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RV Tech Q&A: January 2020

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Solar-Panel Size

Red letter QI was wondering how big a solar panel I need to keep a wet-cell Interstate SRM-24 battery (CCA-550, MCA-690, RC-140) charged to run a water pump, refrigerator light and interior lights (sometimes) in a Keystone Hideout 175LHS trailer.

Robert Schanz | Middleburgh, New York

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Green letter AIf you’re sticking with just one battery for your RV, then something along the lines of a 100-watt panel, minimum, should keep the battery up, given the modest power demands. In this case, I’d go with something like a 160- to 200-watt setup that would provide an extra edge for charging and help if the skies are cloudy or you park in a shady spot. The extra output would also come in handy if you opt for a dual-battery setup sometime later on.

Fifth-Wheel Fit with 2020 GM

Red letter QWe recently purchased a 2020 Chevy truck to use for hauling our fifth-wheel. Then we learned that the old hitch won’t fit the puck mounts GM installs at the factory. They changed the pattern for 2020. The dealer wasn’t much help and said we’d have to contact the aftermarket for the right hitch. Our favorite hitch shop said, “No, not yet,” when asked if it had a hitch mount or adapters or something. Do you know when someone will have a hitch setup for our truck?

Dawane Peterson | LaPine, Oregon

Green letter AThe truck manufacturers make new-model-year engineering changes, like the hitch mounts, based on expertise and testing, Dawane, and regardless of how much it costs or inconveniences the truck buyer, there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Pulliam Enterprises (www.pullrite.com) has a PullRite hitch that will fit the new 2020 GM trucks, and by the time this is in print, it may also have adapter mounts ready. B&W, Curt and Demco also have products for GM’s 2020 HD trucks. Other hitch manufacturers will undoubtedly jump on that market soon as well, and that would give you more selections.

Front-Window Swap

Red letter QI’ve been reading your magazine for almost two years and have never skipped a page! I’m wondering if there’s a way to change the front window of a Jayco Jay Flight trailer to a screen-and-window combination. I’ve checked at Camping World RV & Outdoors and was told it didn’t have anything, and Jayco has nothing either. It would be nice to have better airflow when it is not super-hot or cold outside.

Ben Rogers | Moline, Illinois

Green letter AYou’ll need to check with the aftermarket suppliers of windows, but it is unlikely since the front window is manufactured and installed as a windshield. Keep your window measurements handy and check with ParKin Accessories, Dometic, or Lippert Components. These are suppliers to RV factories and also sell to retail customers.

Also, Cleer Vision Windows and Easy RV Windows can manufacture custom windows to your specifications. An online search will likely reveal a company that can handle your replacement-window needs.

Fifth-Wheel Gooseneck Clearance

Red letter QI have a big problem. We’re getting a new Chevy Silverado 2500HD and realized it sits 4 inches higher than our old one, 2 inches higher to the truck bed and 2 inches more to the side of the box. I have a Keystone Cougar fifth-wheel that, because of this, will be 2 inches closer to the top of the truck bed. So now it will be down to 4 inches of clearance and will be out of level, being 2 inches higher in front. There’s no place to adjust, and people say
I have to raise the trailer.

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This brings me to my question: Do you know of a place in Indiana where they are making a kit for raising a trailer? I’ve heard there is a small company that is making square tubing and welding mounts for the spring shackles onto the tubing. You then have a shop remove the old tabs and weld this tubing to the frame, lifting the trailer 2 inches.

I have also heard of people switching to 16-inch LT E-rated tires and saying they are much stronger and less prone to blowouts than trailer tires, and would also lift the fifth-wheel nearly a couple of inches. I have found online that there are a lot of people having a problem similar to mine, and some say a couple of inches higher in front shouldn’t hurt anything.

Mike Jones | Omaha, Nebraska

Green letter AYours is a fairly typical problem, Mike, as the manufacturers are designing their pickups with higher and higher beds, and trailer manufacturers are not making changes to comply with the new dimensions. Lacking any other means of adjusting the trailer- to-bed-rail minimum of 6 inches clearance, raising the trailer at the axles is a realistic solution. Placing the springs above the axle instead of below it is a solution that many RV, hitch or custom-fabrication shops can handle with ease, and it gains several inches in height. New weld-on spring pads are available from the axle manufacturer to facilitate this swap.

We aren’t familiar with the kit or the Indiana company you mentioned, but it seems like something a competent fabrication shop could put together for you. That’s another realistic solution that could help you make the proper truck-to-trailer adjustments.

The use of larger-diameter tires, provided you have adequate tire-to-tire and wheel-well clearance and the wheels are rated properly, is another effective solution for bumping up that height. If you choose higher-rated tires in the process, you also gain some extra weight-carrying capacity per tire, and that’s always a good thing.

READER’S TIP: Tent-Camper Comfort

I’m writing about the “Additional Insulation” letter from Chris Tromel in the October 2019 RV Clinic concerning heating a tent camper. We had tent campers for 17 years and really enjoyed them. Heating any canvas-covered enclosure is problematic, but we found a way to at least stay warm while sleeping. We purchased rigid 1-inch foam insulation with foil on one side. We cut it to fit under the mattress and put it in place with the foil side up so it would reflect body heat back. This is very effective for staying warm.

If you are in a campground with electricity, you might also consider an electric blanket, especially if one person sleeps “warm” and the other sleeps “cold.” This will keep you comfortable, at least until you have to get out of bed.

Robert Courval | Nampa, Idaho

I can understand your interest in staying warm while camping, Robert. Your part of the country gets downright chilly! Thank you for the suggestions; they make a lot of sense.
Home-supply centers typically sell polystyrene foam with a foil backer and a rigid spun fiberglass-type board with the foil surface. Users should stick with the foam type because wear and tear on the fiberglass board material can release fiberglass shards into the air where they can be drawn into the lungs or picked up on the skin and cause irritation.
Owners of canvas-sided trailers can also check out the various solar covers on www.popupgizmos.com.

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 ClinicRV DIYRV Questions and AnswersRV TechTrailer Life RV Clinic

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