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Old 02-23-2009, 11:03 AM   #1
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Noob Q?: suspension upgrade or not?

Hey Folks!

I've been lurking around here for the past few months soaking up all the great information available in hope and preparation for the "big moment". Well, a few weeks ago my wife and I found a good deal on a new '09 International from a dealer in Saskatoon, and just yesterday we hauled it back home to Calgary (safely and smoothly, I might add). This is the first time I've ever towed something of this size but after 7 hours of winter driving on frost-heaved roads I feel like I passed the initiation! Everything performed well (I think) and I was pleasantly surprised at the decent gas mileage we got. We then spent the rest of the evening sipping wine and staring in disbelief out the kitchen window at the 19 foot Airstream sitting on OUR parking pad! But I digress.

Anyway, now that some blood has returned to my knuckles I have a question about our tow vehicle setup. We have a 2000 V8 Tundra to which we added a Reese hitch rated to 7500 lbs towing, with 750lbs on the hitch. Our tundra still has its original stock suspension and I thought I'd wait to make any upgrades here until we had actually done a bit of towing to see how things perform.

At the RV dealership, we tried out a couple of different ball heights and settled on a 2 1/4 inch rise. The tail of the truck dropped about 4-5" when we dropped the airstream on it, which seemed a lot to my uneducated eyes, but the service guys didn't seem to have any concerns. Here's a pict of the whole setup taken on level ground:



I'm wondering if the experts here on the forum can spot any possible issues? To me, it seems like the tail on the TV is down a few inches more than it should be to be perfectly level, but I don't know if I'm being too fussy, or if this is normal? You can really see it, imo, by comparing the clearance in the rear wheel well vs. the front. In terms of the ride, the tail seemed a bit heavy in the bumps, but we never bottomed out, nor did I sense any loss in steering.

Is it worth upgrading to stiffer springs and/or shocks? If so, I understand that you don't want to beef things up too much otherwise it will cause a much rougher ride and additional wear and tear on the TV and trailer. So, what would be a good compromise here if it needs doing?

One additional note, my wife and I are avid sea kayakers and we will be adding a further 200-250 lbs of boats and gear to the truck come summer...

Any insight and advice would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 02-23-2009, 11:40 AM   #2
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Others will give you all sorts of opinions on your suspension question. I just noticed your name and wanted to say "Welcome" to a fellow tele skier. I have a feeling we are few and far between on this site.
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Old 02-23-2009, 11:41 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Freeheel View Post
Hey Folks!

I've been lurking around here for the past few months soaking up all the great information available in hope and preparation for the "big moment". Well, a few weeks ago my wife and I found a good deal on a new '09 International from a dealer in Saskatoon, and just yesterday we hauled it back home to Calgary (safely and smoothly, I might add). This is the first time I've ever towed something of this size but after 7 hours of winter driving on frost-heaved roads I feel like I passed the initiation! Everything performed well (I think) and I was pleasantly surprised at the decent gas mileage we got. We then spent the rest of the evening sipping wine and staring in disbelief out the kitchen window at the 19 foot Airstream sitting on OUR parking pad! But I digress.

Anyway, now that some blood has returned to my knuckles I have a question about our tow vehicle setup. We have a 2000 V8 Tundra to which we added a Reese hitch rated to 7500 lbs towing, with 750lbs on the hitch. Our tundra still has its original stock suspension and I thought I'd wait to make any upgrades here until we had actually done a bit of towing to see how things perform.

At the RV dealership, we tried out a couple of different ball heights and settled on a 2 1/4 inch rise. The tail of the truck dropped about 4-5" when we dropped the airstream on it, which seemed a lot to my uneducated eyes, but the service guys didn't seem to have any concerns. Here's a pict of the whole setup taken on level ground:

I'm wondering if the experts here on the forum can spot any possible issues? To me, it seems like the tail on the TV is down a few inches more than it should be to be perfectly level, but I don't know if I'm being too fussy, or if this is normal? You can really see it, imo, by comparing the clearance in the rear wheel well vs. the front. In terms of the ride, the tail seemed a bit heavy in the bumps, but we never bottomed out, nor did I sense any loss in steering.

