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Old 01-31-2010, 06:30 PM   #1
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1988 34' Excella
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New Airstream owner needs towing advice

After several months looking for the "perfect" used Airstream we found it. It is a 1988 Excella 34', tri axle. Although it is larger than we expected to find, its near mint condition and price were too good to pass up. My trailering experience has been limited to boats, the largest of which was a 28' fiberglass on a tri axle with surge brakes. My present tow vehicle is a 2004 GMC 1500 extended cab , 5.3 L, 3.73 rear axle and full towing package. Any advice relating to hitch, tow vehicle or anything else would be apprecitated
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Old 01-31-2010, 06:40 PM   #2
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I could be wrong but I think you are pushing the limit with your 1/2 ton pickup. Maybe down here in Florida you might be alright but any mountain towing might be a challenge. I use an f250 diesel on my 28' and would find anything smaller unsafe, but than thats just me.
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Old 01-31-2010, 06:56 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Eagle View Post
After several months looking for the "perfect" used Airstream we found it. It is a 1988 Excella 34', tri axle. Although it is larger than we expected to find, its near mint condition and price were too good to pass up. My trailering experience has been limited to boats, the largest of which was a 28' fiberglass on a tri axle with surge brakes. My present tow vehicle is a 2004 GMC 1500 extended cab , 5.3 L, 3.73 rear axle and full towing package. Any advice relating to hitch, tow vehicle or anything else would be apprecitated
You should be using a load equalizing hitch, for safety.

Probably a Reese 750 dual cam hitch would work great for you.

If your going to do a lot of towing, a good transmission oil cooler would be very helpful. If you vehicle already has one, it's way to small for the task intended.

Andy
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Old 01-31-2010, 07:04 PM   #4
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I got rid of my 1/2 Silverado 5.3l,373 gear truck,it would not have the guts when I hit Ky.or WV hills.Upgraded to 2500 6L. Dave
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Old 01-31-2010, 07:08 PM   #5
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Congrats. Patience and caution are the keys to towing the triple axle, 34 footer. Sounds as if you plan to get a different tow vehicle. Your 5.3 definitely doesn't have enough ponies. Having towed mine with both a 5.7 Chevy 1/2 ton gassser and my present 3/4 ton Dodge diesel, I lean toward the 3/4 ton for our use. Diesels are definately not for everyone although I prefer the Cummins. You'll need at least the 6.0 gasser if your leaning toward staying with GM.

As for hitch set up-- I have a load distributing hitch with a Draw-Tite sway control. Have yours installed by a qualified installer and follow the book on set-up. It takes a while to tweak it but it isn't too hard. It involves measuring truck to ground at front and rear before hooking the trailer up, then measuring again after hook-up. Keep the same proportion to level the unit by increasing the tension on the torsion bars. Too much tongue weight on the hitch will make the truck wander and the trailer fishtail. Too little and you'll lose traction. After you get it where you like it remember how tight you have it and hook up that way each time.

You'll get a lot of advice here, and most of it is pretty good!

Gene
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Old 01-31-2010, 07:10 PM   #6
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I also recently traded my GMC 1/2 ton, 5.3L, 3.73 geared truck for a 3/4 ton Diesel because I was dissatisfied with the towing performance on hills at altitude with our 25 ft. Airstream.

If you want to stay with that truck, I would suggest the ProPride or the Hensley hitch, and then stay in flat country. You may also need some heavier duty tires as I don't believe the passenger tires that my 1/2 ton came with would handle the weight of the 34'.
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Old 01-31-2010, 07:42 PM   #7
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Welcome Aboard..

A good weight distributing hitch with sway control is manditory.
HowStuffWorks "How Towing Weight Distribution Systems Work"

HowStuffWorks "How Brake Controllers Work"

I have towed with a GM 1500, it could do it, but I really don't think it would be a fun ride.
By the time your loaded ready to go, the amount of payload left for the truck may be two Starbucks and a pair of flip-flops.
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Old 01-31-2010, 07:42 PM   #8
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1998 30' Excella 1000
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need bigger truck

First off congrats on the trailer. You do need a bigger truck, 3/4 ton or 1 ton. Gas is ok but torque is what will get you going and up hills so diesel is what I use. Add up all the weight that you are towing and hauling in the truck and I feel you will agree. Your 1/2 ton can do it but you will be right at its limits if not somewhat over. The hitch advice above is all good. Good luck and enjoy your new trailer.
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Old 01-31-2010, 08:18 PM   #9
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A 1/2 ton will tow a 34 footer.........BUT...I think

Soon or sooner, you will run into bad problems or really bad problems.
Brake pads and rotors won't last long. In Florida heat, your engine
will most likely overheat. You might ruin your transmission.
A big trailer like that could easily push around the rear end of a 1/2 ton tow vehicle into a jack knife situation. Granted, my 1/2 ton is only rated to pull 5000 lbs. My trailer is 3000 lbs dry weight. I wish I had a beefier
rig for towing. IMHO I don't think you will be happy or safe with a 1/2 ton.

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Old 02-01-2010, 03:54 PM   #10
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1988 34' Excella
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Many thanks for all the prompt replies and good advice. The trailer is in storage now in TN and I will not be making any trips before spring. Looks like I have a few decisions to make but there is time to make them. First job is to find a good reliable weight distribution/sway control system. The electric brake controller and larger heavy duty tires were part of the original package - thanks for mentioning them. I want the rig to be safe first of all and your advice gives me a good start. I think I am going to enjoy this group
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