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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello All! I have just gotten access to a camper trailer and I wanted to ask a few questions so I could operate it safely. I have pulled utility trailers before, but nothing of this size.

Truck: 1998 Silverado Z71 w/ towing package, 5.7L, 3.42 rear end
Trailer: 1999 Dutchman Lite 24 ft.

I am very new to this, so please keep that in mind. Thank you in advance.

1) The trailer has brakes, do I need to use them, and if so what do I need to use them?

2) What tire pressure should I run the truck at? What tire pressure should the trailer be at?

3) Does anyone have any checklists I could use before I get started this summer?

Thanks again.
 

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Welcome aboard :welcome:

1) You will need a brake controller and a 7 way connector
2) Inside your driver's door it should tell you what pressure for the tires. There will be a similar sticker somewhere on (or in) the camper
3) Technically for the weight of that trailer (assuming you have at least a Class III hitch) you don't need a weight distributing hitch, but you'll be a lot happier if you do get one (spreads the weight across all axles). A sway bar is also nice (keeps the trailer from getting pushed around when a large truck or bus passes you).
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I have the 7-way connector already installed. I'm pretty sure the previous owner had a brake controller, so hopefully any extra wiring is still there.

Can you recommend a reasonably priced brake controller?

Also, when I am towing the camper (some highway, some country) should I have the truck in over-drive or should I keep it in 3rd?
 

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Here's a good start Hitches, Tow Bars/Dollys & EvenBrake - Camping World. I think I had a Prodigy (note - most of them are made by Tekonsha) - my F-250 has one built in.

Read your book as regards to overdrive vs. 3rd gear. Some of the later ones (which may include you 1998) will tell you to use OD unless you notice it shifting a lot or you are in a hilly situation. If you are in OD, monitor how the truck feels, compared to 3rd gear. Even though the Suburbans I had (1999 and 2006) said to use OD, I always felt better when they were in third gear, The two 3/4 ton trucks I've had since then are just fine in OD (except in the hills, then I do downshift).
 

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The towing packages provided by all vehicles may differ slightly. You MUST confirm that the brake lead in the truck's 7 pin connector MATCHES the corresponding lead in the trailer's brake lead connector, otherwise the brakes will NOT work and you will have other problems!

In the case of the GM/Chevy, I have heard from other owners that even with the towing package, there is a fuse for the brake wire that might not be in place. So installing a brake controller might not guarantee it works unless you check.

Like happiest camper I now have an integrated brake controller which came with our tow packages, but on a prior vehicle I purchased a Prodigy controller (don't remember the model) but I hear the "P3" is a good one. It will be around $100 but worth every penny. You also need to know that your truck has a connector that automatically integrates with it. I don't recall what year truck manufacturers provided this but hopefully have one or you'll be doing a whole lot of extra wiring.

For air pressure, use what is posted on your truck's door pillar. DO NOT go higher than what is posted. If you go by the stated pressure on the tires which is probably higher, then you might be overinflated for your truck and your load. For example, my truck's tires say max pressure is 80 psi, but my pillar says 75psi is maximum and that's what I use. The tire wear is fine.

Similar thing with the trailer. Find the GVWR of the trailer then subtract 10-15% which is pin weight carried by the truck and this is not carried by the trailer tires/wheels. Divide the remaining 85-90% by 4 and this would be how much weight is carried by each tire. Ensure the inflation pressure on the trailer's sidewall can carry the weight and inflate to that pressure. For best results weigh your rig to know for sure. For example my trailer has a GVWR of 14,020. However, I happen to know the trailer weighs 13,500 total, but only 11,000# is on the wheels and each wheel carries about 2700 to 2400 lbs. The max pressure for the trailer tires is 3420 @ 80 psi, and I use this pressure but can go as low as 75, but the tires are not showing overinflation so I stick with that psi.

I hope this helps. Post as many numbers as you can and I'll be glad to help you calculate all this. Another key is to ensure the weights and you can only do this at a scale (@ truck stops, moving companies or public scales - hope you can find one close by). You really need to know your weights in order to know the psi for your tires and other factors about your Tow Vehicle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for the info. I purchased a Prodigy P2 and wired it up to my 7 way connector.

Can you guys reccommend a good weight distribution and/or sway bar setup?

Thanks.
 

