April feature: Hauling 101, Trailer Hookup How To’s Featuring QuickBite Coupler and EZ-Connector, Two towing accessories you’ll love
Safe Capacities for Trucks with slide-in Campers Towing Trailers.
(Left picture caption, soft side camper towing trailer on the trail. Right picture is soft side camper “popped up, some have normal doors and others have short doors.) Truck camper with bumper pull trailers are easier to get in tight places, like trailheads and national forests making the compo a favorite for trail riders. Payload (cargo, people) and trailer tongue weight come from the same capacity limit, with rear truck axle weight and important factor. Which makes hard sided heavy truck campers difficult to use with trailers inside the trucks weight limits. For ½ and some ¾ ton trucks, a soft sided popup camper is the best choice to keep the payload weight down so there’s room for a trailers tongue weight. The formula to determine what camper weight and what trailer weight fits your truck, takes some numbers from your trucks owner’s manual or the truck manufactures towing guide, but to make it simple we’ll just look at the manufacture safety compliance certification label on your truck and trailer. These tags have the GVWR, axle ratings, tire pressure ratings and date of manufacture.
This sticker (label) is in the drivers door frame near the door handle of your truck. You’re looking for the GVWR number. This means Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, which is the max weight with passengers, fuel, cargo, and truck. Payload is what your truck can carry as cargo, passengers and trailer tongue weight. Truck manufactures figure payload rating by subtracting curb weight (empty truck with one 150 lb passenger and tank of fuel) from GVWR. The simple way for you to do this is to weigh your empty truck (at a truck stop or feed store) with what you plan on carrying on your horse trips like passengers, coolers etc. Then subtract that weight from the GVWR you found in the label in your truck. Now you have the real payload number that will show you what’s left for your camper and trailer tongue weight. Next look at the trailer manufacture label on the trailer tongue, once again looking for the GVWR. If you want to weigh your empty trailer, you’ll have the real number of what weight you can put in the trailer. Generally conventional tow trailers have a 10-15% tongue weight with goosenecks at 20-30%.
There are methods of weighing your loaded trailers tongue weight and scales made just for that or you can take your trailers GVWR number from the tag on your trailer times 10 % and consider that the tongue weight. Take the payload number from your truck that we figured earlier and subtract the loaded trailer tongue weight (10%). Now you know what’s left over for the slide in truck camper. It’s not much. This leaves out most ½ ton trucks except for the lightest soft side popup campers. Something to think about when you buy your trailer, you need them light. (Picture left) A note of caution if you use a hitch extension to allow more room between your truck and trailer with your tailgate down for the camper, a hitch extension lowers your hitch capacity by 1/3.
How Does the Emergency Breakaway System Work? Why Safety Chains?
It may surprise you that the major reason for trailer accidents, is the trailer unhooks because it wasn’t latched or the wrong size ball. Sounds simple enough of a problem and easy to solve, but since we can’t control who tows trailers, it’s a good thing that Emergency Breakaway System is required on trailers that are required to have brakes. In most states that’s a 3000 lb trailer and above. The majority of states also require safety chains. It’s all designed to stop your trailer if it comes uncoupled from your truck or SUV and not cross into traffic. Crossing your safety chains under the coupler allows the chains to “catch” the trailer tongue if it comes unhooked.
The Emergency Brake System is generally located on the trailer tongue. Some trailers have the EBS battery inside away from weather. EBS are required to:
1. Activates immediately when trailer separates from tow vehicle.
2. Must bring unhooked trailer to a complete stop and set brakes for 15 minutes.
Adjust the safety chains to hold the trailer first if your trailer comes unhooked, so you can use your trailer brake controller in your cab to slow the trailer down under control. If the safety chains break, then the EBS is designed to stop the trailer immediately at full braking power. At this time, you’ll have no control over your trailer. You’ll be separated from your trailer which is why you need the Emergency Breakaway System to stop your trailer on it’s own.
The cable from the EBS should be attached to the same U-bolts for the safety chains in a gooseneck or receiver safety chain slots or truck frame. A common practice is to weave the cable thru the safety chain with more slack than the chains so the sequence is still chains first, cable EBS trigger second. Don’t loop the safety cable over the ball. In some crashes, the ball can break and then the EBS won’t engage. The stainless steel cable when pulled, triggers a spring loaded activator releasing 12 volts to the brakes for maximum braking. This electricity comes from a battery in the EBS which on some horse trailers is trickle charged when the trailer electrical cord is plugged into the tow vehicle. If your trailer setup doesn’t charge the EBS battery, then you’ll need to do it a minimum of every 6 months.
