Last time I unloaded the truck camper, I forgot to move the license plate from the camper back to the truck. I drove up to the dealer for an oil change without the back license plate. No problems with law enforcement. I think I just got lucky.
Then when I loaded the camper back on the truck (First Time Loading The Truck Camper), I didn’t have a wrench handy to tighten the nuts on the quick links so I just finger tightened them. I realized at the time that I should carry a crescent wrench, flat blade screw driver and Phillip’s head screw driver in the cab to ensure that the tools I would need for loading and unloading the camper were easily accessible.
On the way back from fixing the water heater drain plug (Hot Water Tank Maintenance), I went over some railroad tracks a bit faster than I should have. I felt the camper and truck separate for a moment and then come back together. Not all that different than having anything in the back of the truck jump up and down when going over large bumps.
At the time, I didn’t think anything of it.
Arriving at a campground on my next trip, another (Truck Camper) camper, looking at my tie downs, noted that I needed to tighten the nuts that close my quick links. Made sense and I thanked him for pointing this out.
After setting up camp, I got my new crescent wrench out of the cab to go around the four tie downs and tighten the nuts.
To my horror, I found a tie down with a seriously compromised quick link. I also noticed that the camper had slid back away from the truck cab by an inch.
Not having any spare quick links, all I could do was remove it and show my wife.
Next day, I drove into town and bought four new quick links. One quick link replaced the failed one. The others are in the truck door next to the crescent wrench.
The difference between the new and old quick link is revealing.
For me, seeing the broken quick link and the obvious re-positioning of the camper in the truck bed turned into a self teaching moment. Key learnings include:
- At every stop, walk around the truck and camper and don’t just feel the tension on the tie downs. Look at each tie down component.
- Quick links need to be screwed together to provide their rated capacity.
- Always use a wrench to tighten quick links. Finger tightening is ineffective.
- Carry extra quick links.
- Avoid large bumps. Don’t cause large loads to ‘go airborne.’
Quick links (5/16 size rated capacity 1,760 lbs) are made to fail before the other tie down components. Similar to fuses, this protects the other tie down components from even more costly repairs and replacement.