Insurance Covers $17k Repair to Pavel’s Broken Ram 3500 Frame

You’ve seen the photographs and read the article by now—the Pavel’s 2020 Ram 3500 buckled in two with a 2020 Eagle Cap 1165 mounted on back. The disaster occurred during a recent trip to Baja, Mexico. Unbeknownst to Michael Pavel and his wife, they had overloaded their dually with a fully-loaded 6,500-pound triple-slide truck camper plus passengers, bicycles, and gear in a truck that was rated for only 5,178 pounds. They thought that the Ram 3500 they bought was rated for 7,680 pounds, which was the maximum payload rating advertised by Ram.

“First of all, Mike, I want to let you know that your assessment of the payload capacity is correct,” Michael Pavel told Truck Camper Adventure. “Yes, I was unaware of it when I bought the truck and camper and should have done more research on the payload. I posted my experience on Facebook to share with other current truck camper owners as I know there are many who have similar setups. I am glad that the article in The Drive was shared by the online community so as to prevent this from happening to others.”

Exceeding the payload rating is probably the most common error made by truck camper owners. We see it all the time here at Truck Camper Adventure. The payload rating tells you the maximum amount of weight that a truck can safely haul, in terms of passengers, cargo and gear. The rating is determined by subtracting the truck’s curb weight from the truck’s GVWR. This rating, which is expressed in both kilograms and pounds, can be found on the Tire and Loading Sticker and is preceded by the statement, “the combined weight of occupants and cargo should never exceed…” Unfortunately, the payload rating cannot be raised officially by the owner, though there are several upgrades to the suspension that you can make to improve the ride of your rig.

But overloading the truck was only part of the couple’s problem. The triple-slide truck camper’s massive rear overhang plus two 72-pound bikes placed an inordinate amount of weight behind the rear axle. Coupled with the weight from the 1,100-pound 6.7L diesel engine and a 300-pound aftermarket front bumper, this fulcrum affect created a “bowing” affect in the center of the frame, exactly where Pavel’s Ram 3500 frame split in two. The arched and cracked frame shown in the photographs provide additional evidence that an excessive amount of weight was located behind the rear axle.

So what happened after their catastrophic breakdown in Mexico’s Baja? Fortunately, Michael reached out to us after our first story broke and updated us on what happened next.

“The incident happened on the turn-off of the small village of Puertecitos in Baja,” Michael explained. “Within five minutes, two Americans pulled up and rendered assistance. By chance they were on their way to see the local mechanic. They gave me a ride and introduced me to the local mechanic who followed us back a half-mile back to my truck. He assessed the damage and told me he could weld the frame enough to get my truck back to the States. I used my rear camper Happy Jacks to lift the camper back to horizontal. He proceeded to add two steel plates on either side and welded the frame right there on the spot.”

“We followed him back to his fenced compound and spent the night in the camper. The next morning we unloaded the camper off of the truck and drove the 800 miles back to Tahoe without a mishap. In Mexico they call it “Mexican-do” when the locals fix things on the spot,” he said.

Manufacturer warranties will not cover negligent damage and this includes grossly overloading a truck. We’ve written about overloading numerous times here on Truck Camper Adventure, and even wrote about it in a popular truck camper mistakes article. Fortunately, Pavel’s truck was fully insured with Geico. Surprisingly, his insurance policy included damage caused by overloading.

“I contacted the MOPAR Warranty and took the truck down to Reno Dodge. I experienced terrible service with MOPAR Warranty. It was useless. They denied my claim after two weeks of a run around. I filed a comprehensive claim with my Geico auto insurance and they approved the repairs. It’s been two months since the incident and Reno Dodge has been great at transferring all the truck parts onto a new frame and it’s now as good as new,” Michael said.

Minus the deductible, Pavel’s insurance covered the $17,000 needed to repair the damage, but this incident could have been avoided at the dealership. When ordering a truck to haul a truck camper, options are key. The 7,680-pound payload that was advertised by Ram mandated a Ram 3500 DRW regular cab truck with a 6.4L HEMI V8 gasoline engine, 2WD, and an 8-foot bed. However, this configuration is rarely used by truck camper owners. Many owners, like Pavel, opt for a truck with a diesel, a crew cab, and 4WD instead. These three options alone will reduce a Ram 3500’s payload by a good 1,500 pounds. Combine that number with other options and you’re staring at a 5,178-pound payload. The lone exception to the “more options is bad for payload” rule is the dual rear wheel (DRW) truck. When it comes to payload, the dually is king and it isn’t even close, but it isn’t a panacea when it comes to hauling a truck camper. You still have to determine what each truck is rated for when it comes to GVWR and payload.

