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Old 02-24-2003, 03:36 PM   #1
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Newbie Tow Advice Needed

(Sorry if you've seen this, with this being our first post, we posted in the wrong place initially.)

As long-time admirers of airstreams, my wife and I are considering embarking on a new adventure and purchasing one. So many questions, but we'll keep it simple for now. The first question is about towing size:

We've tried to decipher GVWR and GCWR on websites and on our vehicle and since they are all different, we come up with more different answers than there are months in the year. If anybody is willing to share some knowledge with novices, we sure would appreciate it.

We have a '97 Ford E350, 5.4 Liter V8, extended cargo van, with a 138" wheelbase and a step bumper - affectionately known as "Big White". We are hoping to use this as the tow vehicle.

The door label indicates that the:
GVWR=9,400
FR-GAWR= 3,550
F-GAWR=6,084
I'm not sure what rear axle it has, but the sticker notes something like 39?

What is the largest airstream that this vehicle will comfortably tow? What is the max tongue weight? Obviously we have to subtract cargo, but we desperately need an unloaded starting point!

And thanks to Maurice in OH for discussing the merits of wheelbase. Accordingly, this vehicle will only tow a 27' length trailer. What happens if the "110" for a 20' trailer, with 4" more for each additional foot" rule is stretched a bit?

Our second question pertains to purchasing advice (big topic, we imagine). Without opening a can of worms that probably gets opened three times a month. Can anyone direct us to an FAQ about merits of the various double models and things to look for when purchasing - we'll even consider rejuvenating a vintage project. Any recommended dealers in the east?

And sure, we'd love to hear about your favorites!

David and Rebecca
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Old 02-24-2003, 04:30 PM   #2
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David and Rebecca,

I can't find anything going back to 1997 but Ford's specs for the 1999 E350 with the 5.4 liter V8 shows a tow limit of 7,500 lbs. This is based on having the factory tow package, automatic transmission and the rear axle being a 3.98/4.08/4.10.

I don't know what the unloaded weight of your van is but you could take it to a public scale. That would allow you to subtract the unloaded weight from the GVWR figure which will give you your cargo capacity. The final figure you need from Ford is the GCVWR, which would be the maximum combined weight that your vehicle can handle. You take this figure, subtract the normal towing weight of your trailer, subtract the unloaded weight of the van. The final number is the load the van can carry. This weight includes passengers, fuel, and other stuff. If you exceed the GCVR you shorten the life of the van.

Keep in mind that I don't know the figures for the '97 E350 so they could be lower that what I listed above.

Regards,

Jack
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Old 02-25-2003, 09:53 AM   #3
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Thanks Jack!

I'm beginning to decipher this. Looks like my initial post (in the wrong place!) was picked up by several others.

At this point, I wish I could tell you where that thread is, but I'm still looking for the lightswitch!

What an amazing site, in terms of complexity and options.

Dave
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Old 02-25-2003, 10:05 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mr. Bliss
Thanks Jack!

I'm beginning to decipher this. Looks like my initial post (in the wrong place!) was picked up by several others.

At this point, I wish I could tell you where that thread is, but I'm still looking for the lightswitch!

What an amazing site, in terms of complexity and options.

Dave
It's right ----->HERE<------
If it's a recent post the quick way to find it is hit that button top near the center marked "Home) that takes you to the main page and the last 30 posts are there.
Yes the board has a lot of forums but once you get use to them it's helpfull if your looking for something specific. All posts on that subject will be in one spot. Keeps you from having to wade thought 40 posts about how to polish to find the one on how to replace that missing doohiky.
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Old 02-25-2003, 04:22 PM   #5
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Dave,

I saw the posting you made in the Safari forum after I gave you my thoughts. Since I don't moderate this particular forum I couldn't combine your two threads into one thread which probably would have made your navigation a little easier.

You will find in most cases that there are enough of us around that posting your request just once will get you sufficient answers. If you post is in the wrong forum one of the appropriate moderators will get it placed correctly.

Regards,

Jack
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Old 02-25-2003, 04:41 PM   #6
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Canadian humor?

Now that I'm posting in the right place -- I think! -- here's the latest:

I found out my axle ratio (seems a code of 39 on the door means 3.55 for a Ford E350), then I spoke with Gordon at can-am-rv.com in Canada (recommended by Wayne F - thanks Wayne!). He felt that with a Hensley hitch, that "Big White" could tow anything....even a 34' airstream, if equipped with a brake controller and a transmission cooler.

Could this be true?

He mentioned that most towing capacities are based upon a rectangular box, loaded with sand. The manufacturers then tow the box until the driver says that it feels squirrely. They weigh it, then establish the recommended weight as half of this amount.

