Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The New Truck Tonneau Cover

I decided I wanted a tonneau cover for the new truck to not only keep things put in the bed dry, but also keep water, leaves, acorns and other assorted trash from collecting in the bed of the truck. We had some rain a few days ago and since the truck rear is a bit higher than the front it had collected about 2-3 inches of water in the front of the bed.  This water comes pouring out the back of the bed once the truck is put in motion going forward.

After several hours of research on the web I decided I would buy a premium tonneau cover from one of the oldest makers in the USA (yes, the cover is made in the USA).  I picked the number one selling tonneau cover in the USA--the Truxedo Lo Pro QT (South Dakota).  To make absolutely sure I got the correct unit for my truck I ordered it by phone from Tonneau Covers, a division of AutoCustoms.  I stressed to them that I had to receive it this week because I was going out of town next week (RV trip) and they said it would not be a problem getting it to me this week.  Being a premium cover it was not inexpensive at $534 (with sales tax included), but the shipping was free and FAST!  I ordered it Monday and it arrived the next day!  All Truxedo products have a lifetime (original owner) warranty and from reading many, many reviews this cover should last a long time and Truxedo's warranty service is reported as being outstanding!

It was quick and easy to install.  I think it took me about 10 minutes to install it and maybe another 10-15 minutes to make any adjustments.  Two side rails go on easily with three clamps each.  No drilling.

I really like it.  Here are some pictures.  It looks great on the truck and since I have a locking tailgate is fairly secure, since the tailgate has to be opened to access the latch.

This is a roll up cover and a big plus is that if I need to transport something in the bed higher than the bed rails the cover can be easily rolled up to the front of the bed and secured with a couple of straps.  For that matter the cover can easily be removed entirely by sliding back the latch on each side.

It takes all of about 30 seconds to roll the tonneau cover to the front and secure the two clip on straps and about that long to unstrap it, roll it back down, latch it, then snug the sides on the Velcro strips nice and tight.

I am looking forward to some rain so I can see how dry the inside stays.  ;-)  

UPDATE 11/29/15:  After a few fairly light rains the inside has stayed nice and dry.

Monday, November 23, 2015

2015 December Trip to St. George's Island State Park

Our next trip is planned for 11/30/15 - 12/3/15.  We have campsite # 052 reserved for three nights at St. George's Island State Park.  This will be our first actual pull with the new truck (described in an earlier post) and I believe this will be a very improved pull over the old Jeep Grand Cherokee--plenty more power, longer wheelbase, etc., etc..

The plan is to pull the trailer out of the storage facility Saturday, 11/28/15 and bring it home to prep it for the trip.  Part of the prep includes checking all the systems to make sure all is okay, draining the fresh water tank and filling it about a third full, since although we will have electric and water hookups at the campground we always like to carry a little of our own water "just in case."  Of course, we will also stock it with food, clothes, etc.

I have a Truxedo Low Pro QT Tonneau cover ordered for the new truck.  Besides protecting stuff in the truck bed from the elements it's supposed to also increase fuel economy by 5%-10%.  It is supposed to arrive this week.

I also ordered a small electric heater to use in the trailer.  Since we will be paying for the electrical hookup at the campground anyway we might as well do any heating using it instead of burning our propane by using the trailer's onboard furnace, should we need any heat.

Anyway, we will have it all ready to hook up and head out Monday morning fairly early.  More to come.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Trailer Improvements since the big trip

During the month-long trip described earlier we came up with several improvements we wanted to make to the trailer easier to use.  A few we made during the trip, but others had to wait until we returned.

The first thing after returning home was removing all the leftover food, clothes, etc., from the trailer and clean it thoroughly inside and out.  I also touched up the black paint on the hitch.

The first improvement item was to install an electric tongue jack.  Why?  Because there is a LOT of manual cranking involved to either attach the trailer to the hitch or remove it from the hitch.  Some of the additional manual cranking is to install or deinstall the WDH (Weight Distribution Hitch) bars.

