Truck Camper Pros and Cons – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

Last year we jumped into the world of truck camper RVing as total newbies, and what a wild ride it has been! We learned a lot and want to share a few insights we picked up along the way plus give you some news about where this journey has taken us.

Truck Camper Pros and Cons

.

Of course, our info about truck camper RVing is based on our limited experience with one particular truck camper, a 2005 Arctic Fox 860, and one particular truck, a 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 dually. Other RVers with different truck/camper combos have different experiences.

A large part of why we decided to get a truck camper after living in a fifth wheel for 13 years is that good friends of ours spent 25 years wintering in a fifth wheel in Arizona and going on short jaunts around their home state of Montana in a truck camper in the summertime. They absolutely loved the various truck campers they had over the years, and hearing their stories inspired us.

Truck camper and RZR camping in the forest

What could be better than camping in the forest and riding the US Forest Service roads in a Polaris RZR?!

TRUCK CAMPER JOYS:

There are many great things about truck campers and they all stem from their small size. Unlike most other kinds of trailers and motorized RVs, you can park it in an ordinary parking space, whether on the street, at a store, at a National Park overlook, in a National Park campground, or at the hospital, as we found out.

You can load it onto a ferry boat where fees are charged by vehicle length, and it will cost you half as much (or even less) than if you were towing a trailer.

You never have to be concerned about whether your rig will fit into any kind of campsite, and you can even pull into a friend’s driveway for the night without knocking things over as you plow through their neighborhood (been there, done that, yikes!).

If you plan to tow a boat, or a side-by-side, or a Jeep or anything else, you can hitch it directly to the truck. Of course, if the camper sticks out beyond the back of the truck, you’ll need a hitch extension, but at least you won’t be towing your extra toy behind a truck and fifth wheel in a long train that isn’t even legal to drive in a lot of states.

In our case, the truck we had to work with is a diesel. So, we could take our camper up any steep mountain grade and the truck didn’t even break a sweat. This meant we could transform our powerful truck into a motorized RV worthy of mountain passes with the modest incremental cost of purchasing an older truck camper.

Camping with Arctic Fox 860 truck camper Dodge Ram dually truck Polaris RZR and flat bed trailer

.

WHERE TRUCK CAMPERS & TRAILERS ARE MORE OR LESS EQUIVALENT:

We were surprised to discover that our truck got the same fuel mileage when we were carrying the truck camper as it did when we were towing the fifth wheel. The camper weighs around 3,500 lbs while the fifth wheel weighed 14,000 lbs, so you’d think the truck wouldn’t work as hard with the camper, but that’s what we saw.

Our truck gets anywhere from 15 to 21 mpg when it is not towing or carrying heavy weight. It got around 9 to 12 mpg towing the fifth wheel trailer and it got about the same carrying the camper.

TRUCK CAMPER CHALLENGES:

This is where our learning curve took off.

Swing-Out Landing Legs for Dually Trucks

Our first discovery was that the wide hips of our dually truck couldn’t fit between the front landing legs of the camper. We had to replace the two front factory-installed landing legs with a special type that can swing outward so the truck could fit between them as it backed in under the camper to load it up. Then they could be swung back inward for driving.

Happijac Truck Camper Adjustable Dually landing leg

The wide hips of the dually required front landing legs that could swing open to let the truck back in. In this pic, the leg is in the “out” position.

Happijac Truck Camper Adjustable Dually landing leg

The landing legs can be rotated outward for loading and unloading the camper and then rotated inward for driving. Shown here in the outward position.

The camper we bought didn’t come with swing out legs so we had to add them before we could bring the camper home. The seller delivered the camper to an RV repair shop where we had the work done.

Install a Tie Down System

Our next discovery was that the camper must be tied down to the truck so it doesn’t slide off (the tailgate of the truck gets removed so the truck camper can be loaded into the truck bed).

We chose to go with the top-of-the-line Torklift camper tie down system which consisted of Torklift’s bolt-on anchor points (the Talon Tie Downs for the truck and the Camper Anchor Relocation/Repair Kit for the camper.

Once these were bolted onto the truck frame and the camper frame, we used the Torklift FastGun Turnbuckles to tie the camper onto the truck. The FastGuns are super secure and they have a quick release mechanism that makes them very easy to put on and take off when loading and unloading the camper.

Torklift Talon Camper Tie Down system and FastGun Turnbuckles

The Torklift Tie Down system has three components in each corner: an anchor point on the camper (“Camper Anchor Repair/Relocation Kit”, an anchor point on the truck (“Torklift Talon Tie Down”) and a connection between the two (“Torklift FastGun Turnbuckle”).

As great as this system was, the installation was another step in the process that needed to happen before we could take the camper home.

These two upgrades — swing-out landing legs and camper tie downs — were modifications to the rig that were much like buying a hitch, a hitch receiver, tow mirrors and a brake controller (or buying a truck with a factory installed Tow Package) for a truck/trailer combo. They are add-ons that must be done and done right before you can go anywhere, and they not only take time but add to the overall cost of the rig.

Truck and Truck Camper Marriage – A Match Made in Heaven?

We hadn’t realized before we bought our beautiful truck camper that when you match a camper to a truck (or vice versa), you are setting the stage for them to get married. Hopefully, they fall in love and it is a match made in heaven.

In our case, it wasn’t. Our dually long bed truck was a bit big for the camper. Coming from the world of trailers, we couldn’t imagine that a truck could be too big for any kind of RV setup, but in the world of campers the pairing of the truck and camper is so precise that it is possible to have too big and ungainly a truck for a given camper.

Campers are designed with specific sizes of trucks in mind. Our particular camper was advertised back in the day (2005 era) as being compatible with either a short bed truck or a long bed truck. Since it was short bed compatible, I don’t think the designers intended it to be paired with a long bed dually.

Loading and Unloading the Truck Camper – A Unique Issue with the Arctic Fox 860 and Long Bed Trucks

Arctic Fox 860 getting ready to load onto tr6uck

The camper is standing on its own four legs so so the truck can slide in underneath.

Like all truck campers, the layout of the bottom of our camper was a rectangle designed to fit in the bed of a truck. However, it had an extra box sticking out on the left side of the rear entry door. This box held all the sewer valves and the outlet for the sewer hose as well as providing storage for the landing leg controller, so it was not something that could be removed.

Arctic Fox 860 sewer gear box

The right side of this compartment is the left edge of the bottom of the camper that fits into the truck bed. So, the whole sewer gear compartment sticks out beyond the profile of the bottom of the camper (illustration below).

This simplistic drawing shows the problem. The truck bed is in red and the camper floor is in black. The sewer gear box sticks out of the rear driver’s side of the camper which reduces the clearance for loading the camper into a long bed truck by several inches:

Truck camper and truck bed layout

The sewer gear box sticks out from the side of the camper, making it a tight fit width-wise in a long bed truck.

Unfortunately, as we backed the truck in under the camper, we had to make sure not to hit that box while also ensuring that the dually wheel wells didn’t catch on the sides of the camper either. All this had to be in perfect alignment while backing up the full 8′ distance of the truck bed. We had about an inch to spare in total, and we had to back the truck perfectly straight for the entire 8′ length of the truck bed.

Arctic Fox truck camper on landing lengs

Okay, now back the truck up perfectly straight…

Arctic Fox 860 sewer gear box

Looking up at the bottom of the camper as it slides into the truck bed, you can see the sewer gear box is going to hit on the left side of the bed.

Arctic Fox 860 tight clearance loading camper on truck

After adjusting the truck so the camper’s sewer box doesn’t hit on the left side, over on the right side the camper just clears the dually’s inner wheel well. Phew!

Needless to say, it was a white knuckle affair every time we loaded or unloaded the camper, and it usually required jockying the truck forward and backward a few times to get it aligned perfectly. Sometimes we lightly bumped the tall spindly camper landing legs in the process, making our hearts jump. With every bump and shudder of the top-heavy camper, I was grateful it didn’t fall over.

Also, our 2016 truck bed was a few inches higher than the 2005-era trucks our camper was designed for. So, we had to raise the camper a few inches higher on those spindly legs than was originally envisioned by the designers. The camper looked like a giant bug with very long legs, and one time when the wind suddenly picked up to 30+ mph, the whole very top-heavy contraption began to sway on those spindly legs. We both ran for our lives for fear it might topple over on us.

Ironically, we’ve done plenty of challenging things with RVs and boats together, but nothing was as difficult or frustrating as loading and unloading this camper. Down in Mexico, we anchored our large beautiful sailboat in lots of dicey places, sometimes spending the night listening to waves crashing on rocks right outside our windows.

One time, in the violently unpredictable Sea of Cortez, our boat dangled, twisted and turned at the end of our taught 300′ anchor chain in powerful onshore winds with huge waves pounding the beach just a few feet behind us. Unnerved, we decided to leave that frightening setting for a safer spot on the other side of the island only to have a mammoth wave promptly crash over the deck and bend the one inch diameter stainless steel Garhauer racks holding our 14′ kayak as if they were made of rubber. The kayak was saved from the raging sea by a few stout lines that now seemed like pieces of sewing thread.

Arctic Fox 860 truck camper on landing lengs

Due to the higher bed height of modern trucks, the camper has to be raised a few inches higher on its thin legs than was originally intended.

Yet none of those experiences matched the panic that we both felt when we loaded the camper on and off our truck. It was an ordeal.

Because we couldn’t load and unload the camper easily, we essentially lost the use of our truck by itself, not only when we were traveling but also when we were home. At home, we felt like we needed to get another truck for hauling jobs in our daily lives (how silly would that be?!). While traveling, we couldn’t leave the camper in our campsite and instead always had to take pack it up and take it with us no matter how short a distance we needed to go. We did have the RZR with us, and we happily drive it RZR on lightly traveled roads, but we don’t drive it on highways or roads with fast moving traffic.

Leaving a campsite with camping goodies in it like a patio mat and camp chairs without a rig present is asking for trouble. Someone arriving at the campsite could easily assume the goodies were abandoned (we have found tons of abandoned camping gear on public land that we’ve watched sit there day after day). Likewise, having to put everything away inside the rig in order to drive a few miles somewhere is inconvenient.

This all sounds a bit dire, but I believe the ease of loading and unloading–which makes it either possible or impossible to drive the truck without the camper on it–is 100% dependent on how well matched the truck is to the camper. If it’s a good match, getting the camper on and off the truck shouldn’t be difficult. That said, we haven’t seen many truck campers in campsites that have been unloaded from the truck they drove in on.

The bottom line for us is that our truck and camper were not a good match for each other and they ended up getting a divorce. Thankfully, the divorce was an amicable one.

In Contrast: A Good Truck/Camper Pairing

When we sold the camper, the perfect buyer snapped it up, and we saw the difference that a good pairing can make.

Arctic Fox truck camper moves from one truck to another

We took the camper off our truck and got ready to load it onto the buyer’s truck.

He has a 2002 Chevy shortbed truck, and the camper fits it like a glove. He slid his truck underneath with ease, never having loaded a truck camper before, and he looked like a pro as he backed in. FIrst, the camper didn’t need to be raised very high for the truck to slide underneath. Then, the camper fit into the bed without that awkward sewer box even getting involved. Because it was a shortbed truck, the sewer gear box hung off the back of the truck and didn’t have to get squeezed into the truck bed. Undoubtedly, the designers assumed that half or more of their buyers would be people with shortbed trucks.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 fits well on a shortbed truck

The camper sticks out beyond the short bed of the truck unlike on a long bed where the back end is flush.

Arctic Fox 860 fits well on a shortbed truck

The troublesome sewer gear box doesn’t have to be squeezed into the bed of the truck because it hangs off the back — perfect!

As we watched the buyer load the camper on his truck so easily, it was obvious his new truck/camper combo would be a match made in heaven. Perhaps a bigger camper would have given us a better overall experience, but by this time we were ready to try something completely different!

PERSONAL CAMPING STYLE – IS TRUCK CAMPING FOR YOU?

Flowers

.

Besides the technical issues of pairing the truck and camper, there’s also a huge difference between living in a camper and living in a larger rig. Obviously, a truck camper is a small space. But there is more to it than that.

The space is quite vertical, especially if the camper door is on the back of the camper at the level of the truck bed. The bed of our truck — which is the floor level of the camper — is at chest height for me. So, we had to step up from ground level to chest height just to enter the camper.

Torklift makes a stair system called the Glow Step that folds down to the ground accordion style from the truck bumper. Some folks nickname the Glow Step the Stairway to Heaven because it is such a long staircase. I found portable plastic stairs that fit into the camper while we traveled. These were sturdy and easy to go up and down.

When the truck was unhitched from the utility trailer it was a straight shot into the camper: two steps on the plastic stairs and two steps on the camper’s stairs. If we left the trailer hitched up, we had a turn in the staircase.

Stair solution for Arctic Fox 860 truck camper-2

A two-step staircase was a cheap solution for climbing up to the entry door where there are two more stairs before entering the camper.

Stair solution for Arctic Fox 860 truck camper

With the flat bed trailer hitched up to the truck, we step up to the trailer tongue and then up into the camper.

Mark also made a very clever platform out of plywood to fit on the tongue of the RZR trailer. This made a staircase landing where we could pause to open the door when our hands were full. We usually kept the RZR trailer attached to the truck, so this platform was a really nifty upgrade and didn’t take him long to make. We kept it in the RZR when we were driving.

Stair solution for Arctic Fox 860 truck camper towing utility trailer

Mark built a platform for the trailer tongue that gave us a landing midway up our staircase.

Stair solution for Arctic Fox 860 truck camper

This stairway solution worked really well.

Because the buyer’s truck bed was much lower than ours, he didn’t need the plastic stairs and could get away with a 7 inch step stool, if even that. See? Match made in heaven.

Many truck campers have the entry door on the side of the camper rather than on the back. Because of the placement of this door, the truck camper hangs off the back end of the truck. The beauty of a side entry door is that it is substantially lower to the ground than a door placed on the back of the camper. This reduces the number of stairs needed to get up to the doorway and makes it much more like going into a trailer or motorhome.

The disadvantage of a side entry door is that if you plan to tow something behind the truck, you will need a hitch extension because the hitch receiver on the truck will now be recessed under the floor of the camper.

Once inside the camper, whether it is a rear entry or side entry door, you can sit at the dinette, stand in the kitchen or bathroom, or crawl into the bed. For one or two people this is fine — it’s just tight living. You’re out seeing the world anyway, so who cares? However, we found it is not so easy if you have pets.

Buddy had only one choice for where he could spend time comfortably in the camper: on the bed. He could sit at the dinette, but didn’t like to do that for longer than a few seconds.

Puppy at the camper dinette

Buddy joins us at the dinette.

Puppy at the truck camper dinette

“Hi, Mom.”

Pup at the dinette of Arctic Fox 860 2

“What’s for lunch?”

He could also be on the floor, but he was under foot and not comfortable standing there. So, in the end, his only place in the camper was on the bed. He loved it there, though. He could watch the world outside through the windows on either side of the bed and it was soft and comfy.

Pup lying on the bed in a truck camper RV

Buddy’s favorite place was up on the bed where he could stretch out and look out the windows.

However, he was kind of stuck there. He’s a good jumper, but it was a long jump down to the floor and we didn’t want him jumping up and down off the high bed for fear the pounding would be tough on his slender limbs or we’d get in his way accidentally and cause him to injure himself.

He could aso jump up into the camper from outside on the ground, but again, we weren’t keen on having him jumping around in case we accidentally stepped in his path while he was jumping and injured him.

A quiet spot for pup under a truck camper

Buddy loves the outdoors, but with the truck camper he had to wait for one of us to help him in or out.

Camping dog

.

So, we ended up having to lift him in and out of the camper and also lift him on and off the bed. This meant he had no independence, and he was kind of stuck wherever he was, either outside in the campsite or inside on the bed, until we helped move him. In contrast, when we had the fifth wheel, he could come and go as he pleased.

SELLING AN RV IN TODAY’S CRAZY MARKET

Campsite with Arctic Fox 860 truck camper, dually truck, RZR and flat bed trailer

Everyone wants to get out into nature and leave Lockdown World far behind.

So, after our trip to Quartzsite we knew it was time to sell our Arctic Fox camper and buy something different (and exciting!).

We learned a lot in the selling process. If you are selling an RV these days, here are some things we learned when we sold our camper on Craigslist in February, 2022.

First, the market is moving really fast and NADA Guide is not keeping up. We priced our camper based on dealership asking prices for similar untils nationwide that we saw listed in RVTrader.com. The asking prices were through the roof and insane. They were essentially double the NADA Guide prices. But we went with the flow and asked an insane price that fit in with the others.

