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Rear turnbuckle mount failure on Hallmark Guanella

Hallmark turnbuckles camper mounting off-road 4WD Tie downs damage repair

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#1 DoGMAtix

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 06:13 AM

We have an 08 Hallmark Guanella mounted on an 06 Dodge Ram 2500 CTD short bed (6 1/3 foot bed). We’ve been working on the camper mounting system with the intent of taking it regularly on rugged 4WD roads in Utah’s canyon country and the southern Colorado Rockies. We’ve got Hallmark-installed Happijac tie downs (http://happijac.com/tie-downs.html) and Torklift Anchor Guard turnbuckles, as described in a previous post (http://www.wanderthe...rt-bed-project/ ).

 

We went on our first trip involving extensive driving on rough/rocky dirt roads in the Maze District of Canyonlands last week, and seemed to be doing really well after a couple of long driving days. However, on a relatively smooth stretch we failed to notice a shallow erosion channel across the road and hit it at maybe 10-15 MPH. There was a WUMP and a jolt, not that much bigger than some we’d experienced previously, well within what I’d expect the rig to stand up to, but big enough to make us check the rear views to make sure everything was OK… and it wasn’t.

 

The rear turnbuckle mounts on the camper had failed catastrophically. The metal mounting plates on the overhangs on both sides had torn clean out (along with a chunk of plywood each) and were lying in the dirt. Photos show where the plates tore through, with closeups of the gaping holes where they’d been (under the carpeting in the back of the dinette seating area and under the linoleum in the cabinet under the cooktop). One pair of photos shows a set of plates with the torn-out plywood chunk still wedged in-between, from top and bottom views. The plywood does not appear to have rotted, but after 8 yrs on the underside of a camper (coated with black “weatherproofing” stuff that may or may not be a good idea per posts I’ve read) I suppose it had lost some degree of integrity.

 

Anyhow, the main point of this thread is that we’re left with 2 gaping holes to fix and at the same time create new rear turnbuckle mounting points on the camper in roughly the same location that will hold up to further (ab)use. In order to avoid ripping the new mounting points out like we did the old ones, we need to satisfy either or both of the following conditions:

1) Create stronger mounting points,

2) Decrease the forces generated by turnbuckle pull.

 

For stronger mounting points, the plan is to create plates much larger than the originals to sit on top of the plywood around the holes and disperse the forces over a greater area (the old plates were just 2 1/4" by 5", the new ones will probably be about 12" x 12"). The plates that clamp onto the underside will also have to be larger to hold the sandwich together tightly, but will be limited by the width of the overhang (about 10 inches). Although the plywood bordering the holes is probably compromised, if we make the upper plates quite large we should be OK. 1/8” aluminum should suffice on top, 1/16” probably adequate on bottom. It would be ideal to replace the plywood boards that were damaged in the process as well, but that would require a massive camper rebuild, which Bill (Ward, of Hallmark) said would be expensive, time consuming, and most likely unnecessary. In order to get the most strength out of a compromised overhang structure, we plan to make 90 degree bends in the plates to fasten them to the vertical structures coming up just behind the holes (the fridge cabinet on the driver’s side and the closet on the passenger’s side). Should be able to fit carriage bolts in there without much problem – I figure the flat heads on the passenger side can go behind the dinette cushion, and on the driver’s side they can go inside the fridge cabinet (we’ll probably have to take the fridge out to do that). There will be space for the nuts and bolt ends in the closet and in the under-stove cabinet. We may try to put a 90 degree bend upward along the camper sidewall as well, but not sure we’d want to drill into or through that wall... we'll see.

 

We’ve got a metal fabricator in town who works on off-road vehicles, has a great reputation and seems like a stand up guy who knows his stuff. We’d been planning to have him make skid plates for the gas tank and transfer case on our truck, so now we’ll just have a little bit bigger job for him.

 

Regarding limiting maximal forces generated by the turnbuckles against the mounting points, I’ve been talking to the folks at Torklift. It seems intuitive to me that the rear turnbuckles should be spring-loaded to deliver force in as gradual a tug as possible, and the fronts shouldn’t need to give much since the goal is to keep the camper snugged up to the front of the bed at all times (in fact, we found that our front turnbuckles worked their way loose occasionally on bumpy downhills, which may well have been due to greater turnbuckle expansion/contraction with springs). However, both Torklift and Happijac recommend sprung turnbuckles up front and damped turnbuckles in the rear. Bill at Hallmark has an aerospace engineering background and he feels the same way I do; in fact, he routinely swaps the barrels of the front and rear turnbuckles out. Torklift’s response to this is that the majority of the camper’s weight and therefore forces generated are up front, so springs are needed there.

 

For now I’m just going to focus on putting in plates with as much structural strength as possible so whatever we do with the turnbuckles will be less likely to result in mounting point damage.

 

If anyone has advice based on experience or expertise, I’d appreciate it.

I’ll update with photos as the project progresses.

