Tag Archives: Escapees

Travel Trailer and Truck Weights

Full-timers reputedly take everything with them in their RV. There’s no “home” for your stuff except your RV, the home you live in year around. Stuff can get heavy, especially when stuff is densely packed. And RVs have specific limits on hauling heavy stuff. We don’t want to run around the country without any books, food, water, or gear. We could simply declare everything is “a critical need” no matter the weight. Bad idea. How do we figure out how much we can take?

Many RVers have pulled truck and travel trailer across the CAT scales at a truck stop somewhere. Perhaps you’ve stopped by one of the state’s weighing scales? Any of these seem to provide a reasonable look at compliance with overall weight restrictions. Trucks and trailers each have maximum allowable weights, called gross vehicle weight rating or GVWR. The truck and trailer also each have gross axle weight ratings (GAWR) specific to each axle.

The truck has an additional rating you might need to look for a little deeper, the GCWR or gross combined weight rating. This is the maximum allowable total combined actual weight for truck and trailer. You cannot use the two vehicles’ listed weights for this, you need to know what your fully loaded weights are. The CAT scales provide you these total weights for the truck and the trailer for under $10 USD.

You won’t obtain weights for any given corner, or tire load, from these truck scales. They weigh across the entire width of the axle for the weight supported by the left and right tires of each axle. Portable scales can provide weights for each individual tire’s load. We had not attended any rally offering this more detailed weighing and were interested in how balanced, side to side, our truck and our trailer are.

front wheels go onto the two scales first

A prime reason for us to attend the Escapees rally in Marion this past weekend was their SmartWeigh program. Mark Nemeth, Escapees technical advisor, supervised and documented the wheel by wheel weighing of our trucks and trailers. This accurate weighing system provides this information beyond what we obtain from CAT scales.

pads keep the unweighed wheels level to the others

We learned the load per tire for all eight tires. The first weighing was truck only, front axles first. Not surprisingly, Jim’s side weighed thirty pounds more and corresponds closely to our difference in body weight. The rear axles highlighted a 250 pound difference, probably attributable to the 295 pounds of gasoline remaining in the fuel tank on the truck’s left side and the 150 pounds of tool box at the left rear.

must be a diesel-pwr truck, mine doesn't weigh this

Twelve percent imbalance from left to right may not be a big deal but probably explains the utility of tires rotation, eh? More importantly, we want to be attuned to weights distribution for safely towing our full-timing setup down the road.

Our trailer’s weight on the axles is 5,650 pounds. This is good, our axles rating is 6,000 pounds so we are 350 pounds under the maximum rating.

Unfortunately the axles aren’t loaded equally. The front one is 3,200 pounds and the rear is 2,450 pounds. So we plan to raise the hitch head’s height to move weight from the front axle to the rear. We will re-weigh the trailer’s axles afterward.

We learned our weight-distributing hitch needs a little tweaking. Jim knew the hitch wasn’t loading quite enough to the truck’s front axle. The trailer’s weight distributing hitch is still allowing the trailer to push the truck’s rear fenders down over an inch and raise the truck’s front fenders one-half inch. The weighing shows in more detail the problem with the trailer hitched to the truck — five hundred pounds added to each truck rear wheel, and fifty to one hundred off the front wheels. We don’t want to see weight subtracted from the truck’s front end.

Our hitch head is already mounted at the draw bar’s top holes. Jim plans to tear the hitch head down and paint it so it’ll look as good as the a-frame and other hitch parts. Then he will invert the draw bar to provide additional upward adjustment and raise the trailer’s front two inches. He will adjust the hitch ball’s tilt away from the truck to increase the loading to the truck’s front axle.

We could have obtained these results from CAT scales easily enough. But the CAT scales would not have shown us our side-to-side loading. Our trailer’s rear axle weight is equal from side to side. The trailer’s front axle is two hundred pounds heavier on curb side and we don’t think we can effect much change on this — we’re not ready to move the case work or holding tanks. And the truck is less than two-hundred pounds heavier on the curb side, which we can account for and alter by relocating some of the truck bed’s heavier contents.

We have corrections to make on the hitch and fine tuning on our loads. Jim has another project, again. Then a trip to the CAT scales to verify the improvements.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

Mansions and Motor Homes in NC

On our way in for a grand tour of The Biltmore House

We spent yesterday in Asheville NC visiting the Biltmore House. What a fabulous little seasonal cottage, a mere 175,000 sq ft and 250 rooms. The Biltmore House, we read, is the largest privately owned house in the USA. We entered the house at 10:00 a.m., walked the house and gardens and finally left at 4:30 p.m. to drive to Black Mountain for a little while.

an example of the stone carvings at the house

Our Biltmore House tour wasn’t the first for either of us but it was fantastic. We paid an extra $10 each for audio headsets, well worth the cost for the detail we gained. We had fun hearing history and detailed explanations of the family and some of the 250 rooms in the house. An interesting thing we heard was, “21,000 hours expended to restore approximately 2,000 square feet of the Louis XV suite.”

even the carriage house roof is detail-rich

We are astounded at the quality of workmanship throughout the house — the stone and metal work and finish carpentry were stunning everywhere we looked. Even the carriage house roof is rich in details. We’re amazed to think of the architect, Hunt, designing and executing this project. The scale is so huge, how did he get his arms around this entire thing? How ever he did, it sure worked out well.

