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Old 02-25-2006, 06:47 PM   #1
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1986 29' Sovereign
Delta , British Columbia
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 87
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Can I pull a 31' Airstream with my '97 Tahoe?

Hi Guys,
I have been wanting to get an Airstream since I was a kid. The only Airstreams that seem to come up for sale around here (and that ain't often) are 31'ers. Now according to the factory these tralers weighed in anywhere from 4800 - 5100 lbs. My truck is rated for 6500 lbs (if I remember correctly), that doesn't leave too much room for the stuff I would like to pack. Has anyone pulled a 31 foot Airstream with a 1997 Tahoe, 5.7 litre, 4x4, automatic, with the trailer package and 3:73 gears?
Are there any after market parts I can add to my truck that would make it more capable of towing such a large beast? For example, headers, K&N air filter system, bigger brakes ('cause I would really want to be able to stop this rig), etc.? I know that these transmissions are also weak, anything I could do to beef this up? I really don't have the 10's of thousands of dollars to buy a new 3/4T with a DuraMax Diesel so I am trying to make do with what I have. "Run what ya' brung!" Let me know what your thoughts are.

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Old 02-25-2006, 06:55 PM   #2
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1976 31' Sovereign
Currently Looking...
Chandler , Oklahoma
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Rod, where exactly are you? I think if we knew where you were someone here on the forum could help you find a trailer that you wanted and not just whatever you could get. There are Airstreams out there, let us help you find yours.

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Old 02-25-2006, 07:17 PM   #3
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2006 30' Classic
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Rod --I have an 06 brochure in front of me and the unloaded weights ,UBW, are as follows--Classic 30' 7095#---classic 30'slideout 7900#---classic 31' 7300# classic 31'dinette 6990#.------Pieman
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Old 02-25-2006, 07:27 PM   #4
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1975 31' Sovereign
1980 31' Excella II
Sprung Leak , North Carolina
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It sounds to me like you are looking at Vintage trailers? My 1975 Sovereign 31' hits the road for a long week-end right around the 6000# range, for longer trips it will get closer to the 7200# GVW. Another issue is the fairly short wheelbase of the Tahoe, the trailer has the leverage advantage. I am not going to say it can't be done, hey they had some guy on a bicycle tow least once but I think you are going to be stressing yourself and your Tahoe a bit further than you should.

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Old 02-25-2006, 07:28 PM   #5
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2004 25' Safari
. , Illinois
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Older coaches (pre late 80s) of the size you are talking about weigh less than newer coaches.

That said, regardless of weight of the 31' you choose, the Tahoe really doesn't have the wheelbase. In wind, you could be pushed all over the highway. I have a 5.7L and towed a 6k Safari with it. 300hp+ and high torque, but the wheelbase was short and in my case the Safari outweighed the car by about 1000lbs. Clearly the 5.7 is a very strong engine, but it's only part of the equation.

Though I agree that a duramax, even used may be a bit costly, a good 8.1L for a newer coach and maybe, a 6.0L with 4.10s might be a less exp alternative, however, once you start to break the 25' range, you really start to get into 3/4 ton. Keep in mind that 3/4 ton is more than just an engine's hubs, brakes, trans, rear diff, engine, etc.

If you find a 25' or shorter coach, you'll be in better shape, if you go the newer route (early 90s on up), but 25' would be the largest I myself might feel comfy with. Of course 23' or 22' might be even a better idea with a Tahoe with the wheelbase it has.....
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Old 02-25-2006, 07:40 PM   #6
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1986 29' Sovereign
Delta , British Columbia
Join Date: Mar 2003
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Thanks for the fast rseponses!!! I knew I would forget something. Yes, I am looking at 1970's-80's trailers. I live in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and we don't have the number of used Airstreams that you guys have down in the States. I would love to find a 25' - 26'er but they just don't seem to come up very often. Another thing I would really love is a rear bedroom, my wife and I would love some privacy from the family. So what I am hearing is that I probably should stay away from the huge 30+ foot trailers until I can afford a heavier duty tow vehicle.

Any suggestions on how I can get the most pulling power out of my '97 Tahoe (daily driver - one car family)? Has anyone done the header, air filter system, 'Baer' brakes, etc.? Let me know.

Thanks again, you guys have great information for us newbies!!!

