Why does My 5th Wheel, Travel Trailer, or Camper Shake, Wiggle, and Rock?
Fifth Wheel and Travel trailers are supported by springs and tires, both of which are designed to be flexible. In addition to that, the frame has flex designed into it just from the fact that it is built on a long beam that is only supported at couple of locations. But that is not really the question you are asking.
The real question is: Why does it shake and wiggle when I am parked and have put down blocks, cranked down the stock stabilizing jacks, placed a king pin tripod under the front, set the special chocks between the wheels, cranked down the two extra jacks I installed in front of the wheels, and put jack stands under the slide outs?
Of course the answer is everything you setup moves, so the trailer has movement. Seem impossible ? Let’s take a look at the basics:
1. If the ground is not solid, the base of any stabilizing equipment will move and in turn the device and the trailer will move. If blocks used to support stabilizing equipment are not properly placed or are flexible, then the stabilizing equipment and the trailer will move.
2. If the device, scissor jack, “c” jack stabilizer, telescoping jack, tripod, jack stand, power jack, hydraulic jack, etc., has any flexibility sideways or up and down the devices and the trailer will have movement.
I have found one of the biggest factors of destabilization of a trailer is the stabilizing jacks. Virtually all of the swing arm, C Jacks, and telescoping type jacks (see center picture above), both power and manual, are like stiff springs. They are quite flexible and just don’t hold the trailer solid. They allow both bounce and rocking motions. It is only possible to remove about 80% of the movement with a bracing system on this type of stabilizing jack.
5th Wheel Tripods or King pin Jack stabilizers in concept have good potential for eliminating shaking at the point they are installed. However, adding a “convenience” threaded adjustment at the top basically nullifies the concept. The location tripods have to be installed also works against their functionality. It is similar to trying to keep a dog from wagging his tail by holding on to his nose.
I find that the “between the wheel” chocks are very handy to use and do a good job of keeping the trailer from rolling down a hill. However, the benefit achieved from trying to stabilize the trailer frame through a flexible tire and flexible springs has to be less than optimum.
Fifth Wheel front landing gear, legs, scissor jacks, hydraulic jacks , electric vertical screw jacks and similar do a great job of trailer leveling and stopping vertical movement, but in most cases provide very little benefit in the area of sideways movement. The same is true for fifth wheel jack stands and travel trailer jack stands.
3. The trailer frame is like a long plank sitting on a scaffold. As you walk along the board it will bend with your weight. The only places it does not bend are where there are solid supports under it.
4. Trailer floors will also flex to varying degrees as you walk on them just as described above for the trailer frame.
Thus, unless you reinforce the trailer floor and place a solid foundation under the trailer with solid supports to the frame every few feet, it is not likely you can remove all the trailer movement.
How do I Stop My Trailer from Shaking?
What can be done to eliminate the most annoying movement and provide a very solid feeling, without doing an extraordinary amount of work each time you set up? You must do everything possible to eliminate movement in the 4 areas discussed above.
1. Use hard solid blocks that are large enough to support the jack weight on the surface you are on. None may be required on concrete, but a very large surface area would be required on sand. Be careful when you set the blocks that they are not on an uneven surface that will allow them to rock. It may be beneficial to use a couple of small blocks like 2x4 wood about 12 inches long to place under some larger jack pads so they can self level under the pad. On Sod you might consider a couple of small blocks that would compress the sod with a couple of cross blocks on top to place the jack pads on. A very large block on sod could rock back and forth. These are just some examples, in each case you will need to determine the best blocking scenario for the surface you are parked on.
2. The simplest jack for being solid vertically is the scissor jack. It does not do much for the side to side motion, but is great for the bounce and roll. The same is true for many of the hydraulic cylinder and vertical screw jacks. They are all a good foundation for a solid feeling trailer. Most of these jacks will still allow a significant amount of sideways shake. These jacking systems are all excellent candidates for the STEADYfast® Stabilizing System. This bracing system works to eliminate the side to side and front to back frame movement.
Jack location is also important. The jacks perform best if they are located several feet in from the ends to the trailer. That helps to reduce the amount of bounce in the center of the trailer.
3. On some longer trailers it may be beneficial to install a set of scissor jacks between the front and rear jacks. This is not always beneficial depending on the frame design.
4. There are not any easy solutions to a trailer floor that has excessive movement.
The design of the STEADYfast® stabilizing system takes into account all of the factors discussed above as well as a very strong emphasis on ease of use. This system will provide a solid feel to your trailer that you will really enjoy. The additional time to engage the system when setting up your trailer is less than a minute. There is no need to get down on your knees, crawl under your trailer, or jack the trailer up or down to take slack out of the braces.
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