GWV left his signature

We’re camped at Tom Johnson Camping Center for the Escapees All Chapters Rally East. This is a great rally site location. There are hundreds of three-way hookups for RVs, paved roads throughout the RV park, a great meeting and eating pavilion, and much more. Blue Ridge Parkway and Mt Mitchell, Burnsville, Asheville and Black Mountain, Old Fort and Marion, Linville Falls — all these are very short distances from this rally site.

what better place for a few rose stems?

Today we spent much less time touring the motor homes at Tom Johnson’s. We looked at small (22′) motor homes for $50,000 and gigantic ones (45′) for up to $750,000. The biggest difference between these extremes, besides engine horsepower, seems to be interior size. Some of the smaller ones are very nicely appointed and comfortable with nice (if compact) layouts. The smaller ones have many amenities like the largest ones (except washing machines and dishwashers.) But the big ones also have enough floor space for an aerobics or dance class and all have walk-around king size beds.

Still not for sale

We didn’t find any motor homes, any size, we liked as much as the Biltmore House or our Airstream International 25. Since the Biltmore House is still NOT for sale and we’re still in love with our airstream, we’re keeping our 25′ trailer as home.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

Check it out yourself?

A new (first time RVer) Airstreamer asked me a couple of weeks ago whether they should take their newly acquired 2006 Airstream trailer to a dealer to have it checked out. At first I said, “Do it yourself and don’t take it to someone else.” Then I thought about it and recast my opinion. There are definitely things it would be nice to have done for me, especially if I’ve never done them.

I’ve done some things I don’t really have a hankering to do again. There are people who do these things very frequently and are much more practiced, plus they have the right parts on hand. Later, when I gained more experience with my RV trailer, I was more willing to take on adventurous maintenance tasks like replacing the wheel bearing seals. This is an incredibly messy but rewarding job. I can take or leave it, provided I really trust the person I’d pay to do it.

Back to the question, Would I recommend a new Airstreamer take their trailer to an Airstream dealer to have it checked out? Yes, but not, “Please check everything out”. Rather, I would ask the service department to inspect specific things on my new (or proposed) acquisition.

If I was to take a newly acquired rv trailer to ODM for “inspection”, I would ask for the following:
leak test all propane connections
replace grease seals on both wheels
check brake lining thickness
check electric brakes operation, including break-away switch
check tires tread and condition
re-torque hitch ball to hitch head
check refrigerator for compliance with relevant recalls
re-torque weight distributing hitch attachments
tighten battery connections,
check battery condition

The above are the essential things to inspect for such a new trailer.

A couple of other essential things. Wouldn’t you hate for a wheel to fall off while towing? You need, if you don’t already have one, to get a torque wrench for the trailer wheels. I use an old Sears 150 ft-lb one I bought in 1970 for $19 — I think they might be $25 now.

Plus you’ll need a 3/4″ wheel lug socket (I use a deep socket) and a six-inch long 1/2″ drive extension. These are necessary for trailer owners because your wheels, after any removal/replacement (like grease seals replacement or brake service, for example) must be retorqued at the first 25 and 50 and 100 miles. And we check the torque on our wheels lug nuts at least weekly on driving days. This is very important.

Okay, back to inspection issues.

My opinion, aside from the first-time inspection items above:
Don’t take your trailer to any dealer. No disrespect toward your very good local dealer — we bought our first A/S from them and they performed all our warranty maintenance. We are glad they are in Colfax, NC, serving the Southeast since 1964. Way to go, ODM!

But to me, it is like asking a dealer to tell you if your car is any good after you bought it. You already are stuck with it, and you are asking them to try and find stuff wrong. They might be having a really excellent day and give it a careful review. Or they might be busy and only look over it cursorily. If the latter, then you think everything is hunky-dory and it might not be. If the former then, at the time they look at it, they might find stuff and make good recommendations.

But, it is your trailer and your project. Unlike a car you will be driving and depending upon daily for reliable (and safe) trips on the freeway to and fro work, this trailer is actually a lot simpler and you have rather less depending upon it. It seems complicated at first but it really is nothing compared to the intricacies of any late model (especially post-1992) car. You will become much more knowledgeable and self-reliant if you do the inspections yourself. Find something fishy, arrange for an Airstream friend to help you with looking deeper into and correcting it. Or make an appointment with ODM for the known problem.

I guess I will start building an experienced RVers maintenance checklist. It would include such arcane things as check tightness of sink drain connections, and periodically sanitize fresh water holding tank. There are many many things to include. Or, even better, see my friend Howard Lefkowitz’s expert guide. He has done a fabulous job on this maintenance manual for Airstream trailers.

