Hitch Hints – Thoughts on Touring
by Andy Thomson

RV Lifestyle Magazine Vol 31 No 5

This Hitch Hints column first appeared in RV Lifestyle Magazine,

Volume 31, Number 5

Back in 2002, Andy often introduced his column by presenting a reader’s letter, then using his response as the topic for the issue.

Hello Andy:
We have had our truck and fifth wheel for a couple of years now and this summer we will be making our first big trip, which will be to the east coast from Alberta. Would you be able to give us a list of things to have checked before we take this trip? Our truck is a 2000 GMC with a 6.0 Liter and a 4.10:1 axle ratio. It has 50,000 kilometers on it. We tow a 1996 30′ Hitch Hiker fifth wheel.

Thank You
Steve Hird


Andy ThomsonHello Steve:
The east coast is a very nice trip and likely one you will want to repeat. Being from Alberta, I imagine you have already done some mountain driving, but what you will encounter in the East are hills that though not as long they are steeper than any you have encountered in the west. Good brakes are a great place to start. By the way on your truck the transmission will not shift into first gear if the selector is in second. On the Cabot Trail or The Gaspe you will need first. 

Here is the list:


1) If it has not been done since you purchased your fifth wheel, have the bearings packed and the brakes checked and adjusted. Make sure the shop replaces the seals with the best quality ones available and be sure that they wash and dry each bearing. When the job is done the only grease in the hubs should be new.

2) Your Hitch Hiker likely has grease fittings on the spring shackles so these can be greased at the same time. If you do not have grease fittings, you might want to consider upgrading to the heavy-duty greaseable shackle system. This kit is available from Dexter Axle through any RV parts store. Check the shock absorbers for leaks as well.

3) While the unit is in the air check the electric brake wiring, Make sure it is all fastened neatly and that none of the wires are hanging down where they might snag something.

4) I think your coach also has an enclosed undercarriage. Take a look for any loose metal or missing fasteners.

5) Check your tires for uneven wear, bulges or cuts and of course check the pressure. When the wheels have been off it is not a bad idea to recheck the lug nuts after driving 60 Kilometres or so.

6) The next thing to check would be the trailer and truck 7-way plugs for corrosion. If you have an electronic Brake Control adjust the gain to maximum. Then try to get the breaking smooth with the pendulum adjustment.

7) On the truck you will want to make sure all your maintenance is up to date and take along a couple of litres of oil. Your truck has semi-synthetic fluid in the transmission and a transmission temperature gauge. As long as it never has been overheated the fluid should be fine, but do check the level.

8) The rear axle would be due for a fluid change and I would consider changing to synthetic. We have found that rear axles run much cooler and last longer with synthetic oil.

9) As on the trailer, check the tires for uneven wear, etc. When towing a larger fifth wheel set the rear tires at the maximum pressure and the front tires at the recommended pressure.

10) If my memory serves me, your truck came with gas charged shock absorbers when it was new. If it had standard shocks they would be getting due for replacement now and I would suggest gas charged.

11) Check the bolts that hold the fifth wheel to the frame and the bolts holding the hitch together. Your hitch will likely have a couple of pivot points that should be greased, lube the latch mechanism and grease the groove on the trailer pin.

12) If your normal use of the fifth wheel is in parks with full hook ups, it would be a good idea to check your self containment systems. Check the charge line circuit. An easy way to do this is to unhook the trailer battery and the hydro cord, plug the truck in and see if the lights work in the trailer.

After five years it would be a good idea to have the igniter and burner cleaned on the water heater, refrigerator and if applicable the furnace. Fill the fresh water tank and test the pump.

For those of you reading this with a motorhome or travel trailer, many of the same concerns apply. With a travel trailer check the hitch attachments and possibly readjust your torsion bars.

Try and do your preparation a couple of weeks before you are scheduled to leave. You don’t want to discover two days before your vacation that you need a part with a 10-day delivery time.

One more thing, pick up our current campground directory and have a great time.

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