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Old 09-06-2009, 05:11 PM   #1
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Probably stupid question: Smallest vehicle to pull Airstream?

Airstream wannabe owner here with a newbie question.

Is there any Airstream trailer that can be pulled by a Nissan minivan? Or any minivan?

Thanks.
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Old 09-06-2009, 05:43 PM   #2
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Hi, Mrs. Romance!

Welcome to the forums!

There might be. Do you know the towing weight capacity of your minivan?

Back in the 50s and 60's the smallest Airstreams--the 16 foot Bubble, Pacer, and Bambi, weighed less than 2,000 pounds. In some advertising photos Wally Byam is shown towing a Bambi with a VW beetle.

Note that current production Bambis are bigger and heavier than that.

Best,
Nuvi
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Old 09-06-2009, 06:00 PM   #3
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Yes!

We bought the 1993 Nissan Quest GXE when it was 3 years old, fully loaded with Trailer pkg. It was a good price because it was a lease return in rough shape. I noticed sludge buildup in the engine from lack of oil changes and the mileage was 58,000klm's. It ran and felt good so took a chance and bought it. Immediately changed the oil (dino). We bought and towed a 2,000lb Coleman PU for the next 7 years. Many outings and trips through the Rockies in the West, Cabot trail in the East and south twice to Myrtle Beach. When the Van was 9 years old had 280,000klm's on it we traded up to the 23' Airstream. I then added an external tranny cooler, a set of Gabriel XL shocks for the rear, and a reinforced class III hitch (now flex free). Towed the Airstream for 3 years in Ontario Only. We have hills and bridges here but no mountains.

I drained the tranny and topped up the tranny fluid ( dino) every 2nd season ( never did a full flush and replacement). The engine oil was changes every 5,000klm's.

The 1993 to 1998 Quests and Villagers were a joint Ford, Nissan venture, assembled I believe in Ohio. The entire drive train is Nissan. The only engine available was the 150HP 3.0. The 3.0 VQ engine is from the Maxima but Nissan reworked the heads to be compatible for the heavier M-van and it runs on Regular fuel. The engine has 150HP and 180FT/LBS of torque. The tranny is similar to the one found in the Infinity Q45 V8 that is very heavy duty. The low HP 3.0 will never hurt the V8 built rated tranny.

The 1993 to 1994 Quests and Villages had one defect. They had defective exhaust manifold studs that would break. A number of years ago we had 2 replaced and no problems since then.

We tow out of overdrive and in 3rd gear (direct drive) it runs at about 3,100 RPM and 105 Klm per hour. Gas mileage towing the Airstream (average for 3 year term was 16MPG (cdn gals).
Average towing the PU was 19 to 20 MPG. and solo the van gets 26 to 28 MPG average on the highway.

In all our years of using the van the temp gauge has never gone off normal. I have felt the tranny fluid on the dipstick after long hard drives and it was never too hot that I couldn't touch the fluid with my fingers.

The nice thing I liked about the Quest/Airstream combo was its very secure feel, and handling on the highway.

I tried the straight line stability test numerous times getting the combo in a straight line and take my hands of the steering wheel. On many occasions we went over 15 seconds before drifting out of our lane. Once we went 59 seconds!!!

The P rated 70 series Michelin tires work great on the van both solo and towing.

Note the Quest has a about a 1,400 payload capacity and has 3:89 gears. When you consider the 25" dia tires it is a great combination for towing. The 150hp engine is fine for towing and aerodynamic TT. The other nice thing it has is a very wild reverse gear. It can back the Airstream up any hill in a campsite without a whimper.

Sorry, getting a bit wordy here but I do have loads of info for those who are interested. To sum up I have to say the Quest, with the factory trailer pkg is good tow vehicle. It's limitation is the 150HP output.

At 435,000klm's (16 years old) the Quest still had many original, problem free parts including..

4 cor rad
catalytic converter
muffler and resonator
rear brake shoes and drums
CV joints, boots, and all wheel bearings
starter and alternator
front struts
rear leaf springs
transmission

If you have one of the newer Quests with the 250HP 3.5VQ engine then it should tow even better. The extra wheelbase length on the newer ones is nice too.
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Old 09-06-2009, 07:48 PM   #4
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Thank you!

Thank you both for your answers. I don't know the towing capacity.

It's a Nissan Quest, 1995 -- leather seats and sunroof. Was a few years old when we bought it. I can't remember the mileage -- well over 100,000. I love it and don't want to get rid of it.

I will forward your responses to my car-loving husband.

So do you think the limit would be a 23' foot Airstream -- the vintage models, too?

