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Old 10-23-2017, 12:30 AM   #1
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Tow Limits

New member, researching market for my dream machine - an Airstream travel trailer. Have Toyota Highlander, 5000 lb tow. Best seems to be 22FB Sport. Anything heavier may meet empty weight, but GVWR goes over. How strict is tow limit - can it be safely exceeded by several hundred pounds? By 10 percent? Or, stick rigidly under the limit? I know the rules - stay under - but just asking: can small excess be safely managed by careful operation? Thanks.
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Old 10-23-2017, 05:14 AM   #2
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Welcome to thwe AirForums! I wish I could give you the answer you're hoping for, but I can't.

Let me paint you a mental picture, by way of answering your question… Suppose you do exceed the allowable gross trailer weight or the allowable hitch weight, or both, even by a just a hundred pounds. Now suppose you get into an accident with another vehicle, whether it's your fault or theirs doesn't matter. Now suppose your insurance company (or the other guy's insurance company) learns that you exceeded the weight limits when the adjuster (or the responding law enforcement officer) does an investigation.

Know what will happen? They'll deny your coverage, and you'll be stuck paying all bills, both for you and for the other guy, because by exceeding the allowable weight limits, you've just placed yourself at least partially at fault— even if the other guy caused the accident— and both insurance companies would rather you pay than for them to pay. Can you afford that? If the answer is yes, then by all means try it. Otherwise, it's not worth taking a chance.

In purely mechanical terms, a 5000-pound capacity doesn't necessarily mean that something will break at 5,100 pounds; capacities are set with some margin of error. But as soon as you leave your own property, purely mechanical terms aren't the limiting factor anymore; legal terms are.
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Old 10-23-2017, 05:34 AM   #3
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. . .
. . . can small excess be safely managed by careful operation? Thanks.
Yes, temporarily, until the answer is a resounding NO, perhaps during a catastrophic failure causing a roll-over accident and loss of life.

Worst case scenario? Yes.

How much do you value your new Airstream and the lives of your family and loved ones?

If you decide to tow and disregard the tow limits please advise us, so we can avoid sharing the road with an admitted reckless driver.



PS — Welcome to the forum, and ditto to Protagonist’s more carefully crafted cautions!
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Old 10-23-2017, 11:38 PM   #4
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Welcome to thwe AirForums! I wish I could give you the answer you're hoping for, but I can't.

Let me paint you a mental picture, by way of answering your question… Suppose you do exceed the allowable gross trailer weight or the allowable hitch weight, or both, even by a just a hundred pounds. Now suppose you get into an accident with another vehicle, whether it's your fault or theirs doesn't matter. Now suppose your insurance company (or the other guy's insurance company) learns that you exceeded the weight limits when the adjuster (or the responding law enforcement officer) does an investigation.

Know what will happen? They'll deny your coverage, and you'll be stuck paying all bills, both for you and for the other guy, because by exceeding the allowable weight limits, you've just placed yourself at least partially at fault— even if the other guy caused the accident— and both insurance companies would rather you pay than for them to pay. Can you afford that? If the answer is yes, then by all means try it. Otherwise, it's not worth taking a chance.

In purely mechanical terms, a 5000-pound capacity doesn't necessarily mean that something will break at 5,100 pounds; capacities are set with some margin of error. But as soon as you leave your own property, purely mechanical terms aren't the limiting factor anymore; legal terms are.
Excellent reply. All I need to know. I considered the accident factor, but did not fully appreciate the extent to which even a small excess weight would be analyzed legally. I wonder to what extent overload is intentionally or unknowingly practiced not only by a few recreational folks, but also by contractors and DIYers leaving Home Depot with an overload of purchases. I see it all the time. And no, I would never knowingly skirt the law under any circumstances, once I understand it fully. So, many thanks for the thoughtful reply, my Airstream WILL max out to no more than 5,000. And, most probably considerably less.
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Old 10-24-2017, 12:26 AM   #5
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Make sure you also look at the GCVW for your tow vehicle. We almost purchased something that was rated for 5000lbs but had such a low GCVW that once the curb weight of the car was factored in it only left 2000lbs!!
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Old 10-24-2017, 06:00 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by CV-8 View Post
New member, researching market for my dream machine - an Airstream travel trailer. Have Toyota Highlander, 5000 lb tow. Best seems to be 22FB Sport. Anything heavier may meet empty weight, but GVWR goes over. How strict is tow limit - can it be safely exceeded by several hundred pounds? By 10 percent? Or, stick rigidly under the limit? I know the rules - stay under - but just asking: can small excess be safely managed by careful operation? Thanks.
Just be reasonable. There's nothing magic about a hundred pounds over. Insurance doesn't magically disappear when someone breaks a law otherwise no one would be on here bragging about how they do 80 mph with their trailer in tow.