We’d had our eyes on the RV market for a while and had noticed that good quality used rigs in excellent condition were selling quickly. We’d see a cool rig one day and it would be gone two or three days later. That happened repeatedly.

Woods with flowers

.

We put the ad up on a Tuesday and had some calls and made 3 appointments for showings on Saturday. None of the three who saw it on Saturday bit right away, but we had interest from five other people calling us from 200 to 1,000 miles away.

Saturday night I got a call from a serious buyer who put down a substantial deposit and promised to be out to pick it up on Tuesday. He lived 1,200 miles away and it would take him 2 days to drive to our place. Plus, he wanted to install new tires on his truck before making the trip. I changed the ad to “Sale Pending.”

On Sunday, all three people who had seen the camper the day before called to make offers. Meanwhile, four other people from 40, 180, 200 and 250 miles away respectively all made full cash offers, saying they could come with cash in hand the next day (Monday) to pick it up. I told them I had a deal pending that would take a few days to close and that I would call them if it fell through. Four of the prospective buyers kept in close touch during the next few days to see if the deal fell through.

Needless to say, the buyer was good to his word. Once he arrived, it took two days for him to complete the formal wedding ceremony between his truck and our camper. He got the tires he wanted before the trip and was able to find tie downs that fit his truck in a shop within an hour’s drive.

He was a smart shopper. He told us he had been looking for a camper like ours for over a year, and he had missed out on four previous deals because he didn’t move fast enough. That’s why he was willing to make the deposit sight-unseen and drive 1,200 miles to get the camper.

When I notified the other four prospective buyers that the deal had gone through, they were all sorely disappointed. Undoubtedly, they approached the next prospective deal they saw very differently.

Creative use of utility trailer while camping

The flatbed trailer was a fun place to hang out and get a slightly elevated view.

Of course, I have no idea if this kind of insanity in the RV market is ongoing out there three months later. A lot has happened in the world since then, and the inflation of both consumer goods, gas and diesel plus rising interest rates will surely put a damper on the enthusiasm people have for buying RVs. However, that is the RV sales experience we had just a short time ago.

It’s possible it could take a while for world events to affect the prices and availability of used RVs. Just prior to the financial crisis in September of 2008, we began shopping for a sailboat to go cruising. However, it wasn’t until January of 2010 that we began to see used boat prices finally begin to come down, due largely to marine loan foreclosures.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR RLT??

Lots!

We bought another rig, which I’ll introduce in the next post. Our RV buying story in this crazy market was just as wild as our truck camper selling story, and so far we think we made the right choice and totally love it.

When we went adventuring in the truck camper last year, each time we left we enthusiastically packed for 5 to 7 days. However, we invariably came home after only two or three! I don’t know if it was due to boredom or feeling fidgety or because we were living in such a confined space, but that was the pattern each time we took the camper out.

Two weeks ago we took our new rig out on its maiden voyage shakedown cruise. Cautiously, we packed for just 3 days only to find we had to run out and restock our essentials twice! To our great surprise, when we finally had to head home due to a prior engagement, we realized we’d been out for 9 happy days.

So, right now we’re buttoning up the homestead and packing up the new rig so we can head out and see the world for a few glorious summer months!

The Journey Begins

.

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Other blog posts about various types of rigs and what to look for:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

<-Previous || Next->

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper – Grand Tour!

After 13 years of living on the road, first in a 2007 27′ Fleetwood Lynx travel trailer and then in a 2007 36′ Hitchhiker 34.5 RLTG fifth wheel, we switched gears and moved back into a sticks-and-bricks home.

But we didn’t want to give up the thrill of the open road completely! Since we still owned our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 dually pickup truck, we decided a truck camper would do the trick for shorter duration adventures.

A 2005 Arctic Fox truck camper turned up on Craigslist in excellent condition, garage kept and barely used. Counting our lucky stars, we took the plunge, bought it, and have been having fun setting it up and taking it on a few short trips.

Here’s a quickie tour of the camper that will be our new little home on wheels.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper

Our new little buggy!

The Arctic Fox 860 has one slideout on the passenger side and is on the smaller size for a long bed truck camper. It is designed to be carried by a single rear wheel pickup truck so it is an easy load for our dually.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper

.

One of our goals was to be able to travel with our Polaris RZR in tow. We had triple towed the RZR on a small flat bed trailer behind our fifth wheel for two years. That worked, but it was cumbersome.

Having the RZR right behind the truck now rather than 40′ behind us makes it a lot easier to bring the RZR along on our travels. One thing that Mark has found, though, is that because our utility trailer is only 5′ wide, he can’t see it in the rear view mirrors when he’s driving unless he makes a very sharp turn. This makes it a bit tricky to back up!

Also, because our utility trailer is only 10′ long, it holds our Polaris 900 series UTV but can’t carry our bikes at the same time. I have a secret wish for a larger utility trailer which might solve both problems… we’ll see!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper

We can tow the RZR easily with this new rig.

The Arctic Fox 860 does not extend beyond the back of the truck. Many larger truck campers hang out a foot or two beyond the back bumper of the truck. With those campers you need a hitch extension to tow anything behind. With this model, the RZR trailer hitches directly to the hitch receiver on the truck without an extension.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper towing Polaris RZR 900 XC

The camper doesn’t hang far off the back of the truck, so the RZR can be hitched directly to the ball mount in the truck’s hitch receiver.

FLOOR PLAN

Arctic Fox 860 truck camper Floor Plan

Arctic Fox 860 truck camper floor plan

CAPACITIES

Here are the tank and HVAC capacities for the Arctic Fox 860:

Fresh Water: 46 gallons, including 6 gal. hot water heater
Gray Water: 25 gallons
Black Water: 25 gallons
Propane: 14 gallons (60 lbs.)

Furnace: 20k BTU
Air Conditioner: 11k BTU

INTERIOR

Oh look, there’s Mark at the door. Let’s head inside!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper

Come on in!

The interior is open and bright.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The slideout (right side of the pic) gives the interior an open feeling.

The dinette is on the passenger side as you walk in and it’s very comfortable for two. Since there are no recliners or sofa, we both like to turn sideways on the benches, lean against a cushion behind us and stretch out our legs!

The louvered window makes it possible to keep the window open even when it drizzles.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The dinette is comfortable and the window brings in lots of light.

The three-way 6 cubic foot refrigerator can run on 12 volt DC electricity, 110 volt AC or propane. The fridge is the same size as the one in our Lynx travel trailer that we lived in during our first year on the road. Our fifth wheel had an 8 cubic foot refrigerator.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The 6 cubic foot refrigerator is a 3-way (12v DC, 110v AC, or LP) .

The bathroom is on your left as you enter, behind a sliding door, and the kitchen is beyond that.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The bathroom and kitchen are on the left (the driver’s side) as you enter.

This camper has two showers, one in the bathroom and one outside. Back in our days of camping in our little popup tent trailer, we made good use of our outdoor shower and got a kick out of bathing in the fresh air (in remote places, of course!). Mark used to love showering on the back of the boat too!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Wet bath (ie., the toilet is your shower companion)

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Wet bath

The kitchen is small but very workable and I’ve found it easy to make good meals in it.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Sliding pantry rack

The cupboards and drawer space are sufficient.

Years ago, for the boat, I bought a stainless steel Magma nesting pots and pans set which has several sizes of pots, pans and tops that all stack into each other along with two removable handles. I’ve always said this high quality, handy dandy compact kit would be ideal for a truck camper, and it is! (I just noticed that Camco and Stansport make similar smaller sets that are much less expensive).

I’ve never used the plastic cutting board sink covers in our previous RVs, but I find I tend to cover one side of the double sink all the time in the camper to get a little more working area when cooking.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Small but functional kitchen

When we took the camper out for our first overnight, we quickly realized we needed a little trash can. Mark improvised and converted a Deschuttes Pale Ale 12-pack box. Ya gotta have a little whimsy in life, so we’re keeping it for now!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Mark’s Deschuttes Pale Ale trash can is working out well!

The bed is in the cabover part of the camper and is a queen size 60″ x 80″ mattress.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

The bedroom 🙂

On either side of the bed there are two shirt length hanging closets with mirrored cabinet doors. There’s also an alcove with a window on each side. This makes the bed feel wider than a queen.

Each alcove has lift-up tops to access a deep storage area underneath. We can easily fit two week’s worth of summer clothing with plenty of room to spare.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Each of the window alcoves has a deep storage area beneath cabinet doors that lift up.

At the foot of the bed on the driver’s side there is a TV cabinet with a slide-out tray for the TV.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

There is a large cabinet for a TV at the foot of the bed on the driver’s side (kitchen side).

On the opposite side at the foot of the bed a small door opens to reveal a full-length hanging closet that goes deep below the level of the bed.

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

Behind this door is a full length hanging locker.

And that’s the tour!

I’m heading out — I think there’s a hammock under the trees waiting for me out there!!

2005 Arctic Fox 860 Truck Camper interior

A sweet little home that fits right into the bed of our truck!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about the Arctic Fox 860 truck camper:

Old 2004 brochure for the Arctic Fox 860 camper

Our other rolling and floating homes:

Related Posts:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

Honda EU2200i Generator Review + Oil Change and Maintenance Tips

We have been loving the heck out of our Honda EU2200i generator for the last seven months and have already put about 150 hours on it. We live in our RV off the grid on solar power 24/7, and we rely on the sun for 98% of our power needs. However, in the last few months we have experienced an extraordinary amount of wildfire smoke and rain in our RV travels, and that trusty old orb in the sky was nowhere to be seen for weeks on end.

Honda EU2200i generator RV camping

Honda EU2200i generator

Why A Honda EU2200i generator?

In the past we have used a generator only for a few days in mid-winter when the days are really short and storms blow in for a week at a time, limiting the amount of power our solar panels could produce, or for just a few days in mid-summer when the interior temp of our trailer shoots into the 90s and we run our air conditioner to cool down.

Honda EU2200i Generator back side-min

The back side of the Honda EU2200i generator.

When we decided to get one of Honda’s new and easily carried 2200 watt generators in early May, we didn’t think we’d put it to use right away. We were headed to the cool mountains for a month or so, and we doubted we’d need our air conditioner.

But our longer range plans were to go to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and hang out along Lake Superior where we knew we’d be camping in shady spots under tall trees.

Honda EU2200i portable generator RV camping top view 1-min

.

Honda EU2200i portable generator RV camping top view 2-min

.

Honda EU2200i generator RV camping outlets side view-min

The “business end” of the Honda EU2200i generator

Honda EU2200i generator RV camping exhaust side view-min

The exhaust end

Ironically, within a few weeks of getting our new 2200 watt Honda generator, wildfire smoke filled the mountain air, obscuring the sun and preventing our solar panels from being as effective as usual.

The wildfire smoke was followed by weeks-long rain storms for the next few months as we traveled from the mountain states to Lake Superior. Oh my, were we happy it was so easy to set up our new little generator to keep our batteries nicely charged despite the dark skies.

RV camping in a fifth wheel trailer under stormy skies-min

Solar power is great until a storm like this sweeps in!

At one point we had to ask ourselves if we had inadvertently done a rain dance by getting this new generator!

Just like how one of us always get really sick whenever we put a new bottle of Nyquil in our medicine chest, we wondered if the deluge of smoke and rains came because we now had an easy access generator that could power our lives on a moment’s notice!

Fifth wheel RV camping with Honda EU2200i generator-min

When storms blew in we got the generator out — and it was easy!

The Honda EU2200i is light and easy to Carry!

The Honda EU2200i generator is a new and improved version of the much beloved Honda 2000i generator that has been powering the lives of RVers for many years. If you wander through the desert in Quartzsite, Arizona, in January, you’ll see the popular red generators outside of many RVs.

It weights just 46.5 lbs., holds just under a gallon of gas and delivers 2,200 watts of peak surge power and 1,800 watts of continuous power.

We have had a Yamaha 2400i generator with us since we started full-time RVing eleven years ago, and although it is a great generator, it is unwieldy to store, maneuver and set up. Too often we have looked at each other and said, “We really should get the generator out,” only to decide against it because neither of us felt like going through the hassle.

However, the light little Honda EU2200i generator has proven to be so darn easy to grab and set up that we often end up running it in circumstances where we wouldn’t have before.

For the moment, it is living in the back of our truck right next to the bigger generator. Either one of us can pick it up with one hand and lift it out of the truck, even while gingerly stepping around the fifth wheel hitch and the rest of the obstacle course in the bed of our truck. Not so with its big brother.

Starting the Honda EU2200i generator!

We like to start the Honda EU2200i generator without having it plugged into the RV so it can get a little warmed up before we put any loads on it. The shore power cord is plugged into the trailer, but we don’t plug the other end into the generator until the generator is actually humming along.

Since our trailer is a 50 amp trailer and the generator outlets are 15 amps, we use two adapters plus the shore power cord to get between the 15 amp female outlets on the generator and the male 50 amp outlet on our trailer:

We keep these two adapters on hand because it gives us the flexibility to connect the RV’s shorepower outlet to either a 15 amp power source or a 30 amp power source. However, you can also go directly from the 50 amp outlet on the RV to the 15 amp outlet on the generator and skip dragging out the heavy shore power cord by using a 15 amp Male to 50 amp Male adapter.

To start the Honda EU2200i generator there are three easy steps:

  • 1. Open the gas cap vent so a vacuum doesn’t build up inside the tank
  • 2. Close the choke (move the switch to the right)
  • 3. Set the generator switch to ON

Then pull the pull start cable and away you go.

Gas cap vent on Honda EU2200i generator-min

First point the gray dial to “On” to vent the gas cap.
Mark painted the “On” and “Off” labels to make them easier to see.

Honda EU2200i Generator front side-min

Then close the choke and set the generator switch to “On.” Now you’re ready to pull the start cord.

Starting the Honda EU2200i portable generator-min

Instant power!

Shortly after the generator roars to life, slowly open the choke (move the switch to the left).

We like to position the generator so the exhaust goes away from the trailer. If there are other people camped in the vicinity, we also like to place it somewhere in our campsite that it is as far from their campsite as possible so we don’t annoy them when we run it.

If it is raining out, we put it under one of the slide-outs so it doesn’t get wet.

Sometimes these locations are not optimal for pulling the start cord and getting the generator going (especially crawling under a slide-out!). But this little Honda generator is so light it is easy to maneuver it to wherever we want to place it, even after it is running.

RV camping in a fifth wheel trailer with Honda EU2200i generator-min

All set up and purring away.

RV camping with a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Buddy jumps for joy!

Using Eco Throttle for Greater Efficiency and Less Noise

One of the really nifty features on the Honda EU2200i generator is the Eco Throttle. This is located on the “business end” of the generator in the upper left corner.

Turning it on lowers the RPMs of the generator so it doesn’t use as much gas and runs more quietly.

If we are going to run the generator for a number of hours primarily to charge the batteries and do other things that put just a small load on the generator like using our laptops, running the lights at night, or watching a movie on TV, we keep the Eco throttle turned on.

We tested the generator to see how long it would run if we filled the 0.95 gallon gas tank before it ran out of gas. We had it in Eco mode and used our laptops and other small things while it was running.

It ran for 9.5 hours!

We don’t usually run the generator for nearly that long.

As I’ve described in our article about what happens when you run solar power and shore power simultaneously, the best time for solar powered RVs to run a generator is in the morning hours. This helps get the batteries sufficiently charged so they can easily reach their charging (Absorb) voltage under solar power alone once the generator is turned off. This gives them more daylight hours to complete the Absorb stage before the sun goes down.

Outlets and switches Honda EU2200i Generator-min

The Eco Throttle switch allows the generator to run more efficiently and quietly when loads are light.

Eco mode is our default with this generator, both to save gas and to hear the generator’s quiet purr instead of its louder roar. In Eco mode it is as quiet as our Yamaha 2400i generator, but when it is not in Eco mode it is a little louder.

If you suddenly place a big load on the generator when it is in Eco mode, it will temporarily go into higher RPMs to provide the required power.

If we turn on the toaster while in Eco mode (our toaster is an 800 watt model), we can hear the generator rev up while the toaster is making toast. As soon as the toast pops up, the generator idles back down. If we do the same thing in non-Eco mode, the generator is already humming along at a fast pace, and it doesn’t need much of a surge to operate the toaster.

Honda EU2200i Generator for RV battery charging-min

We camped under thick canopies of trees in the rain in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

If the generator is in Eco mode and we use the microwave (ours is an 1100 watt model), the generator has a slight lag time as it first senses the heavy load and then revs up to provide the necessary power.

There is an audible drop in tone and dimming of the lights on the microwave for a second or two before the generator roars to meet the challenge. We’re not sure this momentary dip in power is good for the microwave, so if we plan to use it we prefer to have the generator running in non-Eco mode first.

Can it power an RV air conditioner?

