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Old 03-04-2023, 12:52 AM   #1
TGK
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Durability of Escape if towing on gravel & dirt.

Interested in getting feedback from owners who have experience taking their Escapes off the pavement. Iím talking about the typical road conditions found in western Canada & the US. Think miles of washboard/dirt roads one sees on National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands. Not talking about Jeep trails. I know they are not off-road trailers. Iím interested in the type of problems people have encountered and how theyíve dealt with them.

I have 25 years of experience with RVís including a heavy duty truck with pop up truck camper for backroads and a vintage Airstream. Not an expert, but not a newbie. The truck//camper is gone. Still have the Airstream, but considering a change. Over the 18 years of ownership we have taken it off pavement, but usually not far. Over the years I have seen Escapes a bit further off the beaten path, so they are on a short list for our next rig.
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Old 03-04-2023, 01:55 AM   #2
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Like everything else, YMMV. The trick seems to be the correct washboard speed. Too slow and you’ll bounce and shudder all over; too fast and you can work cabinetry screws loose. I ran 35 miles at 45mph on partially washboarded gravel and my refrigerator mounting screws backed out a bit, but otherwise there wasn’t an issue.

But I didn’t open any beer from the fridge that day either. ��

It took a lot of wiping down of the refrigerator coils afterwards…the fridge was working hard to dissipate heat with all the accumulated dust. And some dust made it in the windows, but surprisingly little.

Overall, not something I want to make a habit of. But if it takes you where you need to go…
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Old 03-04-2023, 01:56 AM   #3
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Oh, and all the burner plate mounting screws on the cooktop fell out - you can search the fix in the forum.
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Old 03-04-2023, 06:53 AM   #4
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Most damage is done to the frame paint being chipped n rust. Just get use to going under trailer sanding m repainting the frame lol. That n dust. Don’t forget to make sure all your windows are closed tight. Don’t forget to snap shut the ventahood exhaust flap. Other than that rock n roll n enjoy
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Old 03-04-2023, 07:41 AM   #5
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We have made one trip down a long Colorado washboard road. Seems like it was 20 miles or so. As has been stated frame chips from the gravel and we had two cabinet doors we couldn't seem to keep shut so the hinges were pretty much done when we got back.

The hinges were replaced with heavier versions from the local box store and the catches were adjusted to fit better now holding the doors well.

We did get a few small chips in the gel coat from the truck, even with the front storage box. I was planning on covering the outside lower corners with the same liner that escape uses on the storage box to prevent any further dings.

Pretty minor all things considered.
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Old 03-04-2023, 08:22 AM   #6
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On the Alaska highway our oven door came off. I straightened the bent hinges, reinstalled, and added screw eyes and bungees to keep it in place. Section near Alaska border was very rough. Frame lost some paint and foam underneath took a beating. Otherwise ok. Slowed way down, 10-20 mph at times. Also added some wood lips to low storage cabinets to keep contents from popping doors open and spilling out. Yes some burner screws needed to be reinstalled.
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Old 03-04-2023, 08:35 AM   #7
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We have taken our Escapes on several trips that involved gravel. I take it pretty slow when I’m on rough gravel roads but drive them every once in a while. The most damage I’ve experienced is from the extremely rough road including huge potholes on Interstate 80 around Joliet, Illinois and on into Chicago . In Chicago proper the road is not bad at all but the incompetent contractors who have overlaid and rebuilt the section I described and the Illinois DOT inspectors who approved payment for the work done have destroyed more rolling stock than all the gravel roads in the western states combined. I drove that stretch of road with the trailer for the last time going to Algonac last September. Although it was over 400 miles further to get back home driving through the Upper Peninsula, that’s the way we took. When I go East again I’ll drop off of 80 to get around that camper shaking nightmare.
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Old 03-04-2023, 08:43 AM   #8
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Yes there are some potholed interstates. We almost always avoid interstates. We do gravel. We go very slow and have had no problems. We live on gravel. Except for one neighbour, we are the slowest people on gravel, but nothing has broken, chipped, or come loose.
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Old 03-04-2023, 08:55 AM   #9
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Frost heave

One winter, with a Casita 16'er we drove from a Chicago suburb and left, in below zero weather, heading West, to get to I 39, Hwys 47 & 30 were in incredible condition. On the road, headed to Florida. Asphalt roadways, with a ride rougher than any washboard gravel I've been on. A sink cabinet separated from its mounting, the refrig internal works came loose from their attachment, base trim popped off...and on and on. I spent my time in Florida patching things up.

My Escape has faired better on a 15 mile gravel road, last Summer, in the UP of Michigan. I was concerned with my van falling apart on that one too.
No damage, just dust coatings.
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Old 03-04-2023, 10:45 AM   #10
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Last summer, I drove from North Carolina to Alaska and back - 13,000 miles towing my 2014 19. Toughest stretch Whitehouse YT to Tok Alaska. Lots of frost heaves throughout Canada and Alaska. I travel with an empty refrigerator. Lots of cabinets opening with contents on the floor. My advice, watch your speed!
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Old 03-04-2023, 12:05 PM   #11
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We were wondering this same thing as we plan on camping for several days at Snow Lake in the Gila National Forest. You have to really want to go to Snow Lake. There are a couple of routes, all washboard gravel with the shortest being around 60 miles. We took the Rpod there. Once. Spent several days putting it back together afterwards.
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Old 03-04-2023, 01:06 PM   #12
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I appreciate the input. Much of it is what I would expect. There are very few full featured trailers built to withstand the constant jarring without ill effect. Most of those are from Australia, although a few are being built here in the states now. Tend to be heavy and pricey. The reports of the paint chipping off Escape frames and ensuing rust are rather off putting. I've heard that reducing tire air pressure can soften the rid a bit which is an option, as I travel with an air compressor. However, that doesn't address the rock chip frame damage.

