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Old 09-27-2007, 02:30 PM   #1
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2007 25' Safari FB SE
Bozeman , Montana
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Towing Vehicles: smiting by the numbers.

I have had a moderately long journey in RV towing vehicles. My first rig was a 2000 Forerunner with a 3200’ trailer. The second was a 2007 Forerunner with a 4000’ trailer. Now I have a Safari 25 with loaded weight at 7200’. These were under rated maximum towing capacity for each vehicle, but not by much. They were uncomfortably close. The engines worked really hard, and even with sway and weight distribution I always felt I was on the edge. On the few occasions where I had to maneuver, there was a tendency for the trailer to drive the truck. I went on a search for a new vehicle. The wife specified this is the last one, so get a good one.

I was smitten by the new Tundra. What a beauty! When I suggested a ½ ton PU as a TV to the Airstream community, I was smitten again. This time by a variety of comments, with many paraphrased as “I towed a … with a …. And it seemed to work fine”, “don’t do that”, and the like for a variety of vehicles. But who knows? And what about the rare, but unpleasant potential events that happen to so few of us that they don't get reported.

This time I had to do it by the numbers. Thanks to GMGAZ for a link to a spreadsheet. I had to do a bit of digging to find all the weights and capacities. Those spreadsheets are attached.

The numbers say: Doesn’t look like a Tundra will do it, nor will similar trucks. Not even close. A ¾ ton PU is the only way to go, at least to my watery, numbery, and smitten eyes. This puts some numbers on my decision to buy the ¾ Chevy PU ww 4.10 rear end as a TV for my FB.

I don’t purport to smite others’ opinions, since we all have different experiences. But now there’s mine to add to the mix.

Not Smitingly,
Attached Files
File Type: pdf TowingCapacityWorksheetSilverado.pdf (14.8 KB, 594 views)
File Type: pdf TowingCapacityWorksheetTundra.pdf (14.8 KB, 698 views)

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Old 09-27-2007, 02:42 PM   #2
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Looks like you've done your homework. If you go the Silverado route, you probably should look at a diesel. Mainly because the engine is built to last more miles, and your wife says you can't have another one.

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Old 09-27-2007, 02:51 PM   #3
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Hello Hank -- Four years ago I bought the first Nissan Titan on the Forums. I experienced three potential problems:
  • Payload capacity of 1345# vs the 950# (or thereabouts) tongue weight of my '06 Safari. No margin for toys.
  • Titan had the tow package & tranny temp gauge. Towing only 4000# I couldn't keep it out of the red zone on the terribly grinding and switchbacked US-50 in NE West Virginia. And this was in 30 degree weather!
  • Small diameter rear differential.
To keep it within specs I towed my Safari with a virtually empty Titan through Fall 2005 and it behaved admirably. I have a 3/4-ton now but that's only because a friend was smitten by the Titan more than I was... he got a deal. Now... I feel that the new Toyotas are a very large step above the Titan and a good incremental step beyond the 1st generation Tundra.

Pay heed to the rule of thumb -- keep your tow capacity and TV payload at about 80-85% of max rated numbers. This will give you better durability and you'll seem much more in the proper range than you did with the 4Runners.
Member barkingspider handed me my lunch in a discussion of the 1st generation Tundra as a tow vehicle. You are doing your homework. The payload is more sensitive to exceeding than the tow capacity. Find numbers you like in accordance with how much weight you need to carry around.

You're on the right track. I hear ... maybe a Tundra diesel in '09? And yes, it is possible to stay with gassers and tow any Airstream on the planet.

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Old 09-27-2007, 02:59 PM   #4
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Marginal tow vehicles are no fun. My trusty 91 F-150 was fine east of the Ole Miss including the Smokies, but on the plains and Rockies it just didnt have it. You will probally be much happier with a 3/4 ton and if it is in the budget, Terry has a point about looking at diesel. I recently made the jump to a 3/4 ton diesel myself. I had to buy 10 years old to afford it, but I got a deal and I think the diesel will be perfect. On the other hand, you have to do a whole bunch of towing to make the diesel pay off if you are buying new.

