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Old 08-13-2006, 04:12 PM   #1
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Gibsons , British Columbia
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Nissan Frontier as a tow vehicle?

We're taking the plunge and possibly buying a twin axel 1975 23ft Safari (dry weight 3465 lbs, tongue weight 570lb). Yeah! Putting the horse ahead of the cart since we don't have a tow vehicle capable of pulling the trailer. We currently have a 2000 manual transmission Xterra which we like so we're looking at the Nissan Frontier 4x4 crew cab to satisfy our day to day needs as well as a tow vehicle. Reading the forum, most recommend a 15-20% leeway in tow capacity. A few questions in trying to determine if the Frontier fits the bill. The Gross Combined Vehicle weight is 11,000 lbs and the Gross Vehicle Weight Rate is 5600 lbs. The tow capacity is 6100 lb. The wheel base of the Frontier is 126 inches.
What is your typical weight of your trailer's contents (water, food, accessories etc) for a family of three? We've been told about 1000 lbs.
What is the typical tongue weight? We have read between 10 % & 15% of the loaded trailer weight and information on older model Airstreams indicate the tongue weight is 570 lbs, they are both similar figures but which is "more" accurate?
Considering toys, people, options on the vehicle, tongue weight and a trailer payload of 750 lbs we would exceed the tow vehicle payload by approximately 100lb, the GVWR by 100 lbs but not the GCWR. Does the weight distribution hitch help reduce the effective vehicle payload by distributing hitch load over all axels in the combined unit?
Our reserve tow capacity would be about 9% or 500 lbs. Is that cutting it too fine?

Any feedback from experienced travelers is appreciated.

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Old 08-13-2006, 04:52 PM   #2
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1993 21' Sovereign
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Welcome to the forums!
9% is a bit close, but depending on where and how you tow, and how much stuff you bring with you, it should be acceptable until trade-in time.

Meddle not in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy, and taste good with ketchup.
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Old 08-13-2006, 05:21 PM   #3
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Welcome to the forum! It's good to see you've done some preliminary study of this important and complex issue. If you've not already done so, I suggest you type "nissan frontier" in the search box at the top of the screen, and scan through the 13 threads which mention this vehicle.
To have a stab at some of your points:
1. The tongue weight will depend on where in the trailer you stow heavy weights. If you place spare tools, spare parts, and gallons of anti-freeze under the front couch (as I do), the tongue weight will be increased. Full or empty LP tanks will vary it by 60 pounds. In doing your calculations you should go for a high figure, to give a safety margin.
2. For two of us, with a full fresh water tank and food for a week, our payload quickly climbs to 1400 pounds, our limit.
3. A load distribution hitch changes the ground reaction forces at each axle. Without a WD hitch, there is a high ground reaction force at the rear axle of the tow vehicle. When the WD bars are tensioned, some of this force is transferred to the front axle of the tow vehicle, and some to the trailer axle(s). The WD hitch is a device to assist in the safe towing of a trailer by restoring the ground reaction force at the front steering axle of the tow vehicle to its designed level, not a device to enable heavier trailers to be pulled by a given tow vehicle. So my answer to that question is "no".If you want to look at some of the physics involved, try clicking on
(4) I have no knowledge of this vehicle, but from the figures you have supplied I would suggest you are too close to the manufacturers recommended limits for this combination. Mind you, I'm a boring old risk-averse rock-climber and solo sea-kayaker.....
Nick Crowhurst, Excella 25 1988, Dodge Ram 2500 Cummins Diesel. England in summer, USA in winter.
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Old 08-13-2006, 09:18 PM   #4
Frank S
1973 27' Overlander
peoria , Illinois
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Hi wotocho--Our 1973 27' Overlander has a listed dry weight of 4545lbs, with a listed tongue weight of 515lbs. Wet and loaded it weighs 6400lbs, on the axles. This would bring the total travel weight to 7000 to 7200lbs. Doing a little extrapolating your 23'er should be about 1000lbs less, or 6000 to 6200lbs, just at the tow capacity you mention for the Nissan. You might be able to increase the tow capacity of the Nissan to an acceptable level with a larger engine, larger numerical rear end, and larger tires, than you are considering. I am not familiar with the capabilities of the Nissan. The Chevy required to do the job (which I am familiar with) would be a 1/2 ton with a 5.3ltr engine and a 3.73 rear (4.10 would be better). You have a few mountains in your part of the world--a bigger T/V is always better. Glad to see you are considering A/S'ing. You're going to love it.--Frank S
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Old 08-14-2006, 10:15 PM   #5
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1960 24' Tradewind
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Hello wotocho,

