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RV Tech Q&A: October 2019

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Additional Insulation

While camping in our 2018 Livin’ Lite QuickSilver 8.0 tent camper, we ran into 32-degree wet weather at night for three days. We purchased an electric heater for the inside of the trailer. It was too small for the volume of space inside our trailer. We also stocked up on blankets. After arriving home from that trip, we found a better heating option that now stays in the RV.

What else can we do to add some insulation or other protection from the colder weather? Do you have a manufacturer you can recommend to help us out? Is it possible to add something lightweight to throw over our tent trailer to help insulate and protect at the same time?

Chris Tromel | Oregon City, Oregon

There are no aftermarket add-on insulation kits designed for fold-down tent trailers, Chris. When you camp in a fold-down, you’re still largely in a tent due to the marginally insulating side walls and end-bed-platform fabric surrounds. Even with a built-in furnace or portable auxiliary heat source, you’ll need to sort of live with the environment.

However, you might want to try contacting Canvas Replacements, as that company manufactures new fabric parts for tent trailers of all ages. They can make a whole new fabric set based on the ragged remains from a really old trailer, for example. They know their stuff. They may be able to assemble some type of insulating liner layer that you could install using hook-and-loop fasteners. It might be a bit of a job to install or remove, but it might be a partial answer to your dilemma.

popupgizmo is a blanket for canvas covered pop-up and hybrid travel trailers

There actually are products for covering and insulating fold-out bed platforms in tent trailers and hybrids. PopupGizmos offers covers and liners that minimize heat loss through the canvas in cold weather and reduce condensation.

You could also check into warm sleeping bags as an alternative to blankets to make the nights more comfortable in the trailer. RVSuperbag, for example, offers large two-person bags designed for RV use, and many heavier-duty conventional sleeping bags can be zipped together if a two-person sleeping arrangement is what you need.

Editor’s note: After publishing this in the October 2019 Trailer Life, we learned about PopupGizmos, a Texas company that offers exterior covers and interior liners for bed-platform extensions in folding tent trailers and hybrid trailers.

Bumps in the Road: Porpoising Tow Setup

We have a 2016 Ram 2500 6.7-liter diesel truck and pull a 2019 34-foot Grand Design fifth-wheel. Ninety-nine percent of our travels are awesome, but from time to time we will encounter a few bumps in the road that cause the truck and trailer to seesaw back and forth. It can be a bit scary as it can happen quickly. Is there any aftermarket product you can recommend that could be installed to help with this problem?

Tommy White | Allen, Texas

The seesawing effect, also called porpoising, usually happens with travel-trailer setups but under the “right” circumstances can affect almost any RV. Sometimes you just can’t avoid it. The porpoising severity depends on a lot of factors including road condition, speed, tow-rig wheelbase, trailer length, vehicle mechanical condition and so on.

To start, make sure the tires are properly inflated and the rest of your setup is mechanically sound. There are no guarantees, but you might try adding airbags to the truck’s rear axle, as this provides more weight support and can firm up the suspension out back somewhat, making it a bit less porpoise-prone. Check the shock absorbers and upgrade to a top-quality model like Bilsteins. The shocks can reduce the severity of the oscillation in some cases.

Cracked Water-Tank Fitting

I typically maintain my own trailer and enjoy doing the maintenance. Recently, I pulled the trailer out to wash and inspect it and discovered that the threaded drain fitting in the base of the tank has cracked and the female protruding threaded fitting is broken in half, vertically. I have successfully hunted down the plastic part and want to install it properly. Camping World stated I have to replace the whole tank.

Patrick Carey | Valencia, California

Those fittings are typically spin welded to the tank, and that’s not a process the average person can do at home. I’m sure you’ve discovered that it’s nearly impossible to find an adhesive that works with a typical RV freshwater tank. You can’t reliably attach a flanged fitting with screws because the tank plastic is too thin for that kind of service.

An alternative for a shop would be to spin weld a patch in place of the fitting that is cracked, plug it, then spin weld a new properly sized fitting for connecting the plumbing next to the patch, if there is sufficient clearance to the edge of the tank.

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

There are companies that advertise they can do plastic welding on things like holding tanks; an internet search for such a company might be your best bet. Depending on the cost of welding on a fitting, this type of repair might save you a bundle over the cost of a full replacement tank. Changing a freshwater tank may be something you can do yourself, and www.icondirect.com may be a reference for you.

Spongy Floor

My 2008 Jayco Eagle has de­veloped an area in front of the kitchen sink that “gives” when walking on it. It is an area about 3 square feet in size. The plywood underneath must have rotted. My dealer wants $3,000 to repair it. I would like to repair it myself. Do you have any suggestions?

Bruce Siemsen | Holyrood, Kansas

Due to the way RVs are built, it’s difficult and complicated to remove a section of rotted flooring and replace it with new solid wood. You need to remove large pieces of interior cabinets or built- in furniture, for starters, along with the flooring material to access the bad floor section and cut it back to match the new subfloor. You can search RV manufacturer websites and see photos or illustrations showing how their rigs are built, which may give you an idea of what you’d be up against. Or better yet, take an RV factory tour to see firsthand how it’s done. Unless you’re really skilled and enthusiastic about this kind of job, this is definitely the type of project best left to a professional.

Saggy Aft End

My ready-to-camp-in Keystone Cougar 26RBS trailer weighs 7,800 pounds. The hitch weight on our 2018 F-150 four-wheel-drive with the trailer package is 1,200 pounds, and the rear end sags even though the trailer is level. The weight-distributing (WD) hitch has been adjusted. A local tech says I need to get airbags.

Robert Kenny | Colorado Springs, Colorado

Your WD hitch may be adjusted, Robert, but it’s probably not tight enough. The spring bars need to be surprisingly tight to properly help support the hitch weight and transfer some of that weight to the tow vehicle’s front axle. It’s also possible the spring bars are the wrong size. Each WD hitch manufacturer offers spring bars in a range of ratings to accommodate different trailer sizes and weights. Twelve-hundred pounds is a hefty hitch weight for a 1500-series truck, and if the bars are not rated for that weight, they won’t provide the needed support, regardless of how tight they’re adjusted. Check the specifications on the bars, and you may find you need to upsize for proper WD hitch performance.

Lastly, the amount of weight in the truck (cargo and passengers) makes a big difference in how the truck sits, and can lead to overloading. Going to a multi-platform truck scale or a rally where they weigh by wheel position would be beneficial; adding airbags can help level the tow vehicle, but not fix an overloaded situation.

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.

Jeff 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.


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