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Old 11-16-2010, 09:56 AM   #1
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Newbie needs TV Advice

Hi everyone, I'm new to towing, and seriously considering buying a 16-19' Sport. I see lots of opinions on tow vehicles, but would like to know what specifications I should be considering, ie weight of TV vs trailer, horsepower, torque, wheelbase, other??

I toured the Airstream plant in Ohio last week, and the only advice I got from them was "Go see a dealer." I don't want to walk into a dealer and have him try to sell me an Expedition with a huge engine if all I need is a 6-cyl. Escape.

Help, please!!
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Old 11-16-2010, 10:17 AM   #2
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Flight, what do you want to tow with? This size of trailer gives you a bunch of choices. Are you buying new? Is it going to be a daily driver?

And what sort of cars do you like? Narrowing things down a bit will help a lot.

Tom
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Old 11-16-2010, 10:24 AM   #3
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This vehicle will not be my daily car - I have a 2010 VW Jetta TDI, which I love, but it's not right for towing. Whatever I buy will be strictly for towing. I'd prefer comfortable, used but *newer*, SUV rather than pickup, and the smallest vehicle that will do the job well.

I'm an engineer, so I'm used to working with parameters. If I know what to look for, I can do some comparison shopping, knowing I'm still within the limits I need. Jeep Cherokee, Ford Escape/Explorer, that sort of vehicle, but would like to know how to determine which is optimum. Good mileage vs capability.

Thanks for any help you can give me!
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Old 11-16-2010, 10:48 AM   #4
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More questions: Any idea of your desired budget? And are you leaning towards the Sport 16' (a 3500 lb loaded trailer) or the Sport 22 (a 4500 lb loaded trailer)?

Tom
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Old 11-16-2010, 02:24 PM   #5
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I find extended or crew cab pickups a good choice for trailer trailer towing. Space to lock up some stuff up out of the weather and the bed for wet, dirty or bulky stuff like the grill, lawn chairs, wet patio rug, propane tanks etc. If a 1/2 ton is too big for you tastes, any small pickup like a Ranger would do fine for what you want to tow.
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Old 11-16-2010, 07:22 PM   #6
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You mentioned an Escape, so checked Ford.

V6 Escape towing capacity.........3500 lbs.

V6 Explorer towing capacity........5375 lbs.

V8 Explorer towing capacity........7115 lbs.

So, if you want anything larger than the Sport 16, I'd say an Explorer sized SUV would be your best choice.
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Old 11-16-2010, 09:16 PM   #7
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I talked to the young Denver couple who owned this rig. They said the FJ Cruiser towed well with no problems. I did not see if they had equalizer bars or any sway control. My friend owns an FJ and it is an awsome off-road vehicle and has Toyota reliability. The V6 is powerful, and for 3-4 thousand has a bolt-in supercharger available from Toyota.
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Old 11-16-2010, 10:15 PM   #8
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Is towing capacity the only thing I need to know? What about the weight or wheelbase of the tow vehicle? Or is that part of the tow capacity number?

I'm considering anything from 16' to 19' Sport.

Thanks for the ideas, everyone.
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Old 11-16-2010, 10:28 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Flight View Post
Is towing capacity the only thing I need to know? What about the weight or wheelbase of the tow vehicle? Or is that part of the tow capacity number?

I'm considering anything from 16' to 19' Sport.

Thanks for the ideas, everyone.
Yes, that's all part of it. Every manufacturer will give you the towing capacity of every vehicle they make, and most experienced people will tell you that a safety factor of about 20% is a good thing. Also, if you tow in the mountains, you cannot have too much power.
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Old 11-17-2010, 12:18 AM   #10
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Flight

The longer the wheelbase the better for stability.

I think the first decision you need to make is the type of vehicle- SUV or truck and do you want 2wd or 4wd.

I have a 66 Tradewind which probably weighs about the same as what you are considering. I tow with a 1/2 ton Tundra with the large motor (5.7L). I could tow with the Toyota Tacoma which is a V6. With the Tundra I have lots of power, lots of room (double cab and a covered bed) and a great 6 speed transmission which means no hunting between gears and decent fuel economy (14mpg towing). If I had the smaller Toyota truck the main advantage would be a much smaller vehicle. All the new full size trucks are HUGE.

So I guess you need to figure out if you want a medium size SUV, a large SUV, a small truck or a large truck. Only you can figure out what will work best for you. Once you think you know what TV you want to buy, ask for feed back from forum members that tow with the vehicle that you are considering. I am also an engineer. I like to consider all the options and then analyse the hell out of all of them. It keeps me from making a mistake.

Enjoy your search. I did.

Dan
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Old 11-17-2010, 06:57 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by Flight View Post
Is towing capacity the only thing I need to know? What about the weight or wheelbase of the tow vehicle? Or is that part of the tow capacity number?
The manufacturer's determination of towing capacity is dominated by powertrain cooling concerns. These are tested in an extreme condition - towing a steep grade at highway speeds in 100+ temperatures with the AC full on, without throwing any codes or overheating transmission fluid. Since this is a rather extreme test, I personally don't have a problem towing at the rating.

However, there's more to it. You'll see that vehicles with different curb weights and different wheelbases have different tow ratings. (The 4600 lb, long-wheelbase Honda minivan that I typically tow with has the same 3500lb rating as a much shorter, much lighter, also-unibodied Toyota RAV4 or Ford Escape.) Longer wheelbase = better. But a short rear overhang also plays a big role in how the vehicle handles a trailer.

Typically, design considerations that make a solo vehicle handle, brake, or accelerate better also help those factors when you're towing. Personally, I like towing with unibody ("car-based" or "crossover") tow vehicles. They usually have sharper steering response and ride better, as well as getting better fuel economy, especially when you're not towing.

