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Old 06-28-2017, 12:32 PM   #1
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2016 Toyota Highlander as a tow vehicle

I presently own a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum, 6 cylinder. I am looking for help with sizing an Airstream that would be towable wthout overmaxing the TV. Toyota's specs say 5000 lb max tow and 500 lb max tongue weight. Looking for a unit I can safely tow that is 19-23' in length. Any suggestions out there? Thanks all...
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Old 06-28-2017, 12:58 PM   #2
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Hi

Take a look at the payload numbers on the Highlander. That's usually where people run into a gotcha. There should be a sticker either on the door post or in the glove compartment. The magic number there will give you a number of passengers and a weight. The owners manual will tell you how much a "passenger" weighs according to Toyota.

If the trailer puts 500 lb on the TV (tongue weight) and the hitch weighs 100 lb (pure guess number) you already are down ~600 lb when you hitch up. If the sticker says 1500 lb, you are down to 900 lb. If they think that 8 people each weigh 125 lb, you can add 1,000 lb to that. If they have some other idea of weight or number of people ... adjust accordingly.

Assuming that all works out, the Basecamp and Sport lines should all be ok. The Flying Cloud and other lines will be ok in the 19 and 20 foot sizes. At 23 feet you will be over towing capacity with a fully loaded trailer.

Bob
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Old 06-28-2017, 03:00 PM   #3
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The payload number (Should never exceed . . . ) on the door jamb is useful when loading your Highlander and not towing anything, but inaccurate to the point of useless when determining what your vehicle can tow.

The reason it is useless is because any accessories added to the vehicle after assembly alter the number, and you will need a weight distribution hitch to tow any Airstream. The w.d. hitch will shift some of the hitch weight and some of the gear loaded in the Highlander behind its rear axle back to the Airstream's axles. It will also restore the weight removed from the Highlander's steering axle and balance the load on both axles. A quality w.d. hitch will shift about 20-25% of the weight placed on the Highlander receiver back to the trailer axles, the Highlander will not be carrying it.

Take your unloaded Highlander to a CAT (truck stop) scale and weigh it with driver and passenger(s) you will be taking along, front and rear axle weight will be printed on your readout.

Compare those individual axle weights to the front and rear axle maximum axle weight rating (GAWR) on your Highlanders door jamb. The difference is what our Highlander axles can carry safely, that is trailer hitch weight (after w.d. is applied) and gear you carry in your Highlander. Look up your Highlander's combined rating (GCWR), Highlander, trailer, and all loads, will advise you what you can tow, brake, and handle safely.

The gotcha with w.d hitches is the vertical twisting they apply to the tow vehicle receiver. In the case of unibody SUVs the attachment points may not be strong enough to resist this twisting action, and need reinforcement. In the case of some pickup trucks, the receiver itself may flex as (well as the truck's frame) preventing enough w.d., sometimes a stronger hitch receiver is needed.

So what can you tow with the Highlander? With a passenger or two and light gear, probably a small Airstream without hitch reinforcement, and 20' to 23' Airstream with hitch reinforcement. Each increase in size/weight will lower power and braking performance, so a lot will depend on your expectations. We like to use 45 mph or less as a safety margin when climbing and descending steeper mountain grades.
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Old 06-28-2017, 03:22 PM   #4
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We started our Airstream adventures towing with a 2014 Highlander Limited (27 FC FB). However, we have since moved up to a F150 and feel better.

Keep in mind we had expert hitch setup by CanAM for both vehicles. We just feel more secure with the truck. The Highlander was fine on the flats, but we have the desire to go the mountains. We got our F150 outfitted with max tow and are very happy.
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Old 06-29-2017, 11:56 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Looneypoon View Post
I presently own a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum, 6 cylinder. I am looking for help with sizing an Airstream that would be towable wthout overmaxing the TV. Toyota's specs say 5000 lb max tow and 500 lb max tongue weight. Looking for a unit I can safely tow that is 19-23' in length. Any suggestions out there? Thanks all...
Do no forget that anything you place in the back of the Highlander will also create a problem. If you plan to drive in the mountains your engine will be screaming in steep climbs.

