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Old 12-11-2002, 05:53 PM   #1
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What will I need to tow?

Hi All,

I am going to the hitch place this weekend or next to have a tranny cooler put on my Suburban (C1500, 5.7L Vortec, 3.73 axle). I currently have a class III hitch, but what else do I need to have done to the vehicle? I have a 4 wire plug at the moment with a 2 inch receiver.

Someone said I will need a 7 way plug and an electronic brake
control to tow these units. Also, confirm the ball size (2 inch?) and what should the ball be rated at (how many pounds)? I'm a little confused. Is the brake control a separate box - how much/what kind should I get?
Thxs in advance.

David

PS: I will be pulling a Tradewind or Overlander
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Old 12-11-2002, 09:48 PM   #2
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What will I need to tow?

Greetings David!

Welcome to the world of Vintage Airstreaming, and the world of Overlander/TradeWind ownership. I am sure that you will find the Overlander/TradeWind a pleasure to own.

Quote:
I currently have a class III hitch, but what else do I need to have done to the vehicle? I have a 4 wire plug at the moment with a 2 inch receiver.
You will need a load equalizing/distributing ball mount with spring bars - - I use Reese, but there are several alterantives out there. If you choose Reese, the Reese representative recommended 750 pound spring bars for my Overlander and they have worked out beautifully (500 pound bars were too light and took a set that was undesirable). The hitch head will need to be set between 18" and 18.5" depending upon the year of your TradeWind or Overlander. If your Suburban happens to be a "K" series, you will likely need a deep drop draw bar to get the ball height correct for your trailer. See the following link for hitch heights (and empty weights - - just remember empty weight DO NOT Include options or ANY fluids):

Airstream Trailer Specifications (Dry Weight and Hitch Heights)

Again, depending upon year of the TradeWind/Overlander, you will need either a 2" or a 2 5/16" hitch ball with at least 6,000 pound load carrying rating. I believe that the cut off was pre-1969 2" - - 1969 and later 2 5/16" hitch balls - - unless, of course, a previous owner happened to have the coupler modified along the line.

Quote:
Someone said I will need a 7 way plug and an electronic brake controller.
Yes, you will need a 7-pin electrical connector, and I would suggest that you also purchase the matching trailer end to insure that there are no matching problems when you go to pick up the trailer. It is a rather easy fix if you have the parts available. I have my Suburban wired to the "Industry Standard" for the 7-pin connector, and adjusted both my Airstream and Argosy to that standard. You will also need an electronic brake controller. There are a number of alternatives out there, and the one of the most popular is the Tekonsha Prodigy - - I use a Tekonsha Voyager on my Suburban (less costly/fewer features), and it is an acceptable unit. See the folllowing link:

Tekonsha Electronic Inertial Brake Controllers

My personal favorite, and the one that I use with the two collector cars that ocassionally tow my trailers is the Hayes-Lemmerz Micro Control HD-Plus. It is also an inertia (pendulum type) controller, but it has the option of a remote control device that connect to the controller via a coiled cable and allows the driver to take control without struggling to reach for a controller that is too low on the dash or otherwise not handy - - I coil mine over the transmission shift lever in the Cadillac, and place it on the center console in my Dodge - - I have used the earlier version of this controller in my Dodge for a number of years, and have just upgraded to the most recent edition for my Cadillac. The only reason that I didn't go with this one on the Suburban was that my Airstream dealer only handled Tekonsha and he performed the setup for me. See the following link:

