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Old 11-19-2005, 07:14 PM   #1
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Unhappy Dodge Dakota + Safari 23'

We are looking at a 23 ft Safari. The GVWR is 5600 pounds and we are concerned that our Dodge Dakota SLT can adquately handle the load. The Dakota has the V8 engine, 3.92 rear end, tow package and is rated for 6950 lb towing capacity. How can I determine if the vehicle is right for the trailer or should we be looking at a Bambi or larger truck?


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Old 11-19-2005, 07:41 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forums.
I owned a Dakota with the 5.2 engine, and towing package. We owned an Argosy 20 and towed it witht he Dakota, with no problems to speak of. I have also towed an Argosy 24 with the Dakota, also with no problems, and the Argosy 24 was larger than the Safari you are thinking of towing. In fact, the Argosy 24 trowed better than the Argosy 20, at least partly because it had two axles, like most (but not all) Safari's. Another forum member towed a 30' Excella with his Dakota. although I wouldn't care to push the envelope that much, he reported no problems towing either. The Dakota up until about 1997 or so was a full-sized truck in everything but size. GVW was only a few hundred pounds less than a comparable 1/2 ton full-size truck, and it was only maybe a foot or so shorter than a comparable full-size pickup.
If you have the post-1997 Dakota with the 4.7 V8, you may want to consider a larger tow vehicle, as Chrysler seriously downrated towing capacity at that time.

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Old 11-19-2005, 08:30 PM   #3
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hi widgeon and welcome to airsteamin'!

you will get lots of help here with the tow capacity issue, and it's great you are investigating before buying the trailer....

i'd suggest reading some of the many threads in the towing section or doing a search with "towing capacity" or other key terms....lots of info will be found for your reading and learning.

i like the notion of selecting/buying the trailer you really really really want....then upgrading the t.v. to match it....

going down in size on the trailer....if you really do use it....usually means two upgrades next year......a bigger trailer AND and bigger truck.

also many folks here follow the 80% rule....all of your combined towing gear shouldn't exceed 80% of the t.v. capacity.

so with a trailer loaded to 5600lbs...that's 80% of the rated capacity for the dakota.....but keep in mind that towing capacity is for an empty truck....that's right, no people or fuel or stuff IN the t.v.

so load the family/fuel and toys in the dakota.....and you'll quickly approach the limit with no safety margin left.

so your target combo is right at/beyond what many consider the safe margin. could it work? sure......but if given the opportunity to do it safer....i'd opt for a bigger tow vehicle for that dandy new airstream.

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Old 11-20-2005, 12:15 PM   #4
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Hi, Widgeon,

I'm the other forum member that towed an Excella 31 with a '93 V8 Dakota with HD suspension, transmission, towing package, etc. Back in March I drove to Grand Rapids MI from my home in southeastern GA, towed the AS to Toledo, then Cleveland, and then back home. Terry saw my Dakota and AS at the forum rally in Ft. Desoto (and even did some surgery on it). I was suprised that he had also towed with a one-ton Dakota, as they are very rare.

With my heavier Excella, there were two problems with the Dakota. One was that it climbed hills in third gear at 3500 RPM with that 4.10 rear end, that is, if I even wanted to *pretend* to keep up with other traffic. I wasn't willing to push it that hard, so I went over the tops of the hills in the Appalachians at 50 mph or less.

The other problem was the lack of weight of the tow vehicle. Even with a Reese straight-line hitch and good bar deflection, passing semis blew that rig all over the place.

After the forum rally, or maybe during it, I decided that I needed a bigger, heavier truck. The Dakota was within it's published numbers (7200 lbs) and gross combined weight, but just barely.

The Excella weigts 5505 empty, and that's how I towed it back with the Dakota. I pulled it to Ft. Desoto with my STUFF, full propane, food, entertainment, clothes, etc. and I think it was probably over 6500 lbs.

This put more of a strain on the old Dakota than the first trip did.

So, it becomes a question of what you want. 25s and above are great trailers are great to live in on the road, but you'd probably want a larger, more powerful TV if you go that route, as I did. Bambis are cute, imminently towable, and fun to scamper around with.

