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Old 03-30-2003, 01:37 PM   #1
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Newbie Towing Questions

Hello,

I'm new to RVing and would greatly appreciate the opinions of the seasoned travelers in this forum.

I just bought a 2003 Safari 25 C 6-sleeper and am planning to tow it with a 1998 Ford E 150 Club Wagon -- 4.6L V8 engine --3.55 axle ratio--GCWR 11,500--Max. Trailer Weight 4,700.

The Airstream dealer will install the hitch--Multi fit Receiver, Equalizer bars, Sway Control, Electric brakes, Adjustable mount and ball, Bergman plug.

Here are my questions:

Is the Ford van an adequate towing vehicle for the Safari?
Will the towing package installed by the dealer be sufficient?
Is there anything I should be aware of before my first road trip with this combination?

Thanks so much for your help.

Millie
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Old 03-30-2003, 02:21 PM   #2
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The 25C weighs 5220 lbs dry. If you put 39 gallons of water in the fresh tank, 6 in the water heater, and put about 4 gallons in the black tank to keep stool from building up under the toilet, you've added about 400 lbs of water. When you fill up the propane tanks, you've added 60 lbs of propane, so the weight is up to 5,680. It's a pretty sure bet you can use up the remaining 620 lbs until hitting the 6300 lb GVWR with personal stuff, food, etc.

Ignore the 4700 lb max trailer weight from Ford. On a van, they calculate that by assuming there's 150 lb passenger in every seating position. What's important is that the loaded and wet trailer will leave about 5,200 lbs out of the 11,500 GCWR for fully loaded and fueled E150.

Look at the sticker in the door jamb or on the rear of the drivers door for the GVWR value (I think it should be about 7,000 lbs). If that's the case your fully loaded and fueled van probably shouldn't weigh more than about 5,800 lbs to allow for tongue weight and hitch, etc.

What you need to do is fuel the van up, load it with the passengers and cargo it will have when you tow, and take it to a CAT scale or other certified scale to find out how much it actually weighs, and how much you have between that and your ratings for the trailer.

I think you're gonna find the van weighs AT LEAST 5800 lbs with just a tank of fuel and two people... no cargo, so you'll be over the GCWR by 600 or so lbs because of the little engine in such a heavy vehicle, additionally hampered by the 3.55:1 gearing. This means it'll probably be okay in the flatlands, but have to work pretty hard on hills.

You'll probably be okay on the GVWR with just a tank of fuel and two people, but just barely. I guess I'd classify the E150 club wagon as marginal to inadequate, depending on how heavy it winds up loaded the way you want to tow.

I'd really recommend a Hensley Arrow hitch with this combo, and if you have P series tires on the van, rather than LT series E range, get them replaced before towing.
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Old 03-30-2003, 02:29 PM   #3
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Critical is sway control. Hensley, pullrite, Equal-i-zer or Reese Daul Cam.

The dealer is most likely just adding friction sway control. Don't believe dealer about anything. Do your own research.

don't sign any waiver that relieves dealer of liablity due to him selling you an overweight trailer for tow vehicle.

Otherwise, Safari 25 6 is a great choice. Have fun.
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Old 03-30-2003, 02:30 PM   #4
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Almost forgot, get a Prodigy brake contoller, not the cheap one the dealer is probably recommending.
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Old 03-30-2003, 03:07 PM   #5
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An Equal-I-Zer IS a friction sway control. It's functionally no different than the ones you attach.
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Old 03-30-2003, 03:08 PM   #6
 
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A lot of people have been lied to by dealers who try to make them believe that a towing package or an exotic hitch will miraculously change an unsafe towing situation into a safe one. (I am not criticising you, Maurice. I know that, unlike too many people, you have a safe towing combo.)

But, if they are over the GCWR by 600 or so Lbs, I do not think they will be safe.

Millie,
Remember that a vehicle rated for greater weight will come equipped with a sturdier suspension and more powerful brakes. In our 12 years of pulling a travel trailer we never ran into any of the people who stopped suddenly in from of us, but there were plenty of times when I had both feet on the brake pedal, my fingers crossed, and my teeth clenched. And again, on a downhill, brakes tend to warm up. If they can't cool adequately between applications, they get quite hot. Brake Fade is the effect of overheating the brakes to the point that they lose their ability to produce the friction you need to slow the vehicle. Most passenger vehicles are designed the make two or three severe stops. After that you're on you own.

