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Messages - RV Squirrel

A good amount of discussion has been occurring with CharlieM at Coupler Replacement Side Bolts

Now that I finally have the hitch coupler installed it seemed appropriate to wrap things up here.  I think that the hitch coupler may have cracked since the bolts were put in at an angle (see first picture).  Since the holes went entirely through the frame, I didn't have much choice other than to put them back in at the same angles. (Yes, Charlie... this may be a good reason to put in those extra side bolts!)

CharlieM said that he got his foamy tape at an auto parts store.  I went to one and found "nitrile camper tape".  It was a little wider and thicker, but seemed to be made of the same material (see second picture). 

I've attached a picture of the final install as well (third picture).

Yes... I agree that it is a small risk.  I also agree that it's not likely that I'll be able to "fix" the coupler once it shows signs of fatigue.  If the problem comes back, I'll install a new coupler with the additional horizontal bolts.  Thanks again.
I should have thought of going to an auto parts store!  After reading this post, I went to an Advance Auto and bought "nitrile camper tape".  It was a little wider and thicker that what was originally used, but I used a C-clamp to compress the foam a bit while I drilled the holes.

I finished drilling the holes for vertical bolts.  At this time, I think that I will refrain from drilling the holes for the horizontal bolts that you (Charlie) used.  This may be a good idea, but at this time I'm leery of drilling additional holes in the frame.  If I have problems again in the future, it is a comforting thought that I can use this approach.

I hope to finish tomorrow or Monday.  I'll post pictures when it's done.  I'll probably post them in my original post to close it out.

Thanks for the help, Charlie!
Thanks for sharing!  Merlin had mentioned that you had put bolts on the side, but I had imagined that they were further back, near where the vertical bolts were.  I like that since the holes are closer to the front, you only had to drill half-way through the aluminum frame, and that you could reach inside and insert to get to the end of the bolt that was inside the frame. 

Thanks for the detail that you provided in the MSWord document as well.  You didn't mention any spongey tape in it, so I assume that you did not have any in your original install, and/or that you did not care to replace it.  It looks like the coupler is zinc-coated... if you got it from LL, then I take it that they think that it is okay to mount a zinc-coated coupler directly onto an aluminum frame.  If I'm missing something, please say so.  Thanks again!
As Merlin suggested, I called Etrailer.  I asked if they thought that the strips were there to reduce galvanic action between the steel and aluminum.  They quickly said "yes", but then pointed out that the hitch that I had ordered was zinc-plated, so it should not have any problem.  I was confused, because it looked like the old hitch coupler was zinc-plated as well.  When I asked them why Camplite would put foamy insulation strips on a zinc-plated coupler, they didn't have an answer.

They did not think that it would hurt anything if I were to add the foamy strips, though.  When I described the two types that I had, they seemed to lean more toward the more compressible foam ones but did not have a strong opinion about it.  So I'm back to deciding which tape to use, if any.  I probably will use something though.  Any thoughts here would be appreciated.

I thought about buying the "bolt on" coupler, but thought that Camplite probably had a good reason for putting the holes where they are.  Given that there are already holes in the aluminum frame, I'm leery about adding new ones.  This past coupler lasted nearly 10 years... if the new one lasts as long before it bends then I'll be a happy camper.  I'd rather the coupler bend then my aluminum frame. 

I'd appreciate seeing the pictures if you have them though.  I found the following from charliem, but it seems to be before he made repairs:

I have stabilizer bars on my trailer. When they were originally installed, I heard someone at the dealership express concerns that the stabilizers might cause the frame to bend.  Could it have caused the coupler to crack instead?
Late last year I noticed that the trailer coupler on my CL 14DBS began to get cracks around the bolt holes.  I recently purchased a new coupler from etrailer.  I had to get a "weld on" coupler because the "bolt on" models had the holes in the wrong place (horizontal, not vertical).  I intend to drill holes in the "weld on" coupler to match the existing holes in the aluminum frame.

When I removed the old coupler, I noticed that there was something like foam insulation tape on the coupler.  Does anyone know why it is there?  At first I thought that it was there to provide a "snug fit" (which admittedly sounds a little strange).  Now I am wondering if it was there to provide a barrier between dissimilar metals (iron coupler and aluminum frame). 

I went to the Lowes to look for robust foam rubber tape, and the best that I could find was sponge window seal, which looks like it would compress a lot and may not be a good dielectric. 

I have some old 3M tape that seems less compressible, but definitely not rubber.  I'm not sure of the part number, but it looks like this.

Any ideas?  Do I need something to provide a barrier between dissimilar metals (which are going to be held together with bolts anyway) or to provide a "snug fit"?

I've attached pictures of the old coupler (hairline crack on top of coupler, and black foam tape on bottom of coupler).

Thanks for posting the link!  I'll be sure to consider Voyager models with WiSight's digital wireless.  It would be great to get something with a slightly larger display and higher resolution, with perhaps CCD sensor technology.  A review at suggests that CCD may be a little newer/better than the CMOS technology incorporated in the Voyager model that you mentioned.  Of course, the site tends to endorse products from only one or two vendors, so I wonder if the review is biased.  Thanks again!
I can understand Jackson's comment... I caved in the side of my TV door by hitting a tree stump that wasn't high enough to see outside the window.  There's alot to be said about jumping in and out! 

However, I'm still in the market for a camera system because I also need something that will let me know who's behind me in traffic.  Backing into a campsite would be a plus.  I've been doing some research... there are a lot of options out there.  I'm still trying to understand the difference between "backup camera" and "observation camera".  And ironically, I'm discovering that wired systems aren't necessarily cheaper.

