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Old 01-26-2005, 07:55 PM   #1
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Unhappy Extended Vans

I have an opportunity for a 1996 3/4 ton extended van.

I did some searching of the forum and found a little that is about as clear as mud.
This is what I know;
My Chevy Caprice is rated at 5000 lbs and towed wonderfully.
This van is rated at 7500 lbs, so it should do well.

I read something about the 3 feet of over-hang from the rear axle to the hitch may cause problems. If this is true what problems would they be?? Also, would I have to change out my 800 lbs trunion arms for a different weight rating because of the vehicle change??

I'm not looking to start a debate in best tow vehicle, just some insight on extended vans.
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Old 01-26-2005, 08:14 PM   #2
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Love my extended van. Tows like a dream with no problems.
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Old 01-26-2005, 10:36 PM   #3
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I used to tow with a 1 ton extended van, which was set up for towing. I liked it a lot.
The overhang makes turning corners easier, without having to make a very wide swing. The extra room in the van was great for people like me who hate packing things tightly. Just put it in the back - bikes and all.
I believe that it towed smoothly because of the shape of the van, and the resulting airflow over the trailer.
Some of the pictures in my gallery might still show this van.
I tow with a Suburban now. Besides that the Suburban is easier and more economical to drive daily, it is not an improvement over the old van.
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Old 01-26-2005, 10:37 PM   #4
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Extended Vans

Greetings Till!

The two things that would be of concern are is the van a Conversion, and/or does it have a rear-mounted spare tire carrier? One of my previous (1983) tow vehicles was a G20 GMC conversion van - - the conversion added so much weight that the hitch weight pushed the rear axle over its maximum rated capacity. In my case, the van was a standard wheelbase/non-extended van, but it had the rear-mounted spare tire carrier - - the drawbar was extended to provide clearance between the van's spare tire and the trailer's LP tanks - - this was enough to upset the balance on that trailer (it was the Nomad that I had prior to purchasing the Airstream) and sway was an issue. If the van isn't a conversion and doesn't have the rear-mounted spare, I wouldn't be excessively worried with your Reese Dual Cam system.

One thing that I might suggest if you routinely have a mechanic perform your regular maintenance, is to check with your mechanic to determine whether there will be signficant extra cost for routine service. My mechanic charged an extra .5 hour whenever he serviced my van because the interior doghouse had to be removed to service the air cleaner and pollution controls.

Good luck with your investigation!

Kevin
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Old 01-27-2005, 08:07 AM   #5
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It is not a conversion, but does not have a rear mount spare. The spare is an under mount. I'm sure that my mechanic will not up charge for the van service. I have known him since we were 10.

Thank you for all the input! I hope that his works out.
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Old 01-27-2005, 08:33 AM   #6
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Clear as Mud

Quote:
Originally Posted by till
I have an opportunity for a 1996 3/4 ton extended van.
Tedd -

My belief is that, on an engine, there is no substitute for cubic inches, and on a tow vehicle, there are no substitutes for Wheel Base and Mass.

Quote:
Originally Posted by till
I read something about the 3 feet of over-hang from the rear axle to the hitch may cause problems. If this is true what problems would they be?? Also, would I have to change out my 800 lbs trunion arms for a different weight rating because of the vehicle change??
Tedd -

I think you should really study the several recent threads about "over hitched" and "Weight Equalizers".

It is good that we at the Forums are fortunate to have "Inland Andy" share his many years of AS experience, it is also fortunate that there are others that express the "rest of the story" (or, at least, the "other side of the coin").

Having said that, there very well COULD BE ISSUES with the extended van.

Any time you add length between the rear axle (fixed point) and the hitch ball (movement freedom (albeit limited) in ALL axes except the longitudinal (surge) axis) - you add potential problems.

Remember the saying about the fulcrum and lever - given a long enough lever (distance between the axle and hitch) you could move the earth.

Besides primary sway, pitch, and heave, secondary systems come into play - the worst I could imagine would be a panic stop (the one maneuver that proponents of “too light of a tow vehicle” choose to ignore, focusing, rather, on raw horsepower - how fast will it accelerate and how fast will it go).

In a panic stop, nose dive will be at a maximum, meaning that the hitch will be raised to some height ABOVE normal – the more overhang, the higher the hitch will PROBABLY be raised. All sorts of variable dynamics are raised here – suspension type(s) – both front and rear - , total overall length from front and rear axle to hitch, total suspension range between stops, suspension sway control, suspension geometries, straight axle’s vs independent suspensions – the list goes on and on.

