In a previous article on parked camper trailer stabilization I mentioned that I did not use any of the frame mounted, cross bracing camper stabilizing systems that are sold in the aftermarket because I am fairly satisfied with the jacks and tripod that I use and the slight trailer jiggle was acceptable to my wife and to me. Also I didn’t care to drill holes in the frame of my fifth wheel and I really just didn’t want to spend money on a system that might or might not work as advertised. I did, however, invite anyone that used such a system to contact me and let me know how it works for them. I also rather jokingly invited anyone that sells such a product to send me a system (free of course) and I would give it a fair product evaluation. Well, Paul Hanscom, president of Hanscom Enterprises of Bakersfield, California stumbled across that article one day and took me up on the offer. Yep. He sent me one of his company’s Steadyfast parked fifth wheel and travel trailer stabilizing systems for me to mount on my fifth wheel and call it as I see it. For better or worse, I’m publishing my findings. Here we go.
Short version – the system works and it is worth the money. You can stop reading now and order a set if you are tired of your camper jiggling. If you want a more detailed view of the product and its installation then please read on.
OK. When the system arrived at my house via Fed EX I weighed the whole 42”X12”X4” box and found that it weighed an even 40 pounds. I’m telling you this because I believe that it’s important to manage your trailer weight. Having said that, I believe it is worth the 40 extra pounds to get the stability that the system provides. Also, with the Steadyfast system you will be able to eliminate the kingpin tripod if you have a fifth wheel which will eliminate at least 20 pounds or half the weight of the Steadyfast system so, with a fifth wheel, the net weight gain is really only about 20 pounds.
The next thing I noticed after opening the box is the quality of the system. All of the components have a very nice powder coated finish that appears very durable. All the hardware is zinc plated and comes packaged in little zip lock bags with a printed list of that bag’s contents and a picture of those contents enclosed. This is a thoughtful step and makes it very easy to find the hardware that you need. All of the nuts are self-locking with a nylon insert so they will never vibrate off. Also included is a very sharp 17/64 drill bit. This is the bit you will use to drill through your trailer’s frame to mount the brackets. These brackets mount with included 5/16” X 1” self threading bolts so the hole size is critical and the enclosed bit will take care of that. Steadyfast claims that installation will take about three hours. I disagree. That would probably be true if you have already installed a system like I have, but be prepared to take a little longer if you are a first time installer. Let’s talk about the installation process now so that you will know what’s ahead.
The first thing you should do before the assembly or installation of any product is sit down and read the instructions from beginning to end so that you will understand what to do, make sure that all the components are there and get all of the necessary tools together. Well, I’m an educated man, a former teacher and a free lance writer and I couldn’t do that. Before I finished with the first page I was in brain overload. Let me quickly say that I probably couldn’t have done a better job of writing the instructions myself. No one else could either. You see, writing down this procedure is sort of like writing down instructions to teach a child how to ride a bicycle. There is just no really good way to do it, but instructions are needed none the less. There are pictures included and the instructions refer to them often and that helps a lot. In a telephone conversation with Paul Hanscom he told me that I could probably just refer to the pictures and go from there. Well, I did that and still referred somewhat to the printed instructions. Then I just dove in and mounted one of the three bracing tubes and the associated brackets and hardware. Well, heck! Now it all makes sense. That really wasn’t very hard at all. The lesson here is don’t be intimidated by the instructions. The job is not that bad. Paul has also included his cell phone number and he would be glad to help you out or answer any of your questions. I have made a couple of suggestions to Paul that might make the installation process easier. The pictures should come before the instructions so that the customer will study them first and then the printed instructions will make more sense. I have also suggested that he include a DVD of the installation to help out challenged folks like myself.
Another reason that the job took longer than anticipated is the time required to drill through the trailer frame. As I mentioned, a sharp 17/64 drill bit is included, but you have to drill pilot holes with your own bit and maybe my bit was a little worn. My cordless drill batteries are also several years old so they had to be charged a few times delaying the job. ‘Hardly the fault of Steadyfast.
There are also a few things that I would include in the installation procedure. First – and this is extremely important – wear eye protection when doing this or any other similar job. You will find yourself lying on your back under your camper drilling up through the frame. Well, those metal shavings not only fall downward, they can also be slung out some distance by the drill. I wouldn’t stop at wearing safety glasses either. A job like this would mandate safety goggles or even a face shield. Another touch I added was the use of Locktite 262 Threadlocker. This is a red, oily liquid that is put on bolt threads and will prevent the bolt from ever loosening unless you take it apart with tools. As I mentioned before, all nuts are self locking, but I thought this step was a nice touch and it surely couldn’t hurt. The 5/15 X 1” self threading bolts require a drop of light oil before they are screwed into the frame anyway and the Threadlocker will take care of that. The only threads where I didn’t apply the Threadlocker are the threads on the locking handles. These are really just big wing nuts and you tighten or loosen them when setting or unsetting the system.
Well, that’s about it on the installation. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. I could probably install another system in a leisurely morning or afternoon. If you are still a little intimidated by the installation process and are thinking about paying an RV tech to do it for you, let me warn you. The tech may not be any more familiar with the Steadyfast system than you are so he might not be that much help; just expensive. I’ll be glad to help out, but be warned – I’m very expensive too.
Please let me summarize. As I’ve previously stated, this is a good system, it works as advertised and it’s worth the money. The price at the time of this writing is $339.00 plus shipping, but there are occasionally sale prices and free shipping. You can log onto www.steadyfast.com or just call Paul Hanscom at (866) 498-8754 to get the current price. If you are new to RVing I would suggest that you buy the Steadyfast system instead of a king pin tripod and all the other stabilizing devices that you would eventually end up buying. You will probably come close to breaking even on the money and your rig will be more stable with less effort on your part. If you are a veteran RVer it’s still worth the money because you will be stabilized in about 45 seconds, you don’t have to lug the system around because it stays attached to the camper; it extends and retracts with the jacks and landing gear and you don’t have to fool with a tripod and all those other devices. Then you can sell your tripod and other obsolete stuff on eBay.
When the installation was complete my wife and I tested it out. We set the locking handles on the Steadyfast system and took turns stomping around the camper like we were trying to kill cockroaches while the other one sat in an easy chair or at the dinette. To be very honest, it doesn’t feel like a brick house on a concrete slab, but it is the most stable camper I’ve ever been in. This is with no tripod, no between-the-wheel chocks and no extra jacks or jack stands. I would say that at least 90% or even 95% of the jiggle is gone. My biggest problem used to be that I couldn’t write anything at the desk or dinette if someone was walking through the camper, but that problem is gone.
Congratulations to Paul Hanscom on this great product. I appreciate him sending me one for evaluation. He’s not getting it back.