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Old 05-19-2012, 07:01 AM   #1
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My new (to me) Chevy Traverse!

Hi All!

A few months ago we traded our 2001 Yukon for a 2011 Traverse and had Can-AM RV set up for towing our 2001 25SS Safari and thought I'd post my experience to date.

To save some money (like $10k) we bought the Traverse as an 8-month old rental return w/32000 kms (20k miles). Its just a base LS model w/AWD and did not have towing package so everything of importance had to be added after market. If buying new, I would strongly recommend anyone planning to tow buy a model with the tow package because it's much cheaper and easier than adding after market.

I'm fortunate to live in the same City as Can-Am RV, and had them do all the work.

The Setup:

Since my Traverse does not have the tow package everything of importance needed to be added:

- installed Class III Hidden Hitch reinforced w/two steel angle irons that run forward underneath the spare tire and are welded onto the vehicles under body -- the spare tire had to be remounted slightly to accommodate and now hangs a little lower. The additional reinforcements stiffen the hitch and spreads the weight/towing forces over a wider area of the Traverse which is important for unibody vehicles. Note ideally a Class IV would have been used but apparently there are problems finding a Class IV that fits the Traverse well and can be reinforced properly -- something that Can-Am RV routinely does to most of its installs.
- installed Hayden #405 Ultra transmission cooler (Manufacturer says it doesn't fit the Traverse but it does if you don't mind scraped knuckles)
- installed 7-PIN Bargman wiring harness w/breaker and converter for battery charging.
- installed DirecLink brake controller. This is an inertial based controller plugs into the computer diagnostic port and has access to real-time vehicle data including transmission temperature. Has separate gain adjustments for both normal "highway" speeds and low speeds which is nice to have with the Hensley. The handset it modular and can be removed when not towing.

As per Can-AM's advice, since I don't tow in the southern US in the summer I didn't replace the rad. (The factory tow package apparently comes with a heavy duty rad, but I suspect all it has is an integrated transmission cooler).

I've been towing with a Hensley Arrow since our first 30 foot TT and would not consider towing with anything else. When setting up the Traverse I had to change the 2" drop stinger for a 4" drop. The 1000 lb spring bars were still OK but the barrel jacks need to be tightened up just short of the maximum (same as it was for my Yukon).

The Traverse has 17" of ground clearance to the bottom of the 2" receiver which drops to 14" after hooking up and adjusting the WD bars. The trailer sits level and there's maybe a 1" difference in wheel clearance on the Traverse (rear sits lower). When loaded up this will likely increase by a good inch, but I still have a little room left on the jacks to compensate if necessary. The Traverse's 1500+ lb cargo carrying capacity will certainly come in handy when throw the canoe on and stuff in the back.

Weight Summary:

2011 AWD Traverse Specs for reference:
Curb Weight = 4790 lbs
GVWR = 6411 lbs
Payload = 1524 lbs
GAWR(F) = 3196 lbs
GAWR(R) = 3527 lbs
Tow Capacity = 5200
GCVWR = 9990 lbs


Actual CAT scale weights (loaded Traverse and trailer, ready to camp):
Front Axle = 2800 lbs (88% max)
Rear Axle = 3260 lbs (92% max)
GVWR = 6060 lbs (95% max)
GCVWR = 11660 lbs (117% max)

So I'm over GM's recommended max tow rating by 17%, but am under the most important ones. IMO "tow rating" is more of a manufacturers recommended guideline than anything else, but certainly due diligence and regular maintenance will be required.


Initial Road Test:

We took the trailer down the local highway and after some experimenting set the DirecLink to +16 for towing normal speed and -3 for low speed. With the Hensley the trailer handled very well, as expected.

When driving to Can-AM for the final tweak of the setup I didn't have the spring bars tightened enough and noticed some porpoising but all sign of that was gone after they were tightened up. I did notice a hint of little side-to-side wobble when making sudden direction changes which was likely due to the mushy OEM 'P' tires that were only inflated to 32 PSI at the time. I'll inflate to 40 PSI for towing in the future. I have no plans to replace the tires with low-profile high performance tires at this time as the Hensley is very effective on the highway.

