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Old 04-04-2011, 05:04 PM   #1
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Getting prepared for our 1st camping trip

OK folks, I need someone to give me advice. In the process of preparing for our first camping trip....ever. I'm doing some repairs. We had a pine tree clip the front of our '88 sunline saturn. I pulled off the wall to ceiling panels, patched the punctures, replaced the insulation, and I'm not sure what to replace the walls with. That's issue 1.

Issue 2: I have a Ford Explorer sportrac that will be able to pull our camper (18ft w/ brakes), but I have to install a trailer hitch to the truck. Not sure where to look or what kind to get.

Issue 3: I have to buy a cable to connect the trailer wires to the truck. I believe I have a 5 pin on the truck, and a 7 pin on the trailer.

Issue 4: The tires have a little dry rot but are not losing air. Should I replace them.

Issue 5: (I have a lot of issues) I'm scared to tow it! I have never towed anything before and I am nervous. When I purchased it, I hired someone to bring it to our house. Am I going to have a difficult time? Does it take long to get use to? Am I nuts for even taking on this endeavor?

Ok, I'm done. Any advice would be much appreciated!

Thanks!
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Old 04-05-2011, 06:05 PM   #2
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Hi Amy,

JohnB should be along shortly, with one of his ultra-informative megaposts and that is a good thing! You do have some issues that he will be able to steer you in the right direction.

I'll only comment on the tires... Trailer tires only have a maximum life of up to 5 years, no matter how much tread is left on them. It also doesn't matter if they "Look fine" If they are any older than that, they are an accident waiting to happen.
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Old 04-05-2011, 06:36 PM   #3
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Hi Amy,

What you list as problem #1 should be farther down the priority list, I think.

First you must overcome your fears of the trailer towing. Find someone to take the TT to a big parking lot and let you 'play' with it until your confident behind the wheel. Maybe whoever towed it home will let you play in their vehicle.

You didn't say much about your SportTrac but is it a v8 or v6? Have you priced getting the upgrades to make it a good tow vehicle? When you upgrade your existing tow vehicle for proper towing the connector and wiring can be done by the people that do the upgrades and install the hitch.

It sounds like your quite away from actually camping unless someone else tows your camper. If that happens then you only have one problem and that is number one, LOL!

Good luck with your new camper.

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Old 04-05-2011, 07:26 PM   #4
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Hi Amy,
Believe it or not all of us towed a trailer for the first time--or towed a much larger one for the first time. Hopefully you can find a good parking lot close by--large churches are some of the best, but avoid any place with curbs. Plan a route so you don't have to change lanes or get onto an expressway.

When you practice backing up, place one hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and move that hand in the direction you want the trailer bumper to move. The trailer responds much more slowly to inputs than the truck, so be patient and don't turn the truck too tightly. When you practice--and also the first couple of times you go camping--always pick a spot to your left side as you can look out the driver's window and basically watch the trailer slip into its parking spot. Pick some lines on the parking lot like they are a camping spot and practice how far forward you have to be and how tightly to turn the wheel to get in. It takes much more experience, and a good spotter, to back into the huge blind spot on the right side of the rig. Campgrounds also have pulll through sites. Pick some lines and practice driving in and out while watching the mirrors to see how the trailer tracks. Most camp sites will be at least the width of 2-3 parking spots so you don't have to try to get into one. When you pull out, again look in the mirrors to see where the trailer tires are and how you have to turn to keep the tires off the lines.

You really have to use the mirrors a lot when towing and spending an hour or more in a parking lot will get you used to that. Every turn or lane change requires a check in the mirrors to watch for curbs, light posts, trees, other vehicles and even pedestrians. Look in the mirrors frequently, both sides in the city, to make sure nobody like a cyclist or Smart Car has snuck up on you and is following right beside the trailer. Towing is really a major exercise in defensive driving and your senses will become much more aware of the vehicles around you as practice and concentrate and then it becomes second nature.

I looked up some numbers for your Sportrac and noted it is at least 12" narrower than your trailer. Proper towing mirrors are essential to give you confidence and safety in towing. All factory towing mirrors, which I don't believe were even an option on the narrow Sportrac, have plain glass on both sides plus a large convex spotter. Convex alone on the right side is not a good situation for towing as the image you see is much smaller. Without towing mirrors you will have a huge blind spot on both sides that is truly intimidating for anyone.

I have no experience with McKesh Mirrors, but they have good reviews and, while not pretty, are about the only way to get mirrors out far enough on a narrower tow vehicle. They may be available on ebay or craigslist or new from a number of retailers.
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Old 04-05-2011, 07:48 PM   #5
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We actually have a school parking lot next door to us, so I plan on spending some quality time there driving around. Right now I'm in the process of researching trailer htches and wiring harnesses. I need to go from a 4 plug to a 7 plug.
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Old 04-05-2011, 07:58 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by agrasso68 View Post
We actually have a school parking lot next door to us, so I plan on spending some quality time there driving around. Right now I'm in the process of researching trailer htches and wiring harnesses. I need to go from a 4 plug to a 7 plug.

