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Old 06-16-2015, 04:22 PM   #1
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Rockingham , North Carolina
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What's biggest Airstream I can safely tow with 2008-2012 Suburban?

Sorry for adding another newbie post, but read lots of contradicting info. Wife and I, infant, toddler, and german shepherd, are looking to buy first RV. Going to dealer here in NC tomm to see 25' and 27'.

Driving 2004 Tahoe 2WD now, but plan to upgrade soon to a newer model (not newest boxy style) Suburban 4WD. Read about the 1500 and 2500, 1/2 ton and 3/4 ton as I understand it, but buying a 2500 may not be possible. Assuming so, I'm wanting to get input on suitability of using a 2008-2012 Suburban 4WD 1500.

Never towed anything but my Harley trailer and flatbed whitwater raft trailer, so not sure what to make of tow ratings, tongue weight, etc. Figured asking you guys here was safer than relying on a dealer, whom stands personal gain from the sale.

Also, what (if any) aftermarket mods to hitch or Airstream would make towing safer? Our main use will be weekend trips to Smoky Mountains of NC and Tenn. For us, that is 3-4 hours of highway riding and 1-2 hours of mountain driving with steep hills, curves, etc. Thanks for any insights.


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Old 06-16-2015, 04:33 PM   #2
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Towing safety has a lot to do with the tow vehicle but the connection system and setup also has a great deal to do with it.

If your set up is not as good as it could be you many find it a struggle towing a 20'.
But if the set up is optimal and you consider high end hardware (Hensley/Propride) a much larger Airstream could be a safe and comfy ride.

You have lots of reading and research to do. The forums here have lots of info.

Airstreams..... The best towing trailers on the planet!
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Old 06-16-2015, 04:56 PM   #3
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Many people like the Suburban as a tow vehicle. While it would not be my preferred choice, it should do the job just fine.

Keep in mind that tow ratings are not set according to a uniform engineering standard (this is changing for the latest trucks), so they mean very little indeed. The numbers to keep an eye on, in my opinion, are payload, axle load and tire ratings.

Body on frame SUVs and trucks are generally built with older, and simpler, technology than modern SUVs. The exception is the Ford Explorer, which comes with fully independent rear suspension, and excellent payload.

Newer Airstreams are generally heavier than older models, something to keep in mind.
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Old 06-16-2015, 06:48 PM   #4
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I am no help, as I have a Bambi. I had a 2008 1500 burban but turned in for 2013 2500. I travel to festivals with two tules on top and packed to the gills( 2nd and 3rd row seats removed. I used a Reese Wd when loaded for festival on 5th link and a friction sway bar and no wd when empty and out for vacation camping. I totally did not answer your question, but do love my sububans, have only ever driven them.
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Old 06-17-2015, 06:37 AM   #5
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Thanks for the input. I appreciate it.

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Old 06-17-2015, 07:50 AM   #6
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2014 27' FB Eddie Bauer
Mobile , Alabama
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Dan, we have a 2007 1500 2 wheel drive Surburban with a towing pkg that we tow with a 27 2014 EB with.
We towed our trailer back from NJ with a Propride hitch without any issues. But you could tell it was a hard pull with the Surburban going uphill.
That being said, we feel that we need to upgrade to a 2500 4x4 truck at some point before I retire
We are glad we went with the 27 EB instead of the 25 EB due to more interior space and larger storage area.
Over the years we anticipate changing our tow vehicle out, but did not want to have to change out our trailer due to wanting more space.
So for us it is one thing at a time. We had a paid for Surburban that can do the tow if we take things easy and slow, and down the road we are going to upgrade our tow vehicle for a 2500 truck.
A 1500 Surburban with a good hitch can do the tow on flat ground,but you will be wanting a 2500 on mountains and hills.
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Old 06-17-2015, 08:18 AM   #7
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2007 25' Safari FB SE
Saint Paul , Minnesota
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Hi Dan and welcome. This is a good place to learn about towing and Airstream. A good resource on vehicles is the annual Trailer Life guide to Towing. You will find information on most towing vehicles and be able to see how they are rated for towing. There are also great articles in each annual issue that gives you basics. Here is a link to the Trailer Life guides by year. Trailer Towing Guides | Trailer Life Magazine
The next step is to get information on the specific Airstream that you plan to tow. You will discover that the weight and other specs of an Airstream are different depending on the year it was built. I'm not sure where I picked this up but I will attach a list of the different years and some basic information on each model.
This forum is a good place to learn. You will discover that there are many factors (and opinions) that go into making the right decision. These 2 resources are a good place to start putting basic information together.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Airstream wt - ALL.pdf (61.4 KB, 55 views)
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Old 06-17-2015, 08:50 AM   #8
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The Surburban should be fine, but it will struggle in the hills, the main factors with that truck are the 5.3L is low in power (my opinion as a long term GM truck guy) and you'll want to find a 3.73 rear end or better 4.10 which is really difficult. You're going to look in the center console or glove box for the GM RPO codes to ID the rear gearing.

