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Old 06-15-2006, 08:20 AM   #1
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Toyota FJ Cruiser - doing the math

Hi everybody, this is my first post, so please be patient with me!

The stars have aligned and I'm seriously considering getting an Airstream in the fall to spend a year on the road. I've been looking at the 19 footers for a while, but I have recently taken a shine to the Safari 20'. I love the kitchen and having the bed right under the panoramic windows.

I would really appreciate some advice about towing with my 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser. It's a fairly new vehicle so there's not much info about towing anything with it yet. Here are the basic numbers:

FJ Cruiser:
Curb Weight: 4300
GVWR: 5600
GCWR: 8800
Max Tow Capacity: 5000
Wheelbase: 105.9"

Safari 20':
GVWR: 5000
Hitch weight: about 500

If the FJ says it can tow 5000, and the the Safari is 5000 max, is this a reasonable combination? (I don't plan to load up the TV). Do I need a safety margin?

Would a 19' be a more reasonable option? The GVWR on the 19's is 4500.

One thing I don't get is that the combined towing capacity of the FJ is 8800, and if you subtract the FJ's curb weight, you get a towing capacity of about 4500. If you subtract the FJ's gross weight (like Airstream suggests), you get a towing capacity of 3200. How does Toyota figure you can tow 5000 if the combined capacity is 8800?

So, overall, does the FJ + Safari 20' combination seem like a reasonable match, a safe match, or am I pushing it? I'd really love to keep the FJ Cruiser as the tow vehicle if possible.

Thanks for all input - these are great forums!
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Old 06-15-2006, 09:18 AM   #2
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You question curb weight, you need real-world proof of your vehicles weight... many manufactuors do not include options like: air conditioning; luggage racks; carpet and interior upgrades; wheel and tire upgrades; full size spare; weight of hitch carrier ball and brake controller (and on and on) in their published vehicle base weight!

I suggest you fill your tank with gas, toss a cooler with a couple gallons of water in the back seat and coerce whoever will be vacationing with you to ride along to a truck stop that has CAT scales and learn exactly what your Toy weighs loaded - then add whatever is needed to actually make the trip.

I found my 99 F150 weighed in at 5500 pounds ready to roam for a week via CAT scales so the 1973 27' Overlander I purchased has a GVWR of 6200 giving me 11,700 GCVWR (matching Fords specs exactly) but I haven't had trailer and TV on scales yet, the AS is up on blocks in the driveway still...

At first glance I'd say you need more truck or less trailer, though the 19' 4500# weight you mention is with full tanks, food, clothing, bedding etc. loaded, just omitting a full water tank can reduce weight 400 pounds.

I hope someone who owns a Toy posts what they've accomplished or declined to try
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Old 06-15-2006, 10:50 AM   #3
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Living at the margin

We've got a similar situation with our 1978 Argosy 24 and a 2000 GMC Safari. The trailer GVWR and the towing capacity of the van are both 5800# and the length/wheelbase ratio is definitely in the questionable zone. I'm doing mostly weekend trips and work hard at keeping the trailer weight well below the max. Not a lot of real world experience yet but one trip over the Cascade mountains proved that it's not only possible but not all too bad. That said there is a lot of value in having a bigger margin for both safety and longevity of the TV. However, the biggest thing anyone can do to increase the safety margin is to reduce speed. Well, at least to a point; if you're significantly slower than the flow of traffic that becomes a problem too.

You didn't say if your Toyota is manual or automatic. Extended towing at or near the rated capacity will really be hard on a vehicle with a manual. Not only will you eat up clutches but the shock on the driveline is much more severe than with a torque converter.

More than the weight and power issue I'd be concerned about the wheelbase of the Toyota. Our van is 111" which is OK but your shorter wheelbase and likely higher center of gravity would worry me. What's the axle arrangement on the trailers you're considering. I've nothing scientific to back this up we decided the extra 300 or so pounds for a second axle was well worth it in terms of decreased sway and the ability to "ride out" a tire failure.

Take some time getting your hitch set-up dialed in. There are lots of good weight distribution (WD) hitches on the market. More than the brand you choose is getting the hitch height and torsion bar loading right. With the short wheelbase you'll probalby benifit from some type of additional sway control. The Reese Dual Cam set-up looks nice in that the sway control is not only built in but, according to the advertiising hype helps prevent sway from starting rather than just controlling it after the fact as the friction devices do.

-Bernie
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Old 06-15-2006, 10:53 AM   #4
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I luv the look of the new Toyota FJ and with the unique curves and body style it would look cool in front of an Airstream.