The point is, that in a panic stop (max nosedive) the angle presented between the TV and the trailer COULD BE great enough to unload the equalizing bars - then the sway starts - …..the old saying “quickly going to hell in a handbasket” comes to mind here.

As Andy (Inland RV) pointed out in several previous threads, his studies with Caravanner proved that this is not a good thing.

I believe that a major problem is that given the HUGE variables of TV chassis design (see list of variable dynamics above), accurately predicting the proper “Exact” amount of “bar load” (or even the proper weight bars themselves) would probably be quite difficult (recall Andy’s studies here – he found (I believe) that in some cases a lighter than anticipated bar actually worked better on some tow vehicles that a heavier one). What I am thinking is that a lightly sprung extended rear ¾ ton would “need” much lighter designed bars than, for example, my heavy sprung 1 ton cabriolet – the bars for the extended rear end and lightly sprung TV would have to be “Lighter” – 500 lb bars instead of 700 lb bars - so that the driver/operator could bring the bars closer to the bottom of trailer frame (bring the bars up under tension one or two chain links) in order to insure the equalizing bars remain under tension during the extreme TV to Trailer angle increase caused by the worst case panic braking scenario (max. nosedive).

Then again, on the other hand….heavier bars would tend to LIMIT the amount of nose dive, since more weight would be transferred to the trailer's axles to START with...then again, in a nose dive, the arms would STILL unload - but how much????

These are my thoughts only – no engineering analysis – no field trials – just one possible scenario for argument within the “my rig is better than your rig” piscing and spitting contest.

Given your trailer size and weight, I would think (off the top of my head only) that you would be happy with the ¾ ton extended van – I would, however, limit the speed much closer to 60mph than to 65mph – always err on the side of safety and caution. Take into account all of the comments here in the Forum - especially Inland RV's input - study the websites of the various hitch manufacturers - and draw your own conclusions.


Quote:
Originally Posted by till
I'm not looking to start a debate in best tow vehicle, just some insight on extended vans.
I have owned extended vans in the past (3/4 and 1 ton) - before the "heavy half", 3/4 ton, and 1 ton distinctions became blurred, but I REALLY like my present "heavy half" Ford (short) conversion van. Having towed with both my current 1 ton diesel dually cabriolet/PU and the "heavy half" conversion van - there really is no comparison between the two - apples to oranges - two entirely different vehicles - I can say, though, with 800 lbs or so on the hitch and a few hundred pounds in the bed the one-ton rides MUCH better than it does unloaded - again no accelerometer studies, but I really do not believe the 1 ton is transferring a huge amount of "road chatter" to the frame of the trailer.

Good luck in your decision.
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Old 01-27-2005, 08:46 AM   #7
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I think there are two classes of extended vans on the market. Ford and Dodge extended vans have the additional length added on to the van. The wheel base remains the same as the standard length vans. The GM extended vans actually have a longer wheel base which makes the vans look much more proportional. Personally I would believe that the extended wheelbase would add to the stability of the van although it would affect the turning radius.

I drove an extended Dodge passenger van a few years ago for a couple of hours and it didn't seem to exhibit any nasty handling traits.

Quite honestly the GM vans built before the major body change that I think came in the late 90's handled much better. I had a '88 Chevy Beauville passenger van which I considered the best towing van I ever owned.

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Old 01-27-2005, 03:34 PM   #8
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Having towed with an Impala (same as your Caprice), the larger 1000lb bars are kind of required as the suspension is sooo soft. I found that after I got the 3/4 ton Burb, that the 1000# bars barely flexed at all. Now keep in mind, I since downgraded my bars to 800# (or maybe they are (750s)bars. The hitch weight is about 800lbs (factory listed at 750lbs). I find that the 800 bars do have some flex to them, keep the Dual Cam HP in place and operational. Though it may be the right thing to do, I am not entirely comfortable putting on 500lb bars on.

I'll tell you this Till, the Caprice has the raw guts to pull 8k if it had to, particularly if you do all the bells and whistles to it. The first time you tow with a 3/4 truck or van, you'll wonder why you wasted so long doing it regardless of overhang. I spent about $3k getting my Impala to be able to pull 6300lbs (basically swatted a fly with a sledgehammer) and now find it was a $3k lesson. I'd go for it particularly if it had all the other gear with it (gears, trailer pkg, trans cooler, etc). I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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Old 01-27-2005, 09:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 87MH
The point is, that in a panic stop (max nosedive) the angle presented between the TV and the trailer COULD BE great enough to unload the equalizing bars - then the sway starts - …..the old saying “quickly going to hell in a handbasket” comes to mind here.
that would be some interesting up and down angles!

