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Old 10-01-2003, 09:19 PM   #1
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Hmmm... 2003 Chevy 1/2 ton burban & 27' Safari

Howdy, all!

I'd appreciate your thoughts on this trailering set-up. I hate to ask one of these trailering-type questions but I have to give in finally. I've been reading as much as possible to make an informed decision/question but hey, 10s of thousands of dollars are at stake here, so I gotta ask you "experts" for confirmation/objections first!


We'd like to buy an A/S once and for all and feel that 27' feet would meet that need in terms of long-term livability. Need a separate bedroom (for babies to cry themselves to sleep in) and twin beds preferably. A dinette and sofa would be nice, places which can hold people (kids drawing at the table and parents sitting on the sofa). The 25'ers can potentially meet that need except it has that full bed/rear bath mix which is a little less than ideal (walking past sleeping kids to use the BR). We live in western Colorado and may need to routinely cross mountain passes up to 10,000 ft.

Tow vehicle: 2003 Chevy Suburban 1/2 ton 5.3L, V8, 4.1 a.r.

GCWR 14000, GVWR 7200 => leaving about 6800 lbs for a trailer (assuming reaching max GVWR, right?)
Carries bicycles, kayaks, associated gear (~100-200 lbs). Oh yeah, 2 adults (total 200 lbs), 1 baby (20 lbs) and 1 Golden Retriever puppy (30 lbs, going on likely 80 lbs). Will likely need to go to one of those scales. Have no clue if we're anywhere near GVWR.

Trailer: A/S 2000 Safari 27'

GVWR 7300, Dry weight 5440 + Hitch 730 = 6170 lbs
Read on another thread that water and propane would add about 460 lbs as well => 6170 + 640 = 6810 (which just about matches my limit for a trailer assuming max Towing Vehicle GVWR, right?). So, either no further trailer cargo (with max towing vehicle GVWR) or (if not reaching Towing Vehicle GVWR) up to about 500 lbs additional trailer cargo, right?

In summary: Possible with less than max truck GVWR and max/near max trailer GVWR. Right? Or wrong (cause of the mountains, 20-25% less than max rule, etc.)????

WELL, what do you think?

1) Do-able? By a lot (probably not)? Barely (maybe)?
2) Is it safe?
3) Any families out there doing just fine in a 25'er?

Thanks ahead of time for your advice/info/critique.

Airstream: 2004 Safari 28W
2005 Chevy Suburban 2500 8.1L
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Old 10-01-2003, 09:38 PM   #2
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1978 25' Tradewind
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I'm towing a 25' 1978 Tradewind which weighs about 4500# dry and a tongue weight of about 600#. The tow vehicle is a 2001 Tahoe 4x4 with factory tow package, rated to tow roughly 7500#.

I've been up some mountains with it; matter of fact I bought it in Greeley, CO and towed it home to Phoenix.

The "towability" is fine in terms of sway and stability. I'm also using a Reese Dual Cam hitch, which I believe helps a bunch. Engine power is, to me at least, on the lower end of acceptable for a 4500# trailer. We're fine on the flats, but going up hill gets a little embarassing

I'm thinking you'd be happier and safer with more tow vehicle slash less trailer.

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Old 10-01-2003, 09:52 PM   #3
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5.3 is proving to be a solid motor but your at the upper limits ESPECIALLY when you get into high altitudes. The make or break deal will be how that burb is equipped for the rear axle. Ideally a 4.10 gear and a Semi Floating 14 bolt is what you want to find. (count the bolts holding the cover on). That's a sturdy axle with a good size ring and pinion that will stand up to the abuse of trailering.

In the glove box is a sticker with a bunch of codes on it. Those codes represent everything on that vehicle. They are called "RPO" codes. One of those codes will tell you the gear ratio. The higher the number the better. Like I said, 4.10 is what you want to find. 3.73 is pushing it.....really pushing it. anything less then 3.73 and I would say it's too much trailer for the tow vehicle. Your going to have no power and it will be very hard on the transmission.

Now that said you can change the gear ratio. It's going to set you back about $700. You might even hit the local junk yards if you have a 10 bolt. You might be able to pick up a 6lug sf 14 that will be a bolt on for about the same amount of money. Many Z71's had that axle and as long as the spring purch width is the same it will be a bolt on. The computer for the engine will also need to be reconfigured for the gear ratio. When they reprogram it they can revise the shift points to hold gear a little longer and shift a little firmer.

You also need to add a big transmission cooler. A Stack plate cooler is more efficent then a tube and fin design. If your a do it yourselfer Pep Boys stocks Hayden brand stack plate coolers. I have put these on my last three trucks and been very pleased with them.

How far are you from Denver? Here is a shop near Denver that could handle the gear change or axle swap. Talk to Stephen and tell him "Grim" (My other internet name that he knows me by) sent ya. He might even be able to locate the axle for you If you have him do the work. He's a straight up guy and buisness owner. I have delt with him many times. He does gear and axles changes regularly.