We have a 15,000 BTU air conditioner on our 36′ fifth wheel trailer. With some coaxing (i.e., warming up the generator, then turning on the Coleman air conditioner’s fan and finally turning on the air conditioner itself), our Yamaha 2400i generator can handle the air conditioner’s initial power surge and run it for hours on end without a hitch.

We were hoping the much lighter and smaller Honda EU2200i might be able to run it too. However, the generator’s 2200 watts max power is not quite enough to handle the surge when the air conditioner starts. It is likely it could power a 13,500 btu air conditioner (standard on smaller RVs) just fine.

The Honda EU2200i generator is designed to work in parallel with a twin generator and connector cables, giving you 4,400 watts of peak power, more than enough to run a 15k BTU air conditioner. You can probably run the microwave at the same time with that kind of juice! The wonderful thing about this setup is that the two generators are a lot smaller than one big 4.4kw generator would be.

Honda EU2200i and EU2200ic Companion Generator Parallel Combo Kit-min

Honda EU2200i + EU2200ic Companion Generator Parallel Combo Kit with covers for each.

Putting Gas in the Honda EU2200i Generator

The hardest part about putting gas in a generator is fiddling with the child-proof, spill-proof, idiot-proof gas can. Government regulators have obviously never used a gas can in their lives, and we’re quite sure a lot more gas has been spilled on our precious environment because of the newfangled user-unfriendly spouts than ever was spilled using the trusty old gas can spouts of days gone by.

Putting the spout on a plastic gas can-min

Good luck with the gas can spout!

Putting gas in a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Easy access on the top of the generator for gassing it up.

We’ve been adding Seafoam Motor Treatment to the gas in the generator. This fuel stabilizer cleans the carburetor, keeps the engine clean, and we find it makes it easier to start.

When we cruised Mexico in our sailboat, we used it in the outboard motor for our dinghy and were very pleased with the results.

Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Changing the Oil

Changing the oil on the Honda EU2200i generator is a snap. First find a pleasant place to do it. Mark likes to elevate the generator onto some kind of platform so it is easy to drain the old oil out of the bottom.

As always, Buddy likes to supervise.

Changing the oil in a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Changing the oil doesn’t take long, but doing it in a pretty place makes it more fun.

You’ll need the following:

  • A flat head screwdriver
  • A sealable 14 oz. or larger container for the old oil
  • A quart of SAE 10W-30 oil
  • Rags to clean up drips and wipe your hands
  • Optional: Rubber gloves

The first step is to unscrew the single screw that holds the front panel on the front of the generator and remove the panel so you have full access to the heart of the machine.

Opening a Honda EU2200i Generator to change the oil-min

Access the heart of the generator via the side panel on the front.

Opening a Honda EU2200i Generator to change the oil-min

Once it’s unscrewed, the side panel lifts off easily.

To check or change the oil, simply unscrew the dipstick in the lower left corner.

If you are just checking the oil, make sure the oil level fills the spout and is clear. Honda recomments changing it every six months or 100 hours of use (keep track of the hours of use in a log book).

Inside a Honda EU2200i Portable Generator-min

The dipstick is in the lower left corner.

Check the oil with the dipstick on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Unscrew the dipstick to check the oil and/or to change it.

When changing the oil, hold a container of some kind below the spout.

Any container that can hold 14 ounces of liquid is fine. Or you can drain the oil into an oil drain pan and then, after the new oil has been put into the generator, pour the old oil into the container that held the new oil.

In the case pictured here, Mark used an old plastic peanut jar with a screw top lid.

Drain the oil from a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Drain the oil into an easily sealed container that holds at least 14 ounces.

To get all the oil out, tip the generator slightly towards you.

Drain all the oil from a Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

Tip the generator towards you to get out every last drop.

The Honda EU2200i generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil.

Honda EU2200i Generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil-min

The generator uses SAE 10W-30 oil

Once the old oil is completely drained out, pour the new oil in.

Change the oil on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Pour the new oil in

The oil reserve is properly filled when the oil comes right to the edge (with the generator sitting level). Once it’s full, screw the dipstick back in and tidy up any drips with the rags.

Oil change on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

The oil is full when it is level with the spout

The generator takes 14 ounces of oil and, of course, oil is sold in 16 ounce bottles. You can save the last two ounces for other odd jobs around your RV in one of these classic oil cans. Grandpa will be proud!

Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Cleaning / Replacing the Air Filters

Since the front panel of the generator is off, now is a good time to inspect the air filters. To access the air filters, unscrew the screw holding the access panel in place.

Inside a Honda EU2200i Portable Generator-min

The air filters are in the upper right area of the front of the generator

Open air filter compartment on a Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Remove the air filter cover

There are two small air filters inside. Each one is a small piece of foam. If they’re dusty and dirty you can clean and re-oil them. If they are brittle and have started to fall apart, you can replace them with Honda’s air filter replacement kit.

Air filter on a Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

There are two air filters inside, one above and one below

Honda EU2200i Generator Air filter-min

.

Honda EU2200i portable generator Air filter-min

.

Honda EU2200i Generator Maintenance Tips – Inspecting / Replacing the Spark Plug

Once the front panel on the generator is buttoned up again, this is a good time to check the spark plug.

The Honda EU2200i generator’s spark plug is located in a small compartment on the top next to the handle. The cover slides off easily.

Open spark plug compartment Honda EU2200i portable generator-min

The spark plug has its own compartment on the top of the generator

Inside, the spark plug is covered by a spark plug cap. Simply pull the cap off to reveal the spark plug underneath.

Spark plug compartment Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Pull off the spark plug cap to reveal the spark plug underneath

To remove the spark plub, use a 5/8″ spark plug socket and ratchet plus 3/8″ drive extension. The spark plug is quite close to the generator handle, so a 5//8″ spark plug socket with an integral 3/8″ drive on a swivel extension could be very handy.

Remove spark plug from Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Use a 5/8″ socket and extension to remove the spark plug

The spark plug is the NGK CR5HSB.

Honda EU2200i Generator spark plug-min

NGK CR5HSB spark plug

Inspect it with a spark plug gap tool. The gap should be 0.24 to 0.28 inches which is equivalent to 0.6 to 0.7 mm.

Check spark plug gap with feeler guage on Honda EU2200i portable Generator-min

The spark plug gap should be between 0.24 and 0.28 inches (0.6 to 0.7 mm)

Before placing the spark plug back in the generator, spread a thin layer of high temperature anti-seize lubricant on the spark plug threads.

Apply anti-seize lubricant to spark plug for Honda EU2200i Generator-min

Apply a thin layer of high temp anti-seize lubricant to the threads

Anti-seize lubricant applied to Honda EU2200i Generator spark plug-min

.

And that’s it!

Honda EU2200i Generator charges batteries while RV camping-min

Happy campers!

If you are looking for a lightweight generator that can run for many hours on end and power all of the appliances in your RV that require less than 2200 watts to operate (in our case, this is everything except our 15k BTU air conditioner), the new Honda EU2200i generator is a great choice.

Hopefully if you buy one, you won’t inadvertently inspire the rain gods to dump weeks of rain on you like we did!!

Note added March 24, 2019 – 200,000 Honda 2200i units have been recalled for a leak in the fuel valve. You can schedule a free repair at a Honda authorized dealer. There is more detailed info from Honda about the specific units affected at this link.

Where to buy the Honda EU2200i generator and accessories:

RV Power Adapters and Dogbones:

Generator Maintenance Goodies:

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Related articles:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

RV Awning Installation and Repair – Replacing the Awning Fabric

Our RV awning is 11 years old now, and the canvas fabric recently tore at the top and bottom. RV awnings are a pain in every respect (except for the wonderful shade they offer), and we knew we were in for a challenging DIY repair if we tried to do it ourselves.

Fixing an RV awning is a job for at least two people, preferably three or four for certain parts of the job, and it’s easiest if someone in the group has done it before because it can be a little tricky.

Ripped RV awning torn before replacement-min

Oh no! Time for new RV awning fabric!

We were traveling through Rapid City, South Dakota, and recent hail storms had made a mess of many RVs and RV dealerships all around the area. Only one of the local RV dealerships and repair shops could get us in within the week, so we were thrilled when we backed into a bay at Jack’s Campers.

Fortunately, they had the fabric for a 17′ Dometic Sunchaser awning in stock, an old manual model that is not installed on new RVs any more. Luckily, there must be enough oldies-but-goodies on the road these days that Jack’s Campers stocks them.

We back our fifth wheel trailer into a bay at Jack's Campers in Rapid City South Dakota-min

We got into position at Jack’s Campers in Rapid City, South Dakota.

We called our RV Extended Warranty folks, Wholesale Warranties, to find out if this awning failure would qualify for reimbursement under our warranty plan.

We have had so much good luck with our extended warranty on major repairs like our refrigerator, trailer axle, suspension, toilet and window leaks and plumbing, that we were hopeful this repair would be covered too. However, only the mechanical aspects of the awning were covered, not the fabric.

In the end, the whole RV awning repair job ended up costing $444 out of pocket, most of that being for the new fabric, and it took the guys at Jack’s Campers just 45 minutes to do it.

The first step was to remove the awning arms and roller from the sidewall of our fifth wheel. They unrolled the fabric about a foot and unscrewed the mounting brackets that attached the awning arms to the side of the trailer.

Remove the bolts attaching RV awning to the side of the fifth wheel trailer-min

First, remove the awning arms from the sidewalls of the trailer.

There was putty in the awning fabric track where the mounting bracket had been, so this had to be removed with a flathead screwdriver.

Use flathead screwdriver to remove putty from RV awning track on fifth wheel trailer-min

There was some putty in the awning track, so it was removed with a flathead screwdriver.

Next, two guys slid the awning fabric off of the awning track on the RV wall and marched the whole thing into the workshop and rested it on some saw horses.

Two people slide the RV awning off the track on a fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Two mechanics walked the awning out of the track on the trailer.

Rest the RV awning on saw horses to remove the fabric-min

Once in the shop the awning was laid across some saw horses.

Manually operated RV awnings have a spring inside the roller mechanism (a “torsion assembly“) for rolling up the fabric. At one end of the roller there is a locking mechanism to keep the spring inside the roller tight so the fabric doesn’t unroll. This locking mechanism became important when the new fabric was installed to get the spring tensioned correctly inside the roller.

Locking end of RV awning-min

The right arm of the awning has a locking mechanism which keeps the fabric from rolling off the roller.

At the opposite end of the roller there was no locking mechanism. The bolt holding the awning arm to the roller at the non-locking end was removed and the arm was pulled off. The arm at the locking end of the roller remained attached throughout the job.

Remove bolt holding RV awning arm to the roller-min

Remove the awning arm from the non-locking end of the roller.

RV awning endcap and spring-min

Awning arm removed.

Then the rivets on the endcap were drilled out and the torsion assembly was pulled out.

Drill out rivets from endcap on RV awning-min

Drill out the rivets on the endcap.

Remove spring and endcap from RV awning to replace fabric-min

The endcap and spring (torsion assembly) are removed from the roller.

RV awning spring and endcap-min

The torsion assembly is out of the roller.
Spraying it with silicone spray will help the awning roll more easily.

Then the awning fabric was slid off of the roller.

Two mechanics hold the RV awning to slide the torn fabric off the track-min

Two mechanics slid the old awning fabric out of the track.

The new fabric was unfolded and laid out in the workshop, and then it was slid into the track on the roller until the fabric stretched the whole length of the roller.

Open up and spread out the new RV awning fabric-min

The new awning fabric was unfolded and laid out.

Opened up RV awning endcap-min

The new awning fabric will be slid into the track on the roller.

Install new RV awning fabric by sliding it along the track-min

The new awning fabric was started in the track on the roller.

Spraying the track with a heavy duty silicone spray helped the fabric slide along the track smoothly.

Spray heavy duty silicone on the RV awning track before sliding the fabric onto it-min

Spraying the track with silicone helps the fabric slide more smoothly.

Slide new RV awning fabric onto the roller along the track-min

Two mechanics slid the new awning fabric along the roller track.

Then the torsion assembly was placed inside the roller and new endcap rivets were installed.

Reinstall RV awning endcap and spring-min

The endcap and spring were reinserted inside the roller.

Install new rivets on RV awning cap-min

Put new rivets on the endcap.

New rivet installed on RV awning endcap-min

New rivet in place.

The fabric was positioned so it went all the way to the locking end of the awning. At the opposite end a set screw was screwed in to prevent the fabric from sliding off the track.

New RV awning fabric at endcap on locking end of roller-min

Make sure the awning fabric has been slid all the way to the locking end of the roller.

Screw in set screw to keep RV awning fabric from falling off the track-min

Put a set screw at the non-locking end of the fabric so it doesn’t slide off the track.

The new fabric was laid out so it could be rolled onto the roller. Then a vice grip was used to turn the spring between 15 and 18 times to get the right spring tension.

New RV awning fabric installed-min

New awning fabric is in place.

Use vice grips to wind up the new RV awning fabric-min

Use vice grips to rotate the spring 15 to 18 times to ge the right spring tension.

Then the awning arm was reattached to the roller with a bolt.

Bolt on the RV awning arms to the roller-min

Bolt on the awning arm.

New RV awning fabric with set screw and awning arm attached-min

Awning arm (non-locking end) is reattached.

Back at the trailer, the awning track was sprayed with heavy duty silicone.

Use heavy duty silicone spray to lubricate the RV awning track-min

Out at the trailer spray the awning track with silicone.

Then the new awning fabric was loosely wrapped around the roller and the whole thing was marched outside to the trailer.

Wrap the new RV awning fabric around the roller-min

Four guys assisted in wrapping the new awning fabric around the roller a few times.

Carry the RV awning out to the fifth wheel trailer-min

The awning is taken out to the trailer.

Our little project supervisor, Buddy, had been watching all the goings on through open big shop door from a safe distance out by the trailer. When the awning and its new fabric were brought out to the trailer, he backed up as far as he could into the parking lot to give the guys room to work!

Supervising puppy keeps his distance from the RV awning project-min

Stand back!

Using ladders and reaching overhead, four guys maneuvered the awning fabric into the track on the trailer and slid it all the way to the front end of the track. This is where having lots of hands can help.

Slide the RV awning fabric along the track on the wall of the fifth wheel trailer RV-min

The awning fabric is slid along the track on the side of the trailer.

After installing the awning on the trailer, the mechanics noticed that the two feet that held the bottoms of the two awning arms had each developed hairline cracks. So, they replaced each foot.

Replace the cracked RV awning foot-min

The feet of both awning arms had developed small cracks, so they were replaced.

The last step was to test the awning by rolling it all the way out and then all the way in again.

New RV awning installed on our fifth wheel trailer RV-min

Test the awning to make sure it rolls all the way out and all the way in again.

Completed installation of the new RV awning fabric on a fifth wheel trailer-min

Done!

Ta Da!! A job well done. The whole project took 45 minutes from start to finish.

Now that we’ve seen how a manual RV awning gets installed, Mark is confident he could do it without going to an RV repair shop as long as he had some extra hands for sliding the awning fabric on/off the trailer awning track and on/off the roller track.

Side note: If you have a manual awning, it is really important that you use some kind of velcro straps or bungee cords wrapped around the awning arms as extra security to keep the awning from accidentally opening while you are traveling.

Our photo above doesn’t show them, but we have used these awning straps ever since we bought the trailer.

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More cool articles about RVs and RVing:

  • RV Tech Articles – An index of all our technical articles (upgrades/mods)
  • RV Lifestyle Articles – An index of all our RV lifestyle articles (RV lifestyle costs, repairs & breakdowns, “living the dream” and more)

Below are some of our most POPULAR POSTS (also in the MENUS above)

RV UPGRADES, SYSTEMS & TIPS MONEY FULL-TIME RV LIFESTYLE GEAR STORE and PRODUCT REVIEWS
  • Gear Store - A list of the goodies, equipment and gear we've found useful in our RV lifestyle!
  • Product Reviews - An index of articles reviewing some of the products we have used in our RVing and cruising lifestyles

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

Amp’d Throttle Booster Installation and Review

August 2018 – We absolutely love our 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 Dually truck, and we recently installed an Amp’d Throttle Booster on it. This small electronic unit decreases the occasional throttle lag you feel when you depress the accelerator pedal by increasing the throttle sensitivity and responsiveness.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster Installation and Review

Amp’d Throttle Booster Installation and Review

On older vehicles the accelerator was connected to the carburetor with a cable, providing a physical connection between the action of your foot depressing the accelerator and fuel flowing to the engine to make the vehicle go faster. On newer vehicles electronic signals do the job instead, and occasionally there is a slight lag between depressing the accelerator and fuel flowing to the engine. This is sometimes referred to as a “dead pedal” kind of sensation, and it can be a little frustrating to hit the gas and not have the vehicle jump in response right away.

