HELP! 13ft Scamp Deluxe VERY difficult to tow - Fiberglass RV


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Old 06-20-2006, 03:10 AM   #1
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Trailer: 1997 13 ft Scamp Deluxe and 2006 Airstream 75th Anniversary International Bambi Prototype
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Hello everyone...I am so hoping that someone could shed some new light on my dilemma.

I have a 13ft Scamp Deluxe with the oak interior, full front bath/shower, roof air, TV/minidisc stereo/4 speakers, refrigerator, furnace, hot water heater, microwave, stove, and fully lined roof wrap-around cabinets. My loaded wet weight is 2480lbs. That's pretty heavy for this size trailer.

My problem is the immense difficulty this trailer poses to tow. I have towed this trailer with 4 different vehicles over the years, and regardless of horsepower or torque, the difficulty towing this trailer feels the SAME. I first purchased it in 1997 and towed it from Minnesota to Louisiana with the SCCA race version of a Dodge Neon 5spd. It towed well, but couldn't really maintain 65mph easily. I attributed that to it being a 4 cylinder, and didn't really worry about it. But, I've also towed it with a turbo VW Beetle, which did better, as it is a big fat car and breaks the wind better. I've towed it with a 315 horsepower 6spd RWD Trans Am as well...and it felt just as difficult to tow as with the Neon!!! The vehicle I'm currently towing it with is a 6 cylinder Dodge Caravan, which does fine on staight roads with no wind. The second you get the slightest bit of headwind or the smallest of hills (I mean the kind of hills you don't even SEE but for some reason you slow down) I usually have to drop it into 2nd gear and creep along at 35-40mph. Any bit of wind on top of that is excruciating. It just feels like I can't go. The van is highly modified for towing as well, including ram air cold air induuction, 2.5" dual exhaust with no catalytic converter, lightweight rims/tires, timing advanced, larger throttle body, air shocks, new wheel bearings, new struts/springs, class 3 hitch, external extra cooling fans, giant transmission cooler, etc...as a matter of fact, I evacuated from Hurricane Katrina in this van pulling the Scamp, and ended up out west in Arizona...where my engine blew up, and my transmission was rebuilt twice...until I had to purchase a NEW transmission just to get home. But, my point here is that the trailer has been pulled by 4 different cars...some less capable, some WAY over qualified for the job...and it still feels like you are pulling 4 of these trailers at once. I had a friend once pull the trailer about 4 miles for me with an F-250 truck and he commented that the trailer felt like a 30ft 80's Coachmen that he towed at one time. It doesn't matter how much torque I have in a tow vehicle...this thing just feels like there is another car attached to the rear pulling it the opposite way. Some hills had me pulling up in 1st gear at 15mph. This is a tiny trailer to cause such a strain. There is no reason for this; it makes no sense.

When I evacuated from Katrina, my first stop was in Arkansas. I had my van and trailer weighed there at the time. My Scamp weighs 2480lbs fully loaded. This isn't a lot of weight, but its alot for this size trailer. But, its not enough to be causing the towing difficulty I'm experiencing. I've towed 3500lb cars and large U-haul box trailers and can cruise at 70-75mph easily in ANY of my previously listed vehicles. My trailer, according to Scamp, should weigh about 1500-1600lbs dry. No way is my trailer that light. But, even so...the weight doesn't seem to be the culprit. Fully loaded/wet or completely empty/dry, it feels NO different. Something else has to be going on.

My wheel bearings have been serviced recently, and it made no difference whatsoever. Anytime you jack the trailer up and spin the wheels with your hands, they spin freely with no resistance whatsoever. Also, my trailer has electric brakes, and they aren't grabbing or dragging. My wheels are NEVER hot to the touch, and they don't run warm even after heavy brake use. I even replaced the wheels/tires, which may have been a mistake...my trailer originally came with 13 inch steel wheels, and I installed 14 inch steel "Smoothies" which are still very heavy (not much heavier than the originals) and Good Year Aquatred tires, which are very heavy tires. I'm thinking that the heavier wheels/tires may be giving me SOME added rolling resistance, but not really enough to cause the drastic problem I have...but anyway I'm in the process of changing the wheels/tires once again; this time with aluminum Torq Thrust rims, larger 15 inch diameter with a lower profile lighter weight radial. I figure this combinaion will give me a stiffer sidewall due to the larger rim/shorter tire, with the overall tire diameter the same as the original tire/rim combo. The aluminum rims weigh MUCH less than the steel Smoothies. It makes sense that this will contribute to less rolling resistance, but honestly...does anyone know if this will indeed make a difference? SOMETHING has to make this trailer easier to tow. I can't think of anything else to do.

