Tag Archives: gvwr

Isn’t alcohol lighter than water?

We’re overweight. What’s new, right? I mean, aren’t something like sixty percent of Americans overweight now? Except I don’t mean “us”, but our home. How much does your home weigh? You don’t know? Who weighs their home? We do, up to 2X/year. How else can we maintain any margin of safety relative to our trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) or our truck’s gross combined weight rating (gcwr)?

Jim likes to pull occasionally into a Flying J or Pilot or another truck stop with scales. He can pull the truck and trailer onto the scales platform and, for less than $10 and five minutes, we obtain a printed weight report for each of the truck’s two axles and for the trailer. We try to have our home weighed once or twice a year.

How’s it working out? Not too badly for having moved everything from a 3,000 sf house into a 184 sf trailer. Well, not everything — it wouldn’t fit. We moved what we thought we should and could take with us. We tried to be very judicious about our belongings, only taking what we thought we would need and use.

Gradually we have accumulated stuff. Mostly the increase seems to be food, clothing, and books. Wait a minute, aren’t these the only things we have in the trailer? Not really, since we have cookware, place settings, radio equipment, and cleaning stuff, too.

Still, the trailer has gained weight in the three years we’ve been full-timing. Here are our weights over the past four years:
date              trailer truck
25-Sep-06 5580 7400
12-Aug-07 6060 8160
17-Aug-07 6040 8080
4-Jun-09 6120 8840
22-Oct-09 6220 8760
28-Mar-10 6400 8700

The first weight is one of our first outings with this trailer, packed for a weekend. The next two are in the first week of our maiden voyage as retirees, on our 8,000 mile shake-down cruise. The weights, interestingly, are pre-solar panels (60 pounds), pre-6 volt batteries (50 pounds increase) and pre-roof-mounted ham radio antenna (40 pounds?). Also, we had a weight in 2008 (not shown) that is 800 pounds heavier and we attribute it to scale (or math) error and tossed it out.

Our last three weights are current, last year and last week. And we decided we have finally reached the tipping point. We are officially over-weight. Last year we emptied the trailer’s outside storage bins (curb side and rear) of all weighty gear, including chemicals and shoes. Nice thought, but this left a lot of work yet to be done.

Today we earnestly started cutting out excesses in our rolling home. First to go? Bose Sound System sub-woofer and Almost Invisible speakers, comprising 20 pounds, are de-mounted and heading for storage where they’ll await another, heavier home sometime in our future.

Next? We pored through our clothing totes in the trailer and found almost five pounds (woohoo!) of clothes to give away or store for backpacking or winter. The stored ones will stay with us, but in the truck which has almost limitless weight capacity. Well, not really, since the gvwr is 9,200 pounds and we’re already at 8,700.

And we’re carrying all the gear we have room for — the truck bed is full enough already. We lack no tools or fun gear. We will swap out Jim’s golf clubs and add our backpacking gear for some adventures in Washington or Oregon late this summer or fall. Our challenge, then, is to find the stuff we aren’t using and don’t really need but just happen to carry along.

The best examples are our pretty Airstream books, or our complete Martinis and Medicine MASH dvd collection. We can’t watch but so many episodes in a year’s time, and as much as we love the books we spend more time reading books and periodicals. Speaking of periodicals, we’ll save a few pounds if Jim will catch up with Debbie on Time, Appalachian Trail Conference, Carolina Alumni Review, and QST magazines so we can carry fewer of these.

And we have increased our food stocks without any regard for weight totals. Who wouldn’t? What do you want to do without, beer, chocolate, or ice cream? Nah! We want them all! And the truck isn’t a good place for these items. But we can move ten or twenty pounds of canned and other dry goods to the truck.

What else can go? We have carried two spare sets of sheets and one spare set of towels. And have never needed them. We can wash and dry either in one day and put them back in service. Rarely do we have overnight house guests needing linens, although once we did have a granddaughter stay overnight two nights. Okay, we’ll shed the oldest set of bed linens and the remainder comprise almost five pounds more we can move to the truck.

This weight reduction will help, but we could cut the most weight by keeping our fresh water tank empty. Jim prefers to maintain the fresh water tank full. But at 39 gallons X 8.3 pounds per gallon, we can trim some part of 320 pounds right there. Traveling without fresh water isn’t a great idea, but we can carry less than a full tank. Lacking water, if we get thirsty we’ll still have a case each of beer and wine and a few fifths of liquor, right?