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hitch brand

I have a EZ lift but most equalizing hitches work the same except Hensley. You will want to find the actual, as in loaded with your gear, water etc, or better yet max weight of your trailer before selecting your hitch because they are rated by gross AND tongue weight. For example your 24 ft trailer probably has a gross weight of maybe 6000 lbs with 10-15% on the tongue so a 7500 lb gross rating with 750 lb tongue would work but you need to know what you will weigh loaded or use the max figure usually found inside one of the trailer cabinets. Also something I didn't see mentioned is tires. RV tires almost never wear out but instead go bad with age. The rule of thumb is 5 years max then replace. All tires have a date code usually on the inside that will tell you the month and year of manufacture. It doesn't matter if they still look good they are a bomb waiting to go off. If they come apart or blow out at speed you may not loose control ( but you may also) but it will beat the crap out of the underside of your trailer and probably the side too. Hope this doesn't boggle your mind too much but I strongly believe in towing safely.
 

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I bought a Husky (Valley?) WDH because it was cheaper than most and the dealer discounted it heavily since I bought the trailer from them too. You'll need to buy one that supports the GTWR of your trailer. My trailer had a GTWR of 9,000 so they sold me a WDH rated at 10,000 even though my truck had a tow rating of 12,000. The price difference at the time was high enough that I did not get a 12,000 rated WDH and the dealer wasn't gonna give me the higher priced one if the 10,000 lb version worked fine.

After a couple of tows, I also bought a pressure slide plate type of anti sway bar.

The bottom line, it was about price for me. I got the WDH real cheap as part of the trailer purchase, and I paid about $70 for the anti-sway bar (ASB) afterwards (make sure you match the rating to the hitch and trailer, too). I installed the ASB brackets myself. The ASB I got was a pain because if I went in reverse, I had to remove it. In transit I learned to avoid backing up when making stops, refueling, etc. Sometimes it was unavoidable, but I remembered to remove it. When I got to the campsite, ready to check in, I'd hop out of the truck and remove it because I didn't need it driving around looking for a campsite especially if I had to back into one. When it was in place and I was rolling down the road it worked great.

There are some very nice WDH hitches that have integrated ASBs but it's all on how much you want to pay.

Whatever you do, don't forget to buy a jar or tube of lithium "hitch grease" for lubricating the hitch ball, the notches of the WDH tension bars and the balls used for the ASB if you get that style. And since I'm mentioning this, find a cover for the greasy ball when not towing or you'll wonder why you have black marks on your pants or your legs. It drove me nuts until I figured it out (actually I saw my BIL get one and we both learned at the same time).

BTW - Gerry brings up an excellent point about tires. No more than 5 years is recommended because trailer tires age quickly from partial use. Don't forget to include the spare when getting new tires. The DOT code he's referring to is actually on both sides of a tire. Depending on how they're mounted One side will have the full code including place and date (week/year) or manufacture and the other side will have a partial that includes only the place and date. If you need help on how to decode this let us know.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks Guys!

You bring up a good point about the tires. I'm not sure how old they are, but I did notice that they looked a little dry-rotted and had some cracks on the sidewalls. I'm just worried how to convince my father-in-law that he needs to buy 5 new tires for his trailer.

It may be a stupid question, but would dry-rot and cracks necessarily be dangerous?
 

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It depends. There can be hairline cracks on the sidewalls that are not considered dangerous, but you would have to take it to a reputable tire dealer - not to an overzealous tire person who will say anything to make a sale. I had a set of truck tires with these and they lasted for several thousand miles until I replaced them because of wear. The key word is wear. A truck driving frequently will keep the tires in good shape. A trailer used infrequently will turn the rubber into clay.

Other than that, noticeable dry rot or larger cracks are indicators that there could be bad stuff below the surface and it would only be a matter of time before a failure occurs. The worse part of dry rot is that it can occur inside the tire, too and you can't always see this. The interior rot is caused by condensation that naturally forms from air being inside the tire, the tire sitting for long periods of time and then rot occurring from within. I read a story of a person who's tires blew apart and when they looked on the interior the steel belts were rusty!!! Rust? On the inside of a tires steel belts? You betcha. I hear tires are porous to some extent, so why not?

This is why the recommendation of replacing trailer tires every five to six years. While some tire brands might do better than others, some are made better than others, 5-6 years seems to be the magic number. Any higher than that and others (including me) have reported trailer tire failure from exploding sidewall or tread separation. In fact, some trailer tires might fail sooner than that due to poor quality or storage abuses (not keeping inflated, not covered, exposure to sun and elements, etc.)

A trailer tire that is used frequently (for driving trips) will do better than a tire that sits still for long periods of time.

