RV Tech Q&A: December 2019

Sway Bars No More?

We purchased a 2019 Chevrolet Silverado LTZ that has an integrated brake control and pull a 26-foot 2014 Flagstaff by Forest River. With our previous tow vehicle, it needed sway bars to control sway, but the new brake control indicates that it will control sway. Does this mean that sway bars are no longer needed?

Clifton and Janice Burris | Cedar Park, Texas

The anti-sway component in the truck’s powertrain control system uses inertial sensors to selectively apply the brakes or power to the truck’s wheels to help overcome the yawing motion brought on by trailer sway. It’s a partial solution, at best, to reduce sway. The truck’s integral brake control will not fix a truck-and-trailer setup that’s improperly matched or a trailer that doesn’t have the right hitch-weight-to-overall-weight ratio, resulting in instability.

Several factors affect trailer sway: driving conditions (crosswinds, vehicles passing, etc.), sway-control equipment, tow vehicle and trailer matching, tongue weight, trailer attitude (off-level, weight and balance) and actions taken to counter sway. Proper hitch setup and vehicle matching are essential, and the trailer must tow level or, if anything, slightly tongue-down. A trailer towed off-balance to the rear will induce sway, as well as more heavily load the rear axle.

The difference between a weight-distributing (WD) hitch and an anti-sway device is a frequent cause of user confusion. Regardless of any sway-control equipment on your rig, you still need a WD hitch to help distribute some of the trailer hitch weight across both axles of the tow vehicle. Some WD hitches include an anti-sway feature built into the hitch head or the spring-bar attachment hardware, but not all of them do, and you’ll need to research your brand and model of hitch to determine that. The WD spring bars on most such hitches distribute hitch weight but do not include any anti-sway features.

A specific anti-sway device can be an older-style friction-type device, with one or two added to the hitch assembly as needed, or as mentioned above, a part of the WD hitch. You need the WD hitch for the best handling, but the anti-sway device is added only if nothing else works to improve towing stability. Some WD hitches, such as dual-cam sway controls, the Hensley Arrow and the Blue Ox SwayPro, are designed to inhibit sway by virtue of their design and require no additional hardware.

Should you encounter an unexpected sway event, you can manually apply the trailer brakes without using the tow rig’s service brakes, and that usually snaps the trailer in line behind the tow rig. Accelerating a bit during that manual brake application, which seems counterintuitive, can also help.

In the end it’s always better to solve the problem rather than adding a Band-Aid to make it go away. And it never hurts to have more than one device that will help keep sway under control, like an electronic sway control. To find other reader letters about this subject, check the RV Clinic page on the Trailer Life website and the RV Clinic FAQ page.

See also: How to Hitch Travel Trailers and Fifth-Wheels


Water-Pump Strainer Bowl

The instructions for a new Aqua Pro AP3000 RV water pump I had installed said “to ensure the strainer bowl [attached to the pump] is always in the downward position” (i.e., below the water line and pump). My RV service technician had it sitting upward, so I called him and was told that it was fine that way. I figured there was a reason for the manufacturer’s instructions, so I towed my rig back the next day and asked a service person to position it downward. He did so, but he had to make it a half-turn looser since the joint was too tight to rotate it forward; a brief pressure test showed no current leaks.

READER’S TIP: REPLACEMENT PLANK FLOORING, PART 2

This is in regard to Jann Todd’s September suggestion for Allure flooring in response to Joe Montoya’s June letter, “Linoleum or Plank Flooring?” I have installed a lot of TrafficMaster Allure grip-strip flooring as a contractor. Allure is a great product; however, it likes to be in a stable temperature range. I installed it on a three-season porch, and it shrunk and lifted during the winter months. It did reset with help but isn’t a good choice for an RV that will sit unheated in a colder climate.

Dave Nichols | Bellingham, Massachusetts

Thank you for the advice, Dave. That’s good information. Plank-style flooring is highly popular with RV manufacturers as well as buyers, and considering a retrofit to an existing model calls for some careful product selection.

Flooring that’s recommended for use in a kitchen is a good idea because it’s water-resistant or waterproof, and that helps the flooring avoid problems due to foot traffic and spills. Flooring made of real wood or with a pressboard backer can catch and absorb water or kitchen spills, which can cause the wood to swell and expand and warp, so it’s not the best choice in a kitchen. Synthetic flooring, with printed wood grain or other types of wear surface, can be waterproof and thus better suited to the rigors of RV use.

Temperature stability is also important, as you mentioned, as is taking care not to choose a product that is incompatible with the RV’s slide rooms. Researching user reviews will further help a buyer hone in on plank flooring that’s right for an RV. We’d love to hear from readers who’ve done successful flooring remodels in their RVs.