The power was very good. Off the line it was peppier than my old 4-spd 5.3L Yukon which was always slow to get going from 0-25kph but picked up when it entered it's power band. The Traverse revs high off the mark but gets up to speed faster -- which I credit the VVT and 6-speed tranny.

Afterwards my DW and I took short cruise down HWY 402. Acceleration to highway speed was very good, overall not dissimilar to the old Yukon. We quickly got it up to 110 kph (69MPH) in light traffic (a little faster than I normally tow) were the Traverse was happily pulling along in 5th at 2500 RPM). There was a very slight cross wind but that was all. When we came to a hill the transmission would quickly drop down to 4th and RPMs jumped up to 3500. Although I generally tow a little slower around 105 kph, I think this behaviour is what I can expect much of the time -- that is the Traverse will drop down a gear pretty quickly when it want's to. At the same speed the Yukon would tend to stick in 3rd gear at 2700 RPM for a longer period before dropping down to 2nd, which is understandable since it did have more torque and was running at higher RPM's.

If you're interested, here's another persons experience towing a 30 foot Airstream with an Enclave...

RV Lifestyle - Hitch Hints

First (short) Trip Experience:

Early indications from a test drive our first 3-hour round trip on HWY 401 (express way) is positive.

As indicated earlier I'm very pleased with the power available in town -- the Traverse's VVT and 6-speed transmission really puts out the torque "off the line" (pulling away from a stoplight) as compared to my old 2001 Yukon. Nice.

On the highway I'm able to cruise at 100 kph (62 MPH) doing 2200 RPM in 5th gear in "normal" conditions, keeping up with transports. The only time it want's to drop down to 4th gear (3200 RPM) is on an incline and/or into a stiff headwind. I just set the transmission to "L"ow and which locks out 6th and forget it.

Even with the excellent Hensley hitch, I'm totally amazed how well this rig tracks down the highway. Of course the Hensley eliminated trailer-induced sway completely, but the bow-wave of passing big rigs would still affect my old Yukon and require some steering input -- and this even though I upgraded my Yukon's OEM P tires to LT's. In comparison, and even with my Traverse's OEM P tires, most times NO steering input is required when being passed by big rigs...it's just as if they aren't there. Amazing. The only thing I can but this down to is the superior aerodynamics of the Traverse compared the the box-shaped Yukon, the aerodynamic shape of the Airstream and of course the Hensley. Very impressive.

As for mileage, so far I'm averaging 12 MPG (US) at 100KPH (62 MPH). I have to say that I was kind of hoping for something better, but it is what it is. The good news that my Traverse is capable of delivering 23 MPG on highway solo, which is much better than my old Yukon.

According to the DirecLink controller the transmission temp maxed out at 150 degrees F -- ambient temp was around 55 F at the time.

Cheers!

Obligatory Pic:

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Old 05-19-2012, 08:32 AM   #2
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Wow...just Wow!
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Old 05-20-2012, 02:38 PM   #3
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Sweet! Thats a nice looking rig Gary.
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Old 05-21-2012, 07:23 AM   #4
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Thanks very much Guys, we're very pleased with the result. In many ways the Traverse is similar to our old Yukon, but obviously uses newer technology and is more comfortable to drive. Although the newer Yukons get similar gas mileage, the Traverse was far less expensive to buy.

