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Old 11-13-2011, 02:52 PM   #1
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Default Newbie From Ohio Here

Hi folks.

I know practically nothing about campers, but just wanted to introduce myself, and apologize in advance, because I know I'm going to be picking your brains!

Maybe this is a Karma thing. I've been very helpful on other forums with things that were my specialties, so maybe now it's my turn? LOL

We're going to be doing a ton of work on our house next June, so I had this brilliant idea of buying a camper for my dh, twins, aged 9, and myself to live in for the five months it's going to take. We like to camp and have done a fair amt of tent/bicycle camping, so living in a small trailer, with a couple tents nearby, would suit us just fine.

We bought a 1994 TowLite 24 ft Camper. Has a double sink, gas stove, shower, toilet bed that pulls down.....

The refrigerator reeks of ammonia and doesn't work. We've not tried anything else yet.

I'm about to take it to J & R which is about two hours from us.

We have a 2006 Toyota Sienna Mini Van that does NOT have a towing package. The camper weighs 2400 lbs and the gross we can pull according to our van's manual is 3500.

We borrowed a truck to tow it home and don't have the foggiest about what type of trailer hitch or "sway bars" or what was it? WDH? Any suggestions?

A friend with a camper said to go to UHaul. Is that a good start?

We're going to be taking it to J & R the end of this week and I've asked them about towing - hitch suggestions and they said to ask on this forum!

I'll take any advice. I'm going to get my dh to check out this informative site to probably answer some of our questions!

We want to take it on a vacation right after Christmas. Would it be stupid to drive it through salt?

We bought it for $3500, and it looks to be in very good condition. That's probably a pretty good deal, no?

Thanks and I hope you don't all get too sick of me!

Mary Kay
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Old 11-13-2011, 03:07 PM   #2
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The loaded weight on that 24' will be slightly over 4000 pounds first off. The fridge probobly has a bad cooling unit. You can purchase a rebuilt cooling unit (Coils in back) and install it yourself or have it installed. This is possible to do yourself if you or the husband are mechanically inclined but if not, leave it to a pro.
If you do decide to try towing the trailer with your van, make sure to get a transmission cooler or your transmission won't last long.
You can purchase a hitch from etrailer.com or you can go to uhaul or an RV supply store. Carefully read your owners manual pertaining to towing as I'm not sure if Toyota recommends using a weight distributing hitch with the sienna. If they do, you will need one.
I think for the price, you got a good deal. Check the roof for cracks in the caulking and if you see any or a hint of water leaking inside, get on it fast. Water leaks can turn into a big problem.
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Old 11-13-2011, 03:11 PM   #3
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Mary Kay,

I am a little concerned about your numbers for the weight of the trailer. I have a 1997 21 ft Tow-lite. The sticker said that our weight was 2950, and our trailer is 3 feet smaller than yours. We know that weight was before any of the options were added - options included the overhead bunk, air conditioning, awning and other permanent fixtures. Our trailer with options and "stuff" weighs close to 3500 lbs.

I suspect that your trailer will be closer to 4,000 lbs.
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Old 11-14-2011, 10:38 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mary Kay View Post
Hi folks.

The refrigerator reeks of ammonia and doesn't work. We've not tried anything else yet.
Mary Kay
Mary,

That Amonia smell means that the "cooling coils" on the back of the fridge has DAMAGE (a hole in it). DO NOT ATTEMPT TO LIGHT IT!

Yes, this will take 1 of 2 possible things to fix, one a new fridge or find a used one and take the chances it is at or near same problem?

Either way, This can seem to be expensive.

Second Choice, and Im sure J&R can also source the "cooling unit" cooling coils on the back of the fridge. Yes, the fridge has to be removed to replace this part. not knowing the model fridge you have.

I have found that you can find these units at various places on the internet, like here
http://www.rvfridge.com
or
RVCOOL.COM - Supplier of rebuilt cooling units for Norcold and Dometic RV Refrigerators.
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Old 11-14-2011, 11:23 AM   #5
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Wow, thanks for all the info! I just KNEW you folks would be helpful!

I have taken a page of notes and figure that we might? be wasting our time putting a trailer hitch on our van. I think I'll have my dh take it to be weighed at a gravel/sand pit nearby. All I can think of right now.

We'll actually buy a new-to-us/used vehicle if necessary as I want to be able to utilize this camper for vacations for years to come. I just want one that would be van-like and that wouldn't be a gas guzzler.

As far as leaks, the guy we bought it from had all sorts of trailers etc that he'd fix up/sell etc. He had it well caulked and we have found no signs of leakage.

My dh is more than handy! He can weld, do electrical, knows a thing or two about refrigeration, works on his farm equipment etc etc. Prob is, he's a farmer, and prob works about 350 days a year! I'd rather pay J & R to fix the things on the camper and have it ready to go. But it's not like we have a lot of $$$ to spend on it either. I just figure we got a good deal, so it's worth it, KWIM?

Thanks again everyone, and if you have more advice, I'm open to any of it. I'll let you know what it weighs. I hope you're all wrong, but suspect you're probably right!

No one mentioned anything about taking it out in salt. Any thoughts?