And the last item I can think of at the moment: The drive train. You will be moving at least twice the weight of the vehicle. Regardless of what your engine and transmission *can* do, you should be concerned with how long it can do it. Vehicles designed for heavier duty service will have engines and transmissions designed from the ground up for the job. Transmissions get hot in the mountains or even in stop and go traffic. Engines run hotter pulling a trailer - will the radiator be up to it ?

If you have a 6-sleeper, does that mean you have kids ? Can you afford to drive around in a marginaly safe rig? Can you afford the extra wear and tear on your tow vehicle?
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Old 03-30-2003, 04:16 PM   #7
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Chantal, you can't just blindly go by a GCWR and assume that with a greater GCWR they'd have better chassis, suspension and brakes like you just did, because you're often wrong when you do. You have to look at the larger picture.

The E series chassis, brakes, etc are capable of 500 lbs more GCWR than Millie's little 4.6 V8 with 3.55:1 gearing is rated for, if it has a 5.4L. Going 600 lbs over her 11,500 won't be dangerous, but it will be slow going up hills.
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Old 03-30-2003, 04:28 PM   #8
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Chantal, Let me add that I didn't mean to be critical by that post. I appreciate your participation here on the side of safety.

Despite having plenty of wheelbase, that's why I rated the combination marginal to inadequate depending on how heavily it's loaded, and hoped that Millie would weigh the van herself under HER circumstances and find where it stands wrt to the ratings.
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Old 03-30-2003, 04:50 PM   #9
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Maurice, Melvin, Chantel & Mike,

Thank you for your opinions and suggestions.

We're disappointed to find that our van is inadequate, but very grateful to you for making us aware of a potentially dangerous situation.

I realize now how foolish we were to purchase the Safari before checking out the towing capabilities of the van. We purchased the Safari yesterday and we're scheduled to pick it up and have the van towing package installed April 16th.

We're thinking now that we should start shopping for a new van. We plan to remove all seats except the driver's and passenger's and set up four wire dog crates. We travel with 3 golden retrievers and a border collie--no kids. We need a van because of the dog crates. We're partial to Ford vans. Which van do we need? I'm assuming that it will have to be the E350, but don't know which motor. Can anyone help with this decision?

I reread Maurice's post several times, but am unable to figure out how to determine the correct towing capacity. The Ford website shows the E350 Super Duty 5.4L V8-3.73 axle ratio-GCWR 13,000.
Would that do the job?

Also, the dealer installed towing package is $1258.00. We didn't ask about brands. Is it possible to specify the brands we'd like and pay the difference. If not, how do we find a reputable person to install the towing package before picking up the Safari?

It's frightening to discover how little we know about all this. Can anyone recommend reading material on the subject-RVing for Dummies-perhaps

Thanks again for your help.
Millie
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Old 03-30-2003, 05:36 PM   #10
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Nope

When my wife inherited the 59 22' Caravanner we towed it home with almost exactly what you have. it was a 95 E150 3.55 gear. Four adult males Some other gear so we were realisticly at a weight I would be comfortable say would be close to ready for the road. Airstream says the trailer we have dry should be about 3k. It had full gear including a huge window A/C. I think the floor has had a layer of 3/8's layed in it. Tanks empty. I figure it was in the 4,000-4,300 lb range and that van was NOT happy with the weight. It was pinging horrbily trying to pull a modest grade at 50mph in drive that semis usualy pull at 60mph+ with little problem.
Now in the vans defense it did have old fuel in it.

If you regear you might get away with it. 3.73 gear would help a LOT. Might concider going to a 3/4 ton truck or van. Especially if you have bought that 6 sleeper because you have 6.

You can get the Excursion with the Power stroke and thats a sweet running motor. Unloaded you could very well expect 20mpg on the hwy on deisel. They love running down the hwy. I have several customers with trucks with those engines and they will get about 14mpg loaded. A good friend has a F250 crew and a 39ft fifth wheel he just pulled to Alaska and back from Atlanta. High passes in the Rockies he was down around 10 but on the open plains at steady 65mph cruise he was getting close to 15.
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Old 03-30-2003, 06:04 PM   #11
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"I'm assuming that it will have to be the E350, but don't know which motor."

Isn't there an E250 anymore? There used to be, and that should be plenty for a Safari. In fact, the E350 may be too stiffly sprung.

"Also, the dealer installed towing package is $1258.00."