I would have no qualms about towing anything up to a 27 foot FB with the Traverse (our dream trailer) but that's quite a way into the future for us.
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Old 07-08-2012, 08:46 PM   #5
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Towing with a Chevy Traverse: Update

After a few short trips towing our trailer I was finding that the Traverse was shifting too much between 4th and 5th even in Tow/Haul mode. On relatively flat ground I could hold 100 kph (62 MPH) in 5th gear at about 2200 RPM with no problems, but as soon as I hit any hill of significance and/or was running into a headwind of more than 20 kph the tranny would quickly downshift to 4th. Now I don't mind the engine running at high RPM's in 4th for long periods but the constant shifting is hard on a transmission so something had to be done. The problem, of course, is that GM tunes these Lambdas for maximum mileage for marketing purposes, not for performance/towing, and the gear ratios they chose for 5th was just a little to high (as well as 6th IMO).

So I called Andy Thomson of Cam-AM RV and asked him what he recommended. Andy has seen this problem many times and immediately suggested a tire change. He's had good luck running a set of Firestone Destination ST's on a Dodge Caravan that he uses for towing demonstrations and for delivering trailers to customers so I went with his advice. The ST's are new to Firestone's Destination lineup and come with a speed rating of 108H, XL load range with 1000 kg load capacity at 50 PSI. They are low profile P235/65R17 which yield 717 RPM (Revolutions Per Mile) which is 5% more than the OEM General HTS P245/70R17 that provide 681 RPM. That 5% increase in RPM goes directly to raising the final drive ratio and is the key to increasing torque. The lower profile nature of the tires also reduces sway and improves overall handling -- something that I was aware of with the mushy high profile OEM's.

The only downside is that my speedometer now reads 5% faster than I'm really traveling. This could be corrected through a recalibration of the speedometer but it's such an insignificant amount that it's not worth the hassle.

I installed the new tires just prior to a 1000 km road trip to Algonquin Provincial Park, and the difference in performance was very noticeable. Now the Traverse tends to "stick" in 5th gear much longer and only drops down to 4th gear when I encounter a significant hill. On really hilly roads such as along HWY 60 I just left the transmission in 4th and let the engine rev to over 3000 as necessary but in all other situations including HWY 400 and 11 I selected tow/haul, set the shifter to "L5" and just drove. Overall my Traverse is now the equal to the performance of my old V8 Yukon on the highway, and is better than the Yukon around town (much more power).

And as for mileage, the worst I got towing was 11.8 MPG (US) and the best was nearly 14 MPG, with an overall trip average of 12.6 MPG (all towing). Not towing I averaged 21 MPG on mostly low-speed highway driving with a lot of start/stopping.

So now I'm more pleased than ever with my Traverse -- a effective tow vehicle that's not a truck!
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Old 10-24-2012, 08:40 PM   #6
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Thanks for the level of detail provided.
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Old 11-27-2012, 08:11 PM   #7
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this puts a whole different spin on TV in my mind.. Wonder if chev would put a 3.9 L engine in there and a full tow package like on the pickup.. ?? I think that would be a nice setup for trailers up to like 30 ft.

How about a different cam in engine more designed for towing??

your set up is very nice indeed. On your travels what was the terrain like most of the way, more flat like florida or hills like ohio.

good info for sure.. now you got my heading spinning for sure.
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:46 PM   #8
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What did this setup at CanAm cost?

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Old 11-28-2012, 06:03 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by dkottum View Post
What did this setup at CanAm cost?

doug k

^^^^^^^
Yes....help us rationalize. Much easier if you plan to tow 10-15k per year,

Appears to be a lot of $$$/time invested.


Good deal on getting the program Traverse, sometimes hard to find but a good ones worth the effort.

Our TV was a GM program unit.....

Bob
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Old 11-29-2012, 04:08 PM   #10
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I'm a bit reluctant to post costs, if only because (1) costs are specific to the work needed which will vary for a lot of reasons, and (2) I'm in Canada, the land of high taxes, "free" heath care and strong banks, so costs will not relate to my friends in the USA!

But FWIW...

Class III Hidden hitch + reinforcement (required removing and remounting spare tire in my case = $354 parts + $315 labour.

