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Old 04-22-2011, 06:11 PM   #1
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Am I over-matched?

Hello everyone. I have done a search of the TV threads and haven't come up with much concrete info. I am currently driving a '99 Dodge Durango w/ the 318. We recently purchased a '73 Argosy26. I brought it home from 35 miles away in some stiff head/cross-winds w/o a stabilizer hitch or trailer brakes (which are in the procees of being dealt with as we speak) and, while I felt a bit uncomfortable, it didn't seem to be nearly as scary as I had anticipated. For the next year or so, at least, we don't intend to do any travelling at extreme elevation, etc... We are just looking for some advice/suggestions from people who have had more experience than we have as to whether we can continue with the Dingo or move up to a Suburban as we had initially thought we would need to do? Thanks for your help.
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Old 04-22-2011, 06:30 PM   #2
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The first thing I would do is load the trailer to the approximate towing weight you will be towing. Then take it and get it weighed. Next, check your tow vehicle rating. No reason to assume anything til you have these facts. Happy camping.
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Old 04-22-2011, 06:48 PM   #3
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DougZ, sage advice, no kidding.

mnmhays, where's Hamilton? Been in MI all my life and do not know where that is.
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Old 04-22-2011, 07:37 PM   #4
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Michigander...We're about 25 miles SW of GR...I'm in your neck of the woods (give or take) a couple times a week.
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Old 04-22-2011, 07:45 PM   #5
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Those old Durangos were pretty stable tow vehicles, more stable than a typlical Suburban. You have to use weight distribution and a sway control system as you would on any vehicle. Your Argosy will tow best with the fresh water tank full. Once you have it set up properly you should be barely able to feel the Argosy there. If you can the hitch set up is not right.

If you find the 318 to be a little light on power you can go to a lower profile tire to in effect give you a better axle ratio. If you need some help with the tire size change let me know and I would be happy to help you with the options.

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Old 04-22-2011, 08:55 PM   #6
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On the Light Side.

I have a '74 Argosy 26'. Last year when I loaded it up to travel it weighed in at 5500#. The GVWR is 6200#.
If I am correct the Dodge Durango is what one would call a mid size truck.
The 318 is a bit small but will certainly pull it.
My concern is whether you have enough truck to handle and stop it. Do you know what your truck weighs. You could be in a "Tail wagging the Dog" situation if you have to manuever quickly.
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Old 04-22-2011, 10:45 PM   #7
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You may be able to pull for years with a short wheelbase but when things go wrong you are in for a ride. If someone causes be t have to make a evasive move to prevent a accident I want to be able to control my rig no matter how much swerving I have to do.
YouTube - Small Car towing caravan crashes
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Old 04-22-2011, 10:53 PM   #8
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This is a test drive of the Tail wagging the dog.
YouTube - Unstable caravan-auto jack-knife. Test by Olle Nordström.
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Old 04-22-2011, 11:28 PM   #9
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Rule 1: make sure you have at least 10% tongue weight.
Rule 2: make sure hitch, tow vehicle, etc. are within safe load limits. Load
tow vehicle rather than trailer if you have a choice.
Rule 3: Remember that when towing, your vehicle has completely
different dynamics than when running empty. Remember this if
you need to take evasive action. Slow down and avoid trouble.
If you tow at 70 or 80 mph, you're _asking_ for trouble.


Your Durango will likely do just fine if you take it easy.

- Bart
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Old 04-23-2011, 12:34 AM   #10
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Your Durango will work just fine. Suburban would be a lot better when it comes time to trade. You have 116" wheelbase the new Suburban are at 130" plus they have 5-6"wider track. I would get a good sway control system. On the less expensive side would be two friction sway control devices.
Sometimes you can find the hitches on craigslist. Last week I bought a Class V Reese hitch for $50.00. It can handle 1700 tongue weight and 14,000 pounds. 2-1/2" shank and has 17,000 pound torsion bars. Its not to pull my airstream with. I have a utility trailer rated for the same load as the hitch.

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Old 04-23-2011, 04:36 AM   #11
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There is nothing wrong with a little overkill.My '88 Suburban/454 weights more than both my Airstreams.It's long wheel base and load range e or h (can't remember) commercial bf goodrich tires make towing more sable.Your trailer may have the see through option for visibility.Tow mirrors are good too.The more you see, the more you know. At 10 mpg,I will sacifice mileage for security.Speed is also a major factor.Anything over 55mph increases wind drag and deceases road handling.Also,check the weather conditions for your route before you travel. Happy motoring. Don't forget to wave.
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Old 04-23-2011, 08:40 AM   #12
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EDIT: Sorry for the NOVEL but if you have 3.92 gears, good elect brakes, are willing to upgrade your cooling system, suspension and rebuild your tranny you will probably be okay in the Durango, otherwise...