Hayes-Lemmerz Micro Control HD-Plus Brake Controller

A bit of advice that you didn't specifically ask for, but as an owner of an Overlander myself I thought that you might want to know. If you are planning on frequent traveling where grades might become an issue, the Overlander will prove quite a load for a C/K 1500 series vehicle - - I thought that a K1500 Z/71 Club Cab pickup would be ideal, but it struggled tremendously in the Rocy Mountains and even in the hills of SW Wisconsin and Southern Illinois - - it was 5.7 Liter with full trailer towing package and 3.73 differentials. My '64 Overlander weighs in at 4,700+ pounds dry or empty weight and has a fully loaded weight of nearly 6,000 pounds - - my K1500 pickup had a 6,000 pound trailer towing limit. A TradeWind should fall at least 500-700 pounds less than an Overlander which would give you a greater margin for comfortable towing. I currently tow with a 1999 GMC K2500 Suburban with full factory towing package, 7.4 Liter Vortec, and 4.10 gears which the factory rates for towing up to 10,000 pounds - - it is overkill for the Overlander, but it reassuring that the truck will be able to handle any road condition that we might encounter - - it has now covered in excess of 95,000 miles with 20% less maintenance than the K1500 that preceded it (both were special order new vehicles).

Good luck with your hitch installation and setup.

Kevin
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Old 12-12-2002, 07:20 PM   #3
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Kevin,

Thank you so much for taking the time - extremely helpful. I just printed off your post and will keep it. FYI, I am leaning toward the smaller Tradewind anyway - good advice to heed. I am, however, here in south Florida where the only hills we have are garbage dumps - sad to say.

I didn't have a towing package on my 1999 Suburban- but it did come with the 3.73 axle though no transmission cooler. Not sure what else comes on the "official" towing package. I'll check out their brake controllers while I'm getting the transmission cooler installed. Good idea to get the matching trailer end to avoid any issues.

What do the weight distributing ball mounts cost/run? Does this just plug into my receiver with some arms going to the trailer's airframe? Is this easy for a novice to install?

Thxs,
David
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Old 12-12-2002, 08:18 PM   #4
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What will I need to tow?

RE: Weight (load) Distributing Hitches

Greetings David!

Quote:
What do the weight distributing ball mounts cost/run?
The cost will depend to some degree on the manufacturer of the ball mount and the depth of the drop that is required for your application. The link below will take you to one of the on-line catalogs that offers Reese Ball mounts.

Reese Weight Distributing Adjustable Ball Mount

In addition to the weight distributing ball mount, you will also need the spring bars that Reese calls "Trunions", and a set of "snap-up" brackets to mount on the trailer tongue. The links below will take you to these items from one of the on-line catalogs:

Reese Trunion Style Hitch

(I am not certain from the description, but I think that the above item includes the ball mount but not the draw bar itself.

Reese Snap-Up Brackets for Trailer "A" Frame

(The illustration at the link above actually shows a Reese Dual Cam setup as well as the Snap-Up brackets which are the balck devices on the hitch that the chains are attached to.)

It is probably fairly evident from the above illustrations, but the ball mount will slide into the receiver on your Suburban and lock into the receiver with a special heavy duty pin (usually included with the draw bar/ball mount assembly when purchased as a unit). The trunion bars then slide into the ball mount one on each side and the trunion bars are then attached to the trailer via the snap-up brackets.

The one difference that you may encounter is the Reese Dual Cam Sway control. It was popular with many previous owners of Vintage units, and many of us continue to use them. I personally love my Dual Cam Sway control - - it is only very marginally more expensive than the friction devices and is far easier to manage - - requiring no constant adjustment as the friction devices can require under certain travel conditions. The Reese Dual Cam sway control system mounts on the "A" frame of the trailer hitch and can be seen in the illustration with the snap-up brackets - - it is the device with what appear to be large "U" bolts with metal "saddles" that the trunion bars ride in. In my experience it has performed flawlessly once properly setup, and I wouldn't be without it on any trailer with a loaded weight in excess of 4,000 pounds.

