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Old 09-05-2013, 09:22 PM   #1
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Another FJ Cruiser Tow Question

Hey Guys,

I'm new, and I'm a girl. Be gentle. So I think I've secured a deal on a 2009 AS International 16' and am planning on towing it with a 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Edition (no idea if they trail teams makes any difference at all). I asked my husband (who is zero help I might add) today if it was at all prepared to tow anything and his only response was "We got a Toyota receiver hitch kit in the garage". I looked that up and see that this is what he has:

FJ Cruiser Receiver Hitch Kit - SILVER Valance [PT228-60060] - $174.99 : Pure FJ Cruiser Accessories, Parts and Accessories for your Toyota FJ Cruiser

I'm certain this means nothing for us and is a waste of money but whatever. My question is, and again, treat me like a girl here, what the heck do I need to make this thing tow my new AS as smoothly as possible. At this point, I don't care the price I'll have to pay to make this happen. I've been reading the forums all day about this and know there are sway bars, brake controllers, equalizing hitches ( I could have just made that one up) and who knows what else. My question is, if money isn't an option, what do I need? And also, where should I get it at, as well as installed?

I know this is basically a pain in the ass kind of question. I don't expect anyone to talk me though what each of these things mean. I'm just trying to do everything right here.

Thanks in advance.

Julie
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Old 09-05-2013, 09:51 PM   #2
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From looking at specs for both the FJ Cruiser and the 16-foot International, this looks like a pretty good pairing of tow vehicle (TV) and Airstream. Since I'm the first to respond, I'm sure others with this towing combination will post their experiences. However, I think all you'll need to get started is to install the receiver hitch kit, buy an electronic brake controller and a ball & ball carrier or weight distribution (WD) hitch. Hopefully, your FJ Cruiser already has the optional, factory-installed towing package; but, since you purchased the receiver hitch kit, I'm guessing that you do not.

Personally, I'd try towing with just a ball and ball carrier to see if that works for you. However, I'm sure most will recommend using a WD hitch. You MUST use a brake controller!

Cost to implement is around $100-150 for a brake controller, and about $50 for a ball carrier and ball. Many brake controllers have optional harnesses that that will mate directly to the brake controller connector that may already be installed against the firewall, just under the dash, between the parking and regular brake pedals. If the FJ Cruiser you purchased came with the towing package, this connector should already be there just waiting for you to pull it out and plug in the brake controller. Many use one of several available Tekonsha brake controller models, and there are several other brands and models that work equally well. I suggest you skip the bargain models, as the more expensive ones have features that you'll appreciate, especially if you will tow often. The optional harness should be about $15.

If you do NOT have the towing package, a little more wiring may be required to install the umbilical connector. If you and your husband are handy, this is not difficult. However, if you are unfamiliar with auto 12-volt electrical systems and wiring, you may wish to have this professionally installed. There are many aftermarket hitch installers that can do this, and the cost is usually reasonable. Also, your Airstream dealer may do this installation FREE with the purchase of your International; so I would check with them first. One aftermarket installer that most do not think of is U-Haul. However, I suggest you personally watch the work being performed. Even if you are unfamiliar with what they are doing, your presence in the work area will increase the chances of them doing a good job.

Good luck, and welcome to AirForums!
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Old 09-05-2013, 10:36 PM   #3
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Julie5

There are better tow vehicles than the FJ Cruiser, but it should work just fine especially since this is what you have.

I would just go to your local rv dealer and have him install the hitch that you have and a brake controller. Also ask him what else he thinks that you need.
If you or your husband have never towed before, it might be a good idea to have somebody experienced in towing a trailer to tow it for you.

Good luck. Hope that it all works out well for you. What ever questions you have, ask away. That is how you learn.

Dan
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Old 09-05-2013, 10:53 PM   #4
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One other suggestion if you don't have the factory tow package and have to install the hitch plus a wiring harness for the lights.

Check out online factory Toyota parts dealers to see if the factory trailer package is offered. Compare the rating of your hitch with the one offered by the factory to be sure you have the highest rated hitch. Often, the aftermarket hitch may be rated higher than the factory (e.g. the factory is class III when the aftermarket is class IV).

Second, you may need to install a trailer wire harness (the one for the trailer lights), if your FJ didn't come with the tow package. You can always purchase the wiring harness and are almost always better off using the factory Toyota wiring harness, which should allow you to simply plug in. DO NOT LET UHAUL splice the wires to install a trailer light kit (which is what UHaul typically does). Lots of stories of UHAUL screwing this up and resulting electrical gremlins.

If the factory wiring kit is just way to much money, explore aftermarket options from a place like Etrailer.com, but if the difference is less than $100, buy the factory harness. Your warranty may thank you.

Wiring up a wiring harness and installing the actual hitch is a job nearly anyone with a socket tool set and a screw driver can do, usually in under an hour. Just go slowly and consult the FJ forums for someone who has done this and posted their install pics and instructions.
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Old 09-05-2013, 11:03 PM   #5
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Julie

The wiring harness may already be in place behind a panel about where your left knee is. You can find this out on the FJ forum.

Also, if you give the toyota dealer your vin, he can tell you if your FJ has the factory towing package.