Dennis
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Old 06-29-2017, 12:38 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Looneypoon View Post
...an Airstream that would be towable wthout overmaxing the TV...
I towed with a Highlander -- my 15' Airlight was 2750#, wet. The Highlander's 3.3L V-6 was plenty capable, and even the brakes (along with the trailer brakes on the new Dexter Torflex axle) but by the time I loaded camping supplies into the back of the Highlander (with seats folded down) I was approaching the limits of the Highlander's capabilities. And that is not where you want to be -- approaching a vehicle's limitations, for that is when catastrophic failure occurs.

The Highlander is a capable car, boxy, high-waisted, and tough looking. With a weight distribution hitch addressing rear-end sag, the combo rode straight and true and tracked nicely. But know that the Highlander began as a stretched Camry becoming a Sienna mini-van, and is still basically that platform. It is not possible to add airbags to the suspension.

Now I use a Toyota Tacoma dual-cab, which is much more convenient for camping.
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Old 06-29-2017, 04:14 PM   #7
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When Toyota says your max towing capacity is 5000# and tongue wt max is 500# the limits are based on also carrying full payload wts in your Highlander. Those max towing and tongue loads are definitely "maxed out" IMO. I tow an approximately 4000# trailer with a V6 Tacoma which I load with a couple of hundred more pounds of cargo. I can maintain 60 mph up the steepest hills on the interstates, but the tranny downshifts and engine RPM's climb close to 4000. That's not a problem for the Toyota V6, assuming you have the factory tow pkg. Otherwise you run the risk of overheating both the engine and transmission. My advice would be to check the specs on any trailer you might consider buying and avoid selecting one that exceeds 75% to 80% of the Highlander's "claimed" 5000# max tow rating.
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Old 06-29-2017, 09:10 PM   #8
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highlander works for uc

we have 2016 highlander with tow package and pull a 2016 sport 22 fb. we have been thru the smokies and will be in the rockies next week. we have 5000 miles of experiance. we travel two in the car and seats folded down for bikes and gear. We went to escapees smart weight and have had each wheel weight measured and do not exceed any specs.,so this works for us.
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Old 06-29-2017, 09:31 PM   #9
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We too, like P Jones, started out Airstreaming (19' Bambi) with our 2014 Highlander and got by "fine" but knew we were on the verge of being underpowered etc. we had no problems but it was slow going up hills and mountains and in retrospect we were pushing our weight limit more than we should have been doing safely. So after two years swapped for a F-150 and it was a great move!! We are still cautious about our weight but the AS tows splendidly, 5,000 miles last year including substantial mountain trips in the Cascades of Washington and the Rockies of Idaho and Montana were a delight. However I do miss the shorter wheelbase of the Highlander every time I back-up.
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Old 06-29-2017, 09:46 PM   #10
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Rather than working with the limited capacities of the Highlander, you could always trade in for a gently used Sequoia or Tundra tow just about anything in AS's lineup. Highlanders are in high demand. You probably wouldn't even lose much if anything cost wise. And you'll still have the legendary reliability of a Toyota just the same.

You may even save lots of money in the end by not stair-stepping your way up to your desired AS size. Lots of people start off small, only to trade in (sometime multiple times) to get to where they really want to be. Transaction costs (taxes!!) are not cheap either.
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Old 06-29-2017, 10:36 PM   #11
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You would be wise to size your trailer 20% below your TV limits. The Nest maybe a perfect fit for you. Our Honda Ridgeline has a 5000# tow capacity and 750# tongue weight limit. We have a 2017-19' Bambi with a max weight of 4500#. On a route with little grade no problem. On a grade we take it easy with the slower traffic. Add altitude and we lose 1% of tow capacity with each 1000' elevation gain. In general a TV will loose 3% of engine performance with every 1000' elevation gain. I loose my 10% safety margin at high altitudes. I am already looking at a more robust TV.
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Old 06-30-2017, 06:34 AM   #12
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Thumbs up Thanks everyone...

I just want to thank everyone for the valued input regarding this topic. I think it's time to rethink the tow vehicle equation. This is a great forum. Best to everybody...!
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Old 06-30-2017, 07:50 PM   #13
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We started out pulling our 2010 19' International with our 2016 Highlander XLE. Twice the trailer went into the dreaded nearly uncontrolled sway situation. The sway control system we have may have been inadequate and the trailer was not optimally loaded, (bikes on the rear and stuff in the trailer behind the axle instead of forward). The Highlander could pull the trailer up steep grades at 60 mph and 70 mph on rolling freeway but it was pretty maxed out. Our current tow vehicle is a 2003 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD with a 6.0 Liter gas engine which has more than enough power for pulling the 19' Airstream. We load the trailer and truck with a lot of stuff, generator, etc. I considered a different sway control system with the Highlander but my significant other lost confidence in the Highlander after the sway incidents.
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Old 06-30-2017, 09:15 PM   #14
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Tow vehicle

We first started out with a Honda Ridgeline with our 22 Sport. Next came an F-150 with our 27 Flying Cloud. Now we're at an F-250 with our current 30 Classic. Moral of the story . . . One can never have a big enough trailer or tow vehicle.
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Old 07-05-2017, 09:59 AM   #15
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Tow capacity, engine size is our std eval device, but brake/ rotor size, frame strength/size, wheelbase (and track width) as well as wheel/tire size (traction) are commonly neglected. 20' trailer ...highlander is marginal in my opinion.
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Old 08-17-2017, 12:24 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Looneypoon View Post
I presently own a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum, 6 cylinder. I am looking for help with sizing an Airstream that would be towable wthout overmaxing the TV. Toyota's specs say 5000 lb max tow and 500 lb max tongue weight. Looking for a unit I can safely tow that is 19-23' in length. Any suggestions out there? Thanks all...
I had a 2002 Toyota 4-Runner, same engine, and drive train.
I removed my 5000 lb. weight carrying hitch, and installed a7200 lb. wt. dist. hitch. (Husky). I also reduced my tire size from 165-15 to 155-15, to make it easier on the engine/drive train. (lost 2% distance error, but my GPS was true.)

It worked great, towing a 6000 lb. Hi-Lo. 18'er. for over six years.

I eventually traded it in for the Ford F-150 to pull the AS.
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Old 08-19-2017, 05:36 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by cwm49 View Post
We started out pulling our 2010 19' International with our 2016 Highlander XLE. Twice the trailer went into the dreaded nearly uncontrolled sway situation. The sway control system we have may have been inadequate and the trailer was not optimally loaded, (bikes on the rear and stuff in the trailer behind the axle instead of forward). The Highlander could pull the trailer up steep grades at 60 mph and 70 mph on rolling freeway but it was pretty maxed out. Our current tow vehicle is a 2003 Chevy Silverado 2500 HD with a 6.0 Liter gas engine which has more than enough power for pulling the 19' Airstream. We load the trailer and truck with a lot of stuff, generator, etc. I considered a different sway control system with the Highlander but my significant other lost confidence in the Highlander after the sway incidents.
That's an eye-opening story. What were you using for a sway control? I towed our 19' international with a six cylinder Grand Cherokee and, while I never experienced a sway incident, I read enough about them on here that I traded it in on a one ton truck. I use a single friction sway device.

The 19' is fairly heavy to begin with and the tongue weight on mine is over 800 lb not to mention all the other stuff we take camping. I don't think you need a big diesel to tow it but I definitely wouldn't hook it up to a car.
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Old 08-23-2017, 06:14 PM   #18
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Have same TV, rated at 5000#. Have new Sport 16 and just the two of us. If I trade up to longer AS I plan new TV. Just to be safe
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