The first time we loaded the truck camper onto the truck was under the expert tutelage of awesome service technicians at Princess Craft RV in Round Rock Texas. One of the two technicians guided me in my role as driver. The other guided Linda in her role as spotter. Mounting the camper went quickly and efficiently.
A couple of things the Princess Craft RV technicians said really stuck in our minds.
The first time mounting the truck camper will probably take three hours.
Over time, with practice, it will take a half hour or less.
Three hours is a long time to spend mounting a truck camper. Frankly we were more than a little intimidated by the prospect of something going wrong and it taking even longer than three hours. We studied the Atwood Truck Camper Jack material provided with the camper. We watched the DVD Using Your Atwood Truck Camper Jacks over and over. We talked through the steps and compared the video with what we learned at Princess Craft RV. Even with the extensive preparation, we were worried.
Our new truck is supposed to have its oil changed every 5,000 miles. Even though we had only 3,200 miles on the truck, it has been more than six months since we bought the truck so it was time for an oil change.
Early Saturday morning, we drove out to our storage facility and unloaded the truck camper (see Second First Time Unloading the Truck Camper). Then I took the truck up to Jordan Ford for the oil change. The dealer finished the oil change quickly and I made it home well before lunch. After lunch we drove the truck back to our storage facility. If needed, we had the whole afternoon to mount the truck camper on the truck.
The night before, as I was falling asleep, it occurred to me that it would be easier to line the truck up with the camper if I made the left to right center point really obvious. Blue painter’s masking tape would do the job well since it is easy to peal off and the bright color would show up against the white camper.
We brought tools with us to make the job easier.
Since we left the camper jacks fully extended, we didn’t need to raise the camper. It was already up high enough to load.
Before loading, I used the tape measure to find the center point on the truck camper. Using the blue painter’s masking tape, taped a vertical line through the center point. Now I have something to line the truck up with.
Linda took the role of spotter. Her job was to be my eyes outside the truck:
- make sure the umbilical cord is out of the way
- make sure the driver doesn’t hit anything
- direct the driver to line the truck up with the camper
- guide the driver as the truck is backed underneath the camper so that the camper and its bits completely clear the wheel wells.
- stop the truck when it is time to plug in the camper’s umbilical cord
- plug in the camper’s umbilical cord
- using the camper jack remote control, lower the camper onto the truck in stages
I took the role of driver:
- pay attention to the spotter so I don’t hit anything
- when next movement or step isn’t clear, get out of the truck, walk around the truck and/or camper, assess the situation and talk to the spotter
- back the truck up without hitting the camper or any of its bits
- position the truck so that the camper fits within the wheel wells
- plug in the umbilical cord
The first step was to move the license plate from the truck back to the camper.
The next step was to position the truck in front of the camper so we could eye-ball the truck and camper together. I had put the tape measure in the middle of the truck bed so that all I would have to do was look over my shoulder through the back window and line the tape measure up with the masking tape.
Sitting in the cab, expecting to see the tape measure when I turned and look through the back window, I got that bad feeling in my stomach when I realized that this wasn’t like my old truck. I couldn’t see the truck bed at all from the driver’s seat partly because the head rests on the back seat were in the way.
Remembering only that the truck had cameras all over the place, I fiddled with the camera controls until I found the following camera view.
What a life saver! Slowly, we inched the truck backwards. We stopped fairly frequently. I got out of the truck to discuss our situation. Then I adjusted the steering wheel and we inched back further. Linda started lowering the camper getting the camper closer to (but not touching) the truck bed. When we got the camper within one foot of its destination, Linda had me plug in the umbilical cord.
Linda continued lowering the camper so that it was within an inch of touching the truck bed. Linda called out loudly as I backed the truck up just enough so that the camper’s black rubber bumpers barely touched the bed.
From here she lowered the camper onto the truck and fully retracted each of the jacks. The front jacks were swung forward and locked into place so that they no longer stuck out further than the real dually wheel wells.
The next step was to attach and tension each of the four tie downs (turnbuckles).
We both did a final walk around to inspect the camper. I remarked how odd it was that the camper wasn’t in the middle of the truck. It hung over the truck more on one side than the other. Linda reminded me that the Princess Craft RV technicians told us this was normal. I sure hope so.
We were surprised that our first time loading the truck camper only took 30 minutes. We were expecting it to take us three hours. We will be loading and unloading the camper again soon. Then we will find out if the short load time was beginners luck or something we can repeat.