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Old 10-29-2014, 04:59 PM   #1
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10 days away from first Airstream!

My wife and I have been obsessed with learning everything we can about Airstreams over the past month as we move into the next phase in our lives (well I have been obsessed, but my wife is excited!) We live most of the year in Las Vegas and have kids in college in Flagstaff, AZ and Arcata, CA. We travel several times a year to swim meets throughout the southwest and most of our family is in Oregon. So, we have found ourselves driving all over the western United States the past couple years staying in cheap hotels, timeshares, tent camping or sleeping on inflatable mattresses with relatives! We needed a better option and an AS seems like the perfect fit. I have spent about 30 hours a week reading through these forums for the past several weeks and have learned A TON about the options available and what is likely to work best for us. We visited an RV show in Fontana, CA and spent hours climbing around all the AS trailers they had at the show. We visited two AS dealers in Oregon doing the same thing asking every question we could come up with.

I know most owners say to select the trailer first and then find a suitable tow vehicle, but with two kids in college we are going to be limited to our current Nissan Xterra at least for 2-3 years. So, with a 5000lb tow rating we were pretty much limited to the single axle bambi models. After looking at all the bambi models we pretty much decided that any of them would suit our needs for the next three years, but we were leaning toward the 19' or 20' flying clouds or internationals. We have our youngest 13 year old daughter at home with us for a while longer and felt the three of us would be comfortable in either of these floorplans even if she brought a friend with her.

So our search led us to a gently used 2014 19' International CCD through a private party (they bought too small for their needs and are upgrading to a larger AS) about eight hours away from home. They added the awning package, inverter and a small (85 watt) solar system. We pick it up a week from Saturday and are very excited to begin traveling in a new way for us.

I still have a lot of questions about the trailer, where will we enjoy staying the most (commercial campgrounds, state & national parks, etc.), boondocking, what changes to we need to make and how all the systems work on the trailer. We will figure those out over time I am sure. My immediate concern is getting the trailer home safely next week. I will probably post my questions in more detail in the towing forum, but my basic concerns are:

1. Will my 2010 Nissan Xterra have adequate towing capability to safely pull the 19' AS? The tow rating is 5000 lbs with a WD hitch.

2. The previous owners had an Equal-i-zer installed so it seems we should be okay. However, they pulled with a F150 pickup and I will be pulling with an Xterra. Does the hitch need to be adjusted or any parts replaced for it to function properly with my TV? How do I ensure the appropriate amount of weight is transferred to the front axle and trailer axle?

3. I have made many aftermarket modifications to my Xterra (so we can reach remote trailheads) and am unsure how these changes will impact my towing ability. I have replaced the front & rear suspension with high quality, aftermarket coilovers and a-arms (front) and a custom leaf pack with upgraded shocks (rear). The Xterra is lifted about 2" all around as a result. I have also put on larger tires (33" vs 32") with a more aggressive tread (Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs). I have steel bumpers front and rear, steel rock sliders, steel roof rack replacement as well as steel skid plates protecting the underside. This all adds up to a lot of weight over stock, although the coilovers custom leaf pack were designed to carry additional weight over the wimpy stock springs.

4. How much weight in passengers & cargo can I safely load into my TV?

I need to have a trailer brake controller installed this week as the trailers I have pulled up to this point have been in the 1500-2500 lb range and were without brakes. From what I have read the Tekonsha P3 sounds like a good option.

If anyone else has thoughts to share with a newbie Airstreamer I will take any suggestions with much appreciation. We are looking forward to meeting the fine people on these forums in the days and months to come!
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Old 10-30-2014, 06:05 AM   #2
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Hi canyonduck! It sure sounds like you have made a very logical decision based on your research. My grown sons live in Colorado and we live in Minnesota, so our Airstream makes visiting them fun and easy.

I think your Xterra is a bit marginal for your new 19'. It's rated for 5000 pounds towing. Check the gross combined vehicle weight rating on the door jams somewhere as well as the gross weight rating for the Xterra alone. You know you can't haul 1000 pounds in the back of your vehicle plus four passengers. Weight distribution relieves some of the weight of the rear axle, but does not make combined weight go away. Vehicle manufacturers tell us what the vehicle can safely haul, and safely tow combined.

