How to level my camper while towing?

Discussion in 'Tow Vehicles, Hitch & Towing' started by RhythmScience, Aug 31, 2020.

  1. RhythmScience

    RhythmScience Member

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    I'm using my 2008 Toyota RAV4 V6 limited (with the towing package) to pull a new-to-me 2013 Palomino Y-Series 4127. When the camper is unhitched and level, the bottom of the tongue is about 17" off the ground. The top of my receiver is about 12.5" from the ground. To get closer to level, I got a hitch with a 4" rise. However, when I hitch up, the TV rear end drops about 3" and the camper tilts very noticeably downward. (See picture; that's without any gear in the back of the TV.) I don't have any serious problems towing it, but from my reading here it sounds like it should be level.


    I wanted to check the tongue weight, so I drove to the local CAT scale. I first weighed with each TV axle and the camper axle on separate pads:
    TV front: 2,040 lbs.
    TV rear (with camper hitched): 2,400 lbs.
    Camper axle: 2,440 lbs.
    Then, I went back without the camper and re-weighed just the TV:
    TV front: 2,260 lb.
    TV rear: 1,800 lb.

    I read that the tongue weight should be the TV front + rear weights with the camper hitched minus the TV front + rear weights without the camper: (2,040 + 2,400) - (2,260 + 1,800) = 380 lbs. Does that sound right? If so, my hitch isn't supposed to go over 350 lbs. so I'll have to figure that out.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on whether some combination of lightening the front of the camper, adding weight behind the camper axle, using a hitch with more rise, or beefing up the rear suspension with air bags might help me get the trailer level?
     
  2. kcsa75

    kcsa75 Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

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    If it tows OK, I wouldn't worry about it. You could always install air bags or Timbrens to help with the rear-end sag.
     
  3. gec66

    gec66 Active Member

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    You are definitely a bit heavy on the tongue weight and the TV rear suspension could definitely use a boost. Try re-configuring the items stored in the pup to see if you can get the tongue weight to around 325 which will help some, but you'll still want to get rid of that rear sag. +1 for Timbrens.
     
  4. rabird

    rabird Howdy!

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    don't put any gear in the back of the TV. distribute the gear in the trailer to lighten the tongue.
     
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  5. MNTCamper

    MNTCamper Well-Known Member

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    Watch how much weight you put in the front storage trunk and load more in the camper itself. I have a 5" rise on my hitch and also have air bags. Based on the picture, your rear of the vehicle is sagging quite a bit.
     
  6. jeepster04

    jeepster04 Active Member

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    Goodness, thats some serious squat. Have you considered a weight distribution setup to get some more weight back on the front axle? Does your vehicle give you a tongue weight with and without a weight distribution setup? I imagine its sitting on the bump stops and I just dont think its a good idea to tow with it like that.
     
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  7. Wrenchgear

    Wrenchgear Near Elmira, Southern Ontario

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    I have a very similar Pup to yours. I also have that storage compartment on the front. It's very easy to just keep cramming stuff in there. Take some of it out and put it more over the axle of the trailer, or even behind the axle to lighten up the tongue weight some. I'm right at about 275 - 300 lbs of tongue weight. That varies a little between trips because things get moved around, but its right in there. When I pulled it with my old Caravan, I put Timbrens on the rear springs of the van and it helped a great deal to keep the back end up. Timbrens are very easy to install in your driveway at home. It truly takes about 1/2 to do both sides and they cost around $300.
     
  8. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    Do a lot of research before you buy a weight distribution hitch. Find the manual on your tow vehicle and read it over carefully, some vehicle manufacturers state no weight distribution hitches and many popups also cannot handle a weight distribution hitch. If the camper has a tube frame you may be OK, if it has a C channel frame, you cannot. However if there is nothing stated in your manual for either the trailer or vehicle then a weight distribution hitch should be able to help spread some of the weight to the front of your car.
     
  9. jeepster04

    jeepster04 Active Member

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    Very good point. Sometimes I need to think a little before posting. Our Jayco is able to use a WD setup and I forget that others may not be.
     
  10. RhythmScience

    RhythmScience Member

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    It seems to tow okay, but it's the only thing I've ever towed so I don't have a good sense of what "normal" is. I don't struggle to keep it on the road, but I definitely feel there's something back there. I'd like to be able to see just a little better over the top in my rear view mirror, though.
    It's actually sitting just a few inches above the bump stops. My TV owner's manual says not to use a WDH, so I won't be able to go that route.
     
  11. RhythmScience

    RhythmScience Member

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    Yup. My TV owner's manual is very specific on the matter: no WDH.
     
  12. Steveo4090

    Steveo4090 Well-Known Member

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    I installed air bags in my wife's sienna and it was pretty easy. They help with handling in general and keep her from bottoming out on everything with the hitch we installed. The sienna has horrible ground clearance to start with, then a hitch makes it worse.