I've had low-slung 4 cylinders tow this, high Caravans, fat/wide Beetles, and super powerful Trans Am's tow this trailer, and they all feel the same. So, wind resistance isn't the culprit. I've even installed a roof carrier on the Caravan to help break the wind over the trailer...no difference.

I've talked to Kent at Scamp, and he states he has NEVER heard of such a problem with towing a Scamp. He says he sold the larger 16ft Scamps to Caravan owners all the time, with fully loaded unmodified vans full of families, and never heard of a problem of the trailers being the least bit hard to tow. These trailers are reknowned for being easy to tow. Mine is NOT, and I'm not exaggerating the point whatsoever. Its a terrible chore to tow this trailer, and I hate it.

Please someone, shed some light on my situation. Once again, I've done everything I can think of to make it tow easier...both to the tow vehicles and trailer. When I evacuated, I easily had 1000 pounds of extra stuff in the van and trailer with me...and once I unloaded all that stuff, the trailer did NOT tow any better...the extra weight didn't seem to slow me down one bit compared to the unloaded weight. It felt exactly the same.

No one has been able to offer me a clue at any shop. Scamp has no clue. Could my wheel bearings (even though my wheels are always cool) be causing resistance at higher speeds, even though they spin freely by hand when you jack the trailer up? Seems like this would cause heat, which I don't have...but SOMETHING has to be going on. I know the trailer is heavy due to all the wood and accessories, but 2480lbs is not too much for this Caravan, and the Trans Am definitely has the power to pull anything (chassis not withstanding). The car which towed it the best, however, seemed to be the Beetle. Go figure...

If anyone has any helpful ideas, PLEASE let me know. I have to relocate soon with the Scamp (its now my home since Katrina) and I have to be able to pull it with less problems.

Please help.
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Old 06-20-2006, 07:59 AM   #2
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Wow, that's a story! About my only idea is that you should be running trailer tires and not passenger tires. It's not totally clear if you are doing that. Don't know if that will help, but an idea. You didn't mention your typical towing speed but 60 is about right to minimize wind resistance, maximize mileage, and be safer. Wind resistance may be part of your issue. What does it feel like at 35 mph?

That's a heavy 13', but about the same as the 16's that people tow, so some of them may have some ideas. I can't imagine towing it with a Beetle! And I guess that transmission cooler didn't seem to help with your Dodge! What is it's official towing capacity?

And what is your tongue weight? It should be about 10% of the trailer weight, or say 250#. A mis-balanced trailer might be impacting the feel of the thing.
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Old 06-20-2006, 08:19 AM   #3
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You need a real tow vehicle. Just kidding.

However, I didn't see you mention Chevy 350 or 454, Dodge 360 or 440, or Ford 351 or 390. I'd bet any of those would hardly notice a Scamp, whether it was hooked up or not.

Edit -- I read your post again and see that you mention a F-250. That would be a Ford 3/4 ton, which should pull a 13ft Scamp at 65 MPH with the wheels locked. I'm not good at reading long paragraphs on a computer screen, sorry.

Seriously, good tow vehicles produce lots of torque at low RPM, and have a very flat torque curve. The best way, and really the only way to effectively get this in the present technology is with cubic inches or cubic centimeters.

When my wife and I were first married, we towed a 13ft Compact Jr. with a Peugeot 404, as I remember about 1.6 ltr and 60 hp across the nation twice (saw 44 or the lower 48). It worked, but I remember an hour in low gear in the Rockies because there just wasn't enough umph to get into second. But it worked. And we had a great time.

Now we have a 16 ft Scamp. Guess what we tow with . . . . . .
A Chevy 4wd pickup with a 350 when the diesel is more expensive, and a 6.2 ltr diesel Blazer when the diesel is more reasonable.

Interestingly, the fuel economy with the Blazer is about the same as I got with the Peugeot with a similar load. The 350 gas drops about 25 percent.

Would I go back to towing with a smaller vehicle? Yes, if that were the only option.

Edit - I am wondering if the ride height of the trailer vs the tow vehicle is much different. The bottom side of Scamps aren't very aerodynamically slick, as you would know.

Edit - Another possibility is the Scamp, if not towed level may drag a lot more wind than necessary.
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Old 06-20-2006, 09:32 AM   #4
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My two bits worth. As mentioned above, you don't speak of tongue weight and trailer orientation.

