Are You Ready?

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Are You Ready to Tow?

by

Bob (Ram) Muessig


     "Weíre taking an early retirement. We found a great deal on a 32í fifth-wheel trailer and have decided to become full-timers. Our ¼ ton pickup is only a year old, so weíre going to keep it. Does anyone have any places in mind that you would suggest for us to visit?"

     The above paragraph states something that is all too common nowadays. Folks decide to go full-time when they have absolutely no idea...not a clue...as to what theyíre letting themselves in for. Letís translate the above. "Weíre taking an early retirement." OK, fine. That means youíve got enough money to quit work if you want to without having to worry about where the next meal is going to come from. But the next two statements give cause to believe that you are most definitely headed for trouble. Just what does a "great deal" mean? Good rig at a reasonable price? Or some brand-X rig thatís just plain cheap? And that ¼ ton pickup you plan on using to tow it...have you checked the tow rating? Do you really think that a pickup like that will tow a 32í fiver? It might do just fine on level ground, but how much of this country is level? Have you stopped to think of what problems youíre going to have pulling something that weighs (my guess is about 9,000 - 11,000 pounds) that much? How about transmission or rear-end replacement after a couple of months of trying to handle that much weight? Trust me. That little truck of yours isnít going to be worth the powder and shot to blow it across the street! Repairs can cost a fortune, and your nest egg isnít going to last very long if you have to spend it all getting your truck fixed all the time. Now, if you had a truck that was rated to pull that trailer (add 25% as a safety margin) youíd probably be OK. Did you even bother to take the whole thing to a public scale (certified) and weigh it? You didnít? I didnít think so. Some salesperson handed you a bill of goods and you bought it, didnít you? Were the salespeople from some group known as "the Travelers"? Uh-huh.

     OK, letís forget about the ability to "pull" the trailer and consider the truckís ability to "stop" the trailer. How long do you think those brakes are going to last trying to stop that thing when youíre going down some 8% grade thatís about 10 miles long? My guess would be about half way down. Then youíve got NO brakes! Not cool. This situation renders your last question, "Can anyone suggest good places to visit?", totally irrelevant, Ďcause youíre probably not even going to get there.

     If youíve already bought a trailer (I donít care what kind), youíre going to have to match it up with a tow vehicle which has the capability of not only pulling it, but stopping it as well...SAFELY! I realize that pulling a little pop-up with a 10-wheel Freightshaker doesnít make any sense, but neither does pulling a big fiver with some little ¼ ton Itchybushi pickup. Check the manufacturerís ratings for both units. Weigh both units, and do it BEFORE you hand anyone your money. Be sure you have the capacity to pull AND stop...safely.

     One other thing comes to mind...how do you know that the deal you got on that trailer was such a good deal? Did you check with owners of that particular model? Did you check with the RV Consumer Group before you spent the cash? Just these two suggestions could save you money and many headaches later on. The latter is is business to help you, just like Consumer Reports, but theyíre no good to you if you donít use Ďem...so use Ďem!

     Now...how about your experience? Have you ever towed a trailer of any kind before? Have you ever driven anything that was bigger than that pickup of yours? Oh, I know, youíve been driving for 30 years (youíre a baby-boomer) so you should do just fine out there on the road. Wrong! If youíre towing anything, youíre driving a truck and, as Iíve said many times in the past, thereís a whole new set of rules. Get acquainted with your chosen lifestyle before you get thoroughly immersed in it the hard way.

     There are many books (by many RVers), driving schools, videos, and such that will help you. Even RVers you meet in the RV parks or out boondocking will be happy to offer you some help. A majority of the information youíll find is free for the asking. Some of it will cost you a few bucks, but so what? If spending a little means saving a lot, whatís the problem? The "Boy Scout" motto is "Be prepared". Now, that makes a lot of sense to me. How Ďbout you?

     If youíve done all your research and spent your time and money wisely, thatís great! If youíve learned how to handle your rig efficiently and safely, thatís better yet, but if you havenít thoroughly investigated your purchase, your options, and/or gained some experience through practice...well...youíre not ready to tow.

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