions, however. But having someone in the Jeep, even if just in a big parking lot, will quickly determine if the noise is emanating from the Jeep or from the motorhome. This is indeed a puzzler! Let me know what you find out!

Follow-up: Hi Gary! Actually, you were correct; it turned out to be the front-end alignment. I spoke with a knowledgeable service manager for the local Itasca dealer. He immediately said alignment when I described the symptoms; sent me to the tire shop he dealt with and they found the right front toe was out. Not enough to show a problem when driving or during normal cornering, but enough to make the Jeep track wide in turns when towed. This was even news to the folks at Blue Ox. Right now I can still hear a little tire squeal if I have to do a tight S-turn; sort of like bending around to the left in a traffic circle, then having to counter-steer to move right to exit the circle. I just know now to take them a little slower. The folks at Blue Ox said for that I should try to attach two bungee cords to hold the steering wheel centered. On small smart cars, the wheels run all over the place while towing straight so the bungees are needed for that. But for the Jeep, it might help it return to center quicker so it can make the counter-turn in the opposite direction.

There you go Bob! Glad it all worked out.


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