Merlin, you said that you are using a Voyager WiSight system, which is wireless but seems to be working for you.  Is this with your CL 16TBS?  A number of the sites that I've visited do not recommend wireless systems with aluminum campers.  However, some wireless systems boast a range greater than 100 feet, which suggests that the dynamic range might be good enough for a shorter rig... perhaps even if it did have an aluminum camper.  You quoted the following, so I'm wondering if wireless might still be an option.

Quote from: Merlin on April 29, 2023, 05:44:46 PMIf you do go wireless, the type of signal is more important than antenna location. My Voyager has just small antennas on the screen and camera, but the WiSight technology holds a signal all the time. I think that locked in type of signal technology is what makes the good units so expensive
I can understand Jackson's comment... I caved in the side of my TV door by hitting a tree stump that wasn't high enough to see outside the window.  There's alot to be said about jumping in and out! 

However, I'm still in the market for a camera system because I also need something that will let me know who's behind me in traffic.  Backing into a campsite would be a plus.  I've been doing some research... there are alot of options out there.  I'm still trying to understand the difference between "backup camera" and "observation camera".

Admittedly, a wired connection sounds more robust, and I like the cheaper price.  However, I'm thinking that I may already need to add heavy gauge wires/connectors for the DC-DC converter (to the lithium batteries) that I installed last year.  Given that I'm already using the 7-pin connector on the hitch, then using a wired connection for the camera will mean that I'll have three plugs/cables going between the tow vehicle and the trailer, not counting the break-away brake cable.  Do I need to be worried about tangled cables?  Is there a way to consolidate connectors somehow?  I've not used anything but the 7-pin connector before. 

I don't mean to horn in on Paul's post.  Should I start this in a new thread?
I have a Yada BT55815, but I would not recommend it.  The fisheye lens makes everything (including tailgaiting cars) seem too distant.  It's a wireless system, and the connection blacks out frequently.  The instruction manual says that the max signal range is 30 feet without obstruction.  I think that with the length of the truck and the camper I'm already exceeding 30 ft, and the fact that the camper is aluminum probably doesn't help.  I'm wondering if a system that had an external antenna system would be better (this one is built in to the camera and the display).

I'm looking to replace my current system, but new systems can cost well over $250... which is a bit pricey for me right now.  Amazon has cameras that are much less expensive, but I'm guessing that they aren't much better than what I have now. So I'm also interested in posts to this topic.

Although there are some good ideas here for how to prop the awning support away from the trailer, I decided to cut the tube and use a smaller awning.  I removed around 18.5 inches from the roller tube.  I was hoping to do more, but any more and the front awning bracket would have gotten too close to the wheel well on the trailer.  Since I was replacing a 10' awning with an 8' awning, this meant that the roller was around 6" longer than it needed to be, but I'd rather have that than move the rear bracket 6" forward. 

I also wanted to get a sun shade when I purchased the 8' awning.  I was about to buy a sun shade that fit the 8' awning, but then realized that there was a sale on 15' sun shades, which were a fraction of the price of the 8' sun shade.  So I got this instead.  During a recent trip, I wrapped the back half of the shade towards the back of the trailer, and attach it with a bungee cord to the back frame. The 15' shade cost much less than the 8' shade, and gives more protection.  This worked well during our last trip, when the back of the trailer was facing the setting sun. I'll need to do some surgery on the sun shade if I want it to wrap around the front of the awning, since the shade slides in from the back of the awning roller tube.

Finally, I've attached a couple of pictures that show the bade and settup that I used for cutting the aluminum awning roller tube.
That looks great!  You may have just given me the inspiration to give this a try.  Thanks for sharing!
I ran into a slight issue when crimping connectors for the solar panels.  Most of the MC4 connectors are only good for #10... I was not able to find one for #8 AWG.  I was intent on using #8 AWG wire, so that I could place the solar panels further from the camper.  However, I discovered that the crimp tool that I used for #8 lugs (going between components) did not produce as good a crimp on the #8 MC4 connectors for the solar panels.  The metal in the MC4 connectors is a thinner than that in lugs, and the resultant connection was wiggly-jiggly (technical term... don't feel bad if you haven't heard it before).  I actually had to insert a piece of solid copper wire into the crimp tool to create more of an indent into the crimp when using my "lug" crimper.  This wire was only there to help with the crimp and was removed afterwards. 

The bad thing about MC4 connectors is that if you aren't quite happy with something, you can't disassemble it after you've installed the backshell.  My only option with the first "wiggly-jiggly" MC4 connector was to cut it off entirely and replace it with another one. 

MC4 connectors do tend to be a little safer than other connector types, because the metal surfaces are less exposed.  Disconnecting them can be a bit of a hassle... even if you do have a tool, because not all MC4 connectors are alike.  The tool works better for some MC4 manufacturers than others.
Newsletter / Re: October 2022 Newsletter
October 14, 2022, 10:23:14 PM
Many thanks to DavidM and Merlin for answering incessant questions about batteries and other components.  Without them, this installation would have been a "Three Stooges" episode.  Thanks also to Pinstriper and GrampaKilt who provided insight for how to mount the batteries indoors.  Thanks as well to folks who commented in the forum.  The ACF is great...  Not only did I have an install that was admired by my RV maintenance guy, but it also helped with my marriage.  My wife hates when I babble about these things at the dinner table :-)