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Old 10-04-2011, 11:52 AM   #1
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What is a good tow vehicle?

Dear All,

I have just purchased in 1970 TradeWind. My question is so basic you all might laugh. However, I simply do not know. What can safely tow this thing? It weighs 4200 pounds dry weight, which probably means at least 5500 pounds fully loaded. I was looking at a Yukon Denali earlier but I think that it's too light. So I turned to the bunch, who knows the most. HELP!

Pilgrimsoul
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Old 10-04-2011, 12:35 PM   #2
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what is a good tow vehicle

Greetings Pilgrimsoul!

Welcome to the Forums and the world of Vintage Airstream ownership!


When looking for a tow vehicle, you need to ask yourself several questions:
  • Where, and how much will I be towing (dedicated tow vehicle or one that will serve as daily transportation as well)?
    • With a dedicated tow vehicle, you will likely want to consider one with a powerful gasoline V8 or diesel motor. Something with a tow rating of 8,000 pounds plus.
    • With a multi-use requirement, you will likely want to consider power as well as solo fuel economy. If this is your requirement, a vehicle with a 6,500 to 7,000 pound trailer tow rating would likely work well.
      • If you anticipate regular mountainous towing, you will likely be much happier with a more powerful (more torque and horsepower) tow vehicle.
      • If you will likely only be towing at lower altitudes a tow vehicle with a trailer tow rating closer to the weight (but still greater than the anticipated gross weight of the trailer) may be acceptable (merging power for entering Interstate highways will slow considerably as you approach the maximum capacity of most tow vehicles).
Depending upon how the Yukon Denali is equipped, it may be an acceptable tow vehicle for your Tradewind. Provided that the Denali has the factory installed maximum tow package, it is likely rated to tow between 6,000 and 7,000 pounds (varies by year and optional towing equipment installed).

Try checking the Trailer Life magazine trailer towing guides for new cars published annualy (there are archived copies available on their website). Review the vehicles that you like that have acceptable trailer tow ratings and let the search begin! Try this link for the guides (look in the lower-right corner of the front page).

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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Old 10-04-2011, 12:54 PM   #3
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A properly-equipped Yukon Denali is going to have no problem pulling around that Tradewind; a friend used to use one to tow his (longer) 70s Overlander. Newer Denalis have 403 horsepower and a six-speed automatic - in other words, plenty of power. You can also get the current Denali with an optional slick built-in trailer brake controller.

Tom
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Old 10-04-2011, 01:03 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Pilgrimsoul View Post
Dear All,

I have just purchased in 1970 TradeWind. My question is so basic you all might laugh. However, I simply do not know. What can safely tow this thing? It weighs 4200 pounds dry weight, which probably means at least 5500 pounds fully loaded. I was looking at a Yukon Denali earlier but I think that it's too light. So I turned to the bunch, who knows the most. HELP!

Pilgrimsoul
Hi and welcome to the Forums,

Congratulations on your new TradeWind.

You are about to get all kinds of advice, some will tell you a minivan will pull your trailer while others will insist that you need a one ton diesel dually with a long bed. Similarly, some will tell you that you need a Hensley Hitch while others will tell you that you can make do with the cheapest anti-sway hitch out there. A lot will depend on your particular situation as to what is correct for you, but truly the advice that you get her on the Forums is some of the best advice that you will get anywhere, period. (IMHO)

Now back to your question, like you I'm looking for a new tow vehicle and was considering the Tahoe / Yukon twins and I really liked the idea of a VW Tourage TDI for it's mileage. All of these vehicles can tow your Airstream without problem. Where I ran into problems was with tongue weight & toy weight.

When the manufacturers list capacities they include only a driver (no passengers) and an empty vehicle. So you need to add the weight of your passengers and fuel and tongue weight to figure out what else if anything you can carry in the tow vehicle. When I did this little calculation, I discovered that I was painfully close to the limits of or exceeded the limits of the these vehicles. So I began to look at the 3/4 ton vehicles like the Yukon XL, Sierra 2500HD and the F-250. Also to avoid the dreaded 10 mpg I have been looking at the diesels more closely. My parameters are that 1) it will be just my wife and I, a couple of bicycles / Kayaks and a genset in the tow vehicle. but there are times that we will want to bring some friends with us, so add an extra 400 pounds or so for them and their stuff and 2) I won't always be towing in perfect weather on a flat highway. So my thought was to practice the Boy Scout motto and always be prepared. I would rather have the extra capacity and not need it than need it and not have it.

