What do I need to haul a truck
Truck Camper Tie Downs and Turnbuckles
Well, the first thing would be a pickup
truck! But seriously, we receive several calls every week from customers new to
the slide in camper world wondering what type of equipment they need to purchase
in order to tote their new (or new to them) slide
in camper unit.
The most common situation is the person who
already owns a pickup and has purchased a pre-owned camper to see if they like
this type of RV camping. Very often they have made the deal and need to go pick
up the unit but have no hardware to attach the camper once loaded. If purchasing
from a dealer they may be able to make recommendations based on the camper and
truck combination in question.
Many people get ahead of the game and make
the camper purchase before determining if their existing truck is up to the
task! Check the GVWR and cargo load capacity of your pickup to determine if
you're on the right path. Almost all RVs, including slide in campers, have a
data plate attached from the manufacturer with the weight listed. A good rule of
thumb is to add at least 20% to the weight listed on the tag for the "real"
Can your truck handle this legally and safely? Take a look at this picture.
Would you guess this heavy duty dually pickup loaded with a 9-1/2' camper is
legal. Well, you might be surprised. This truck/camper combo actually weighs
around 1,600 lbs. more than the GVWR for the truck. Now imagine this same camper
sitting on a 3/4 ton truck. We see that situation practically every day!
There is an almost limitless variety of
aftermarket accessories to help your truck carry the camper you choose. Keep in
mind though, the specifications listed on the data plate of your tow vehicle
will never change, no matter how many suspension upgrades you add. And even the
heavy duty "dually" pickups available can still be made to do the job better.
Modern campers are typically heavy due to all the amenities available. Most cab
over truck campers are tall, making them top heavy so the truck wants to
"rock-n-roll" traveling down the road. Some suspension enhancements can help
with this situation.
High quality tie downs are important to keep the camper firmly in place. This
includes the anchor points on the truck AND camper, as well as the turnbuckles
you choose. The whole system needs to be up to the task. And DO NOT be tempted
to use only front tie downs. The camper needs to be held firmly at all four
corners to prevent movement, or in the worst case, tipping forward.
When shopping for used campers, the corner
mounting brackets for the loading jacks and also the turnbuckle anchor points are often
overlooked. Check these out to be certain no damage has taken place here. Most
camper frames, especially older units, are made of wood. Over time the lag bolts
used to attach the brackets can become loose. Because the camper is outside most
(or all) of the time, loose bolts will allow water to penetrate causing the wood
to rot. Loose
camper jack brackets or tie down anchor points can be extremely difficult and
expensive to fix, and a deal breaker if you aren't prepared to spend some extra
cash or do some major surgery yourself. This is the first thing I would look at
before even opening the camper door! Remember, you will be lifting all the
weight of the camper with the corner brackets and holding all that mass in your
truck with the anchor points.
All of the images below can be clicked to enlarge.
Once you've determined that your truck is
within the capacity range needed and you have a camper lined up you'll need the
tie downs on the pickup and turnbuckles to attach the two together. The size of
your camper will be a factor
in the type of tie downs you want. These can range from the old standard "stake
pocket" mount style up to the frame mounted style.
If your truck is older, meaning pre 80s era,
the sheet metal and pockets will be a little stronger than the newer trucks and
may be able to handle the stresses involved with the pocket mount hold downs.
For very light campers it can sometimes do the job. If you choose this type be
sure to look for a design that either bolts or clamps solidly the the truck,
otherwise they have been known to pull out. Remember, since these mount in the
truck's stake pockets, there's always a risk of damaging the truck bed.
Bed and bumper mount style tie downs are step up for small to medium size
campers. These have been around for many years and have proven to work better
than the pocket mount type for a little heavier campers. The front (bed mount)
is a plate that attaches to the front of the pickup box, between the cab and
bed, a few inches down from the bed rail. The plate protrudes out from the side
of the truck and has an anchor hole for the turnbuckle. Too much tension on the
turnbuckle can bend this plate back into the box, damaging the bodywork so be
The rear (bumper mount) anchors include a
bumper bolt or "button" and an anchor plate which slips slips on to the bolt for
attaching the rear turnbuckle. As with the front bed mounts care must be taken
to not bend the truck bumper when tightening the turnbuckles.
"Direct to frame" mounts are the same principle as the bed and bumper mount but
with the added strength of extra brackets that attach to the truck frame in the
front along with a stabilizer bar to tie the two sides together. For many
applications there are also rear bumper braces available.
"Universal" belly bar and receiver hitch mounted tie downs are available also.
The belly bar usually clamps crosswise under the truck frame, with arms that
protrude out for the turnbuckle attachment. Since the bar goes under the truck
frame it may need to be removed for some type of repair or maintenance to the
vehicle. In the rear there would be "receiver" tubes that slide in to the open
ends of the receiver hitch. These will accept the attaching arms. The actual tie
down arms in both front and rear applications are normally held in place by a
pin and can be easily removed. These might be a good choice for someone planning
to trade in their truck soon, as they can be removed for use on the new vehicle.
Mounted" tie downs utilize 4 independent units bolted to the frame and or
receiver hitch for a solid connection between the truck frame and camper. There
is a separate tied down "receiver" for each corner with removable inserts for
turnbuckle attachment. This system is very similar to the design of a receiver
hitch and slide in ball mount. These tie downs are designed to fit specific
vehicle makes and models to allow the best fit and strongest attachment to the
truck. In most cases they bolt on to the truck with no drilling required. No
belly bar is needed, allowing full access to the underside of the truck. Many
dual rear wheel trucks have running boards extending back on the box to the
dually fenders. A special adjustable version of the front tie downs is available
with longer inserts that can extend out far enough to accommodate this
Once the truck is outfitted you will need attaching hardware from the camper
anchor points to the truck tie downs. This needs to be substantial enough to
handle the loads encountered. A basic chain and turnbuckle with hooks of some
type is the entry level setup.
There are several turnbuckle systems
available that eliminate the need for chain. These generally have a hook on each
end, and a threaded rod that screws in or out of a threaded center section for
tightening. Basically just a fancy turnbuckle, usually with some type of spring
load or cushioning, that connects directly to each anchor point with enough
length to eliminate the need for chain or separate hooks. Different lengths and
styles are available for use with bed & bumper mount
or frame mount
Some tighten down using a lever action design that speeds up installation and