Live And Learn
The prior (and first) “adventure trip” up to a remote campsite involving a difficult climb and descent from my dream campsite on BLM land near Wickenburg, Arizona prompted a routine check of the camper mounts, which hold the camper to the truck bed floor. It’s routine because after the camper is installed, you’re supposed to check the mounts for tension a few times over the next several hundred miles.
While fumbling around to access a wrench and screwdriver, I noticed that the rear of the camper was no longer centered in the bed – but the front of the camper was. Hmm. Not good. What was the situation with the mounts? A tension check of the rear mounts showed that the driver’s side mount was a little loose, which was odd because that’s the side with the extra gap. The passenger-side mount was tight – and one of the two hooks on the mount had straightened under stress. Hmm again.
Something basic was wrong, the camper now being set diagonally in the bed, and held in tension to remain that way. I’d noticed that the camper was actually rocking in the bed on my slow crawl down a nasty section of trail, because the Mighty Furd’s suspension was aggressively tipping from side to side despite my slow speed. The weight of the camper slows down the speed of this motion quite a bit, but not the range of motion. I’d expected some rocking, since the mounts lead to big forged eyelets in the bed floor, not the frame rails. So the bed is going to deform a bit, like it or not. But what I saw was more than I figured it would be. Then, after the clothes rod in the back of the cab tore out a mount on the main descent from the mountain, it underscored the combined effect of momentum and stiff springs.
I tried Vise-Grips on the stretched hook to crunch it back to shape, but they didn’t have the reach. A pair of Channellocks had the reach, but not the horsepower. Ultimately, it came down to a 32-oz hammer and a large rock to serve as an anvil. Meanwhile, I was a’thinkin’. Four Wheel had transitioned to forged steel bed eyelets a few years ago because they would occasionally stretch oval under duress – in Toyotas. End of problem, at least until I came along. That improvement apparently transferred the weak link status to the hooks. But a quest for beefier hooks might just remove the safety valve protecting the camper’s welded aluminum frame, and the Super Duty’s frame and bed in my long wheelbase version undeniably allow twist, which in a dream world would not be forced onto the camper structure. This twist is probably aggravated by the truck’s snow plow option, which uprates the front springs further. The Grandby’s frame is built to allow twist, but how much is too much?
But back to today’s actual problem: how to best get the rear of the camper centered again so that all four mounts can once again be tightened down properly? I figured that if I tightened up the driver’s-side mount, left the passenger-side mount a little loose and located some washboard road having a crown with the proper tilt, that the camper’s rear might jiggle its way left. Then play with the mounts for more shifting, and repeat until centered. Not the best way to do it, but what other option did I have?
I called the dealer to bounce this approach off him, my call was forwarded to Mario, one of two co-owners of Adventure Trailer. He happened to be trying to drive in a storm across Colorado at the time, and pulled over to talk since the rain was “going sideways” anyway. His preference was less hillbilly and more professional. “You can try that, but really, the best way to do it is to bring it in and get it set properly in the bed. We’ll be happy to do that for you.” He seemed genuinely surprised that a mount hook bent, since this is not exactly the first 3/4-ton truck ever to carry an FWC. He was also uneasy with leaving it in service, since once things like that bend, the second time is easier. “We’ll replace that,” he said. I think he accepted that I really had been easing slowly over the obstacles, as opposed to doing my version of the Baja 1000. My sincerest hope is that the rear of the camper can be shoved over without having to lift it or start over, which would again require me to free up the jack mounts and/or remove batteries! Shoving is no issue with stock beds, but Line-X and similar urethane bed coatings increase grip a lot. Since rain is forecast on my appointment day (and surrounding days), well, scattering cargo box contents in order to remove it and get it out of the way would not be the very best, either.
At the moment, it’s a stumper. Hopefully, it’s the result of something going wrong during the reinstall, or a substandard mount. He did suggest that my combo might benefit from lowering tire pressures well below the 70-PSI street pressures I normally run, when attempting such things. That doesn’t make the ride exactly billowy, since the resulting safe low pressure is 25 PSI – just a few pounds below the common street pressures for cars and 1/2-ton trucks. It does tend to decrease the odds of tire damage (unless you lower pressures too far), though I must then also be mindful that this is for low speeds only – I’m already above GVWR, and trying to hot dog it on 25 PSI will bring the sudden tire overloading to my attention pretty quickly.
No small thing is that it’ll take me perhaps a half-hour or more to air the tires back up once the rough stuff is over and higher speeds than 15-20 MPH are required, so impulse driving trips into town for party hats and a pound of lard will need a little more justification than whim. But that’s what the e-bike and trailer are for, no?