There are tremendous guides for these self-inspections. One snapshot of such is to see the wire is intact to each drum brake. Crawl (or roll) under the trailer at the back of each wheel’s hub, where the backing plate mounts to the axle. There is a 12 volt wire through each wheel’s backing plate into the drum to power the brake (when you push the brake pedal or pull the emergency breakaway switch). I was peering underneath a year ago and found the wire hanging loose outside the backing plate — clearly not going in there. Easy to spot.

The trailer had just been into service for wheel service (new bearings and grease seals) and the Airstream technician didn’t look and spot this easy-to-find and very important disconnected wire. Not what he was there to work on, you could say. But he was right there, and if he’d been having a good day . . . You are in control of the quality if you do it yourself. And you become better prepared to identify and respond to problems if you learn to look for these simple things yourself.

Where to find the guides? One, for what equipment is recommended, is here. And go to AirForums and search all posts for “checklist”. You’ll get a lot of interesting anecdotes and some nice checklists. Your Airstream owner manual has inspection checklist and maintenance suggestions, as well.

Bottom line:
A great way for RVers to learn more about maintenance and safety with their motor home or trailer is through WBCCI (Airstream owner’s association) rallies, Escapees Boot Camp, FMCA rallies, Good Sam rallies and others. You will find a lot of people who know more than you do and they are very willing to help you.

If you are a first-time RVer (or don’t want to learn because you don’t plan to tow more than once or twice a year) then you may need and want a good mechanic to do all your routine inspections and work for you.

If you have any mechanical inclination at all then you should learn and do all you can about your RV’s inspections and maintenance.

And some states require an annual safety inspection performed and documented by a certified technician. We absolutely recommend you comply with all applicable regulations of your state or province.

We fix what we can. Our RV is our home, and we want to understand and be able to respond to at least 90 percent of what comes up. We cannot fix everything we face, but we assess whether we should or not. If we can fix it ourselves we almost always save money and usually only spend more time. But it is our time and we are willing to chalk it up to “education”. We wouldn’t trade anything for the ability to identify and attempt to correct problems we encounter.

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr

Mesa is hot!

We arrived Mesa yesterday after a week two hours north, in Congress, AZ. Boy is it hot here, too. Today has been 90F degrees since mid-morning when it was 65F. Jim scurried over to the tennis courts at 0730 hrs, he was the first one today. He hit the backboard a little while before a charitable tennis club member suggested Jim might use the ball machine instead. Dale didn’t say it, but probably the backboard is a little too loud at 0730?

They’re going to rank Jim for league tennis play this week by playing him a couple of times and seeing how he does. He hasn’t played in leagues nor had a ranking since 1992, back in Greensboro, NC, so this will be interesting and fun for him. And Dale did a real sales job on Debbie this morning when he visited us.

Dale had talked Debbie, in just a few minutes, into starting playing tennis this Friday. This afternoon we hit the local sports supply store and found her a pair of court shoes, so she’s ready. We laughed afterward, Dale was a very successful salesman in his previous lifetime and doesn’t seem to have lost any of it.

North Ranch Escapees Park

a little oasis for full-timers

Congress, AZ, was an interesting layover. We were there to await Bob S on his way down from chilly, rainy and snowy Boise, Idaho. We had a few days on our own to explore, and didn’t need a single day more. We spent one half-day cruising the hills around Wickenburg and shopping the Safeway grocery store. The only two things to check out are Wickenburg and Congress and, from what we heard, we missed nothing in Congress.

Wickenburg is surrounded by ranch estates, so to speak. We didn’t see much resembling ranches although there were a few. Mostly we saw very high end houses tucked against the hills on about ten or more acres each. Very nice looking, and they must have very very deep wells. Even the cacti look thirsty.

Nothing green about this green area

The green area is all brown

Back to Congress — this is our first Escapees Park to visit and we would be happy to visit again. The rates are low, people are very interesting, and did we mention the rates are low? Campers must be members of Escapees, and willing to camp miles away from anything at all. This park is thirteen miles north of Wickenburg and Wickenburg isn’t much. We met no homeowners who stay year-round in North Ranch Escapees Campground, they mostly stay through the winter months.

Still, there doesn’t seem so much to do here — no tennis, no ping pong, no golf, no swimming pool. Jim asked several homeowners in the development, “What do you do while you stay here?” Several times we heard about panning for gold, four wheeling, beading, quilting, and ham radio. Okay, we like ham radio and traveling. And we really like the folks we met at North Ranch. Maybe we will visit and not stay very long.

So we’re in Mesa — Jim today bought a soft rubber-faced ping pong paddle and played tennis twice, we enjoyed a grilled stuffed chicken breast and salad supper, and we spent an hour at the pools. Yep, pools — four of them. A 25 meter lap pool is maintained at 75F, a conversation pool is 85F, one hot tub is maintained at 98F, and one hot tub is at 104F. We checked out all four pools tonight before hitting the showers then home and getting ready for tomorrow.

Tomorrow is forecast for 94F — we’ll try to hit the pools much earlier and perhaps for longer. Take a good book and a big ice water, and stay awhile. And work a little on our tennis basics, eh?

See ya later,

Jim and Debbie
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©2009 Dreamstreamr