TC Technical Stuff

This post (mostly for my brother who wants a TC) is about the technical side of purchasing and matching a truck and camper. Its not all totally accurate information, but the general idea is there. After looking at all of our options and already owning a motorhome and 5th wheel in the past, we decided that the TC was the best option for us. We wanted something small, 4 wheel drive and when we got somewhere, we could drop the camper as a home base and use the truck for transportation around town. I also new when we got done traveling full time we would still have a good truck for daily use. I spent about a year researching trucks and campers. We (meaning Sandy) decided on which camper she wanted and then I matched the truck that would handle it.

The truck has to be able to handle the load of the camper, to include power, handling, braking, sway, etc. All three of the main manufacturer's easily have these characteristics, however, I chose a Ford F450 due to its GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of 14,000 lbs.

 GVWR label

GVWR label

To figure out how much weight you can carry, you need to subtract what the truck weighs from the 14,000 lbs and you have the weight of the camper you can put on it. Usually on the drivers door or on the lower part of the cab near the b-pillar is a sticker that displays the psi at which you should keep your tires. Also on that sticker is a "total weight" that can be added to the truck. This "total weight" means everything else besides your truck.  You, your dog, the camper, beer, maybe your wife, etc. Never, ever, ever listen to a sales person about how much your truck can carry because they don't know! :)  You can also subtract this "total weight" from the 14,000 lbs and you now have your truck weight.

 Total weight you can add to your truck.

Total weight you can add to your truck.

I was going to originally buy a Ford F550, (GVWR is significantly higher) but unless you special order one, they only come in a cab/chassis configuration, which means no bed. I was then going to have a custom service body built for it (because I thought we would need the extra compartment space) which is typically what a plumber or A/C guy would use. However, they started about $15,000 and go up from there. :(  If I could do it over and I had more time, I would have ordered one from the factory with a bed. Oh well, live and learn.

One of the other main things with the truck is length of bed. The 8' bed is necessary if you're going to get a larger camper.

Once I had the truck, I took off the tailgate and added a rubber bed liner. DO NOT use a plastic bed liner. The rubber bed liner keeps the camper from sliding front and back and protects the bottom of the camper while in the bed. I also took off the rear bumper so I could get to the spare tire without taking off the camper.

To keep the camper from sliding forward or backward you connect it using brackets (tiedowns) that mount to the truck chassis and turnbuckles that connect between the tiedowns and the camper. Whatever turnbuckles you use, make sure they have some flex in them and you don't over tighten them,  otherwise you'll rip the bracket off at the camper if you hit a big enough pot hole!  :(  The mass of these large campers is what keeps them in the truck bed, not the turnbuckles and tiedowns. I chose Torklift Tiedowns and Torklift Fastgun Turnbuckles.

I also installed Firestone airbags to the rear axle for leveling the truck after placing the camper on it. Airbags are only for leveling your vehicle. They DO NOT add anything to your ability to carry additional weight. To inflate/deflate them you can add an on board air compressor, but, I chose not to due to cost. I fill them with a portable air compressor I keep with me. To keep your truck level when you fill the airbags, I measure between the top of the rear tire rim and the bottom of the wheel well on both sides. I believe most people just fill both airbags to the same psi, but the drivers side of my camper is heavier and takes additional pressure.

Tired Yet??? I am!  OK, almost done with the truck. Most all new heavy duty trucks have what's called a leaf spring pack and upper/lower overloads on the rear axle. When you drive your truck with no load the leaf pack (which are all next to each other), handle the day to day rear suspension. However, when you add additional weight to the rear, the upper/lower overloads come into play giving you two additional leaf springs (upper/lowers) for your suspension needs. When you place the heavy camper on the truck it makes the upper/lower springs come into play. However, when I use the airbags to level out the truck so that it handles better, the upper/lower springs are now not being used. So what I installed was Torklifts Upper/Lower overloads that make those two additional springs work all time when the truck is on the camper and the airbags are filled. These upper/lower overloads by Torklift really make a difference with handling of the truck. I would recommend them for anyone that hauls a travel trailer, 5th wheel or carries larger loads. They're easy to install and really inexpensive for what you get.

I'm not gonna talk about maintenance or any other crap because this has turned out to be a lot like work when I had to bid spec fire engines! UGH!!! Anyways, if you read this far and are still awake, you're obviously a little nuts! Maybe one day I'll talk about the camper or not.