Long overdue Equipment Update (Ren)

Soon after starting on our adventure, nearly two years ago, I posted an Equipment Update with notes on our (newly acquired) bus (Stimpy) and our tow’d with pop-up camper (Ren). Here’s some updates:

First: “Ren” 2016 Chevrolet Colorado 

Our 2016 Chevrolet Colorado 4×4 extended cab truck has been a good vehicle for us. Comfortable and quiet. Reliable. Fuel economy is around 16-18 MPG, which, while seemingly low for a mid-sized truck, I consider quite reasonable for a truck hauling around a camper. Even a small truck and a small camper.

We might have bought a Toyota Tacoma. I’ve owned Toyotas and have had very good experience with them. Why Chevrolet? CarPlay. Yes, CarPlay. We are iPhone users and have no desire to change. Auto dashboard entertainment and mapping solutions are horrible. They start horrible and never get updated. CarPlay isn’t perfect, but it gets at least one major update each year. We just recently got lane guidance for our (free) guidance application. Toyota has been stubborn; they have insisted on owning the entire customer experience. They lost a $35,000 sale over it. They are bending now but I still don’t think you can buy a Tacoma with CarPlay. The Colorado’s a good truck. We have no regrets.

The truck needs more engine. It’s underpowered for the weight it’s carrying. It shifts a lot through its 6 forward gears, even with the tow-haul mode engaged. Headwinds, and even gentle hills, make the little truck work hard. Too hard for my taste. Altitude doesn’t help — and we’re at high altitude frequently. If we had it to do over we would have gotten the diesel engine for better high-altitude performance and better low-end torque.

With the wet and loaded camper we have to be very careful to not exceed the truck’s Gross Vehicle Weight. Four Wheel Campers wasn’t really up-front with us about the kinds of suspension and tire modifications that would be required for our truck to be able to handle the Fleet pop-up camper safely. We had Air-Lift air bags installed initially (a total nightmare), then we had them taken off and buried. We had Les Schwab in Sandy, Oregon install Helwig Helper Springs (1530) in their stead. They also upgraded the shocks to Monroe Sensation-Tracs (37351).

The OEM tires were crap. Unreliable. Unsafe. Four failures in the first year. Three of the failures were rock cuts, the fourth a legit puncture. They were not overloaded. They were rated at well above our GVW at max inflation 51 PSI, which I ran. Absolute garbage. A 4×4 truck that can’t drive down a gravel driveway. We replaced them, at the time of the solar eclipse, where we had two consecutive failures, at a Les Schwab in Madras, Oregon. $1,200 later we had good tires and have not had a whisper of trouble since. We had been told, both by Chevrolet and the Les Schwab in Sandy, Oregon, that light-truck tires weren’t available for our Colorado, but Les Schwab in Madras fitted us with a slightly larger tire (Toyo LT245/75R-17/10 121/118S Open Country AT II All Position BW) that works very well. Our speedometer reads 1-2 MPH slow now. I don’t drive fast anyway. Not a problem.

We replaced the OEM tires with new Toyo tires.

They were also able to install a lift kit to bring the front up one inch and the rear up three inches (UT111 Suspension Lift -GM. Lift front 1 inch. 82650 Add-A-Leaf rear suspension element-3 inch lift) The lift in the front gave our new bigger tires a bit more room and the extra leaf and elevation in the rear helped the truck handle its weight better. Also got the body up off the ground for better off-road performance. Made the whole truck look 1000% better as well.

Ren with the old set of tires – no lift
With the new tires – modest lift

Steering and braking seem very adequate. But they should. We aren’t overloaded, just fully loaded.

Three months ago I would have said we should have bought the four-door truck instead of the extended cab. But recently we’ve been touring Arizona, Utah, and Idaho and boondocking a lot. I’m loving the tight turning radius and off-road capabilities of the shorter wheel-based truck. Since we fixed our suspension and tires, we can actually enjoy our 4×4 truck.

Next: Our Four Wheel Camper – Fleet Pop-up

2 thoughts on “Long overdue Equipment Update (Ren)

  1. Good update. I basically think vehicles are a pain in the rear; that said, it’s definitely nice to have a good one… or two! Thx.


    1. Thanks Mike. Seems like a huge amount of time and energy is consumed by just keeping our‘stuff’ going. New ‘stuff’ is a help…but it don’t stay new. I guess, as full-time nomads, we have less stuff than most. I’m thankful for that.

      Liked by 1 person

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