So far as installation is concerned, this entire setup can be handled by an experienced do-it-yourselfer. I like the additional security of knowing that all adjustments are absolutely correct, so I have had my Airstream dealer set up the equipment on my trailer and tow vehicle. The instructions that Reese provides with these products are very detailed. My concern has been with getting the ball mount at the proper height and angle - - prior to having my dealer setup the entire system, my trailer hitch installer supposedly adjusted the hitch to the proper height and angle - - turns out he didn't follow the instructions from Airstream and the hitch was far enough out of adjustment that the trailer did not track properly behind the Chevy pickup that I was towing with at that time. When the hithc is properly setup, you shouldn't be constantly reminded that the trailer is behind your Suburban - - in fact within a few hundred miles you might find yourself looking in the rearview mirror to verify that the trailer is still behind you.

I had another thought while keying this response. You didn't mention mirror extensions for your Suburban. Unless you happen to have one of the units equipped from the factory with the adjustable Westcoast mirrors, you will likely need some kind of mirror extensions for either the TradeWind or Overlander. There are two or three types out there, and each person develops a preference. I happen to have two styles, the slide on type:

SIPA Slip-On Towing Mirrors

I have used these for the last three years, and they are adequate. Ideally, they need about 2" more reach to really serve the intended need.

Two years ago, I acquired a set of clamp-on style mirrors that I really prefer made by McKesh. They are rather expensive - - something in excess of $80.00, but they are fully adjustable so you can get the best view possible.

McKesh Adjustable Towing Mirrors

RE: Trailer Tow Package on '99 Suburban

Basically the trailer tow package on the '99 Suburban included an auxiliary transmission oil cooler, a motor oil cooler (at least on 2500 series), heavy duty springs, heavy duty shocks, a hitch receiver, heavy duty alternator, heavy duty turn signal flasher, trailer wiring harness, <a notation on my invoice says heavy duty cooling - - I don't know whether that included an upgraded radiator, but it did include the oil cooler and transmission fluid cooler>, heavy duty battery (factory suggested option).

Good luck with getting your rig setup. It can be frustrating at times, but it will be worth the effort.

Kevin
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Old 12-13-2002, 09:46 PM   #5
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Kevin,

Thxs again for the insight/input. This has been very helpful. Hadn't even thought about the mirrors!

Brgds,
David
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Old 12-13-2002, 10:49 PM   #6
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Greetings David!

Happy that I was able to help out. One of the great pleasures of Airstream ownership is sharing of experiences - - you are never really alone; and for virtually any situation, someone out there has encountered a similar problem or concern.

I may have had a few more experiences than some since I seem to live with our friend, Murphy's Law, as a near constant companion - - some examples - - follow the bouncing spare (in 2000, the spare tire mount fractured on my Overlander and its spare hit the ground in front of the Oldsmobile Cutalss Cierra that was following (tailgating) me then bounced completely over the Cutlass - hit the road and veered off onto the shoulder - - last year it was the Inverter that decided that it was supposed to charge the tow vehicle as well as the trailer while underway which was followed by the pogo-stick electric tongue jack. If those weren't enough, during a period of five years, I had multiple incidents while fueling my Suburban where the fuel supply hose ruptures sending gasoline spewing everwhere - - needless to say I NEVER travel with my refrigerator set to propane.

Hope that all goes well with your tow vehicle setup. The '99 Suburban make fabulous tow vehicles.

Kevin
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1964 Overlander International/1999 GMC K2500 Suburban (7400 VORTEC/4.11 Differentials)
1978 Argosy Minuet 6.0 Metre/1975 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible (8.2 Liter V8/2.70 Final Drive)
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Old 12-14-2002, 08:37 AM   #7
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McKesh Mirrors

Granted, the McKesh are fine hardware, but I had the McKesh mirrors and ended up selling them. I loaned them to an Airstream friend to try and he didn't like them either and brought them back. Depending on the vehicle you own, they are murder on the rubber seal where the top clamp attaches at your window.

Unless you own a wide body (8 1/2' wide) trailer, IMHO the slip-on mirrors are all you really need. I usually don't even mount the right hand slip-on most of the time if I am travelling alone because it is a pain to aim by one person.
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