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Old 06-17-2008, 03:13 PM   #1
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Getting More Confused by the Day

We are in the process of upgrading our TV and Trailer. We currently have a 2004 Toyota Sienna LE and a 2007 Fleetwood Popup. This has worked fine given what it is. We average 18.5 mpg overall with towing about 15 - 17 and without trailer 24 - 25 - But at this point we must sacrifice mpg for increased functionality. One major factor in our TV/Trailer choice is that there are three of us - all adults. Our son lives & travels with us since he had an auto accident 5 yrs ago that left him somewhat handicapped. So, comfort is a big necessity. We have gone as long as 10 weeks with our popup and just returned from a whirlwind New England + trip (6 weeks) with over 6,000 miles logged on. We are getting ready for our annual trek to Oregon and Arizona (Family in both) and have decided to upgrade our TV here (Arkansas) and haul the Popup one last time out to Oregon and hopefully make our decision on a new trailer out there (or worst case scenario in Arizona). So here goes -

We definitely want a 4 season trailer (a lot of our travel is in the northwest). We have been to every state but Alaska and have been camping for over 40 years. We have pretty much ruled out a 5th wheel. We desire a comfortable living area instead of just crowding around a dining table with no space to move about. We must have a really good toilet facility (shower not important). Airstream has several models that would work for us including 23, 25, 27 & possibly 28' - If we go much bigger then it might make more sense to consider a 5th wheel. We have also looked at Bigfoot but.... It's not an Airstream.

We have spent considerable time looking at tow vehicles starting with Toyota Highlander (only tows 5000#) Toyota Sequoia (Overpriced with limited functionality in the rear - we don't need that extra row of seats and it is a gas hog) Currently considering merits of Toyota Tundra vs Chevy Silverado (Crew Cab 4X4) and the ever lingering question of going for a 3/4 ton diesel. You may sense a partiality towards Toyota but not necessarily true. We have had outstanding use of our Sienna - Comfort, Utility and Economics but we are open to whatever works best.

Trying to match tow vehicle and trailer combination has become extremely frustrating. Following various threads here and on other websites generally leads to arguments and questions of one's patriotism (as in buy American and so forth). It seems that discussing trailers is something to be avoided along with politics and religion. But, that aside can anyone provide some useful guidelines? It is also very obvious that every choice can or will work for someone somewhere. There is probably someone towing a 34foot Classic Limited with a Yugo (downhill of course) but certainly there must be a reputable source that can offer up suggested combinations that will work in the real (REAL) world. Not things that could work if you don't bring anything but a toothbrush and everyone in the family weighs 89 pounds and you drive with only 1/4 tank of gas to keep the weight just right. TV dealers and RV dealers cannot be trusted to offer unbiased opinions - according to them anything can work with anything. It has been sad to read some of the threads relating to the advice given only to learn later that it doesn't really work that way.

So, I turn to you seasoned Airstream veterans for your most valuable guidance. And yes, I know there are other brands of trailers that weigh a whole lot less and of course I could buy one of those big-honkin' Ford F650's or whatever but please be "real" Thank you all in advance. No matter how good or bad some of these threads are I have been learning and appreciate them.

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Old 06-17-2008, 03:29 PM   #2
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It really comes down to the size of the trailer you buy. Once you settle on the size and weight then you can intelligently deal with the tow vehicle issue. Right now most of the half ton tow vehicles can do you well, dependent upon engine size and rear axle ratio. Again once we get a good idea of the trailer size and weight, the rest becomes pretty easy.

I pulled a 27' Safari with a half ton Chevy van for 3 years. The only thing I would have preferred was that the axle be a little taller than the 3.73. I weighed the Safari in at 6,000 lbs with normal camping load and the Chevy's tow limit with the 5.7 liter gas engine was 6,500 lbs. I wouldn't take it into the mountains but for normal towing it did just fine.


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Old 06-17-2008, 03:29 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forums Zar! Find the trailer you want and match your tow vehicle to it. You mentioned going up to a 28' Airstream. I have heard more people complain about not enough room than too much room, so I would say go with the biggest your are comfortable towing. Are you considering a new or used RV and TV?
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Old 06-17-2008, 03:31 PM   #4
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Hi ZarZac,

First - welcome.

Second, as has been said time and time again - find the trailer you want first and then pick a tow vehicle approriate to that trailer.

The reason is simple - your trailer will (God willing) outlast your tow vehicle by several decades and you can't properly match a tow vehicle until you know for certain what it will be expected to tow.

