Tag Archives: SmartWeigh

Readying for the Road

We’ve been loafing all summer in steamy North Carolina, playing tennis in mornings or evenings. The mountains called us for a couple of weeks of cooler temperatures, we’ve spent a week in Myrtle Beach, a week in The Bahamas, and a couple of weeks in DuQuoin. And we accomplished very little on the truck or trailer.

Jim put a couple of 3/4″ holes in the truck cab’s roof for his ham radio antennas. The improvement on antenna efficiency is fantastic, with standing wave ratio (SWR) at or near 1.1:1 on both antennas. Neither magnetic mount nor (of course) door edge mounting was nearly as good. Gosh, wish we had done this years ago!

Weighing the trailer's corners gives more accurate readings

We replaced the tires and brakes on the trailer’s axles. The trailer was born October 2004, we’ve towed it five years and approximately 50,000 miles on the original brakes. Jim bought seals and complete brake sets (backing plates, shoes, springs, adjustors, magnets, all assembled) last year and decided then to wait a year to install. We took the drums to a local tire store (thanks, Brothers Tire Co in China Grove) for turning. The old brakes still looked okay although a little glazed. The new brakes are much stronger.

Did Jim really paint this only two years ago?

We refinished and tuned the trailer’s a-frame and Equal-I-Zer hitch. Escapees provided all wheel weighing earlier this year and demonstrated we could raise the hitch an inch or two to equalize weight between trailer axles. We removed the hitch completely from the trailer, disassembled and cleaned it.

hitch cleaned, painted, re-labelled, and adjusted

Some parts we took to a local shop for powder coating, the others (including the hitch head) we cleaned and spray-painted. Jim reassembled it all with grade 8 bolts (bought by the pound) from Tractor Supply Co. Progressive Mfg (Equalizer’s parent company) sent new decals for the load bars and sockets. The hitch looks like new and, yes, the axles weigh the same now.

Let’s see, and we played a lot of tennis and worked out at the local tennis club. But ignored the trailer other than these few chores. Summer is drawing to a close for us and we realized so is time to get projects completed before we hit the road for the year.

Time to make a list of all the work we need to do while we are here. Our list ran the gamut from making new pillows to oil change. Then we assigned days for each task, filling four days with fun things we need to accomplish. The change on our focus and activities is remarkable and predictable.

Battery box sanded, primed, and plastic cutting boards into bottom

Suddenly we’re getting things done. Monday morning Jim removed the batteries and sanded and painted the battery box. This was a great opportunity to check the battery water level — Jim was surprised to add 8 ounces of distilled water to each cell (48 ounces total) even though the plates were covered with water already. Before reinstalling the batteries he placed plastic cutting board under the batteries to prevent them wearing through the paint and exposing metal to corrosion.

Batteries re-installed in rust-proofed battery box

Monday afternoon we went to a couple of fabric stores and picked new pillow forms and fabrics to redo our interior. Deb made new pillow shams for the bed and new covers for the dinette bolsters. Jim tore down our portable ceramic heater to see if he could restore the missing airflow. It took very little time for him to dissect the heater and get to the heater core. The heater core was almost completely blocked with a dust mat. The heater cleaned up well and works great. Then Jim had the truck’s tires periodic rotation, balance, and pressure adjustment done at Discount Tire.

The PDI 9260 fits snugly in bottom compartment of trailer's pwr center

Tuesday morning we removed the charger-converter from the under-sofa power center to see if it might also be clogged with Chinle (AZ) dust like the heater. The charger-converter was surprisingly clean after two years’ service. Jim removed a little dust from the enclosure. Since he already had disconnected and removed the device Jim decided to carefully rework all connections and attachments in the charger-converter and the 12vdc and the 120vac distribution panel.

Tuesday afternoon Debbie completed the sofa pillows and started figuring what to do about decorative pillows for the bed and Jim made an oil change appointment for Wednesday morning. And three sets of tennis Tuesday evening finished Jim off thoroughly.

Wednesday morning we dropped the truck for oil change and shopped for fabric for Debbie to complete three more throw pillows. We picked up the truck from Classic Chevrolet and took it to a local auto glass shop, Deal’s Auto Glass, both in Kannapolis. Last week our windshield took a hit from a BB, resulting in a nickel-sized chip. The glass shop did a great job filling the chip and we can’t find it. Hopefully this will extend the windshield’s life — we learned this morning we don’t have glass coverage in our insurance policy.

Jim realized he had been procrastinating on a few jobs. The tasks list helped get him started again and broke down the big list of things to do into just one big job each day and a few easier ones. Wednesday afternoon he tackled what seemed like a big job but turned into a fun and pretty easy one.

Months ago we had temporarily hung an LED light strip under the roof locker above our dinette. It served us well on our last boon docking trip, but the power was pirated with a short piece of wire stuck into one of the Airstream’s 12vdc light sockets. This afternoon Jim finally tackled permanent wiring and a neat new switched circuit for the LED light.

Jim emptied the hundred or so pots and pans and empty Tupperware containers from above the dinette to allow removing the roof locker’s interior panels. The exposed bottom in the roof locker provided ready access to wiring for the existing three recessed halogen lights. And Jim easily installed the needed wiring to supply the new LED light.

The fun part is a switch Jim added inside the roof locker recessed into the left (aft) end panel. This is a single-pole double-throw switch and allows us to select which light circuit will be powered when the Airstream’s light switch is on. In the new switch’s left position, the new LEDs light up the dinette. In the new switch’s right position (toward the shore power pole) the three recessed lights shine on the dinette.

The light switch on the wall works normally, and we select with the added switch (hidden inside the roof locker) which dinette lights we’re operating. Simple and effective, the new switch setup keeps us using the best light for our power source. We don’t have much extra battery capacity and believe this will help us make best use of our limited power when boondocking. We like how this job turned out, and Jim wonders why he waited so long to do it.

Thursday morning we iced the cake — we washed and waxed the trailer’s roof on our coolest and driest morning. Conditions were so nice we decided to start on just one end of the trailer. Before we knew it we had washed and waxed the entire exterior from the roof to the banana panels. It looked so great. And Thursday evening through Friday evening we had rains. Nothing like a nice cool rain to set the wax hard, right? And we don’t need to wax again until next February or March, whether it rains or not.

We’re road-ready, and more than two weeks ahead of our departure from Kannapolis for points west. Many of the tasks are easier with Pop’s workshop area and Mom’s sewing area at their house. We’re accustomed to working wherever we are, and to have fully equipped work areas for our projects is really nice. We accomplished more in less time by organizing and working from a list.Making the project’s list worked very well for us — we were able to look forward to each day’s projects and look back on what we completed.

Our travels begin September 7 and continue through at least October 20 upon our arrival in Mesa AZ for the winter. The maintenance and improvements we’ve completed may prevent untimely breakdowns and will help us enjoy fun travels instead of repair worries.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr

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

locate us here
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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr