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Old 12-27-2006, 01:58 PM   #1
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$.02 Worth of towing advice

As a resource for those contemplating an AS for the coming season, or a TV upgrade, I thought I would put together a summary of my towing experience over the years for those that are interested, and/or may be faced with the oft asked; “to ½ ton or not to ½ ton”? It may give some of you something to think about BEFORE you buy.

1) Started some years back with a ½ ton Suburban and a popup. Found out we loved camping again but hated the hassle of a popup. But it did reinvigorate our interest in camping and we started to go quite frequently. The Suburban was, of course, more than enough TV for a popup (about 3500# loaded), but the single axle did still provide some porpoising and even sway at certain speeds. I had yet to discover WD hitches and anti-sway devices at this point. We started to camp more frequently and after a couple of season moved up to an SOB.
2) The Wife found an SOB she really liked, so we sold the popup. Some time around here we bought a second Burb and I also was smart enough to realize we would need a WD hitch as the SOB was a bit heavier than the popup, about 4500# loaded, still well within the capabilities of a ½ ton Burb. Bought an Equalizer hitch. This setup (dual axle) actually towed better than the lighter, but single axle popup. We had a great time with the SOB and found ourselves venturing further and more frequently than ever. This was way better than a popup.
3) Along comes the 25’ Excella. Still had the ½ ton Burb and Equalizer hitch. Set off on our maiden voyage with the AS to one of our favorite campgrounds on Cape Cod (about 1 ½ hour trip). Whoa wait a minute! What is this spongy, pushed around, engine whining, transmission shifting feeling I am experiencing? Now remember, the Suburban is no slouch and is at the top of the ½ ton food chain, and still well within the legal limits of this setup, but all of a sudden it was no longer in control as noted in situation #1 and #2 above. This was to be a two part trip, so I spent some time reviewing and adjusting my hitch setup before we left on the second leg of the trip. Headed out for leg #2 and still did not feel real good about this so I took it pretty slowly for the next few hours. Once again, after arriving at the second stop, reviewed my hitch setup, checked tires, suspension, etc. Everything looks fine. Towed the return trip (no highway) slowly and we made it home safely. I have to admit; I was very nervous, clenching the steering wheel the entire way, and did not let on to my Wife just how nervous I was. I spent the next week reviewing everything again, very concerned as this was the beginning of the season in New England, and we had many trips planned for the summer. Checked the truck, checked the tires, called Equalizer, went over everything I could think of. I finally realized, I was at the limits of the ½ ton Burb, which we really loved (great family vehicle, ski vehicle, etc). If we wanted to stay close to home it might be OK to continue, but we have grown quite fond of adventuring-we like to hitch up and go! With the camping season looming I knew I had to do something, as I was not at all comfortable with that last towing experience. Well, I was always intrigued with the legendary towing capacity of the Duramax/Allison and found myself back at the Chevy dealer. Traded the Burb and got a nice new ¾ ton crew cab. Less than 24 hours later we were hooked up and headed to Maine (300+ miles) for ten days. “This is more like it”! I thought as we headed north. Now the TV was in control again, just like in scenario #1 and #2 above. A much more relaxed, safe towing experience. Once again, I felt comfortable and ready to go at a moments notice. No apprehension, no spongy feeling, no up-shifting, etc. This is the way towing should be. Well our camping season was back on track, we are venturing all over again at a moments notice, and life is good.

My point in all of this rambling; what if I never had the benefit of the experience of scenarios #1 and #2 and started out by towing a 7000# camper with a ½ ton vehicle?
I would have thought that all that pushing around, transmission downshifting, death grip on the helm, etc was a”normal” towing experience. Well it’s not. If you are contemplating getting into this game, or currently are under gunned with your tow vehicle and the above describes your towing adventures, then there is in fact a better way. I was fortunate enough to work my way up through the ranks safely, and many others here have done the same, and I think will echo my experience. There will always be naysayers that want to tow way too much with a smaller vehicle, or maybe have to due to financial considerations, or just don’t care to venture far from home. Many of them have ended up in a ditch. If you really like to travel, as we do, I can assure you, you will never regret having more than enough tow vehicle underneath you. Go big block gas, go diesel, whichever you prefer, but if you are getting beyond 6000# or so, get the ¾ ton. Traveling at or near max capacity is not much fun.

