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RV Tech Q&A: September 2018

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

Tow-Haul Mode

I have a 2003 Chevy Silverado and am trying to find out if the tow-haul mode works well on steep grades of 10 percent or better. We have covered some mountain ranges when we were in Montana, but after having traveled the country in an 18-wheeler, I know there are steeper downhill grades. Before I get to one, I would like to see if you have some experiences to share. If needed, what engine brake would you recommend?

Mark Bevill | Blanchard, Louisiana

Online owner forums are your best source of this type of user-experience information, Mark. Tow-haul mode doesn’t much care what grade is being tackled; it works when it’s engaged, regardless of the degree of slope. A steeper grade will, of course, cause the rig to accelerate, necessitating more use of the service brakes. As for an aftermarket engine brake, stick with a known brand such as BD, Banks or Pacbrake. Owner forums are also a good source of exhaust-brake user information.

Tight Squeeze

We have a 2013 Winnebago SunnyBrook Sunset Creek 296RE 32-foot travel trailer and want to put a 55-inch sleeper loveseat in the living area. I cannot find any 55-inch-wide sleeper loveseats or oversize chairs on the RV-furniture websites, but I did find one on Amazon. It is the Stone & Beam Kristin round-arm sleeper chair. The depth and height of the chair are both 37 inches, and width is 55½ inches.

How can you fit this chair through the narrow RV door of about 28 inches? Is it possible if you take the four wooden legs off?

Sharon Cleveland | Fort Worth, Texas

Removing the legs will clearly gain a few extra inches of clearance, as will removing the door unit, Sharon, but the only way to truly answer this question is for you to see the product in person and take some measurements. Contact Stone & Beam for the location of the nearest dealer, and you might be in luck and find one of the chairs in stock. If not, you may be able to order it from the dealer on the contingency that it’s able to fit into the RV. If the chair reclines, you may be able to work it though the doorway with some extra maneuvering.

If the swivel chair shown on the floorplan is there in your trailer, the area is going to get a bit crowded with the addition of a sleeper chair, but I’m sure you’ve figured that out already. Be aware that the chair you have in mind weighs 95 pounds, and that’s all weight behind the axles, so you need to keep an eye on the trailer’s hitch weight to be sure too much weight is not shifted rearward. And, for that matter, be sure you don’t overload the trailer if it’s close to its gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr).

In a pinch, the chair may fit through a large window, but that involves removing the window and the extra expense and labor involved.

Fifth-Wheel Height

We have a 2014 Keystone Cougar 25RKS that we really enjoy using. Our tow vehicle is a 1999 Ford Power Stroke. When I hook up the fifth-wheel to the truck, there is a great deal of slant on the trailer, so I was wondering if I could adjust the pin box to sit lower on the trailer to have a more level ride and less wind resistance.

I have read the owner’s manual for the trailer and cannot find any information on the clearance between the bed of the truck and the trailer. I also tried to find the information through Lippert and MORryde, but had no success there, either.

Is there a standard rule for the clearance, and are there things I should watch for if I were to lift the pin box?

Tom Luksha | Sheridan, Montana

This is a question we answer every couple of months, Tom, as it’s a popular concern among our readers. We usually recommend that people maintain at least 6 to 8 inches
of clearance between the truck-bed rails and the underside of the front section of the fifth-wheel. This allows the truck and trailer to move independently on rough terrain or when traversing a steep gas-station driveway, for example. The only drawback to raising the trailer’s hitch box or lowering the truck’s hitch is not allowing enough clearance.

The best way to ensure an even ride is to raise the trailer suspension. Your trailer may have height adjustments built into the spring hangers, or you can flip the axles, and even install a lift kit if necessary. Many RV service centers or trailer shops should be able to help you out. Just be careful of the trailer’s overall height when you’re done.

Cherokee Tow Rating

Two weeks ago I purchased a 2018 Jeep Cherokee and had a trailer hitch and seven-way wiring harness installed by the local Jeep dealership. As per Jeep’s website, at that time you could order a Cherokee with a towing package, so I asked the dealership to install one. But now they cannot tell me where to install the brake controller with the brake-light wire. They just installed the wiring harness with the power wire going to the battery but left everything else disconnected.

