Towing a camping trailer with a Jeep Wrangler JK Unlimited

All about the hitch, the harness and the suspension.

 

The Jeep has a towing capacity of 2000lb, the Prolite Mini 13 camping trailer is around 1500lb when loaded and is equipped with electrical brakes.
The Jeep DOES NOT have the tow package installed, so this is the standard, unmodified Sahara 2013 model. We installed the hitch receiver a while ago to mount a bicycle rack and we also connected the 4-pin electrical adapter at the same time. The Prolite Mini trailer uses the round 7-pin connector. The MOPAR 7-pin wiring harness was not really designed for a brake controller and needed some minor adjustment. The Brake Controller is from Tekonsha and sits on the dash.
Jeep Wrangler Sahara 2013 with Prolite Mini 13

This setup works great but has a few flaws:
1. The trailer sits very low, so we decided to lift the trailer by about 2 inches.
2. The 100lb load on the hitch (Tongue weight) pushes the Jeep down by more than one inch.
3. The car battery is getting drained.
To lift the Prolite Mini, we went back to the factory in St-Jérôme, QC.
To level the Jeep, we installed the Air Lift 1000 Load Assist Spring Kit.

Getting these parts and installing them was straightforward. The problem with the battery is another stroy and documented in Battery Isolator and Charging

Hitch Receiver
MOPAR Hitch Receiver Part #: 82210230.

Not much to the installation. No need to remove any muffler or bumper. The bolts for the MOPAR Hitch Receiver fit into the holes without problem.
Both the 4-pin and the 7-pin trailer adapters are active.
Jeep Wrangler Hitch Mount

Wiring Harness
7-Way Trailer Adapter MOPAR 7-Way Trailer Tow Wiring Harness Part #: 82210214ab.
The wiring harness is supplied to the exact length. Follow the instructions to the point or you may be short when trying to connect to the battery.

Tekonsha Voyager 9030 Electric Trailer Brake Controller.
The center wire in the adapter is the actual power line from the battery to the Brake Controller and finally to the brakes. We found several recommendations to use an auto-reset fuse for the break controller. If the circuit overheats, it will stop working for a while but reset again. A regular fuse will just stop working. See image below for battery connection.

We used 12 gauge wire for the brake controller installation. The Fuse is a 30 Amp Auto Resetting Fuse. The 2nd connection on the battery terminal is from the 7-pin wiring harness. The Tekonsha documentation explains the wiring, so no need to go into details here.
Brake Controller and Trailer Power

The break controller needs to know when the breaks are applied. So one wire connects to the break light. Most documentations refer to the switch above the break pedal. A very awkward place to work. We decided to look for the center break light cable above the spare tire. The wiring goes through the cabin, so it's just a matter of finding the correct coloured wire.

Suspension
We pulled the trailer from the dealer all the way to the storage place. The dealer is located in North Bay and the storage place is in Milton. A 360km excursion and a good excuse to stop at Algonquin Provincial Park for a sleep-over. It was September 2016 and the heater in the trailer works like a charm. "Why do we know that?" you may ask. Well, it's loud enough to wake a hibernating bear, but we enjoyed every single BTU that were pumped into the living quarter. But back to the suspension.

Hitch Drop Before AirLift installation
When we picked up the trailer, we left North Bay late in the afternoon and arrived at night in Algonquin Park.
After connecting the Prolite Mini, the Hitch dropped just over one inch. Enough to cause problems with the lights at night and the suspension. We considered a Weight Distribution hitch and found out that the minimum tongue weight is 350lb. The Prolite Mini has less than 200lb. So this is not only overkill but would also add more weight on the hitch. And lastly, it would extend several inches below the hitch and takes away from the ground clearance. Absolutely not what we had in mind.

The weight distribution and/or sway control is not needed for our setup. We found a better option to solve the drop in the suspension. An air spring added to the rear axle.

Air Springs
Air Lift 1000 Load Assist Spring Kit - 60817. They are cheaper than any weight distribution system and also seems to perform better for our purpose. We ordered the kit from 4 Wheel Parts in Burlington, Ontario. The price for the complete set was just over $100.