The EBS battery needs maintenance like your tow vehicle. A volt meter should show 12 volts on the EBS battery if fully charged. You should test it every 6 months by simply pulling the cable until the brakes engage and pulling forward to see if the brakes are locked up. Reset the pin within a few minutes to keep from running down the battery or damaging the battery. If the EBS doesn’t lock you trailer brakes, trouble shoot to see if the battery is charged and if the trailer brakes are adjusted and working.
If you are in a situation that your trailer unhooks, your safety chains break and your EBS stops your trailer, remember you have less than 15 minutes to block or chock your trailer so it doesn’t roll away when the battery in the EBS is depleted. You don’t want to be chasing your trailer down the on ramp of a freeway.
Trailer Brake Options
We’re all use to electric brakes. They are cheap and the norm with trailers. But your truck has disk brakes because they are more powerful, run cooler, are more dependable, easier and cheaper to change brake pads. So why not your trailer? Getting enough boost to the hydraulic trailer brakes has been a problem in the past. Prior vacuum boosters took a pump on the truck and a long vacuum line back to the trailer. Now there are electric actuators that pump up oil pressure to the trailer brakes. Now we can have powerful hydraulic disc brakes for your trailer. Because the actuators pump up pressure when you apply the trailer brakes, there is a slight delay in braking verses electric drum brakes, about 1 sec longer for your brakes to apply, but when they do apply, it’s powerful.
In the old days on the farm, I had flatbed hay trailers with triple axles and electric brakes. The trailer was towed on dirt roads as much as pavement. The gravel from the dirt roads raised havoc on the magnets in the electric trailer brakes. My trailer brakes failed often, luckily it was on the flat Eastern Plains and not the Rockies.
We tried to do a comparison test between factory installed electric drum brakes and Kodiac aftermarket hydraulic disc brakes. But another improvement in trailer brakes are greasable axles. Nice idea, not having to take the trailer wheels apart to repack the bearings, just using your grease gun to repack through the grease zerk in the end of the spindle. Now that it’s easy to grease the bearings, everyone wants to do it. So they get greased in the axle factory, maybe greased at the trailer factory and maybe greased at the trailer dealership. I’ve seen this happen so many times, new trailers with too much grease in the wheel that brake shoes can’t grip the drum.
This is what happened on our comparison, three of the four factory brake drums were full of grease and failed.
We did replace my trailer brakes with the Kodiac hydraulic disc brakes with oil bath reservoirs, (another story.) The Actibrake hydraulic boost actuator unit was compact with the pump inside the oil reservoir tank. With a self contained hydraulic brake system, the boost unit is on the trailer and needs more juice, so we added a battery. Which you would already have with a LQ trailer. Dramatic difference it braking distance with the hydraulic disc brakes. Less heat, less brake dust made for the fast side of the Rocky Mountains. Many of the new trailer brake actuators can be used with most electric brake controllers. Older systems needed a brake controller made for hydraulics. Ford and GM now have a factory truck trailer brake controller option. Owners manuals on both, say they are not compatible with hydraulic trailer brakes. I think this will change soon. I used the new hydraulic brake system on my trailer with a 2008 Ford F350 and the Tow Command option. The trailer brakes worked fine. But there is a difference in trailer brake actuators, not all are compatible with all trailer brake controllers.
Factory trailer brake controllers are on the right side of your steering wheel with Ford F150 thru F550. GM Chevy and GMC 1500 thru 3500 factory trailer brake controller is located on the left side. In an emergency trailer sway where I want to brake the trailer by it’s self, I can react faster to a right side controller as most people I’ve interviewed agreed. Next year Dodge is planning on offering a factory trailer brake controller and I’ve voiced my opinion with the Dodge engineers to save lives and add the controller to the right side, well we see in 2010.
Hooking up a bumper trailer by yourself is a pain and so is working on the wire plug often, but there’s hope with these two trailer accessories.
EZ – Connector
If you’re new to towing you may not relate how wonderful the EZ Connector is. If you are a veteran trailer dude or dudette and spent time with that little screw driver redoing your trailer plugs after they pulled apart or using your knife to scrape the crap (corrosion) off the trailer plug blades and off course using the straight edge screw driver to bend the blades so they will connect to the male plug, you’ll relate to a better way. Trailer brakes in general need monitoring and maintenance more than any other part of your trailer for safety reasons. EZ-Connector will make the wire connection issue one thing less to worry about (when brake lights and blinkers aren’t working and you don’t know it.) Those of use that tow trailers every week know how many times we drop the coupler on the ball and plug in the wire connection (and wiggle the connection for contact.)
