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Truck Camper Hauling Made Safer and Easier

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Did you just purchase a new or used slide in truck camper? Or maybe you're in the market but aren't sure how much your truck can haul.
Maybe it's just the opposite.
Like many of us, the camper might already be in the driveway and you're ready to move up to a newer tow vehicle.
After my last camper purchase I discovered that my old 3/4 ton Ford with a 460 cubic inch gas motor just wasn't up to the task.
Next stop, the local dealer for a much needed truck upgrade.
Lucky me! Is a new truck in your budget right now? If so that's great.
If not there are some things you might be able to do with your existing vehicle to make it a little more "camper worthy".
But don't forget, you can never change the factory rating for your truck.
You can only make it better able to do the job it was built for.
But don't be surprised if even a new truck needs some help.
I spent a few hundred bucks to get my diesel powered dual wheel pickup to a point I feel comfortable with.
Then a few hundred more to make it ready to tow the trailers I usually take along.
So now what's the next step? One of the first things I recommend is some homework and simple math to determine what your dream camper really weighs in at.
NOT what the data plate says it weighs, but an actual scale reading.
Yes, I realize that might not be an easy task, especially if your don't have the camper in your possession yet.
But, my own personal experience tells me the manufacturers and dealers "underestimate" the real weight of their campers.
Sometimes by a great deal! If you really want to be safe and legal don't take anybody's word, do the homework.
One place to look for this information is on the internet RV forums.
You might need to join a couple and ask what the weight might be for the camper you're looking at.
Be specific here.
You need to know the total loaded weight with water, propane and as much gear as you would normally take along on an average trip.
Look for more than one opinion.
Most people will assume they know the answer but have they actually weighed their unit? Probably not.
I have weighed two of my campers on Federal DOT truck scales (don't ask me how) and they were both a few hundred pounds over the manufacturer's stated weight.
Be realistic too.
Your camper will probably never get any lighter.
Most people tend to accumulate more amenities and the RV just keeps getting heavier.
Trucks, Capacity Ratings and Power Train Combos Some basic rules apply here if you're shopping (sounds like you bought that new camper, eh?) for a new hauler.
You already know the real weight of your new slide in.
Make sure the truck has a cargo capacity at least equal to that number.
Brakes, suspension, engine and axles are all sized to work within this rating.
If you plan to tow a trailer take that weight into consideration also.
The trailer tongue (hitch) weight should NOT put the truck over it's rated axle capacities for front and rear as well as combined.
Your truck will also have a Gross Combined Weight Rating, which is the total weight of truck, all cargo and all towed vehicles.
Engine & Transmission recommendations are really the subject of another article and mostly a matter of personal preference.
My choice is a 6 cylinder diesel motor with a 6 speed transmission.
This gives me a great compromise between power, fuel mileage and driveability.
I also like the ability to use an exhaust brake with the diesel to help with the stopping, especially when there is no trailer behind.
Dancin' Down The Highway? Does your truck and camper combination "rock and roll" as you corner or when big rigs pass? This is very common and more pronounced with the newer campers that can be very tall and top heavy.
My new camper, with a raised floor and plenty of head room, is a good foot higher than the 2003 camper I previously owned, which was by no means a low-rider.
Also, many of today's 4x4 trucks are a few inches higher than the older trucks.
Combine this with the longer rear springs installed on most of the newer trucks and your camper can really sway in the breeze.
Even dual rear wheel pickups are not immune.
The truck body rolls from side to side over the axle housing so the extra set of rear tires does not entirely fix the problem.
What to do? There are a number of possible remedies.
Almost all trucks can benefit from rear air helper springs.
If you're lucky enough to have a truck that accepts air bags mounted outside of the truck frame rails, they can substantially reduce the body roll as well as help carry the weight of the camper.
Inboard mounted air springs will be some help with the body roll but their main job will be to carry some of the weight.
Air springs can also help to level a camper that's heavier on one side.
That's a common situation these days with large refrigerators, generators and slide-outs.
My personal camper has all three on the passenger side so it really leans over.
By running about 20 PSI more on that side the camper levels out.
Does your truck have rear 'contact overload" springs? Most 1 ton trucks do have these as well as many of the new HD 3/4 ton trucks.
These are the short, factory overload springs that only make contact when the truck is heavily loaded.
Since they are short and stiff, if you put them to work sooner they really make a difference.
You also need to take a look at the factory installed rear anti sway bar.
Is it as large as some of the aftermarket bars available? Probably not.
Or is it even there? When I brought my new 3500 heavy duty dually pickup home I discovered it came WITHOUT a factory rear bar.
Turns out the manufacturer didn't offer one on that truck! The last thing I'll mention here is shock absorbers.
Even though the truck manufacturers these days install much better shocks than they did in the "good old days" there's a lot of room for improvement when you add a 3000-5000 lb camper.
Do some homework on aftermarket shocks.
My personal recommendation would be a mono-tube shock.
These have a larger surface area on the piston which really helps to control the hydraulic fluid movement.
That's important in helping stop the motion created by that much weight.
These are available at very reasonable prices from RV dealers and online shock retailers.
I don't believe off-road shocks are the best choice in this application unless you actually some off road driving once you arrive at your destination, or possibly getting there.
Most of us stay pretty much on the pavement and in this situation it's best to stick with the shocks designed for the job.
So here's the short and sweet of it.
A properly paired, and prepared, truck and camper will be safer and, hopefully, legal to drive down the road.
It should get you there, and back, in comfort and safety.
One last little safety tip.
With all the talk about high trucks and tall campers in mind, don't forget to check the overall height of your setup.
Many can be in excess of 12-1/2 feet above the ground.
Many overpasses are lower than this and you can imagine the carnage if you aren't prepared!
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