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Old 04-29-2004, 09:12 PM   #1
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Yet another newbie towing question

I was reading another thread about towing issues and it made me wonder - since I'm a novice, and there seem to be a lot of us, what should one look for to know if you are having towing issues?

What are the symptoms of poor towing? Sway? Excess bouncing?

Or would you just know by the "feel" of the tow vehicle? I'm guessing that some issues may be subtle while others are obvious.

AFAIK, I don't have any towing issues, but I'd appreciate a reply with some pointers as to what to look for.

Thanks,

Dennis
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Old 04-29-2004, 09:32 PM   #2
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Well a first indication would be the actual stated numbers for the tow vehicle and the RV. I'd then work from there......
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Old 04-29-2004, 10:53 PM   #3
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Quote:
what should one look for to know if you are having towing issues?
Well, a brief background...when we first got our trailer we had a Jeep Cherokee 6cyl. which on paper should have towed our 2,890 lb 19' GlobeTrotter just fine, it was rated to tow 5,000+ lbs. In reality it was miserable! Here's what we experienced:
1. Couldn't go over 45-50 mph with even the slightest grade, something you would consider "flat" no noticeable hills or rises
2. Going over passes in the mountains was dangerously slow...30 mph maximum
3. We overheated - even running the heater at full blast
4. General feeling of lack of control...
We traded the Jeep after a few "flatland" trips and one mountain trip...I'm sure, there was damage done to the Jeep due to towing, however we never had it checked out...just got rid of it.

We now have a GMC Yukon which is a night & day difference.

I'm not sure what tow vehicle you have in mind, but here's a link to an earlier thread where several folks chimed in about Jeep Cherokees and their unsuitability as tow vehicles. I'm sure there are many other threads discussing the underrated tow vehicle symptoms, this is just the first thread that came to my mind based on my own experience...you many want to pick a few keywords and use the "search" tool.

Shari
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Old 04-29-2004, 10:56 PM   #4
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How well it sits, handles, goes and stops

I am new to Airstreams but have towed a lot over the years. I find that the numbers are a starting point but can be overly optimistic, or fail to take into account the loading or balance of the trailer and tow rig. Or fail miserably when subjected to steep hills, hot weather or strong headwinds. On the other hand, I find it easy to tell once she's hooked up and I can see how well it sits, handles, goes, and stops with the load.

First of all, how does she sit with the trailer hitched up? The vehicle's suspension and running gear should be stout enough that the suspension is not overly sagged when the trailer is hitched, preferably the tow vehicle should still be level so the suspension is still working in it's range on compression as well as rebound. Air bags can help but should not be relied on excessively, or you are beyond the design parameters of the suspension.

Next is the handling. The shocks should be valved firmly enough to dampen the significantly greater forces on the suspension. And tires rated high enough to handle the air pressure necessary to reduce sway and carry the load. Here in California our roads are terrible, with giant potholes, sharp grade separations and other suprises that will really tax a tow vehicle as it tries to control the bounding up and down of a trailer at 60mph. This would be my greatest area of concern in an overloaded tow vehicle.

Power is obviously important and a lot depends on your planned towing terrain, frequency and distances. My TV will tow this trailer in OD on a level highway at 65mph, but drop to 2nd gear on some of the steeper grades in the Rocky Mtns at 7000 ft. But it never overheats. Does your tow vehicle seem to have enough power when towing the load, especially on uphills and against headwinds, without excessive downshifting, obvious straining, or overheating? Think about that hot day when the AC is on also. It should be able to tow at highway speeds in Drive or whatever gear is 1:1, under normal conditions, mild grades and headwinds, without straining. Many vehicles cannot or should not tow in OD due to design limitations in the transmission and lack of available torque at lower rpms. That is ok if it works well in other repects.

Stopping is often overlooked, but it is important to have enough brakes, an area where heavier duty trucks usually have an edge due to the loads they are designed to carry. In the event your trailer brakes fail, or you have a long steep downhill of several miles, common here in the west, brakes will get a workout, even with the trailer brakes working.

Just some general thoughts based on my experiences. Hope it helps.

-john
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Old 04-29-2004, 11:06 PM   #5
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and regarding weight...

FYI. My "new" 71 Safari (double axle) is listed (on the official Airstream weight chart) as weighing roughly 3800 lbs with a hitch weight of 5-600. When I put her on the scales in Oregon last week the trailer axles were carrying 4000lbs and the truck had an extra 1000-1200 on it. Thats at least 1000 pounds heavier than it is supposed to weigh, with minimal gear and almost dry tanks. So don't assume that your 3000 lb trailer is really 3000 lbs. Take it to the scales.

-john
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Old 04-29-2004, 11:18 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 71_safari
FYI. My "new" 71 Safari (double axle) is listed (on the official Airstream weight chart) as weighing roughly 3800 lbs with a hitch weight of 5-600. When I put her on the scales in Oregon last week the trailer axles were carrying 4000lbs and the truck had an extra 1000-1200 on it. Thats at least 1000 pounds heavier than it is supposed to weigh, with minimal gear and almost dry tanks. So don't assume that your 3000 lb trailer is really 3000 lbs. Take it to the scales.

-john
Too true!

All of the published weights are based on the trailer "as shipped" from the factory. In the 70's AC units, awnings, etc were all dealer added options and based on the owners manual you should add the weight of the accessories to the weight of the trailer. One of the ways to be sure you have the available towing capacity is to look at the rating plate on the trailer. Look at the GVWR and be sure it is less than 80% of the published towing capacity of the tow vehicle.
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Old 04-30-2004, 03:45 PM   #7
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Shari, John, Brett,

Thanks for the responses. That is what I was looking for.

Dennis
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