I *DO* tow with a '99 Durango/318. Before we even talk about mismatch lets talk about your TOW RIG. It was awesome 12 years ago when it rolled off the line but...

To find out what gearset you have you need to go under the rear end of the truck and look at the bell housing of the differential. One of the bolts will have a small flange with either a 3.5 or a 3.9 on it. If you have 3.5 you have 3.55 gears, 3.9 = 3.92 gears and a more appropriate tow rig. 3.92 = thousands of lbs difference in towing capacity.

Its a 12-13 year old truck probably on the OEM leaf springs. I've never seen a 1stG Durango with original springs that were NOT dearched. Im sure those springs sit flat, flush with the frame. Im sure you have a lot of squat. Repalce those springs with springs from a 5.9L r/t. The replacement parts cost the same (under $200) and support more weight. They will be a tiny bit stiffer. I bagged the rear of my durango with onboard controls and a compressor so that I can adjust on the fly and make sure the WD hitch is at the right height load independant.

The front brakes have ceramic cylinders inside the caliper. They always crack. I've replaced the entire calipers TWICE in 130k miles. Most Durango/Dak owners just drive on 'em and think the brakes suck. Its not apparent with a simple inspection. If you are over 100k and dont hit the seatbelt hard when you brake, you need new calipers.

The tranny, dont get me started. Why did they put the iddy bitty tranny in the Durango? It will blow up pretty quick on you this old, under load. They tend to. Suprised you have not had any problems on the tow home. If you need to rebuild it PM me and I will give you a parts list that a tranny shop can fix you up. I replaced the internals of my tranny with allison parts, extra clutch packs, etc. install= 1200 rebuilt oem, 1450 rebuilt heavy duty. HD = never gonna break again.

Cooling? First a 180d thermostat (dont do 160 unless you dont want a heater!). The OEM radiator is really a bad design. Plastic endtanks (and in my case, an integrated tranny cooler) with metal flanges bend over to hold it together is asking for failure under the higher pressures generated by towing/under load driving. I suggest replacing it before the endtanks start leaking. I have seen several bad radiators at the endtank connectors here in soCal from summer heat + AC use. Im replacing my rad with a big aluminum aftermarket, switchable electric fan (in addition to fancluch fan) and a seperate plummed tranny cooler. I dont want my tranny fluid gone if my radiator blows and endtank.

The OEM tow hitch setup - well, get someone to go underneath your truck and weld that bad boy to the frame. Then have a crossmember welded in just afore and after the spare. The stiffened rear = no chassis flex. Most would say this is overkill but I'm THAT guy. (EDIT: I agree welding in most rigs is 100% a bad idea but this is a 1st gen Durango specific suggestion. Do so or dont. A better solution is probably a different tow bar setup that my OEM one.)

I bet the steering is fairly vague and you need new upper and lower tierod bushings and steering bushings. These are important and they could even be completely gone (ive seen it). Once gone, things can get dangerous. At least have your front end inspected closely - they are notoriously problematic in Dodge Durango.

A well known factory flaw in the 318/360 for a loooong time has been the intake manifold plenum gasket. You will suck air, lean out your motor, burn oil and blow up. Make sure to monitor the oil pressure gauge. If you see fluctuation or loss of pressure its probably not the oil pump - its the manifold. If you dont have a problem now, you are going to. Its a given with these motors. PM me when you have an issue and I'll turn you on to some improved metal spacer kits that remove the flaw and improve the economy of your motor for a few dollars more than a standard fix.

Dont let me forget that floaty feeling is no good. Those shocks are shot - need Bilstein or Wagner upgrade. Im a tinkerer. Other than that a 26' is real long. The lack of an overhang on the Durango will certainly help as will the placement of the wheels at the extreme corners of the vehicle but I would certainly invest in a nice brake controller like a Teknosha p3 with adjustable brake boost and a "oh crap" lever to apply trailer brakes to stop potential wagging.

GL, HAVE FUN, BE SAFE (and maybe the gut instinct of a BURBAN for a 26' is the right one!!!)
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Old 04-23-2011, 08:49 AM   #13
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Don't Weld It

In my opinion; Welding a hitch to the frame of your TV is a BAD idea. This will cause the frame of the TV to become ridgid and when stressed, something will break, more than likely the frame. The crossmembers of your OEM frame are riveted for a reason and not welded. The riveting allows the frame to flex and therefore not break.
Like your trailer the frame of the TV is designed to flex.
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Old 04-23-2011, 01:43 PM   #14
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Right now is a good time to buy a used 3/4 ton burb w/454 4:10 rear end.Lots of owners are freakin' about gas prices.Florida is a good market,no rust.There is your excuse for a Florida vacation,burb huntin'.
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