Since we bought it used, I don't know if it ever had the "trailer package." How could we tell? (Did yours come with a hitch? ) I know it was used by a real estate agent for business. If it doesn't have the trailer package, then could we pull any Airstream at all?

(And I love Ontario. I want to visit Port Hope some day, where my "Keeler" ancestors lived after they arrived in Canada from England in 1832. My great-grandmother moved to Rochester, NY, in the very early 1900's. Niagara-on-the-Lake used to be my favorite getaway place when I lived in NY.)

Thanks again.
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Old 09-06-2009, 07:57 PM   #5
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As far as I know, the only minivan built with a 5,000 lb tow rating was the Chevy Astro. Everything else is 3500 lbs max with a tow package... some are substantially less without.

That pretty much limits you to the vintage Bambi and Caravel (16' and 17' respectively). Their would also be some of the '50s vintage Flying Clouds and Safaris (22') that you might be able to handle with a proper hitch setup. There'd be nothing in the '70s or later that I'd recommend. Even the current crop of 16' CCD "Bambi" trailers tip the scales at 3500 to 4500 lbs.

Roger
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Old 09-06-2009, 08:47 PM   #6
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Greetings from the Florida Panhandle

First off, welcome to the Forums. We're glad to have you with us.

Take a look at the 17' and 22' Safari Sports. They are light and may do the trick for you.

Brian
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Old 09-07-2009, 07:07 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by mrs.romance View Post
Thank you both for your answers. I don't know the towing capacity.

It's a Nissan Quest, 1995

So do you think the limit would be a 23' foot Airstream -- the vintage models, too?

(Did yours come with a hitch? ) If it doesn't have the trailer package, then could we pull any Airstream at all?

(And I love Ontario. I want to visit Port Hope some day, where my "Keeler" ancestors lived after they arrived in Canada from England in 1832. My great-grandmother moved to Rochester, NY, in the very early 1900's. Niagara-on-the-Lake used to be my favorite getaway place when I lived in NY.)

Thanks again.
Good day Mrs Romance. We have the same engine in our car that you have in your 05 Quest and it has enough power to tow just about any Airstream.

Beware some mini vans are better for towing than others. In these parts there are hundreds/1,000's of mini vans towing all sorts of trailers. They appear to have a very modest tow rating compared to their actual towing abilities.

If you do not have the factory tow pkg you should find out what Nissan installs in that pkg a go from there. It may not be an big issue if you do not have the TP.

A receiver can be easily found for a Quest. There are a number of class lll's available. The local Airstream dealer here (towing specialist) has a reputation for reinforcing them to ensure they are flex free.

It was interesting that the Quest loaded and ready for travel weighed over 5,500 lbs, The dry weight of the Airstream was 3,500lbs.

Also using a Towing Specialist like Can Am is advisable. They have the tools and experience to get the set up correct, right out the door.

Note... My mom lives 15klm's from Nia on the Lake and we were married there a couple months ago. Very pretty town. Here is a pic of our rig in "Nia on the Lake".
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Old 09-07-2009, 08:11 AM   #8
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I then added an external tranny cooler, a set of Gabriel XL shocks for the rear, and a reinforced class III hitch (now flex free).
The rest of your post was interesting too, but I was wondering about the shocks.

We recently replaced our rear shocks, and a bearing on a rear wheel. This was after towing for a while. Do Gabriel's have a much higher weight rating than normal shocks and would they keep our van from bottoming out when towing? I noticed on our New York trip that on the way back, I started hearing the chains hit the ground a lot more when going over dips.
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Old 09-07-2009, 08:25 AM   #9
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A good weight distribution hitch would be an absolute necessity for your rig. Chains hitting the pavement indicates your hitch is inadequate or improperly set. New York does have some rough roads in spots and that could be contributing. If it is just hitting coming out of gas stations, then your chains may be too loose.
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Old 09-07-2009, 01:28 PM   #10
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The rest of your post was interesting too, but I was wondering about the shocks.

We recently replaced our rear shocks, and a bearing on a rear wheel. This was after towing for a while. Do Gabriel's have a much higher weight rating than normal shocks and would they keep our van from bottoming out when towing? I noticed on our New York trip that on the way back, I started hearing the chains hit the ground a lot more when going over dips.
The Gabriel Bruiser XL shocks were very heavy duty and really firmed up the rear of the Quest. In conjunction with the Reese dual cam (750 WR) it was just about perfect. We did keep the loading of the van light when towing. Only 50lbs of mountain bikes in the back of the van and the two of us in the front seats.

Note... I first tried Monroe Sensitrac shocks on the rear but they worked no better than the original Quest shocks that had over 200,000klm's on them.

On the box that the Gabriel shocks came in it also listed a Ford F150 as a vehicle that used the same part number of shock as our Quest.
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