Dan
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Old 09-06-2013, 05:39 AM   #6
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I tow a 17' Casita (about the same size/weight as a 16' Airstream) with a 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser. My FJ came equipped with only the hitch receiver, so I had to install all the wiring and the brake controller. Also I installed a transmission oil cooler in addition to the one in the factory radiator. I'm using an Andersen WD anti sway hitch with the Casita, and the whole rig handles very well. However, because of the type of coupler Airstream uses, I would not recommend the Andersen hitch with an Airstream. I'm not saying it's a "must have", but I would not want to tow without a weight distribution hitch with that setup, and that said, the Reese SC hitch in the proper weight range is simple, easy to install, and works well.
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Old 09-06-2013, 06:41 AM   #7
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That Toyota kit:

It is a Class III, and others, more technical than I will correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think it will work for your Airstream. I think you need a Class IV.

As for getting things worked out, the thing to do is to find the best, most experienced hitch installer in your area.

Here's a hint: you are only three hours drive from the Airstream factory. They do great service there.
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Old 09-06-2013, 01:20 PM   #8
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Shew. Ok, started by calling Airstream because indeed they are a few hours from me and that would be easiest. Haven't gotten a call back so we will see...

Then called the closest Airstream dealer in Ohio and boy was that sort of a mess. The guy acted like he didn't know what to say. Was kinda like "Uh, well, yeah, uh if you want to bring the Toyota and Airstream in, I can see if one of our technicians can take a look and see if we can help you. I do think that electronic brakes would help..." Ugh.

The problem is, frankly, we live in a pretty crappy town and there just aren't a lot of resources here for much of anything. We have a small camper dealer in the area, but I can just about guess he won't have a clue what to do. I don't guess I have a tow package on the FJ, again, this town is crap, and my local deal says he can't use my VIN to figure it out. Ugh... Just Ugh....

Hopefully Airstream will come through for me still today.
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Old 09-06-2013, 02:51 PM   #9
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Re: Factory towing package

My best guess is that if your FJ Cruiser didn't already have the hitch receiver installed, you don't have the factory towing package (since the receiver is part of that factory option).

Also, look near where the hitch receiver would be if it was installed; is there a trailer umbilical connector somewhere below or built into the bumper? -- probably, not.

And, lastly, look under the dash, against the firewall, around the emergency brake and regular brake pedal; is there a brake controller connector wrapped up and tucked under the carpeting or plastic/rubber footwell panel? Again, probably, not.

Therefore, you mostly likely don't have any of the factory towing equipment that may be part of this option; e.g., tow/haul button, trailer connector (and associated wiring), hitch receiver, heavy-duty radiator, heavy-duty transmission oil cooler, heavy-duty springs and shocks, etc.

The items you absolutely need are underlined, above. Plus, you will need an electronic brake controller.

Regarding installation of the above, check with your local Toyota dealer (not the cheapest place to have this work done, but at least it should be done right), and your relatives, friends, neighbors, and coworkers that tow a travel, horse or utility trailer. I'm sure someone you know can refer you to an RV repair shop, aftermarket truck bumper or performance shop, or farm implement dealer/repair shop that installs hitches and associated wiring.
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Old 09-07-2013, 06:34 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by julie5 View Post
Shew. Ok, started by calling Airstream because indeed they are a few hours from me and that would be easiest. Haven't gotten a call back so we will see...

Then called the closest Airstream dealer in Ohio and boy was that sort of a mess. The guy acted like he didn't know what to say. Was kinda like "Uh, well, yeah, uh if you want to bring the Toyota and Airstream in, I can see if one of our technicians can take a look and see if we can help you. I do think that electronic brakes would help..." Ugh.

The problem is, frankly, we live in a pretty crappy town and there just aren't a lot of resources here for much of anything. We have a small camper dealer in the area, but I can just about guess he won't have a clue what to do. I don't guess I have a tow package on the FJ, again, this town is crap, and my local deal says he can't use my VIN to figure it out. Ugh... Just Ugh....

Hopefully Airstream will come through for me still today.
Definitely take it to Jackson Center. This needs to be done correctly.

Dan
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Old 09-07-2013, 08:34 AM   #11
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Toyota dealers sell cars, and Airstream builds trailers. What you need is in between the two.

As previously stated, find the FJ forum and statrt searching/asking questions there. The FJ owners are far more knowledgeable about these vehicles and towing than any dealer. Once you find the info you need about what to install, start searching for a good hitch shop that can help you with the installation and wiring of hitch, harness and brake controller. They may also be able to advise you on a WD hitch set-up and install.
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Old 09-07-2013, 09:44 AM   #12
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I would suggest an Eaz-Lift 600 pound Elite Model weight distribution with a friction sway control. A Tekonsia Prodigy or Direct Link Brake control.

Here is what it should look like.
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Old 09-07-2013, 10:00 AM   #13
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Well, Julie, now you know what it should look like.

While the Toyota club knows lots about your FJ, you won't find many other people that know as much about hitches as Andrew does and who have anywhere near the hands-on experience he does.

Before anyone asks, the only reason I know Andrew is that he set up our 1974 Sov, and we have been super pleased with it ever since. And no, I am not on his payroll.
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Old 09-07-2013, 10:06 PM   #14
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Wow, thanks so much! I had heard that you would know after looking on the forum for the last week but couldn't quite find you to ask you. This helps tremendously. If I lived anywhere near you I would bring everything to you and let you help me hook it up!

Thanks again!



Quote:
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I would suggest an Eaz-Lift 600 pound Elite Model weight distribution with a friction sway control. A Tekonsia Prodigy or Direct Link Brake control.

Here is what it should look like.
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