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Old 09-20-2021, 04:49 PM   #1
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Powered Trailer Dolly Design Input

Hello fellow Airstreamers,

I have purchased my 4th Airstream a 25' RBT FB and it is due towards the end of January. I am in Denver (think lots of hail, mile-high sun, and bad weather) and have been looking for a covered storage space. I had it back 4 years ago but there is none to be found now. 3-4 year waiting list. I started calling the lot where I had covered storage before begging them to help me out as a former long-term prepaid customer. Finally, I get a "we might have one coming up" call back next week. I called back and yes they have one but I have to come to look at it. It is a very nice covered spot (deep, north-facing in the middle of the row) but it is so ridiculously tight there is no way I am getting in and out without a powered trailer dolly.

I am not happy with the current offerings of powered trailer dollies for a host of reasons (size, attachment point, weight, manhandling required, cost, lack of portability, stability, etc.) and have the capability to design and build my own. I have studied the various units offered as well as read most of the threads on this site regarding those who are happy and not so happy with their various choices. With that said here are my thoughts and wish list in no particular order for feedback:

1) First and foremost I want to be able to take it in and out of the truck by myself and have it fit under the tonneau cover. Preferably without ramps or removing components. This way I can conveniently use it at tight camping locations if not preferably all the time.

2) Upgrade the tongue jack to a 4K Bulldog to use for positioning. Will that work or would it need even further reinforcement? What about an additional strut to the ball socket from the base of the dolly receiver tube? Can I add a brace from under the tongue frame?

3) Place the jack's support shaft directly into the receiver tube on the powered dolly (dolly receiver tube would have some additional height to provide increased stability).

4) Use the trailer batteries to power the unit through a quick disconnect. (Eliminate the extra battery weight).

5) Use a hardwired corded hand switch probably with a dead man main power disengage. Squeeze the handle to apply power and then use a joystick for direction and speed. Wire size might require a power relay. Remote cord long enough to look down one side or the other of the trailer.

6) Electronic soft start/stop with speed control.

7) Weatherproof so it can be left in place during trailer storage or at the campsite. Maybe just an elastic cover.

8) Enough traction for a slight grade on gravel.

9) Unit centers under the tongue jack for stability.

10) 4 large/wide wheels with two driving from opposite corners with steering through the motors. Would prefer the tank treads but I have not found a cheap source and it adds complexity and even more cost to the mechanics. I should be able to detect individual wheel slippage with encoders to keep it going straight. Could drive both wheels on each side but that has trade-offs.

11) Some sort of winch motor (the most do-it-yourself choice) as they are cheap (noisy) but maybe there is something better out there.

12) 1,200-pound tongue weight, 10,000-pound Airstream max.

Back to work.

Thank you!
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Old 09-20-2021, 07:30 PM   #2
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The criticism I have of most trailer movers is first that they are super expensive, second, super heavy, bulky and unwieldly, and third, they often have a big long handle on them, which can limit the tightness of corners you can turn.

I was going to build my own trailer dolly from scratch, but I lucked out a few years ago, and was able to buy a used "Ultimate Trailer Mover." Basically it has a ball that goes into your coupler, and then it has a clamping mechanism that secures it with a couple of bug nuts. It has a single drive wheel, which is cylindrical (and bespoke). You steer it with a kind of crank that causes the drive wheel assembly to rotate relative to where the ball is attached. These are no longer in production.

It is driven by a winch, it runs off of the coach battery, and it has a very simple, efficient, yet clever design. Its Achilles heal is probably the bespoke cylindrical drive wheel, but it hasn't failed yet.

As these were built in the mid 90's, it is very difficult to find anything online about these trailer movers. I had a slip of paper that had some technical information on it when I bought it, but I would have to scrounge it up.

Anyway, maybe there are some useful features in this mover that would help you in your design.

good luck!
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Old 09-20-2021, 07:45 PM   #3
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The Purple Line trailer movers can move up to 7,800 lbs, not sure what your GVW is but they would certainly check all your boxes except the 10K weight, and look how easy.

https://purplelineusa.com/
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Old 09-20-2021, 08:17 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ITSNO60 View Post
The Purple Line trailer movers can move up to 7,800 lbs, not sure what your GVW is but they would certainly check all your boxes except the 10K weight, and look how easy.

https://purplelineusa.com/
Hi Brian,

Thank you for the link. I was very intrigued by the design until I watched the install video. Unlike on an open box frame trailer, I could see it being quite the nightmare to install on an airstream. They recommend 4 drives, one for each wheel on a dual axle trailer. The permanent drives are always hanging in the road elements as well. Not sure how well they would hold up over time. Thought about an assembly that could drop into place when needed between the wheels but that has a lot of drawbacks too.
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Old 09-20-2021, 08:19 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Belegedhel View Post
The criticism I have of most trailer movers is first that they are super expensive, second, super heavy, bulky and unwieldly, and third, they often have a big long handle on them, which can limit the tightness of corners you can turn.