GT4= Axle rear, 3.73 ratio
GT5 = Axle rear, 4.10
G80= Axle positraction, limited slip

Like others stated, don't over load the Suburban when towing. You'll want most of your gear in the Airstream, and leave the Suburban for your family.

That being said, you can find them with the 6.0L. And if you do, it'd be better over the 5.3L. But it's going to be harder to find. Most folks go for low gearing and smaller engine.

The final answer, I wouldn't go over 27 with a half ton. Personal opinion on that. I know others tow 30+ feet with their mini-vans. I like to go faster than 35mph up hills.
Family of 5 exploring the USA with a Ram Power Wagon & Airstream in tow.
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Old 06-17-2015, 10:19 AM   #9
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Some of it depends on the year of the trailer as well. The pre-early 80's are lighter in weight.

We have an 09 Suburban 1500 Z71 - 5.3l with 3.42 in the rear. This setup paired with the 6-speed l60e trans makes a useful combination the older (pre-l60e trans needed a higher rear ratio with the motor and trans combo) - no it will not win any races but does the job quite well.

I took ours and weighed at a cat station to see exactly what our weight was - then did the math and started looking for a suitable AS.

Upgraded to K9000 adjustable shocks, aftermarket HD trans cooler, P3 brake controller.

We tow a 76 31' Excella 500 - factory weight was 4950 when I towed home we were at 5500 with a half tank of water, all appliances, microwave, a full size couch in the front, double beds, etc...

The trailer came with a weight distribution hitch - towed 5 hours no issues at 55-65 mph and averaged 13.8 - again not winning any races but comfortable with two adults, 3 boys and a dog....

Do the math and then find the right AS to suit your needs.
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Old 06-17-2015, 10:37 AM   #10
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Max Tow Rating?

A much simpler and more accurate number is to confirm the max tow rating of the vehicle, paying attention to the max allowable weight on the rear axle (usually the first number that RV towers bust), and the max vehicle weight of the tow vehicle (include all passengers, cargo, and the hitch weight of the trailer) in this calculation.

Vehicle manufacturers do not arbitrarily assign max tow weights. Many hours of engineering time and calculations go into the max tow and vehicle weight determination.

Limitations may not initially be obvious. Brakes, gearing, tires, axles, suspension, transmissions, and many other systems may be the limiting factor. Just changing out one or two questionable limitations (for example hitches or springs) will NOT change the manufacturers published ratings.

"Suck it up, spend the bucks, do it right the first time."

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Old 06-17-2015, 10:50 AM   #11
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Stone Mountain , Georgia
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I tow a 90 Excella 29' with a 99 Suburban 4wd 2500 with a 7.4 L and 3.73 axles. It has a fairly flat torque curve that works well. If you get a newer Suburban you will need an engine larger than the 5.3L, and the newer 6.2 gas engine is really great. Make sure you have a trailer towing package. Keep your heaviest cargo in front of your rear axle on the Suburban, and use a load leveling hitch and sway control, and yes the 2500 level is better if you can get it.

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Old 06-17-2015, 10:52 AM   #12
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A 2500 Suburban will tow any Airstream trailer ever built. A 1500 Suburban might or might not, depending on engine and rear end gears.
My 2 cents...
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Old 06-17-2015, 11:44 AM   #13
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I tow with a 1996 2wd Sub 2500. I have a 30' classic. I don't go anywhere quick, especially uphill. I love the truck. Lot's of space.

Why do you want 4wd?
Proud Member of the Wally Byam Airstream Club #24260

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Old 06-17-2015, 12:00 PM   #14
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We live in North Carolina and tow a Flying Cloud 30 with a 1/2 ton Silverado 4x4. Ours has the larger engine, 3.73 gears, and the older 4 speed transmission. I added a huge transmission cooler. Power is no problem with this truck. I pulled 12-15% grades off and on for about 5 miles going into a campground at Philpott Lake in Virginia. If you can find a Suburban with the larger 6.2L, decent gearing, and the newer 6 speed transmission (which I think they all have now) then it will definitely tow. As others will certainly tell you, just watch you payload capacities.

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