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RV Clinic August 2015

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Truck Payload Capacity

Q: I have a 2015 Ram 2500 4WD with the Cummins diesel and shortbed configuration. The maximum payload is listed at 2,360 pounds. I purchased a 2015 Montana High Country fiver with a loaded weight of about 13,000 pounds and a hitch weight of 2,075 pounds. I believe this leaves me with 290 pounds of payload capacity for my wife, cocker spaniels and other things carried in the truck. Am I interpreting the capabilities of the truck correctly? Do I have options? Are the posted hitch weights in brochures with the unit dry or loaded?

Jim Georger, Lyndonville, New York

A: The truck’s payload capacity is based on its gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) minus its wet curb weight, which most truck manufacturers consider including a full tank of fuel and driver but no other passengers or cargo. The best way to know these figures for sure is to visit a certified scale and weigh the truck, then compare that figure to its GVWR.

There are exceptions, but most manufacturer brochures state dry, empty weights — but, of course, no one ever tows a dry, empty trailer except home from the dealership. You say that the trailer has a loaded weight of “about” 13,000 pounds and a hitch weight of 2,075 pounds, so I’m not sure if you’ve actually weighed the trailer or you’re making an educated guess. If you haven’t actually weighed it, again, a truck scale is your friend.

The next time you’re loaded for a trip, tow the trailer to a scale and weigh it, noting the pickup’s front and rear axle weights and the trailer’s axle weight. This will also give you the overall combination weight. Now drop the trailer and drive the truck back on the same scale, again noting the truck’s front and rear axle weights. Deduct the solo truck weights from the towing weights, which gives you the trailer hitch weight on the truck, and you can see exactly where you stand on how much payload capacity you have left for your truck. You can also add that hitch weight to the trailer’s axle weight to determine its true weight in loaded and ready-to-use condition. — Jeff Johnston


TV-Attachment Bolts

Q: I just bought a new 16-foot Coleman light travel trailer from the Rossford, Ohio, Camping World. I asked what length the bolts should be to hang the TV bracket and could not get an answer, so I called Dutchmen, the company that builds the Coleman trailer, and they told me to call the dealer for the information. I contacted two different Camping World dealerships, and as of now I haven’t got the answer.

There is a large sticker on the back wall locating where the TV bracket is to be placed. Even the owner’s manual doesn’t mention anything about hanging the TV bracket. I just don’t want the bolts to go through the back wall to the outside.

Stephen Rentz, Whitehouse, Ohio

A: A new trailer purchase usually includes a reasonable level of dealer accommodation, Stephen, so it’s surprising you didn’t have better luck with this. That TV-ready mounting location is established by the factory, and the dealer should know what to do with it.

It may have helped to ask the Camping World (CW) guys, “When you install a TV bracket as an aftermarket accessory, what size screws do you use?” If CW sold you the TV bracket, that means it also installs it as an accessory item, so the service people should know the installation details. If the bracket was included with the trailer as a factory-supplied item that the owner is expected to install, then there should be instructions with the bracket, or the selling dealer should have that information.

As far as information from Coleman is concerned, as a last resort you’d have to ask its technical serv-ice department how thick the studs are in the trailer’s back wall. If, for example, the wall has 2×2 studs, nominally 1½ inches square, you could choose screws or lag bolts 1¼ inches long, considering some of the screw length is taken up by the thickness of the bracket material and perhaps a washer. You could also measure the wall thickness adjacent to a back wall storage compartment or utility opening. Good luck with your search! — J.J.


Humid Trailer Storage

Q: We are Minnesota snowbirds and travel to Florida for the winter. We are considering leaving our trailer in Florida for the high-humidity summer. It’s a 27-footer by Forest River. What can we do to prevent any high-humidity moisture damage to our trailer if left unoccupied for eight months? I know condo owners leave their air conditioner on while they are away, but that is not an option for us.