EZ is a magnetic connection, powerful magnets. Just get the male end near the female plug and “pop” it sucks together. An index tab slot align the socket and plug to match the right connections. The male end has two silicone o-rings, the cables have sealant injected inside, all to make the system water proof. If you can keep the water out, you can keep the mud and all the corrosive chemicals used to dissolve ice on the highway out.
Because the EZ Connector is magnetic, it’s a no brainer to understand that the system will breakaway if your trailer cable gets tangled or you forget to unplug it when unhooking your trailer. Right top picture shows the dummy plugs to keep dirt and water out of the EZ-Connector when you aren’t using them. This is quality all the way. When you first look at EZ you’ll be impressed that it’s made to last with trouble-free function. According to Joe Cardoza (the big cheese at EZ) inside the truck socket, the cable is crimped three times. It is also reinforced with a stainless steel hog-ring on the inside to take any strain. Every unit is 100% tested, not a sample testing as is common in the electronic industry. With the T-connector I used for a factory tow package, it only took 15 minutes to install on my truck. EZ-Connector also has a hard-wired version if you don’t have a factory tow package on your truck or SUV. Bottom line, yes it’s expensive, but you buy more expensive aluminum trailers for a reason. Quality is never cheap, being a farmer for decades means I’m naturally frugal. But I’d have no problem shelling out over $100 for this trailer wiring system. Piece of mind and safety have value. For more: http://ezconnector.com/
A hitch coupler that gets me excited ! I use mine each week and it tickles me after I back up to my trailer, hear the click, run back there and Walla, it’s latched, first time! No more in and out of your truck to see how close you are to the trailer or if you’re centered and you know how much fun it is asking for help to back up. Quickbite Couplers hook up like a semi-tractor 5th-wheel. The ball funnels into the coupler and latches. A whole lot less cranking on your trailer jack as you don’t need to jack the coupler off the ball. To hook up all you do is back up to your trailer and and listen for the snap and you’re hooked. All you do is put the additional safety pin in.
When the Dual Jaws automatically close around the ball, they are captured by a torsion spring locking jaw that drops down, locks and surrounds the internal jaws, making it all but impossible for the ball to escape. There is no need to check if the rear tab is locked under the ball like in the cheap stamped RV coupler. Many times trailers have become disconnected when, they were never locked on. With the Quickbite Automatic Safety Coupler, if it’s closed, it’s locked.
The coupler utilizes a 5″ horizontal and increased vertical funnel for the ball mount. There is no need to have the coupler vertically or horizontally lined up with the ball. When most of the ball is within the funnel, it slides into the internal jaws which then automatically close and lock. The system is also able to couple at extreme vertical and horizontal angles.
This is a coupler worth replacing what you have now. One of the more difficult things about trailering is backing up to your trailer. I hook and unhook often and am replacing all my couplers with QuickBite. It appeals to my lazy side. I have put allot of miles on my drivers side door hinges, going in and out to see how close I am to the ball. My trailers are heavier now too and I can’t just kick the trailer tongue over to the ball anymore.
And then there’s the safety concerns. The cheap stamped couplers on so many entry level trailers don’t give you piece mind if they are latched or not. QuickBite Couplers snap shut, lock with a spring loaded lever and have a safety pin for the double lock like I do with motel doors.
ALIGNMENT ROD SYSTEM on QuickBite
Quickbite comes with two fiberglass rods that extend up to help line you up in the middle and then when the coupler locks itself shut, the rods come together. The guide rods are nice and simple. Included are sticky dots to put on your tailgate to help you line up between the rods for the first time, all seen through your rearview mirror. I’ve seen different trailer hitching helpers. Magnets, suction cups, camera’s, mirrors, lights. This is the KISS system, keep it simple stupid….and it comes free with the QuickBite Coupler. Two fiberglass rods telescope up above your tailgate or rear hatch on a SUV. So simple and easy The rods fit into holes on top of the Dual Jaws and extend up over your tailgate or SUV liftgate.
The Quickbite Safety Coupler jaws are zinc plated with stainless steel jaws an option. Your choice of black powder coat, stainless steel, primed or zinc plated to match your trailer.