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Old 02-25-2006, 08:06 PM   #7
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1976 25' Tradewind
. , AZ to Maine
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Look Closer

You will be surprised at the number of Airstreams in your area.

Be patient. Do your homework. Look closely at what you find and be ready to
act prudently.

Your vehicle is what it is, 80% of your gvw is a safety margin. Chant: hitch, brakes and tires.

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Old 02-25-2006, 08:33 PM   #8
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1966 24' Tradewind
Albuquerque , New Mexico
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You Can't Make and Apple Out of an Orange

The 5.7 liter Tahoe is a great vehicle, but nothing you do and no amount of money dumped into will make it a suitable tow vehicle for a 31' Airstream. I have cut and pasted my response to a similiar question on an earlier thread. I suggest you look for a used Suburban or Yukon XL with either a 6.0 liter with 4.10 rearend or 8.1 liter with a 3.73. Read on for more details. Bear in mind, I'm discussing personal experience with full size Suburbans. A Tahoe is inherently unsuitable and unsafe because of its short wheelbase.

From 1996 until May 2005, I kept looking for marginal, incremental improvements in towing while balancing fuel consumption not towing.

1996: 1995 2-WD Surburban with pre-Vortec 5.7 liter (350 cu in), 3.73 rear end, pulling 1976 Airstream Safari 23'.
This wasn't a bad combination in coastal Carolina and the east coast where we lived at the time, but it didn't do well in the mountains of NM. (11 mpg towing and 17-18 mpg combined).

2001: 1999 4-WD Surburban with Vortec 5.7 liter, 3.73 rear end pulling 2000 Airstream Safari 27'.
The added power of the Vortec engine was offset by increased weight of 4-WD and larger trailer. Performance in mountains was marginal. Non-towing average MPG was lower than 1995 Suburban. (11 mpg towing and 15-17 combined)

2004: 2003 4-WD Z71 Suburban with Vortec 5.3 liter, 3.73 rear end pulling 2000 Airstream Safari 27'.
The advertised increase in horsepower of the 5.3 over the 5.7 is great for non-towing, interstate highway cruising; but a big disappointment for towing. The extra horsepower comes at higher RPMs and results in less torque and marginal towing performance on mountain grades.(12-14 mpg towing and 17 combined)

2005: 2005 4-WD Silverado 2500 HD with Durmax Diesel pulling a 1976 Sovereign 31’. A towing machine, but not a very good vehicle for driving around town, so I bought a 2005 Pacifica for city driving.

What do you need? I need 4-WD, but if you don't otherwise need 4-WD, stick with 2-WD. That gives you 500 pounds of additional towing capacity and improves your non-towing gas consumption by about 2MPG.
If you want a tow vehicle that must double as your non-towing, take the kids to soccer practice, family car; the 1500 Suburban 5.3 liter is a nice compromise vehicle if you can find one with a 4.10 rear end. If you want to optimize mountain towing, look for a 6.0 liter with 4.10 rear end. If you want a towing machine, and you care naught about MPG, get the 8.1 liter and the 3.73 rear end.
Bottom line... you will never be satisfied with 5.3 liter and the 3.73 in the mountains, but it's the most fuel efficient combo Chevy offers (12-14 mpg towing and 17-18 mpg combined maybe better with 2-WD and keeping your speed below 62 mph.
The 4.10 rear end behind the 5.3 will make you less unhappy, in the mountains and may be all you need. The 6.0 liter with a 4.10 will make your heart sing in the mountains, but make your heart will ache at the gas pump (11 mpg towing and 13-14 mpg combined).
Another option is to buy a beater car to drive around town, and buy a dedicated towing machine for your road trips.
Hope this helps.
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Old 02-26-2006, 04:43 AM   #9
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2012 25' FB Eddie Bauer
Vintage Kin Owner
Virginia Beach , Virginia
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My Lexus is now an "economy car"

I got the 2500 Suburban - which is a little OVER powered for a 22ft CCD. Of course I could look at a 25' or a 28' or possibly even a 31' without having to trade up my tow vehicle. You'll never regret having a robust tow vehicle.

My paid for Lexus RX 300 suddenly became an "economy car" because it gets between 22 and 25 mpg! When I first got Tin Lizzie I was planning on traveling 1/2 to 3/4 of the time, but the business has gone wild so "semi-retiring" isn't going to happen while sales are up so much. I've been out on about 7 or 8 trips, and hope to go again in March.

Tin Lizzie

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