Douglas Wenzel, West Concord, Minnesota

A: You didn’t say specifically if you have power available, but it seems like you don’t in your storage facility. The best way to avoid humidity damage is with a dehumidifier set up with a drain outside the trailer. Without that option, start with a good quality RV cover that will help keep the rain off the vehicle and help prevent the sun’s UV rays from damaging its finish. The cover also allows you to leave a few windows and roof vents cracked open a bit to allow some air circulation. While you can’t avoid the presence of the humidity without the dehumidifier in operation, at least you can avoid the effects of hot, stagnant air by keeping the air circulating while in storage. — J.J.


Fast Charge

Q: Regarding David Gordon’s “Dry Camp Power Use” question in the April issue about battery life while dry camping, I would like to relay our experiences in the Adirondack Mountains. We have a Jayco White Hawk and go to the Adirondacks in October when temperatures can vary between warm days and below-freezing nights. I use two batteries, but only one mounted on the trailer. The other I connect with jumper cables. The park we stay at is one where generator use is limited to seven hours per day. I connect the generator to the trailer and unhook the jumper cables. I have a large output battery charger so the converter charges the onboard battery while the charger maintains the spare.

We have found that by using this method I can easily keep both batteries charged in less than the allotted seven hours of generator use. I intend to get a 20-watt solar panel this year to save fuel in the generator.

Ray Devine, Lockport, New York

A: Your plan for separating the batteries to enable faster charging, and using the second standalone battery charger, seems like a good one. It puts a lot of hours on the generator and costs a few dollars in gasoline, but, functionally, it sounds like it works. For a quieter and more consistent charging solution, however, the solar option is the way to go.

An important thing to consider is that the 20-watt solar panel you have in mind is very small for anything other than trickle-charging batteries or maintaining them in storage. For proper conditioning, especially with dual batteries, it would take days to replace the power drawn down in one night. It’s more of an investment, but a pair of full-size solar panels, like in the 100-watt range (minimum) each and connected via a good quality charge controller, would be able to handle most of the recharging needs for your two batteries. Check with a reliable solar power specialist, like www.amsolar.com, for advice about assembling a system that’s best for you. — J.J.


Mouse Troubles and More Mouse Troubles

Q: Fabric-softener sheets are another solution to the mouse problem Rex Norton inquired about in the “Mice Advice” letter in May’s RV Clinic. We live in a heavily wooded area, and the trailer is housed under a pole barn. To keep critters out, we place several sheets inside the trailer and the storage compartments below, and have not had a rodent problem in five years. The aroma they emit, which we find pleasant, is an odor mice cannot tolerate. Also, if you have problems with rodents trying to get into your vehicle through the air intake, simply place a bar of Irish Spring soap under the hood in the air-filter compartment, and they will be repelled.

Nick Hovsepian, Bandon, Oregon

Q: I had the same problem as Rex Norton — a mouse got in my trailer while I was sleeping! I went to the nearest town and told them of my problem, and they chuckled and said the mice probably walked right up the external power cord and snuck in at the gap in the power cord door. After that recommendation, I put some coarse steel wool around the power cord, right at the little slot on the power cord door, to fill the gap from a square door to a round power cord, and that has stopped the problem. Since that episode, I keep a small supply of steel wool in my toolbox.

Rik Bergethon, Pueblo, Colorado

A: Rodent intrusion has been a problem as long as there have been RVs. There are mechanical ways to keep them out, such as the steel wool Rik mentioned, as well as other solutions such as window screen, RTV sealant or spray-foam insulation to block openings. There are also a wide variety of “chemical solutions” we’ve heard of, such as the dryer sheets, mothballs, scented oils and similar products. The best solution is a combination of these ideas as well as eliminating sources of food inside the trailer. Thanks, guys, for your anti-mice solutions. — J.J.


Axle Weights Inequity

Q: Just traded my 2002 Cedar Creek in on a 2014 Montana, and the Montana has a much higher hitch weight. Our truck is 2005 Silverado 2500 HD crew cab, and the door label reads: gawr front, 4,410 pounds; gawr rear, 6,084 pounds; and gcwr, 9,200 pounds. Can you tell me why the gcwr is less than the sum of the axle ratings?