When the trailer is hooked up, does the rear of the tow vehicle sink as the weight is put on the ball?
<blockquote>If this happens, you have changed the weight distribution between the front and rear axles of the tow vehicle, taking weight off the front, affecting braking and steering, especially in any wind. You could affect this by redistributing moveable stuff in the trailer.</blockquote>

When the trailer is hooked up, is it sitting level with the ground?
<blockquote>Towing hitch down on the trailer is probably transferring too much weight to the tow vehicle. A single axle trailer has a design tongue weight of 10% to 15% maximum of total trailer weight. Based on your trailer weight, I get a value of 248 to 372 pounds. Most of the vehicles you mention can only be equipped with a Class II Hitch reciever, giving a trailer weight of 3500 pouinds max, fully loaded, but more importantly, a maximum tongue weight of 300 pounds without a weight distributing hitch. A weight distributing hitch would give you a maximum allowable tongue weight of 500 pounds, using a class II hitch reciever.</blockquote>

<blockquote>Towing hitch up on the trailer is almost as bad. You would likely be below to minimum 10% tongue wieght, and the trailer would behave as if it is not attached to the vehicle, skittering sideways at any road imperfection or wind.</blockquote>

My recommendation would be stop looking at the tires, and get a good weight distributing hitch, and consider using anti-sway devices as well.

Victor
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Old 06-20-2006, 10:59 AM   #5
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And I'm going to give you advice that is exactly opposite of Victor's. Look at the tires. Aquatread tires are not meant for trailer use. They are wide and sticky. They also use relatively low air pressures to maintain the tread adhesion across the contact patch. In other words, they stick.

The wheels they're mounted on don't mean much in terms of towing; merely in unsprung weight. Get some Goodyear Marathons or Carlisle ST rated tires, pump them up to max air pressure, and see if that makes a difference.

There is a slim possibility that your Scamp may be "air-damming" in the slipstream of your tow vehicle. That is a real power killer. Most folks who have raised their trailers a few inches report an increase in gas mileage... but that depends entirely on the height of your tow vehicle.

And other posts have it right. There's no substitute for cubic inches when towing. It's been said that you can move a train with a sewing machine motor if it's geared properly. Although each of the vehicles you've towed with CAN obviously tow, none of them (save the F250) was designed to tow. Vehicles that are designed to tow a load handle those loads significantly better than vehicles that aren't.

Good luck figuring this one out!

Roger
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Old 06-20-2006, 12:03 PM   #6
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Maybe the trailer axle is over its weight limit. It may only be rated for 1500lbs.
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Old 06-20-2006, 12:42 PM   #7
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I don't know what year or power your Dodge Caravan has but I looked at the 2006 and the base model has a towing limit of 1,800#. The fact that yours slows down on even the slightest hill indicates that you are perhaps way, way over the limit.

http://www-5.dodge.com/vehsuite/TowingGuide.jsp
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Old 06-20-2006, 01:07 PM   #8
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Trailer: 1997 13 ft Scamp Deluxe and 2006 Airstream 75th Anniversary International Bambi Prototype
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Thank you everyone for your fast initial replies.

As far as trailer balance, tongue weight, and orientaion...I've mastered that years ago with a plethora of tests. My tongue weight is right at 255lbs when the trailer is fully loaded. I have dual propane tanks on the hitch, adding to its weight.

The trailer is completely balanced, and the orientaion is spot-on. With the air shocks in the Caravan and Trans Am, as well as Air Ride air spring helpers in the coils on the Beetle, none of the cars sag in the rear, and the trailer is perfectly level while towing with any of the cars. It took a lot of measuring and leveling to get this all perfect. But, it didn't help with the pulling of the "brick" syndrome.

One thing I forgot to mention, is that the trailer PULLS amazingly to the point you don't know its there...until you hit wind or the slightest bit of hill. And, the problem exhibited is that it just feels like you're dragging 10 of these trailers. Foot to the floor, watching your gauges, downshifting to second, clutching the wheel, wondering when something's going to break, all at the blazing speed of 30mph. The problem doesn't lie in the the road manners of the Scamp, it tracks straight and true. I realize that an unbalanced trailer that pitches, dives, and swerves contributes significantly to towing difficulty, as your engine is trying to overpower inital powers of inertia. However, the trailer just stays straight and true behind any of the vehicles. There's no wander, definitely no sway, no fishtailing...nothing. I'm simply amazed at the ability of the air shocks to control my load. I get no nose-diving and no pitching. All road manners are PERFECT in all cars, except to a lesser extent with the Neon as its short wheelbase can bounce on uneven pavement...but its not a major concern. I had a blow-out on the trailer in Arizona on the interstate, and I had no problems with handling or getting the trailer off the road...and it was pitching violently. BTW, I wasn't over my load rating/maximum weight carrying capacity of my tires.

Regarding my Caravan, its a Caravan C/V (cargo van) with heavy duty suspension, multi-leaf rear springs, and increased towing capacity. My factory service manual lists maximum towing capability at 3375lbs, which I would never try to tow...so I'm way under that. My maximum GCWR is 7700lbs which I'm way under. I bet if I towed a 16ft heavier Scamp I would have no problems. Just a hunch; that's how my life works for some reason.

