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Old 10-11-2011, 06:31 PM   #1
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Question Custom Built Trailing Wheels?

We are in the process of getting involved with RV camping after a 6 year absence. We want a truck camper this time. We kept our tow vehicle from when we owned our 36 foot HR 5th wheel. It is a 2002 F-350 crewcab, dually, 4x4, with the 7.3 Turbodiesel and a 6 speed manual trans. The truck has a GVWR of 11,500. Dry weight on the truck is 6800 lbs, so that leaves 4300 lbs for people, fuel, gear, and the TC. We also tow a 22 foot boat that weighs 4100 lbs, plus the trailer, which I am guessing weighs around 1500 lbs. The tougue weight is supposed to be around 500 lbs.

We would like to be able to purchase a large camper, like the Lance 1190, however it is a 12 footer, and has a four foot overhang. That camper weighs 3700 lbs dry. I believe that the truck will handle the camper OK, but doubt if it will handle the camper and the boat at the same time.

We have considered a 9 foot camper, such as an Artic Fox 865, and that would make the whole situation much more simple, as we could use an 18 inch hitch extention, and probably will work without any mods to the truck. The 865 weighs 2700 lbs.

The truck has a B&W gooseneck hitch with the 5th wheel companion hitch. My thoughts are to have a local machine shop build a steel platform that connects to the gooseneck hitch, and several other points on the truck for stability. The platform would be 12 feet long and have a trailing axle under the rear part of the unit. The trailing axle would be steerable, with a drag link between the wheels. A set of steering stablizers would relocate the wheels to center for highway travel. Suspension will be air bags, with an air compressor and adjustable control in the cab. The hitch on the truck will have an extention that is supported by the platform for added strength.

The TC will sit on top of the platform, which will be fabrcated from heavy wall two inch steel tubing with a plate steel top.

In the 70's a company called BornFree made a TC that was very large and had a set of non-steerable trailing wheels made to the frame of the camper. The trailing wheels would help to support some of the weight of the camper, plus carry the tongue weight of the boat.

Feedback is appreciated.
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Old 10-11-2011, 10:20 PM   #2
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Don't take this wrong but I think you're nuts.... Buy another 5th wheel, make a swivel trailer to tow your boat and be done with it.... just my 2 cents......
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Old 10-11-2011, 10:41 PM   #3
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Since you have decided on a camper this time around, and I envy you on some points of this decision. I would choose the Arctic Fox. They make a great camper. But the main reason is it is shorter. Pulling a boat with the hitch point 10 feet behind the rear axle could pose a lot of stability problems IMHO. It could already get scary with the shorter camper and a hitch point 6 feet behind the rear axle
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Old 10-12-2011, 06:58 AM   #4
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Don't take this wrong but I think you're nuts.... Buy another 5th wheel, make a swivel trailer to tow your boat and be done with it.... just my 2 cents......
So much for the friendly atmosphere...

A 5th wheel is out of the question for two reasons.

1) We boat/camp in NC, GA, and AL. In AL it is against the law to double tow.

2) We towed a 17 foot bass boat behind a 5th wheel. The rig moved fine up and down the road, however the stress of towing the boat caused extensive damage to the 5th wheel. It happened over time, but it happened all the same. 5th wheels have a frame designed from the factory to haul the weight of the camper and specified amount of gear. The frames are not designed to tow behind. The bass boat is considerabably lighter then the sport cuddy we are towing now.
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Old 10-12-2011, 07:59 AM   #5
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It's still a friendly atmosphere.

So, if I can regurgitate your thoughts on a design... a 12 foot steel frame, acting as a bed extension, with an air ride trailing, steerable axle. It also supports a trailer hitch extension for the boat? The larger camper shell sits on top of this frame. The axle give you additional carrying capacity. Correct?

My worry would not be for the normal towing scenarios on straight and level,but for those occasional but likely times where you encounter uneven surfaces that force the fixed frame downward or upward, beyond the amount of travel allowed by the trailing axle. Say, going over a little steep rail crossing. The truck goes over first OK, then the frame goes up, wheels off the ground, all the carrying capacity of the axle is lost for the moment and strains the frame, possibly damaging it.

