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Old 06-11-2013, 04:11 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 77
New to RVing not Sure About Towing

We have tent camped over the years but I'm getting a little old to sleep on the ground. Well actually sleeping is pretty easy its the getting up that's getting harder. So we have decide to take a look at getting an RV. I have been looking at Class C's and TT's. I have a 2005 Chevy Suburban with a towing package. I like the floor plans of many TT's. I know my Suburban can handle the towing but I've never towed anything so I'm a little concerned about that. I'm also not interested in going into debt so our funds are a little limited. We've been looking at used campers but to be honest I'm not really sure what to look for. I'm semi-retired and pretty handy with tools so I'm not opposed to a fixer upper. So here are my questions:

What should I look for when inspecting a camper?
What questions should I ask the owner?
What are the pros and cons of a travel trailer?
How hard or easy is towing a TT over long distances?
How hard is it to refurbish a camper?

Thank You, Rob

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Old 06-11-2013, 06:32 PM   #2
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The maximum Towing Capacity of a 2005 Chevy Suburban is 8,400 lbs. That is a travel trailer loaded with food, gear, propane and water. Keep this in mind when looking at light travel trailers.
In selecting a type of TT, you have the choice of Pop-up, box and toy hauler. You must decide on which style fits your family best, and then begin your search.

IMHO Your best bargain is buying a light TT within 5 years age from a private party.

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Old 06-11-2013, 06:39 PM   #3
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The two biggest things to look for in an older camper are underneath on the frame and leaks from the roof. If the caulking on the roof looks like it could leak, i would walk away. Look for signs of leaks inside like discolored ceilings and look in cabinets up top to see if you spot any leaks. Smell inside the cabinets as well for leaks. Travel trailers can last a very long time when well maintained, which usually means recaulking the roof every few years, but people tend to neglect that chore. Unfortunately they don't fair as well as houses when it leaks, they tend to rot fall apart inside the walls.

Underneath, look for rust on the frame, axles and such. I'm sure you know what to look for there, pretty much same as you would a car.

As for towing. It's not that hard if you get an aerodynamic smaller trailer. You pretty much just drive as normal most of the time and the trailer will follow. Backing up takes a little practice but can be mastered in an afternoon. You sort of just turn the wheel opposite of going forward, and make smaller incremental changes.

If you don't plan on taking kids, i would get something smaller, like less than 20 foot. Taking one of those across the country on the open highway is like nothing. Just drive.
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:03 PM   #4
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We camped in tents for years and got our tt 3yrs ago and love it (it was used about 5yrs old).

I agree with checking for signs of water damage including walls and floors that feel "soft" or appear wavy/ wrinkled.
Also check the operation of all the appliances, fridge, furnace, a/c, water heater and Convertor/inverter, awning, etc. (can be fixed but nice to know before you buy).

Look at lots of TT's and get a idea of what you do and don't like. Floor plans, features,

When you settle on one make sure the bearings, brakes, tires are all in good shape.

Also a weight distributing hitch is a good idea.
And you will need a brake control.

As far as towing goes, no big deal, on your first couple of pulls take back roads, off hwy and get a feel for it and how the brakes are adjusted.

Big parking lots are a great place to get some practice backing up. (Less trees too get around ).
I'm sure I missed a bunch.

Lots of other learning will happen as you go.
Good luck
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Old 06-11-2013, 07:12 PM   #5
Join Date: Aug 2011
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I have had two keystones and love them, so I favor keystone products, a nice 24' keystone passport weighs around 4760 empty so with traveling it tows easy. Also recommend using weight distribution hitch, this helps with the sway and weight control.
If you have kids, then go a little bigger like the keystone outback. I now have the 312bh model and love the back for the kids room and I have a total outdoor kitchen.
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Old 06-14-2013, 08:31 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Jhuff8181 View Post
I have a 2005 Chevy Suburban with a towing package.
The problem with the Suburban is you can either haul a load of passengers and gear, or tow a tandem-axle trailer that grosses up to around 6,000 pounds, but not both at the same time without being overloaded.

So your first step is to determine how much unused payload capacity you have available for hitch weight, divide that available hitch weight by 0.15 and the answer is the maximum GVWR of any TT you should consider.

To determine how much unused payload capacity you have available for hitch weight, load the SUV with all the people, pets, tools, spare parts and anything else that will be in the SUV when towing. Drive to a truck stop that has a truck scale or CAT scale and fill up with gas. Then weigh the wet and loaded SUV, including driver. Add 50 pounds to that weight if you didn't include the weight-distributing hitch head when you weighed the SUV.

Subtract that wet and loaded weight from the GVWR of the Suburban. (The GVWR is on the door sticker, where the tire info is located). The answer is the maximum hitch weight you can have without overloading the Suburban.

Properly loaded and set up TTs will have about 12% to 15% hitch weight. So use 15% to reduce the probability that you'll be overloaded when on the road. And don't play the game of using dry trailer weight or dry hitch weight for any estimates. Use the GVWR of the trailer as the probable weight of the TT, and 15% of the GVWR as the probable wet and loaded hitch weight after you've been on a few camping trips.

How hard is it to refurbish a camper?
The "trailer" part is no harder than refurbishing an old car. The "house" part is no harder than refurbishing a house. But you cannot use Home Depot or Lowe's for replacement parts and appliances. RV stuff is different, so you have to buy almost everything from an RV supply source, such as Camping World or ETrailer.com. Plumbing is plumbing, so if you can fix the plumbing in your house then you can fix it in an RV, but the pipes and connections and fixtures will probably be special RV stuff. Delta faucets from Lowe's will NOT be a bolt-in replacement for the faucet in your RV. Electrical is electrical, but RVs have only a little 120 volt AC and a lot of 12 volt DC, so you have to be able to handle the 6-volt stuff as well as the 120 volt stuff.

Appliances are usually special RV appliances, so if the AC or water heater or furnace goes out you have to replace it with an RV unit which Home Depot doesn't carry. My house is heated with propane, so I'm familiar with a propane furnace and water heater. But unless you live in the sticks, propane is probably new to you. It's similar to - but not the same as - natural gas. But it's no "harder" to work on or replace than natural gas plumbing and appliances in your home.

Grumpy ole man with over 50 years towing experience. Now my heaviest trailer is a 7,000-pound enclosed cargo trailer, RV is a 5,600 pound Skyline Nomad Joey 196S, and my tow vehicle is a 2012 F-150 3.5L EcoBoost SuperCrew.
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