Try towing with the Highlander. If you don't like it, get a bigger TV. That's what I did.
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Old 10-24-2017, 06:35 AM   #7
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Insurance doesn't magically disappear when someone breaks a law otherwise no one would be on here bragging about how they do 80 mph with their trailer in tow.
Bet those people bragging didn't have an accident and put their insurance coverage to the test, though…

I knew somebody, now deceased so I can mention his name (Velton Reid of Folsom, LA) who was towing a boat— a 20' Boston Whaler Revenge— that exceeded his pickup's gross trailer weight rating. The pickup was a dinky little Ford Ranger, way too small to tow a 5000-pound boat and trailer. I was riding shotgun in the pickup at the time, so I saw the whole thing. He tried to stop at a red light on a downward grade, but misjudged the stopping distance he'd need, rolled into the intersection, and broadsided a car that was coming through the intersection on the green light. When his insurance company found out he was towing too heavy, they canceled his coverage and left him with the bill for all damages. He showed me the letter the insurance company sent him, and they specifically cited his deliberate and knowing violation of the vehicle's safe towing limit as the reason for canceling his coverage. The insurance company was State Farm.

Insurance is not there to cover you against the consequences of breaking the law. They'rte there to cover you against accidents. And they figure, if you knowingly broke the law, it was no accident…
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Old 10-24-2017, 06:53 AM   #8
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Old 10-24-2017, 08:25 AM   #9
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Bet those people bragging didn't have an accident and put their insurance coverage to the test, though…

I knew somebody, now deceased so I can mention his name (Velton Reid of Folsom, LA) who was towing a boat— a 20' Boston Whaler Revenge— that exceeded his pickup's gross trailer weight rating. The pickup was a dinky little Ford Ranger, way too small to tow a 5000-pound boat and trailer. I was riding shotgun in the pickup at the time, so I saw the whole thing. He tried to stop at a red light on a downward grade, but misjudged the stopping distance he'd need, rolled into the intersection, and broadsided a car that was coming through the intersection on the green light. When his insurance company found out he was towing too heavy, they canceled his coverage and left him with the bill for all damages. He showed me the letter the insurance company sent him, and they specifically cited his deliberate and knowing violation of the vehicle's safe towing limit as the reason for canceling his coverage. The insurance company was State Farm.

Insurance is not there to cover you against the consequences of breaking the law. They'rte there to cover you against accidents. And they figure, if you knowingly broke the law, it was no accident…
Big difference between towing a Boston Whaler with a Ranger and going over weight by 200 pounds on a camper.

I'm glad I tow with a one ton so I don't have to listen to all the crap I heard when I had my Grand Cherokee.
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Old 10-24-2017, 06:54 PM   #10
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but just asking: can small excess be safely managed by careful operation? Thanks.
Probably yes, but are you sure you want to? You may be safe, but you'll constantly be constrained: crossing the Continental Divide, accelerating away from some truck's bad merge, struggling when you should be cruising comfortably. There are lots of situations where you can operate at the margins, but when it comes to towing most will prefer a good margin between need and capability. There are plenty of risks that can't be managed well even with proper planning, why add another one if you don't really need to?

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Old 10-24-2017, 07:02 PM   #11
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The other issue is you seem to be thinking that the tow limit on your vehicle has a margin of safety low, when in reality it seems to be that it has a margin of sales advertising high. At some point there may be a crackdown on artificially inflated towing capacity numbers. Until then, the likely falsely high numbers is one reason one argument is not to go over 80% of the vehicle's tow rating. These are the points that I find compelling. You will surely hear an argument for towing anything you want to soon enough. These are not points I personally find compelling. :-)
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Old 10-24-2017, 07:02 PM   #12
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Big difference between towing a Boston Whaler with a Ranger and going over weight by 200 pounds on a camper.
Yes, it is a big difference. But the point is, your insurance company is NOT your friend. They are in business to make money, and payouts don't make money for them. So giving them a reason to leave you hanging by knowingly exceeding towing weight limits is not a risk worth taking.
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Old 10-24-2017, 07:25 PM   #13
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Debbie's brother summed it up really well for us when we last shopped a truck. He said it's not so much how much your truck can pull as it is how much your truck will stop. Yeah I know the trailer has it's own brakes, but we're talking about when things kinda go south on you. If things never went wrong we wouldn't need seatbelts and fire extinguishers, right?