Two more things though play a role here - ease and vehicle price. Since you're new to this, it would be nice to buy a vehicle that has a factory tow package that only requires you to plug in a brake controller and off you go. For the most part, that limits you to more traditional SUVs (like a Ford Explorer, Toyota Sequoia, or Nissan Pathfinder).

There are car-based SUVs, like the 2007+ Acura MDX, 2009+ Honda Pilot (and the related Ridgeline truck), Chevy Traverse/GMC Acadia/Saturn Outlook/Buick Enclave, and Ford Flex that can be that simple to set up. All of these, in their most recent versions, can tow 4500 lbs or more. They're all nice to drive. But they'll all cost you at least $22k and some of these are pretty large. That's because, in general, the concept of a manufacturer bothering to validate a unibodied SUV to tow more than 3500 lbs is a recent development as the market shifted away from selling 400k Explorers a year.

Older versions of the Honda Pilot/Acura MDX, most minivans, as well as a pile of other SUVs are rated for 3500 lbs. But most of these will require you (or a shop) to run the wiring for a brake controller. Some might need additional transmission coolers installed. It's a one-time expense, but it is something of a hassle.

Since you own (and like) your Jetta, I'll mention that the VW Touareg has a devoted fan following here - it drives nicely and has compact dimensions coupled with an impressive towing capacity. (It can tow much bigger trailers than you're considering.) It's not likely to be cheap or troublefree to own (buy the newest one you can get) and installing a brake controller takes some work (there are plenty of online instructions for doing it.)

What would I buy? I love towing with the minivan (it handles the trailer very well), but it's not the smallest tow vehicle nor is it plug and play. A Honda Pilot or Acura MDX would work here. Something like a newer Ford Explorer (get a 2006+ with a V8) isn't the most refined tow vehicle, but it's easy to set up, has independent rear suspension, there are piles of them around, and they depreciate like stones. (The Kia Borrego is in a similar boat, but future resale would be atrocious because no one knows it exists - still, a 2009 full-sized SUV for under $20k with simple brake controller installation and a long warranty...) Or, knowing the success another forum poster has had with towing with his Infiniti sedan, I can't help thinking about how fun a Infiniti FX35 with a Sport 16 would be but it would take some effort to set up...

In other words, you have lots of choices - and lots of opportunities for research. (We engineers love research.)

Tom
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Old 11-17-2010, 07:58 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Flight View Post
Hi everyone, I'm new to towing, and seriously considering buying a 16-19' Sport. I see lots of opinions on tow vehicles, but would like to know what specifications I should be considering, ie weight of TV vs trailer, horsepower, torque, wheelbase, other??

Help, please!!
Go to this link:

Trailer Life Magazine: Follow the Road to Adventure

About mid-page, on the right, you will find links to the 2003 to 2010 towing guides. These list most of the manufacturers guides to towing limitations. The manufacturers have invested a huge amount of time and expense in engineering and design in order to determine the actual towing capacity of any given vehicle. In my opinion, these limitations should not be violated.

Please note the options that are required for the max towing capacity - rear end ratios make a huge difference, as do the types of transmissions, various coolers, and motors.

A good rule of thumb (especially on the smaller tow vehicles (TV's)) is to estimate the anticipated gross weight of the trailer, add 20%, then pick an appropriatly rated TV.

Don't underestimate the "stuff" you will carry, nor the weight of the trailer itself - 4,000 to 4,500 lbs gross would not be a bad guess for a 19 footer.

Don't forget to add in the weight of a weight distribution hitch...a Reese dual cam would be a good match for this size Airstream.

When you add in the weight of a couple of passengers, the dead weight of the tongue weight and hitch, a cooler and "other stuff" added into the TV it is easy to put the TV overweight...a good example is my Excursion - with just two of us, the '78 Sovereign on the tongue, the pups, and a really small amount of light "stuff" in the rear we are close to the maximum Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of this relatively heavy SUV.

Highly recommended is to negotiate in the purchase of the trailer the time of a technician to accompany you to a weight scale (most all large truck stops have them) to adjust the WD setup for the optimum setting - for 20 bucks or so you can get enough weighs to properly get a base weight line, set you up, and make a couple of adjustments. Weigh costs at a commercial scale are typically 8 to 12 bucks for the first weigh, and then one dollar for each additional weigh for adjustments.

Here is a sample table to work with...




Do a "Google Search" on "weight distribution hitch set up" from the search menu pull down found under "search" on the top right pull down options on the AirForums home page.

Plan on doing NO MORE than 600 miles per day of towing - arrive well prior to sunset, and drive SLOW.

Make sure you go to a Forum or a WBCCI ralley to search out help and suggestions for your first couple of camping experiences. Don't hesitate to ask for help - most any Airstreamer will take the time to give advice and explain how things work.

You and your camping partner should practice backing up into parking spaces from various starting angles prior to visiting your first campground. An almost empty large store parking lot is ideal for this.

By the way, you will not be "camping" you will be "Airstreaming".

Most of us are very visual oriented - post pics - lots of pics.

Welcome to the Forums. Please keep us updated on your Airstream negotiations.
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Old 11-17-2010, 08:35 AM   #13
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One of the best designed for towing and most comfortable.
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Old 02-04-2011, 01:41 PM   #14
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One of the best designed for towing and most comfortable.
Its cool to see your Ridgeline towing- we have one and it is the best truck we've ever had. We don't tow with it, we use a Tundra only because it was the newer vehicle, but I wish we were using the Ridgeline! Get em while they last, there will be no more after this year.
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