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Old 07-28-2004, 09:59 PM   #29
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"I was also disappointed that nobody with small vehicle towing experience responded with their experiences, good or bad, that would have provided me with factual information in addition to all the theoretical and larger vehicle information."

Actually, one did, but was shouted down by the [deleted out of some remaining sense of propriety]

It takes a thick skin if you don't toe the company line so people who can provide experience outside of the accepted standards are rather inhibited in doing so.
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Old 07-28-2004, 10:02 PM   #30
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Old 07-28-2004, 10:25 PM   #31
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It takes a thick skin if you don't toe the company line so people who can provide experience outside of the accepted standards are rather inhibited in doing so.
Bryan & John... I tried to give you the benefit of my experience towing with an Astro. You must have missed it. Without proper equipment, towing a 2300lb trailer with it was VERY uncomfortable. With proper equipment, and a 2500lb 20' trailer it was fine. Towing a 7000 lb 25' trailer with it would have been a disaster.

I'm not sure that you understand what this is about... what we're bashing are the standards set by the auto manufacturers that mislead buyers. I can tell you that my 7000 lb Excursion is barely sufficient to tow my 34' tri-axle. I can't imagine trying to do it with a new Nissan Armada even though the tow ratings of the Excursion V10 and the Armada V8 are the same.

John, your calculations of percentage of the vehicle weight that they claim you can tow says it all. Although the smaller vehicles may have the 'tow rating', what they DON'T have is the "stopping" or "direction-changing" ratings.

Those of us who have towed for years with various tow vehicle and trailer combinations and who have first-hand direct comparison experience are telling you this stuff from experience. If you really don't want the info, or don't believe it, then why ask?

There isn't a 'company line' here. There is only experience. We're trying to tell you what we've found to be sound towing advice so folks who want to do this can be safe and successful, not most of the time, but all of the time.

Even discounting our combined towing experience, I will tell you that I can't ever recall anyone either in person or on the forums saying "Gee I wish I had a smaller tow vehicle with less weight and less power to tow my 7,000lb trailer. I have just too much power." Or "I think I'll trade my 3/4 ton tow vehicle for a half ton." or "How small of a tow vehicle can I absolutely get by with 'cause I'm not driving up any hills or ever taking an interstate or driving under poor conditions." Perhaps it's significant that you haven't seen those kinds of comments?

Good luck in your choices!

Roger
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Old 07-29-2004, 09:01 AM   #32
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Roger:

I did see and absorb your post on the Astro, especially since I have noticed many trailers being pulled by the Astro/Safari line up here. In fact I had also contemplated the Astro when purchasing but opted for the mini van due to gas mileage and the thought I was going to purchase a lighter trailer.

The lighter trailer I had in mind was a Trail Manor which supposedly can be pulled by a mini van. After looking at them and pricing them in U.S. dollars, they became quite expensive. They are also only sold in the U.S. which made dealer relationships a little more difficult. About the same time, I noticed Can-Am's website and began to change my thinking. A used Airstream from Can-Am is about the same price as a new Trail Manor in Cdn funds and there is no comparison in quality. Thus my question on this site.

Since they have supposedly installed several hundred hitches on small vehicles, I thought I would get good feedback. Yours, and the one I got off-line were the only ones in that category. One was positive and one was not. Not really a great database.

It's not so much that I don't want to believe you or others, but like Bryan, I was weighing another opinion, and wanted more information. That along with, as I mentioned earler, a lot of wishfull thinking.

Once again, I thank you for your input.

John

Still an Airstreamer wannabee, one way or another.
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Old 07-29-2004, 09:51 AM   #33
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Quality

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The lighter trailer I had in mind was a Trail Manor which supposedly can be pulled by a mini van. After looking at them and pricing them in U.S. dollars, they became quite expensive. They are also only sold in the U.S. which made dealer relationships a little more difficult. About the same time, I noticed Can-Am's website and began to change my thinking. A used Airstream from Can-Am is about the same price as a new Trail Manor in Cdn funds and there is no comparison in quality.
As a former TrailManor owner, your comment as to quality sure rings true. They may be OK for very light use, but after 3 years of heavy use, my TrailManor wa literally falling apart at the seams.

I occasionally see folks faulting the materials that Airstream uses. TrailManors are full of pressed sawdust moldings and plastic that hardens and cracks. Assembly is mostly staples and makes you a little ill when it starts to come apart. The arms that raise the tops just go through a hole in the wall ... no bushings of any sort. and on and on.