Mary Kay
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Old 11-14-2011, 12:23 PM   #6
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If you mean the salt on the roads in winter, I can tell you it corrodes everything that it gets on, any exposed aluminum on the window frames and under the trailer very quickly, especially if you can't wash it right away.
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Old 11-15-2011, 02:00 AM   #7
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If you tow the trailer in the winter you can measure the width of the trailer and see if it will fit in the bay of a hand car wash. I crawled under our HIlLo and painted all the metal with Rust Oleum. You may also choose to spray on undercoating found at a place like Auto Zone. If you take the trailer to JR he will tell you the price for each item that needs repair. You could consider putting in an electric only Ref. This would be cheaper than a threeway ref.
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Old 11-15-2011, 06:43 AM   #8
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I had a 2007 Toyota Sienna with the 3.5 engine and it had plenty of power, but it will do a lot of shifting. It doesn't have the low end torque needed to really pull a trailer well. I have read that the early models already had the transmission cooler. If you decide to tow with the van, make sure you use synthetic oil in the engine, I have used Mobil 1 since it's inception and has never failed me, 0w30 or 10w40, max tire pressure on tow vehicle and trailer, use 89 or premium fuel while towing and try to install a transmission temp gauge for safety. You can always slow down or stop to cool the transmission. You will probably want to tow in in 4th a lot and not overdrive. Do not tow over 55mph, you can't believe the difference on a smaller engine for that extra 5mph. If you can, tow at 50mph when ever possible and you take a huge load off your tv engine. You might want to consider changing the fluid in the trans to synthetic also before you start towing, if not synthetic then at least change it. If your going to tow south in the winter and are worried about the salt, just make sure you give everything a good bath when you get south and then back home, and that means getting under the trailer and getting wet. lol My 2 cents worth.
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Old 11-15-2011, 06:55 AM   #9
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P.S. Check online for Etrailer and Autoanything for your trailer and tow needs. I bought a Reese SC hitch at a huge discount and it has the built in sway control and I am pleased with it. Have bought a lot of tires and parts from these two sites and if you watch for sales, especially in the winter, you can save a bundle of money. Good luck, Bob
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Old 11-16-2011, 04:23 PM   #10
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You knowledgeable folks are right on! Dh took the camper to a gravel/sand pit to be weighed and it weighed 3820. So now we need a vehicle that will be able to haul about 4500 lbs, I'm guessing.

I'm wondering about renting a vehicle. I may even go to some local Yahoo groups I'm on to see if anyone would want to work out some sort of trade, where they let us use their vehicle, and we let them use our camper.

Maybe it's farfetched, but I've managed to find other things like this in the past. I can only just imagine how expensive it would be for us to rent a vehicle but I'll check it out.

Thanks a lot everyone. Any advice on vehicles would be appreciated. Am going to etrailer right now.

Mary Kay who has become obsessed looking at photos of others' campers. What is my problem? I already DO have a life....a very busy one....LOL
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Old 11-16-2011, 05:39 PM   #11
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That is a huge difference in the 2400# you thought. 60% more - wow. The 3820# lines up with what other Towlites have weighed. Best of luck on a Tow Vehicle.
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Old 11-16-2011, 05:59 PM   #12
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Well, I remembered seeing a sticker that I thought said 2440, but dh said he saw one that said 2640...either way, 3820 is a LOT more.

I've been online/on the phone all day...House is a mess, children are neglected!!! LOL and I cannot find ANYONE that will rent a vehicle that we can tow our camper with. UHaul does, but there are two kids and two adults. Their bench seats only fit three. They're cheap too ...about $300/wk and free up to 750 miles....Reasonable IMO.

Anybody have any ideas? I am going to post on Craigslist and some of my Yahoo Groups...can't think f anything else.

Mary Kay
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Old 11-16-2011, 06:44 PM   #13
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There a lot of good tow vehicles out there, just make sure it's a Toyota
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Old 11-17-2011, 11:09 AM   #14
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J & R has a certified Appliance service tech that services their appliances. this is the best bet on proper serviceing your fridge. they can tell you if it is salvageable,or needs to be replaced. also jim at j&r can go over everything that needs anything on your hi-lo. as far as the weight issue for your toyota, I would not tow in any hilly areas,get a good brake controller,a good weight distributing hitch, and you must get the biggest trans cooler you can, but realisticly, you need a stronger vehicle (one with a frame and at least a 5 to 6000 lbs tow rateing). Don't forget you need to add in people,fluids groceries,luggage,etc. besides extras such as a/c awnings,bunk,full propane tanks,etc. and the first thing to think about is SAFETY FOR YOUR FAMILY! I do not mean this in a negitive way, because you can always get a nother vehicle or camper, but never a new family because of trying to get by with what you have instead of what you need. Best of luck and wishes for your new endeavor.



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Old 11-20-2011, 03:38 PM   #15
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Thanks robobd, we have definitely ruled our vehicle out. And if you can believe this one!!!!!:

I posted an ad everyone --on all my Yahoo Groups, Craigslist, anywhere I could think. I offered to lend our camper to someone who had a vehicle that could tow it and wanted to use our camper.

Within an hour someone from Craigslist responded. We've spoken on the phone. He has a gas guzzling Dodge Ram that can do it. We'll have to figure out insurance and all the details, but how cool is that? He's going to let us use his this Dec and we'll let him use our camper next August.

Mrary Kay
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