 

- Dave

Attached Thumbnails

  • Rear turnbuckle angle.jpg
  • Hole from turnbuckle pull-through rear passenger side.jpg
  • Interior view of rear turnbuckle hole passenger side.jpg
  • Turnbuckle mounting plate.jpg

Edited by DoGMAtix, 05 December 2016 - 09:06 PM.

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2006 Dodge Ram 2500 5.9L CTD short bed quad cab, 2008 Hallmark Guanella


#2 DoGMAtix

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 06:27 AM

More pics (previous pics of the camper were from passenger's side, these are from driver's side):

Attached Thumbnails

  • Turnbuckle hole exterior driver's side.jpg
  • Turnbuckle hole interior close up driver's side.jpg
  • Turnbuckle mounting plate from above.jpg
  • Turnbuckle mounting plate from below.jpg

Edited by DoGMAtix, 05 December 2016 - 06:36 AM.

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2006 Dodge Ram 2500 5.9L CTD short bed quad cab, 2008 Hallmark Guanella


#3 DoGMAtix

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Posted 05 December 2016 - 11:43 PM

I just spent some time inspecting the camper structure further and discovered that the dinette bench surface is continuous with the floor in the back of the passenger-side closet and the and floor of the under-stove cabinet is continuous with the floor of the refrigerator cabinet (in the back, accessed through the mechanical door/vent). The wall that seems to separate each is just a flimsy divider that is not even fastened at the base to the plywood/carpet/linoleum. With minimal trimming of these "walls" we should be able to get 1/8 inch aluminum plates to slide in. We have space for a 1x4 ft plate on the driver's side interior and a 1x3 foot on the passenger's side interior. We'll probably put a 90 degree bend on the edge of each plate where it butts up against the camper wall and bring it up about an inch for extra rigidity (nothing really to fasten it to, but the bend alone should keep the plate from sagging where the force is generated). We'll be able to fit 10" wide plates of equal length below (on the bottom of the overhang) to create a solid, weather-proof sandwich around the compromised plywood. We'll replace the crappy steel mounting plate (see photo demonstrating where the plate bent down under the pull of the turnbuckles) with a piece of 3 1/2 or 4-inch steel channel (oriented cross-wise), trimmed and bent, with turnbuckle mounting hole drilled to end up in the same location as the prior hole so the turnbuckles can be reattached with no more than minimal tension readjustment. This type of mount should be able to withstand much more force without bending down like the old plate did.

 

After what happened to us and what I've seen looking into the structure around the rear turnbuckle mount, I'm wondering if everyone who wants to take a Hallmark offload shouldn't be making a similar modification so as not to risk a catastrophic failure like ours.

Attached Thumbnails

  • Bent mounting plate.JPG

Edited by DoGMAtix, 08 December 2016 - 11:12 PM.

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2006 Dodge Ram 2500 5.9L CTD short bed quad cab, 2008 Hallmark Guanella


#4 smlobx

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 12:59 AM

Interesting situation. I'm wondering if it has something to do with the way the units that hang off the back of trucks are mounted.
Here is a picture of mine with the Torklift that are mounted to the bracket that the jack's are attached to. This set up seems pretty strong..

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  • IMG_0444.JPG

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#5 DoGMAtix

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 02:28 AM

Jack brackets would be much stronger rear mounting points than our plate system (which is on plenty of Guanellas and other campers). Unfortunately, the boxy rear construction of our camper with exterior storage cabinets and camper tail lights (made to fit the Guanella onto short bed trucks) won't allow us to attach to the rear jack brackets.


Edited by DoGMAtix, 06 December 2016 - 05:56 AM.

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2006 Dodge Ram 2500 5.9L CTD short bed quad cab, 2008 Hallmark Guanella


#6 Bigfoot

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 06:49 AM

Interesting situation. I'm wondering if it has something to do with the way the units that hang off the back of trucks are mounted.
Here is a picture of mine with the Torklift that are mounted to the bracket that the jack's are attached to. This set up seems pretty strong..

 

Our Guanella is also an in-bed model with the tiedowns attached to the jack brackets. We have been on many rough roads with no mounting problems. From DoGMAtix's photos it certainly looks like his rear mounts are of weak construction. I hope that Hallmark's more recent models are better built. So far we have been able to hit highway potholes at speed as well as negotiate slow jeep tracks without any damage to the camper (well, there was one problem with a drawer but that was unrelated to the mounts). 


Edited by Bigfoot, 06 December 2016 - 06:50 AM.

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#7 Bad Habit

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 02:13 PM

My K2 has the rear storage containers and those same turnbuckle mounts.  I've always wondered what the actual structure was for them and how the mount was actually attached.  The little bit of poking around I have done never really cleared it up for me.  Was that top plate sandwiched between layers?  I haven't seen the carriage bolt heads.  I will say, it must have been quite a bump to cleanly tear through plywood like that, especially both sides.