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Old 09-27-2007, 03:20 PM   #5
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Differential ratios...

for me.... the big point of the 3/4 ton TV is the wieght capacities. The motors in 3/4 tons can be had in 1/2 tons as an upgrade. The point to the 3/4 ton is the rear end. Fully floating rear axels are the only way to go. The ratio can be argued. A 3.73 final drive ratio will save fuel if you dirve the TV around as a daily driver but might be a little high if you have an automatic transmission. The 4.10 will help if you have a gas engine. With the Hemi and a manual transmission and a 3.73 final drive ratio, pulling 7,000lbs is easy and 50 on a 6% grade is relatively easy. If I had an automatic, I'd have a 4.10.
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Old 09-27-2007, 04:13 PM   #6
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We have a 3/4 ton Chev Duramax/Allison for our 25' Safari, and it does the job. I don't use the tow button usually, but have for steep grades. The 6th gear doesn't shift down like it should, in my opinion, but the rocker switch allowing one to toggle back a gear or two comes in handy in the roller coaster hills of Kentucky and Tennessee. Mileage varies with terrain, but I average about 14. My buddies with gas engines average 10. I believe it will be worth the extra expense in the long run, as I keep a vehicle for 10-12 years usually.
Happy Airstreaming!
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Old 09-27-2007, 05:05 PM   #7
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We are pulling Lucy (25FB) with Olivia ('05 Suburban 2500, 6 liter gas). It does the job quite well after 20,000 miles of pulling Lucy in all conditions.

I have already started shopping and crunching the numbers for Olivia's replacement (2-3 yrs out) and have come to some interesting revalations.

I am a GM guy so I have only shopped Chevrolet and GMC. I like the Suburban platform, but am not totally opposed to a pick-up. 3/4 ton is a given. My quandry is over gas vs. diesel. Diesel fuel is about 10% higher that gasoline, but the mpg is 50% better. Gas is easier to find. Diesel has more pulling power. Diesel's service intervals are longer, but considerably more expensive. The Duramax is a $7,500 option with another $1,200 for the Allison six speed transmission. That price difference does a lot to make the diesel option less attractive. It would take about half the service life of the vehicle to equal out the cost. I'm still undecided, but the Duramax is looking less attractive.
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Old 09-27-2007, 06:09 PM   #8
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3/4 ton tow vehicle

Just finished a 5,000 mile round trip in 20 days with our 2008 F250 3/4 ton diesel Crew Cab and 34' Airstream. We left Western North Carolina and headed west, way west. We covered the Petrified Forest, Meteor Crater, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Arches and Monument Valley.

The only problem I had during the whole trip was the short steep climb just south of Page, AZ heading north. When I mean trouble I mean I kept it down at 45 mph. Most of the trip I had no problem maintaining 60-65 mph and averaged around 10-11 mpg. I haven't finished going through all the fuel receipts yet and plugging them in a spreadsheet.

Have tow command and the integrated brake controller. Tow command worked like a charm coming down the steep grades.

The transmission temperature never budged nor the water temp the whole trip.

I haven't weighed our trailer fully loaded but it is rated to max out at 9800 pounds.

I did have some trouble with some fuel from the Flying J's I stopped at. After a couple of fill ups at a couple of them in a row, my engine would "shudder" for a second or two when the transmission would down shift to 4th gear to maintain my speed. Once I got a couple more tanks through the system and didn't use Flying J diesel I didn't have the problem. When returning from out west I encountered the same problem with the Flying J fuel I pumped from their RV pumps islands.

I even used my 4x4 a couple times during the trip. Twice to park due to gravel and hilly parking area. Just didn't want any slippage. I also used it on the Monument Valley drive that goes for several miles on an unpaved road. (Plus I stayed away from all the foreigners driving their rental cars and a couple Class C RV Rentals too! Unbelievable!)

