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Last Updated on Monday, September 01, 2003 03:37 AM


Safety Chains

(and other things that go bump, or tinkle tinkle in the night)

by Brian Brady


     Hel-LO! They are called safety chains for a reason.  If they wonít hold the trailer tongue safely off the ground if the hitch separates, then they are of no earthly use whatsoever!  They should be short enough that they will hold the tongue up, but also long enough to be able to turn almost to the point where the bumper is touching the front corner of the trailer, without the chain being too tight.  Of course, they should be crossed under the tongue, so that they form a cradle to hold it, if it should be required.

     I have always thought that safety chains should be attached to the tongue a lot closer to the front than they usually are. Attaching them any further back than a couple of inches behind the socket is a waste of chain, in my opinion. Shortening the chains will help prevent a major problem, also.

     Think for a minute. What container, carrying a potential bomb, is located to the rear and under the trunk on some vehicles? You guessed it. The ever thirsty, never satisfied gas tank! On a holiday trailer, you also have a couple more lethal weapons mounted on the tongue. Yes, propane tanks!  If the chains are attached with a little care and planning, you can achieve several things for your safety - short enough to hold the tongue, short enough to stop the tongue from sliding under the trunk, and long enough to make safe turns.

     Anything else? How about a chain strong enough to hold the trailer on a break-away? Some of the chains I have seen would be fine on a necklace, or a dog, but a tandem axle, 30 foot trailer loaded for bear? I doubt it! 

     A good idea would be to take a look at the chains on a flat deck load of steel at your local truck stop. They have a tensile strength far in excess of what you would need. You are only going to buy a couple of feet, so itís no big expense! Get the gold colored ones. They are the strongest. Of course, you could go with what came with the trailer. Trust me, they are probably marginally adequate at best, pure decoration at worst, and will do nothing for your peace of mind in the meantime, especially now that you have read this!!

     Slide in camper units on the back of a pick-up truck have four chains, also usually too weak to do any good.  Donít think that they couldnít save somebodyís life.  Now, Kamloops, B.C. seems to be a favorite place for me to see accidents.  One time I saw a wheel depart the rear axle of a tandem Airstream at speed!  Any idea how high that sucker bounced? 

     I also saw, the same day, a few miles down the road, the remains of a homemade camper that had blown off the back of a pick-m-up truck.  It seems the guy had built it and was taking it for a shakedown cruise.  He didnít have time to put safety chains on the unit but, apparently, he was aware that an unsecured unit could be a problem.  He solved it in what, to him, seemed like a very ingenious way.  He got his wife to ride in the camper!   I guess he figured her weight would hold the camper down.  WRONNNNG!!   Sadly, neither the camper nor the wife survived the flight.

     What's the moral of this tale?   First, make sure your safety chains are strong enough to do the job.  Second, make sure you use them correctly.  And third, make sure you use 'em!

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Ferries & Propane

by Brian Brady

     Most marine ferry operators must observe and follow maritime law as it applies to the propane systems on RVs.  When you park your unit on the 'car deck', usually below the 'promenade' or open deck area, the law states that all propane-fueled appliances, i.e.; refrigerators, heaters, generators, and even your truck or car engine, must be isolated from the propane storage unit (tank), by shutting off the valve(s).  A member of the crew is usually assigned the chore of checking each vehicle after you have exited the car deck.

     On all the ferries I have travelled on, you must exit the car deck, and go topside.  Remember therefore, once you disembark from the vessel, to pull over at the first opportunity, and turn on the propane, or the fresh salmon you bought and put in the top of the fridge will soon show its displeasure at thawing out.  Stays with you for a long time it does, that smell.

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