Here are some pictures and a video of the new electric, 3,500 lb rated tongue jack.

The next thing we did was knock out one of the upper cabinet panels and partition it off from the door side.  I install a higher lip to keep things from falling out while we are in transit.  This improvement makes frequently used kitchen items much handier to access.  I did the wood working part and Jeri did an excellent job of staining things to match the existing cabinets.  The finished product looks almost as if it came from the factory that way.  Sorry, but I have no pictures of the work yet and the trailer is in storage at the moment.

In order to save time and trouble when getting the trailer ready to go camping and putting it back in storage I ordered and installed a battery cutoff switch.  Why?  Because after several days in storage, if the battery is fully hooked up, the propane sensor (always on) and always on entertainment front panel, etc., run the battery down.

Here are a couple of pictures.  When we put it in storage I can easily remove the knob in the off position to make it difficult, if not impossible, for someone to turn it on.

Closeup of the switch
And the last thing we did a couple of days ago was trade in our trusty 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 5.7L Hemi with 131,000 miles for a 2013 Ford F150 Platinum 145" wheelbase Supercrew 4x4 with the 3.5L Ecoboost (twin turbochargers) engine and Max Towing package.  Here are some pictures of the new brute.

The "new to us" F150 had just over 16,000 miles on it and is totally and fully loaded with all the gadgetry, to include awesome stereo, usb ports, built in Class IV hitch and electric brake control, 110v/150W inverter a/c outlet, heated and cooled leather seats, backup camera, 8" navigation and entertainment screen, Ford's Microsoft "Sync" system (in car phone and phone apps, music, etc.), power sunroof, power mirrors for both adjustment and trailer-towing extension (make wider), power adjustable steering wheel telescoping and tilt, and a whole host of other goodies, including power running boards that extend automatically when a door is opened and close automatically when a door is closed.

The truck is awesome!!  I adjusted the hitch ball height yesterday and today we went to storage and hooked up the trailer and tweaked the weight distribution links to make sure it tows the trailer with both the truck and the trailer level.  It's nearly perfect, but Thursday I am taking it up to the Camping World in St. Augustine to have them double-check my work, make any necessary adjustments and properly torque the hitch bolts.

We did make a couple of large loops around the storage facility while towing the trailer and I couldn't even tell it was back there.  Brutus is a BEAST!

[UPDATE 11/9/15]:  I did pull the trailer up to Camping World to have them check my hitch set up and they it was good.  They also tighten the hitch bolts a bit.  No charge for the work. The new truck towed the trailer like a dream.  I hardly knew it was back there.  I did not use the anti-sway friction bar and had absolutely no sway issues, even when big semis blasted by me.  I experimented with tow speeds of 60-65 mph (trailer "ST" tires are speed rated at 65 mph) and the F150 Ecoboost towed it effortlessly.  I will say that the computer was saying I was getting around 8-8.5 mpg and I did expect a bit better than that.

Regarding not using the sway control--I posted details and questions about this on the IRV2 web forum and the consensus of opinion was the anti-sway bar provides an extra measure of safety protection that I should strongly consider using when pulling at highway speeds.  So, I will use it going forward.  

One might ask, "Bill, why would you prefer not to use it?"  That is a good question.  The reason is because you are not supposed to back up, at least not at any more than a few degrees of turning while backing up with the anti-sway bar on because it can damage it, I guess.  So, when it comes time to back into the driveway at home, a campsite, or anywhere, I have to get out of the truck and remove the bar.  Not a real big deal, but an extra thing to do.

Something that a few responders to my blog questions suggested was putting a better hitch on the truck than the one Camping World put on the Jeep.  I will definitely upgrade it if we decide to get a bigger trailer at some point and am considering it for our current trailer, but these things cost from $500-$1000 or more.

 The "new" rig hooked up