Saturday, April 9, 2016

Which Came First, the Truck or the Camper? or Fishing for Bolts

My truck came first. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I bought a truck. I thought that truck was the most beautiful thing I had seen (except for SWMBO, that stands for She Who Must Be Obeyed of course). I also thought it could tow the Titanic and carry fifteen sumo wrestlers with room for more. Boy, was I mistaken!

Turns out that all these pick up trucks on the market, used and new vary considerably in their ability to carry sumo wrestlers or any other payloads of consequence. It all depends on a complex ratio of truck weights and factory capacities... and how much you want to play within the rules. So my advice to those who are seeking the holy grail of truck camper freedom should do due diligence and copious amounts of research until their eyes glaze over and they have an epiphany: My truck's probably not big enough!

So the question becomes, "What can I do to my truck so that I don't crash and burn at the first stoplight upon leaving the dealership loaded with a new camper?" Allow me to chronicle the events of my efforts to solve this truck camper (TC, remember?) conundrum.

Today -- Tie Downs
Tie downs are the things that keep the beast in the bed of the truck and restrain it from any untoward false moves that may cause damage or injury. These come in three distinct varieties. Happijac brand, Torklift brand, and DIY brand. The DIY is not a good solution for those of us who care a thing about liability and culpability while the entire rig is careening down the road, so that leaves us with the two commercially available brands -- there may be others but they were not available at my dealer and they had to written into the note, ergo my choices were limited.

I selected the Torklifts because they had such a loyal following online. not because they were the most expensive and I like to throw money away. They are made specific to truck model and bolt directly onto the truck frame resulting in a very, very strong attachment, virtually guaranteeing something else will break first when you have a problem. Sounds okay to me!

Tonight I got home and the Brown Truck had dropped off three boxes. Inside were the Torklift tie downs, so I immediately got to work installing them on my 2006 Ford F350.

The rear ones mated right into the factory hitch ends. I did need to use a file to clean the inside of the hitch tubes before they allowed the tie down mounting tube to seat properly. Time for rear: ten minutes.

The passenger front side mounting plate went on in less than ten minutes as well. Piece of cake.

The driver's side frame mount was evil incarnate. Of the three large bolts used, one must be fished between the fuel tank and the frame. It has a metal plate and large star washer on it to make things even more interesting. The fish wire provided by TorkLift is an ingenious device that I shall keep, but I cursed it tonight.

If there were no other truck parts in the way it would have been pretty easy. However behind the frame (or inside it really) runs a wiring harness and two aluminum (fuel?) lines. This took me about 3-4 hours to get the bolt to slide by. Many coarse words were uttered and my arms and neck are completely worn out. Eventually I was able to leverage the wires and lines out of the way to allow that fool-headed star washer to pass by and let the bolt seat properly. A telescoping magnet helped me recover all the hardware when it got lost in the frame periodically. It is VERY tight around the frame and fuel tank in that location.

Then I was able to finagle the mounting plate into position only to find that the bolt holes were slightly off, so I had to file some metal away for a tight fit. Getting that plate in there without pushing the fished bolt back into truck frame neverland was tricky. I ended up with several flat washers extra but I have no idea where they go. I now understand why TL keeps the driver's side front mount last in the assembly sequence. If most people ran into that much trouble first thing there would be a large amount of returns!

Anyway, it is now installed and I look forward to camper delivery next week. Next time I might just pay the exorbitant shop fee -- lesson learned. I do appreciate the heavy build and apparent strength of the system. It is no wonder they hold campers so securely. This stuff is really strong. Heavy too. I will not be worried after torquing down the bolts to 40 ft-lbs. If something tries to take the camper off the truck it will definitely be the camper that gives out first.

I will receive my StableLoads early next week. I ordered both upper and lower models. We'll see how easily they go on and I will follow-up with a review of the entire TorkLift system after we load the camper and drive back from Boise. It's a 4 hour trip so we will both get a chance to check it out. It will be a good test of interstate roads and windy areas. In a couple months I should have enough data to comment on how it handles the Idaho forest service roads. 

Update: I found out why I ended up with a bunch of extra flat washers. They are now in their proper positions on the truck. Sometimes it doesn't pay to work really late when you're tired. Now the wait for the suspension mods to arrive.

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to reading your truck camper blogs future stories. Thanks for the write up.