As for danger it depends on the tire failure. If the tire "blows up" you've got flying rubber that could hit something or somebody. Then there's damage from the debris (this caused damage to my rig but mostly cosmetic). I have seen pictures of this causing the other tire to fail, and damage requiring replacement of fenders and body panels, drain systems if the drain is close to the tires, and some pretty extensive under carriage work. The secondary damage definitely runs the gamut, no counting on what could happen as some control is lost.

You are not hearing this from a tire expert, but someone who's experienced this, seen others' experiences and read so many articles on this I'm impressed what I know as a non-expert. But it sure has made me well more aware and I've never had a tire failure since due to ignorance or negligence. Don't take things for granted.

Keep in mind, even with the size of the trailer, the only things holding up all that weight and size are palm-size pads of some tire rubber. That's about it, and those pads are at the same spot when a trailer sits, then they spin at high speed when you hit the road.

If the trailer you have access to is the one belonging to your FIL, then you might want to help contribute to a set of tires. My BIL would borrow his FIL's trailer and something would break every time he borrowed it, so there's some sharing of the cost of usage.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Hi Guys...

I drove the trailer home tonight for the first time. It will take some getting used to, that is for sure.

As for the tires, I am afraid they may be the originals (made in 1998). The date codes are 3 digits and end in '8'.

In order to get the vehicle level, my FIL gave me a reese insert with I think a 2 inch drop, but the ball was installed upside-down and then we had to invert the insert so it actually raised it up to level out the rig. I wanted to ask what you guys thought abot that safety wise?

Thanks again.
 

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If they are 3 digits, then they were built before 2000! Now THAT'S old! How far did you drive. You'll need to pay attention to your odometer and log each trip. It's the only way you'll know how many miles you are putting on the trailer, not even counting what your FIL did.

The drop downs and balls are designed for either direction. If it's still not level and you are not using a WDH, then you need to change the drop down. Cosmetically speaking it's better if the drop down was low (no up), but I believe the welds should hold in either direction. The trailer should be as close to level as possible, or it can sit lower in the front than the rear (nose low), but the trailer should never be nose high.

Without a WDH you may have a lot of weight at the rear axle. What is the GTWR of the trailer? What year is the trailer? Only lightweight trailers should be using a dropdown adapter. Otherwise you should seek a WDH. If your FIL was not using one, you'll need to check if he should have been. To find the weight of your trailer, depending on the year, model and make of the trailer the plate with this information could be somewhere on the tongue, on the side of the trailer somewhere, inside a storage cabinet or in one of the kitchen cabinet doors. A modern trailer will have it on the driver's side front panel of the trailer. This was finally standardized, but with older trailers it could be anywhere.

If you have a light trailer (under 3,000 lbs) then you will be luckier with these tires than not, but these should definitely be replaced just because of their age. It won't be a matter of if the tire fails, but when. You can guess it will probably be when you are going uphill or downhill in miserable weather and there is no shoulder and you don't have all the tools or a spare. I've had three trailer tire blowouts on two different trailers and I am diligent about tire care! But I have all the tools and it still wasn't fun. I won't go into where it happened but that wasn't fun either!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I drove the trailer about 20 miles from my FIL's house to mine. It bounced and porpoised but it seemed manageable if I kept it under 60.

The truck is pretty much level when the trailer is attached to the hitch with the ball in the inverted position. I don't know if it would make a difference putting the ball and hitch in the normal position, but I imagine that it would cant the front of the trailer downward a few inches.

The trailer in question is a Dutchmen Lite 24QBL travel trailer. I'm not sure what the GTWR is, but the GVWR is 7,363lbs. according to their specs. The axle dry weight is 3,663lbs. The hitch dry weight is 363lbs. I'm pretty sure the hitch receiver on my truck is at least a class III.
 

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Here's more to know...

If you can still read the sidewalls on the tire you may find even when they were new they probably have a 65mph MAXIMUM rating. Just another thing to know about "ST" trailer tires.

GTWR is the same as GVWR. It just stands for Gross Trailer Weight Rating to imply it's a trailer rating versus a vehicle. The big difference between GTWR and GVWR is that some of this gross weight is carried on the tongue or the hitch and not all the weight is carried on the tires, unlike a car or truck where all the weight is carried on the tires. The specs you see are right on the money for a TT, or 10% but that's called the paper rating. That doesn't mean your trailer's tongue will only ever be 10%, it can get as high as 12%-15% of whatever the trailer weighs depending on how it's packed. However, you don't want less than 10% or the trailer will fishtail because there's not enough weight on the tongue/hitch.