The "Balloons", or air springs to use the correct name, are placed inside the rear coil springs and provide up to 1000 pounds of levelling capacity. There is no need to make changes to the front suspension.

Heat Shield - view from back

Image on the right >>>

Clean the path for the Air Line. There may be some mud stuck inside.
Fold the Air Spring and insert into spring coil. There is plenty of space to get the deflated bag inside.
Insert the black Protector , connect the Air Line and done.

Air Lift 1000 Box unpacked

<<< Image on the left

The first task is the Heat Shield installation.

Hoist the Jeep, remove the wheel and the spring coil and muffler is accessible.

Air line installation

Air Lift side view

Image on the right >>>

View from the back of the Jeep.

Hmm, we may need new shocks :-)


 
<<< Image on the left

Air spring installed, view from the side.

We used wire protector (Flexible corrugated split tubing) to protect the Air Line from rocks and dirt. Also helps to keep the line from bending.

Air Lift rear view

Air Lift pump access in tank
 

<<< Image on the left

The Inflation Valve is in the gas tank compartment. The original gas tank wasI "upgraded" to the version with the door. This will keep the valve clean and makes it simple to check once a week (according to the manual)

Overall, the installation was simple but took about 3 hours plus the time to hoist the Jeep and secure it on the stands.

After hooking up the Trailer, the sag is hardly noticable. 15 PSI is about the right pressure for the Prolite Mini. We don't even have to adjust the pressure to the 5 PSI during our trips when the trailer is not connected. The Jeep behaved normal on paved roads and on Forest Service roads.

UPDATE June 2019: The Air Lift system works flawless. Never had to add air during winter, they were deflated to about 5PSI. Never had to add air when fully inflated. Takes less than a minute to inflate, 10 seconds to deflate to 5 PSI. We did a few trips with the trailer and it does add stability to the rig. No adjusting of lights when driving at night. This is a very functional, low cost addition for any suspension when towing.


Finding the perfect hitch
Image on the right >>>

"One that drops enough to get the trailer level and that does not rattle"

We have found the one at Hitch City in Mississauga.
It is the CURT Adjustable Channel Mount #45901. We added an anti-raddle bolt which is basically a big bolt with thread and a nut inside the hitch shaft. The hitch itself has a screw to tighten the adjustable mount as well. So it is actually whisper-quiet.

Curt Hitch
This was my third time getting a hitch or rack solution from Hitch City. Without a doubt, they know hitches and racks. No time wasted with "Let me see if I can find something" as experienced in the Rack store just around the corner.

Breaks
It is June 2019 and we upgraded the breaks. We had a close call in Nova Scotia and the OEM breaks didn't leave me with a good feeling. The wight of the loaded Jeep and trailer pushed the limit of the factory breaks. They worked flawless, just the "bite" was missing. Reading reviews about break upgrades is all about bigger wheels. EBC Breaks seem to be a market leader but come with a hefty price. We eventually installed the Power Stop breaks and disks. The price for the installation, including a break fluid flush was about $2,500.

The disks are the Power Stop Drilled/Slotted Rotor and the Break Pads, new Caliper both front and rear. It is a hefty price tag considering that the front breaks would have lasted to the end of the year. The new breaks work great, but the real test will be this summer when we travel out West.

Trailer is lifted
May 10, 2017: All went as planned at Prolite in St-Jérôme, Québec. They took care of the problem right away. The trailer got a lift of about one inch.
Hard to see the difference, but noticable when pulling into our sloped driveway. No more scratching of the bottom rear corner, there is now about a two inch clearance.
Jeep and Trailer with lift

We have more options to increase the clearance of the Prolite trailer. The most likely one is a one inch bigger rim and tire, an increase of about half an inch. Not in the budget this year, the tires on the trailer are still in good shape. This decision will be made when the tires need replacement.

Next Page: All the Lights we need from Ridid

First published on April 01, 2019

Timestamp: 11/16/2019 10:40:00 PM EST [on srv7cps]
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