Regarding the AquaTred's...I realized after the fact that they were "sticky" tires that grab the road. Although I run them at their maximum cold pressure (44lbs) I'm nearly convinced they are adding to the difficulty to tow. Although, when I had 13 inch rims and the factory Tow Master trailer tires on the Scamp, it didn't feel any different honestly...

Sorry for omitting this info in my original post. So, does anyone have any more ideas? The 6spd Trans Am with modified suspension, 315hp, and 3.73 rear axle ratio should move this trailer NO problem. It was done in the 70's with giant box trailers. I don't buy into the notion that I need a full size V-10 turbo diesel truck to tow such a tiny trailer. That defeats the purpose. Someone has had to have experienced the difficulty I'm having and found a cure.

BTW...during one of my breakdowns and resulting tows out west (there were several, thank god for Good Sam) my Caravan was on a flatbed and my Scamp was towed behind it. The tow truck was a 5500 Chevy diesel. What amazed me is that THIS huge truck slowed down climbing the hills of Utah; usually to around 40mph (whereas I could pull them alone in the Caravan/Scamp at 20mph). My point is that this tiny trailer slowed down a GIANT truck; even the tow truck driver commented he tows giant trailers out of that area with no problems...and that my trailer felt heavy. (Oh, BTW...he didn't have the coupler on the ball properly, and the trailer fell off the ball...dragging what is now my "HOUSE" down the highway until it came within about 1/16" of wearing through the chains...its not fun when you're watching your home being dragged up a mountain with a clueless tow truck driver.)

Thanks again,
Jeff
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Old 06-20-2006, 02:41 PM   #9
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One thing I forgot to mention, is that the trailer PULLS amazingly to the point you don't know its there...until you hit wind or the slightest bit of hill. ess tow truck driver.)

Thanks again,
Jeff

I have never heard a better description of what it feels like to tow a trailer with an underpowered tow vehicle.

Nick
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Old 06-20-2006, 03:03 PM   #10
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Hi Nick...

My problem is not an underpowered tow vehicle. I've towed this trailer with a 160hp 4cyl Neon, a 200hp turbo 4cyl Beetle, a modified ram-air equipped open exhaust V6 Caravan, a 315hp RWD 6spd 3.73 axle ratio suspension modified Trans Am, and a V8 F-250 Ford truck.

It feels the SAME regardless of what you tow it with. The Neon did just as good as any of the others. I'm not exaggerating my point. Something else is going on. I've towed heavier loads and bigger/square trailers with these vehicles and never once had a problem or a feeling of "not being able to go".
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Old 06-20-2006, 03:27 PM   #11
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Jeff... are you dragging an anchor? Sorry... couldn't help m'self... off to my room now...

Roger
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Old 06-20-2006, 03:31 PM   #12
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Hi Roger....

I would say YES, but an anchor would slide along the ground MUCH easier than my trailer. More like an anchor with big rubber feet on it grabbing the road like velcro...

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Old 06-20-2006, 03:38 PM   #13
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Y'know Jeff... it would be interesting to meet up with someone else with another Scamp and do the mix-n-match routine; mix-n-match tow vehicles and trailers and see how much differently they tow.

FWIW, your 2400 lb 13' is roughly twice the weight of the stock stripper 13' trailers, most of which are 1200 lbs.

I was just thinking that the only problem that would cause your trailer to tow hard would be either wind resistance or friction. Friction would manifest itself in heat somewhere. Wind resistance is less likely to be "seen". A crummy, disrupted air flow around the trailer would, in fact, cause it to 'suck down' and be tough to tow. That along with twice the weight of the standard 13' trailer plus a lack of torque and rear-end axle ratio could cause that feel.

It really would be interesting to do a side-by-side tow comparison with another Scamp 13 to really see if your impressions are accurate, and if they're borne out by another person familiar with towing a Scamp 13. Without doing that, we're kind of stuck in the realm of subjective conjecture.

Roger
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Old 06-20-2006, 04:39 PM   #14
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One thing I forgot to mention, is that the trailer PULLS amazingly to the point you don't know its there...until you hit wind or the slightest bit of hill. And, the problem exhibited is that it just feels like you're dragging 10 of these trailers. Foot to the floor, watching your gauges, downshifting to second, clutching the wheel, wondering when something's going to break, all at the blazing speed of 30mph.

Thanks again,
Jeff
I fall on the side of what Nick said. I know this is NOT what you want to hear, but it is all about being under powered.

If you roll a bowling ball along the road it takes very little effort. (Young children can do it.) How hard would it be to roll the same bowling ball up a long incline? (I would be down shifting too.)

With my 460 V8 one ton Ford I could go up hill and pass anything towing my 5th wheel. I always had to decide if it was worth an extra $5.00 or not. I basically got 8 to 9 MPG flat, up hill, or on the level. Now with a smaller tow, sometimes I have to down shift, but I get much better mileage.

Good luck.
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