An experimental investigation of car-trailer high-speed stability

Jocelyn Darling, Derek Tilley, B Gao

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Previous work on car-trailer stability has been largely limited to theoretical studies with some reference to practical experience or accident statistics. In this study, extensive and systematic experimental investigations were carried out oil a combined car-adjustable-trailer system. The influence of different trailer parameters on the system high-speed stability was examined by changing the mass, dimensions, and inertial characteristics of a fully adjustable trailer. It was found that the dominant factors affecting stability were the trailer yaw inertia, nose mass (mass distribution), and trailer axle position. The tyre pressure also affects the stability, although this effect is less significant. It is interesting to see that the trailer mass alone does not dramatically affect the high-speed stability, as this runs contrary to current guidelines relating to limits on the relative mass of the car and trailer. Experimental tests on a friction stabilizer and on car electronic stability programs demonstrate that both of these improve the high-speed stability and help to delay the onset of 'snaking'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)471-484
Number of pages14
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part D: Journal of Automobile Engineering
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2009


  • trailer
  • sensitivity
  • experiment
  • stability
  • electronic stability programmes
  • stabilizer


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