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RV Q&A: Cruise Control in the Rain

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Red letter Q
I have a 2001 Ford F-350 SRW 6.8-liter V-10 and a 2004 Northwood Arctic Fox 27-foot trailer. I normally use cruise control whenever I can. I’ve been to Florida and back a few times from California.

One time while I was driving in Marin County, California, there was a sudden downpour. I saw a puddle and thought, “No big deal.” I was in cruise control going 57 mph. The front tires hit the puddle and slowed the truck and trailer just a little, and the cruise control gave it the gas. The rear wheels broke loose, and we started going sideways on Route 101.
I caught it and turned the cruise off.

No more cruise control in the rain for us.

Mike Braley | Lucerne, California

Green letter A

That sounds like a pretty hairy situation, Mike, and we’re glad it turned out OK. Per your suggestion, while cruise control is a fine accessory, it doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, nor is it intended to be an anytime, any-road accessory. Shutting it off under adverse driving conditions is a good idea. Thanks for passing that along.

Formaldehyde Smell

Red letter Q
We have a 2014 Starcraft Launch 18-foot travel trailer. We bought it in 2015, and it has always had a formaldehyde smell. We met another RVer with the same trailer who had the same problem. We have aired it out for four or five days many times, used Febreze, granular zeolite, Rid-X and many odor-away sprays, and nothing works. We tried an ionizer once, and the smell went away for a day or two, but then it came back. We will have to sell the trailer if we can’t remove the smell, as I have asthma. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

J. Douglas | Tamarac, Florida

Green letter A

This is a puzzling situation, considering high concentrations of formaldehyde were largely phased out of RV building materials many years ago. It’s a surprise to hear you have that kind of significant odor in your trailer and that you’ve encountered someone else with the same trailer and problem.

The manufacturer spokesperson I talked with was not able to provide any suggestions, and the best we can recommend is something you’ve already done, which is ventilating the trailer. Formaldehyde in construction materials, adhesives and fabrics goes through an “outgassing” process and eventually fades away, but your trailer should have gone through that process by now. There is no known treatment, including the use of cleaners.

The best you can do is to keep the trailer stored in a covered location and open the  windows and roof vents to provide complete air circulation between camping trips, and see if that helps.

Dually Swap?

Red letter Q
I have a 1999 Ford F-350 six-speed-manual two-wheel-drive, single-rear-wheel (SRW) long-wheelbase truck that I use to tow a 40-foot fifth-wheel. It has the 7.3-liter diesel with a chip and tows great. I weighed the entire rig, and it’s right at its maximum gross combined weight rating (gcwr) of 20,000 pounds, which I am reluctantly OK with, but the pin weight is 2,500 pounds. According to the tire loading, it is well within the limits, but that sounds like a lot of pin weight for an SRW truck.

Should I consider swapping out the rear and suspension for a dually setup, since I intend to keep this truck and trailer long term? The truck has low miles and is paid for!

Tom McFadden | Kelso, Washington

Green letter A

I’d say that “tows great,” “low miles” and “paid for” are terrific reasons to hang on to that one! Swapping in a dual-rear-wheel (DRW) axle assembly and its associated spring pack would likely boost your truck’s rear-axle weight-carrying capacity, but it’s going to be an expensive process. In addition to the axle and springs, you’ll need to add the extended fenders to the truck bed, plus you’ll also need to carry two spare tires because the DRW and SRW are different types with different offsets.
To determine if you need to make this drastic conversion, take your truck to a certified scale and weigh just the rear axle. Deduct the rear-axle weight from the truck’s rear gross axle weight rating (gawr) to determine how much payload capacity there is out back. As long as there are at least 2,500 pounds for the hitch weight available, you’re in good shape. If you need more axle capacity, then consider the DRW option.

Trailer Towing Information

Red letter Q
I am a new travel trailer owner but have more than 20 years of RV experience with Class A and C motorhomes. It has been a new experience learning how the trailer reacts to windy conditions, being passed by big rigs, adjustments of the electric brake controller, and the weight-distributing (WD) hitch, including the friction sway-control device.

My trailer is 27 feet long and has an unloaded vehicle weight of 6,000 pounds, and I have a Pro Series WD hitch. On our initial trip, I found that increasing the amount of weight transfer made a big improvement in overall handling. I just received my first copy of Trailer Life and am looking for published information about these things to obtain the optimum performance for the trailer and tow vehicle.

Bill Wilkinson | Auburn, California

Green letter A

Welcome to RV trailering, Bill. Yes, there certainly is a wide range of published material, both online and in print, covering all aspects of trailer towing. A look at the Trailer Life website and its many resource links, as well as other web links located by an online search, will provide you with a ream of material to peruse.

In addition to the available published material, you’ve also encountered an important part of this process: trial and error. You can read all about something technical, but until you’re on the road and experience some towing time, you won’t necessarily get the entire picture.

This is especially true for WD-hitch spring-bar adjustment. You set the hitch up “by the book,” so to speak, tow awhile, then drop a link or add a link to the bar adjustment, maybe adjust the tilt of the ball mount, until it feels best. It works! Do your research to start, then get that road time in to arrive at a safe, comfortable towing setup. Good luck!

Jeff JohnstonRV DIYRV TechTech Q&A

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