The Amp’d Throttle Booster allows you to increase the throttle sensitivity by slightly raising the voltage. There are three sensitivity settings along with a Stock setting that doesn’t increase the voltage at all.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster in the box-min

Edge Amp’d Throttle Booster

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster core unit-min

The Amp’d Throttle Booster core unit

The Amp’d Throttle Booster is a small product that comes in two parts: the booster unit itself and a wiring harness.

The harness assembly has three ends:

  • One end that connects to a selector switch that gets mounted on the dashboard (labeled “A” in the photo).
  • One end that connects to the booster (“B”).
  • One end that has a Y connection that connects to two points under the dashboard (“C”).

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster cable harness assembly-min

The wiring harness has three ends.
A = Dashboard mounted selector switch
B = Connects to the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit
C = Both connectors connect under the dashboard.

The installation took 17 minutes, but allow a little bit more for reading the manual, etc!

The first step was to connect the pair of connectors at the Y end of the wiring harness to the corresponding connectors under the dashboard. These two connectors are keyed, so you can’t connect them backwards or accidentally plug them into the wrong spots.

Working under the dashboard was a tight fit, so I have a link to the Amp’d Throttle Booster manual at the end of this article to give you the nitty gritty about each connector and where it is positioned under the dashboard both for the Ram trucks and for other brands and model years.

Installing the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster_-min

First connect one of the two ends of the Y on the wiring harness to the corresponding connector under the dashboard.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster wiring harness installation-min

Connect the second of the two connectors at the Y end of the wiring harness under the dashboard.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster wiring harness installation-min

Both connectors are in place (only one is visible).

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster wiring harness assembly-min

It’s tight under there but the connectors are keyed to make it easier.

We got the kit that includes the dashboard mounted selector switch. If you don’t buy this external switch there is a switch right on the circuit board inside the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit that has two sensitivity settings, Low and High.

Regardless of whether you get the dashboard mounted selector switch or rely on the circuit board switch instead, the next step is to set up the Amp’d Throttle Booster so it can learn the throttle response of your truck’s accelerator.

To begin this learning sequence (and to access the circuit board’s selector switch), simply unscrew the outer casing.

Opening up the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster-min

Access the Amp’d Throttle Booster circuit board and go through the Learn sequence by removing the outer casing.

Circuit board inside the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster-min-min

The red arrow shows the location of the circuit board selector switch. It is set to Stock (Off).

Then attach the wiring assembly to the connector on the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit and follow the sequence of steps given in the manual to enable the throttle booster to learn the throttle response of the truck’s accelerator (this involves depressing the accelerator pedal a few times and monitoring some LED flashing lights on the circuit board).

Plug the wiring harness into the Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster-min

Plug the wiring harness into the connector on the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit.

Then mount the selector switch on the dashboard. One handy location is on the plastic tab at the bottom of the dashboard that holds the dashboard in place. Simply remove the existing screw, position the mounting bracket and screw it back in.

Use tiewrap to mount Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster on dashboard-min

Mount the selector switch on the dashboard and tidy up the wiring harness with tie wraps before tucking it under the dashboard.

Once it’s mounted, tuck the harness assembly and the Amp’d Throttle Booster unit up under the dashboard and secure them in place with zip-ties.

Edge Amp'd Throttle Booster installed on Dodge Ram 3500 diesel truck dashboard-min

Finished. The selector switch is easy for the driver to reach.

After the installation of the Amp’d Throttle Booster, Mark tested it with the truck in Park. He put the selector switch to Stock (Off) and revved the engine. The he did the same thing at each of the three settings: Low (50% sensitivity increase), Medium (75% increase) and High (100% increase). At each increased setting the engine responded faster to his foot depressing the accelerator pedal — as expected.

Mark has been driving with the Amp’d Throttle Booster installed on the truck for the last 5,000 miles, and he’s found he likes it best at the High setting (100% increase) which is where he keeps it set all the time.

He finds he notices the improvement a lot when passing people and also when driving in the mountains as well as when he’s in stop-and-go traffic.

Without the booster he sometimes finds that on a steep incline or when “gassing it” for whatever reason, he’ll depress the accelerator and then have a moment or two of no response from the engine before it kicks in. With the booster on High, the truck reacts and accelerates much more quickly.

We also have an Edge Juice with Attitude engine tuner on the truck, and Mark finds that the two work together well. He puts the engine tuner in Level 2 (Towing) and leaves it there most of the time. This improves the engine’s power when it’s towing our trailer.

Whenever we’re going to be driving the truck without the trailer attached for a long drive or for a few days of in-town driving, then he puts the tuner in Level 1 (Economy). This improves the fuel economy significantly.

Our truck has about 35,000 miles on it now, and we’ve owned it for two and a half years . For anyone wondering how many miles they might drive in the full-time RV lifestyle, there you have it — we’ve averaged 14,000 miles a year since January 2016, about half of that towing our trailer and half of that driving without our trailer hitched up.

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More info about the Amp’d Throttle Booster:

Other blog posts related to trucks and towing:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

Repairing and Replacing RV Roof Vents After a Hail Storm!

July 2018 – We have been floating around northern Wyoming and the Black Hills of South Dakota for the past few weeks, an area that is prone to wild hail storms. The other day, while we were away from the trailer in town, a horrific hail storm came through our campsite and wreaked havoc on our RV roof.

A hail storm damaged a RV roof vents on a fifth wheel trailer-min

Will these gathering storm clouds dump hail on us?

We didn’t know this was happening while we were gallivanting around town, sipping lattes, running errands and chatting with the locals. It was nice there!

But we got a hint about what had happened (that we didn’t understand at first) as we drove back to our campsite when we saw a fifth wheel trailer going by us on the highway with a wildly flapping tarp strapped down over its roof.

When we got back to our trailer we noticed some large clumps of ice in the grass and began to wonder.

Large hail fell and broke RV roof vents on fifth wheel trailer-min

At least half an hour or more after the storm ended, big chunks of hail were still on the ground.

We’ve been through hail storms before, most notably at Bryce Canyon and at Cedar Breaks National Monument, but the hail has always been about the size of a pea. Even at that, the thunderous sound on the trailer roof is astonishing.

But this time, considering the storm must have ended at least 30 minutes or even an hour or more before we got back to the trailer (the ground wasn’t very wet), these ice chunks were still pretty big despite melting fast. Suddenly it hit us, “Uh oh. Are the solar panels okay?” Mark quickly climbed up on the roof to find out.

As he yelled, “Oh, WOW!” from the rooftop I noticed that another storm was darkening the sky and was on its way.

Checking RV roof vents on fifth wheel trailer after hail storm-min

Mark surveys the hail damage on our roof while another storm threatens…

Luckily, there was no damage to our solar panels. However, the hail storm had smashed two of our RV roof vents!

These were basic RV roof vents with small 12 volt fans, one located in the toilet room and one in the shower stall, and the damage to each one was severe.

Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

Yikes!

Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

And more yikes!

Not only were the RV roof vent dome lids broken in multiple places but the fan blades above the screens had been broken off too!

Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer inside view-min

Not only did the lid get broken but some 12 volt fan blades broke too!

Broken RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer view from inside-min

The other vent fared no better!

Interestingly, our two Fantastic Fan RV roof vents were still 100% intact and sustained no damage. That’s an especially good thing because they are over our bed and over our recliners which would have all gotten soaked.

We had little time to puzzle over it all because another storm was on its way and would be dumping either rain or hail or both on us again momentarily. If we didn’t fix the vents in the next 10 minutes or so, our shower and toilet room would get drenched inside once again. That wouldn’t be a disaster, but who would want to sop up the mess twice?

Mark surveyed the damage and decided the best way to fix the RV roof vents for the short term — until we could get some replacement RV roof vents — was to tape them up with Gorilla tape.

Gorilla tape temporarily repairs RV roof vent-min

A quickie repair job with Gorilla Tape was enough to withstand a few more violent storms!

The storm arrived with a vengeance and we were pelted with rain. Then another two storms passed over us in the next 12 hours. Not much hail fell, but one storm pounded us with a deluge of rain for over two hours.

Lightning strikes during a storm-min

As I clicked the shutter on this eerie landscape I saw a flash of lightning through the view finder. What luck!

Gorilla tape is amazing stuff, and not one drop of water leaked through the broken roof vents in all that rain. So, if you’re ever in a bind like this, it doesn’t hurt to have a roll of Gorilla Tape on hand!

Insurance? Warranty??

We debated whether to file an insurance claim, but the cost of this repair would barely meet our deductible. We also debated whether to try using our RV extended warranty since it had worked so well for us in the past when we needed some truly major equipment replacements (axle, fridge, suspension, toilet and plumbing). But warranties cover system failures, not accidents or acts of God (like hail).

So, this would be a DIY job without any outside financial assistance.

The next day we picked up two replacement RV roof vents (Ventline V2094 units by Dexter) at a local RV dealership and parts store. We didn’t get there until the afternoon, and we were amazed to find that there had been a run on RV roof vents that morning. They had just one left. The other had to be brought in from a partner store in the next town!

We also picked up a bunch of tubes of Dicor Lap Sealant, and then Mark got out the tools needed for the job and went to work.

Tools used to install new RV roof vents on fifth wheel trailer-min

Tools for the job: Screwdrivers, drill, wire cutters and a knee pad. Not shown: a caulk gun.

First, he used a flathead screwdriver to get the old Dicor Lap Sealant off of all the screw heads holding the damaged roof vent to the roof of the trailer.

Remove caulking from screw head on RV roof vent-min

First, scrape off the old Dicor Lap Sealant to reveal the screw heads.

Screw head revealed so RV roof vent can be removed-min

All the screws are #2 square heads.

Unscrew screws attaching RV roof vent to fifth wheel trailer roof-min

Unscrew the screws using a #2 square drill bit in a cordless drill.

Then he used a #2 square bit in our Rigid cordless drill to unscrew all the screws.

All the screws on the old RV roof vent are removed-min

All the screws have been removed.

Then he used the flathead screwdriver to remove the Dicor Lap Sealant from the top of the RV roof vent flange.

Remove Dicor Lap Sealant from RV roof vent before removing the vent-min

Scrape the Dicor Lap Sealant off the flange so the RV roof vent can be removed.

The old RV roof vent was now ready to be pulled off of the roof all together. However, the wires for its 12 volt fan were still attached, so he clipped those off with diagonal cutting pliers.

Remove old RV roof vent from roof of fifth wheel trailer-min

The old RV roof vent is ready to be removed except for the 12 volt fan wires.

Wires for 12 volt fan still attached to old RV roof vent before it is removed-min

.

Cut the wires on the old RV roof vent before removing it from fifth wheel trailer-min

Cut the wires leaving plenty of wire remaining for the new RV roof installation.

At last the old RV roof vent was completely removed leaving just the gaping hole into our shower stall below.

Hole in fifth wheel trailer roof after removing RV roof vent-min

Ready for the new RV roof vent.

The next step was to prep the new RV roof vent for installation. Mark unrolled some putty tape, which is sticky on both sides, and pressed it onto the bottom side of the flange of the new RV roof vent. Then he cut it to the proper length and peeled off the protective strip to expose the sticky part.

Place butyl putty tape along edges of RV roof vent before installing it on fifth wheel trailer-min

Place strips of putty tape on the bottom side of the flanges on the roof vent. This is double sided sticky tape.

cut double-sided putty tape before installing RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

Cut the tape.

Remove protection from double-sided sticky tape before installing RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

Remove the protective strip to expose the sticky side of the putty tape.

At the end there was a tiny gap in one corner. He rolled a small bit of the putty tape into a ball and pressed it into the gap.

Double sided sticky tape ball-min

If you end up with a gap, ball up a little putty tape and press it in the gap.

Fill gap in double-sided sticky tape before installing RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer-min

.

One of the interesting things about these RV roof vents is that the lids are flexible. Our old ones were heavily scraped from going under low hanging branches (as you can see in the first pictures of the broken vents near the top of this article), and they are designed to flex when something presses on them.

We didn’t want to demonstrate this with the new RV roof vents, but Mark pushed his shoe into the old vent so you could see. Obviously, the lid is weakened by the taped up holes, but it still has huge amount of flex to it.

RV roof vent has flexible dome-min

The dome lids on these RV roof vents are very flexible which helps when you hit low hanging branches.

The next task was to get the RV roof vent installed on our trailer roof. We often pass things up to and down from the roof via the slide-out next to our front steps. This is much easier than climbing the ladder with one hand while holding something in the other.

Put the new RV roof vent on the slide-out of the fifth wheel trailer-min

The new RV roof vent goes up on the roof.

The Ventline RV roof vents had embossed labels showing how to orient them on the roof. The idea is to install the RV roof vent so it opens to the rear of the RV. That way, if you accidentally leave it open and drive off, the hinges won’t be fighting 65 mph winds on the highway that could rip the lid off.

New RV roof vent orientation towards the front of the trailer-min

Be sure to orient the RV roof vent so it opens towards the back of the rig.

Vehicle Front lettering on RV roof vent-min

It says “Vehicle Front” with an arrow. You may need to feel around to find the lettering!

New RV roof vent is in place and screwed onto fifth wheel trailer roof-min

The new RV roof vent is in position.

Before securing the RV roof vent in place, Mark wired up the 12 volt fan. First he made a note of which color pairs had been wired together before and then cut off the crimp-on barrel connectors from each pair of wires. Then he used wire strippers to strip off a little bit of the outer casing of each wire to reveal the copper strands inside. Some errant strands were sticking out of the group so he he twisted all the copper strands together.

Strip wires for 12 volt fan on RV roof vent installation-min

Note how the fan is wired, remove the existing barrel connectors and strip the casing from the wires.

Prep wires for 12 volt fan for RV roof vent installation-min

Twist all the strands so no stray ones stick out.

After doing this to all four wires he twisted the two pairs of wires together and screwed on new wire nuts.

Prep wires for 12 volt fan on RV roof vent installation-min

Twist the pairs of wires together and screw on the wire nut.

Completed wire nut for 12 volt fan on RV roof vent installation-min

The last squeeze.

At this point he turned on the 12 volt fan just to be sure that it not only was wired correctly but also rotated in the right direction to exhaust air out of the RV. If he’d reversed the pairs of wires by accident, the fan would have run backwards, forcing air into the RV instead of exhausting it out.

12 volt wires for 12v fan on RV roof vent installation-min

Test the fan to be sure it turns on and spins in the right direction.

Then he tucked the wires in and closed the lid so he could screw it onto the RV roof.

Place new RV roof vent on fifth wheel trailer roof-min

Then tuck the wires in and position the RV roof vent so the screw holes line up.

Using the #2 square bit on his cordless drill, he screwed down the four corner screws first.

Screw in corner screws on new RV roof vent installation on fifth wheel trailer-min

Screw in the four corners first.

Then, to ensure the RV roof vent would seal evenly on all sides, he placed all the screws in their positions around the edges of the vent and screwed them in using a star pattern in the same way that lug nuts get tightened when changing a tire.

Use a cordless drill and #2 square bit to screw in new RV roof vent to fifth wheel trailer roof-min

After placing all the screws in the holes, use a star pattern to screw them in evenly.

New RV roof vent installation on fifth wheel trailer-min

Done.

The next task was to cover all the screws with a thick layer of Dicor Lap Sealant. Mark had tackled this project in the early morning so he wouldn’t have to sweat it out on the RV roof at midday, but this meant the Lap Sealant was still quite cold and wouldn’t flow well. So, he took a break and left the tubes of Lap Sealant out in the sun to warm up for a while.

Dicor Lap Sealant for RV roof vent installation-min

Dicor Lap Sealant has to flow, so make sure it is warm enough that it will flow smoothly.

When the Lap Sealant was finally warm enough to flow, he clipped off the end of a Dicor Lap Sealant tube and set it in his caulk gun. He wryly joked with me that if you don’t invest in a quality caulk gun at the outset, you’ll keep throwing them out until you do!

Cut the end off the tube of Dicor Lap Sealant-min

Cut the end off the Lap Sealant tube and place it in the caulk gun.

Then he flowed the Lap Sealant along the edges of the RV roof vent flange, flowing a little over each screw head as he went. It took almost two tubes of Dicor Lap Sealant per RV roof vent.

Sealing the new RV roof vent with Dicor Lap Sealant-min

Flow the Lap Sealant along the flange and over each screw head.

And Ta Da — he was finished!

This installation project took about 45 minutes per roof vent.

Seal the new RV roof vent with Dicor Lap Sealant-min

Done.

Our old RV roof vents had been installed at the NuWa factory in 2007 when our trailer was built, and they had worked flawlessly right up until this hail storm in 2018.

