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Old 06-30-2014, 08:38 PM   #1
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Odyssey 2003 as tow vehicle

Hi I have just purchased a 1976 28 foot Argosy in great shape. I have a 2003 Odyssey. Some time ago I purchased a hensly hitch (Pup) when they were on sale. Does anyone know if this combination might work or give some advice?
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John Wright
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Old 06-30-2014, 10:11 PM   #2
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I don't think that van has a strong transmission. Better check into it before towing.
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Old 07-01-2014, 07:50 AM   #3
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According to Honda's own website, 2003 Honda Odyssey Specifications - Honda.com the towing capacity for that van is 3500 lbs for a trailer equipped with brakes. Don't know what your argosy weighs, but its probably close to my 73 overlander and that comes in at 4500 dry and is probably a bit heavier than that. You also have to take into consideration that any extra weight for passengers and cargo comes off that 3500 weight so its really lower than that.

Somebody else might advise you differently about towing an airstream with an odyssey, but that is going against all conventional wisdom and if you get into an accident with the rig, you may be held responsible because you were overloaded. And those honda tranny's did have some issues back then, so you may be hastening its demise with towing.
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Old 07-01-2014, 09:50 AM   #4
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Member Andreas Duess tows a 34' triple axle Airstream with an Odyssey, albeit that his minivan is a bit newer - his blog is here : Andreas Duess | Field Notes

The van needs a bit of modification, though, with an additional transmission cooler and beefed up hitch required, with (of course) a good brake controller. I'd heard some stories, never verified, that the transmission was a bit weak on the earlier Odysseys but I'm sure that some research might reveal the accuracy of such reports.

Properly set up, a minivan can make a good tow vehicle, regardless of Honda's quoted tow rating, which bears no relation to what the vehicle is actually capable of. Overloading will only occur if the payload, axles or tire ratings are exceeded and that can only be adequately determined by running the setup over a CAT Scale. Talk of liability is merely speculation.
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Old 07-01-2014, 11:45 AM   #5
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Perhaps the vehicle could be modified to tow safely but is it cost effective? You don't mention the mileage of your car but I would bet it is way over 100k. Transmissions brakes ect do wear out and much more quickly towing a very heavy trailer. I would donate the Odessy to PBS and purchase a vehicle rated to tow your new trailer.
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Old 07-01-2014, 01:21 PM   #6
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You won't be overloading the Odyssey - these vans have a higher payload than many 1/2 ton trucks.

We tow a (lighter and older) 34' footer with our 2008 Odyssey and we're comfortably within all specs for the Honda, payload, axle ratings etc, except for the official tow rating - with the trailer in tow ready for camping we've still got 600lbs left for passengers. It is an excellent and extremely capable vehicle. On the highway, our fuel consumption is around 15l/100km.

I am friends with the owner of our Honda dealership and he's been keeping an eye on the vehicle for abnormal wear when its in for service - he knows what we're towing with it. So far, there have been zero reports.

Our Honda is modified with a tow package that includes an additional transmission cooler, a custom hitch, a brake controller and LT tires with stiff sidewalls. We also tow with a Hensley, which is highly recommended. There's been, so far, no sway of any kind even in somewhat challenging of circumstances, rain, wind, heavy semis.

However, the Honda transmissions prior to 2006 are known to be weak and prone to giving up at around 80,000 miles, even without towing. When we set up our Honda one of the first questions Andy T asked was about the year. If I remember correctly, he doesn't recommend towing with Odysseys built prior to 2006.

My recommendation would be to give him a call and ask, he's an expert in all matters towing related: Andy Thomson 1-866-226-2678
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Old 07-01-2014, 01:32 PM   #7
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As a retired honda tech these transmissions would fail before the first recommended oil change (trans oil ) I use to joke about these trans being installed with Velcro ,because they were always taking them out. I wouldn't recommend towing anything over 3500lbs.
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Old 07-01-2014, 01:39 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aquinob View Post
You also have to take into consideration that any extra weight for passengers and cargo comes off that 3500 weight so its really lower than that.
Quote:
Originally Posted by aquinob View Post
if you get into an accident with the rig, you may be held responsible because you were overloaded.
That's incorrect. Official towing capacity has nothing to do with the payload of a vehicle - those are two completely different numbers.

Depending on the year and model, the Odyssey has a payload from 1200lbs to close to 1400lbs.
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Old 07-01-2014, 02:56 PM   #9
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C Reports shows the 03 and 04 were the bad tranny years with below average performance ratings. After that they get the above average reliability ratings.
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Old 07-01-2014, 10:11 PM   #10
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C Reports shows the 03 and 04 were the bad tranny years with below average performance ratings. After that they get the above average reliability ratings.
The trans were worst on earlier years 1999-2004 then a little better 2005- 2010 ( torque converter lock up clutch shudder) not sure how good they were on 2011-2014 as I retired in 2012 from honda.
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Old 07-02-2014, 12:16 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by handn View Post
Perhaps the vehicle could be modified to tow safely but is it cost effective? You don't mention the mileage of your car but I would bet it is way over 100k. Transmissions brakes ect do wear out and much more quickly towing a very heavy trailer. I would donate the Odessy to PBS and purchase a vehicle rated to tow your new trailer.
Cost effectiveness is an issue that we don't always talk about when we get into towing with low tow rating vehicles. There is an overhead to modifying a minivan to tow safely, just as there is an overhead in buying a tow vehicle that has poor gas mileage when not towing. The OP would have to consider theses things in detail before making his decision.
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Old 07-02-2014, 12:18 AM   #12
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The trans were worst on earlier years 1999-2004 then a little better 2005- 2010 ( torque converter lock up clutch shudder) not sure how good they were on 2011-2014 as I retired in 2012 from honda.
Don
Thanks for this info. I'd heard about issues with the transmission but had not seen it detailed down to years of production.
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:50 AM   #13
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Odyssey 2003 as tow vehicle

Its been pretty well established by people with this first-hand experience that they don't do any testing on these vehicles. There's no reason for them to do it, because it wouldn't help them sell more cars. The numbers are arbitrarily assigned, unless the vehicle is going to be marketed as a tow vehicle.


[just adding a friendly mod-reminder in this space: be nice! everyone, go ahead and disagree, as long as you do it agreeably ]
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Old 07-02-2014, 09:41 AM   #14
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I owned a 2010 Odyssey. It was a great passenger vehicle. My grand children called it Grandpa's space ship.

My experience with hauling loads (well under 1500 lbs total) in the van tells me that towing with it would absolutely require a setup like Andrew performs at CanAm Airstream. Weight distribution would be critical. When the load in my van was distributed more towards the back of the van the steering would be very poor. There were times I would need to shift items to the floor of the 2nd row seat to settle the steering.

My transmission also had the "Odyssey shudder".

I know people successfully use the Odyssey as a tow vehicle for Airstreams well over 5000 lbs. but I would need a trip to CanAm to tow a trailer with a properly setup Odyssey to convince me of the Odyssey's capability. My experience with my Odyssey tells me it's not a capable tow vehicle by my definition.
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