That said, here is my rule of thumb:

Any trailer will tow best behind a full-size pickup or SUV with body-on-frame (not unibody) construction and a solid V-8 truck engine. For a 23' - 25' trailer I would not go less than a half-ton pickup or SUV, 5.4-5.7 liter V-8, 3.73 rear end and (my preference) an automatic transmission with an auxilliary cooler (usually included in newer vehicles with a manufacturer-installed tow package). For a 27' or larger trailer I would want a 3/4 ton truck with the largest V-8 gas or diesel engine offered, 4.10 rear end and, again, an auto transmission. None of these tow vehicle/trailer combos are going to do any better than about 15 mpg when towing. Unfortunately, you need horsepower and torque to move heavy loads safely and with peace of mind and to get those you have to have big engines, lower gear ratios and considearble fuel consumption.

Also keep in mind that even though you might get by towing a large trailer with something less than I have described, you will be rolling the dice any time you have to maneuver quickly or bring the rig to a sudden stop. Larger trucks are designed for towing and they have all the prerequisites for doing so which include proper suspension and braking systems.

Good luck in your search for the "perfect" combo.

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Old 06-17-2008, 10:39 PM   #5
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Welcome to the Airforums! We hope you can find information and support here that you need to make the best decision for your situation. As you've already noticed, the topic of tow vehicles and their capabilities is a touchy one and there are a lot of opinions to wade through...some having solid advice and some with more emotional advice. It is smart to decide what trailer you want and to go from there...because that really is the determining factor...what you're towing. There is much discussion on the forums about towing and tow vehicles in the subforums ( Towing, Tow Vehicles & Hitches - Airstream Forums ) ...try to get through it without your head exploding and do some independent research through the internet and various vehicle specifications... You will get to the right decision for you...just remember that safety and control of the rig is the ultimate goal. Good luck!
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Old 07-01-2008, 03:14 PM   #6
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I have a 2004 Nissan Titan XE crew cab without the towing package. My suggestion is start with the owner's manual. According to Nissan, my truck has a towing capacity of 6,500 pounds. The "gross combined vehicle weight" (GCVR) rating is 11,600 pounds. Let's say the Titan weighs 5,600 pounds with me, my wife, fuel, etc., that means Nissan thinks my trailer should weigh less no more than 6,000 pounds "soaking wet."

Now, because I have done a fair share of research on the Titan, I know that I can change the rear end gearing, reflash the ECU, add a transmission and differential temperature gauges and make a few other changes. This can increase my towing capacity to 9,400 and my GCVR to 14,600... at least on paper. This means my "soaking wet" trailer could weigh up to 9,000 pounds.

Now, along with the seemingly endless parade of weights, you have to think about tongue weight. A half-ton truck (like the Titan) has a "dump it in the bed" capacity of about 1000 pounds. To balance a trailer for towing, Nissan's handy owner's manual says to keep the tongue weight at nine to 11 percent of the trailer weight. So, the 9,000 pound trailer is going to put about 900 pounds of weight on the hitch. This means there's not much more a guy can put in the rear bed... even with suspension add ons.

This is generally why Kevin's rule of thumb is pretty sound. Once you get to the 27' and over range, it's not just the trailer weight, it's the tongue weight, the sail area of the trailer and the overall handling dynamics.

As for your somewhat handicapped son, my brother-in-law is a quadraplegic. Spending time with him has given me a different view on accessibility issues. The general tone of your post is that you want something with plenty of elbow room. For a long road trip, I think my wife and I decided the 25' was the minimum for our comfort. With the modifications to the Titan I have in mind, I'd feel comfortable pulling a 25' Safari. If we moved to anything larger, I'd be shopping for a new tow vehicle. Now, not everyone will feel the same way, but my basic approach is to start by opening the owner's manual and do the math. Towing is pretty much physics in action. There are all kinds of improvements one can make to enhance stability, but there's nothing on the market that allow a person to defy Newtownian physics.

There are different levels to the analysis. What can I tow? What can I tow legally? What can I tow safely? What can I tow comfortably? Personally, I don't feel comfortable unless I feel safe... and I don't feel safe unless I know I have a margin for error. Good luck.
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Old 07-01-2008, 03:30 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by hampstead38 View Post
There are different levels to the analysis. What can I tow? What can I tow legally? What can I tow safely? What can I tow comfortably? Personally, I don't feel comfortable unless I feel safe... and I don't feel safe unless I know I have a margin for error. Good luck.
Excellent response!

As I like to say, there is more to selecting a tow vehicle than figuring out if it can PULL the weight of the trailer.

It also has to be able to STOP the trailer safely in an appropriate amount of time, and it has to be able to CONTROL the trailer when emergency situations arise.

I have seen too many cases of the "tail wagging the dog" lying in heaps by the side of the road....

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Old 07-01-2008, 03:46 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by ZarZac View Post
We are getting ready for our annual trek to Oregon and Arizona (Family in both) and have decided to upgrade our TV here (Arkansas) and haul the Popup one last time out to Oregon and hopefully make our decision on a new trailer out there (or worst case scenario in Arizona)...
hi zarzac and welcome to the forums....

3 things....

