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Old 10-31-2014, 09:23 AM   #1
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Minivan Towing

I was told there are folks here towing with Minivans, but the search feature on this forum returns some odd results so I'm starting a new thread.

My plan is (was) to go for the 16' Sport (or something with equivalent weight ratings) as my first Airstream. It suits my needs well and would be paired with my 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T with tow package (bigger brakes, upgraded rear shocks etc.).

While the tow ratings for what I can pull and tongue weight work out I ran into a snag...the GCWR of my van is 7000lbs

Curb Weight of van is 4510 + Base weight of Bambi 2810 = 7310

There's nothing left for payload.

I get people using reinforced hitches but how does that overcome the GCWR ratings of these 'smaller' vehicles? I've been looking into what people are towing with and the numbers don't add up.

I'm not buying a truck.

I'm looking for feedback and suggestions. Is what I want to do possible with an Airstream? I'll be pulling mostly up and down the east coast with the occasional jaunt over to the midwest.


Thanks a bunch!
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Old 10-31-2014, 09:30 AM   #2
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There are people on here towing with a Toyota Sienna and a Honda Odyssey.
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Old 10-31-2014, 09:39 AM   #3
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There's a lot of folks towing with vans and doing well. Here's the Airstream dealer who specializes in combinations of this type, contact them:

Can-Am RV :: T & C Van towing 28 Airstream

There will always be a lot of people telling you why you can't do it but you may be more interested in those telling you how you might. Do the research, then you can decide for yourself.

You can't just hook up and go, it takes a specialized setup by those few who know what they are doing.
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Old 10-31-2014, 10:11 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wild Robot View Post
Curb Weight of van is 4510 + Base weight of Bambi 2810 = 7310

There's nothing left for payload.

I get people using reinforced hitches but how does that overcome the GCWR ratings of these 'smaller' vehicles? I've been looking into what people are towing with and the numbers don't add up.

Thanks a bunch!
Yes, there are people doing it, and successfully. They are mostly in Canada and set up by the dealer in London, Ontario.

But to try and answer your question of how does the hitch reinforcement overcome the GCWR ratings, I think if you dig deep enough, and ask those who do it, they will tell you either that the engineers that determined that spec know nothing so therefore the spec means nothing, or, some of the most honest ones will tell you they simply ignore it.

Good luck with your setup, and I personally believe you will have no trouble towing a 16 footer with that vehicle, and that is based on some of the things I've seen people do on this forum.
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Old 10-31-2014, 10:15 AM   #5
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There is a fellow on this forum whose screen name is MrUKToad who tows a 25 or 27' AS with a minivan. I suggest you contact him directly in case he is not monitoring the forum. He lives in Ontario and I suspect got his setup at CanAm.
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Old 10-31-2014, 11:05 AM   #6
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Unless I missed it, what engine in the van?
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Old 10-31-2014, 11:41 AM   #7
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No problem

You'll be fine.


Not long ago, a thread including this subject was closed because it became ugly. Evidently towing with a mini-van infuriates the faction that approves only of towing with Big Butt crew cab Diesel Dually or a minimum ¾ ton and/or pro-pride/hensley. It was stated that the only way that you can tow with a mini-van is to have it "dusted by a Fairy".


My Fairy was sorry to see that thread closed, as she had dusted our '07 Dodge Caravan about four years ago, and We've been towing thousands of comfortable miles without incident.


Among other things, she dusted Our mini-van with a set of Michelin LTXs, tossed the back seats, and added a Reese class three hitch and Reese mini-lite 350 anti-sway/weight distribution.


My service manual says not to exceed 40sf of trailer frontal area. It does not assign that frontal area to any particular speed, which makes that figure appear somewhat arbitrary. Fairy says that puts all the towing spec's in question, and to trust her... Most 200 horsepower 4000 pound American cars can be set up to safely tow a 3000 pound trailer.


Hitched up, in camp-able condition, we cross the scales at 6,900 pounds. Travelin' light... and it handles as well as my old 1LE Camaro.


I questioned her about the missing six hubcaps, and got a dissertation on un-sprung weight and brake cooling... I suspect that she may have stolen them and spent the money on dust.