Are you doing the install yourself, or having it done by someone else?
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Old 04-05-2011, 08:01 PM   #7
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You can also go to etrailer.com and select your vehicle. They will list everything that will fit your truck. They also have trailer connectors. You didn't say if your truck has a brake controller. Does it?
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Old 04-05-2011, 09:18 PM   #8
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I can totally understand the fear of towing! I had never towed anything before this time last year. But I spent a lot of time practicing on a Sunday afternoon in a local business complex. Check around with friends and see if someone is willing to tutor you . . . retired trucker, camper, farmer, etc

The other thing I found helpful was that I was able to check out the campground we were going to without the trailer, prior to taking the trailer.
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Old 04-05-2011, 09:35 PM   #9
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I'm going to try to do it myself. I'm pretty handy! The wiring harnesses don't look that difficult.
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Old 04-05-2011, 09:36 PM   #10
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Truck does not have a brake controller. I was just looking at them. Any suggestion of brands?
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Old 04-05-2011, 10:26 PM   #11
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Anything by Tekonsha is pretty good and user friendly. The Prodigy and the P3 seem to be the popular ones now, and either should do the job for you. The P3 has some extra features over the Prodigy, mainly the ability for more than three trailer axles with brakes (which you don't have to worry about), plus an LCD screen and trailer brake diagnostic troubleshooters that the Prodigy doesn't have.

They are both proportionally-based controllers versus the cheap and old style time-based. Basically, these sense how hard you are stopping versus how long you've had your foot on the brake pedal.

Wiring is very easy, especially if you get the pre-made harness from Tekonsha. Just plug the one end into the truck plug and the other into the controller and you're all set. I don't know where the plug would be in your truck, but hopefully your owners manual says. It will be under the dash somewhere...

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Old 04-06-2011, 02:10 AM   #12
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Thanks for the advice! I will look in to the Tekonsha brand. Saw it had high ratings.
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Old 04-06-2011, 07:02 PM   #13
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Am I right in thinking this is the correct harness?

Adapter 4 Pole to 7 Pole Vehicle End Trailer Connector Tow Ready Wiring 30717
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Old 04-06-2011, 07:05 PM   #14
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Or would this be a better one?

Brake Controller 7 & 4 Way Installation Kit - 10 Gauge etrailer Brake Controller ETBC7
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Old 04-06-2011, 07:08 PM   #15
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And finally the brake controller.

Tekonsha Prodigy P2 Brake Controller - Proportional Tekonsha Brake Controller 90885
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Old 04-07-2011, 07:24 PM   #16
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Hi Amy,
I'm not an electrical person, but am always willing to give an opinion. I wouldn't mess with adapters for a 4 pin. All you get is a bunch of splices in the back that gets bathed in bad weather. Cut the 4 pin off, run the extra wires as one length from under the hood and stick them into the proper 7 pin. Having said that... I would pay someone who could do that with their eyes closed. If you ever need a 4 pin, there are neat pocket sized adapters that plug into the 7 pin and put out the 4 into a standard plug. All in all a much cleaner and weather proof set up.

That brake controller is fine. Scroll about half way down the page to "customers who purchased also bought...". You need the Ford wiring harness. The Explorer one should be the right one, but the plug will only be there if you have the towing package. On my truck the owners' manual had good pictures of all the fuse boxes etc., including a panel under the dash with the brake controller plug receptacle clearly marked. If you look at the controller wiring harness... the flat 4 in-line plugs into the Prodigy and the large somewhat oblong plastic end plugs into the truck. If you don't have the tow package or that large receptacle under the dash, I'd say go to an RV dealer unless you really know auto electrics. An RV tech can install both the 7 pin and the controller in quick order and test them. Been there... done that on my previous truck that didn't have a towing package either.

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Old 04-07-2011, 07:37 PM   #17
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I agree Henry! I'll be ordering the parts and hire someone to connect. Too important not to screw up!

Thanks for all of your help! Any other tid bits of advice would be very helpful!
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Old 04-07-2011, 08:08 PM   #18
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Hi Amy,

I think I'd find a reliable place for the install and let them order everything they install. That way there is little room for error which would fall back on you if anything did go wrong. Hire a professional and let them do their job. First for the safety and second for the peace of mind.

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Old 04-09-2011, 01:32 AM   #19
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Ordered everything I need from etrailer and in the process of finding someone to install everything. Will do the internal repairs today. Getting excited to practice driving in a large parking lot while towing the camper soon. Thanks for everyone's advice!
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Old 04-09-2011, 02:24 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by agrasso68 View Post
Ordered everything I need from etrailer and in the process of finding someone to install everything. Will do the internal repairs today. Getting excited to practice driving in a large parking lot while towing the camper soon. Thanks for everyone's advice!

Good luck! If you run into any roadblocks, let us know!
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