We were intrigued to discover that the old RV roof vents had been tinted a dark shade. The new ones were pure white, and what a difference that made inside! The first time I used the toilet room I opened the door and wondered why the light was on because it was so bright!

These lighter colored RV roof vents may let in a lot more heat, but vent insulators can help with that on the hottest days.

RV roof vent installed on fifth wheel trailer-min

One RV roof vent finished and one to go. After that, time for a beer!

Mark did some other RV roof repairs while he was up there, but I’ll save those projects for a future article!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Goodies we used for this job are available at these links:

More RV “tech tips”

Index of RV Tech Tips Articles on this website
Index of RV Lifestype Tips Articles on this website


Popular RV tech articles:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.   New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

MORryde SRE 4000 Installation & Review – Smooth Trailer Towing

The MORryde SRE 4000 is a fabulous replacement for the standard equalizer used in most trailer leaf spring based suspension systems. We recently replaced our fifth wheel trailer’s equalizer with a MORryde SRE 4000, and what a difference this has made when we tow on bumpy roads!

MorRyde SRE 4000 Trailer Suspension Installation and Review

MorRyde SRE 4000 Trailer Suspension Installation and Review

We have had our 14,500 lb. 36′ Hitchhiker fifth wheel trailer for over ten years, and during that time we have replaced the leaf springs, the shock absorbers and the equalizer with beefier components than the ones that were installed at the factory. We also cut the hangers off the frame and placed them at a slightly wider spacing when the tires threatened to touch each other due to a failure within the suspension system (blog post about all that here).

Our leaf springs are now Rockwell American leaf springs made in America from American steel. In addition to switching brands, we upgraded our leaf springs from the factory installed 7,000 lb leaf springs to 8,000 lb springs.

These wonderful upgrades meant we no longer had a problem with sagging leaf springs or a faulty suspension system, but the ride inside the trailer had become very harsh. It was now routine for us to find things in total disarray inside our trailer after towing it down even modestly bumpy roads.

MorRyde SRE 4000 installation and review-min

The MORryde SRE 4000 includes equalizer and wet bolts (heavy duty shackles) for each axle.

After arriving at a new campsite we’ve found our sconce lights dangling and we’ve had several light bulbs on our ceiling fan shatter all over the floor.

We keep some books in a cabinet in the far back of the trailer, above the rear window, and that cabinet was always a total disaster whenever we unhitched. Books and pamphlets and maps would be toppled all over each other.

In another rear cabinet in the trailer I keep a pocket flashlight and a chapstick, among other things, and darned if those two items didn’t always roll away and disappear under a pile of camera cleaning supplies every time we towed the trailer.

We had to be super careful opening our RV refrigerator door, because bunches of things would fall out onto the floor.

We have a few battery operated LED lights mounted under cabinets with Velcro, and they invariably would fall onto the counter tops. And from longstanding habit we tend to leave our place mats on our dining table, and they would always be on the floor when we arrived anywhere.

Mark’s tools down in the Man Cave? Oh my. We won’t even talk about that mess with all those tool boxes tipped over on their sides.

MorRyde SRE 4000 installation and review-min

Here’s another look at the components of this system: MORryde SRE 4000 and heavy duty shackles

We had resigned ourselves to fixing a disaster every time we parked and set up camp, but it sure was frustrating.

Then Mark started reading up on the MORryde SRE 4000. MORryde is well known among RVers for their patented IS (Independent Suspension) system which is an axle-less rubber based system that doesn’t involve leaf springs at all. These are standard on the upscale New Horizons fifth wheels, and they are a pricey but popular upgrade with many RVers who have replaced their factory installed leaf spring suspension with the MORrydes IS suspension on their fifth wheel trailers.

However, the MORryde SRE 4000 simply replaces the equalizer in a leaf spring suspension system and leaves the rest of the system intact, including the leaf springs, axles and shock absorbers. Rather than having a boomerang shaped piece of steel (an equalizer) that rocks back and forth between the two axles’ leaf springs, the MORryde SRE 4000 adds a rubber component that provides 4 inches of travel. So, not only does it rock back and forth, but it absorbs the bumps.

Replacement of trailer equalizer with Morryde SRE 4000-min

The MORryde SRE 4000 replaces the above equalizer and bolt assembly that sits between the hanger at the top and the two sets of leaf springs on either side.

We decided that this seemed like a really neat solution to our problem, so we headed over to Rucker Trailer Works in Mesa, Arizona, to have the MORryde SRE 4000 installed.

Rucker Trailer Works has worked on our trailer before. They aligned the frame and rehung the hangers to laser-point perfection after our initial suspension replacement at another shop. They have been in business for decades and they are true trailer experts. We would trust them with our trailer any day of the week and will eagerly return to them for any work we need in the future.

If we had known about them at the time, we would have gone to them for our electric over hydraulic disc brake conversion, and they also would have been our initial choice when we had our failing suspension replaced.

Rucker Trailer Works Mor-ryde SRE 4000 installation-min

Rucker Trailer Works in Mesa, Arizona, did a superior job.

We got set up in a bay and three mechanics quickly got to work.

Fifth wheel trailer ready for Morryde SRE 4000-min

We parked our buggy (a 36′ Hitchhiker fifth wheel) in one of the work bays.

Our new puppy, Buddy, wanted to be the Project Supervisor. But he had been caught sleeping on the job when we did our RV screen door upgrades a few weeks ago. So, he reluctantly went away to take a nap in the truck while the experts did the installation.

MORryde SRE 4000 review and installation-min

Our new puppy, Buddy, wanted to be the Supervisor but he napped in the truck instead.

The first step was to remove the wheels and jack the trailer up with floor jacks, placing the jacks under the frame.

Remove 5th wheel trailer wheels for MORryde SRE 4000 installation-min

First things first: jack up the trailer and remove the wheels.

Once the trailer wheels were off the ground, additional jacks were slid beneath the axles to support them. This was an important step because the project would involve disconnecting and reconnecting one of the points where the axles are attached to the trailer via the leaf springs.

There are five attachment points on each side of the trailer between the axles and the frame. Three of these attachment points are the hangers. The hangers connect the endpoints of the leaf springs: one at each of the two the outer endpoints and one in the middle supporting both leaf springs via the equalizer. The other two axle/frame attachment points are the two shock absorbers.

When the equalizer is removed, each leaf spring loses one attachment point to the frame. That is, each leaf spring ends up connected to the frame by only one hanger at one end while the other end is left dangling where the equalizer used to be. As each leaf spring drops, the shock absorbers could also be stretched open and possibly damaged. Also, it’s much easier to line up the bolt holes when installing the MORryde SRE 4000 if the axles are supported!

Therefore, jacks were positioned beneath the axles to hold the axles in place during the job.

This “after” pic shows the five connection points between the trailer frame and the axles.
The axles must be supported when the center attachment point is removed during this job.

Because we have electric over hydraulic disc brakes on our trailer (an upgrade we highly recommend to anyone with a large fifth wheel trailer), the disc brake calipers were removed and set aside with the hydraulic lines still intact and attached.

Fifth wheel trailer disc brake rotor and caliper-min

Because we upgraded our trailer to disc brakes, the brake calipers had to be removed temporarily.

Fifth wheel trailer disc brake with caliper removed-min

The disc brake calipers were set aside with the hydraulic line still attached & intact.

The equalizer was now at a crazy angle because the trailer was raised up on jacks.

Fifth wheel trailer equalizer replaced by Morryde SRE 4000-min

The old equalizer is cocked because the trailer is on jacks and the weight is off the wheels

The bolt holding the equalizer to the hanger was removed, and then the bolts holding the equalizer to the leaf springs were removed.

Remove 5th wheel trailer equalizer to install Mor-Ryde SRE4000-min

The bolt holding the equalizer to the hanger was removed.

Bolts removed from fifth wheel trailer equalizer to install MorRyde SRE4000-min

Next, the bolts holding the equalizer to the leaf springs needed to be removed.

These were not the original factory-installed bolts. They were wet bolts that we had had installed when our suspension was replaced a while back.

Wet bolts and equalizer from fifth wheel trailer-min

The old equalizer and bolt assemblies.

To our surprise, the mechanics discovered that the one of the equalizers was damaged. The top hole had started elongating and the brass bushing had broken. We were both astonished because we had towed our trailer only 7,500 miles since the equalizer had been installed. Our trailer weighs in at its GVWR and is not excessively heavy.

Damaged Dexter equalizer removed from fifth wheel trailer-min

One of the equalizers was already damaged after just 7,500 miles of towing.

Damaged Dexter equalizer removed from fifth wheel trailer suspension-min

The top hole had elongated and the bronze bushing had broken.

As we pondered how this damage could have happened, we remembered one particularly nasty road we had driven down this past year. It was a 3 mile long stretch of miserably rutted dirt road that took us 45 minutes to cover. At the end of it we noticed that the top equalizer bolt was hanging halfway out because the nut had worked its way off.

You can read about the details and see Mark’s incredibly ingenious solution to get us back on the road in this post: Trailer Suspension Nuts & Bolts – One Nut From Disaster!

Here’s a pic from that scary moment many miles from nowhere:

Bolt falling out of equalizer in fifth wheel trailer suspension-min

Last year, after driving for 45 minutes on the nastiest dirt road we’ve ever been on, Mark noticed the bolt holding the equalizer to trailer frame was working its way out. This may be what caused the damage to the equalizer that we saw during the MORryde SRE 4000 installation.

Past damage behind us, the next step was to hang the MORryde SRE 4000 on the leaf spring hanger.

MorRyde SRE 4000 installation on fifth wheel trailer frame hanger-min

The MORryde SRE 4000 was suspended by a bolt at the top.

Prior to tightening the bolt, the mechanic used a C-clamp to tighten the hanger arms and hold the MORryde SRE 4000 in place.

MorRyde SRE 4000 installation on fifth wheel trailer frame hanger-min

A C-clamp held the MORryde SRE 4000 in place

Then the C-clamp was removed and the MORryde SRE 4000 was centered between the leaf springs.

Position MorRyde SRE 4000 on fifth wheel trailer frame hanger with disc brake caliper removed-min

The MORryde SRE 4000 was bolted onto the hanger.

Fifth wheel trailer suspension with disc brakes and MorRyde SRE 4000-min

The MORryde SRE 4000 was suspended from the hanger.

MorRyde SRE 4000 and fifth wheel trailer leaf springs-min

Looking good.

The next step was to install the heavy duty shackles (or “wet bolts”) on either side of the MORryde SRE 4000, first bolting together one side and then the other.

Leaf springs attached to Mor-Ryde SRE 4000 on fifth wheel trailer suspension-min

A new wet bolt assembly attached the MORryde SRE 4000 to one leaf spring.

MorRyde SRE 4000 installed on fifth wheel trailer hanger and leaf spring suspension-min

Now it was fully bolted on to the hanger at the top and to both leaf springs on either side.

And that was it! Of course, the process had to be repeated on the other side of the trailer.

The mechanic held up the equalizer to show where it had been.

Comparing fifth wheel trailer equalizer and MorRyde SRE 4000-min

For comparison, here’s where the equalizer used to be.

The next step — after admiring how the MORryde SRE 4000 looked between the leaf springs — was to reattach the disc brake calipers, mount the wheels and lower the jacks until the trailer was standing on its own wheels once again.

MorRyde SRE 4000 installed on fifth wheel trailer leaf spring suspension-min

The disc brake calipers were reattached.

Reinstall wheels on fifth wheel trailer after MorRyde SRE4000 installation-min

The wheels were mounted back on.

Finished installation MorRyde SRE4000 equalizer-min

The jacks were removed and the trailer stood back up on its own wheels.

We crawled underneath to have a look at the new MORryde SRE 4000 from the insides of the wheels.

MOR-ryde SRE 4000 seen from beneath a fifth wheel trailer-min

View from under the trailer looking at the back side.

One of the things we were curious about was whether the MORryde SRE 4000 would raise or lower our trailer. We often travel on dirt roads and tow our trailer through washes, and we prefer it to be quite high off the ground. Even driving up or down a short ramp into or out of a gas station can cause havoc at the back end of the trailer. A few years ago when our trailer still stood at its original factory height, we left a deep 50′ long scrape in an insanely sloped parking lot in Boone, North Carolina.

We measured the trailer height off the ground both before and after the MORryde SRE 4000 installation and were pleased that it raised the trailer over an inch, from 28 5/8 inches to 29 7/8 inches. Woo hoo!

Trailer height before installation of MOR-ryde SRE 4000-min

BEFORE the installation the measurement was 28 5/8 inches.

Trailer height after installation of MOR-ryde SRE 4000-min

AFTER the installation the measurement was 29 7/8 inches, 1.25 inches higher.

We have towed our trailer a few hundred miles since the installation, and quite a few of those miles have been on both bumpy paved roads where we were going 35 mph or so and on miserably rutted dirt roads where we were going 10 mph or less.

The first thing we noticed is that we were chucking around a lot less in the cab of the truck. So often in the past it seemed like the tail was wagging the dog, so to speak, and the trailer’s bouncing was making the truck bounce too. We have a Demco Glide-Ride fifth wheel pin box, which reduces the fore-and-aft movement of the trailer, but we were still being thrown around in the truck by the motion of the trailer.

But it is the difference inside the trailer that is most remarkable. We have been truly astonished each time we’ve gone inside the trailer to find everything is still intact. The books on the back bookshelf miraculously stay put. I haven’t lost that chapstick or that flashlight since the day the MORryde SRE 4000 was installed. And today, when we drove several miles on one of the rockiest and pot-hole filled dirt roads we’ve been on in ages, I was stunned to see that the placemats were still on the table when we arrived and the LED lights were still happily hanging under the cabinets.

Buddy was also excited that the water in his water dish was all still inside the bowl and hadn’t spilled out all over the sink.

He was also excited when we visited the parts shop at Rucker Trailer Works and scoped out what they had on their shelf: Buddy Wheel Bearing Protectors!!

Bearing Buddy wheel bearing protector-min

Buddy didn’t get to supervise, but he found a product he really liked in the Rucker Trailer Works shop!

If you are tired of cleaning up the mess every time you set up camp, look into the MORryde SRE 4000. We were actually a little skeptical about how much this system would improve our ride, and we merely hoped for a little less turmoil in the trailer. But we are absolutely delighted that it truly smoothed out the ride, enough so that things in the bumpiest part of the trailer — the far rear end — now stay in place.

Also, this smoother ride will help our trailer and everything in it last a little longer. With less jiggling and outright bouncing going on, there will be less wear and tear on every component in the trailer from the walls to the windows and cabinets to all the appliances that were never intended to withstand endless jolts and shocks.

In addition, our more delicate belongings, from our camera gear to our laptops and external hard drives, along with everything else we’ve put into the trailer will be much happier and less prone to breakage with our new smooth ride.

For RVers visiting Arizona, Rucker Trailer Works is a great choice (website here). We were back on the road in less than two hours. MORryde also does installations at their facility in Indiana (website here), and we found out they do electric over hydraulic disc brake conversions there as well, so you can get two excellent upgrades done at once!

Buying the MORryde SRE 4000

The MORryde SRE 4000 can be purchased with or without a steel crossmember (“X-Factor Performance Crossmember”) that goes between the two leaf spring hangers to eliminate flex. Our trailer already had a crossmember that was welded onto the frame when our suspension was upgraded, so we got the unit that doesn’t include it. The difference in the part numbers is that the unit with the crossmember has an “X” at the end of the part number.

Also, you must measure the distance between the axles (the wheelbase) to determine whether you need the 33″ or the 35″ version of the product. We needed the 33″ version.

Lastly, the heavy duty shackle wet bolt kit is sold separately.

More Info:

Other blog posts about our fifth wheel trailer suspension:

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More Trailer Uprgades & Maintenance Tips:

Below are some of our most POPULAR POSTS (also in the MENUS above)

RV UPGRADES, SYSTEMS & TIPS MONEY FULL-TIME RV LIFESTYLE GEAR STORE and PRODUCT REVIEWS
  • Gear Store - A list of the goodies, equipment and gear we've found useful in our RV lifestyle!
  • Product Reviews - An index of articles reviewing some of the products we have used in our RVing and cruising lifestyles

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

RV Screen Door Modifications & Upgrades

We have recently made two upgrades to our RV screen door. Combined with our annual screen door shrink-wrapping project (explained here), that makes for three easy DIY RV screen door modifications we’ve done. Who knew you could do so much to a silly screen door??

RV Screen Door Modifications and Upgrades

RV Screen Door Modifications and Upgrades

INSTALLING A GRAB RAIL ON AN RV SCREEN DOOR

Although we’ve been in and out of our RV door countless thousands of times over the last decade of traveling full-time, we had never installed one of those handy grab handles that crosses the door’s mid-section. Until this week!