Frankly, I did not find the TrailManor that much easier to pull, either, though that is one of the big selling points.

Be glad you are looking at an Airstream.
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Old 07-29-2004, 09:56 AM   #34
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armistjb, I'm sorry your request for info resulted in less than what you were hoping for. For good or ill, this forum is dominated by folks who think bigger trucks are always better. There is a quiet minority that is out there towing with minivans, Intrepids, even a Jaguar, and many front-wheel drive vehicles (myself included), but because the popular consensus (and manufacturer ratings) suggests that trucks are the ONLY way to go, we aren't particularly encouraged to speak up.

I tow within the manufacturers rating for the vehicle, with proper hitch equipment and careful maintenance -- so I have gotten very tired of people marching up to me and announcing that my tow vehicle is inadequate and unsafe. I recognize that most of them are blowhards, and the rest are well-meaning, so I try not to get into debates.

Most recently this happened at an Airstream rally. I asked that person why she felt my vehicle was unsafe. She said, "Not enough wheelbase." When I pointed out numerous other tow vehicles (trucks) that had only 4-6" more wheelbase, she said, "None of them are safe either." It turned out that she felt ALL the tow vehicles in the immediate vicinity were unsafe because they weren't as big as her F-250!

While I don't have time to debunk all the silly theories being advanced here, I will at least point out that the argument that a heavier truck will stop an Airstream better is completely facetious. The weight is nothing but disadvantage when trying to stop. The BRAKES and TIRES stop the vehicle, not the truck weight. Weight is simply inertia working against you when you try to stop.

Of course, the implication people are making is that if you have a heavier truck, you must have better brakes. This is also facetious -- if we really want to know who has the better brakes relative to the tow vehicle's empty weight, we need to be looking at stopping distances (loaded and unloaded), or at least brake specs.

For example, an unloaded Honda Pilot brakes from 60 MPH to zero in 135 ft, according to independent tests -- about the same as a Dodge Caravan minivan. The Ford Explorer: 150 feet. The Chevy Suburban? A heart-stopping 155 feet. Drivers of those vehicles are depending on the trailer brakes to stop the combined rig in a reasonable distance. If you think your big truck is safer because it has "better brakes," think again.

For the record, I tow with a front-wheel-drive Honda Pilot (with electronically activated AWD), which gets me a reasonable 20 MPG unloaded, and 11 MPG towing. It drives superbly whether towing or not, and can readily handle a 4000 lb Airstream. It can also readily stop the Airstream even if the brakes on the trailer fail (we've had occasion to test.)

We towed over 10,000 miles in the past year, including several cross-country trips through mountainous areas, with excellent performance in every respect. The Pilot has over 20,000 miles on it at present. Except for a beefed-up rear frame assembly and all-wheel-drive components, it is essentially a Honda Odyssey minivan (same engine and tranny). And the kicker is, it's a unibody truck -- another thing some folks will tell you simply can't work.

Now to be fair, I should point out that you won't get 800 lbs of tongue weight on the current breed of unibody trucks. They're not there, yet. As I understand it, Can-Am RV engineers a very specific hitch for the unibody installations they do, which is designed to spread stresses across the vehicle. I can't comment on whether that modification works, or whether it's safe, or whether it will eventually cause the vehicle to fall apart. All I'm saying is that the broad brush of attacks on front-wheel drive, "small" tow vehicles, and the theories being advanced here about the "advantages" of heavier vehicles are misleading. You decide where to go from there.
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Old 07-29-2004, 10:27 AM   #35
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rhlur speaks for many who quickly learn to close their mouths (but, hopefully, not their minds) on forums related to towing for just the reasons he describes.
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Old 07-29-2004, 10:44 AM   #36
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Rich & Bryan,

Rich, your Caravel is appropriate for your Pilot. The Minuet was appropriate for the Astro, with weight distribution and sway control. Not a problem. I'd tell you that you're risking life and limb if you tried to tow a new Safari with your Pilot, despite the fact that the Pilot may (or may not... I don't know for sure) rated to tow that much weight.

I tow a 17' Burro widebody at 2300 lbs dry with my '94 Toyota SR5. I have it set up with a light Reese Dual Cam and brakes with a Prodigy. It's fine, and I don't have any problems recommending towing that kind of weight with a lightweight tow vehicle. The truck stops itself as does the trailer, and the Reese is amazing at controlling sway. There isn't any.