Or the reverse scenario where it is a dip instead of a hump. Upward strain on the frame extension, possible overload of the trailing axles capacity...

Or maybe I am over thinking it....(I used to run a small steel fab and welding service, many years ago. Built a few flatbeds for my trucks then.)

safe travels
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Old 10-12-2011, 08:24 AM   #6
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Quote:
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Feedback is appreciated .
Quote:
Originally Posted by gcsprayjr View Post
So much for the friendly atmosphere....
With all respect, are you looking for feedback, or are you looking for 100% support for your proposed kluge? Part of an informed decision-making process is to take ALL the input that you've asked for and use it in making your final decision to proceed or not. If your objective evaluation leads you to conclude that some of that input is inaccurate or not applicable, then you are certainly free to disregard it. If a reader has concerns and doesn't share them, then he/she isn't really doing you a service, as uncomfortable as his/her comments may be to hear. If, on the other hand, you're looking solely for enablement to proceed, you might want to frame your request for feedback somewhat differently.

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Old 10-12-2011, 08:53 AM   #7
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So much for the friendly atmosphere...

A 5th wheel is out of the question for two reasons.

1) We boat/camp in NC, GA, and AL. In AL it is against the law to double tow.

2) We towed a 17 foot bass boat behind a 5th wheel. The rig moved fine up and down the road, however the stress of towing the boat caused extensive damage to the 5th wheel. It happened over time, but it happened all the same. 5th wheels have a frame designed from the factory to haul the weight of the camper and specified amount of gear. The frames are not designed to tow behind. The bass boat is considerabably lighter then the sport cuddy we are towing now.
I was trying to be of help. If you look up a swivel wheel trailer it attaches to the frame of the 5th wheel and becomes part of the 5th wheel and is not considered a double tow. A small 5th wheel would be more comfortable, more versatile and safer.

The swivel wheel trailer would be much easier to build and a more proven way to do what you wish to do.....
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Old 10-12-2011, 05:15 PM   #8
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Talking

It was the "nuts" comment that I was reacting to, and I was being a smart a**. Sorry.

Everyone makes valid points! Thanks for the feedback.

The purpose of the tag axle is not to take load off of the rear axle, but to prevent an overbalance from the excessive overhang, preventing the front axle from loosing traction with the highway. The rear axle is plenty strong enough to support the weight, however the overhang will make the rig over weight in the rear, and underweight in the front. Using air bags instead of springs should leave plenty of room for the axle to travel as the truck negotiates rough spots in the road. It will not work off road. We watched a large bus type motorhome make a sharp turn yesterday at a traffic light. He was towing a large car trailer with a car and a motorcycle on board. As he made the turn he lifted the rear tag axle completely off of the highway. This caused the rear of the bus to squat significantly, but did not seem to hurt anything. In this position with the tag axle clearing the ground, the bus was safe to make a low speed turn, but would probably handle awful on the highway.

Many years ago I worked in the RV industry. I was the go-to guy for warrently issues that the dealers could not fix, and the factory was perplexed about. I have seen some strange stuff happen to RV's, and have seem people make some messed up stuff that should not be on the highway.
I am not going to put something unsafe on the road.

At an RV convention I watched an engineer make a wager that he could make a crewcab dually Chevy lift the front wheels with a 12 foot camper loaded on it. We thought he was crazy. He started off slow, gunned the engine a couple of times to get the front to dive and lift. The third time, the truck bottomed out, but when it lifted the front wheels left the pavement briefly. The problems with large campers causing trucks to become tail heavy is nothing new, and affects many rigs on the road today.