    The kit was about $150 I believe, but that was a couple years ago. Timbrens or air bags, you need something back there, but you still look better than the guy I saw towing a 17' TT with a rav4. He was dragging his tow chains. He also had 4 people in the TV and 4 bikes on it too. Seriously overloaded.
     
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  13. RhythmScience

    RhythmScience Member

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    WrenchGear, thanks that's very helpful. Y'know it doesn't seem like there's that much stuff in the front trunk, but there is definitely stuff--probably more than I realize. I'll start pulling things out. I guess I could pull out the actual plastic sliding drawer, too. In terms of re-distributing weight behind the rear axle, there's a galley and a gaucho back there. I've got some stuff under the gaucho. The only real space back there is the gap behind the folded-down sink and the rear of the trailer. I might be able to move a few things back there while the pup is still up. (Part of my storage problem is the Palomino only has exterior doors for the front trunk. There's no way to get under the gaucho or the dinette seats from outside, so they have to be loaded when the camper is set up.)

    My fresh water tank sits below the floor just behind the axle. Would it help to fill that up whenever I tow?

    I was thinking about maybe having air bags installed in the rear coils so I could stiffen up the suspension for towing and then lighten it again for regular driving. I'd never heard of Timbrens before. However, in searching around a couple of sites, it looks like they won't fit my 2008 RAV4. They also seem to cost $100-$200 more than the air bags.

    According to e-trailer, the SumoSprings are "confirmed to fit" my 2008 RAV4:
    https://www.etrailer.com/Vehicle-Suspension/Toyota/RAV4/2008/CSS-1125R.html?VehicleID=20081225082
    Is anyone familiar with these? Might they help as much as the Timbrens or air bags?
     
  14. RhythmScience

    RhythmScience Member

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    Okay, I feel a little better, now. (At least maybe I'm not a complete doofus.)

    Do you adjust the pressure in the air bags when towing vs. not towing? I like the idea of having it ride smoothly when I'm not towing but then being able to beef up the rear suspension when the trailer's hooked up. Did you have to jack up the car and do much disassembly to install them? I'm somewhat handy, but doing things like disconnecting suspension bits makes me nervous.
     
  15. Steveo4090

    Steveo4090 Well-Known Member

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    I wouldn't add more weight to the scenario. Also try weighing the stuff you have in the front box and I'm sure it'll surprise you.

    We pumped them up to max pressure and left them. We also don't tow a camper with it anymore so its just to give her an extra inch or so of ground clearance for our stupidly steep driveway.

    Didn't jack the van up much at all and the bags slip between the spring coils if I remember correctly. My brother helped me and he's the mechanic, I'm the house fix it guy.

    Etrailer has install instruction videos for the bags. Also plenty on utube
     
  16. kcsa75

    kcsa75 Well-Known Member Gold Supporting Member

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    The Sumo springs are like the spacers we used to put in the coil springs when we were kids to make more room for bigger tires in the back. They would probably help but would likely have a little stiffer ride when not towing.

    With air bags you can adjust the air pressure depending on the load.
     
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  17. mandolinpicker

    mandolinpicker Active Member

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    On our 98 Jeep Cherokee we installed load leveling shocks. It did a good job of leveling the load. It also helped when we were hauling heavy stuff in the Jeep (like bags of rocks from Lowes) when not towing. The shocks made the ride a little stiffer when the trailer wasn't attached. However, this was on a Jeep and a 'glass smooth' ride is not really expected and it really wasn't that noticeable.
     
  18. zak99b5

    zak99b5 Active Member

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    Raising the rear of the tv with air bags and such does not mean you are really improving much. It would lighten tongue weight a little, but that’s a bout it—same thing would happen with a higher rise draw bar.
    I saw a YouTube video that compared using airbags to a wdh and the difference was night and day.
    Get your tongue weight down, and include it in your car’s payload capacity to ensure you don’t overload it.
     
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  19. Sjm9911

    Sjm9911 Well-Known Member

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    Whats your tow capacity and rating on the rav 4. It looks as if you are eaither at the high limit or over. You could add a lot of stuff to help tow it. But it might not help. Go slow and not too far. Make sure your break controller works well. And try to lighten the load a bit.
     
  20. RhythmScience

    RhythmScience Member

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    My towing capacity is 3,500 lbs. and it looks like my pup is at 2,820 lbs. Other than the tongue weight being 30 lbs. too heavy, I think I'm okay. I'll start by re-arranging the load in the pup to see how much I can move off the tongue to get the weight down. If the pup still tilts way forward, I think the next step will be air bags to get things a bit more level.

    I appreciate all the advice!
     
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