Is it worth upgrading to stiffer springs and/or shocks? If so, I understand that you don't want to beef things up too much otherwise it will cause a much rougher ride and additional wear and tear on the TV and trailer. So, what would be a good compromise here if it needs doing?

One additional note, my wife and I are avid sea kayakers and we will be adding a further 200-250 lbs of boats and gear to the truck come summer...

Any insight and advice would be greatly appreciated!
The problem you have is the ball height is incorrect.

The rules are that the tow vehicle and trailer must be level within themselves.

Adding springs will defeat the purpose of your load equalizing hitch.

You should be using bars rated at no more than 600 pounds.

Shocks do not level anything, as they are motion restrictors.

Adding the other goodies at a later date, are ok, since they are light weight.

Andy
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Old 02-23-2009, 11:51 AM   #4
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Great looking rig!!

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Originally Posted by Freeheel View Post
...now that some blood has returned to my knuckles I have a question about our tow vehicle setup. We have a 2000 V8 Tundra ...a further 200-250 lbs of boats and gear to the truck come summer...Any insight and advice would be greatly appreciated!
Welcome to the Forums!!

You have a great looking rig -

You stated that this was your first "big" tow - I'm happy that everything went fine for you.

You mentioned something about "white knuckles" - towing is supposed to be enjoyable - if there is an issue with the Tow Vehicle (TV) and the trailer setup - please take some time to explore the issue and find out what is making you uneasy.

There is SO much to do and see in Western Canada - I hope you you take it out often and enjoy it to the max.

One thing I would suggest - get a weight on your trailer and TV set up for travelling - I did some quick numbers, and it seems as if you may be close to the stated limits for the Tundra. Weighs only cost about 10 bucks, and each additional weigh (during the same visit) only costs an additional dollar or two. Most CAT scales are really RV friendly, and only ask you do not unnecessarily delay any 18 wheelers weighing in. Leave the scales and drive around the Fuel area between weighs - it is necessary sometimes for the scales to "zero" themselves. You sill be able to get a lot of valuable info for less than 20 dollars.

Now that you are "registered" here, the search function of the Forum will become invaluable...do a search on something like "CAT scale". or "weigh procedure", or "weight distributing worksheet" and you should feel comfortable taking your set-up to the scales in short order.

Weigh your TV and Trailer as you intend to travel - full fuel, people, and the "necessary" items you intend to take with you (tools, camping equipment, food, drinks, bedding, clothing, etc) get a separate weight of each of your three axles, PLUS the "stand alone" weight of the tongue, and then experiment with the chain length on the weight distribution bars - be sure to slack off and tighten up more on each end than what you think is necessary - it's amazing how much difference just one chain link will make in the weight distribution.

Here is one link for a related "How To" http://autopedia.com/TireSchool/weighing.html

I promise you, the hour or two you will spend at the scales will make your towing experience MUCH safer - besides, it is the only real way to get a "base line" on the truck to know how much of the "rated" weight you REALLY have left for more "stuff".

Good luck, and please, post your results.
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Old 02-23-2009, 01:21 PM   #5
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Andy & Dennis covered it very well.

I don't see the Tundra needing any suspension upgrades, other than possibly shocks and tires. Mileage?

Can't stress how important the CAT scales are.

The goal, a LEVEL trailer and TV, loaded for Stream'n.

Ball height for your rig 17 3/4"
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Old 02-23-2009, 01:31 PM   #6
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Quote:
I just noticed your name and wanted to say "Welcome" to a fellow tele skier. I have a feeling we are few and far between on this site
Hey Thanks! Telemarkers seem to be fewer and farther between in a lot of places these days - most of our crew have all gone over to AT as knees age, but that'll be a cold day in hell for me ...i hope!

Quote:
The problem you have is the ball height is incorrect.
The rules are that the tow vehicle and trailer must be level within themselves.
Adding springs will defeat the purpose of your load equalizing hitch.
You should be using bars rated at no more than 600 pounds.
Interesting - so I need to lower the ball Ht. Is there a way to find the correct height without a lot of trial and error? Also, I don't have an equalizer hitch - just a regular hitch - based on the comments, it sounds like I should consider getting one.