Another option would be a Pullrite hitch, that moves the pivot point to just behind the rear axle, shifting the tongue weight forward towards the axle. We are thinking about this type if hitch if we go for the 9.5 camper, and this my be the best way to handle the issue.
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Old 10-12-2011, 07:57 PM   #9
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We had first hand experience with a BornFree truck camper years ago. We bought a 72 Chevy C-20 Custom Camper Special truck. The truck was fitted with a HD full floating rear axle, rear leaf springs, HD brakes, cooling, 10 ply tires, and split rims. We bought a 10 foot self-contained slide in camper, and the truck hauled it perfectly. The standard C-20 came with a wishbone suspension with coil springs, so the Camper Special model was a significant upgrade. As our family grew, we decided to get a larger camper, but keep the same truck. We traded the 10 foot slide in for a Franklin 12 foot slide in that was significantly heavier. I did not know much about camper weights and the sales person told me that my truck would haul the large camper without any problems. The 12 footer flattened out the truck springs and set it on the rubber limiters on the frame. I struggled to get the camper home and off loaded in the yard. the dealer said tough going. I set out to try and beef up the truck, but it was a loosing battle. I sold the camper to a fellow with a crewcab dually. I stumbled onto a deal for a used BornFree. If any of you have ever seen one they are more like a truck body then a slide in camper. The BornFree has a steel frame, and the base of the camper is 14 feet from the back of the truck cab to the end of the bumper. The camper sits in the bed, but bolts to the chassis like a truck body. The camper has a set of fixed trailing wheels, that adjust to the height of the truck with a bolt that sets a camber on each side.The C 20 sat nice and level with the BornFree, and the trailing wheels eliminated the light front axle problem that occurs with most large slide in campers. The rig drove like it was on rails, and was very stable on the highway. It even had a rear tire blowout on the truck at one time, and the trailing wheels kept the rig straight. I had a new set of Michlin X type E rated radials, and the tire store installed them with bias tubes. The tubes made friction inside of the tires, and caused one to fail. The store replaced all four and installed the correct tubes in them. the trailing axle used a 14 inch 10 ply tire, and it was rough on the tires. The only problem with the BornFree is turning. The tag axle was rigid and it tried to keep the truck straight when turning in tight quarters. Another problem that I had was going through a campground and got into a mud hole. The trailing axle was hauling so much weight that the rear tire on the truck would spin, but get no traction. So no, it was not perfect. The BornFree was stout enough to allow towing a small boat from the bumper, however the weight was restricted to 2K total. All in all, it was a nice camper, very large and roomy. The trailing axle made the difference, and the camper was always stable on the highway. That is where this idea came from.
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Old 10-12-2011, 09:04 PM   #10
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I'm not trying to make fun of you or put you down in any way. I love out of the box thinking. But...

Why not make your life simple and buy a class C or class B and tow your boat? I had a class A and wanted to have a car and my motorcycle too. The only answer was a dual tow dolly. The class A got only 7 mpg and was costly to maintain. The dual tow system would be big $$ and would lower my mpg even more.

I sold it all and got a diesel dually and a 5th wheel. 12 mpg and lower costs. To haul my motorcycle and a gen I'm building a swivel trailer ($1,600) that attaches to the back of the 5th wheel and acts like part of the frame. (an extension like you want to make) Simple solutions for simple problems. (this may even work for your setup)

Your Rube Goldburg engineering may work or may not but all the time and effort may wind up in vane and then you have nothing. I love out of the box thinking until it becomes absurd. To add a slide in, plate steel, frame, steering axles and all the other stuff you would need seems like a lot of extra weight, time, money, energy and engineering way over your head when there is a better simpler solution... How many mpg do you think you would get even if it all works? And what would it cost you?

