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Old 01-08-2014, 05:02 PM   #1
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Starting with the basics Newbie needs help with hitch set up

I have been eyeing airstreams for some time and am giving some very serious thought to scratching that itch as it were. I'm a fairly skilled woodworker with a very full workshop and enough rough lumber to last many years. I can deal with basic electrical and plumbing issues, so I feel capable of dealing with the interior of an older smaller/ish (say 25 foot and under) AS.

I have been lurking on this site for a while and have read enough to know that axles likely need to be replaced, or at least bearings packed, new tires, and a light bar to get the trailer rolling.

What I don't have completely figured out are the towing options, and I could use some help.

We have two cars: a 2004 6cy Explorer that is wired for trailer lights and has a factory installed 2 inch receiver. I don't know off of the top of my head, but I think it is rated for 3500 lbs, perhaps a bit more.

The second car is a 2012 Lexus GX 460. It has an eight cylinder engine. We got it pre-owned, and it didn't have a hitch but came wired. I tried to get the dealer to install the factory hitch, but they told me it would be "too expensive" and pointed me to Haskins hitch locally, where he sends all of his customers. The car's manual says it can tow 7800 with the factory hitch, which attaches under the frame by the tires. I looked at etrailer.com and other places when we got the car, and the best hitch I could find was a Curt which bolted on to threaded nuts welded to the frame, but was rated for 5000lbs, 500 tongue. At the time, I thought it was plenty and ordered it from eTrailer.com to be ready.

Now I'm having second thoughts that a fully loaded AS may need more than the 5000 lbs capacity, and might need some additional reinforcement to the frame of the car.

Will I be able to address issues by using sway systems on the trailer end of things, or is there another hitch system I need to look at?

I'm really trying to be ready if a "target of opportunity" arises so that I can jump in my car and simply pick it up (or pick it up and promptly drive it somewhere it can get new tires).

Am I limited to the Curt hitch I have, or are there others?

With a 5000 lbs capacity and 500 tongue, what dry weight should I consider as my max? Do full propane tanks really add a lot to the tongue weight?

Any particular older (less expensive relatively) models I should be looking for?

I need at least two sleeping areas for an annual trip I take with a buddy. A full bed would also be nice as my wife and I plan on taking a few trips when my kids go to college in a few years. Ideally I'd like to sleep four comfortably so we can have a few family trips

So beyond hitch suggestions, I'm interested in trailer suggestions as well. right now I've been looking for 70s era in the mid 20 foot length. I looked briefly at a 27 foot Overlander, but couldn't close the deal before someone else did. I am a bit concerned that a 27 feet, things will be getting too long to drive easily.

Sorry for the rambling post, but there is apparently a lot to consider, but in some ways it all comes back to the hitch, which is why I'm starting here.

thanks for the help.
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Old 01-08-2014, 05:49 PM   #2
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My suggestion would be to sell the Curt hitch on Ebay or Craig's list and spend a nice weekend with your wife visiting CanAm RV just across the border in Canada. Andy is an expert in setting up hitches on various vehicles and your Lexus would be a simple thing for him. CanAM is also and Airstream dealer, so you can check out all kinds of different models. You could also stop at the factory in Jackson Center, OH for a tour either on the way up or back, or both.
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Old 01-08-2014, 05:49 PM   #3
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Your idea of looking for an early/vintage trailer is a sound one. They just keep building the new ones heavier and heavier, it seems. We have a 25' 1971 Tradewind. It's a great size and we've had a great time repairing and customizing it.

I don't know much about the towing capacity stuff - we already had an F250 4WD diesel crew cab, which works like a dream. Some people have had good results from CanAm trailers in Canada (Ontario????). They seem to specialize in working out towing configurations for smaller tow vehicles.
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Old 01-09-2014, 07:20 AM   #4
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Thanks.

I seem in a bit of a chicken and egg situation. I don't want to get a hitch that is too big, but at the same time I don't know my requirements yet. Seems like the first plunge may be a hitch.
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Old 01-09-2014, 10:06 AM   #5
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If I remember right, there are 2 weight ratings on receivers. One is a dead weight and the other number is with weight distribution hitch set up. Take a closer look at your receiver to verify the numbers again. The weight distribution number is higher most of the time.
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Old 01-09-2014, 11:03 AM   #6
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Will do. Thanks. I think your instincts are right that the weight distribution weight on my wife's car accounts for the difference. Seems like I need to find a decent weight distribution hitch for her car.
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Old 01-09-2014, 11:14 AM   #7
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While there is such a thing as too heavy duty of a tow vehicle, I don't think there is such a thing as a hitch too capable.
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Old 01-09-2014, 12:25 PM   #8
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With our tongue weight approaching 1,175 pounds with the 2013 25FB International Serenity, we cut off the factory 1,200 pound receiver and installed a Curt model 15409 receiver on our 2012 Dodge that is rated for 2,550 pounds tongue weight and up to a 17,000 pound trailer. That safely covers even a 34' Airstream Classic at 11,500 pounds GVW.
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Old 01-09-2014, 12:32 PM   #9
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I previously owned a LX470 that we had a hitch installed on (not a Lexus one...too expensive) and we used it to tow our boat which weighed about 5,000 lbs. So, if you're looking at older model Airstream, which are lighter, you might be able to tow with you GX460 (8 cyclinder?) instead of the Explorer with the 6 cyclinder.
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Old 01-09-2014, 04:22 PM   #10
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I called the other dealership in town on a lark today. They can get me the class Iv hitch that bolts directly to the frame for 350. Grrr I wish I had know that before. This has weight distribution and a 7800 capacity, which should more than meet my needs.
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Old 01-15-2014, 12:28 PM   #11
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I followed up today to get capacity of the hitch. With weight distribution 6500 and 650 tongue weight and without 5000 and 500 tongue weight.

Install was crazy. Part was 350. Install was 400. Said it would take half a days labor. I have already attached a curt hitch with 5000/500 and it took me 20 min, mostly because I had to figure out how to loosen the full sized spare. Looks like a job I will do myself unless the esteemed group here thinks it might be more than a bolt on
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