Then, of course, there’s the camper. The Eagle Cap 1165 is a VERY heavy truck camper, a veritable hotel on wheels. Yes, the dry weight of the Eagle Cap 1165 is only 4,912 pounds, but fully loaded with options this camper weighs a good 1,500 to 2,000 pounds more. Add passengers, bicycles, and gear and you’re looking at well over 7,000 pounds of weight. The right truck is need to haul such a heavy load and Pavel’s 2020 Ram 3500 dually with a 5,178-pound payload clearly wasn’t it. If Pavel consulted with us beforehand, we would have advised him to buy either a class 4 or class 5 truck. In his case either a Ram 4500 chassis (7,850 pound payload) or a Ram 5500 chassis (10,700-pound payload) outfitted with custom truck bed like those made by StableCamper with extra storage. Either truck would’ve prevented this disaster from occurring.

Michael sold his truck on February 4, the day after he returned from Baja with his Eagle Cap 1165. A happy ending for what had been a nightmare for the California couple. His next truck will be a Ram 5500 chassis, a truck with more than enough payload for his Eagle Cap 1165.

“All in all, it worked out okay. We will be back on the road and plan on traveling in our new truck and camper through British Columbia this summer. We still love traveling in our truck camper having spent five months and over 9,000 miles last winter driving down the Baja in 2021,” he said.

About Mello Mike 907 Articles
Mello Mike is an Arizona native, author, and the founder of Truck Camper Adventure. He's been RV'ing since 2002, is a certified RVIA Level 1 RV Technician, and has restored several Airstream travel trailers. A communications expert and licensed ham radio operator (KK7TCA), he retired from the U.S. Navy in 2004 as a CWO3 after 24 years, holds a BS degree, and now runs Truck Camper Adventure full-time. He also does some RV consulting, repairs, and inspections on the side. He currently rolls in a 4WD Ram 3500 outfitted with a SherpTek truck bed with a Bundutec Roadrunner mounted on top.

15 Comments

  1. Hugh Redmon- Really? Did you even read the article? This is ONE of TWO That have been documented (both duallies) which hardly is evidence that “common sense” tells you (as Mello Mike likes to do) that MOST rigs hauling TC’s are overloaded. Sorry, but I live in the real world and yes you can’t fix stupid people that look at numbers without understanding them (Yes I’m saying you have ZERO understanding of GVWR).
    The axles are there to haul weight REGARDLESS of how it’s applied. Your assumption is absurd. PROVE IT.
    There is no “legally required distance” for your F350 to stop within GVWR. PROVE IT.
    There is no cornering designation based on GVWR (sway bar anyone?) PROVE IT.
    There is no “de-ration of axle weight by manufacturers”. ABSURD! PROVE IT!
    There is no de-ration for “other than straight line driving on a road in perfect conditions.” ABSURD! PROVE IT!
    GVWR has absolutely NOTHING to do with your successful evasive measures, (and perhaps you should SLOW DOWN). I drive professionally for a living, 34 years, we don’t make “evasive measures”. We slow down or stop, and if something runs out in front of us WE PLOW THROUGH IT. Evasive maneuvers causes rollovers. Get over yourself.

  2. Hello. I’m new here but do have some common sense.

    You cannot make blanket statement about insurance covering this or that. It depends on the insurance company, the coverage provided, and the adjuster for that matter.

    This guy has great insurance it it paid to fix this at all, much less that it happened in Mexico. Who is his insurance carrier?

  3. Most all of the double & triple slide TCs are over the weight limit on one ton duallies. Yes, most owners get by with the over weight trucks if they’re careful. A typical triple slide TC loaded with water, propane, & gear will weigh around 15.5K lbs, or 1,500 lbs over the GVWR.of 14,000 lbs. Even if you think everything is ok, you should check the upper overload spring bump stop brackets that hold the rubber bump stops above the spring leaf. I have seen on an F350 diesel dually, that weighed 15.5K lbs. loaded, the upper overload spring bump stop bracket was bent upward at an angle from the excess pressure put on it from going over bumps & pot holes. Those bump stop brackets are very easy to replace, just 4 lag bolts, & they cost around $70 for a pair. The rear bump stop bracket tends to bend more so than the front one, probably due to the extra 3 ft of weight & leverage of the camper extending past the bumper. Everyone should check their overload bump stop brackets for that telltale sign of a problem.