Just for clarification, brakes are brakes. Larger brakes haul down faster, usually; but of course stopping distance depends on several factors, not the least of which is tire patch contact. More tires (more contact patch) and bigger brakes, with a given weight, will stop that weight faster. Of course, THAT depends on rotor design and pad composition as well... complex stuff.

My concern with lighter tow vehicles has to do with the towed load's ability to leverage the rear of the tow vehicle. That's it. I could care less about whether or not the tow vehicle is damaged by towing. That's the owner's issue. If you trade every couple of years, it's the next guys' problem. The heavier the towed load, the greater it's ability to leverage the rear of the TV when you really don't want it to. That's where the bigger is better idea comes from. The heavier the tow vehicle the more inertia the towed load has to overcome to move it. The longer the wheelbase, and the more contact patch (supercrew, long bed, duallys) the harder it is for the towed load to override the forward inertia of the tow vehicle. The opposite, then, is also true. The shorter the wheelbase, smaller the tires, and lighter the weight, the easier it is for the towed load to move the tow vehicle. That part's pretty intuitive.

The question then becomes: "can I beat being dragged around by a heavy trailer in a lightweight short wheelbase tow vehicle."

Technology had been designed to try to overcome this issue. Hensley developed the Arrow, Reese developed the Dual-Cam hitch, and others have varients. They certainly help, and they're clever in their designs and how they deal with the issue; but the bottom line continues to be that the heavier the towed load and the lighter the tow vehicle, the greater the opportunity for the trailer to drive the tow vehicle.

This has been beat to death in various threads, but... if you're reasonable about the kind of trailer you want to tow with your TV as in Rich's Pilot and Caravel combo, you use trailer brakes, and appropriate sway control, you load the trailer properly and your running gear is in good condition, you'll likely never have a problem. It's when you try to get outside what's reasonable for a tow vehicle that you have problems.

What we're seeing here is the manufacturers attempting to increase their sales by offering higher and higher tow limits on lightweight vehicles. And, from a mechanical standpoint, they may stand up to hundreds of thousands of miles of towing without failures. The issue though, continues to be one of the tow vehicle being dragged around by the towed load.

I don't consider myself a zealot in this regard. There are just lots and lots of folks who don't understand the basic premise, and put themselves in situations that they may not be able to get out of. Notice for example that the vast majority of accidents involving RVs involve large trailers being towed by short wheelbase SUVs. What we don't know, of course, is whether those numbers represent a huge number of SUV owners towing and per-capita they're the same as for trucks or not, but there are seldom reports of large trailers being towed by supercrew longbed duallys being taken out by sway.

Roger
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Old 07-29-2004, 12:31 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by rluhr
While I don't have time to debunk all the silly theories being advanced here, I will at least point out that the argument that a heavier truck will stop an Airstream better is completely facetious. The weight is nothing but disadvantage when trying to stop. The BRAKES and TIRES stop the vehicle, not the truck weight. Weight is simply inertia working against you when you try to stop.

Of course, the implication people are making is that if you have a heavier truck, you must have better brakes. This is also facetious -- if we really want to know who has the better brakes relative to the tow vehicle's empty weight, we need to be looking at stopping distances (loaded and unloaded), or at least brake specs.

For example, an unloaded Honda Pilot brakes from 60 MPH to zero in 135 ft, according to independent tests -- about the same as a Dodge Caravan minivan. The Ford Explorer: 150 feet. The Chevy Suburban? A heart-stopping 155 feet. Drivers of those vehicles are depending on the trailer brakes to stop the combined rig in a reasonable distance. If you think your big truck is safer because it has "better brakes," think again.
Bigger trucks have bigger brakes (and tires). While it is generally true that the heavier the vehicle, the longer it is going to take to stop, truck's brakes are designed to safely stop a wider range of weight, beyond their own loaded weight. Its great that a honda pilot stops in 135 ft; how long will it take it to stop with a loaded 34 foot trailer that has no brakes? You don't quote numbers for that. I'm suggesting that the 'burb will stop it shorter. It'll also do it without the hitch peeling the skin off the unibody tub, or the trailer's a-frame skewering the truck like an hors d'oeuvre

did I mention that my brake controller failed?