We bought a little bigger (2500) truck. 202,000 miles later (over 140,000 towing miles on this setup so far), we don't mind at all it still outweighs the Airstream.
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Old 10-24-2017, 07:28 PM   #14
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Hi

Equally an issue: Towing right at the limit on a vehicle is rarely a comfortable thing. Do you *really* want to be exhausted after an hour of driving? How easy / hard it is depends on a wide range of things. Only one of those things is the weight limit. It's not going to be an "every time" sort of thing. It might be a "until I get through the next five days" sort of thing. Roads, winds, and a lot of other things all contribute.

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Old 10-24-2017, 07:55 PM   #15
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Hi CV. Tow ratings often have very little to do with a vehicles towing ability. Some vehicles with high ratings are quite unstable others with little or no rating can be excellent. Detailed examination of a vehicles specifications will give you a better indication of towing ability.

Since 1999 we have set up hundreds of Highlanders, Lexus’s and other Toyota vehicles on the same chassis. The Highlander is easily capable of towing a 22’ Sport anywhere you want to travel. Properly setup it will handle an evasive maneuver or panic stop better than most vehicles with higher tow ratings.
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Old 10-24-2017, 09:09 PM   #16
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I notice that you live in CO. This makes what you want to do even more ridiculous. I don't care what anybody says about being able to set up your overloaded vehicle to safely tow. "Size matters!" If you can't get the proper tow vehicle, forget about the trailer.
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Old 10-24-2017, 11:41 PM   #17
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I never intended to exceed tow limits. I simply asked the question to see where it goes among knowledgable Airstream owners. Questions suggesting overload situations does not imply wanting to be reckless. No accidents in 50 years, one and only moving violation in 1971, I am probably not the riskiest road warrior out there. Answers to my question were very beneficial, and I appreciate the added knowledge gained. Thank you all.
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Old 10-25-2017, 12:01 AM   #18
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Hi CV. Tow ratings often have very little to do with a vehicles towing ability. Some vehicles with high ratings are quite unstable others with little or no rating can be excellent. Detailed examination of a vehicles specifications will give you a better indication of towing ability.

Since 1999 we have set up hundreds of Highlanders, Lexus’s and other Toyota vehicles on the same chassis. The Highlander is easily capable of towing a 22’ Sport anywhere you want to travel. Properly setup it will handle an evasive maneuver or panic stop better than most vehicles with higher tow ratings.


The thing is, there are some people who would never admit that even if they saw the proof with their own eyes.

Towing dynamic is not exactly what a lot of people think it is.
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Old 10-25-2017, 04:05 AM   #19
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Yes, it is a big difference. But the point is, your insurance company is NOT your friend. They are in business to make money, and payouts don't make money for them. So giving them a reason to leave you hanging by knowingly exceeding towing weight limits is not a risk worth taking.
Straw man arguments and insurance gloom-and-doom aside, the OP is talking about towing a 22 with a Highlander. Let's be real; it's probably fine if he has good judgement and driving ability.

The way people run to their insurance for every bump and scrape makes me wonder why insurance is as cheap (?) as it is. I wouldn't insure most people based on just what I see on the road everyday, CAT scale tickets aside.
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Old 10-25-2017, 04:22 AM   #20
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Playing the numbers game won't get you a good TV. One of the above replies is from a man at a firm that has set up more than 10,000 towing rigs. He (they) systematized what the rest of us had to learn as we went, starting more than fifty years ago.

The Internet myths are amazing. I've run pickups in commercial service where the gross combined weight "rating" what the the trailers we hooked up weighed, and ran hotshot with in the oilfield. It was never a concern so long as tires, axle and wheel ratings were respected. Which are legal limits. In accidents where others had the problem insurance coverage wasn't ever a concern. And never denied. It was no secret how things were. Some of this crap spread around is ridiculous. Literally no idea of what they're talking about.