Quote:
You mentioned something about "white knuckles" - towing is supposed to be enjoyable - if there is an issue with the Tow Vehicle (TV) and the trailer setup - please take some time to explore the issue and find out what is making you uneasy.
lol - it was mostly just me being nervous about the value of assets rolling down unfamiliar single-lane roads with the weather going back and forth between sunny/calm to zero viz and snowing sideways. Otherwise, everything felt very predictable and smooth. There was very little noticeable sway when big rigs passed and breaking was smooth and well balanced between the vehicle and trailer.

Quote:
There is SO much to do and see in Western Canada - I hope you you take it out often and enjoy it to the max.
YOU BET!! The rockies are our "back yard" and the plan is to be out every weekend we can! ...that and 3 weeks at Lake of the Woods in ON to do some paddling in Sept.

Quote:
One thing I would suggest - get a weight on your trailer and TV set up for travelling - I did some quick numbers, and it seems as if you may be close to the stated limits for the Tundra.
Good point. I meant to do this on the way home but we missed seeing the small commercial scale I wanted to hit in thick ice fog. I'll get that done the very next time we're out and will definitely do the research on the 'how tos'.

In terms of the key numbers for our Tundra, here's what I have from the manual (wt in lbs):

Vehicle Curb wt 4765
GVWR 6050
Max Trailer Wt 7100
Max GCW 11800

Here's what I worked out based on known and estimated values. Note, I went with the max on all the tank values:
Dry Trailer Wt 3799
Fresh Water Wt 192
Grey Water Tank Wt 175
Black Water Tank Wt 150
LPG 60
Occupants 330
Gear (Activities) 200
Canopy 200
Kitchen & Living 75
Food 50
Est GCW Wt 9995 (85% of Max GCW rating)

Ideally, we'd be operating with empty or mostly empty gray and black so that should get us down closer to 80% of our max. Does that look about right? Again, TBC based on getting an actual weight.

You also mention an equalizer hitch - I could see how spreading the weight between the front and back axles and experimenting with ball HT could improve the vehicle balance.

ps: The mileage on our Tundra is 183,000 km (about 114,000 miles)
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Old 02-23-2009, 01:47 PM   #7
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Hey Thanks!

Interesting - so I need to lower the ball Ht. Is there a way to find the correct height without a lot of trial and error? Also, I don't have an equalizer hitch - just a regular hitch - based on the comments, it sounds like I should consider getting one.
Whoever sold you that trailer and allowed you to leave with it, without a proper hitch, has done you a "GREAT" disservice, in that they certainly don't care about your life, or others as well.

You cannot safely tow that trailer with your truck, unless you stay below 30 mph.

Trucks are not a magic tow vehicle.

You must use a load equalizing hitch, if you value you life and others that travel with you.

Measuring the ball height is easy.

Level the trailer.
Measure from the ground up into the coupler.
You can add a 1/4 inch to that since the truck, if properly rigged and a properly adjusted load equalizing hitch is used.

Change the ball height to that dimension.

Then install the rest of the load equalizing hitch, "WITH A SWAY CONTROL" as well.

One of the best is a Reese dual cam.

Andy
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Old 02-23-2009, 02:34 PM   #8
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Whoever sold you that trailer and allowed you to leave with it, without a proper hitch, has done you a "GREAT" disservice, in that they certainly don't care about your life, or others as well.
Andy
Sounds like I had every reason to be a bit white knuckled, although not for the reasons originally thought Glad it was bugging me enough to ask about it here.

FWIW I did inquire about an equalizer hitch and sway control but the consensus was that I should try it first without... Certainly, there were no strong opinions ventured in favour of such a system by anyone that I've spoken to leading up to now (i.e. 2 dealerships and the hitch installation co.). So I'm feeling a bit angry and misinformed.

At any rate, I've got at least two more months of winter left before we plan to get out so I've got plenty of runway to get better equipped - thanks for the info, everyone!

Kevin
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Old 02-23-2009, 03:11 PM   #9
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WD needed.

Kevin,

Hard to believe that with your truck settling 4 1/2 to 5" no one even mentioned a wd hitch. It looks from the picture they got the coach pretty level with no regard to the TV.