Love her anyway...
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Old 10-31-2014, 11:55 AM   #8
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As close as that is to the posted limit of your van, I would not say "don't", but I would say "with some exceptions." Definitely talk to the CanAm folks. My main suggestions are (and I bet CanAm will say this also)..... get a good hitch setup, and make sure you have VERY good cooling for your transmission. I'm sure there are larger coolers that can be added to your van, from non-fan-cooled to fan-cooled. If a fan-cooled version is available, I would go with that one if it means more heat capacity. Then, keep up with your transmission fluid/filter changes. Don't hesitate to change it before the owner's manual says it's needed. That is cheap insurance as far as I'm concerned. Then, keep in mind that you are on the high side of your limits, pack accordingly, then ENJOY YOUR AIRSTREAM!

(You might even consider some sort of heavier-duty cooling for the engine, from the radiator to maybe even an oil cooler. Some might think it's overkill, but HEAT is a big killer of engines and transmissions.)
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Old 10-31-2014, 04:45 PM   #9
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I towed a 3,200 lb popup all over the western US with a 1989 Grand Caravan (140 hp), and all without any weigh distribution and full load in the van. Didn't know any better and never had a problem.
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Old 10-31-2014, 05:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wild Robot View Post
My plan is (was) to go for the 16' Sport (or something with equivalent weight ratings) as my first Airstream. It suits my needs well and would be paired with my 2012 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T with tow package (bigger brakes, upgraded rear shocks etc.).

While the tow ratings for what I can pull and tongue weight work out I ran into a snag...the GCWR of my van is 7000lbs

Curb Weight of van is 4510 + Base weight of Bambi 2810 = 7310

There's nothing left for payload.
It didn't make sense to me that the GCWR you quote was so low. So I looked up the 2012 Grand Caravan, and found the same 4510 lb curb weight you note, but the Chrysler document stated that the GCWR is 8750 lbs. Where did you get the 7000 lb figure from? Are there different figures published for with and without trailer brakes?

I got the owner's manual with the 8750 lb figure here:

My Dodge: Dodge Owners Service Manuals - Dodge Cars, Minivans, SUVs

Jeff
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Old 10-31-2014, 06:34 PM   #11
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Yes- it can be done safely. We tow our as yet unfinished Bambi II with a 2004 Ford Freestar with a 4.2 and weight distribution hitch. We were set up in London, Ontario.

We are very happy so far.
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Old 10-31-2014, 07:22 PM   #12
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Properly Equipped you can tow the Bambi 16' with an high output 4-cylinder car. You may not win any drag races passing past 65MPH though.

With the minivan and or car with somewhat recent V6, many more options open up.

Talk to Andy.
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Old 10-31-2014, 10:51 PM   #13
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Unless I missed it, what engine in the van?
3.6L V-6 283 HP engine
260 lb.-ft torque
3.16 ratio
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Old 10-31-2014, 11:05 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by jcl View Post
It didn't make sense to me that the GCWR you quote was so low. So I looked up the 2012 Grand Caravan, and found the same 4510 lb curb weight you note, but the Chrysler document stated that the GCWR is 8750 lbs. Where did you get the 7000 lb figure from? Are there different figures published for with and without trailer brakes?

I got the owner's manual with the 8750 lb figure here:

My Dodge: Dodge Owners Service Manuals - Dodge Cars, Minivans, SUVs

Jeff
Well a big THANKS to you sir. You are exactly right. I was using Cars.com and Edmunds for my research specs. I intended to get the manual but I live alone and I'm recovering from recent surgery so couldn't walk to elevator and then garage in my building.

Anyway, thank you for pointing that out to me. It certainly changes the math.

With a GCWR of 8750

Curb Weight of van 4510 + Base weight of Bambi 2810 = 7320

1430lbs of combined payload works for me so my plan is still on track....but think I'll take a gander at a capable SUV just for the fun of it anyway.

Thanks again.
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Old 11-01-2014, 07:03 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Wild Robot View Post
1430lbs of combined payload works for me so my plan is still on track....but think I'll take a gander at a capable SUV just for the fun of it anyway.

Thanks again.
WR... Do lots of research when checking out SUV's for towing. The numbers don't tell the whole story. Some SUV's are train wrecks when used as TV's while others are ranked at the top of the list.
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Old 11-01-2014, 05:38 PM   #16
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Yes you can....