Another idea is one I already did. cut your truck frame in front of your rear axle and extend it 4' - 6'. This would give you the extra length you need for the camper and would solve a few problems... but you will still wind up with 4 - 6 mpg....
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Old 10-12-2011, 10:44 PM   #11
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Billieg, thanks for your interest and for the suggestions. They are good ones. I have thought about a class C. A decent used 20 to 22 footer on a Ford E-350 chassis with a 460 BB, or a V-10 will make an awsome tow vehicle. In that size range the chassis will not have been modified, or if it has maybe just a bumper extension. The only drawback is that most of them have a 3:55axle, but that can be changed easily enough. I also considered a 22-24 class A. Back in the day the 22 footers used a modified step van chassis, with a 454, Turbo 475, and a 4:56 gear. They were wicked fast and had plenty of extra towing capicity for a 7K load. The overhang past the rear axle was minimal. The problem with all of those ideas is that it is another engine and running gear to maintain. Another insurance payment, and something else to depreciate. We are covered up with vehicles as is. A TC is something you haul like cargo, and does not require all of the extra costs as a motorhome. I have owned my F-350 since it was new. It has never been a DD. I have a car for that, and an Expedition for winter driving. The fuel economy on the 7.3's are good, and the engines are trouble free. With the six speed manual the truck averages 20 MPG empty. It averages 17 MPG with the boat and 15 MPG with the race car trailer. With the 36 foot 5th wheel it also averaged 15 MPG. The truck is stored in the garage, and is dealer maintained. It has 42K miles on it, and is just like brand new. I want to use what I already own. I even considered towing the boat with the Expy and towing another 5th wheel with the dually. The problem is that there is no one available to drive the second vehicle. My wife has early onset dementia, and is not able to drive a vehicle on the highway towing something. It would be asking for a problem. She loves to go boating and likes camping, but is scared to death if asked to drive anything. A friend of mine hauls a Lance 1190 on a truck exactly like mine except his has an automatic transmission. He does not tow anything behind it, and the truck has no special equipment added. The truck sits nice and level with the camper, and drives great. The 7.3 L engine is a heavy chunk of iron, and those trucks are very rear end light/nose heavy to start with. With just the camper, it seems to be balanced well. It may be that I will be best to look for a short camper between 8 and 9 1/2 feet. I can add a PullRite hitch, and the package should be fine. A PullRite puts the tongue weight and pivot point at just behind the rear axle on the truck. The truck will still be carrying 500 lbs under GVWR with camper, hitch weight, fuel, water, gear, and people. PullRite has a SAFER, STRONGER, BETTER designed hitch for you
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Old 10-13-2011, 11:07 PM   #12
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You just need a smaller camper, those 1190's look like a snail on an ant, better to have a smaller camper and the boat or a smaller boat.
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Old 10-13-2011, 11:34 PM   #13
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You are right. We will look at campers in the 8 foot to 9 1/2 size range. The Artic Fox 950 has a generator option and weighs 2300 & 2700 dry, depending on options. Another reason for wanting a TC instead of a motorhome is that I can lower the TC onto a dolly, and roll it inside of the garage. The boat is a different story. The boat is my big boy toy or "baby" as the wife puts it. It is a 1990 Mach I 22-4 Sport Cuddy with a Mercury 7.4 Liter Bravo 1. The engine has some performance mods done. It has a tiny cabin, but looks like a runabout on the outside. It is actually a sport boat and is very sleek and sporty like a Checkmate. It is capable of running 56.9 GPS with the high pitched prop and will tow four on the salom with the ski prop. The rig has low hours and is garage kept, and it stays regardless of what sort of camper we buy. The reason we want to tow this boat is we go to poker runs and camp lakeside. I do have the option of towing my other boat, a 17 foot pro-bass rig that is considerabably lighter then the sport cuddy. I would be the only one at the poker run with a fishing boat...
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Old 10-15-2011, 12:21 AM   #14
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I e-mailed Gary, a customer service rep at Lance campers, and he told me that my truck will carry the largest Lance camper made, the 1190, and tow the boat without any problems. He has the same truck, hauls an 1190, and tows a 5500 lb boat on a dead weight hitch. He says that he has been hauling the camper and towing the boat for years and and it does fine. He recommended that I add Super Springs helper springs to the rear of the truck and upgrade the shocks, but otherwise it will not need mods. He agreed that the PullRite hitch system will be a nice addition to the truck, especially towing the 7K race car trailer.
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