Grabbing the screen door when it’s being whipped out of your hands by the wind is nearly impossible without one of these grab bars, and when we saw one of these handles on a friend’s fifth wheel trailer, we just had to have one.

Our screen door is 24″ wide (skinny by today’s standards) but these handles are variable in length. The instructions that came with the handle involved drawing templates and other complicated things, so Mark went with his instincts and got it mounted just fine. Here’s what he did:

First, after holding the handle up to the door at various heights to decide where to mount it, he drilled a hole in the RV screen door frame and then screwed one end of the handle into the door frame.

Drill hole in RV screen door to install the door handle-min

Drill a hole in the door frame to hold the handle in place.

Attach RV screen door handle to the screen door frame-min

Screw the handle to the door with just one screw at first.

Then he held the handle in place on the other side of the door frame and put a level on it to ensure it was level. Then he used a fine pointed Sharpie pen to mark the location on the door where the handle would be screwed in.

Position the RV screen door handle on the RV screen door frame-min

Position the other end of the handle so it is level and mark the door frame where the hole must be drilled.

The grab handle expands and contracts to fit the width of various RV screen doors, so he adjusted both ends of it to get it to the proper width and also have an equal amount of the aluminum center part extending into the two plastic ends (rather than having it shoved far into one plastic end and barely dangling in the other).

Once he had it positioned correctly, he marked the aluminum center part with a pencil mark at each end where the plastic ends would be permanently screwed in.

Expand RV screen door handle and mark the proper width on it with a pencil-min

Expand the handle and center the aluminum centerpiece between the ends. Then mark the aluminum with a pencil.

Expand RV screen door handle and mark the proper width on it with a pencil-min

The handle can be extended and retracted, so this step centers the aluminum between the ends and marks where the ends should be permanently positioned.

Then he unscrewed the one screw that was holding the handle to the door frame and removed the handle from the frame so he could screw in the two handle ends.

On the back of each plastic end of the handle there is a pre-drilled hole so the plastic ends can be screwed to the aluminum center piece.

Hole drilled in RV screen door handle-min

On the back of the handle each plastic end has a hole in it.

With the aluminum piece in the proper position according to the pencil marks he had made, he drilled a hole in the aluminum and then screwed the plastic end piece on. He did this at each end. Now the handle was fixed at the proper length to span the width of our door.

Installing an RV door screen handle-min

Drill the aluminum strip so the end cap can be screwed into it permanently.

Next, he drilled a hole in the door frame where he had made the mark with the fine pointed Sharpie.

Drill hole in RV screen door frame to support the RV screen door handle-min

Drill the hole in the frame where you put the Sharpie mark.

Then he screwed the handle to the door frame and then repeated the process for the lower hole on each side.

Screw the RV screen door handle into the RV screen door frame-min

Screw the handle onto the door frame.

Screw hole in RV screen door fram to install RV screen door handle-min

There are upper and lower holes in each endcap.

RV screen door handle screwed onto frame-min

Done!

We’re really happy with this new grab handle. It strengthens the flimsy door a bit and is great to grab onto when opening and closing the door!

RV screen door handle installed on RV screen door-min

.

RV screen door with handle and plexiglass protector installed-min

.

Goodies needed to install a grab handle on an RV screen door:

INSTALLING A PLEXIGLASS PROTECTOR ON AN RV SCREEN DOOR

The other mini-project we did recently on our RV screen door was to replace the lower shrink-wrap film with a sheet of 1/8″ plexiglass.

We recently acquired an adorable puppy, and all it took was one swipe of his paw at the door to rip the shrink-wrap film we’d had on there for months.

So Mark got a big sheet of 1/8″ clear plexiglass and cut it to fit the screen door.

Of course, Buddy insisted on supervising this project.

RV screen door handle installation supervisor-min

The back of this chair says “Supervisor.”

Mark used a straight edge and a utility razor blade to score the plexiglass. Then he bent it along the edge of a table to snap it.

Then he took short strips of industrial strength velcro tape and placed the hooked half on the plexiglass and the matching fuzzy half on the door frame so the hooks wouldn’t grab things as we go in and out of the door when we remove the plexiglass later.

RV screen door plexiglass protection-min

The lower half of the door has a clear plexiglass sheet mounted on the frame with velcro. You can see our patio reflected in it. Hey, where’s the Supervisor?!

Velcro attaches plexiglass sheet to RV screen door-min

Cut short strips of velcro and put the matching halves on the plexiglass and door frame.

The beauty of using velcro to mount the plexiglass on the door frame is that once the warm weather of summer rolls around we can remove it and let the cool breezes flow through the door. Or, perhaps we’ll just leave it up in case Buddy decides to paw at the screen. We can remove the shrink-wrap from the upper half of the door and enjoy the cool breezes up there and leave the plexiglass on the bottom to protect the screen from the mighty Watch Dog.

RV screen door with RV screen door handle and plexiglass installed-min

Ta Da! Our original shrink-wrap is still on the top half, the nifty grab handle is in the middle and the puppy-proof plexiglass is on the bottom half.

In hindsight, rather than shrink-wrapping an RV screen door for cold weather, another option would be to use plexiglass sheets and velcro. Certainly the installation each Fall would be a lot easier. Or, drill holes in the corners of the plexiglass and use sheet metal screws to attach it to the door. Every Spring and Fall the plexiglass could be screwed to or unscrewed from the door frame. However, the plexiglass sheets would have to be stored somewhere during the warm season…

Puppy chow our RV dog Buddy

When the project was finished the Supervisor reappeared.

Dog looks out the RV screen door-min

Buddy loves his new plexiglass window in the door!

Goodies needed to install a plexiglass protector on an RV screen door:

The details of our screen door shrink-wrapping are shown here:

How To Shrink-wrap An RV Screen Door

Goodies needed to shrink-wrap an RV Screen Door:

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

More helpful articles:

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

Repacking and Inspecting Fifth Wheel Trailer Wheel Bearings

Repacking the wheel bearings is an important annual maintenance task for a fifth wheel trailer, especially one that is lived in full-time like ours. This is also a good time to inspect the bearings and brakes.

The first step is to jack up the trailer and remove the wheels.

Remove wheel from fifth wheel to grease wheel bearings-min

After jacking up the trailer, remove the wheels.

A few years ago we did a disk brake conversion on our fifth wheel trailer, upgrading from the factory installed electric drum brakes to electric over hydraulic disk brakes (you can read the details about what was involved in doing this phenomenal and highly recommended upgrade here). So, behind each of our wheels is the disk brake rotor and brake caliper.

Disc and rotor on fifth wheel trailer-min

Inspect the rotor and disc brake pads.

The first step for repacking the wheel bearings was to remove the brake caliper and inspect the brake pads and check out the braking surface on the rotor. All looked good. Then the brake caliper was moved out of the way.

Next, the grease cap and cotter pin were removed. Then the castle nut holding the bearings and the disk rotor in place was unscrewed. Gently pulling the rotor out about an inch and then pushing it back in released the outer bearing so it could be removed. Then the rotor was pulled off the axle spindle which revealed the inner bearing, allowing it to be slid off the axle spindle.

Remove castle nut and cotter pin from fifth wheel trailer hug to grease wheel bearings-min

Remove the cotter pin and castle nut, then the inner and outer wheel bearings and then pull the rotor off the axle spindle.

Greasy spindle on fifth wheel trailer axle-min

The axle spindle is full of grease.

Using shop towels, the grease was wiped off the axle spindle.

Clean spindle on fifth wheel trailer axle-min

Wipe the old grease off the axle spindle.

The inner and outer bearings, D-shaped spindle washer, castle nut and grease cap were then wiped clean of grease.

Inner and outer bearings fifth wheel trailer hub grease wheel bearings-min

Wipe off and inspect the outer and inner bearings, the D-shaped spindle washer, the castle nut and the grease cap.

It turned out that one of our wheel bearings was slightly scored, showing early signs of wear. We decided to replace it. Wheel bearings come in a bearing and race assembly, so the race would be replaced too.

Finding worn parts before they become a problem is one of the reasons that greasing the wheel bearings is an important annual task. Even if a trailer has EZ-Lube bearings, it is still important to remove the bearings periodically to inspect them so they can be replaced before they fail on the road.

Trailer wheel bearing damaged with scoring marks-min

One of our wheel bearings showed signs of wear — light scoring marks on each bearing.

First, the grease needed to be removed from the inside of the hub. It was scraped out and then wiped out with a shop towel.

Remove old grease from fifth wheel trailer disc brake hub-min

Remove the old grease from the rotor.

Greasing wheel bearings on fifth wheel trailer remove old grease-min

After scraping the grease out, wipe the area down with a shop cloth.

Remove old grease from fifth wheel trailer disc brake hub-min

Grease removed.

Then the old race was knocked out and the new race was set in place.

Knock out the old bearing race.

Knock out the old bearing race.

Put new wheel bearings into fifth wheel trailer disk brake hub-min

Set the new race in place.

The race was lightly tapped in place to make sure it was square. Then, using a race setter, the race was tapped securely into place.

Tap in the wheel bearings into fifth wheel trailer disk brake hub-min

Tap in the new race.

Press new wheel bearings into fifth wheel trailer disk brake hub-min

.

Next, the rotor with the greased inner bearing was mounted back on the spindle.

Place fifth wheel disk brake hub back onto axle spindle

Place the rotor back on the axle spindle.

Put new grease around wheel bearings on fifth wheel trailer disk brake hub

Newly greased bearings and spindle.

Then the castle nut was screwed on and hand-tightened.

Place greased castle nut in fifth wheel trailer disk brake rotor hub-min

Hand-tighten the castle nut.

Adjust greased castle nut in fifth wheel trailer disk brake rotor hub-min

Adjust the castle nut.

A new cotter pin was put in place and bent over to hold everything securely.

Place cotter pin in greased fifth wheel trailer disk brake rotor hub-min

Put a new cotter pin in place and bend it over.

Then the grease cap was screwed back on.

Screw in grease cap on fifth wheel trailer disk brake hub-min

Screw in the grease cap.

Completed grease wheel bearing job on fifth wheel trailer disk brake hub-min

Presto. Three more wheels to go!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

Below are some of our most POPULAR POSTS (also in the MENUS above)

RV UPGRADES, SYSTEMS & TIPS MONEY FULL-TIME RV LIFESTYLE GEAR STORE and PRODUCT REVIEWS
  • Gear Store - A list of the goodies, equipment and gear we've found useful in our RV lifestyle!
  • Product Reviews - An index of articles reviewing some of the products we have used in our RVing and cruising lifestyles

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff and check out our GEAR STORE!!

What are the Most Important Features in a Full-time Fifth Wheel Trailer?!

What features are most important in a fifth wheel trailer you’ll be living in full-time? That’s a big and interesting question, and Trailer Life Magazine recently assigned me the very fun task of surveying the fifth wheels on the market today and selecting twelve models that would make a good home on the road.

The results of my review are featured as the cover story of the October 2017 edition of Trailer Life Magazine.

Full-time Fifth Wheels Trailer Life Magazine October 2017

Trailer Life Magazine, October, 2017. Article by Emily Fagan

As I mentioned in my blog post about what to look for in a full-time RV, whether it’s a trailer or a motorhome, choosing a rolling home is an incredibly personal decision. There is no ideal rig for all RVers. The most important thing is that you walk inside, look around, and say, “Ahhh, this is home!”

But you’ve also gotta look at the nuts and bolts underneath the rig, and that’s what this blog post is about.

Whatever fifth wheel you buy, there is no need to break the bank. Obviously, higher quality trailers cost a lot more than lower quality trailers do, but life on the road is a thrill no matter what kind of rig you live in, and if you can’t afford the top of the line, you’ll still have just as much fun as those who can.

Also, sometimes going with a used trailer, especially at the outset, beats buying new. There are lots of used fifth wheels of all ages for sale all over the country.

A great resource for viewing a variety of rigs and comparing prices of specific models is RVTrader.com. Another excellent resource, especially for Canadians, is RVDealers.ca.

We have met a couple and a single fellow living full-time in older fifth wheel trailers that cost them less than $5,000. They were very happy with their rolling homes and were thrilled to have the freedom of a life on the road.

Likewise, we met a couple who had lived in a popup tent trailer for four years, a couple who had lived in a tiny half-ton pickup camper for two years and we met a young pair of mountain bikers who had just moved out of their tent home of the last 18 months and into a 17′ travel trailer a few weeks before we camped near them.

If you can’t afford the latest and greatest, it is still very possible to be a full-time RVer and live a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget!

However, my Trailer Life assignment was to look over the many brand new fifth wheels on the market, find twelve models that spoke to me, and highlight some of the things that I think are important when shopping for an RV that will be lived in 24/7/365.

You can read the article here: Full-timing Fifth Wheel Trailers in Trailer Life Magazine

For reference, we have pics and specs and a description of the fifth wheel trailer we live in at this link.

LEARN BY DOING

If you haven’t done much RVing yet and you are planning to move out of your current home and set off on a life of adventure on the road, the best way to figure out what features you need and want in your full-time fifth wheel is to get some practice RVing first.

I can’t state strongly enough the value of buying a cheap little RV and going and having some fun on weekends and vacations before jumping into the full-time RV lifestyle. This is especially true if you’ve got a year or more to go before you will actually start full-timing.

Nothing is better than hands-on experience, and you can use the little rig as a trade-in on your full-time RV. The minimal amount of depreciation is a great investment in your own personal education in the RV lifestyle! Here is a blog post about that.

So what DO you look for in an RV when you are replacing your sticks-and-bricks house? After all, the the most important factor is no longer Location, Location Location! Different folks look for different things, but here’s what we look for whenever we check out a new fifth wheel at a dealership (which we do frequently!).

Full-time Fifth Wheels Trailer Life Magazine October 2017-min

A survey of fifth wheels for full-timing by Emily Fagan
Trailer Life Magazine Cover – October 2017

CARGO CARRYING CAPACITY

The first thing we look at is the trailer’s Cargo Carrying Capacity. This is the amount of weight the trailer is designed to carry safely and legally. Trailer manufacturers are required to post a sticker on the exterior of the front end of the trailer on the driver’s side that indicates what the CCC is.

Surprisingly, there is a lot of confusion about exactly how the CCC is calculated and whether or not the fresh water or the propane in the tanks is considered cargo or part of the Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW). The official definition, according to certain RV standards groups and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is:

CCC = GVWR – (UVW + propane weight)

That is, the Cargo Carrying Capacity is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating less the sum of the Unloaded Vehicle Weight and the propane weight.

However, it is much more common for manufacturers to calculate CCC as simply the GVWR less UVW and not count the propane weight as part of the equation. This is also known as the NCC (Net Carrying Capacity).

NCC = GVWR – UVW

The propane weight is only 40, 60 or 80 lbs, depending on whether the two propane tanks are 20 lb., 30 lb., or 40 lb. tanks, so it is not that important whether it is included in the calculation of CCC or not, and it is easy to see why the terms CCC and NCC are often confused and used interchangeably.

In addition to stating the CCC on a sticker on the trailer, the manufacturers are also required to have a sticker indicating how much the fresh water in the trailer weighs when the fresh water tanks are full. One gallon of water weighs about 8.35 lbs. or 3.785 kg.

Fresh water is officially considered to be cargo, so if the trailer is towed with its tanks full, then the CCC available for everything else (food, clothes, tools, barbecue, bikes etc.) is reduced by the weight of the fresh water weight as stated on the sticker.

Cyclone Toy Hauler Fifth Wheel RV cargo carrying capacity 2

This detailed sticker shows the weight of the fresh water tanks when full (830 lbs in the fresh water tanks and 100 lbs in the hot water tank) PLUS it shows the weight of the Black and Gray waste tanks (1,569 lbs.) AND it shows the cargo carrying capacity of the trailer with water tanks both full (1,372 lbs) and empty (2,302 lbs).

If the trailer doesn’t have the official CCC stated on a sticker, it’s usually possible to find the GVWR and UVW values on a spec sheet and simply subtract UVW from GVWR. This simple calculation of GVWR – UVW is the easiest way to compare the carrying capacity from one trailer to the next, so that is what we like to go by when we are making a direct comparison.

So how much should the Cargo Carrying Capacity be for a fifth wheel trailer that’s used as a full-time home? In our experience, the nearly 3,500 lbs. of CCC on our trailer is barely enough. Because we boondock all the time, we travel with our fresh water tank and hot water tank full and our gray and black tanks empty so we can stay a maximum length of time at our next destination.

Other folks may find they can get away with less, but to us, if you are shopping for a big trailer to live in full-time, a CCC of less than 3,000 lbs. is going to be insufficient in the long run. If you are shopping for a fifth wheel toy hauler, then you’ll need 3,500 lbs. for your stuff plus more for the weight of your toy(s).