As was noted by a previous poster, I've been happy with my minivan and Airstream set up over the past four seasons.

It's a 2011 28' International Serenity and is towed by a 2011 Toyota Sienna LE; that's the V6 3.5L with a six speed automatic transmission.

Can-Am RV in London, Ontario, set it up and beefed up the aftermarket Hidden Hitch with a couple of lengths of steel, which limits the receiver's tendency to twist with the torque applied by the weight distribution bars, and so help transfer a good proportion of the trailer's tongue weight to the front axle.

The Sienna also has an additional transmission oil cooler, and a Prodigy P2 brake controller, along with the requisite wiring for the seven-pin connector. We have a basic EAZ-LIFT WD set up with 1000lb bars, and a pair of friction sway control bars. The additional mirrors are by McKesh.

We have towed from Ontario down to Florida and back, by way of New Orleans and Birmingham, AL. We also went to Plymouth, MA, in 2013 by way of Upstate New York and home via Quebec City. We've also done many more local trips, and ventured to the Finger Lakes on a couple of occasions. The Sienna has coped well under it's normal maintenance schedule and has thrown us no problems at all over the past four years. The hitch receiver has needed a little attention from Can-Am and I can see the day when it may need to be replaced, but they keep an eye on that for me.

The cons of using a Minivan with a 7,000lb trailer are:
You can't be taking your generator or your firewood along. The Sienna has an OK payload, better than some half-ton pick ups, but there's not too much room to play with people and cargo to consider
The Sienna is quite low-slung and will ground the hitch receiver quite easily if you don't think about it. I can foresee issues getting onto ferries and suchlike.
You get constant harassment from people who will tell you that it can't be done - that is, tow an Airstream with a Minivan - despite the darned thing sitting right in front of them. Talk of Fairy Dust and Accidents Waiting To Happen are insulting at best and borne wholly out of ignorance.
The Pros are:
It's a good tow vehicle. Low, wide and very stable. It starts and stops well, has plenty of power and ours has dealt with everything we've thrown at it
When not towing we get 28 mpg, which is most of the time, 12 mpg when towing, which isn't any worse than most other TVs
It's a whole lot more comfortable than a Pick Up and treats the front of the Airstream very gently.

My general message is that properly set up, the Minivan is a great tow vehicle. Think about how much you want to haul in addition to your trailer, though, as payload can be an issue. For us, as we travel very light, it's not a problem.
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Old 11-01-2014, 06:05 PM   #17
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Your experience represents a logical approach. My folks pulled a 26' Vaquero with a 76' Ford Elite, 5.8 Windsor V-8 2bbl. It's successor was an E-150 Club Wagon van, same engine, more curb weight. Close friends pulled a 28' Mobile Scout with a 77 Monaco 5.9 2bbl Lean Burn, and another an AS with a 69' Valiant 225 slant six. All performed satisfactorily all across the southern US with provisions for adequate transmission cooling. We even ran with A/C on during the hot summer months. Dad never blinked; and the underpowered Ford didn't, either. No Strokes, Cummins, DMAX's, or even a 460 V-8 LTD Country Squire with tow package, much less an IH Travelall 392 fully equipped for severe towing duty (far too expensive).

I think your setup is awesome; let it demonstrate that common sense coupled with common sense equals, well, your satisfactory results.
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Old 11-09-2014, 11:44 PM   #18
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Thanks for the additional feedback and experiences. I'm still pretty happy my Grand Caravan is a good mate for the 16'
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Old 11-10-2014, 02:13 AM   #19
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Towing with a Caravan

I have been towing my 66 Caravel for 2 1/2 years with a 09 Caravan. Its been a match for my AS. The Caravel is under 2500 lbs. My van has the 3.3 eng. I avg. 14 mpg towing. The best MPG has been 17.5.


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Old 11-11-2014, 02:53 PM   #20
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I have been towing a 34' 1984 International for two years now, with a 2008 Honda Odyssey. My experiences mirror those of MrUKToad, so no need to repost them.

With a Hensley hitch, LT tires and a proper setup, a modern minivan makes for an exceptional tow vehicle.

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