Wiring harness/breaker+converter= $45 parts + $377 labour (labour included installing DirecLink brake controller, not included in pricing)

Hayden Transmission cooler = $99 parts + $135 labour

In addition, I had my garage guy buy and install the Tow/Haul switch that ran around $165.

Therefore the total cost, not including the brake controller, was $1428 plus taxes. The cost is high compared to the factory tow package which is a bargain around $700, but that doesn't include the all-important hitch reinforcement that Can-Am specializes in.

Oh yeah, price included free test drive with Andrew T himself, and free trailer setup. Hard to put a price on that.

Of course I saved over $10k on the vehicle buying a rental return, so it was worth it to me, especially since used base model Traverses with tow packages are rare as hens teeth. Besides, I like the idea of buying a used vehicle with out a tow package ... helps ensure it hasn't been abused.

So there you have it.
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Old 12-02-2012, 07:03 AM   #11
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Cheap enough. The locals spend twice that much making their pickups worse in going down the highway (taller, with offroad tires).

I expect a much larger fuel tank for my pickup, with installation, to be about the same price.

And as that Traverse is likely better all around on mpg than a pickup, the savings work year round.
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Old 12-02-2012, 02:36 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by REDNAX View Post
Cheap enough. The locals spend twice that much making their pickups worse in going down the highway (taller, with offroad tires).

I expect a much larger fuel tank for my pickup, with installation, to be about the same price.

And as that Traverse is likely better all around on mpg than a pickup, the savings work year round.
I didn't the price was bad at all, considering the expert advice that I got. Of course the tires added to the expense, but the closer you get to the towing limit, you have to be prepared to pay more attention to the details.

As for mileage, my Traverse gets slightly better mileage that a modern V8, but not as much as one might think...maybe a mile or two per gallon. The reality is that the Traverse is a heavy SUV and like any heavy vehicle the gas mileage is going to suffer in the stop and go traffic. Also, when the Lambdas were first released 5 years ago the V6 technology was quite good, but times are quickly changing and I think the engine is already showing its age.

Bottom line though is that these Lambdas (Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevy Traverse) are good alternatives for those that don't want/need a truck. We seriously considered a minivan, but chose the Traverse because of it has AWD and because it has a stronger body structure than minivans...ergo the higher tow rating.

So far the Traverse appears to have been a good choice for us and we're hoping to get 10 good years out of it. By that time I would hope to see more cost effective diesel or turbo options available. The ones on the market right now are just too expensive to consider.
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Old 12-02-2012, 09:14 PM   #13
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your set up is very nice indeed. On your travels what was the terrain like most of the way, more flat like florida or hills like ohio.

good info for sure.. now you got my heading spinning for sure.
Hi Carl, sorry I almost missed your post.

It's fairly flat terrain around here in south-western Ontario, but as you go north of Toronto it starts to get hilly. I've towed enough with this combo to say I'd have no concerns towing through the Green Mountains of Vermont, the Adirondacks of upstate NY or through Ohio (been there, done that with other combinations).

I have no idea how this combo would tow in the high mountains, but I expect it would be pretty anemic considering the relative lack of HP and absence of a turbo. As you likely know towing "acceptability" really comes down to expectations/attitude.

For RV'ers that insist on being able and keep up with the traffic while towing in all circumstances, they can buy a superduty. Everyone else must be willing to live with compromise to some degree. We really don't tow all that often and bought our Traverse primarily as a second family vehicle, and sometimes tower. I actually prefer cruising in the right lane on the main highways doing ~100 kph, sitting back and letting everyone else pass. Its actually quite a relaxing experience, especially on a long drive. When it comes to really steep grades our Traverse is going to slow down to 80 kph (50 mph) on occasion, and it does, but that happens so infrequently around here it's just not an issue. If we lived near the mountains at high elevations, I might well have a different attitude.
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Old 12-02-2012, 10:01 PM   #14
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That's great information, thanks for sharing. We've got a 2008 Honda Odyssey which I am planning to get set up by Can-AM.
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