1. WHY aren't u upgrading the trailer IN arkansas? you've got one of the BEST dealers in the nation in searcy...

LOTS of posts on gene and mike and aoa here so don't go to oregon to buy it.

and they won't blow smoke about matching the right tow vehicle either...

2. the toyota appears to be a nice 1/2 ton range truck with a nice drivetrain, brakes and blah, blah, blah...

BUT a new 'stream OVER 25 foot is a LOT of trailer,

the primary issue being PAYLOAD on the tundra.

with people and gear and a hitch and the tongue mass and so on, it is EASY to be OVER the toy'tun payload rating.

3. almost NO ONE who goes UP from a 1/2 to a 3/4 size tv goes BACK to the 1/2 tv and especially with 25ft+ size trailers...

there are a LOT of reasons for this, but whatever they are it is a pretty universal observation/behavior...

Originally Posted by hampstead38 View Post
I have a 2004 Nissan Titan...<<WACKY, STUFF>>....There are different levels to the analysis. What can I tow? What can I tow legally? What can I tow safely? What can I tow comfortably? Personally, I don't feel comfortable unless I feel safe... and I don't feel safe unless I know I have a margin for error. Good luck.
sorry but juicing the titan doesn't increase towing capacity, even on paper.

are u gonna swap frames and axles and suspension bits? THOSE changes might generate more towing capacity...

but NO ONE is gonna change the published and accepted ratings regardless.

there are folks towing bigger streams with a titan and they occasionally post, but not often.

canoestream HAS towed with both a titan and a 3/4 diesel truck.

his observations (enthusiastic and later realistic) should be reviewed.

the titan is sort of a 3/8th ton truck imo.

23 footer GREAT, 25 footer, adequate, but not great, 25+ not enough truck....

chipping, cooling and gearing, doesn't equal CONTROLLING a bigger fish.

2get a margin FOR error go for a smaller trailer or MORE mule!

but the trailer u LIKE and UPGRADE the tv as needed...

all of the true things that i am about to tell you are shameless lies. l.b.j.

we are here on earth to fart around. don't let anybody tell you any different. k.v.
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Old 07-01-2008, 05:15 PM   #9
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The primary difference between the Titan and the "Big Tow" Titan is the gearing of the Dana 44 rear end. Other than gauges and mirrors, there are no other major differences (same frame, same axles, same suspension) and the "BT" is rated to pull up to 9,400 pounds (though I would not tow anything this heavy with a Titan).

The Dana 44 rear end is one of the weak links in an otherwise very competent 1/2 ton truck. If the Titan is kept as a tow vehicle, I'll change the rear end and add the TrueTrac. This should make the rear differential far better than stock.

If it's doing any serious pulling, I'll install transmission and differential temperature gauges. All Titans have transmission coolers but some guys recommend a second cooler depending on the application. As for suspension, I like the Roadmaster system to stabilize the back end. I'll add the PRG shackles which are a big improvement over the stock shackles. Otherwise, the suspension is fairly robust for a 1/2 ton truck. The front brakes are already aftermarket.

Now, I fully understand none of my changes will make the Titan a 3/4 ton truck... which is why I would stay under 25' and 6,000 pounds "wet" on my trailer selection if I were dead set on keeping the Titan. If I wanted to pull a 27' or longer, I'd jump past the 3/4 tons and strike a deal on the 1-tons dealers are trying to move these days.

I don't mean to disagree, "2," but nothing I proposed is about "juicing" the Titan. It's all about staying well within the limits of the vehicle and making the pull safer. Even if I bought a 1-ton, I'd make some changes.
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Old 07-01-2008, 08:27 PM   #10
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GOTTA go there! Big inventory - super straight shooters. LOOK at and sit in, and lie down on beds. Try the bathroom for size. You'll know when you find the right one, but you might as well go for a "target rich" experience at one of the nations best Airstream dealers.

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Old 07-01-2008, 08:48 PM   #11
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Ironic Post...

Two years ago I was towing a 04 Coleman Utah popup with a 99 1/2 ton suburban (3.42 gearing). I now have a Safari 30 and a three quarter ton suburban with 3.73 gearing. All I can say the extra costs associated with a heavier vehicle is definately worth the better towing ease. My old suburban truly labored towing the popup on any hill with that gearing, not to mention terrible gas mileage. I tow my Airstream here in Texas and can get 10.5 - 11 mpg, which is what I got in my 1/2 ton and popup.

If it were me, I would go with a 3/4 ton on anything over a 25 footer, and if I were doing the type of cross country travel you guys are doing I would move up to a diesel truck as you can get another 3-5 mpg which adds up.
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Old 07-03-2008, 11:13 PM   #12
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I see 7,000-lbs as being the dividing line.

Above that weight a 3/4T truck is a default choice, IMO. (See also Can Am RV :: Andy T posts).

Much depends on your actual travel weight: people, fuel, supplies in the TV. Get that number, an accurate one to add to the TV base weight, and you'll have a better picture.

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