If you go for it I hope it all works out .
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Old 06-15-2006, 11:29 AM   #5
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FJ Cruiser:
Curb Weight: 4300
GVWR: 5600
GCWR: 8800
Max Tow Capacity: 5000
Wheelbase: 105.9"

Safari 20':
GVWR: 5000
Hitch weight: about 500

There must be a typo in the numbers above. the GCWR: 8800 does not jive with the GVWR: 5600 and 5000 tow capacity. I certainly would check to determine what the gcwr really is, as that is probably the best indication of what you can really tow. Also, I would check with someone who has a trailer similar to what you want to tow. I unfortunately found out that Airstream's numbers were off a bunch on my 2002 safari ss with LS package. Best estimate, well over 500# light. According to the weight charts on the Airstream web site, the 2002 weighes 4770 and the 2003, with no changes, weighes 5220. According to their literature, the LS package, which includes corian, heat pump, spare tire, and a few other little things added NO weight! Because of these discrempencies, my 99 Jeep Grand Cherokee is towing quite a bit over it's GCW. It has done the job quite well since December 2001, but I sure wish that the Airstream really weighed what Airstream said.
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Old 06-15-2006, 12:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimmickle
FJ Cruiser:
Curb Weight: 4300
GVWR: 5600
GCWR: 8800
Max Tow Capacity: 5000
Wheelbase: 105.9"

Safari 20':
GVWR: 5000
Hitch weight: about 500

There must be a typo in the numbers above. the GCWR: 8800 does not jive with the GVWR: 5600 and 5000 tow capacity. ...snip...
That's exactly what confused me. But I think you're right... I got the 8800 number from multiple sources on the internet. I just checked the FJ owner's manual, and it says:

GCWR: 9200 (2 wheel drive)
GCWR: 9500 (4 wheel drive)

(The internet was wrong!? Say it ain't so!! :-)

That makes more sense. 9500 minus an FJ (4300) and a driver (200) gives you 5000 pounds left to tow. It might be doable. I'm not planning on hauling lots of people or stuff regularly with me. But I think an actual weighing of the FJ is in order. I wish the GCWR could handle the FJ's gross weight plus 5000.

Also, to answer the other questions above, the Safari 20' is a single axle, and my FJ has an automatic transmission. There's no transmission cooler - not sure how feasible it is to add one, but maybe it's worth it.

I think I do need to learn a lot about sway control next.

And yes, the FJ and Airstream would look GREAT together! :-)
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Old 06-15-2006, 12:21 PM   #7
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hi sausage and welcome to the forums....

thanks for looking at the numbers....
and questioning them all...
gcwr is a key figure
so make sure you have the correct figure...
yes towing capacity IS reduced as people and stuff are added to the cruiser......
5000 is way higher than other vehicles of similar size to the cj cruiser....
so i'm doubtful of that figure....

yes you want a margin under the max....i like 20% less.
also i'd want a tranny cooler on the cj....
and yes i'd want sway control......
see the many threads on this...
and weight distribution hitches tooo.....

i love the new fj and it would look cool in front of an airstream...

but only parked in front......not pulling.

the towing capacity is just not high enough and the wheel base not long enough and so on.......

so if your heart is set on trying this combo and helping us learn that it works or does not.....

-try the 16 bambi as the biggest newer trailer.....
the bed is larger in this model and
it works nicely for one person
going into most locations....
the safari is toooooo much trailer for the cj cruiser...imo

or
-find a vintage unit.......
these are much lighter for size...

but i'd still be nervous about towing anything larger than 2500-3000lbs...
carry gear IN the cj and IN the trailer is a reality....
so you gotta count water, fuel, lpg, camping gear, bikes and beer.....
travel without stuff is wishful thinking.....
and no fun.

now perhaps you will charge ahead anyway with your selected combo....
and somehow prove it possible....

but will it be safe?
i honestly don't think so...

also consider the NEW BASE CAMP or the TAB which are both lighter weight travel trailers.....

the base camp really WOULD look cool behind the toyota!!

now my favorite approach is
find the trailer you really like
and THEN buy a t.v. capable of safely handling your dream trailer.....
or the next size up....
for when you want the next larger airstream!!!

come back often and tell us what you decide......

cheers
2air'
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Old 06-15-2006, 10:16 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wabbiteer
You question curb weight, you need real-world proof of your vehicles weight... many manufactuors do not include options like: air conditioning; luggage racks; carpet and interior upgrades; wheel and tire upgrades; full size spare; weight of hitch carrier ball and brake controller (and on and on) in their published vehicle base weight!

I suggest you fill your tank with gas, toss a cooler with a couple gallons of water in the back seat and coerce whoever will be vacationing with you to ride along to a truck stop that has CAT scales and learn exactly what your Toy weighs loaded - then add whatever is needed to actually make the trip.