Jim and Debbie
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Disaster averted in trailer tire failure

We bought new sneakers for our Airstream. I bought four new sneakers this morning to replace the original ones, we installed high-pressure stems to replace the insufficient original equipment ones, and bought a new set of solid lug nuts. We had considered we were due for tires sometime later this year. We heard stories of these tires failing disastrously and damaging rv trailers. Our tires were installed on our Airstream sometime in 2004, or almost five years ago so were near end of life.

picture of separated tire tread plies

picture of separated tire tread plies

Did we now change the tires just because they were out of date? No, actually we hadn’t gotten around to checking the date until last week. Pretty good timing, right? Again, no. We parked the trailer at Jerry’s and Ann’s house and I clamped the wheel chocks into place. I happened to look at the clamp surface and saw this irregularity in the tread.
picture illustrates tire's DOT date code

picture illustrates tire's DOT date code

Okay, now I’m checking the date on my tires. I knew our trailer was put together in about the fortieth week of 2004, or 4004 by the DOT code. You can see in this picture the date code on our tires is a little earlier. The factory-installed tires had a DOT date of 1404, or fourteenth week of 2004. We are approaching the seventeenth or eighteenth week of 2009, so we had good service from our set of Goodyear Marathon ST225 75 15R tires.

We thought we would carry a 2 gallon air compressor for emergencies. The air compressor weighs very little, around twelve pounds, so I originally placed it well forward in the truck’s bed. The 1000w generator weighs twenty-seven pounds, or more than twice the air compressor. The heavier object should be in a more accessible location, near the tailgate, right?

I was digging the air compressor out, each time I needed it, from under the tonneau cover and whatever had arranged itself over and against the compressor. Fortunately, whenever we needed the air compressor we could plug it into the outdoor electrical receptacle on the side of the Airstream. And we had no occasions calling for the electrical power generator.

The effort to extract the air compressor was not extreme but I finally realized, “Hey, I did this backward.” So I moved the 1000w generator to the forward (and less accessible) position and placed the air compressor in a very handy location by the tailgate. Monthly I have been wrestling the generator from its tight little corner, carefully maneuvering it out and to the ground. And for months, I haven’t needed the air compressor.

One of our four running tires developed a hole a little over two years ago. The tire lost one pound air pressure per day. Immediately before we departed for our full-timing adventure last year we found a metal screw had penetrated the tire tread too near the sidewall to repair. So one of the running tires is only fifteen months old, and is now on the spare wheel. So this set of Goodyear Marathons performed as advertised, safely carrying our home across the highways and byways of North America for the past three years.

Much has been said in many forums about problems with Goodyear Marathon trailer tires. Some Airstreamers have doggedly tried to get satisfaction out of the brand. They replaced a couple of times with the same brand until finally, in frustration, finding a new solution in 16″ wheels and a higher priced European tire. Some RVers started more closely monitoring their tires’ condition and avoided problems by acting quickly on first notice of any problem. Others, I think, have reported damage to their wheel wells and nearby plumbing and wiring when a tread separated and slapped the trailer silly.

Like they say on the golf course, it is better to be lucky than good. I’ll take luck anytime, but don’t want to count only upon it. So we try to take good care of the equipment. Our trailer’s loaded weight is within the gross vehicle weight rating, or GVWR, and our tires’ rating is almost 3,500 pounds higher than our GVWR. Our tire inflation is 55-60 pounds, in accordance with Goodyear’s inflation/load chart for these tires. We use a tire pressure monitoring system to monitor our tire pressure during towing days. We keep our speed below the tires’ max speed rating of 65 mph. And maybe we are lucky?

picture of trailer's tire after >30,000 miles towing

picture of trailer's tire after >30,000 miles towing

I try to keep an eye on our tires. Although I hadn’t noticed it earlier in the week, the curbside front tire showed clear indication of tread ply separation in one spot. This separation resulted in a high ridge in the direction of the tread. The tire was running on a two-inch wide portion of tread along twelve inches of the tread length. This portion of tread was beginning to bald. Here’s a view of the tread on the opposite side of the damaged tire. We’re fortunate we noticed the anomaly while we were parked at Jerry’s and Ann’s, before the tire separated and became a flailing weed-eater in my Airstream’s wheelwell.

I guess I can move the generator to the tailgate area, very accessible for the monthly load testing and maintenance. And I can relocate the air compressor back to the originally designed niche, way forward in the truck bed under the low part of the tonneau cover. If I’m lucky I’ll need the generator before the air compressor. I especially don’t want to need the generator to make electricity for the air compressor, because then I may be pumping up tires along some roadside. All I need now is more luck.

Picture shows tread section raised at top of picture

Picture shows tread section raised at top of picture

I had read the Airstream Forums posts and had friends describe to me the damage to watch for in these tires. I wasn’t looking for this tire’s raised section. We feel lucky to have caught sight of the raised portion of our tread. And we narrowly avoided disastrous damage to the curbside wheel-well of our Airstream. Whew!