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RV Tech Q&A: April 2020

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Frame-Welding Precautions

Red letter QI recently purchased a 2009 Palomino Puma 19FS. Due to very limited storage room, I plan to have the tail section of the frame beefed up and get a 2-by-2-inch receiver box welded on so I can use one of those basket-style cargo carriers for additional supplies. I know that before doing any welding on the trailer’s frame I need to disconnect the battery, but is there anything else I need to do to protect the trailer’s electrical system?

Frank Conaway | Abbott, Texas

Green letter AProtecting electrical devices from stray feedback current that’s possible with some types of welding apparatus is a good idea, Frank. In addition to disconnecting the positive battery terminal, just to be sure, you may want to also disconnect the positive power line from the converter to the fuse and breaker panel. Once those lines are out of the circuit, the devices are connected to the RV by way of their ground connections — and that means there’s no complete power loop to deliver any welding-current feedback.

See Related Story:
RV Clinic FAQ:
Top 20 Tech Questions

While planning your aft-end cargo carrier, keep an eye on how much weight you’ll be adding out back. A travel trailer should have at least 10 percent of its overall weight, or somewhat more, carried on the hitch. If you load the cargo carrier with heavy material, such as a generator, firewood and the like, you could possibly shift enough weight from the hitch to reduce the trailer’s towing stability.

A stop at a public scale to determine the trailer’s loaded axle and hitch weights without the carrier, then doing the same after installing the carrier and loading it with your desired cargo will determine if there is a balance problem. It’s always a good idea to pay attention to such weight figures when doing any fore and aft load and balance changes on a trailer.
Another option is the Curt Bolt-On Universal Hitch Receiver.

Gooseneck or Fifth-Wheel?

Red letter QA friend and I were wondering about the difference between a gooseneck hookup and a fifth-wheel hookup. Is there an advantage to using one or the other? It seems to me that more and more RVers are converting horse trailers into RVs now.

Eric Snyder | Florence, Colorado

Green letter AHorse-trailer conversions with living space instead of just animal-hauling holds are indeed popular, and are one reason for the use of a gooseneck-style hitch.

The main difference between a gooseneck-style hitch and a conventional RV-style fifth-wheel hitch is the hardware, as both systems do the same job and produce the same towing results. The gooseneck-style hitch is far more commonly used by commercial and agricultural users because, when not in use, there’s nothing but a hitch ball in the truck bed instead of a large hitch assembly. The hitch ball is easily removed or folded out of the way, depending on the hitch manufacturer, and that leaves the truck bed completely free for farm or industry use.

For users who already have a gooseneck ball in their truck bed, there are numerous adapters available that enable hitching an RV-style trailer to a gooseneck ball. These adapters bolt to the trailer’s pinbox and have the latch hardware to secure the new hitch to the gooseneck ball. Complete replacement hitch assemblies, such as the new Gen-Y hitch, are also available for RV fifth-wheel trailers to enable use with a gooseneck hitch ball.

If you choose one of these gooseneck adapter alternatives, be sure to verify that your trailer frame is capable of handling the potential extra-leverage stress caused by the forward-angled pin box. Your trailer manufacturer (or the chassis manufacturer, if the trailer builder claims to not know anything) can help with that information.

Truck Aft-End Squat

Red letter QJanuary’s RV Clinic had several letters regarding truck aft-end squat. I went to a Ford F-150 forum on towing issues, and there was mention of Timbren suspension kits, which I may give a try. It may help to get rid of squirrely steering. What do you think?

Mike Lawler | Downers Grove, Illinois

Green letter AThe Timbren kits, called SES (Suspension Enhancement Systems), are, in simplified terms, large rubber blocks that bolt to the vehicle’s chassis and contact the axle or spring components when the suspension is loaded, and function like overload springs. They’re much like the rubber bump stops that provide
a limit to upward axle movement, except the Timbrens are taller and more compressible.
When the load on the vehicle compresses the suspension, at some point the axle or springs (depending on the vehicle model) contact the Timbrens, and they provide extra support. Unlike airbags, which can be inflated or deflated according to the needs of the varying loads on the vehicle, the Timbrens provide the same degree of load support when they’re engaged.

If you prefer the ability to change the amount of load support and ride stiffness for the truck’s rear axle, an airbag would be a better choice. But if you have a consistent load size and the load-carrying need is about the same from day to day, the Timbrens would probably be a good choice.

COMMENTS: Fifth-Wheel Bed Clearance

I read Mike Jones’ January letter, “Fifth-Wheel Gooeneck Clearance,” regarding clearance problems with his Chevy 2500HD and immediately identified with him. I went through the usual raise-the-hitch, lower-the-pin-box thing and, of course, was dismayed at the degree of rear tilt on our 33-foot trailer.

I became curious about lowering the truck and found shackles that fit the rear springs. These would give it either a 1- or 2-inch drop, so I chose to do a 2-inch. After the install and loading the trailer on the truck, I was impressed with the results until I looked forward of the rear shackle and discovered hard interference between the spring and a body/bed mount. After some unsavory manipulations, I came away very happy, and a test ride helped prove my changes.

The takeaway from all this is to use the 1-inch drop to avoid any interference and still gain a nice change in ride height.
Peter Goodwin | Portland, Maine

Thank you for the firsthand-user report on another method of easing the unlevel fifth-wheel trailer situation. Your experience reminds us that, when considering something like a suspension modification, it’s important to look at all the associated parts and how they’ll be affected by the changes you have in mind. We’re glad this worked out well for you in the end.

I had a similar problem to Mike Jones’. I have a Keystone Cougar fifth-wheel. I needed it raised for clearance on my Ram 2500. The trailer already had spring-over axles. I found a good solution at Camping World with the Correct Track Trailer Alignment System Kit for aligning axles that, when installed, raised my trailer enough to give the needed clearance. The really good part was that it cost just over $400. It’s a very simple process, and no cutting or welding was required on my trailer.
David Servaes | Simi Valley, California

That’s good information about the axle-alignment kit, David. This kit is for correcting trailer-axle alignment, but its hardware also raises the trailer-frame height by a couple of inches. It’s yet another means of addressing the un-level trailer situation. Thank you for sending that along.

Have a Tech Question?

Email [email protected] and include your full name and hometown. Selected letters will be answered in the monthly RV Clinic column, but time does not permit individual replies.

Man leaning over engine wearing blue shirtJeff Johnston 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. In his monthly RV Clinic column, Jeff replies to Trailer Life readers’ technical questions about RVs and tow vehicles. He also serves as associate producer of Rollin’ On TV, a nationally syndicated television program for RV enthusiasts.

Jeff JohnstonRV 101RV ClinicRV DIYRV MaintenanceRV Tech

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