You might measure the distance from the ground to the Airstream coupler with the trailer level. My trailer is about 18". Then measure the distance from the ground to your Xterra receiver. Then you can judge whether you need a drop the Equalizer head so you can tow your Airstream level.

You will want to insure your Xterra's hitch receiver bolted to your vehicle is rated for 1000 pounds hitch weight. Your trailer won't weigh that much at the hitch, but you want a margin of safety. It needs to be a sturdy Cat IV receiver and the attachments solid.

The weight distribution bars simply "lift" the back of your vehicle. You will see your Xterra squat when you drop your trailer on the ball. Your vehicle might even grown a bit! So you will use your bars to regain a level stance for your vehicle.

I would recommend some sway control on your Equalizer hitch. I believe they sell a friction bar that will help some. "Bumper" pull trailers can get dicey at times in windy conditions.

You're gong to run your V6 at near max power going up hills in head winds. Maybe it has a transmission oil cooler? Expect some slow second gear 4500 rpm climbs with coolant temps rising.

Your first trip is very long. Maybe you have some towing experience. I certainly recommend good secondary roads where speeds are 55 or less and towns where you can relax.

You're going to like traveling well in your new Airstream. They are special, and they do tow well in the wind.

Welcome and enjoy!

David
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Old 10-30-2014, 07:41 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by canyonduck View Post
1. Will my 2010 Nissan Xterra have adequate towing capability to safely pull the 19' AS? The tow rating is 5000 lbs with a WD hitch.

2. The previous owners had an Equal-i-zer installed so it seems we should be okay. However, they pulled with a F150 pickup and I will be pulling with an Xterra. Does the hitch need to be adjusted or any parts replaced for it to function properly with my TV? How do I ensure the appropriate amount of weight is transferred to the front axle and trailer axle?
An Xterra isn't ideal, partly because of the short wheelbase. The way a weight-distributing hitch works, it minimizes the up-and-down motion of the hitch compared to a basic ball hitch, and thereby transfers some of the tongue weight to the front axle as well as the rear axle. Because of a phenomenon called "moment arm" this is much more effective on a long-wheelbase tow vehicle. The short wheelbase may also reduce the effectivnes of any sway control, though it will still be better than the "tail wagging the dog" effect you'd have with no sway control at all.
Quote:
3. I have made many aftermarket modifications to my Xterra (so we can reach remote trailheads) and am unsure how these changes will impact my towing ability. I have replaced the front & rear suspension with high quality, aftermarket coilovers and a-arms (front) and a custom leaf pack with upgraded shocks (rear). The Xterra is lifted about 2" all around as a result. I have also put on larger tires (33" vs 32") with a more aggressive tread (Goodyear Wrangler Duratracs). I have steel bumpers front and rear, steel rock sliders, steel roof rack replacement as well as steel skid plates protecting the underside. This all adds up to a lot of weight over stock, although the coilovers custom leaf pack were designed to carry additional weight over the wimpy stock springs.
Take your Xterra to public scales without the trailer, and find your actual front and rear axle weights, so that you know how much reserve weight capacity you have. You want to make sure your new trailer doesn't put you over the capacity for either axle. Also, you may very well need a drop hitch to lower the hitch to match the trailer tongue height. This not only lowers the hitch height, it makes the hitch slightly longer, so make sure the trailer's umbilical cable and safety chains are long enough; you may need a slight extension.
Quote:
4. How much weight in passengers & cargo can I safely load into my TV?
Until you have actually towed your trailer to a public scales and gotten the actual axle weight of each axle of the complete package (Xterra plus trailer), best to carry no cargo and as few people as possible since you're already marginal.
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Old 10-30-2014, 07:47 AM   #4
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Your rig will most likely work well temporarily.
By the time 2 or 3 years elapses, you will be ready for another tow vehicle.
The XTerra's short wheel base and pulling a short single axle trailer will equal a bouncy ride.
I would go ahead with the purchase of the Airstream and plan to tow it with the XTerra knowing I would get a bigger tow vehicle in 2 or 3 years.
The Equal-i-zer hitch shank height can be adjusted.
Buy that shiny silver trailer and go campin'!
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