That should buy rather a lot. A properly installed Reese Dual Cam or the Equilizer brand and a good brake controller should work very well for a full size van and Safari 25. I should think installation of those items, including receiver, would come in several hundred $$ below that, but I have not priced it lately. I suggest you find a local hitch specialist.

As suggested, re-gearing to a 3.73 would help, but I doubt you would ever really be pleased with that $1,000 or so expenditure. By any measure you would be pushing the absolute outer limits of its capabilities.

I too am a big fan of diesels for towing. I have one myself. We have a couple more at our business. However, I would want to see certified copies of fuel receipts and notorized statements about the milage before I would believe that anyone gets 15 mpg pulling a 39' fiver anywhere at any time. With your Safari, depending on which diesel truck you buy and what gearing you choose, you could reasonably expect 14 - 15 mpg in average conditions.

Mark
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Old 03-30-2003, 06:22 PM   #12
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Millie, if you're moving up to the Ford Superduty, you're also picking up a lot of weight on the tow vehicle for a lot of combined weight, so a small block V8 is out of the question. In your case I'd recommend the 6.8L V10 with 3.73:1 Limited Slip rear axle (15,000 lb GCWR) or the 7.3L PowerStroke Diesel with 3.55:1 Limited Slip rear axle (16,000 lbs GCWR). Note that these axle ratios are higher (lower numerically) than the ones on the trucks which have taller tires.

Fortunately, Ford isn't putting the new, but buggy, 6.0L PSD in the E350 vans yet, because the van requires a special version of the diesel engine. One that doesn't have an intercooler (no room for it) and produces somewhat less power than those in pickup trucks.

I'd also make sure it has LT245/75Rx16E BSW tires.

Here's the 2002 E series towing guide. The '03 link is buggy and doesn't get you there. If you plan on a E350 with PSD and 2WD weighing 8,000 lbs with people and dogs, you'll still have a trailer capacity of 7,000-8,000 lbs, so 6300 lbs will leave you a little excess capacity in the hills.

I personally like the diesel VERY much because its peak power is in the rpm range that an engine will be in while in Drive and Overdrive, while a gas engine really needs to be in 2nd gear to get it revved up into its powerband. At invoice pricing, the diesel costs near $4,000 more up front, but you get over 80% of that back when you sell it.

The diesel also makes a big tow vehicle a reasonable commuter vehicle. I get 14 mpg around town and 20 mpg on the highway without the trailer.

HOWEVER... the diesel option adds a LOT of weight (500+ lbs) and you may find that with all the stuff you get with a windowed, seated "wagon" version, the van itself will weigh so much that you don't have enough left below GVWR for the hitch and tongue weight. If I were hauling dogs in cages, I'd opt for the commercial van version, with only a window in the sliding door and rear doors, and probably shoot the whole rear interior in Rhino Liner, etc.

For weight details, I'll defer to the member who has a E350 and hauls a bunch of shooting and reloading gear to matches while towing. I'm drawing a blank now on the username, but as I recall it contains RKBA. Maybe he's only on the Yahoo! Airstream List.
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Old 03-30-2003, 06:24 PM   #13
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Mark, an E350 standard length van only has a 8700 lb GVWR, 100 lbs less than an F250 truck, so I doubt it's sprung any more stiffly.
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Old 03-30-2003, 06:32 PM   #14
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"Mark, an E350 standard length van only has a 8700 lb GVWR, 100 lbs less than an F250 truck, so I doubt it's sprung any more stiffly"

You know, that could well be right. I do not know about the current year, but the last two or three years the F350 differed only from the F250 by the tires! The van could well be the same. Going back a few years, however, I know the 350 had one more leaf in the springs.

I also say that one of the great things about travel trailers is that you get to choose your vehicle - pickup, SUV, or van.

Mark
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Old 03-30-2003, 06:59 PM   #15
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Quote:
I would want to see certified copies of fuel receipts and notorized statements about the milage before I would believe that anyone gets 15 mpg pulling a 39' fiver anywhere at any time.
Just telling you what he told me. Now understand the camper is one that has a "garage" to pull a dune buggy inside so it's a LOT lighter then a fully decked out. The rear 17 or so feet is empty with four fold out bunks. They haul ATV's with their's. I know he brought 2 ATV's do figure about 800 or so pounds for those.
He's made simular runs in his 94 pre power stroke truck and was surprised by how much better the MPG was with the 2002 he has now. He felt lucky when he got 12 with the old truck.