In a panic stop, your best safety is in good trailer brakes and a well adjusted brake controller. The only thing better than this is not getting into a situation where a panic stop is needed.

I don't think sway bars are going to help in a panic stop such as you described as they don't prevent jacknifing. The forces involved are much larger than a simple turn in a corner that is in no way inhibited by sway control mechanisms. If sway control won't stop you from going around a corner it certainly isn't going to keep the rig straight in a panic stop or sudden maneuver.

No matter what type of sway control, from Hensley to friction, once you get an angle between the tow vehicle and the trailer with large forces on each end (as in panic braking without strong trailer brakes) the whole rig is going to fold.

A van can make a very good tow vehicle, even a heavily loaded and top heavy B van such as the Airstream B190 (ca 89-99 rip). An extended van will usually benefit from good sway control due to the long differential to ball distance that aggravates instabilities. All of the other factors in terms of handling, rigging, and specs need due consideration as well.
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Old 01-28-2005, 05:14 PM   #10
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Arrow When it rains, it pours.

OK, points well taken, but (there is always a but, isn't there??)

I have new information to add, the guy I was talking to didn't give me the right information. Here it is;
1996 Super Clubwagon E-350 (read one ton)
GVWR 9500 lbs
5.8 L (351 C.I.D.) 205-210 HP
Full floating rear, 3.54 gears.
Level one tow package I'm still looking into this one to find out what it is.

So, I guess all of the above input is not completely wasted, but will be re-read and checked against the new facts.
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Old 01-28-2005, 06:59 PM   #11
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a 351 engine with a 3.54 rear is likely to be a bit weak for towing, I think.
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Old 01-28-2005, 08:50 PM   #12
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An E-350 van with a 3.55 rear end has a gross towing weight of 16,000 pounds. You will most always be towing near or at gross weight. A 4.10 rear end has a 20,000 poung gross towing weight. The fuel mileage with a 4.10 rear end is really poor. I have a 3.55 rear end and get about 12 MPG. Anti lock brakes is a must have !!! I have been in a panic stop and the trailer followed behind nicely while the Airstream brakes were locked tires smoking and the van manuvered with total control around the stupid driver that decided to stop on the freeway saving the rig and my day. Remember.... Get, Anti-Lock Brakes.
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Old 01-28-2005, 10:12 PM   #13
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Extended vans

I just placed an order for my 8th van, seven of which were extended. Love them for all they do. In my Ford with one bench seat in you can still put a piece of plywood in the back. Just remember in the winter it is like a pick-up a little light in the rear end, just add a little weight and it handles fine. Specs on the van you describe are fine except the level one hitch. Level one is the bumber hitch and not recommended for heavy trailers. You need a level III or IV hitch, which could be added easily.
Good luck,
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Old 01-29-2005, 07:41 AM   #14
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Love My E-350 SuperDuty Diesel

Till,

With a large family (#7 due next month), we have no choice but the extended van. Best thing we ever did! The room is wonderful, and my wife loves being able to see out and be taller than most everyone else. There are some handling considerations that are just common sense (avoid sudden swerving, high speed cornering, etc.) . From '99 on anyway (maybe before, I'm not sure), they come with 4 wheel disc, anti-lock brakes.

We started with a '99 (in 2001) with the 5.4 gas engine, 3:55 rear end which was great until we started towing the Airstream. Tow mileage was in the 8-9 mpg range and it really had to work on any hills so last summer, I started looking for a used E-350 with a PowerStroke in it. Found a 2001 in California with 88K (still under warranty), had it shipped (a friend checked it out for me), and have never looked back. I installed some 2004 factory towing extending mirrors (like on F-250), slapped some factory Alcoas on it, hooked it up to the Overlander, and towed it on a 3300 mile trip this summer to Colo Spgs and back. It pulled like a freight train and with the load equalization bars, I barely knew it was back there once we achieved highway speed. Average fuel consumption was 10-12 mpg (@60-70mph), power was priceless. (I plan to install a 4" exhaust, AFE air filters, and a programmer which should increase performance noticeably) Without tow, mileage averages between 15.5-18 mpg.

I've never towed it with a pick-up so I can't compare, but I can't imagine it towing any better. We just returned from a trip to Jacksonville two weeks ago, and I can't count the number of times I commented how well it towed to my wife. Ford owns the full size van market in my book and I'm not aware of a diesel being offered in any of the others.

My recommendation is to not be in a hurry and do a nationwide search to find one with a diesel (if you plan to tow a lot, you'll get better power and torque, more performance options, better mileage, and usually a better transmission). I am certainly happy with my mine (102K now).

Below, ascending out of Palo Duro Canyon, Amarillo, TX this past summer
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