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RV Tech Q&A: July 2019

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Trailer Screws Backing Out

Red letter QI own a 34-foot, 7-inch 2017 Rockwood Windjammer 3008W trailer with just under 5,000 miles. Recently, I noticed the screws on the lower-back panel were backing out as much as 1½ inches, so I asked the local dealership to take care of that since it was under extended warranty. Last month we took a trip to Fort Bragg, California, about 175 miles one way. After the long-weekend trip, while washing the trailer, more of those screws were doing the same thing.

Is the body twisting so much that it’s causing this to happen? What other things can be done to correct this issue?

Gerald Odor | Yuba City, California

Green letter AThe back end of a trailer receives the most up-and-down oscillation due to the leverage effect from the trailer hitch and axles. The effects of bouncing around on highways in disrepair, and other vibration-inducing events, create flexing in the frame, which causes screws to back out.

In many instances, these screws can simply be tightened, but it’s important to have the trailer inspected to make sure there are no structural problems. Have a certified RV technician closely examine the joint area between the wall and floor to make sure there’s no indication of cracking and/or separation.

Fender-Skirt Installation

Red letter QI am about ready to replace both fender skirts on our 2012 CrossRoads Sunset Trail ST26BH because we lost one of them on our last trip. We found replacements at www.icondirect.com. We have not found information on how to keep new skirts from cracking around the screw holes. The only information I could find was that incorrect tightening could cause cracks. Would it be advisable to apply silicone around the edges, or do you have any other ideas?

Rick Gates | Arvada, Colorado

Green letter AAlthough those wheel-well skirts are tough plastic, they’re also somewhat brittle. If you snug them down with screws, fully tightened, they have no place to go when they flex, and that can lead to stress cracks.

If www.icondirect.com doesn’t provide adequate instructions, here’s what I’d do: First, drill the mounting holes in the skirts a bit larger than the screw diameter so there’s room for some movement. Visit your local hardware store and look in the plumbing section for small rubber washers that will fit the mounting screws. Install the skirts, with the washers under the screwheads, but don’t torque the screws fully; just snug them enough to hold the skirts in place. This leaves some room for flexing at each mounting screw, and the oversize holes should permit some movement that can help avoid cracking. A dab of RTV acrylic sealer at each mounting spot, before the screw is installed, will help prevent water from sneaking back into the wall via the screw holes.

Support System: Airbags and Weight

Red letter QI have a 2015 Ram 2500 with the Cummins 6.7-liter diesel engine. The information I received shows that it has a 2,315-pound payload capacity. I use it to pull our 2015 Columbus 340RK fifth-wheel. It has been weighed at a commercial scale, loaded for travel, and has a total weight of 12,600 pounds and a hitch weight of 2,140 pounds. This leaves plenty of room at both the payload and towing capacity ratings of the truck. And it tows like a dream.

We are now investigating the possibility of a new fifth-wheel with a hitch weight of 2,750 pounds. The gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the trailer is still well below the max towing capacity of the truck. I know that adding airbags to the rear of the truck would level out the load. However, I am wondering if the bags would not compensate for the extra trailer-hitch weight on the springs, frame, axle or bearings of the truck, to the point of causing damage to any, or all, of those items.

Jeff Kehlert | Pewaukee, Wisconsin

Green letter AAirbags help support extra weight on a pickup’s rear axle and don’t add any extra stress on springs or the frame. In fact, they help support the weight carried by the springs because they bear some of the load, but they do not increase the axle or tire weight capacities.

The additional hitch weight of the new trailer will overload your truck’s stated payload capacity by 435 pounds, and that’s not something airbags would change. That manufacturer’s hitch-weight figure also doesn’t take into account any cargo or fluids,
so hitch weight will likely be higher than 500 pounds.

It would also help to weigh the truck’s front and rear axles, loaded and ready for a trip with your usual cargo, passengers and tools, for example, and compare those figures to each axle’s weight rating. That would be far more accurate than any published 2,315-pound payload capacity figure.

RV-Service Backlogs

Red letter QMy wife and I are what I consider to be rookies to the trailer lifestyle. While I have read numerous informative letters in RV Clinic, I have not seen one on the following topic.

For years, we camped boondock-style in an 18-foot-box trailer that carried our bikes and had few amenities. A bear encounter convinced me that we needed more. We spent three years studying the market, picking a trailer and a dealer. A 2019 Heartland Torque T322 toy hauler matched our needs and has performed well while we could use it.

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

Here comes the problem: When trying to get the trailer in for repairs that include warranty work and also many upgrades, it takes weeks to get an appointment and more than a month to get the work completed, even though our credit card was charged immediately.

Other dealers will not touch a unit that they did not sell, so this is a serious issue for us and I would think others. These repairs required a technician less than a day, but still it takes more than a month to get the trailer back, no matter if it is winter or summer. We have owned the Torque for 12 months now, and the dealership has had it for more than two.
Is this typical in the industry? Is there any service rating system that a prospective buyer can review before purchase to understand a dealer’s performance?

Greg Hayes | Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Green letter AUnfortunately, service backlogs are common. Cus­tomers are scheduled on a first-come, first-served basis, so even though your repair takes only a day, there may be 30 one-day projects ahead of you. If you’re told that it will take 30 days when checking in, suggest bringing the trailer back in 27 days so you can keep using it. This works only as long as the problem doesn’t sideline the trailer; for example, if the furnace fails during the summer.

There’s no generic service rating system for RV dealers nationwide, but a number of dealers can receive recognition from manufacturers for excellent customer service. Check online for customer reviews for a given dealership, and talk to your RV friends. You can also check the Better Business Bureau or state attorney general’s office records for complaints.

In regard to charging your credit card up front, that doesn’t sound right. Even if it’s a simple job, the service writer should provide a written estimate of repairs, call you if that estimate needs to increase substantially, and not charge you until the unit is picked up and you’ve inspected the job.

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 with grey beard and wearing blue shirt leaning over open car hoodJeff 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 Tech

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