I may have over estimated the lenght. Here is a picture where you can see it in the back ground.
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Old 03-30-2003, 07:09 PM   #16
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Maurice and Mark,

We weren't considering an E250 because it wasn't listed on the Ford website so we thought it was no longer being made. But when I checked a local Ford dealer's website there were several E250 vans in the inventory. We would prefer a cargo van. I inherited the Club Wagon and we were going to try to make do with it. The Rhino lining sounds interesting, but would it provide insulation? Thank you for the Towing Guide website. I'll check it out.

Millie
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Old 03-30-2003, 07:10 PM   #17
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Newbie towing question...Princem..

I've been following the responses to your original question about towing with the E-150 Van. I agree with those who told you to reconsider. however, the E250 HD with factory towing package should be OK, and certainly an appropriately equipped E350 would be more than enough! Check out Trailer Life Magazine's 2003 tow ratings at Trailerlife.com. They publish these every year and the recent issue's results could be pulled up from their achives to give you further information.
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Old 03-30-2003, 07:15 PM   #18
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59toaster, a diesel will do much better on a gallon of fuel, but there are limits. Some people (and when I say "some people", I mean my dad) are pretty careless about calculating fuel milage - think of all the people you know who had trouble with math in school. "Hmmm, let's see, 327.2 miles, 27.2 gallons, must be about 15 mpg." But the biggest problem is that diesel foams so badly when filling that it is hard to be really accurate over a single, or even two or three fill-ups. I have a couple of fuel receipts which suggest I have gotten as high as 15.6 mpg towing. But I suspect those were cases where I filled it a gallon or so light.

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Old 03-30-2003, 07:19 PM   #19
 
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Millie,
Go for the diesel.

you will find a lot of people with good knowledge of Ford as tow vehicles here, but I would advise you to check the Ford Diesel Forum too. (just because more people=more experience=more opinions... obviously) E-Series Vans

Over 30,000 Ford owners. (some have gas engines too). Some of them are real fanatic and own several Fords at the same time. Great way to compare vehicles.

A lot of posts will be of interest to you, I found this one right away:
Re: Need Help Deciding on New E Van
Where someone posted:
"I have owned 3 E-150's and now have a 2000 E-350. The ride of the 350 is not as smooth as the 150, but is comfortable. The handling of the 350 is far superior to the 150 as is the braking (4 wheel discs vs the drum/disc combo). " Most of of the discussion does not fit your case, but you can always learn a few things from the rest.

You can always benefit by a lot of talks about MPG, 150vs 250 vs 350. A lot of that. Example:
New buyer needs advice

Maurice
We fooled you on this one: me, Chantal, started the post,... but I just parroted something Mike had sent to somebody else one day . I just collect info. He was a mechanic a long time ago, worked on diesel trucks and sport cars, so I rely on his analizis of situations.... usualy painfully slowwww. So I rarely ask him to comment on a point, or we'd still be there next week. I know his opinion on bigger brakes
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Old 03-30-2003, 07:27 PM   #20
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Millie,

I don't have the '98 specs, but the '03 specs have the trailer package standard.

As most might have said, the van is on the high water mark. I believe it will work and I think Toasters comments of going to a 3.73 gear would make it even more suitable. There is little reason you need to walk from your current tow vehice unless you want to. Would it help, sure, but there are things you can do to the existing van without getting rid of it.

The Safari 6 sleeper is rated at 6300lbs gross and the specs on your van are rated at 6100 with the gears you have and the 4.6L. Given these nunbers I believe you can tow this Safari successfully. I would make sure you have the trailer package that Ford offered and make sure the cooling system is up to par for both the engin and the trans.

The difference between what Ford rates and what the Safari weighs is close, but I do not think that there are ANY saftey issues with what you are doing if you get the proper equipment (hitch, weight distribution, sway, trailer brake controller, cooling, not drive as in the Indy 500). If you exceed 6500lbs, I think you need to revisit the issue, but for a few hundred pounds I know you are going to be just fine. People tend to freak out if you go 1 pound over the manufac suggested spec. I don't agree entirely and although I am not an avocate of doing stupid things, I believe that a few hundred pounds is not an issue in your case. Again, I would make sure the cooling is in order and make sure your brakes are up to snuff, but I see no problem doing what you are planning. I actually think your rig would be safer than some others that are on this forum and if you are going to listen to advise, I would pay closer attention to people that know cars very well and towing. I've been doing this sort of stuff for over 15 years and some of the people that have posted, I also would take their advice. Use your best judgement and be safe.

Just my .02.

Regards,

Eric
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