My 1971 23ft Airstream has all the tanks and the frame tucked away up behind a belly pan, so it doesn't take a beating from rock being thrown up. I put new axles, shocks and brakes on 6 years back and afterwards did not see as many screws on the floor on the shorter off pavement stretches (less than 15 miles). However, there are still places farther back in that we used to access via truck and popup camper in the bed. That combo is gone, so I'm weighing the tradeoffs of all the options out there. While the Airstream chassis is 52 years old, the interior is only about 20. Previous owner gutted and rebuilt the inside. While the Airstream has its charm, it also doesn't have a gray water tank as those weren't introduced by Airstream till 1974.
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Old 03-04-2023, 01:24 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kstock11 View Post
Last summer, I drove from North Carolina to Alaska and back - 13,000 miles towing my 2014 19. Toughest stretch Whitehouse YT to Tok Alaska. Lots of frost heaves throughout Canada and Alaska. I travel with an empty refrigerator. Lots of cabinets opening with contents on the floor. My advice, watch your speed!
kstick11 When you did your Alaska run, did you consider those hugh (& ugly) rear mud flaps/brushes to keep the rock chips to a minimum?
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Old 03-04-2023, 04:19 PM   #14
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Low(er) tire pressure makes a big difference in smoothing out the ride of the trailer. I find potholes or rough ground causing side to side rocking to be more of an issue than washboard. I don't think any of the Escape trailers have much more than a few inches of suspension travel and none have shocks as far as I understand it. I have considered adding a bracket like Airstream uses to be able to add a shock, but decided against it for now.
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Old 03-04-2023, 04:38 PM   #15
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Last year we did a 9000+ mile trip to Alaska and back from CA. The roads in Alaska and the Yukon were especially memorable, (the views were great but the roads, not so much) but our Escape performed beautifully. As they say, there are only 2 seasons in Alaska, Winter season and Construction season and boy is that ever true.

By the time we got to Anchorage, we noticed a couple tiny scratches from rocks on the very bottom front corners but frankly we're impressed the fiberglass held up so well. Only we can see them if we look super close. However, knowing we would have to travel back on many many miles of dirt, gravel washboard roads again we decided to purchase a rock guard at the Cabelas in Anchorage, just to be safe. https://www.cabelas.com/shop/en/rock...ud-flap-system. Some may think rock guards are ugly, but to us, anything that protects our dear trailer is beautiful. In Alaska and in the Yukon, rock guards are very common. We saw them on tow vehicles with Ollies, Airstreams and all sorts of RVs.

As others have already mentioned, we too, had to tighten screws inside periodically. We had a cabinet hinge break, but those are easy to replace. (The Ace Hardware store in Tok, Alaska is great.) The paint on the back bumper also got chipped but the frame and bumper's strength and integrity is what's important and that is rock solid. Super easy to touch up with a can of paint.

Bottom line, after our Alaska trip our trailer still looks and functions like new. Highly recommend you keep this very 'durable' trailer on your short list. -Bea
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Old 03-04-2023, 05:23 PM   #16
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Has anyone come up with alternatives for insulating the tanks aside from the factory spray on foam option? Also wondering, it's even feasible, of pros and cons of spraying the exposed frame under the trailer with a Line-X type material.
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Old 03-04-2023, 10:36 PM   #17
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One suggestion when driving on gravel roads, on the Forum years ago, was to replace or augment the nylon zip ties holding the brake wires to the axles with stainless steel zip ties or metal hose clamps. Folks talked about having the nylon zip ties cut by rocks and the brake wires dropping and getting damaged. We did this mod and have never had any issues. Easy to do, and once and done...

Other than this I agree with everyone else's comments.

Doug
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Old 03-05-2023, 07:47 AM   #18
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I don't know of any steel trailer frame that doesn't eventually get surface-chipped and rusty. Paint and galvanizing aren't bullet or rock proof. Certainly one could experiment with undercoating materials like Line-X, regardless of trailer brand. I don't see why there would be any expectation or hope of finding a brand of steel-framed travel trailer that is somehow exempt from stone damage and rust, though.

The alternative is an aluminum frame, I suppose. But they're not perfect, either.
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Old 03-05-2023, 12:45 PM   #19
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I don't know of any steel trailer frame that doesn't eventually get surface-chipped and rusty. Paint and galvanizing aren't bullet or rock proof. Certainly one could experiment with undercoating materials like Line-X, regardless of trailer brand. I don't see why there would be any expectation or hope of finding a brand of steel-framed travel trailer that is somehow exempt from stone damage and rust, though.

The alternative is an aluminum frame, I suppose. But they're not perfect, either.
Good points, short of the frame being protected by a belly pan as on my old Airstream, it likely inevitable. Of course, while a belly pan does offer protection to the frame and tanks, the downside is one cannot easily inspect it for damage. A few manufacturers who make truly 4 season campers include belly pans.
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Old 03-05-2023, 01:24 PM   #20
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Galvanized

Mike G: "The alternative is an aluminum frame, I suppose. But they're not perfect, either."

Many boat trailers are galvanized and they hold up very well to corrosion and dings. But they are not typically needed on a travel trailer frame, as it hopefully doesn't get dunked in sea water frequently. Dings of the paint and the like are
easily enough touched up, and any corrosion would need decades before structurally affecting the frame......unless you live near the ocean.
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