I got a good look at Driftwood's 25' at the rally, and the amount of space in it impressed me. The floorplan made it look larger inside than my (rear bath, center twin) Argosy 28.

Good luck,

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1979 Excella 500 31 "Betsy"
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Old 11-20-2005, 12:52 PM   #5
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Tow vehicle GVWR is #1

Welcome to the Forums Widgeon! Are you a sailor or a devotee of waterfowl?

Your potential tow vehicle (TV) has a maximum load it can carry onboard -- that's called the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This applies whether you are towing or not. Search these forums on GVWR and I know you'll find more info (and divergent opinions mayhaps...). The GVWR load includes the passengers, tongue weight, topper or tonneau cover. The GVWR (though maybe not by that name) should be on a federal-required sticker on the driver's side doorpost and in your owner's manual. Go to and check out the sections on tongue weight and weight rating. Honestly -- tow capacity and GCWR are irrelevant until you have assured the safety of the occupants and vehicle durability by following this advice.

Start with the Safari 23's empty wt (I'd use something close to the 4160# that is listed for the 22' since the shell and frame are identical -- 22'? 23'? Yep, the same! Airstream is just using this to separate the different features in the public's eye.). I'd figure in at least half of the 1440# payload for your stuff in the trailer -- yes, you'll usually not travel with water but the propane and weight distribution gear are all considered aftermarket and do subtract from your payload. Tongue weight at 10-15% of 4850# usual trailer weight is close to 700 pounds and certainly above 500 pounds. Are you still under the Dakota's GVWR?

I fully subscribe to 2airishuman's advice, " i like the notion of selecting/buying the trailer you really really really want....then upgrading the t.v. to match it...." Buying to fit your TV now will look mighty expensive if you want a different Airstream when you transition to a different TV in four years... Yee-ouch! Caution is necessary if stepping up though -- by the numbers, a new 25' Airstream pushes any 1/2-ton truck to the maximum load with little remaining of the 20% load-safety margin mentioned above.

Best wishes! You're in the right place to ask questions. Post right back here if you have more.

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Old 11-20-2005, 01:27 PM   #6
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23' vs 22' Safari -- Shell size?

Hmmm... I was going on hearsay from past posts in saying these would be the same frame and shell. The windows certainly may be in different locations. I just cut and pasted the images off the Airstream site into Paint and there sure does appear to be a slightly greater overall length with the 23'. You'll have to let us know what you find out at the dealer! When is the 23' production supposed to start?

(Weights would still be approximately same as stated above due to axle restriction of 5600# -- more at

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Old 11-20-2005, 02:50 PM   #7
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Hi Widgeon, and welcome to the Forums! This is some excellent advise posted above mine, and you're wise to do your investigating pre-purchase so you know exactly what you're getting into.

I can't give you any specific advise about your Dakota as I've never towed one. I HAVE however towed a '70 Safari Special 23' single axle all over the west coast. You don't say whether you're looking at a '70s vintage or the new mint issue Safari, and I'm reasonably sure that the new mint issue will be significantly heavier than the older '70s. Mine had a 3750 lb dry weight (and an assumed GVWR of about 4700lbs... Airstream didn't publish GVWR in those days).

I towed MY Safari with a '77 3/4 ton Ford extended cab long bed 2WD pickup with a 400 cu. in V-8. I used a Reese Dual-Cam WDH. I never had a moment's concern with that setup.

As SafeHarbor aluded to, there is significantly more to dragging a trailer around than merely how much weight your tow can tug. Stopping and maneuvering under the worst imaginable conditions are also significant. Mass is the key. The more your tow vehicle weighs, the better it can resist being moved around by the trailer when you can least afford it. The longer the wheelbase, the more opportunity you'll have to correct problems before they get out of hand, and the less likely the trailer will be able to move the tow vehicle. The downside to long wheelbase tow vehicles, of course, is that they make backing the trailer into small spaces a real challenge!

This is just another piece of the puzzle to keep in mind as you consider what your plan should be.

Best of luck and happy shopping!


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Former Airstreams: 1953 Flying Cloud, 1957 Overlander, 1961 Bambi, 1970 Safari Special, 1978 Argosy Minuet, 1985 325 Moho, 1994 Limited 34' Two-door, 1994 B190 "B-Van"
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