I purchased this vehicle to tow a 3,200-pound trailer because, according to Trailer Life’s 2018 Guide to Towing, the 2018 Jeep Cherokee, with a towing package, can tow 4,000 pounds. I confirmed this on Jeep’s website. Now Jeep has removed all references to the 2018 Jeep Cherokee towing any more than 2,000 pounds, and I am stuck with a vehicle that is not able to tow my trailer, while I could have with the truck that I traded in.
I thought you would like to know that now the towing guide is incorrect because of what Jeep has done. I am left without any way to connect a brake controller on my Jeep Cherokee.

I enjoy your magazine and the information you provide. But you need to know that Jeep has changed the towing capacity, because it does not know how to connect a brake controller and is too lazy to find out and give its customers the help they need. I think the RV community needs to be aware that Jeep does not understand that there are many of us who have smaller travel trailers and need a small SUV that works around town when not used for towing.

David W. Meadows | Pearl, Mississippi

I checked the Jeep website, David, when I saw your letter, and you’re right. It shows that the Cherokee can tow up to 2,000 pounds. The 2018 Guide to Towing lists the same Cherokee at a maximum of 4,500 pounds tow rating with the 3.2-liter V-6. To run this to ground, we reached out to our contacts at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). Jordan Wasylyk, product PR manager for FCA’s U.S. subsidiary, responded:

“We have not changed the tow rating. A 3.2-liter with the tow package is rated at 4,500 pounds for 2019, as it was in 2018. The 2.0-liter has a 4,000-pound rating with the tow package. If the customer just added a hitch to a non-trailer tow-equipped vehicle, the rating is still 2,000 pounds. The tow package ($795 MSRP) includes other upgrades: a 3.517 final drive ratio, seven- and four-pin wiring harness, auxiliary transmission oil cooler, Class III receiver hitch, full spare tire, heavy-duty engine cooling and a trailer- tow wiring harness.”

Clearly, the ratings listed on the website are incomplete. If your vehicle was equipped from the factory with the tow package, then the ratings as listed in the Guide to Towing would be accurate. Without the proper equipment as noted above, however, the rating drops, and the Jeep dealer should have been apprised of this information and passed it on to you.
Vehicle manufacturers can make tow-rating changes well into the model year, and in some cases, as illustrated above, there can be discrepancies published online. That’s why it’s always important to check more than one source, communicate with the manufacturer via its Facebook page or ask at the dealership for up-to-date information. In this case, our 2018 Guide to Towing is correct.

Failed Flooded Battery

Before leaving on a one-night camping trip, the electric jack on our 2014 Jayco White Hawk failed to raise, so I used the standby manual crank-up method. After returning home, I decided to see what was up.

I checked the battery, even though the lights worked. When I removed the battery cover, I found the box was full of water. The connections from the electric jack were unrecognizable, and one of the battery terminals was also ready to fall apart. The inline fuse was a little blob of rust.

I removed the battery, took it to a parts store for testing, and, naturally, it was dead as a doornail. I purchased a new deep-cycle battery, inline fuse holder, pack of 20-amp fuses, battery connector and electrical tape. Before replacing the battery, I drilled several holes in the bottom of the battery box. I replaced the wiring, fuse and battery terminal, and it worked.

Harry Holden | Covington, Georgia

Thank you for relating your situation and the fix, Harry. It’s a simple solution that’s a good idea. It’s puzzling how that much water entered the battery box, though. A typical battery-box lid doesn’t have any holes in it, so it sheds water, and there’s enough side and end overlap that the rainwater should not be getting in as long as the lid and battery are adequately strapped down. It’s possible that the air swirling around between the tow rig and trailer combined with water kicked up by the tires caused the water to be blown up and under the box-lid overhang. In any case, drilling a few holes in the bottom solves the problem.

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

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