As Andy mentioned 600# bars should do the trick for you, Good Luck.
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Old 02-23-2009, 03:17 PM   #10
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Tundra GVWR is your limiting factor

As Andy said - a weight distributing /sway control hitch is of paramount importance - the bad thing is - it will add more weight to your already weight limited Tow Vehicle -

Man, I really do not want to dis your Tundra, but in the spirit of Tow Safety here are the numbers as stated in this thread -

GVWR 6050 This is the max allowed weight of the Tundra Tow Vehicle

Now, this number less:
Vehicle Curb wt 4765 (If this is from published literature, it is in actuality probably more than this number) Actual Weight TBD
600 lbs Trailer Tounge Weight (15% of the "light" trailer) - again, it will probably be more - Actual Weight TBD
180 lbs - A full tank of Gasoline for the Toyota - I doubt if this was in the curb weight - although it might have been
60 lbs - LPG mostly on the tongue of the trailer - it is "add ons" such as this than make an actual weighing so important
330 lbs - occupant and driver (this light weight will NEVER happen for most of us)
200 lbs - cap (I assume this is the bed cover on the truck)

This total is 6,135 lbs - We have more than busted the GVWR of the Tundra, and have put NOTHING in the bed of the truck, the "extra cab" behind the truck seats, nor the +/- 150 lbs of a good weight distributing hitch and shank.....

There have been many discussions here in the Forums about using the Tundra as a Tow Vehicle.

Good luck in whichever decisions you make in the future.
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Old 02-23-2009, 04:22 PM   #11
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Man, I really do not want to dis your Tundra, but in the spirit of Tow Safety here are the numbers as stated in this thread -
Hey, no worries, it's just a truck and I'm grateful for the input even if I might wince at it a bit ;-)

Clearly I'm going to have to get some actual weights of the vehicle, etc. PDQ and see what we're working with ...or not.
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Old 02-23-2009, 05:20 PM   #12
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Welcome!

Hey - I respect Inland Andy more than about anyone else on this forum. He's been doing Airstream testing and repair longer than most of us have had the yen for Aluminum.

I will say that there seems to be a huge difference in attitude between Canadians and the people in the States as to what a good tow vehicle needs to be. I've seen Canadian rigs here in Va. Beach that just make me gasp - A 34' tri axle towed by a JEEP! God only knows how it goes up a hill bigger than a speed bump.

If you're careful your Tundra should be OK for limited use. Of course if you tried to tow for 5 minutes with my Chevy Silverado 2500 diesel you might go spit on your Tundra. So... see if you can find a friend with a big honkin' Chevy or Ford and give it a try.

Do continue to read and learn here - between looking out of the window at your beautiful silver twinkie and drooling softly.

Paula
The Reese Dual Cam is a great setup, just make sure you get very light weight bars - Andy is right - Airstreams don't need or appreciate being "overhitched".
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Old 02-23-2009, 05:37 PM   #13
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Thanks Paula - I'll try to take your advice on trying out a beefier setup! I feel like we've already done our part to keep the economy afloat this year so I won't be looking to upgrade any time soon unless I absolutely have to! Hopefully there will still be some good choices out there after the dust from the current economic mess settles out.

What can I say about us Canadians? We roll a bit different from Americans in a lot of ways - most not immediately obvious. Stupidity knows no borders, though.

I'll be looking into the Reese setup for sure. Another silly question though, will it work with my basic setup or will I be changing out my hitch as well?

I have a Reese model 37034 "Multi-Fit Receiver - Round Tube". I consulted their website and it looks like it's rated to 1200/12,000 lbs.(TW/GTW) for weight distributing - so I take that as a "yes" it will work. Next question - Round Bar or Trunion Style? Given my vehicles weight limitations, going for the lightest effective setup is a major concern.

-Kev
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Old 02-23-2009, 07:09 PM   #14
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Thumbs up

Kev,

We all start somewhere. You've started better than most, including me. You did a good job of checking things out and thats an important beginning.
I toad, and I do mean TOAD our first Stream with a Jeep Grand Wagoneer, nice vehicle but....we didn't know better, learned as we went along. Ended up with a safe rig, slo but safe.
If you get your Toy set up right it should work for you, and you'll get a very good idea of what may be a better option down the road. With the exception of the receiver most of your equipment should transfer ok.

Get out and enjoy!!!
Stream Safe

Bob
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