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t4texas

Member
Joined
Nov 11, 2006
Posts
5
Location
Bedford, TX
I accidentally posted this under the "Introduce Myself" section, so I'm posting it here as well.

My husband and I have been looking at fifth wheels on and off for about five years.  We have recently gotten really serious and have found what we think is a really nice one.  It's a used 2002 Hitchhiker Champagne Edition, 38 feet, triple axle.  It has new tires, has only about 6000 miles on it and 45 hours on the generator.  It's really clean and has been well taken care of.  The former owners just traded up to a super nice motor home.  We've met them and the guys have exchanged all the technical and mechanical info.  We have their names and address and he has the heavy duty hitch for the truck.  We have a 2002 Ford F350 7.3 turbo diesel dually.

We had set our length limit at 32 feet, but we really fell in love with this.  Is 38 feet too long?  We figure that, in a way, learning to drive either length is going to be a new experience for us so our thinking is "go for it!"  We know we need to be careful with something that large anyway, whatever the length.  We'd like to get input from others on the road to see if anyone has experience with a 38-footer and what do others think of the size?

Thanks so much for your help,

TforTexas
 

Karl

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Elkhart Lake, WI for the summer. Work at Road Amer
I don't have any personal experience with 5'ers, but the Hitchhiker 38' seems to be a popular one. It sounds like they stayed parked for long periods and that may explain why there are new tires after only 4 years and 6,000 miles. Better for you. Add the truck length to the trailer length and you have a pretty large rig. It will take some getting used to, but not a real concern IMHO. There may be some parks that you can't get into, but that shouldn't stop you. There are plenty more that can handle a rig your size.
 

Karl

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Elkhart Lake, WI for the summer. Work at Road Amer
T4Texas,

Just talked with a neighbor who has exactly what you're looking at - 38' Champagne, F-350 w/7.3l diesel. He says it handles "like a dream"; great combination. His pin weight is 2750. He also said the 2006's and 2007's come with the Glide-Rite hitch standard, and he added one to his last year and suggested you do the same if it doesn't have one. Eliminates the harmonic pitching when traveling over those  expansion breaks in concrete highways. He paid about $500 at an RV show and they normally go for about $700.
 

t4texas

Member
Joined
Nov 11, 2006
Posts
5
Location
Bedford, TX
Thanks so much for your help.  You're making us feel better about our "almost there" decision.  Also, thanks for deleting my duplicate post.


T4Texas (aka Beth)
B-)
 

Carl L

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Joined
Mar 14, 2005
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west Los Angeles
My husband and I have been looking at fifth wheels on and off for about five years.? We have recently gotten really serious and have found what we think is a really nice one.? It's a used 2002 , triple axle.? It has new tires, has only about 6000 miles on it and 45 hours on the generator.? It's really clean and has been well taken care of.? The former owners just traded up to a super nice motor home.? We've met them and the guys have exchanged all the technical and mechanical info.? We have their names and address and he has the heavy duty hitch for the truck.? We have a 2002 Ford F350 7.3 turbo diesel dually.


Well that truck has a tow rating of 13,400 lbs in the 2002 Trailer Life Tow Rating Tables, that is if it has the 3.73 or 4.10 rear axle.? ?The current Hitchhiker Champagne Edition, 38 footer has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 18,500 lbs!? Based on those numbers, that trailer is grossly overweight for your truck!.? ?Even the unladen weight would exceed your tow rating by 400 lbs.? ? You need something of the caliber of a medium duty truck, a Peterbuilt or Volvo for example, to haul that trailer.

Remember trailer length not critical in judging towability -- weight is.    Use the GVWR of a trailer to judge that.  That number can be found on the DOT plate usually found on the drivers side forward edge of a given unit.    We like to subtract a safety factor of 10%, 20% in the mountain and Pacific west, to the truck's tow rating to allow for aging truck, maintenance variations and terrain.

Smaller trailer or bigger truck I fear.
 

t4texas

Member
Joined
Nov 11, 2006
Posts
5
Location
Bedford, TX
Carl,

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.  Your message got us to looking at this further.  We have an extra package on our truck, but we'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out whether it's enough.  We called our RV sales rep last night after hours on his cell after reading your message.  He got right back to us, and my husband's meeting him early tomorrow morning.  I've been researching Ford's web site for more info as well.  We talked to the former owner again this morning, and he said he towed his Snowbird and this Hitchhiker with his F350 dually without any problems and he has the extra towing/camper package on his truck.  Anyway, we really appreciate the feedback on this.  We certainly don't want to get into something we can't handle, and safety is our #1 concern.

I'm so glad I posted on this forum.  You may be keeping us out of trouble.  I'll let you know the outcome.

Thanks again,


Beth (t4texas)
 

Carl L

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Good that you are looking.? And indeed Ford's tables should take priority over the Trailer Life's compilations, not because TL's are untrustworthy, but because they are indeed compilations of manufacturer data.? ?

