Trailering the Polaris Ranger: a near-miss

February 19, 2010

I tow the Ranger on a 6X11 custom built trailer.  A winch pulls the front wheels up against a solid “headache bar” at the front and the bar and the side rails hold it in place.  That system had worked well for a year.  And then it didn’t…..

It was time to clean the chainsaw oil out of the back of the Ranger, so I loaded it onto its trailer and headed for the local car wash in Elgin. The road was a bit bumpy with frost heaves and all of the sudden the tandem trailer started to sway. I pulled off and checked the load, expecting a flat tire.

The tires were fine, but the Ranger had unhooked itself and was on the verge of dropping off the back of the trailer. YIKES!

Chastened, I moved it back up into position, set the brake again, and checked the retaining strap. Turns out the cutout I had selected on the pan underneath the Ranger doesn’t allow the hook on the webbed strap to seat very well: there’s a beam welded to the upper surface of the plate about 1/4″ from the hole. I hadn’t noticed that, and had blindly hooked at the most convenient cutout. I certainly won’t do that again.

I re-hooked in a safer cutout and proceeded on to Elgin. When I got to the car wash the thing was loose again, though it had not come adrift this time. Why would this slick system go so wrong, so suddenly? Frost heaves on the road! The way I have the thing hooked, a bump which causes the front suspension to flex will temporarily loosen, and potentially unhook, the strap. Clearly I need to develop a more secure fastening system, and as well come up with an additional safety strap which I can monitor from the driver’s seat of the truck.

To get home I tied a stout rope to the bumper of the Ranger and to a cross bar on the A-frame of the trailer. If the rope got tight, I’d know I was in danger, but it would keep the UV from rolling off the back of the trailer until I could stop.

Once home I checked tire pressures. In mid-winter this is always embarrassing. Three of the trailer tires were low. All of the Ranger tires were below 5 p.s.i. as well. Much puffing later, the rig was ready for another cautious roll-out, but I’ll look for a snap system for that web strap which will hold securely without making a mess of the bottom of the Ranger.

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