 

As to the location of the sprung tie downs, my thought is that having the rear of the camper being more directly attached to the rear of the truck, as Torklift recommends would be a better choice.  Keeping the two moving as one unit at that point would limit the potential out of phase oscillations.  If the camper and truck get going in opposite directions, when you hit that limit, all of that momentum and energy has to go somewhere.  That pretty much describes what I felt when we hit our bump (sounds like very similar conditions, nice smooth road, didn't see a larger rut crossing it).  With the sprung anchors in the back, it allowed the camper to oscillate quite a few times and, while not pulling out the attachment points, I did lose 3 of the 4 tie downs and the camper shifted.

 

I any case, definitely going to look closer at those points.  It may also be possible to fab up a bracket that could attach to the rear jack bracket, although I'm not 100% that they are attached any better but it would rely more on shear strength rather than pull through.


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#8 DoGMAtix

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 03:36 PM

Bad Habit,

The passenger-side mounting plate was under the carpeting in the back of the dinette seating (under the window along the side wall about 6 inches in front of the "wall" between the dinette seat and the rear cabinet - may be a toilet in that cabinet in some campers). The heads of the carriage bolts were on the upper side, I suspect if you feel around there you'll notice two slight rounded bumps. The driver's side plate appeared to be mounted on top of the linoleum inside the cabinet under the cooktop (since it's totally out now I can't say for sure but in the photo above you can see the edge of the linoleum sandwiched beneath the upper plate at the edge where it fractured). I suppose if you have an oven under the cooktop you won't have easy access to that location.

Knowing what i know now I'd actually get in and reinforce both plates even if they were both in original condition, at least from above, and I'd probably make a new turnbuckle mount as well. The mounting points were just not engineered to take the kind of stress truck/campers routinely deliver off the beaten path.

I do agree that keeping the rear firmly secured to the bed so it doesn't move at all would be ideal, and would presumably limit the sudden high-impact jerks when damped or even sprung turnbuckles reach the end of their travel. Just seems like from what I've heard that would be wishful thinking, and some movement is necessary. Also, I'm not sure how much stress on the wood the continuous pull of tight turnbuckles exerts on rear mounts. We did have ours adjusted tightly when we hit the bump that was the final straw (I'd imagine the plywood sandwiched between the plates was about done before we hit that bump).

By the way, the plywood may actually be 1/4 inch. Definitely not enough to withstand such large forces over such a small area.

Hopefully I'll get down to the metal fabricator's today and will start working on the fix. Shouldn't be long before I start posting on that.


Edited by DoGMAtix, 06 December 2016 - 11:36 PM.

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#9 OpenSpace

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 06:06 PM

Curious how you re-attached the camper to limp home?

 

Also looked at Hallmark's FB last night. Saw that almost every new camper that sits flush with the rear of the truck is attached to the rear jacks. Interesting. Also observed that many using bracket mounts under the camper have the turnbuckles running vertically up the side of the truck. Wonder if this is the preferred orientation?

 

My outside brackets look good but I'm going out to look at my interior bracket attachment area right now. I've decided to do something to reinforce. May follow your lead but would rather fab something to rear jack if practical.

 

Following with interest. Thanks for the info and please keep us posted.


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#10 DoGMAtix

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Posted 06 December 2016 - 07:16 PM

Open Space: We had remarkably little trouble getting home - if you've got two good turnbuckles up front you can get through most anything driving slowly, and freeway speeds on pavement were no problem.

I couldn't enlarge your truck/camper photo to see what you've got, but looks like a Guanella on a short bed Chevy. You'd have the same problem trying to attach to the jack bracket as us. If you have a long bed truck (or a camper designed for a short bed truck) the camper doesn't need the boxy back end with tail lights etc, and the jack brackets can be used.

I can pretty well guarantee the inside plates will look good until they rip through the plywood they're sitting on. Unless you find that your interior plates are much bigger than ours, you may want to make a larger plate (1/8" aluminum sheet should be plenty strong enough, particularly if you give it a right angle bend along the wall of the camper) and drill it out so the existing metal plate clamps down right on top of it, so the forces are distributed across the larger surface area. You'd have to tear up the carpet to actually remove the plate on the passenger's side, but given the alternative it seems worth doing. We'll probably just trim the carpet to fit around our new plate. It'll be hidden by the seat cushion anyway so no big deal. And on the driver's side the whole setup will be hidden inside cabinets.

I doubt it matters much which angle the rear turnbuckles pull, as long as it's a mostly downward vector (to keep the rear of the camper down on the bed). With good front turnbuckles and some friction between the camper and bed you shouldn't need the turnbuckles pulling the camper toward front or rear. I could talk myself into either answer from a physics perspective, for what it's worth Torklift shows the rear turnbuckles pulling rearward in their product display poster (http://www.torklift....roduct-displays). We considered going with Torklift frame-mounted tie downs in the rear, which would be stronger than the bumper-mounted Happijacs, but we've got an aftermarket exhaust pipe that would probably get in the way. None of the bumps torqued our bumper, though, and we're not expecting to stress the rig significantly more than we've already done, so we'll probably stick with our current setup with reinforcement of the rear turnbuckle mounts on the camper.


Edited by DoGMAtix, 06 December 2016 - 07:35 PM.

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2006 Dodge Ram 2500 5.9L CTD short bed quad cab, 2008 Hallmark Guanella






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