When I weigh the rig using a CAT certified scale, I am OK on both axle weights but somewhat over on gcwr. Only thing that comes to mind for me is braking capability. Is this difference true for all trucks?

Dave Roberts, Panacea, Florida

A: When you refer to GCWR, or gross combination weight rating, I believe you mean GVWR, or gross vehicle weight rating. Nine-thousand two-hundred pounds is a good v for a 2500-series pickup, but its GCWR would be much higher because that also accounts for the trailer weight.

A GVWR calculation is the result of taking into account numerous components including axle capacities, braking, engine cooling and so forth. It’s the number that results from the lowest capacity item in the package, or the weakest link in the chain, so to speak. In your case, it could be vehicle braking capacity or one of several other factors. The combined weight ratings of the axles is higher because the axles are chosen to handle the target GVWR, in this case, 9,200 pounds, and that also leaves some extra axle capacity before exceeding the overall GVWR. — J.J.


Decals Times Two

Q: I have a 2008 Montana by Keystone. I have several decals that are cracking and peeling. I’m in the process of removing the bad ones, and I need to know what I can use to remove the glue/adhesive.

Keith Pauls, Jacksonville, Florida

Q: I am experiencing a problem with the decals on the outside of my Heartland Landmark. After the fifth-wheel was only three years old, some of the decals started to shrink and wrinkle. As they shrink, they leave unsightly gluey residue behind. Now they have started to split right across the width of the decals. The problem is only with the brown decals. The rest didn’t do that.

Is there a way of removing these decals and cleaning off the residue left behind, or at least a cleaner that will remove the glue? I would also like to know what could have caused this.

Charlene Tobias, Brantford, Ontario

A: Decals age and fail due to sun exposure and ultraviolet rays, and like any other product, some are of better quality than others. In Tobias’ case, the brown decals are failing because that color reacts differently to the sun’s rays than the other colors. There are numerous decal adhesive removal products on the market in aerosol and pump-spray forms, and these can help with the glue removal process without damaging the RV’s exterior surface. An Internet search for “decal removal” will reveal many solutions to the problem.

While the chemical glue removers will work, you can help them along by first removing any excess adhesive or stubborn decals with a heat gun, but be extremely careful; heat guns get very hot. Hair dryers also work and emit less heat. Find a plastic scraper to avoid damaging the skin. Use the heat gun to moderately warm the old decal and/or glue, and the scraper should be able to remove most of the old decal, after which you can scrape off the excess adhesive. Follow up with the use of the chemical product, and you should be good to go. — J.J.


Tent Moisture

Q: We have a 2012 KZ Escape Spree. It’s a hybrid, and the two tent-platform ends fold out. On our last camping trip, it rained for about five to six hours. When we woke up the next morning, I touched the top while I was lying in the bed. It was damp. I’m afraid if it had rained more, it would have leaked and started dripping on us. Do we need to do something to the foldouts, or is this normal?

Andi Robinson, via email

A: A certain amount of dampness is normal in tent fabric, especially after a long stretch of rain. Even if the tent fabric is completely waterproof outside, the inside collects a lot of condensation, which is probably what you’re feeling. If in doubt, you can also apply fabric waterproofing, such as a ScotchGuard type of material, to the exterior after checking with the owner’s manual on tent fabric care and treatment recommendations. — J.J.


ST versus LT Tires, part 1

Q: My trailer is a 2008 Everest 320T 32-foot with three slideout rooms. The total actual weight is 13,000 pounds. At this time, it is riding on ST235/80R16 Carlisle Radial Trail trailer tires. Can I get truck tires, since they should last a year or two more than a trailer tire and are not rated for 65 mph, as trailer tires are? Would I be in trouble if I did go with LT tires?