I found my 99 F150 weighed in at 5500 pounds ready to roam for a week via CAT scales so the 1973 27' Overlander I purchased has a GVWR of 6200 giving me 11,700 GCVWR (matching Fords specs exactly) but I haven't had trailer and TV on scales yet, the AS is up on blocks in the driveway still...

At first glance I'd say you need more truck or less trailer, though the 19' 4500# weight you mention is with full tanks, food, clothing, bedding etc. loaded, just omitting a full water tank can reduce weight 400 pounds.

I hope someone who owns a Toy posts what they've accomplished or declined to try
This post sums up my feelings most of all. Be wary. Read The Flaming Manual because it will bear more on your particular situation than anything I'll say. The tow capacity and GCWR are maximums with absolute minimum load inside the tow vehicle -- okay if you weigh as much as a thoroughbred jockey. Read the limitations on these figures for my 3/4-ton GMC Sierra at Post 40 at this recent thread. More importantly you must never feel in a comfort zone if your tow vehicle is over its individual capacity. Curb weight + load capacity = GVWR. Assuming the more practical 4WD model (click on Capacities) that leaves a maximum load in the FJ Cruiser of .... 5570 minus 4295 .... of 1275#. (Congrats if your FJ Cruiser has more load capacity than that -- you'll need it.) Now if the simplest base model doesn't have a 2" receiver on the back frame you must subtract 150# or more. Your heavy hitch bar is borne almost completely on the hitch -- absolutely minimum by the trailer wheels. Other front weight? Your WD gear (Reese? Equalizer?) -- not big but all on the hitch. Full propane tanks will add hitch weight only.

Airstream.com has precious little detail on the 20'. I wish they kept their website updated more than once a year ... . Extrapolating between the 19' and 23' they would claim around 500# as Hitch Weight (for a model without options only weighing 5000# GVWR). Because your hitch bar, WD gear & LP will all be at the front, I'd say your actual hitch weight would fall more into the expected 12-15% that the rest of us see. Therefore your actual hitch weight would readily approach 700# or more. Only actual weighing of the loaded trailer's A-frame tongue jack will provide the details -- it could be more. This puts your 1275# load capacity FJ Cruiser perilously close to maxxing out -- considering any FJ Cruiser option isn't yet subtracted from load capacity -- and you want to carry how many people? Even an iPod could be too much...

Folks really need to get serious about load capacity of their tow vehicles. For a good safety margin, wiser heads than mine have recommended not using more than 85% of that load capacity. The benefits are tow vehicle durability, emergency avoidance, braking capacity -- all issues that contribute greatly to life and limb of the occupants. Isn't that what it is all about?
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Old 06-15-2006, 10:32 PM   #9
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You might also want to figure out what Toyota's towing package is, and whether or not you have it.
The specs on teh engin elok fine for towing a smallish Airstream, but what about the axles, cooling system, electrical etc.
A tow package usually consists of low geared axles, increaased cooling capacity, increased alternator output, tow hitch, and associated wiring.
Without at least a 4:10 axle ratio, I would not tow much more than a jet ski with the FJ. I am not a believer in the "bigger is better" philosophy, but the FJ might just be under rated to do the job safely and efficiently.
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Old 06-15-2006, 11:00 PM   #10
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I think with passnger(s), fuel, cargo, etc, about all that *might* pull would be a 16'.

I agree, looks cool, but I'm not sure cool can tow a 19' or a 20'. Move yes, tow no.
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Old 07-22-2006, 09:42 PM   #11
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And here's my first post.. I also own a FJ Cruiser (yellow) and bought a 16 feet international Bambi... I'm planning to travel on my own, with little equipment, I really wanted the 19 feet Bambi, but after a lot of thinking and talking to Airstream owners, I opted for the 16.
Reasons:
-easier to tow and you can get further as the overhang is shorter.
-easier on the FJ, and gas consumption
-easier to clean, heat, cool
-and big enough for 1 person

I would advise strongly against anything bigger then the 19.
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Old 08-03-2006, 09:39 AM   #12
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I have until just recently towed a 17 foot TT (3500 lbs) with a 2004 Toyota Tacoma 4x4 reg cab, with a 103" wheelbase. I found it to be very unstable for towing, especially in windy conditions or being passed by big rigs. I upgrade to an 05 Dodge Dakota CC w/V8. MUCH, MUCH better.
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Old 08-03-2006, 09:44 AM   #13
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Toyota Tacoma

Forgot to add: I was using a Reese WD w/swaybar. Still scary towing at times.
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Old 08-24-2006, 11:31 PM   #14
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Ok I did some calculating, devised some models and I say you better be real careful!
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