I think that the frontier may be abit small ,many manafacturers put a high
tow rating on there vehicals ,and just because it can pull it doesn't mean
it should.You would be better off with the titan with the v8 as opposed to a
v6 for sure .Once your loaded up and hitting a good grade ,you will find out how small a v6 is pretty quick .Somthing to consider for certain is the
grades and power available to get up them ,and i don't mean at 75mph
either ,just capable even if doing 50 to 60 ,where the engine is not begging
for mercy .

Scott of scottanlily
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Old 08-14-2006, 10:39 PM   #6
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Its time to sell the Frontier.......You live in a beautiful place and there are a lot of great mountain destinations to explore right in your backyard! It will be painful to travel those passes in a barely capable tow vehicle at max load... Do yourself a favor and make the travel experience more pleasurable. Get a more robust tow vehicle.... The Titans are nice if you like Nissan.. the Toyota Tundra is also real nice.. I really like my PSD F250.. You may not need that much tow vehicle for the AS you’re considering but definitely build it in your plans to upgrade the tow vehicle there are lots of good deals on trucks these days... Good Luck.. Safe travels, Welcome to the community and Happy Airstreamin'
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."- Mark Twain

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Old 08-15-2006, 08:16 AM   #7
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Welcome to the Forums. Please consider the advice given on the Forums very carefully. A tow vehcle not up to the job can make Airstreaming less than fun. A marginally capable tow vehicle can turn a great trip into a "white knuckle" driving experience.
SuEllyn & Brian McCabe
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Old 08-15-2006, 09:10 AM   #8
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our experience

By the towing capacity, I'm assuming the Frontier is an 05' or newer with the 270hp V6.

Just by comparison, I tow a 19' Bambi (Dry 3600 (ish), wet 5000), tongue weight is 510 (w/o) tanks, assuming 600 with tanks, with an 05' Pathfinder and have had zero issues with weight, sway, white knuckles, or anything else.

I've pulled the bambi over 6-7000 foot passes regularly and not had a problem. In fact, even on an 8% grade I did not drop below 80kph. I see you're from BC, I towed from Fernie to Kelowna through the Crowsnest Pass.

Looking at the weights, you should be fine in what you have as long as you're not taking everything with you. We tend to buy food at the destination vs. lugging it around. The only concern would be the length of the trailer I would imagine. I would think you would be ok, but defintely take it for a test tow before purchasing.

I would agree, take heed to the advise that you'll receive on this topic but also have a grain of salt handy. Be sure to discern between advise and biased opinion.

cheers and 0.02,
Team Ironcops for Cancer 2006
Raced! Ironman Canada in support of the Canadian Cancer Society

We raised over 1.3 Million dollars for Cancer Reseach this year. Great job team!!
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Old 08-15-2006, 11:49 AM   #9
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Go Titan...

Since you are thinking of buying a Frontier specifically as a tow vehicle, I'd join crowd in favor of larger Titan truck. The Frontier is really more of a compact pickup, like Ford Ranger or Toyota Sequoia, and not really up to hauling heavy trailer on freeways and up and down hills.. The Frontier might work to get a boat down to local boat launch ramp, but if you plan to do any longer trips with Airstream, the heavier half-ton full size pickup would be better bet.. If price is a problem it's worth looking to try and find a slightly used one for same price as new Frontier...