Interestingly, the manufacturers often provide a lot more storage space in their fifth wheel trailers than the CCC of their trailer can reasonably support. Our cabinets and shelves aren’t even full, and we are still at the maximum limit for CCC in our trailer.

Redwood Fifth Wheel Cargo Carrying Capacity 1

A much simpler sticker on another trailer shows a Cargo Carrying Capacity of 1,876 lbs.
By implication this does not include any water weights because all liquids in the tanks are cargo.

So, just because a trailer you are looking at has voluminous shelving, a big pantry, and two huge closets, you won’t necessarily be able to fill all that space and still remain at or below the CCC of the trailer.

Another surprise is that smaller trailers frequently have larger carrying capacities. This can be seen in a single product line when a manufacturer uses the same frame for several models. The smallest and lightest model built on that frame will obviously have more carrying capacity than the largest and heaviest one.

We also saw it in dramatic fashion when we compared a tear drop trailer and a toy hauler on a dealership lot once (blog post here).

One caveat to keep in mind if you overload your trailer is that you risk being found liable if you are in an accident with a fatality and it is discovered your rig was over its weight limit. This is true both if the truck is too small for the trailer and/or if the trailer itself is loaded beyond its capacity.

FOUNDATION – FRAME, AXLES, TIRES. SUSPENSION, LANDING JACKS & BRAKES

The foundation underlying a fifth wheel trailer consists of the frame, axles, tires, suspension, landing jacks and brakes, and although this is not the glamorous part of the trailer, it is arguably the most important.

It is possible to upgrade some of these components to improve the overall unofficial GVWR and CCC of a trailer and to improve its stopping power as well. The axles, tires and suspension can all be replaced with beefier parts, and if the trailer has electric drum brakes, these can be upgraded to electric over hydraulic disc brakes (described in detail here).

RVers are encouraged to weigh their rigs on a regular basis to ensure that they are staying within the official GVWR for their unit. We weigh ours every year or two. Escapees offers the very thorough SmartWeigh program at several of their RV parks across the country, and we describe our experience with that program at this link: “Making Weight” With Your RV.

Weighing a fifth wheel trailer with Escapees SmartWeigh program

Weighing a fifth wheel trailer with the Escapees SmartWeigh program

It is important to note, however, that just because you’ve got bigger axles, better rated tires and beefier suspension, you won’t “officially” have a new GVWR. The trailer will support its payload better, but in the case of a horrific accident, if the GVWR value is referenced and your trailer is somehow found to have been over that weight, you may be considered liable.

Frame

The next thing we look at in a trailer is the frame and axles. Almost all trailers are assembled on frames built by Lippert Components. A few manufacturers build their own frames in-house.

Axles

Most fifth wheels are also built on Lippert axles. The highest end fifth wheels are built with axles made by Dexter. They advertise the fact and consider it to be a premium feature. In some cases Dexter axles are an option, and some buyers simply replace their axles after making their purchase.

Both of our Lippert axles have failed. The first time was in Nova Scotia. We could tell because our tires began wearing very strangely and very very fast. We limped to Maine to have the rear axle replaced with another Lippert axle.

New RV axle installed on fifth wheel trailer-min

We replaced one of our trailer axles in Bangor Maine.

Fortunately, our extended RV warranty saved the day financially, but the time lost and overall frustration of having a big failure on the road was not fun. (Blog post about that experience here).

The second time was when our front axle failed in Arizona, and again, the tell-tale sign was bizarre tire wear on the trailer tires. This time we decided to replace both axles with the Dexter brand. Unfortunately, our extended RV warranty did not bail us out on this occasion, but the $3,000 expense of having both axles replaced and correctly aligned with Dexter axles was well worth it, as our tires have been wearing very evenly ever since.

Suspension

In addition to axle failures, our fifth wheel trailer’s suspension failed upon our approach to Arizona from New Mexico. We had the entire suspension overhauled, and fortunately our extended trailer warranty covered the repair (blog post about that experience here). This experience made us realize just how important the suspension is on a trailer.

New fifth wheel trailer suspension installation-min

We replaced our failed fifth wheel suspension system in Arizona.

Most fifth wheel trailers come with a conventional leaf spring and gas shock suspension system. However, some fifth wheels come with an axle-less rubber suspension system from Mor/Ryde. Many people love and swear by the soft ride of this suspension. Over time, however the rubber does wear out and needs to be replaced (as do conventional shocks).

Tires

The weight rating on the tires is an important aspect of the overall GVWR rating of a trailer, and upgrading the tires is an easy way to boost the GVWR and increase the CCC. Of course, the legal rating for the trailer will always depend on how the trailer was built at the factory, but by upgrading the tires you can quickly give the trailer much needed support if you are approaching the limit.

Tire ratings vary on most fifth wheels between E-rated (10 ply) tires for lighter trailer to G-rated (14-ply) for the heavier ones. Some of the heaviest trailers have H-rated (16-ply) tires but those require wheels that can handle higher air pressure.

Check the tire ratings on a prospective full-time fifth wheel as well as the axle brand and axle weight ratings. If they are already big and beefy, you will save yourself needing to upgrade them later. On the other hand, if you love the trailer but those things are a little skimpy, budget in an upgrade when you contemplate the purchase price and its impact on your bank account.

We upgraded the E-rated (10-ply) tires that came on our trailer with G-rated (14-ply) tires. When we swapped axle brands, we stayed with the 7,000 lb. axle rating because we had upgraded our trailer’s electric hub brakes to electric over hydraulic disk brakes, and the bigger 8,000 lb. axles required different brakes.

Brakes

Most fifth wheel trailers come with electric drum brakes. The stopping power is so-so. More expensive brands of fifth wheels offer electric over hydraulic disk brakes as an option. You can also replace the electric drum brakes with electric over hydraulic disk brakes at a later date.

We upgraded our electric drum brakes with electric over hydraulic disk brakes, and what a massive difference in stopping power! The upgrade costs about $3,000 or so, but we felt it was worth every penny. Our blog post about that upgrade is here.

Fifth wheel electric over hydraulic disk brake conversion-min

We upgraded our standard electric trailer drum brakes to electric over hydraulic disc brakes in Texas

If you think you might upgrade the entire under carriage of your trailer — axles, brakes and tires — because you are at the outer limit of its CCC, you might consider going to the next size axle. We did our upgrades piece-meal as things broke or ore out, but if we’d done it all at once we might have gone with 8,000 lb. axles and corresponding brakes.

Landing Jacks

Conventional electric landing jacks on the front of the trailer are less expensive than hydraulic self-leveling jacks, and they are more commonly found on the more affordable brands of fifth wheel trailers. Hydraulic leveling jacks appear on higher end fifth wheels as standard features or as an option.

We have been happy with our electric landing jacks over the years, and even though we did have to replace them at one time, it was a relatively easy DIY job that Mark was able to do while boondocking in the desert!

Operating the electric landing jacks on a fifth wheel trailer-min

Without a hydraulic leveling system, on extremely unlevel ground we put blocks under the landing legs.

The disadvantage of electric landing jacks is that the side-to-side leveling of the trailer has to be done by sliding something under the wheels to prop up one side of the trailer, and sometimes we have to prop up the front end of the trailer too. We carry 5′ x 1′ x 1″ strips of a sliced up heavy duty rubber mat for this purpose. We used to carry 5′ long 1×8 pine boards. Lots of folks carry the plastic leveling platforms.

Hydraulic leveling jacks can do most or all of the leveling without the need for anything being placed under the tires. Just hit the button and watch the trailer level itself. In the most off-level situations it may still be necessary to prop up one side of the trailer with something under the wheels.

Leveling boards under a fifth wheel trailer-min

Usually all we need is one or two mats under our wheels. In rare cases we have to stack higher!

Another great benefit of hydraulic leveling jacks is that if you need to jack up one side of the trailer to work on the tires, wheels or suspension, you can use the hydraulic leveling jacks instead of a portable jack placed under an axle. It’s safer and easier.

The only disadvantage of hydraulic leveling jacks is simply that they are complex and might fail. Occasionally (though extremely rarely) the legs have been known to fall down while the trailer is being towed. Of course, technology improves with every year, so these kinds of problems are less and less common.

“FOUR SEASON” – INSULATION and R-FACTORS

Lots of trailers are billed as “Four Season,” but in reality, you can’t compare living in an elevated box with 2″ to 3.5″ walls with living in a house that stands on a foundation and whose thick walls are built with layers of drywall, Tyvek, plywood and siding.

That being said, “Four Season” coaches are generally better insulated than others. Just don’t expect to be totally warm and cozy and free of condensation when there’s a blizzard and temps stay below 0 F for a few days!

Fifth wheel trailer RV in snow blizzard-min

We have experienced several blizzards in our trailer,
but RVs are not really made to be “four season” the way that houses are.

RV Insulation

Some folks have toughed it out in an RV through real winters in the northern states, but the majority of full-time RVers spend their winters in mild climates where overnight temps in the teens are a rare and cold exception. We have tips for keeping a rig warm during the winter months and keeping it cool during the summer months in these blog posts:

Winter RVing tips – Staying Warm!

More Winter RVing tips – How to heat an RV in Winter Weather

Installing a vent-free propane heater in an RV

Summer RVing tips – How to Beat the Heat and Stay Cool When It’s HOT!

There are various ways to insulate an RV and there are pros and cons to the different types of insulation that RV manufacturers use.

Some higher end fifth wheels are built with conventional wooden studs and fiberglass insulation as this may provide greater insulation.

Wooden studs are less apt to conduct warm air to the outside than aluminum framing is. On a cold winter morning it is easy to see where the aluminum framing is on an RV if you go outside because you can see the outline of the aluminum framing on the trailer wall.

RV windows dripping with condensation in winter-min

Condensation forms inside our windows on a particularly moist and freezing winter day.

However, fiberglass insulation has been known to fall down off the studs over the years, leaving the tops of the walls uninsulated. Usually, the front and end cap and the areas between the roof trusses are all insulated with fiberglass insulation as well.

Most fifth wheels are insulated with styrofoam, and the styrofoam used varies in quality. The use of “blue board” polystyrene styrofoam made by Dow Chemical was one of the big selling points in the NuWa Hitchhiker brand of fifth wheels like ours (NuWa no longer builds trailers). We’ve also heard this product referred to as “Blue Dow” foam.

When we did a factory tour at NuWa before we bought our trailer, we were told that the folks there had tested the strength of the blue board by driving a truck over a piece that was suspended by its two sides, and it didn’t break. We were also each handed a piece and challenged to break it. We couldn’t.

Interestingly, it may be this very strong styrofoam in the walls that kept a Hitchhiker fifth wheel intact recently when it rolled over at 60 mph on the interstate (blog post about that here).

Besides providing strength to the fifth wheel frame, Dow blue board foam has a very high R-factor.

A few high end fifth wheels are built with this kind of insulation nowadays. Most, however, are built with a weaker and less insulating kind of styrofoam.

R-Factors

When looking at the insulation R-factors that are advertised by the RV manufacturers for the walls and roof of a fifth wheel, it’s worthwhile to keep in mind that the number may be for the most heavily insulated part of the wall or roof. RV windows, doors and roof hatch vents have very low R-factors for insulation, and that is where most of the heat is lost.

How much heat is lost through RV windows? Just look at what percentage of a fifth wheel wall is actually windows!

Also, some fifth wheel slide-outs are built with thinner walls and less insulated roofs than the main body of the fifth wheel. Ours is. Again, what percentage of the fifth wheel’s walls and roof are part of the main structure and what percentage are slide-outs?

EXTERIOR WALL and ROOF MATERIAL and MAINTENANCE

Exterior Walls

Fifth wheel trailers are built with various materials as the exterior surface of the walls and roof. Lower end trailers have an exterior fiberglass finish of filon. This is what was on our first full-time travel trailer. It doesn’t shine and is a little harder to keep looking spiffy.

Waxing a fifth wheel trailer front cap-min

Maintenance, like washing and waxing the massive exterior of a big RV, is just part of the lifestyle.

The next level up is a fiberglass gelcoat exterior. This is shiny and can be maintained to a glossy finish by waxing the trailer twice a year. Unfortunately, the pretty swirly stickers that give fifth wheel trailers their colorful look will begin peeling off after about 4-5 years.

The highest level finish for a fifth wheel trailer is automotive paint. This is an extremely durable finish and the swirling paint patterns will never peel off. It is also very expensive (figure on about $10k) and is found only on the highest end fifth wheel trailers.

Roofs

Most fifth wheel roofs are “rubber” roofs. These usually come with a ten year warranty, and they are pretty much ready for replacement at the end of ten years! Fiberglass roofs are more durable. If you are going to install solar panels on the roof, you may need to be a little more careful with a fiberglass roof to be sure you don’t crack it when you drill into it.

Rubber roofs can be made of EPDM or TPO. As EPDM roofs begin to age, they start shedding a lot of dust, and every time it rains this creates streaks down the sides of the trailer. Cleaning the roof often helps reduce the streaking, but it’s very hard to eliminate the problem all together once the roof begins to deteriorate a few years into its lifespan. TPO roofs do not have this problem.

CAMPING STYLE

Other than these basic structural features, the rest of the decision is pure fun fluff stuff. The most important thing to ponder when you’re shopping for your new rolling home is how you anticipate living and traveling in it. What is your camping style? That is, how do you want to camp and where will you travel?

Roads are bigger and straighter in the western states than in the eastern states, so bigger rigs are easier to travel in out west.

Many privately owned RV parks accommodate “big rigs” across the whole country. However if you are more into “camping” in natural settings, the sizes of campsites in government run campgrounds vary a lot.

Boondocking in an RV-min

Some RVers love boondocking. Others don’t.
Knowing your own personal camping style helps a lot when it comes to buying a full-time rig.

States Park campsites are often quite large and frequently come with hookups, but they can be pricey too and there are rarely discounts for seniors or for long stays. Campsites in the National Parks and National Forests are often very small, often have no hookups, and may therefore be slightly cheaper, especially for holders of the Federal Lands Senior Pass.

Holding Tank Capacities

So, will you be dry camping a lot or will you get hookups most of the time? This makes a difference in what kinds of holding tank capacities you’ll need.

If you’ll be getting hookups most of the time, then there is no need for big holding tanks. However, if you’ll be dry camping a lot, then big holding tanks will mean you can stay put a little longer before you have to go to an RV dump station .

Our fresh water tanks and hot water heater are 70 gallons combined, our two gray water tanks are 78 gallons combined, and our black tank is 50 gallons. This has worked well for us dry camping every night for the better part of ten years.

We do carry 25 gallons of fresh water in the back of our truck in jerry jugs, but we don’t often need to use that water since we typically stay in places for less than two weeks before moving on, which is about how long our holding tanks last.

One nice feature if you are going to boondock a lot is to have an easy way to refill the fresh water tanks. We have a gravity fed fresh water intake that we can fill from a fresh water hose or from our jerry jugs.

Refilling RV fresh water tanks-min

We have a gravity based fresh water intake on the side of our trailer.
Unfortunately, it is rather high up (and it doesn’t need to be!).

The handy thing about this is that with our trailer the ratio of fresh water capacity to gray and black capacity means that we run out of fresh water before we fill up the gray or black water tanks. Being able to top off the fresh water lets us camp in one spot a little longer before we have to pack it up to go to an RV dump station.

“SOLAR READY” and SOLAR POWER

If you are going to be dry camping a lot, you may want to consider installing a solar power system, and there are a few things to keep in mind about that as you shop for a full-time fifth wheel.

We have a ton of info about solar power on this website. An index of links to our many articles is here:

Solar Power for RVs and Boats

Solar power doesn’t have to be a big, expensive and difficult thing to add to an RV (here’s an article summarizing several types of RV solar power systems).

A portable solar power suitcase that includes a pair of solar panels and a solar charge controller and cables to connect to the batteries all in one package is a nifty way to have solar power available without installing a permanent system on the roof and in the RV basement.

Simply set up the panels on the ground and connect them to the trailer batteries whenever you need to charge the batteries up. The “suitcase” feature makes it easy to stow the system when not in use.

However, most folks who live in their RV full-time and also boondock frequently prefer to install solar panels on the roof permanently and install a solar charge controller near the batteries and install a big pure sine wave inverter too.

Solar panels on a fifth wheel roof-min

Full-time RVers who dry camp a lot usually end up installing solar panels on the roof.

If this is in the back of your mind, you might get excited when you see a fifth wheel (or other RV) advertised as “solar ready.” Unfortunately, in many cases this is a very misleading term. A solar power system that will let you live without electric hookups for days on end will be at least 200 watts and more likely 500 watts or more. The cabling necessary to carry the currents these panels produce is generally 8 or 10 gauge wire.