The only way to know where you're at is to actually weigh your truck and trailer at a scale. If you need to know what to weigh let us know. There's more to just putting it on the scales and the scale operators will only weigh what you tell them, so it's your responsibility to request the right stuff.

You mentioned some porpoising. This could be from the tongue not carrying enough weight, the trailer not being level or especially nose high, or you just aren't used to it. You want to have it set up correctly to minimize porpoising.

A Class III hitch for that weight is probably about right, but I'll check on that and let you know either way. Don't forget to put a little bit of hitch lube on the ball to minimize wear of the ball and the inside cup of the tongue (don't overdo it).
 

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Darn my old guy memory but I have some Bad News!!! A Class III hitch is only good for up to 5,000 lbs. You're gonna need to get Class IV equipment (Receiver hitch and WDH). The Class IV is capable of up to 12,000lbs and will satisfy your GTWR of 7,363 lbs. And you're gonna need a WDH. Most shanks only support up to 5,000 or 6,000 lbs.

You might be okay for a 20 miler, but I don't know if I'd chance things on rough roads and highways with a 7,000 lb trailer. You need to know that when a 7,000 lb trailer is bouncing on that hardware it weighs more than that and it might overstress things. The ratings are okay and consider these things when you are within the ratings, but all bets are off if you are overweight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
Darn my old guy memory but I have some Bad News!!! A Class III hitch is only good for up to 5,000 lbs. You're gonna need to get Class IV equipment (Receiver hitch and WDH). The Class IV is capable of up to 12,000lbs and will satisfy your GTWR of 7,363 lbs. And you're gonna need a WDH. Most shanks only support up to 5,000 or 6,000 lbs.

You might be okay for a 20 miler, but I don't know if I'd chance things on rough roads and highways with a 7,000 lb trailer. You need to know that when a 7,000 lb trailer is bouncing on that hardware it weighs more than that and it might overstress things. The ratings are okay and consider these things when you are within the ratings, but all bets are off if you are overweight.
I thought the GTWR was the maximum weight that the trailer axles are rated for, not what the trailer weighs. Granted, we'll have a full water tank, but we're not planning on loading a lot of stuff in the trailer. I thought my trailer dry weight was 3600lbs - then I'd need to add propane, water, and cargo. I can't see that being anywhere near 4000 extra pounds.
 

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trailer weight

You think your trailer weighs 3600 lbs dry I would find out for sure. Not trying to give you crap but those of us that have towed a time or two know that after a few outings the weight just grows. That's why I recommend always to use the gross rating because nearly everybody comes a lot closer to that figure than the dry weight. And I always strongly encourage anyone towing to weigh their trailer as they intend to use it. Usually people that insist on using dry weight are trying to make a marginal tow vehicle look more capable. I'm not saying you are but reading the RV forums 9 out of 10 that's the way it goes.
 

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Gerry is right, except that I would say, 10 out of 10, you MUST use GTWR or you will get burned. If it's only 9 out of 10, well that last person is misinformed.

The trailer tires DO NOT carry the Gross weight. The tongue (or tongue jack) is estimated to carry 10-15% and a fifth wheel pin (on the truck or the landing gear) is 15% to 25% depending on how you load your trailer and the remainder of the weight is carried by the trailer's tires and axles.

For example, I have a trailer that has two 6,000 lb axles (12,000lbs of weight at the wheels) even though the trailer's GTWR is 14,040. This is because the manufacturer is allowing that at least 2,040 lbs is carried at the fifth wheel pin on the rear axle of the tow vehicle.

In real numbers, my example has a scale weight of my trailer of 13,450lbs Gross weight, and only 10,880 of this is on both axles. The front axle weight is 5,560lbs and the rear axle is 5,320lbs (under the 6,000lbs axle rating). This also means that there's 2,570 lbs at the pin that sits on the rear axle of my truck bed. The gross weight (pin weight of 2,570 and axle weight of 10,880) is under the 14,040 lbs gross weight rating and 12,000lbs axle weight rating.

Know what weights you need to use, then know the weights by getting to the scales. Then make sure at all points they are under the rating to be compliant.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I've got to get one of the proane tanks filled, so when I go, I'll take it past my local metal recyclers scale and get an idea of how much the thing weighs. I'll be sure to compensate for the added water weight as well.

Thanks guys, I appreciate it.
 
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