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Old 06-23-2007, 01:42 PM   #1
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1986 29' Sovereign
Delta , British Columbia
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 87
Images: 31
Yet another question about trailer weight...

Hi Guys,

I have been reading posts on this (and a few other sites) for a few years now. But I am just as confused today as I was on day one. Here is my direct example of my confusion:

I have a 1997 Chevy Tahoe, 4 dr, 4 wheel drive, 5.7l (350 cid) engine, 4L60E tranny, and 3.73 gears. It also came with the factory tow package. My owner's manual tells me I can pull a trailer up to 6500 lbs. (I live in a VERY mountainous area, so I will have to tow up and down mountains)

I am looking at 1987 29' Sovereign. According to, this trailer has a dry weight of 5300 lbs. And a GVW of 6800lbs.

I have seen many suggestions that you should not pull a trailer that weighs more than 80% of your maximum tow rate (that would be about 5200 lbs for my truck, very close to the dry weight of the Airstream). NOW, is this magical 80% number actually 80% of the 'dry weight' or of the 'actual' real-life weight? If it refers to the actual real-life weight, how can you ever determine if you vehicle can tow a trailer??????? Different options mean different weights. No seller that I have ever talked to has taken their trailer over a commercial scale, and so they have no idea of how much their trailer actually weighs. All I ever get is, "The dry weight is..." and, "The GVW is ...", I assume the actual weight of the trailer is somewhere in the middle, but isn't the GVW the total weight the vehicle can handle loaded? What number can I use to determine if I can actually pull the trailer?

Now I do want an Airstream that is big enough for my family but when I go out looking and I think I've found a great one, my wife asks the same question, "Can our truck pull it?" I can't give her a direct answer because I can't take the trailer and weigh it. Therefore, my wife won't let me buy the trailer for fear it will kill our truck.

With all the differening ideas I have heard about what I can and cannot pull, it makes me think there is some 'black magic' about this whole concept, and nothing is really set in stone.

Please, please help to enlighten me. Just what weight range can I actually tow with my truck? How can I ever find the actual weight of a trailer if I can't take it to the weight scales? I don't want to buy something I can't tow. But I don't want to pass up something I can tow.

Thanks for your input!!!


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Old 06-23-2007, 01:50 PM   #2
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1986 29' Sovereign
Delta , British Columbia
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 87
Images: 31
I forgot to add, that I do have a Hensley Arrow hitch, which I think will help me with my shorter wheel base (shorter that a Suburban), but not with my weights.

Thanks again,


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Old 06-23-2007, 01:59 PM   #3
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1968 17' Caravel
Battle Ground , Washington
Join Date: Dec 2002
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I think you'll find you can tow a lot of trailer with that setup, but you won't know for sure how comfortable a ride it will be pulling up and down the mountains until you actually have the chance to do it. My advice would be to find that perfect trailer for your family, and then if you find you need to upgrade your truck, do so when you can. If you buy the right Airstream it will long outlast your truck.

I believe the 80% rule is meant to give you a little leeway so that when your trailer is fully loaded you will not exceed your trucks capacity.

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Old 06-24-2007, 01:24 PM   #4
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2012 30' International
Walkerton , Virginia
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 2,369
Rod, I towed my 25' Safari with a Tahoe very similar in age and setup as yours. I lost my tranny up on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia.

Replaced the tranny, sold the truck and bought a diesel 3/4 ton. Many happy miles after that - including up into your beautiful mountains on my way to and from Alaska.

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Old 06-24-2007, 03:14 PM   #5
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1974 27' Overlander
Puyallup , Washington
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 124
I have a '74 27' Overlander (approx 5500# when towing). I have been towing it for 10 years with my '93 Chev full size Blazer (throttle body fuel inj. same trans, rear end, towing package as yours). We usually go on 3-4 camping trips a year, and we've towed through the Washington Cascades many times. Power is adequate - 50 to 60 mph through the passes - we seem to keep up with most everyone else. My biggest concern when we first purchased the Airstream was the short wheelbase of the Blazer. I have never had any instability issues, although I've reached down to the manual trailer brake slider on a few occasions (maybe a strong gust of wind, or a large rig passing me at a good clip)! That said... I know it's not the ideal towing setup, but since I just don't tow that much, I have found no reason to switch towing rigs. My Blazer is my daily driver with 160,000 miles. When it gives up the ghost, I'll probably get a truck with at least a 6 litre engine. I think it's mostly a matter of personal preference (or tolerance) when you're in the ballpark, as you are. I've seen people towing lighter trailers than mine switch from big block Suburbans to diesel Excursions for more towing power. I certainly don't regret my towing setup, and as I get older, a stronger, stabler setup will probably make more sense. Hope this helps!!
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