Not sure if he has the equipment to reprogram the ECM. It's a 4x4 shop and most of the stuff he does is custom work on older vehicles so may not have the equipment but I bet he knows somebody that does.
1959 22' Caravanner
1988 R20 454 Suburban.
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Old 10-01-2003, 10:28 PM   #4
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It does have a 4.10 rear axle ratio with a transmission oil cooler. Think I can do it?
Airstream: 2004 Safari 28W
2005 Chevy Suburban 2500 8.1L
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Old 10-02-2003, 02:16 AM   #5
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You are really cutting in close. The rule is to take 20% to 25% of the gross weight and that's what you should stick with. You are going to the max. You could pull it but you are going to stress out the automobile if you are running max weight all the time.
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Old 10-02-2003, 04:02 AM   #6
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Originally posted by docbluedevil
It does have a 4.10 rear axle ratio with a transmission oil cooler. Think I can do it?
Go rent a U-Haul car trailer and put a mid size car on it and see how it feels. Understand that this will not represent the true handling caracteristics that you will have with a camper with propper hitch set up. It will give you an idea of how the truck wil handle the weight without spending a fortune.
1959 22' Caravanner
1988 R20 454 Suburban.
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Old 10-02-2003, 05:44 AM   #7
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If you're going to be carrying all of your toys(kayak, mountain bikes ect), wife and kids plus pulling your trailer over those awesome passes on a regular basis, I'd get a 3/4 ton that's made to handle these loads.

If you lived in FL and would be going up to NC or northern GA, I'd say go for it; but since you live in the land of 10,000' mountain passes, get a tow vehicle that will make all of your outings enjoyable.

So yes, your tow vehicle will handle those passes, but for how long and how safe? Nothing worst than seeing a rig broken down about 3/4 ways up a 8 mile steep grade.

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Old 10-02-2003, 08:11 AM   #8
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Re:2003 Chevy 1/2 ton burban & 27' Safari

Here's my 2 cents, based on experience towing an A/S with a Chevy 5.3. (2000 Chevy 1500 Silverado with a 19' Bambi)

The 5.3 is a great engine. The only drawback (for towing) is that in order for it to perform you have to spin it! Since your Burb has 4.10 gears this should be no problem as long as you tow with the trans in the "tow/haul" mode. You will need to lock it out of O/D whenever you're actually in the mountains otherwise you'll find yourself in O/D at the bottom of a steep hill and will loose momentum so fast the trans will end up in 2nd gear in about 1.5 seconds (speaking from experience). I towed my Bambi north out of Durango on hwy 550 and never had any trouble accellating uphill even at 10,000'. I averaged 14 MPG towing my Bambi from CA to CO and back and spent very little time on the interstate.

Your assumption of subtracting your Suburban's GVWR from it's GCWR is a good "quick & dirty" method of determining max trailer weight. However it ignores the fact that most of the trailer's tongue weight is carried by the tow vehicle and needs to be subtracted from your payload. Also, you were adding tongue weight to the trailer's dry weight which is already figured into the dry weight. If you add 1,000 lbs to the trailer's "wet weight" you'll come pretty close to your normal road weight (based on how much weight we carried in our camper with our son and 2 small dogs).

Since you have a 1/2 ton Surburban I'll make a recommendation regarding tires. If you have 265/70-16s consider replacing them with a set of 245/75-16s. GM mounts the 265/70s on a rim that too narrow for best stability.

As for whether a 25' is large enough it all comes down to what you can live with. The only advantage to a 27' Safari (over a 25') is the split bathroom, larger wardrobe, and a bit more space in the living room area. There is only about 500 lbs difference between the 25 and 27 foot Safari.
When our son was 6 months old we took him on a 3 week trip in our 10' slide-in camper along with 2 small dogs. Very tight but doable. The trick is setting up a sleeping area just for the baby that you know they can't get out of. How are you going to bathe the baby? The cramped quarters and bathroom configuration is what convinced us to sell our truck & camper in favor of a trailer. We are convinced that a 25' Safari will work well for us as soon as our son is out of the "terrible twos".
Steve Heywood
Waddell, AZ
1999 19' Bambi (SOLD)
1997 30' Excella (SOLD)
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Old 08-22-2011, 07:59 AM   #9

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IMHO....your TV will tow the 27'. How satisfied you will be with it you will only know after the first tow. Try it!

My experience...the loaded camping & tongue weight is most always underquesstimated.

I was very surprised after our first trip to the CAT's.

25' Classic,
Our combined wt..15960# with a trailer axle wt of 7640#, loaded for 2wks of boondocking, full Lpg, full fresh tank. Note that is 340#'s over GVTW of 7300#.

POI...and I don't know if this has changed on the later model AS. Our Classic is equipped with two axles rated at 3500# each. Goes without saying I have been keeping a close eye on them. SFSG.

Good Luck!!

AF #1

"Sticks & stones can break your bones...and hail will dent your Airstream"

So when is this..."old enough to know better" supposed to kick in?
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Old 08-22-2011, 08:36 AM   #10
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Thumbs up I Had This Combination Once

My wife and I towed a 2000 Safari 27' with a 2003 Chevy Suburban. On our first run from Albuquerque, NM to Sierra Vista, AZ for three nights and then over to Pancho Villa State Park, NM for two nights; we averaged 14 mpg. I was very pleased with the TV and trailer comination. That Suburban had a 3.73 RA. If it had a 4.10, we would still have it!

Based on direct experience, I ordered an identical suburban with a 4.10 RA. The dealer subsequently sold out and the new owners would not honor the purchase price we agreed to. So, I bought a new 2500HD Duramax from a different dealer to make a trip through Canyonlands to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, where I believed the 5.3L in front of a 3.73 would have been marginalized.

You have found a winning combination. Go for it!

Just remember, you'll have all the towing power you need, but there will be no margin for excess cargo weight like sewing machine, encyclopedia, generator, fine china, heirloom silverware, rock collections, etc.

Ken L
2007 Classic Limited 30 (Sold)
2007Chevy Silverado 2500 HD Duramax/Allison
Four Corners Unit WBCCI #8654, Affiliate NM Unit
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