Pablo J. Garza, via email

A: LT tires do not necessarily last longer than ST tires, if the type and quality of each is equal. However, many trailer owners have been changing from ST (special trailer) to LT (light truck) tires successfully. One reason, as you noted, is that trailer tires are designed and rated for a maximum of 65 mph, and LT tires have higher ratings. However, the biggest reason is because of ST tire failures. — Ken Freund


ST versus LT Tires, Part 2

Q: We own a Rockwood 31-foot travel trailer. The tires currently in use are ST205/75R15. Can I switch to light truck (LT series) tires utilizing the same rims? I was told by a tire dealer that the sidewalls of the LT tires are not as strong as the ST tires. What do you suggest?

David Nazareth, via email

A: Sidewall strength varies among tire brands, models and load ratings, as well as between ST and LT tires. However, wheels are not rated according to sidewall strength. They are rated only for maximum load and inflation pressure, which should be stamped on the inside of the rim. Exceeding either rating could lead to failure. Just be sure that if you switch to LT tires they are weight rated at least as high as the original tires, and for the actual load they carry, and that they are inflated for their actual load. — K.F.


Wheel Concern

Q: I have a set of Eagle series 140 alloy rims, size 16×7. They originally came with Marathon ST230/85R16 E (rated 80 psi) tires mounted on a Titanium fifth-wheel by Glendale RV (maximum 14,000 gvw). I want to mount Goodyear G614 LT235/85R16 G (rated 110 psi) on the existing rims. Will these rims safely handle the higher psi? The tire shop I use said they “could find no reason not to.” I tried contacting the rim manufacturer and received no response. The two forums I searched came up with two different answers. One said no, and that it is stamped (80 psi max) on the back of the rim. The other said that the 80 psi is for the original tires only, and that the manufacturer of the rims told him that 110 psi would be fine. He also said that he is using them and has had no problems.

Pat Zak, via email

A: The “80 psi” stamped into the wheel is the maximum allowable inflation pressure. This is put there by the wheel manufacturer, and they should know better than somebody on an online forum what the rims are designed for. While it is true that manufacturers do build a safety margin into their products, it is our view that it is not safe to exceed that rating. — K.F.


Furnace Quit

Q: My RV’s furnace quit working in the wee hours of the morning, and the pilot is lit. Also, while plugged into 30-amp shorepower, the interior lights are so dim they are useless. This was the first time out for the season in my Starcraft AR-ONE. Any help is appreciated.

Medea Mills, via email

A: Since the RV was plugged in to shorepower, you should have full 12-volt DC power available, even with a dead battery, and you should first have checked if the power at the post was interrupted due to a power failure or circuit breaker tripping. Measure voltage at the battery. If voltage is below 12, it would be likely that the battery has failed, the power converter has stopped working or its circuit protection has tripped for some reason. Check these points and allow the battery to recharge, and I think you’ll have heat again. — K.F.


Oven Not Lighting

Q: We have an Atwood Wedgewood Vision RV 17 stove/oven in our recently purchased 2004 Thor Colorado. The stovetop burners work properly, and the pilot light for the oven lights and stays lit. However, the oven burner will not ignite more than a weak flame. I have cleaned all orifices. Could the pressure valve at the back of the oven or the oven temperature valve be the culprit?

Paul Grohsmeyer, Dunlap, Illinois

A: If the pilot stays lit, that should rule out a thermocouple problem. Since it appears that it’s never been lit, there may be some factory defect in the gas delivery to the oven. Before replacing a lot of parts, I suggest having an RV shop or propane dealer measure the actual pressure at the range. If that is within specs, I would suspect the oven temperature valve. — K.F.


The Tech Team

KEN FREUND: Ken is a former ASE Certified Master Technician, service manager and shop owner who has authored numerous books on automotive repair.

JEFF JOHNSTON: Jeff served as technical director of Trailer Life for 20 years and has been an RV enthusiast, mechanic and writer since he could hold a wrench.


RV Clinic from August 2015 Trailer Life

Jeff JohnstonKen FreundRV ClinicRV Questions and Answers

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