Bill
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Old 12-27-2006, 02:23 PM   #2
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Bill, What an useful post! And not the least bit rambling. Your insights are very helpful to us newbies--especially those of us who are towing cautiously and close to home while we wait for the new TV.
Thanks!
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Old 12-27-2006, 02:33 PM   #3
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I can speak to the 1/2 ton vs 3/4 ton. A 1/2 ton CAN pull a 25' AS, however its not a "relaxing, carefree existence. I agree, go for the 3/4 ton if you can afford it. I kicked my Titan to the curb and now drive an 06 PSD CC. This my friends is a SERIOUS no joke truck!
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Old 12-27-2006, 02:43 PM   #4
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Thumbs up great post

Hello Bill ,
that was a very good article. I hope it willbe seen by many new owners.a lot of newbe's think that a 1/2 ton vechile wile do because it looks big enough. then after a bad towing experience do they learn.there are a few ,not too many people that think 1/2 ton will surfice. after this I hope that they will grasp what you have experienced..KAMA to you..
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Old 12-27-2006, 02:47 PM   #5
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Bill,
Interesting read. At first I was surprised that you had such a white knuckle experience with the 'burb. Then I read the weight for your 1989 25' Excella. It's only a foot longer but almost twice the weight of our '78 Argosy 24. Now I remember back when we were shopping why there was a hard limit for us at 23'-24' and how much difference there was in weight as AS marched into the 80's and 90's.

I guess the moral of the story is don't assume that 1-2' doesn't make any difference. You have to consider the whole package and if you're locked in for some reason to a certain class of TV stay within it's limitations. Weight is probably more important than length although wheelbase, overhang, engine torque, hitch wetup, brakes, single vs. dual axle, etc. all make a significant contibution to the towing experience.

-Bernie
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Old 12-27-2006, 03:25 PM   #6
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Experience talks

Quote:
Originally Posted by BillTex
[FONT=Times New Roman][SIZE=3]3) . Go big block gas, go diesel, whichever you prefer, but if you are getting beyond 6000# or so, get the ton. Traveling at or near max capacity is not much fun.

Bill
A very good lesson and an even greater summary.
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Old 12-27-2006, 03:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BillTex
There will always be naysayers that want to tow way too much with a smaller vehicle, or maybe have to due to financial considerations, or just don’t care to venture far from home. Many of them have ended up in a ditch. If you really like to travel, as we do, I can assure you, you will never regret having more than enough tow vehicle underneath you. Go big block gas, go diesel, whichever you prefer, but if you are getting beyond 6000# or so, get the ton. Traveling at or near max capacity is not much fun.
Amen! Been to the mountain top as well and can mirror your comments.

Always amazing to see a converted 1/2 tonner get the right tool for the job...it's like a big light has been turned on and the fog cleared.......
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Old 12-27-2006, 04:16 PM   #8
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My $0.02

Bill. Great info.
My observation has been that even though I had a 3/4 ton truck. The right powerplant makes a big difference. My old truck was a F-250 5.4L Gas. My new one F-250 6.0L Diesel. Towing is much easier now.
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Old 12-27-2006, 04:17 PM   #9
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I don't know what you guys are talking about, my 1/2 ton pulls just fine
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Old 12-27-2006, 04:20 PM   #10
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Quote:
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I don't know what you guys are talking about, my 1/2 ton pulls just fine
Yup, all 2460 lbs!
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Old 12-27-2006, 05:28 PM   #11
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I wondered who would catch that first
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Old 12-27-2006, 05:49 PM   #12
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Arrow 1/2 to 3/4 ton.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvertwinkie
Amen! Been to the mountain top as well and can mirror your comments.

Always amazing to see a converted 1/2 tonner get the right tool for the job...it's like a big light has been turned on and the fog cleared.......
This evening at about 17:30 me and my wife got a new baby. Leftover 2006 GMC Sierra 2500 HD SLT2, Crew Cab 6.0 Liter gasoline. We have considered Duramax for a long time, but reading Diesel Forums many complains are posted about parts availability so I have chickened out from buying Duramax. Can wait to test it out towing. I am sure it will tow my 26 Arg just fine. Thanks, "Boatdoc"
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Old 12-27-2006, 06:49 PM   #13
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TV size

How did we ever do it 30 years ago when we pulled a 31 foot AS al over the country with Cadillacs, Lincolns and Buicks.

For years I pulled a 34 Foot AS Limited (9,000 lbs.) in the rocky moutains with a 92 1/2 ton Burb 350 small block with no trouble.

When I sold the Burb it ad 194,000 trouble free miles on it.