Tow ratings are based on the totality of a tow truck's capacities:? not only engine and rear end, but also suspension, transmission, drive train components, and, especially brakes.? ?They affect not just normal handling, but also extreme conditions and emergency handling.? An individual can easily drive off the dealers lot with a overweight trailer and tool around Florida or the middle west and feel just fine.? Then one day he decides to go see the great national parks of the west, and finds himself on a 8-10 mile 6-8% downgrade with overheating and fading brakes.? Or drives thru a cross-wind plagued mountain pass like Banning Pass outside of LA, and gets hit by the combined bow shock wave and vacuum of a passing high speed bus and the excessive weight of that trailer starts whipping his overloaded truck about on its inadequate suspension.?

Long term maintenance is affected also.? Towing is hard on engines and especially transmissions.? Towing an overload is murder on all drive train components.

The advice of sales personnel should be tempered with great caution.? Their motivation is based on the fact that they will gain a sizable commission selling you that trailer and they are under pressure to make that sale.? ?Your safety is not usually a consideration or if it is it is an afterthought.? ? Similarly owner reports should be treated cautiously.? ?Where have they been towing-- Florida or Colorado?? Have they ever towed thru emergency handling situations?? ?How much are they simply kidding themselves or justifying their own risk taking?

I cannot stress the importance of respecting the tow capabilities of your truck.? Towing an excessive load gambles with safety and wallet both.? ?Evaluate towing performance using hard numbers -- manufacturer's ratings, DOT gross vehicle weights or scaled weights.? ?Leave yourself some safety factor to keep your RVing recreational and not a survival experience.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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At our Silver Springs FL home
Here's a link you can make good use of: 2002 Ford Towing Guide. You may want to download it and perhaps even print it to peruse it in depth. There's a lot of info in there and it is not all immediately apparent when you browse it online. There's a PRINT THIS icon in the upper right corner of the first page of the  Guide.

I hate to disappoint you but Ford rates the F350 dually diesel at a max of 12,800 lbs and a GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) of only 20,000 lbs.  Yes, you will see F350's towing much more than that and in most cases seemingly without effort, but they are still overloaded according to Ford's specs.  I don't know why the rating is relatively low, since the F350 performs and handles well towing much larger loads, but I cannot in good conscience say you are OK when this trailer will surely exceed the Ford ratings.

Check the GVWR on the trailer's rating plate but I'm guessing it is in the 17,000++ range
 

Karl

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Mar 3, 2005
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Elkhart Lake, WI for the summer. Work at Road Amer
Carl,

Just talked with Norm tonight, and he admits he's about 3k overweight. They park it most, if not all the year, in Yuma, so it's not a big concern for them. One the other hand, I'm not sure I'd want to be too close to them on  the highways when they do decide to travel.
 

Carl L

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Location
west Los Angeles
With a 1-1/2 tons over the limit, parking it all year at less than 1000 foot elevation sounds like a plan.  But a 38 foot fiver is a bit expensive for a park model.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

Site Team
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Posts
74,619
Location
At our Silver Springs FL home
I have some experience myself towing with an F250 diesel loaded to its max, including in the Western mountains and I can say from my own experience that performance will not be an issue. That includes braking, as long as the truck has an exhaust brake and the trailer brakes are in good working order (often not the case with electric brakes).  I also know several people towing trailers as large as the 38 footer above with F350 and Chevy/Dodge 3500 diesels and all perform and handle well, even in cross winds. That said, I am still very uneasy about exceeding the ratings and would recommend an F450/550 (GCWR of 26,000 lbs) for this size trailer. Starting in 2005 Ford increased the F350 GCWR to 23,500 and added a configuration with a 4.30 axle that takes it to 26,000 lbs GCWR.  One of those would probably handle this trailer.

If you can get a good deal on this trailer, consider swapping the truck. You can probably find a used 2005 or 2006 with the 4.30 axle if you hunt around. Check the internet - big haulers like that are often advertised nationally.
 

t4texas

Member
Joined
Nov 11, 2006
Posts
5
Location
Bedford, TX
Thanks so much to all of you for making us think about this purchase.  You made us perform some much needed research, and we learned that we can tow this trailer.  My husband, Jim, contacted our Ford dealership and he was assured he could tow the trailer with his truck.  He bought the truck in 2002 when he retired and planned to go into a hotshot cargo business, with plans to purchase a fifth wheel at some point.  The dealership helped him determine what he needed at that time, but there wasn't an F350 that met the heavy duty towing criteria in the DFW area, where we live.  They found this one in Austin and brought it up here.  He still only has about 17,000 miles on it.  The RV dealership worked with Jim and they used Carl's calculations based on the Ford dealer's numbers, and we came out with 500 lbs. to spare over the maximum load.

Ummmm, RV Roamer, Jim said to tell you he'd rather swap me than his truck.  :eek:  Do you have any preferences and types of exhaust brakes that you recommend?  Jim is looking at them on the internet right now.  From what he's seeing, he said it looks like it's not physically a piece of mechanical equipment, but an electronic modification.  Is that true?

We wanted the numbers to be right and we definitely wanted the assurance from Ford that we could do this, so we're comfortable with our decision to buy.  We really appreciate your knowledge and experience.

Thank you again,

Beth (TforTexas)
 
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