    • Matching a specific truck’s payload capacity to a particular camper (with people, pets, and all liquids and supplies) is critical. I can say from experience that these large 2 and 3 slide campers are too heavy for most 1 ton duallies and are borderline on the largest available pick up, the Ford F450 (regardless what the dealer says). With careful loading a properly equipped and modified F450, it will do the job but a cab and chassis is the safer bet… just much uglier unless your budget is not a consideration.
      The Eagle Cap 1160 and 1165 models also have a massive basement storage compartment behind the rear axle that is very easy to overload due to it’s size and location. It begs for gear but care must be taken to load with weight in mind. In my old 1160 I modified the basement by shifting the bulkhead forward about a foot and the rolling drawer about 18” to make use of unused space and to get the weight farther forward. These units are extremely easy to overload as seen by the unit in this article. Stopping at scales to weigh each axle when loaded should be common place for any truck owner to know exactly what you have then adjust your equipment, supplies, or rig accordingly.

  4. Well now the Weight Police can stop claiming that your insurance will be cancelled for overloading. Funny thing is, most insurance does not cover you South of the Border (Liberty Mutual covers 68 miles in) and Mexican insurance has mixed reviews. Funny thing is that 5500 Ram probably has the same frame as the 3500, with just higher capacity springs and axles that you can upgrade on any truck. He needn’t have replaced the frame though, as any owner of a “demil-ed” military vehicle knows, cut frames can be welded to be as strong or stronger as the original, THE EXCEPTION PROVES THE RULE: GVWR is just a number.

  5. I wonder if he ever did a weight and balance with the loaded camper, where was the center of gravity mark on the camper? Even with the higher rated chassis the C/G mark on the camper must be ahead of the axle for proper loading and handling . Second is I can’t believe this truck as loaded ever drove and handled correctly. Third is that this site has many times in various articles said that insurance would not cover an overloaded vehicle.

      • You must be one of those fact-resistant humans. Here is a perfect example of why exceeding the GVWR is dangerous and you STILL deny it! This is overwhelming evidence and you still cannot accept it. How’s the weather over there in Crazytown?

        • Even if the weight was uniformly reduced to be within gvwr on that truck it would fail because of the balance of the load. This is a perfect example of why proper loading is just as important as weight. It seems quite obvious. I have repaired many broken frames, shortened and lengthened many as well. I owned a 44,000 gvw dump truck that I shortened the frame on and it was regularly loaded to 50,000 for 23 years. By the way 50k was the sum of the two axle ratings.

          • GVWR is not the sum of axle ratings and supercedes them. Weight is a dynamic force on a vehicle. GVWR takes into consideration the braking capacity, steering ability, suspension control, tires and multitudes of other factors. You can increase the frame strength all you want but you will not make any vehicle safer unless you change just about everything else. The extra capacity on axles is there to absorb the force of stopping accelerating and cornering. It’s not unusual to approach the capacity of the front axle during emergency braking. That payload weight shifts to the front of the vehicle and single axle ends (wheels) will carry much more weight when turning or making an evasive maneuver. People who think it is okay to exceed GVWR never consider emergency maneuvers as a factor and the stress it puts on attached components mentioned above. The brakes on my 1 ton dually F350 are designed to safely stop my truck within a legally required distance at no MORE than my GVWR. The vehicle was designed to corner safely with no more than my GVWR. Axles are de-rated by manufacturers because that extra capacity is needed for instances other than driving in a straight line on a road in perfect conditions. I’ve have to make evasive maneuvers driving 65 mph at night loaded with my truck camper and I was only able to successfully complete the maneuver because I was under my GVWR. EXCEEDING GVWR IS NEVER SMART NOR IS IT SAFE.

          • It helps if you read the article. TLDR; he broke the frame on his truck because he overloaded it. It’s common sense, something you apparently don’t have. You just can’t fix stupid.

  6. Awesome story, my truck is the one you used on your post that you got from Jared at Stablecamper the 5500 with the eagle cap 1165 on it

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