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Old 12-27-2006, 08:02 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pat370
How did we ever do it 30 years ago when we pulled a 31 foot AS al over the country with Cadillacs, Lincolns and Buicks.
Pat370

Those cars 30 years ago had nearly i-beams for frames. They had 400ci engines or in a lot of cases larger. A time when excess was king....until the oil embargo, then things leaned out. These vehicles were somewhere between 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton in raw density.

I don't think one can compare cars and RVs of today, particularly Airstreams which weighed a good deal less than they do today.
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Old 12-27-2006, 08:08 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pat370
For years I pulled a 34 Foot AS Limited (9,000 lbs.) in the rocky moutains with a 92 1/2 ton Burb 350 small block with no trouble.

When I sold the Burb it ad 194,000 trouble free miles on it.

Pat370
We towed a 25' Jayco in the Rockies and all over Canada and the US with a 3/4 ton 454ci Suburban. It was an 85. It lasted through that and 3 teenagers. If the body didn't totally rust away, we'd most likely be towing with that truck today. Before the 85, we towed with a '77 LTD wagon. Did a fair job, but there were times....... times we never had with the Suburban, where white knuckles were a regularlity with the 1/2 ton wagon w/ a 400ci.
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Old 12-27-2006, 08:14 PM   #16
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We have a 2005 25' Safari (Lucy) which weighs in the 6000-7000# range when loaded. We tow with two different TVs. We have a 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe (Matilda) with the 5.3 liter dual fuel and Autoride. Matilda does OK, especially around Florida (pretty flat), but she does strain a little on a Florida hill (not much). Our other TV is a 2005 Suburban (Olivia) with the 6.0 litwer gas engine. She is a 2500 4x4x4 (4 WD and Quadrasteer). Olivia really does the job; she pulls Lucy anywhere, anytime. We spent two weeks this summer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Olivia pulls strong and bakes well.

The bottom line is that a 3/4 ton truck does the job and a 1/2 ton truck is for use in Florida and other flat places.
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Old 12-27-2006, 08:20 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moosetags
We have a 2005 25' Safari (Lucy) which weighs in the 6000-7000# range when loaded. We tow with two different TVs. We have a 2004 Chevrolet Tahoe (Matilda) with the 5.3 liter dual fuel and Autoride. Matilda does OK, especially around Florida (pretty flat), but she does strain a little on a Florida hill (not much). Our other TV is a 2005 Suburban (Olivia) with the 6.0 litwer gas engine. She is a 2500 4x4x4 (4 WD and Quadrasteer). Olivia really does the job; she pulls Lucy anywhere, anytime. We spent two weeks this summer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Olivia pulls strong and bakes well.

The bottom line is that a 3/4 ton truck does the job and a 1/2 ton truck is for use in Florida and other flat places.
Well put!
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Old 12-27-2006, 08:33 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silvertwinkie
Those cars 30 years ago had nearly i-beams for frames. They had 400ci engines or in a lot of cases larger. A time when excess was king....until the oil embargo, then things leaned out. These vehicles were somewhere between 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton in raw density.

I don't think one can compare cars and RVs of today, particularly Airstreams which weighed a good deal less than they do today.
We had our '71 Buick Centurion before we even remotely considered an Airstream. We had towed small trailers including, when the kids were home, a large pop-up piled on top with camping gear, bikes and canoe. Obviously the 455 cid engine had no hint of the extra weight however, the dips and sways were annoying at the worse. Our '24 TW with the Equalizer WDH and 1000# bars is barely noticeable behind us so we have the right combination. However the Buick is a convertible (talk about strong frame) and is limited to the additional 'stuff' we can carry...especially when the kids and grandkids are aware we are heading up to 'the lake'. So this thread confirms my conclusion...high engine torque and a long wheel base will be necessary especially when we move up to a larger AS eventually. Great post.
Neil.
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Old 12-28-2006, 12:09 PM   #19
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Yes-it is interesting how much lighter the older models were. All this stuff we now "need" to "rough it" really adds up! Certainly, an older full chassis (pre-unibody) with a big V8 was up to the task 30+ years ago, and would do the job with a smaller camper today, but not in the 25' plus league...this calls for HD equipment.
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Old 12-28-2006, 03:57 PM   #20
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The bottom line is that folks who don't know the difference will just not understand until they get into a 3/4 ton. I know several folks that think it's just a gimmick or marketing tool. Once you go from a 1/2 ton to a 3/4 it's clearly night and day difference, and for those that have seen the difference are the ones on the mountain top now. Remember, I was one of those 1/2 tonners and too have been transformed.

Here too, tow vehicles are like religion or politics....no one will convert easily. Took me few years myself.
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