RV Q&A: Cruise Control in the Rain

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I have a 2001 Ford F-350 SRW 6.8-liter V-10 and a 2004 Northwood Arctic Fox 27-foot trailer. I normally use cruise control whenever I can. I’ve been to Florida and back a few times from California.

One time while I was driving in Marin County, California, there was a sudden downpour. I saw a puddle and thought, “No big deal.” I was in cruise control going 57 mph. The front tires hit the puddle and slowed the truck and trailer just a little, and the cruise control gave it the gas. The rear wheels broke loose, and we started going sideways on Route 101.
I caught it and turned the cruise off.

No more cruise control in the rain for us.

Mike Braley | Lucerne, California

That sounds like a pretty hairy situation, Mike, and we’re glad it turned out OK. Per your suggestion, while cruise control is a fine accessory, it doesn’t work 100 percent of the time, nor is it intended to be an anytime, any-road accessory. Shutting it off under adverse driving conditions is a good idea. Thanks for passing that along.


 

Formaldehyde Smell


We have a 2014 Starcraft Launch 18-foot travel trailer. We bought it in 2015, and it has always had a formaldehyde smell. We met another RVer with the same trailer who had the same problem. We have aired it out for four or five days many times, used Febreze, granular zeolite, Rid-X and many odor-away sprays, and nothing works. We tried an ionizer once, and the smell went away for a day or two, but then it came back. We will have to sell the trailer if we can’t remove the smell, as I have asthma. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

J. Douglas | Tamarac, Florida

This is a puzzling situation, considering high concentrations of formaldehyde were largely phased out of RV building materials many years ago. It’s a surprise to hear you have that kind of significant odor in your trailer and that you’ve encountered someone else with the same trailer and problem.

The manufacturer spokesperson I talked with was not able to provide any suggestions, and the best we can recommend is something you’ve already done, which is ventilating the trailer. Formaldehyde in construction materials, adhesives and fabrics goes through an “outgassing” process and eventually fades away, but your trailer should have gone through that process by now. There is no known treatment, including the use of cleaners.

The best you can do is to keep the trailer stored in a covered location and open the  windows and roof vents to provide complete air circulation between camping trips, and see if that helps.


 

Dually Swap?


I have a 1999 Ford F-350 six-speed-manual two-wheel-drive, single-rear-wheel (SRW) long-wheelbase truck that I use to tow a 40-foot fifth-wheel. It has the 7.3-liter diesel with a chip and tows great. I weighed the entire rig, and it’s right at its maximum gross combined weight rating (gcwr) of 20,000 pounds, which I am reluctantly OK with, but the pin weight is 2,500 pounds. According to the tire loading, it is well within the limits, but that sounds like a lot of pin weight for an SRW truck.

Should I consider swapping out the rear and suspension for a dually setup, since I intend to keep this truck and trailer long term? The truck has low miles and is paid for!

Tom McFadden | Kelso, Washington

I’d say that “tows great,” “low miles” and “paid for” are terrific reasons to hang on to that one! Swapping in a dual-rear-wheel (DRW) axle assembly and its associated spring pack would likely boost your truck’s rear-axle weight-carrying capacity, but it’s going to be an expensive process. In addition to the axle and springs, you’ll need to add the extended fenders to the truck bed, plus you’ll also need to carry two spare tires because the DRW and SRW are different types with different offsets.
To determine if you need to make this drastic conversion, take your truck to a certified scale and weigh just the rear axle. Deduct the rear-axle weight from the truck’s rear gross axle weight rating (gawr) to determine how much payload capacity there is out back. As long as there are at least 2,500 pounds for the hitch weight available, you’re in good shape. If you need more axle capacity, then consider the DRW option.


 

Trailer Towing Information


I am a new travel trailer owner but have more than 20 years of RV experience with Class A and C motorhomes. It has been a new experience learning how the trailer reacts to windy conditions, being passed by big rigs, adjustments of the electric brake controller, and the weight-distributing (WD) hitch, including the friction sway-control device.

My trailer is 27 feet long and has an unloaded vehicle weight of 6,000 pounds, and I have a Pro Series WD hitch. On our initial trip, I found that increasing the amount of weight transfer made a big improvement in overall handling. I just received my first copy of Trailer Life and am looking for published information about these things to obtain the optimum performance for the trailer and tow vehicle.

Bill Wilkinson | Auburn, California

Welcome to RV trailering, Bill. Yes, there certainly is a wide range of published material, both online and in print, covering all aspects of trailer towing. A look at the Trailer Life website and its many resource links, as well as other web links located by an online search, will provide you with a ream of material to peruse.

In addition to the available published material, you’ve also encountered an important part of this process: trial and error. You can read all about something technical, but until you’re on the road and experience some towing time, you won’t necessarily get the entire picture.

This is especially true for WD-hitch spring-bar adjustment. You set the hitch up “by the book,” so to speak, tow awhile, then drop a link or add a link to the bar adjustment, maybe adjust the tilt of the ball mount, until it feels best. It works! Do your research to start, then get that road time in to arrive at a safe, comfortable towing setup. Good luck!


 

5 COMMENTS

  1. Regarding cruise control in the rain, here’s a tip from people who trailer snowmobiles, often on snowy roads: If the back wheels lose traction, hit the electric brake controller boost to get the trailer to slow and pull (snap) everything straight.

  2. For the person who is concerned about aligning his truck to his Andersen hitch, what I do is, after I park in the location but before I unhitch, I put blocks in front of and behind the trailer tires. Then I put another block behind the truck left rear wheel, then I put a 2×4 alongside the rear left tire and hope no one moves them. When I’m ready to hook them back up, I just look out the door and drive to the block and align to the 2×4.That brings you right in line with the hitch ball. Good luck.

  3. Re: Paraformaldehyde Smell
    Any chance that a previous owner stored the trailer with para-formaldehyde in it for moisture and insect/vermin control? A thorough search of all storage nooks and crannies might turn up something. It is in a small, white granular form, although it can be purchased in porous cloth bags under the trade name of Sun-Pacs. They should have all evaporated long ago, but who knows? The stuff works; just don’t be breathing it.

  4. Driving in rain or snow with cruise on is a big no-no. Along with pulling our fifth-wheel, I drive an 18-wheeler for a living. You got real lucky. Normally, if cruise is on, and you start hydroplaning. Most people can’t save it, and you can’t control the trailer; you just along for the ride. And if the trailer startes to come around, the only thing you can do is mash the gas to get the trailer back behind you. Never hit your brakes.

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