Additionally, he said that due to the aerodynamic shape of the airstream, this further aids the controllability and ease of towing. With the Hensley hitch, it boils down to horsepower and torque, primarily.

David
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Old 02-25-2003, 05:25 PM   #7
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David,
I'm not going to discredit anyone's advice as to what your vehicle will tow. Specifically I would tell you to do the research, go to Ford and get the specifications of your van and follow them accordingly. Obviously you will have to make that decision as to the trailer and its weight that your van will have to tow. Can-Am-RV or Jack Canavera will not warrant your tow vehicle if it fails due to advice we give you. What Can-Am told you may be true. But the buck stops with you and only you will be the one paying if the advice you get is incorrect.

Jack
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Old 02-25-2003, 05:45 PM   #8
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Hi David,

I tow with a Dodge 350 Extended van. I tow a 25' Tradewind. My van handles the weight and size of the 25ft Tradewind quite well, but the power to travel comfortably is just barely enough. My van has a 3:93 rear end, factory tow package with trans cooler and the 5.9l Dodge fuel injected engine. I use a conventional hitch with load distributing bars, and a Tekonsha brake controller. Sometimes I use a anti-sway device, but I am still not sure it does a lot of good.
With your engine being a 5.4 l, the gearing being relatively tall for towing, I would not go over 23 to 25 ft, or 5800lbs, whichever comes first.
Sure it is possible to tow much more with your van, but not comfortable or safe. Remember, Canadian firms have no liability problems in US, so they can recommend all they want. Personally, I don't see the point of their recommendations.
I do like towing with our van, it seems the aerodynamics are quite good at speed.When we travel, our van is often loaded with all sorts of recreational items, people, small people, food, etc. It's still a spacious and comfortable ride. I imagine you will enjoy yours, too.
Cargo vans have the advantage that they are lighter, with out all the luxury items like carpets, paneling, 2 A/C systems, 2 heaters, 3 rows of seats etc.
Also, the concern with the suspension being too hard on a 1 ton vehicle does not apply to us, because it softens considerably once loaded. Anyways, there are many useful theories in this forum about towing vehicles, formulas etc. My reply was meant to share some real life experience with you, being that we'll be towing with similar vehicles. Make sure you get a first class trailer hitch and a good weight distributing system for your rig, though. A tow bumper will more than likely not suffice.
Good Luck!!
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Old 02-25-2003, 05:47 PM   #9
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Hi Jack,

That is excellent advice!
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Old 02-25-2003, 06:53 PM   #10
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David --

All good advice.

The most important thing about towing a heavy trailer is STOPPING it in an emergency situation. The STOP factor is a big part of the overall rating the manufacturers lay on thier products.

Even with excellent trailer brakes the tow vehicle is still the prime component in any braking exercise.

Trust the manufacturer - not the salesman.



There is no substitute for common sense and cubic inches.....

......and square inches of brake pad contact.
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Old 02-25-2003, 07:23 PM   #11
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Question

Quote:
Originally posted by jcanavera
David,
Obviously you will have to make that decision as to the trailer and its weight that your van will have to tow. What Can-Am told you may be true. But the buck stops with you and only you will be the one paying if the advice you get is incorrect.

Jack
Jack, UWE, I agree.... For my vehicle and usage Can Am suggested a 25' as max. No doubt their recomendation was accuate but after many test drives, and since this was our first travel trailer our comfort level was with the 21 to 23 ft' level. With Dave's van the Hensley would help overcome the overhang issue but what you guys said about power and gears is true. Ultimately Dave will need to figure out what he would be comfortable with.
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Old 02-26-2003, 03:57 PM   #12
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Hensley hitch

Hmmm, I'm trying to figure this all out.

Do any of you use a Hensley Hitch? If so, what length trailer do you pull? What's your wheelbase and overhang?

Have we used up our allotment of questions yet!?!?

Dave
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Old 02-26-2003, 06:16 PM   #13
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Trailer
34'10" Front of coupler to rear of rear bumper
18'05" Center of ball coupler to center of front axle
23'04" Center of ball coupler to center of rear axle

Truck
158" Wheelbase (13'2")
41" End of hitch receiver to center of rear axle (so called "overhang")

22" End of hitch receiver to center of Hensley ball
63" Center of Hensley ball to center of rear axle

17" End of hitch recevier to center of Hensley links
58" Center of Hensley links to center of rear axle

18'05" Center of Hensley ball to center of front truck axle
18'05" Center of Hensley ball to center of trailer front axle
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