Get Mr Thomsons specific advice on how to set the hitch rigging for your trailer and tow vehicle.

The vehicle lash-up is what matters, if the vehicle is otherwise suitable. Its' "ratings" are a problem of second or third order for success.They've no legal bearing. Other factors mean more.

These aren't hard trailers to tow. The opposite in fact. Be sure to ask these Cassandras how many years and miles using cars. For which these trailers were designed. Or the certified scale tickets of when they set up their hitch rigging. You'll find neither. What you'll find are those who haven't a good set of clues of how the thing is supposed to feel, or the differences in operating versus their "experience" of running the road, solo (they've either none in towing or poor experience from which to make comparisons, much less make conclusions. They don't even know how to compare trailers, just for starters).

I wouldn't take advice from those who "judgment" finds that dead steering, lousy handling and worse braking is the better way.

Now, a certified, three-segment scale is useful. One can start today with the CAT Scale phone app and weigh the proposed TV with driver only, max fuel, and gear kept permanently aboard until it is sold. This is a TARE weight, that represents lightest condition from hereon. Record the axle/tire/wheel limits (door sticker) against those scaled values. This is what one works with: the WD hitch applies force we measure as weight across all axles of TV and TT. (And it isn't "payload").

The next time around is in adjusting the hitch rigging with the TT. One roughs it in at home using fender measurements via Mr Thomsons method (see website on setting torsion bars). "Equal squat". Then three passes across the Cat Scale as detailed elsewhere. An analysis of those three scale tickets will give all the information necessary. This is where "weight" is useful.

As with TV tire pressure (according to load), the scale allows one to see the results in numerical values that can be checked cross-continent or next year, used as a baseline.

There is a range of adjustment with both. The high and the low. This allows one to check different settings for best road manners.

Acquiring those ranges, is the thing. Tested. And within them, small changes REALLY matter. (This is what the deaf & dumb never learn; they can't even get the trailer level according to what is seen on the road. Or Thomsons comment about how badly done is the hitch rigging seen at rallies).

There are plenty of follow-on threads to where -- not having done this preparatory work -- the operator has all sorts of questions about ride or handling wind gusts and the rest. That should have been addressed at the beginning. To sort the wheat from the chaff. To aid determining whether or not a problem even exists in the first place.

The short answer to your question is, no, you're unlikely to have a problem based solely on extra weight. To validate that is the reason to use the tools and analysis of weight-distribution (avoiding guesstimates altogether; as do professionals) to optimize the performance of this combination vehicle.

The second part is in becoming comfortable driving it. Outside the experience of most, it seems, prior to this. One is now part of the "slow" traffic not just due to slower acceleration than today's cars, but because respect of braking distance (no different than solo when set up properly AND TESTED) means more, thus hard emphasis on vehicle spacing in all situations.

This would be: New Habits for Bad Drivers. (Being surrounded by others out on the Interstate is evidence of operator failure, as learning to back off before the idiots form a pack around one is a difference between men and boys).

How to plan a day on the road. What's reasonable, and why.

Being slower on an ascent is meaningless (except for those with panties twisted in a new experience). The downgrade matters. Tactics there are worth your time in reading. How to downshift the transmission, and when to use brakes. Etc. Reading you can do now. (Operators manual, and threads hereabouts).

How to handle trailer sway, is another.

These are what matter. Not a few hundred pounds, as you've surmised.

Take up Mr Thomsons advice. Read on his website, his posts here, and articles published elsewhere. The armchair commandos here and on other RV forums haven't been asked to consult on towing by SAE or Airstream itself.

Be painstaking at this stage. Read. Get that TARE weight. Decide on trailer tires (more fun threads), decide if trailer antilock disc brakes are a worthwhile upgrade; and same for a VPP type hitch.

And, nearly every tow vehicle will benefit by upgraded or new shock absorbers. Ask Andy about TV tire choice if yours are not so far from replacement.

So, in short, focus on road performance issues until they are settled (hitch set up plus testing as above). All the problems with the trailer itself (learning how to use it) become more important to most than these issues. But these are the ones that matter.

An uneventful day is the best day, in these terms. All the rest can be dealt with in time. Issues concerning road performance leave one no time at all when they matter.

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