Here's a couple links about the trip with pics:
Duane Pandorf
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Old 09-27-2007, 06:37 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by hshovic
My first rig was a 2000 Forerunner with a 3200’ trailer.
Now that's a long, long trailer.
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Old 09-27-2007, 07:18 PM   #10

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Thumbs up Marginal Tv

[quote=Gen Disarray]Marginal tow vehicles are no fun. My trusty 91 F-150 was fine east of the Ole Miss including the Smokies, but on the plains and Rockies it just didnt have it. You will probally be much happier with a 3/4 ton and if it is in the budget, Terry has a point about looking at diesel. I recently made the jump to a 3/4 ton diesel myself. I had to buy 10 years old to afford it, but I got a deal and I think the diesel will be perfect. On the other hand, you have to do a whole bunch of towing to make the diesel pay off if you are buying new.[/quote

In the Fall of 1994 we bought our first "real" tv. A brand new 2500 4WD,7.4, 3.73 BURB. It replaced a 360 V/8 Jeep Grand Wagoneer.
The Jeep was just not up to the task of towing our "63" Safari.

Twelve years and 160k+ later the Burb is now towing our 25' Classic. Maybe it was a bit overkill for the "63" at the time, but I stand by that decision.
Gonna keep this Bad Boy til' someth'n I like better comes along.

If it ain't broke....fix it til it is!!
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"Sticks & stones can break your bones...and hail will dent your Airstream"

So when is this..."old enough to know better" supposed to kick in?
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Old 09-27-2007, 08:08 PM   #11
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If I were considering a diesel, I would ask myself how many miles I will be driving it a year? 10K or less and a 3/4 ton Gas would be my choice. A second question would be how long will I keep it? If I were going to keep the vehicle a long time AND I were buying new I would look long and hard at a Dodge gas because of the lifetime warranty (gas only). If you drive a lot of miles the diesel makes sense and remember you do get quite a bit of that 7-8K upcharge back on the resale.

Still, it takes 20 or more years to wear out a good gas engine at 10K a year if one stays on top of the fluids. 7K plus the interest on 7K plus the cheaper maintenance costs buys a lot of gas and after 20 years resale on both vehicles is nil so if your buying a dedicated tow vehicle I would take a look at a gasser unless you put lots of miles on the truck besides towing.
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Old 09-27-2007, 08:32 PM   #12
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Hank, how did you find the GCRVW of the Tundra? I could not find it on their website.

I think I understand your spread sheet but was reading my Airstream manual and it says that a properly set up WD hitch should shift 1/3 of the tongue weight to the trailer. Is that accurate? Should that tongue weight distribution be factored in to the truck and trailer loads?

2006 Safari SE FB
2000 F150 4.2L
2011 F250 6.2L
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Old 09-28-2007, 06:22 AM   #13
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OK I found the Tundra's GCVWR over on the Tundra Forum. It seems the manufacturers' also call it "gross combined weight rating" GCWR. Your spreadsheet uses 12,800 lbs as the Tundra's combined weight rating. With the V8 and 4.30 gears the Tundra's combined weight rating (GCVWR) goes up to 16,000 lbs.

From the Towing Guide on Ford's website, the F-150 also has a combined weight rating (GCWR/GCVWR) of 16,000lbs with the 5.4 V8 and 4.10 gears.

Looks to me like the Tundra and similar trucks will easily do it. Plugging these GCWR specs into your spread sheet shows both the 1/2ton Tundra and F150 more than capable of pulling the wet 25' Safari and all your gear with about 2800 lbs to spare.


btw - here is a link to the spreadsheet
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Old 09-28-2007, 07:58 AM   #14
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I was taken back by the numbers published in the speadsheets. I verified that the GCVWR for my 07 Tundra is 16,000 lbs. not the 12,800 used. That would put the actual % of GCVR at 83% not 104%.

Also you list the dry weight as 5465. I am not sure where you got this number from, but my 07 DC has a dry weight of 5175 lbs and the 4x2 is less then 5000 lbs.

When I do the numbers with the correct values it paints a totaly different picture.



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