John McG

In Theory, there's no difference between Theory and Practice, but in Practice, there is usually a difference...
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Old 08-15-2006, 12:26 PM   #10
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Nissan Titan

I'll chime in with a suggestion for the Titan if you're going to stick with a Nissan.

I've got a 2004 Titan LE Crew Cab 4x4 with the big tow package that I tow an '05 25' Safari SS with. It does a fine job.

You might be a little close with a Frontier.
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Old 08-15-2006, 01:01 PM   #11
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I probably shouldn't tell this one in this thread, but after reading about various trucks on the forum, I actually got behind a Nissan Titan in traffic in my Cummins Dodge Ram. Okay, I thought, you're the full sized truck from Nissan that folks are talking about.

So I pulled the Ram a little closer, and a little closer. Then I discovered that the width of the Titan was somewhat similar to the raised portion of my truck's hood.

Then I looked up at the backlight . . .

And I wondered if the Titan is full sized, what the heck is my Dodge?

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Old 08-15-2006, 10:24 PM   #12
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Heloo everyone ,

Let me just say that anyone that has towed with a small truck like the
pathfinder or frontier and has had an experience other than a good one
clearly will realize what people mean when they say to get a tv with
the capability to handle all situations .It is not just towing your trailer up
the passes at 85 mph and showing everyone it can be done .there is more to it than that .I tow a 24ft trdwnd 1960 with my 68 travelall which is one of the most heaviest duty trucks ever built ,it can pull whatever it wants ,
has a fuller truck 5 speed trans and 4 wheel drive ,heavy duty axles and so
on .I know the trailer is back there when towing ,tows great ,but it can
stop it ,and control it and the trailer does not control the tv .I don't like the term of bias ,as in meaning one way thinking only ,its about the experience
and knowing what the vehical is capable of doing.

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Old 08-16-2006, 06:58 AM   #13
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I don't mean to hijack the thread but you're post highlights the crux of this ongoing discussion in 100's of these posts. My thoughts below is meant as a general statement, not directed at you specifically. Read into it as you may.

First off, I would like to hear of someone or point me to a post of someone who has had a bad experience in either of these vehicles (Pathfinder or Frontier) limited to the 05 and above models. To date, I have not heard of anyone.

Secondly, ANY vehicle that is improperly matched to a trailer can have a negative experience, whether it is a megacab duallie or a 1979 S10. The question afoot is whether or not the Frontier can properly tow the trailer in question. By the numbers and experience of other towers (myself included), in my opinion, he can do it. I feel this way because the identical drivetrain/frame/etc is in my vehicle and my trailer has the same weights. Is it the absolute optimum vehicle? No. Is it a good match? Yes.

Thirdly, the only reason that you know that you're tow vehicle can handle the trailer is probably because you haven't towed yourself into a situation that your vehicle (or any vehicle) could not handle. The truth, you don't know where the upper limit of your combo is. It's sort of that unanswerable question, what is the limit that I can push to? That is why there are "recommended limits" on vehicles and their capabilities. I would not exceed them but there is no tangible reason why you need to stay 20% under those limitations in order to be safe.

Anything can happen on the road, you take a risk everytime you hop behind the wheel. A big truck, in my opinion, doesn't buy you extra safety against the intangibles. That said, when towing safely, we are often mistaken for a pilon on a busy highway. You always have to drive defensively and be thinking ahead with a twinkie on the hitch. I have completed a good chunk of my pilot training and the key phrase when flying is "always have a back door if you get into trouble". The same applies to towing. I would think that if your back door is a bigger TV, you're looking at the situation wrong.

ramblings and more penny thoughts,
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Raced! Ironman Canada in support of the Canadian Cancer Society

We raised over 1.3 Million dollars for Cancer Reseach this year. Great job team!!
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Old 08-16-2006, 08:55 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by SafeHarbor
Then I looked up at the backlight . . .

And I wondered if the Titan is full sized, what the heck is my Dodge?

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