I was going to build my own trailer dolly from scratch, but I lucked out a few years ago, and was able to buy a used "Ultimate Trailer Mover." Basically it has a ball that goes into your coupler, and then it has a clamping mechanism that secures it with a couple of bug nuts. It has a single drive wheel, which is cylindrical (and bespoke). You steer it with a kind of crank that causes the drive wheel assembly to rotate relative to where the ball is attached. These are no longer in production.

It is driven by a winch, it runs off of the coach battery, and it has a very simple, efficient, yet clever design. Its Achilles heal is probably the bespoke cylindrical drive wheel, but it hasn't failed yet.

As these were built in the mid 90's, it is very difficult to find anything online about these trailer movers. I had a slip of paper that had some technical information on it when I bought it, but I would have to scrounge it up.

Anyway, maybe there are some useful features in this mover that would help you in your design.

good luck!
Thank you for the information and picture. I had not run across that one in my search. I am thinking of something with 4 wheels for stability and eliminating the handle.
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Old 09-20-2021, 08:20 PM   #6
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Hi there!
I move a lot of trailers on our lot. Single axles are a breeze. Double axles need a heavy tow motor especially if it’s a tight turn.
What happens is the double axle fights with the tongue on a sharp turn. Hence you need a heavy tow motor. I ended up buying an airplane mover. Not a big sit on tow motor but a walk behind. The type that a small Cessna rolls its front wheel on. Then lift it, start the gas motor and drive on to the tarmac. It’s an airplane mover, walk behind. 4 wheels and very heavy. Must have a small hoist to lift in truck.
You have a double axle, you will need space to turn and it’s has to be HEAVY to fight the double axle twist.
You might be better off with a longer stinger hitch to make the right turn backing in.
Enjoy
Wish I could send a photo of mine. It works really well
Darin
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Old 09-20-2021, 08:56 PM   #7
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You may want to check out Power Movers. They build custom movers. I was happy with mine. https://kaadengineering.com/


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Old 09-20-2021, 09:09 PM   #8
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2012FB,
You’ve obviously got a good handle on the technical details, but you may be overthinking the requirements. Just about the ONLY place you will NEED to use this mover is the storage facility.
The “fit under a tonneau “, “go uphill on gravel” scenarios will turn this into a unicorn.
Some people use a garden tractor. Does the owner of your storage facility have one? They can be had for less than the cost of the bigger movers, if it comes to that, and can one can be driven up into a truck bed for storage at home.
Good luck! Enjoy your new Airstream!
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Old 09-21-2021, 08:28 AM   #9
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You may have already seen this video

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Old 09-21-2021, 08:56 AM   #10
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I've had two flavors of power dollies...one was the parkit360 that was suppose to handle about 10k. Couldn't hold 7k and required tons of manhandling and had issues pulling even at the lightest grade and gravel or grassy area, no fun before it completely fell apart (literally) in about 3 years.

Next was the AirTug. Big, bulky, but powerful and can move 15k like no one's business.

Somewhere in between is what you are looking for because I can tell you from exp that the lower cost units, though they do a great job on flat paved surfaces, any curve ball and they simply don't work or it's a major struggle and in the end they eventually fail. These things aren't moving 18' runabout fiberglass boats, RVs can carry some real weight to them and as such sort of require some robust construction, power and motors to operate safely.

I can get the airtug up with ramps (it weighs about 500lbs the 15k electric unit) and if I disconnect the handle it can fit in a pickup bed under the cover, as bulky as it is though, it's just a magnificent (though expensive) machine that I can use almost anywhere and feel it would for sure work up to the stated 15k weight rating.
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Old 09-21-2021, 09:15 AM   #11
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check this out, uses tracks instead of wheels or they have a cordless drill model for up to 10,000 lbs

May give you some ideas

https://trailervalet.ca/product-category/2rvr-drone/

https://trailervalet.ca/product/trai...ptor-included/

video
https://youtu.be/SmoUXVw05Y0

https://youtu.be/zzW6J8CLYEw
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Old 09-21-2021, 09:17 AM   #12
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Buy one of the many storage condos that have popped up around Denver. The one I am in includes an industrial size mover as part of the owners association. Google "Garage Condos Denver".
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Old 09-21-2021, 09:40 AM   #13
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We had the power mover but sold it and now use the trailer valet. The power mover made a coupler adapter that did not last long. Also very heavy. The Trailer valet can be carried in he truck bed and is powered with my 1/2" ridgid battery drill. Sometimes have to get someone to stand ot the tougue for extra weight to go up slight grades. neither one works on grass or loose gravel or dirt driveways.
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Old 09-21-2021, 09:58 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoResults View Post
You may want to check out Power Movers. They build custom movers. I was happy with mine. https://kaadengineering.com/


