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Old 03-09-2003, 04:08 PM   #1
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Matching Airstream & Tow Vehicle

We have been using a motorhome for the past 10 years and are wanting to get back to an Airstream trailer.
We have a Dodge 3/4 ton van with a 318 and auto transmission. We checked with the local Dodge dealership and couldn't get any help on the towing capabilities. What size Airstream could we safely pull? Any help would be appreciated. Thank you!!

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Old 03-09-2003, 04:52 PM   #2
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You may find this previous thread to be helpful. It's a poll asking about the tow vehicles of forum members, but there are lots of posts talking about different trailer/tow vehicle set-ups. You'll see that most folks have 1/2 or 3/4 ton vehicles. Good luck!


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Old 03-09-2003, 07:55 PM   #3
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I would check to see if the vehicle has gearing and heavy duty cooling. A call to the manufacturer or a van club forum would do wonders for you answer.

If the van has heavy duty cooling, proper gearing and the 318, it **should** be able to tow up to 5000lbs, maybe more depending on what the factory says.

Look around though, don't take my word for it soley. It's always good to research as you are doing before buying a trailer.


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Old 03-09-2003, 09:37 PM   #4
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Dodge Van Towing Capacity

I recommend going back to Dodge. Maybe Dodge corporate has a Customer Technical Support Group. For my Chevy truck, I found that Chevy has a CAC (Customer Assistance Center) that responded to my email when I needed to determine towing capacity. They needed information about the options installed at the factory (the codes are listed on a sticker in the glove compartment for my 1982 pick-up) and gave me ratings (2,000lbs towing and 10-15% tongue weight on the bumper hitch).

Sounds like a poor interaction with your local Dodge dealer, but they should be able to provide EXACT info about your vehicle. If you are not uncomfortable, you could go back to them again first.

Good luck!
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Old 03-10-2003, 07:55 AM   #5
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I have many years of Dodge truck info. I also have pulled with 3/4 ton vans for many years. I should be able to help if you can answer the folowing questions.

1. Model year
2. Wheel base
3. Axle Ratio
4. Does it have trailer tow prep package
5. Is it a conversion or standard window or cargo van

The option sticker on Dodge vans is on the underside of the hood near the master cylinder.
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Old 03-10-2003, 12:11 PM   #6
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Try this:
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Old 03-10-2003, 01:51 PM   #7
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That site was cool, but it only covered '02 and '03s.

I thought that I recalled Apple1 was an engineer (retired) from AMC, an then Daimler/Chrysler.

If I even reacall further (and I could have the wrong person in mind) Apple1 was the person that was resp for assigning tow ratings.

If I have the right person, then what he said, I would consider near law, if not law--or at the very least listen very carefully to what he said.


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Old 03-10-2003, 09:44 PM   #8
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From what I understand, (and I am still in the learning phase to be honest) you can tow a fairly heavy A/S with a small block V8 (like 5.2 in Dodge, 350 in Chevy and Ford) if you use the proper rear end and go slower. That means 4.10 rear. This is what I heard. I have no personal experience with it.

Pro truckers tow 10 times as much weight with an engine which is only slightly powerful than a V8 you can get. But they have enough gears where can they do it. With a 4.10 rear you might not go fast, especially in hilly areas, but you can pull it off.

Otherwise, you have to go to the big block V8 like 460 or 454, something with lots of torque, hp. In that case, the rear end does not matter, you can have 3.55 - would be better for highway driving unless your unit is really really heavy, over 12,000 lbs. These big block engines are good if you tow a lot and often and faster. The ultimate full-time towing machine is a 1 ton truck like F350 or its Chevy cousin.

In either case, small block or big block V8, you need a 3/4 ton truck with better suspension, towing package, tranny cooler. I wouldn't use a plain-jane F150 or a 1/2 ton vehicle for anything over 25'.

I did some research on the matter and here are various alternative viewpoints to be considered:

I have had good luck towing with small blocks but not with a 8000 load. I tried it with a 351 but it just but too much work on the engine and heat seemed to be a constant problem out here on the western passes and hills.

I then went with a standard cab 1988 3/4 dodge with a 360. Unlike the ford, it came with a 4:11 rear end and had no problem except a short wheel base that let the trailer whip me a bit even with load levers and sway bars. But the gas mileage (15-17) was better than the 460's or 454's when not towing.

I now tow around 12 to 14,000 so I have gone diesel and won't go back but I think that the secret is the taller rear end with the small block.
My '88 fuel-injected Ford E250 van with 5.8 Windsor small-block and total tow package (including oversize tranny cooler and custom-built radiator) weighs 8,200 pounds and is 9 feet high (30" cap). It had 3.73 gears for a few years, but when that axle and gearset wore out 6-8 years ago from the load I switched to a new one-ton axle with 4.10 gearing. It also wore out two engines; its third 5.8 is just now getting well-broken-in. Total vehicle mileage is approaching 200,000. (My last Chevy Astro van ran 245,000 hard miles without touching the engine or tranny.)

I get 7.5 mpg @ about 72 mph on the GOOD days, and can't tow even a single jet-ski without frying catalytic converters because the computer (both the original and a newer, E350 computer) demand full rich with the extra load of the jet ski at 70 (verified by a breakout box inserted between the computer and the engine). After cooking 6 cats in one summer, I put the new ones in the garage; that was the only solution six carefully-selected garages, including a big Ford dealership, could come up with.

Once upon a time I got almost 10 mpg (we're talking U.S. gallons), but those days are gone forever. Several shops blame that on lower-quality fuels the last 5-10 years.

I'll never buy a small-block again for anything over about 6,000 pounds TOTAL. It's just working too dang hard for efficient, long life, IM Experience. The extra few thousand bucks I should have paid for the 460 or even a Powerstroke in an E350 would have been peanuts compared to all the new engines, axles, radiators, catalytic converters, and hundreds of hours of shop labor required to analyze al those problems. I've paid far more for service due to overloaded engine and drive train than the van cost me new. Mike

Changing from 3.55 to 4.10 gears will increase your rpms at a given speed by approximately 300 rpms. This gear mod is a 15% change in gearing.

Should not be a factor on the highway with OD on. Performance, it's going to come alive out of the hole and pull stronger through the gears. Remember, your not adding more hp, you're just getting to the power curve faster.
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Old 03-11-2003, 07:10 AM   #9
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I don't think you need to go to 4.10 gears. Might be nice, but 3.73s are just as effective.

The V8 with the proper cooling, gearing and hitch can pull anywhere from 5k to 14k pounds.

How much depends on what the individual manufaturer assembles in it's product.

Check with Dodge or listen to Apple1. Without any real detailed info, 5,000lbs is my saftey range suggestion until otherwise identified.


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Old 03-11-2003, 07:32 PM   #10
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I tow a 28' Excella (93 Model) with a 97 Dodge 2500 conversion van, 318 ci., 3.55 axle. The Operator's Manual rates this vehicle to tow 7800 lbs. I confirmed this with the manufacturer, not the dealer, before I bought it. The only modification to the vehicle is a Dodge after-market trans cooler and 75/140 synthetic differential oil which the dealer added per the mfg. recommendation to me. I tow with the overdrive locked out per Operators Manual instruction. The Airstream weighs about 6800 max loaded for the road. This Dodge cruises at Interstate Speed limit with no problem. I get 10-12 mpg, depending on headwind. Good Luck with your Dodge.
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Old 03-11-2003, 07:57 PM   #11
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a 28' Excella (93 Model)
I see were your problem may be: according to Airstream and the NADA GUIDE:

Your trailer does not exist

Are you sure it is a 28' ?

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