If a rig is billed as “solar ready,” find out how many watts the prospective solar system could support and check out the size of the cable that goes to the roof. “Solar ready” may simply mean that a skinny cable has been run from the batteries to the roof to support a 50 watt panel. This is great if the batteries are fully charged and you are leaving the rig in storage outdoors for a few months. However, it is not sufficient to live on comfortably.

Also, if you plan to install a full-timer solar power system, check the battery compartment. How many batteries are there? What size are they (Group 24? Group 27?)? How many batteries can you add in the compartment?

Fifth wheel battery compartment-min

We had the battery compartment customized to support four golf-cart sized batteries.

A good sized battery bank for boondocking for long periods is four 6-volt golf cart sized batteries (Group GC2). If the battery box in the fifth wheel you are looking at can’t hold that many batteries, think about where else you might put them and whether there is ample support (they are heavy) and venting (wet cell batteries need to be vented).

Of course, a basement compartment can be beefed up with a piece of angle iron welded onto the frame and/or vents and conduit going to the battery boxes.

We have a series of articles explaining how RV batteries work, how to charge them, different battery types on the market and more at this link:

RV Battery Charging Systems

ACCESS TO SYSTEMS THAT MIGHT NEED REPAIR

While you are crawling around the basements of prospective new rolling homes, try to find all the major components that might fail and might need to be replaced.

If you are a DIY RVer, this is critically important. However, even if you are going to hire out the repair jobs to various RV shops around the country, their jobs will be much easier and cheaper if the systems are easy to access.

Easy access water pump under sink of fifth wheel trailer RV-min

It isn’t “pretty” but it sure is nice to have easy access when it’s time to replace the water pump!
Mark replaced it so fast he’d finished the job before I got pics of his work!

For instance, see if you can find the water pump, hot water heater, power converter, inverter (if there is one), etc.

We once met a fellow with a beautiful brand new travel trailer, and Mark spent an hour with the guy trying to find the power converter. It was hidden behind a fixed wall somewhere and they never did find it!

CREATURE COMFORTS and LIVABILITY

When you give up the luxuries of hearth and home in a stick-built house to wander around the country in an RV, you want to be comfortable. Even though you may be just fine with “roughing it” when you go camping on week-long vacations, it is different when you don’t have a “real” home to go home to.

For us, the move up from our vacation-purposed popup tent trailer to our full-time 27′ travel trailer was such a big step that the travel trailer looked truly luxurious. It had a sofa, dinette and bed in the living area, all of which were good places for relaxing. It seemed just dandy. However, after spending many long hours in it during our first winter, we realized that we wished we had true recliners to relax in. That simple desire is what spurred us to hunt for (and find) our fifth wheel trailer!

Beds

If you have been sleeping in a king size bed at home, switching to a queen bed on the road may be a big challenge. It was for us! It’s a shock to find out the love of your life has so many arms and legs!

Beds in RVs are often slightly smaller in one dimension or another than their residential counterparts, and those lost inches do count. For your reference, here are the standard residential bed sizes, width by length, in inches:

Queen: 60″ x 80″
King: 76″ x 80″

Here are some of the sizes that we’ve seen in fifth wheel trailers, width by length:

Queen: 60″ x 74.5″ (shorter than residential)
King: 70″ x 80″ or 72″ x 80″ (narrower than residential)

We have never seen a full width king size bed in a fifth wheel trailer except in a custom design. This is something to keep in mind if you think you might upgrade your trailer’s factory installed king mattress sometime down the road. Will the new residential king mattress, which is wider than the old mattress that came with the rig, fit on the platform without being squished?

Floorplan and Functionality with Slide-outs Closed

One of the things that we tend to think about when we stand in a beautiful, spacious fifth wheel trailer on a dealership lot is how functional the rig will be when all the slide-outs are closed. Some folks never go in their trailers without opening the slide-outs, but we do it all the time at rest stops and at the grocery store.

Ask the salesman to close the slide-outs on your prospective new full-time fifth wheel and find out which things in the kitchen, living room and bedroom you can no longer access.

NuWa Hitchhiker II LS 34.5 RLTG Fifth Wheel Trailer Flooplan-min

The open floorplan of our ’07 NuWa Hitchhiker II LS 34.5 RLTG Fifth Wheel trailer.

Can you get into the fridge for a beer? Can you access the pantry for goodies to make a sandwich? Can you microwave something or boil water in a teapot on the stove? Can you wash the dishes after lunch? Can you use the bathroom? Can you get into the bed? Can you sit on a chair in the living room or at your dinette?

These may sound like goofy questions, but when you live in an RV full-time it is surprising how often you may want to use the rig without having to open the slide-outs.

If you roll a shopping cart loaded with groceries up to your front door at the supermarket, can you put them all away without opening the slide-outs? If you visit a friend and park your rig in front of their house for a few days, can you access your clothes and bed so you don’t have to stay in their spare bedroom?

Fresh bread baked in an RV oven-min

We can bake bread when the slides are closed.
Not crucial, but it’s nice to have access to the entire kitchen.

We are fortunate with our fifth wheel’s floorplan because we can access almost everything without opening any of the slide-outs. The only things we can’t get to are the two recliners in the back of the rig and our dresser drawers (opening the bedroom slide 6 inches is enough to get into those drawers). We have actually lived in our trailer with the slide-outs closed for several weeks at a time. It’s skinny, but it’s doable.

Unfortunately, the super popular island kitchen floorplan designs generally don’t allow for full use of the kitchen when the slide-outs are closed. However, there are loads of open floorplan designs that were popular a decade ago, like ours, that the RV designers may eventually revive. After all, there are only so many possible floorplans for a fifth wheel trailer!

Residential Refrigerator vs. RV Fridge

RV refrigerators that run on both 120 volt AC power and propane gas are being replaced in many fifth wheel trailers with residential refrigerators that run exclusively on 120 volt AC power. With some fifth wheel brands you can order the rig with either type of refrigerator. In other cases you can only order it one way and you would need to do the replacement yourself after you’ve bought the rig.

RV refrigerators are wonderful because you can dry camp in your RV for months or years on end and have refrigerated food the whole time. All you need to do is keep the propane tanks filled. Our 8 cubic foot RV refrigerator uses about 30 lbs (or 7 gallons) of propane every three weeks.

RV refrigerators have a few negatives, however.

One downside to RV refrigerators is that they are not self-defrosting. You need to defrost them. After decades of living with a frost-free refrigerator, it is a shock to go back to the olden days (if you were around then) of having to defrost the RV fridge every month or so.

However, my amazing hubby Mark has perfected the art of defrosting and he can now pull it off in about 20 minutes. So, it’s not that bad a chore if you stay on top of it (and if you have a wonderful partner who is willing to do it for you!). See the blog post about quickie fridge defrosting here.

Defrosting an RV refrigerator-min

Mark has simplified the refrigerator defrosting process so much it takes him only 20 minutes. Lucky me!

Another disadvantage is that they don’t modulate the temperature in the fridge with much precision and they aren’t particularly well insulated or energy efficient. We keep a small thermometer in the fridge so we have a feeling for what’s going on. The temp inside varies greatly depending on whether the wall behind the fridge is in the sun or shade and whether the temp inside our rig is 40 degrees, as it is on some winter mornings, or 90 degrees as it is on some summer afternoons.

Our fridge is usually on level 4 or 5 (the coldest two settings) because we like our beer to be ice cold. However I do sometimes find my yogurt has frozen a bit on the edges.

RV refrigerators also have a shelf life. It is about 8 years!

We found that out the hard way when our RV refrigerator died and we had to get it replaced. Luckily the replacement was straight forward and was covered by our extended RV warranty (blog post about it here).

New RV refrigerator is fork lifter through the trailer window-min

Our new RV refrigerator is slid through our dining room window on a fork lift.

The biggest surprise when we got our RV fridge replaced was we found out the warranty companies expect those fridges to last only 8 years. Of course, they figure that into the cost of the warranty, as they should. So, even though we were shocked that ours died, our warranty company wasn’t surprised at all.

Perhaps the most damning thing about RV refrigerators is that they run on propane and they have been known to catch fire and torch entire RVs. A burning RV burns to the ground in seconds because of the propane tanks and manufacturing materials. There was a rash of RV refrigerator fires about a decade or so ago which is part of what pushed the industry towards building RVs with residential electric refrigerators instead.

However, RV life isn’t totally rosy with residential refrigerators either, especially if you want to boondock or dry camp for extended periods of time.

While a residential refrigerator may be a highly efficient Energy Star appliance, it may not have a solid locking mechanism to keep the doors closed in transit or rails to keep the food on the shelves while in transit (check on that). And it will require a lot of power to run while the rig is not plugged into a power pedestal.

A 12 to 14 cubic foot residential refrigerator requires a little over 300 kwh per year to run. This is about 0.8 kwh per day, or, very roughly, about 80 amp-hours per day.

In the winter months when the sun rides low in the sky and is up for a short period of time, an RV will need about 400 to 500 watts of solar panels and 450 amp-hours of batteries just to run the refrigerator. This is about what it takes to run everything else in the RV! An 18 to 22 cubic foot refrigerator will require even more.

This is not to say that it is impossible to install a big enough solar power system to run a residential refrigerator — we’ve had readers contact us to say that they have done it and they’re loving it! — but the expense and weight of the batteries and of the solar panels is something to consider before signing on the dotted line for that beautiful new fifth wheel trailer with its residential fridge.

Also, even if boondocking is not your style, be sure that the battery bank and the inverter that support the residential refrigerator when not hooked up to electrical power are sufficiently big enough to keep the fridge running as you drive. We have heard of 1,500 watt inverters just not making the grade with a big residential fridge (2,000 watts was needed). Or, just turn the fridge off and keep it closed until you get where you are going. Of course, residential refrigerators are not designed to be turned on and off frequently.

Lastly, the fabulous thing about a big, shiny, 22 cubic foot stainless steel residential refrigerator is that it can hold a ton of food. There will be no more turf wars between the beer and the veggies (gosh, would we ever love that!).

However, all that food weighs a lot, and big fridges often become storage places for old containers of food you’ll never eat. If you are buying a full-time fifth wheel that is skinny on its Cargo Carrying Capacity, then a huge refrigerator that can hold lots of food may push you into possession wars between food, tools and clothes in the closet.

On the bright side, a residential refrigerator is much less prone to failure than an RV fridge, and in the rare event that you have to replace one, it could easily cost thousands less than an RV fridge.

I Like the Fifth Wheel But I Don’t Really Like That Couch!

While it’s ideal to find a rig that has furniture you totally love, a fifth wheel trailer is just a box — floor, walls and ceiling — and any residential furniture can be put in that box. We have replaced both our dinette chairs and our recliners in the course of living in our fifth wheel all these years, and last week we replaced the couch!

Storage benches in RV dinette add comfort and storage space-min

The old chairs were elegant, but these cushy benches are much more comfortable.
Plus they give us more storage space!

Here are blog posts about some of the changes we’ve made to our furnishings:

Add Storage and Seating Capacity at your RV Dinette!

Can You Sell Old Stuff on Craigslist in the RV Lifestyle? Replacing our Recliners!

We also replaced our mattress with a fancy Simmons Beautyrest mattress.

RV DEPRECIATION

After all this discussion of what to look for in a fifth wheel trailer for full-time living, it is important to remember that the brand new fifth wheel you buy today will be worth about half of what you paid for it ten years from now. If it is well maintained it might be worth a smidge more. If it isn’t, it may be worth less.

What’s worse, the fact that it was lived in full-time rather than kept in a garage and never touched will turn many prospective buyers away or make them hit you up with a low offer.

RV Depreciation over time

Hmmm…. An RV’s value declines with time.

On the flip side, going RVing full-time is a dream, and it’s hard and maybe even unfair to put a price on your dreams.

If you have the funds and you can spend a lot on a rapidly depreciating fifth wheel trailer without crippling your finances later in life, definitely go for it.

What could be better than casting off on a dreamy new lifestyle in a dreamy new RV?

No matter what you buy, negotiate hard. You are in the driver’s seat — until you are in the driver’s seat! Many mass-market manufacturers anticipate selling for about 70% of MSRP. Others are closer to 80%.

If you go custom, well, you’re be paying for the very finest of the finest. So, the focus will be on getting exactly what you want rather than haggling over the price. With a custom rig you get what you ask for… so be knowledgeable and smart about what you ask for!

If you aren’t sure of you future finances, and you aren’t sure if you’ll like the full-time RV lifestyle, and/or you aren’t sure if you’d prefer a fifth wheel or a Class A motorhome as your house on wheels, consider getting a cheaper model or a used trailer to start.

We understand this dilemma well. We would LOVE to have a new trailer now. After all, ours is ten years old and shows a lot of wear. But…

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO TRAVEL?

The rig you live in is just part of the equation of putting together that champagne lifestyle of full-time RV travel. The real reason most folks run away in an RV is because they want to get out and see something of this continent, get to know the different regions of our country and of our neighbors’ countries, and knock a few travel destinations off their bucket list.

Appalachian Mountains RV Trip Coast to Coast Magazine Summer 2017-min

Our cover photo for our Coast to Coast magazine article about the Appalachian Mountains
Summer 2017 issue

The options of places to visit are limitless, and we’ve got 10 years worth of travel tales on this website that tell the stories of what we’ve seen and where we’ve been since 2007.

I’ve also written a lot of articles for Trailer Life Magazine showcasing different parts of the country that make for an enjoyable RV destination.

Georgia On Their Minds Trailer Life Magazine September 2017-min

The Antebellum Trail in Georgia is a terrific RV route for folks heading north/south through Georgia.
Trailer Life Magazine – September 2017. Article by Emily & Mark Fagan

A few of these feature articles have turned up in Trailer Life over the past few months and can be read at these links: Georgia on Their Minds, The Quaint Side of Canada, and Downeast Maine. Images of the first two pages of each article are below.

I also have a bi-monthly column on the back page of Trailer Life that showcases a beautiful photo of a gorgeous spot along with a few words about what makes that place special. My most recent columns have focused on: The Rocky Mountain Beach Town of McCall Idaho and a Forest on Fire – Fall Colors in Colorado.

Trailer Life Magazine is a monthly national magazine and it offers not only mouth-watering photos and stories of places to take your trailer, but it also devotes a lot of pages to technical issues that trailer owners face.

Nova Scotia RV Trip Trailer Life Magazine July 2017-min

Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island is tops on many RVers’ lists
Trailer Life Magazine – July 2017, Article by Emily & Mark Fagan

The technical editorial staff at Trailer Life is both very knowledgeable and very meticulous about ensuring what they discuss and review is accurate.

I have written a lot of technical articles for Trailer Life, from discussing RV roof maintenance to RV dump station tips to an article about the 2016 Dodge Ram 3500 dually truck and one about the new puck based OEM fifth wheel hitch from B&W Trailer Hitches.

Downeast Maine RV Trip Trailer Life Magazine June 2017-min

Downeast Maine is a hidden jewel north and east of famous Acadia National Park
Trailer Life Magazine – June 2017, Article by Emily & Mark Fagan

I have always been amazed at the extensive review process and discussion process that each of these technical article has undergone. Every little minute detail is reviewed for accuracy, sometimes spawning some lively debates.

There are a gazillion RV blogs out there that make for super fun reading and research and learning, but there is something to be said for a magazine that has been in print for over 75 years. Some people on the team have been with the magazine nearly half that time!

Trailer Life is hard to find on newsstands these days. New Camping World members receive a few issues as part of their membership (or they can get Motorhome Magazine if driveable RVs are more to their liking). If you get an annual subscription at the link below, you’ll see the article I’m working on about “first-timer” fifth wheels when it comes out!

Subscribe to Trailer Life Magazine

Have you been shopping for a full-timing fifth wheel? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Boondocking in an RV-min

There are loads of fifth wheels on the market that would make a fine full-time home. Enjoy the search!

Subscribe
Never miss a post — it’s free!

If you found this article useful, please help support us by making a contribution using the Donate button below or by using any of our links to Amazon the next time you shop for anything online!

Here are index pages with links to more articles on this blog and in Trailer Life Magazine:

Here is a video with tips for choosing an RV dealership and an RV salesman:

Below are some of our most POPULAR POSTS (also in the MENUS above)

RV UPGRADES, SYSTEMS & TIPS MONEY FULL-TIME RV LIFESTYLE GEAR STORE and PRODUCT REVIEWS
  • Gear Store - A list of the goodies, equipment and gear we've found useful in our RV lifestyle!
  • Product Reviews - An index of articles reviewing some of the products we have used in our RVing and cruising lifestyles

Our most recent posts:

More of our Latest Posts are in the MENU.
New to this site? Visit RVers Start Here to find where we keep all the good stuff!!