Dave
Thank you Dave! Great link. I will email them and ask about the weight without the onboard batteries and using the trailer batteries. I would really like to keep it in the truck. The only thing about it is I can't stand to one side or the other to watch the maneuvering. I could make an additional electrical connection for the Airstream rear camera monitor to sit on the front tank cover but not ideal.
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Old 09-21-2021, 10:00 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by BoatNutG2 View Post
Buy one of the many storage condos that have popped up around Denver. The one I am in includes an industrial size mover as part of the owners association. Google "Garage Condos Denver".
I have been calling and can't find one available. Do you know of any available? I am in Broomfield so was looking as far up as Dacona and Erie.
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Old 09-21-2021, 10:11 AM   #16
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I live in a hill and have short but mighty 6% grade to get to the side of my house. I have used the Trailer Valet, PowerCaster and Parkit360 units. My AS dealer sold me the Trailer Valet when I bought my FC 25FB. Being on a hill, there were times the weight of the trailer was perpendicular to the tank treads. When you see the treads being forced off by the weight of the trailer will make you pucker. This dolly does not integrate with the AS brakes which in my mind is a flaw. I returned the Trailer Valet the next day.

The PowerCaster has been the most powerful of the three. I added the brake control option so that I could flip a switch to engage the AS brakes. The challenge for me was going up my 6% grade to get to flat ground. I have a very tight opening with not a lot of room to negotiate so watching the side, engaging the brakes, moving the dolly into the right positions was a difficult dance. This dolly requires a 110V extension cord so that adds to the dance. Plus this dolly requires you to remove the landing foot of the trailer jack and place the jack directly into the dolly pivot. There was a little bit of slop there. In doing the dance I accidentally left the trailer brake on and started the dolly which bent my jack post. Argh! I retuned the PowerCaster for refund minus shipping costs.
I currently have the Parkit360 single motor unit that can handle 10,000 lbs. It is essentially a wench motor which drives the wheels and attaches to my AS via the ball hitch. I like that it is battery powered and I really like that the 7 way plug connects to the dolly. When you release the forward/reverse switch the dolly engages the AS brakes. That option alone has allowed me to sleep and works very well. I will say that I am at the unit's maximum limit.
Will all that being said, because of initial 6% grade the Parkit360 does require some manhandling of the tiller to get the AS into position. It is 135 lbs so not necessarily easy to get into my truck bed, but I could do it. Removing the handle would allow me to close my truck bed cover.
Although costly, I will upgrade to the Parkit360 15,000 lb dual motor unit. The dual motors will make it easier to position the dolly for the current location without the man handling of my current smaller unit. I'll chime back in come mid-October when I receive the unit.
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Old 09-21-2021, 01:31 PM   #17
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I have the one on this Australian site, and I love it:

https://www.davebensoncaravans.com.a...rolley-ct2500/

You can purchase the same (made in Scandanavia), under a few names in the US.

OH! I see someone else already posted about the same. Ok, it suffices to say I am super happy with my CT2500
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Old 09-22-2021, 10:44 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoResults View Post
You may want to check out Power Movers. They build custom movers. I was happy with mine. https://kaadengineering.com/


Dave
This unit looked promising but the guy is a flake. Got nowhere with my email requests. Even though I specifically asked about a 12V unit he replied:

"I would recommend an AC6 (plug-in)".

I asked if an AC6 is a DC unit. His one-word response "No"

Next email I sent:

"They why did you suggest a AC6 when I asked specifically about a 12V unit that would work off the trailer batteries (see below in yellow)?

Your website shows a 12 Volt unit that is using batteries. Is this not available? Can it not use the trailer batteries?"


Guy did not even bother to respond. Moving on.
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Old 09-22-2021, 11:39 AM   #19
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#3
I would avoid using the jack shaft to push the trailer, especially extended even longer. The jacks are designed to be sturdy in the up/down plane, and not so much in the fore/aft plane.
The slightest bend and the tubes jam.
Instead, I'd use the coupler, since that's designed for large fore/aft forces.
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Old 09-23-2021, 11:27 PM   #20
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I’m curious about this as well. Have been considering the ParkIt Force 5k B3 and the Trax TX6000. Both seem to the posted size requirements and both would work for my BC20X.

The ParkIt has a 10k variant which would meet the requested weight requirements.

Not to thread highjack, but anyone have experience with the Trax model?
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