I can tell you that I've driven some pretty large commercial trucks that can carry twice their empty weight. When fully loaded, there is a noticeable difference in braking performance...but its not all that bad. The only white knuckling I ever had involved people pulling in front of me and then slamming on their brakes.
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Old 07-29-2004, 01:56 PM   #38
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Chuck, I hope you're not suggesting that a truck that can't stop itself in less than 155 ft is going to perform better when loaded?

Yes, the truck has bigger brakes, but they are less efficient relative to the load. The extra capacity of the brakes is already being used to stop the heavier weight of the truck. That's why the Suburban takes an extra 20 feet to stop. If it stops an Airstream in a shorter distance than it can do when unloaded, it's because of the Airstream's brakes, not the truck's brakes.

Talking about what might happen if you put a huge load on a vehicle is a rhetorical tool to avoid the obvious point: none of these vehicles will stop well if the trailer brakes fail. But you readily assume that a smaller truck with more efficient brakes will not be "safe". How does that logic work?

This reminds me of how Glenn Curtiss claimed that his trailers were so aerodynamic that they actually increased gas mileage.
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Old 07-29-2004, 03:01 PM   #39
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Upon further reflection ... I agree with Chuck in the sense that if a bigger truck has more total excess capacity in braking -- even if it is a smaller percentage of excess capacity relative to the unloaded truck than a smaller truck -- it may have a greater ability to cope with an unexpected load. Does that make sense?

(But I still maintain it's practically irrelevant because it's a rhetorical point. Both the Pilot and the 'Burb won't be happy if the trailer brakes fail, but they'll both stop.)

BTW, if you're observing this debate, Chuck is a buddy of mine and I have massive respect for his opinion. He's also a fellow private pilot, and if you know pilots, you know we love to debate arcane points like this. Sometime we should tell them about the "upwind turns versus downwind turns" debate, eh?
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Old 07-29-2004, 03:22 PM   #40
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Sometime we should tell them about the "upwind turns versus downwind turns" debate, eh?
Uh, Rich... is that akin to jibe vs. tack in sailing?

Roger
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Old 07-29-2004, 03:45 PM   #41
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Could be! (I don't know sailing very well.) The gist of the argument is that some people think an airplane turning into the wind will be less inclined to stall than an airplane turning into a tailwind. Or is it the other way around?

Anyway, it's one of those endless debates that turns out to be unprovable no matter which position you endorse. Kind of like this one!
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Old 07-29-2004, 04:03 PM   #42
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Chuck, I hope you're not suggesting that a truck that can't stop itself in less than 155 ft is going to perform better when loaded?
No. I'm suggesting that a 3/4 burb will stop itself and a 10k lb brake-less trailer faster than a geo metro with the same brake-less trailer.

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Yes, the truck has bigger brakes, but they are less efficient relative to the load. The extra capacity of the brakes is already being used to stop the heavier weight of the truck.
Not all of it. and due to their size, adding extra weight will affect them at a slower rate than those on a car. Its a matter of percentages. the performance "envelope" on a smaller vehicle is going to be narrower than that of a larger vehicle, even if they are proportionally the same. (and I'm not certain that they are). take 1000lbs and put it in the back of a burban and a geo. both will take longer to stop than if they were empty, but the geo's performance will be more significantly impacted. it'll still stop shorter than the burban. but if you keep adding weight, the lines will eventually cross. the geo's brakes will overheat and fail, and start going in the opposite direction, before the burban is "overloaded".

Quote:
Originally Posted by rluhr
Talking about what might happen if you put a huge load on a vehicle is a rhetorical tool to avoid the obvious point: none of these vehicles will stop well if the trailer brakes fail.
Actually, my combo did pretty well when my brake controller failed last month. (did I mention that my brake controller failed? ) It was quite some time before I even noticed. The load was within the truck's design limits.

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But you readily assume that a smaller truck with more efficient brakes will not be "safe". How does that logic work?
They're only more efficient if they're operating within their design limits. Small vehicles do "everything" more efficiently than large vehicles...most of the time. But these things don't graph out in a straight line. they're almost always "on a curve". like the fact that your truck gets WAY better mileage than my truck...its smaller, and lighter, and that makes sense. But I strap a heavier trailer to a heavier truck, creating a combination that is much heavier than yours...and yet it gets better mpg than your rig when towing.
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