My suggestions are that you search the Forums using the names of your favorite tow vehicles and read what comes up. Every conceivable combination of tow vehicle / hitch / Airstream as been written about in these forums, if not your exactly, then something pretty close.

Some of the key metrics to keep in mind are:
1) Relating to the TV
A) Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVW)
B) Front Axle Weight Rating
C) Read Axle Weight Rating
D) Net Cargo Capacity

2) Relating to the Airstream
A) Dry Weight - You already know this
B) Gross Weight - You already know this
C) Tongue Weight - This will change as you load the Airstream

A couple of final points,
1) if you purchased a used tow vehicle, don't automatically assume that its towing capacities are the same as a current year model (even if the models are only a year or tow apart)
2) Never tow with the bumper ball, always use a receiver on the tow vehicle
3) What ever tow vehicle you choose, make sure that you get a good weight distribution hitch with sway control (assuming your tow vehicle can use one - some unibody vehicles with air suspensions cannot) and make sure that it is properly installed and adjusted. Posting pictures here on the forums will get you a lot of good advice if you have questions.
4) Once you get everything rigged up, pay a visit to a public scale and get it checked to make sure that everything is correctly adjusted.
5) All of this can seem overwhelming, but take it slow and easy any you will avoid any nasty surprises.
6) Have FUN in your new Airstream!


Well, that is my 1.54321 cents. Good luck with your purchase and post some pictures so that we can see you new TV and Airstream.

Cheers,
Rion
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Old 10-04-2011, 02:01 PM   #5
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Pretty much any late-model "1/2 ton" with a towing package will tow it within spec... as well as the various SUV derivatives.

I tow a 22 foot that weighs about the same as yours with a 5.7l Sequoia... works nice. A Denali wouldn't be much different.

An SUV vs. truck is one choice... the longer wheelbase of the truck has some advantages... but the short rear overhang of an SUV also has some advantages.

Frequent haulers will tend towards the diesels for economy... though you need to crunch the numbers and see if the extra expense (and eventual sky-high maintenance) are worth it. Ford's new gas turbo-6 is rated well for towing... it's only in their truck right now. Lots of folks like the Cummin's in the Dodge, but you're stuck in at least a 3/4 ton and they ride like a tank. My buddy tows 7000lbs with his 1 ton Chev diesel... it eats suspension parts for breakfast, but otherwise he likes it.

I'm a Toyota guy, so I like the Tundra and Sequoia... the 2012 Sequoia has some new trailer-friendly features... and is popular because it comes in a 2wd version...

Have fun! There is no 'wrong' tow-vehicle... just as there is no 'right' one...
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Old 10-04-2011, 02:34 PM   #6
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You don't even need a truck, big van or bigger SUV. Some minivans, smaller SUV's and a number of sedans can be set up to pull that trailer. Do a search here on CAN AM RV and owner ANDYT (Andy Thomson). A midsize American car circa 1970 could have pulled that trailer, and the full-size sedan of the era with the biggest engine was the most likely choice (as it was for our family with larger trailers than yours).

The quality of the hitch rigging means more than absolute TV size.

Your question has been asked dozens of times, and there are plenty of long threads to read. Have at it, and welcome!

.
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Old 10-04-2011, 04:15 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Friday View Post
Have fun! There is no 'wrong' tow-vehicle... just as there is no 'right' one...
Friday,

Despite my over the top answer above, I couldn't have said it better!

Cheers,
Rion
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Old 10-09-2011, 01:24 PM   #8
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Great responses. Please do check out the many posts here on tow vehicles. I gained great iinfo from a number of critical reviews of tow vehicle wheelbase to trailer wheel ratios. Take home message to me was my Toy 4Runner wasn't stancy enough to safely tow my 27' overlander. I moved to a suburban, whick was better, but have ended up with a GMC Sierra with tow package and transmiission tow setting, adjusted ball height, and advatage of shorter rear wheel to ball. This made a world of immediately noticable difference. I really fought getting a pickup, but I'm very happy with the combo. I also tow with a '66 dodge power wagon WM300 for vintage runs..not over 50mph ever...it doenst go any faster. Best of luck.
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Old 10-09-2011, 03:07 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by mutcth View Post
A properly-equipped Yukon Denali is going to have no problem pulling around that Tradewind; a friend used to use one to tow his (longer) 70s Overlander. Newer Denalis have 403 horsepower and a six-speed automatic - in other words, plenty of power. You can also get the current Denali with an optional slick built-in trailer brake controller.

Tom
You could pull your Tradewind in excess of 100MPH with that Denali.
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