Off the Beaten Path: Modifying Your Towable RV for Rougher Roads
Towable recreational vehicles are great for RV resorts, developed campgrounds and paved roads. But if you want to explore some more remote areas with a towable RV you may need to consider a retrofit or two. With so much out there to explore, you’ll want to make sure your RV is up to the challenge. Whether you have a pop-up camper, travel trailer, toy hauler or fifth-wheel travel trailer, here’s what you need to know before you hit the road.
Add Shock Absorbers and Equalizers
If you’re going to routinely use unpaved roads (which range from smooth dirt or gravel roads to rocky, pitted messes that feel more like off-roading) to access your favorite camping spots, ModMyRV.com suggests adding shock absorbers. Trailer Life Magazine says that shock absorbers can help keep the trailer more stable as they dampen some of the up and down motion incurred while going over a bumpy surface, but they are not factory included on many trailers or fifth-wheels.
ModMyRV.com also says it can be helpful to add or update leaf spring equalizers, which is an area of suspension that can be subject to both wear and neglect. These equalizers are designed to spread the weight of the load between axles, says Trailer Life Magazine, which can help to cushion the ride over rough terrain. You can find tips for making these modifications on your own from DIY websites like ModMyRV.com, or contact your local mechanic or service provider to discuss your options.
Choose Appropriate Tires
You’ll want to choose tires for your travel trailer that can handle the terrain you’re navigating. Mud and all-terrain tires are two options, according to Pep Boys, which adds that mud tires typically have larger treads with deeper gaps to grip uneven terrain. All-terrain tires typically have closer treads, as they’re designed to provide better traction on paved roads. With all-terrain tires, look for ones with the Winter Tire Traction rating (“snowflake-on-mountain” symbol) on the tire’s sidewall, and make sure the tire’s construction is durable enough to resist tearing, cuts and punctures, according to the site.
It’s also important to make sure your tires are inflated properly, according to the Recreational Vehicle Safety and Education Foundation. Check the tire pressure on your RV before you hit the road, as making sure tires are inflated to the correct levels is essential for helping tire performance, the vehicle’s handling and maximizing tire life.
Add a Generator
Going off the beaten path may also mean you’re away from some of life’s usual comforts, including electrical hook-ups for your RV. You may want to add a generator in case you need to recharge your RV’s battery bank batteries, or to use a power source for reheating leftovers in the microwave or running your coffeemaker. From diesel to propane, generators come in various types and sizes — so you can choose what best meets your needs. RVShare.com recommends noting all the appliances in your RV that use 120 volts and checking both the start-up and running wattage required by your air conditioner (if you have one). This will help you determine how much power you’d need from a generator.
If your travels regularly take you away from power sources, like those you’d find at an established campground, you might want to consider adding a solar-energy system to recharge your power without a generator, says Camping World. Solar power is quiet, easy to use and you may be more willing to travel more places if you’re not reliant on a traditional source of electricity, says Camping World. It may be costly to set up initially, though, so you want to consider how often you would truly need solar power before making this modification.
There’s a lot to see off the beaten path. By outfitting your RV before your next road trip, you’ll be better prepared to navigate backcountry roads.
Originally published on August 7, 2014.