Do you know the science here, and how the filter, the inside screen and the sediment bowl work? Does the placement of the sediment bowl really matter? If it doesn’t, I’ll have it rotated forward to the original position to ensure a tight joint.

Martin Carbone | Mission Viejo, California

The sediment bowl should ideally be on the downside of the line, per the product instructions. It works partly by gravity. When sediment is present in the incoming water stream, that sediment is generally heavier than water, so it would naturally sink to the bottom of the bowl as the product designers intended. If enough sediment is sucked into the upside-down bowl, it can inhibit flow more quickly. Of course, any water introduced into an RV should be filtered, which will all but eliminate a sediment problem in the strainer.

If there’s a concern about the threads leaking, apply a bit of pipe dope, not Teflon tape, to help seal the threads.


Truck and Trailer Matchup

My wife and I have been considering doing some form of camping ever since we were married some 20 years ago. Recently, my wife has expressed interest in towing a travel trailer of some type, and with that in mind, I have purchased what is today called a midsize pickup truck. The truck’s maximum towing capacity is 7,000 pounds, but I want to limit the trailer to no more than 5,000 pounds dry weight for safety and drivability. We want a trailer with plenty of living space, but we don’t want to contend with a Murphy-style flip-up bed. The best size in a conventional trailer comes to 24 feet and more than 6,000 pounds. That’s more than I want to pull.

What I really want is a fifth-wheel that can be towed by a 2019 Chevy Colorado with a V-6 and a 6-foot-long bed. The only available fifth-wheel for a “compact” truck is much lighter and smaller than I’m looking for and is clearly built to be towed behind a 1990 to 2004 compact truck that is 20 percent smaller in height and width than the modern versions. Is such a trailer as I desire possible, and if not, why?

David Fields | Elkton, Maryland

No trailer is designed for a specific truck model, and although some are a better fit for smaller trucks, they could also be towable by many larger ones. Searching for a fifth-wheel for a modest size truck will narrow your options considerably compared to the number of travel trailers that are out there of a suitable size. A couple of lightweight fifth-wheels to consider in the weight range you are looking for are the 19-foot-long Scamp with a gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) of 3,500 pounds and the 21-foot, 2-inch Escape 5.0TA with a gvwr of 5,500 pounds.

You’ll need to do some basic web searching among manufacturers to see what’s out there. Visits to your local dealers or, better yet, a public RV show, would give you a chance to see and evaluate the floorplan, sleeping arrangement and other details that will help you select the best RV possible for your needs.

For other readers considering this same type of situation, if a fifth-wheel is definitely in your future, you may want to consider starting with at least a 1500-series or half-ton truck, which gives you far more options.

Your plan to select a trailer that’s well under the truck’s tow rating is a good idea. It never hurts to have some extra capacity left when it comes to towing.


COMMENT: DIRECTTV KUDOS

After reading “RVs and HD” in July’s Letters column, I ordered a receiver upgrade from DirecTV for $99. I had gone back to using a portable dish due to the flex antenna (a flat-panel antenna that looks like a PC board on a piece of flexible plastic) going on the blink. DirecTV sent an installer who replaced the existing dish with a larger HD dish and base at no cost. The HD reception is great, as is your magazine! Keep up the good work.

Ralph Martinez | Safford, Arizona

Thank you for your positive comments, Ralph, and for the DirecTV recommendation. It’s always good to hear a supplier and end user success story.


Chalet Roof Leaks

We have owned a Chalet XL 1938 folding trailer since January 2009. We really like the A-frame and ease of towing. However, we have spent a lot of money and time at the RV dealer trying to keep the roof and walls sealed to prevent water damage, with limited success. The companies need to work on a better roof so it is easier to keep water out. Also, with the height of the roof, I cannot do the work myself.

Diana Fritts | Ann Arbor, Michigan

After 10 years any RV’s sealants will need to be inspected and often fully replaced due to weathering and UV-related aging damage. If your local service center has only been patching the problem, that could explain why the leaks keep returning. Almost all RV manufacturers recommend a yearly inspection, and some call for every three months, so keeping a closer eye on that is a good idea.

It’s vitally important for the long-term usability of your trailer to deal with those leaks once and for all to avoid serious water-intrusion damage. The service people will need to fully remove the existing sealants, and I’d also recommend having them remove and reseal the roof vents and accessories, in addition to piling on new sealant on the screw heads and seams. Also, don’t forget side-wall sealants around doors, hatches and windows. Only
a complete job will deal with the leaks in an effective manner.


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.


Man leaning over engine wearing blue shirtJeff 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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