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Old 12-18-2013, 11:33 AM   #1
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Newbie Needs Help with Towing Questions

Hello! This is my first time posting in this forum - happy to be here! I am seeking expert opinions on some serious towing questions.

My husband and I are planning on buying a 28' Flying Cloud Airstream that we will live and travel in for 6-12 months. We have a new 2013 Toyota Tundra 5.7 liter V8 with factory installed tow package. My concern is primarily with safety: Is this a safe configuration of tow vehicle/RV?

Also, which hitch set-up would be best (safety-wise) for our situation: Hensley? ProPride? Others?

Finally, I know nothing about this sort of thing (but learning a lot!) and even less about which kind of trailer brakes I need and what to look for in that area. Any suggestions??

Again, we are looking for the safest configuration for our situation. Specs are listed below, and our Toyota tow vehicle has a factory installed tow package which includes the following: towing hitch receiver, trailer brake controller prewire, tow/haul mode switch, transmission fluid temp gauge, supplemental engine oil cooler, supplemental transmission cooler, heavy duty battery w/ 170 amp alternator and 4/7 pill connector.

Thank you for your time and helpful opinions and suggestions! If anyone would like to give us pointers on how to figure all of this out for ourselves, that would be much appreciated, too!

2013 Toyota Tundra 5.7L V8 4x4 Double Cab, Regular Bed:

Rear Differential: 4.300
Wheel Base: 145.7
Curb Weight: 5,625
GVWR: 7100
Max Payload: 1,515 - 1,640
Tongue Weight Capacity: 1,030
Max Towing Capacity: 9,900
Max GCWR = 16,000 (w/ tow package)

2013 Airstream 28' Flying Cloud:

Hitch Weight (w/LP & w/o options, water, cargo): 976
Base Weight (w/LP & w/o options, water, cargo): 5,979
GVWR: 7,600
Net Carrying Capacity: 1,621

When I add the Truck's GVWR (7,100) to the Trailer's GVWR (7,600), and then subtract this total (14,700) from the GCWR of the truck (16,000), I get the following number: 1,300. I am not sure how to interpret this number, though. How do I interpret this number, and does it represent a safe margin?

Thank you again for your help!!!
-Karin
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Old 12-18-2013, 12:13 PM   #2
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You're going to get lot's of opinions, probably based on other owners current setups. You'll find lots of people towing trailers your size with half ton trucks. I tow a 27FB with a SUV. Some tow the same trailer as yours with minivans and sedans.

What I've learned here as a rule of thumb for larger Airstream trailers.
  • Half ton trucks can tow any Airstream but probably shouldn't carry much else in the bed (at least heavy stuff).
  • Heavier & larger trucks like a 3/4 ton or more can tow any Airstream and can carry lots of stuff in the bed (ie motorcycle, golf cart, mountain of firewood, etc).

You'll get lots of advise on hitches. It just depends upon how much you want to spend. Airstreams seem to be more inherently stable than most other trailers. The Hensley and Propride are also the heaviest hitches so factor that into your tongue weight.
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Old 12-18-2013, 12:20 PM   #3
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Your truck is fine and you are 1,300 lbs under the max so unless you collect rocks, which I did see a camper that was doing that, your good to go.

As for the hitch I would strongly suggest you look at the Andersen. Living full time with a Ha Ha or Pro will drive you to drink with the waisted time you will spend worshiping it.

If you are new to towing I would suggest you find a large parking area, truck terminals on weekends are great, and practice backing up and parking are right angles to the roadway. Just remember by the time you feel the trailer hitting the truck it is too late.
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Old 12-18-2013, 12:27 PM   #4
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Your truck is fine. See my avatar and signature?Click image for larger version

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Old 12-18-2013, 01:08 PM   #5
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We travel and live in our Airstream 6 months a year carrying very light loads in the bed of our 2012 Ram 5.7 Ram. The Airstream is very well equipped to hold and provide our needs. If you need to carry substantial gear in the truck you may be challenged by payload limits.

You will need a good weight distribution hitch to distribute trailer tongue weight among the truck and trailer axles. The troublesome Andersen hitch will not do it (we tried it). We got fed up with that failed experiment and bought a ProPride (similar to Hensley). Towing safety and comfort in all towing conditions and excellent weight distribution are now taken for granted. Expensive but the best money you will spend for towing your Airstream.
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Old 12-18-2013, 01:09 PM   #6
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Thanks Everyone! HowieE, I will look into the Anderson hitch - thank you for the tip. So, are the Hensley and Pro hitches difficult to work with? No plans to collect rocks, but we are planning to get a cap for the truck and use the bed space for storage: a couple of bikes, some tools and camping equipment. We also have an 85 pound dog. Would that be pushing it too much? My husband has a little experiencing with towing, we will both need to practice! Kscherzi and m.hony, what kind of hitches do you have, if you don't mind sharing? Has anyone had any problems with steep grades - towing up or down? Any white knuckle moments, or sensing that the vehicle is not up to the task? Any suggestions for trailer brakes? Thanks again.
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Old 12-18-2013, 01:21 PM   #7
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Thank you, Doug. I will definitely look into all the hitches. Safety is the main concern, so we are willing to spend more for the safest configuration, if it comes to that. Is your Ram truck a 1/2 ton gas engine, then? (Sorry, I know little about trucks - steep learning curve for me!) We plan on getting a cap for the Tundra and using the bed space to store a few things, such as a couple of bikes, some camping equipment, and tools. In your opinion, would that be pushing it? I have been looking at the 25' Airstreams, just in case we need to size down, but the 28' is the one we are planning on buying. Thanks!
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Old 12-18-2013, 01:41 PM   #8
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I tow with a 2011 Tundra and while our AS is only 23 feet, I have always felt that we had power and handling to spare.

As to what you carry in the bed, putting a topper on is going to preclude just piling lots and lots of stuff in the bed of the Tundra. I think where the payload issues come in is when people are carrying bikes, plus generators, plus lots of other stuff. Sounds like what you are planning on putting in the bed of the Tundra won't be a big weight issue in terms of the payload.

Look up CrawfordGene (now just Gene) in the threads. He is towing a 27 with essentially the same drive train and engine that you have and he seems to be very happy with it.

We would like to move up to a 27 at some point and don't forsee getting rid of my Tundra. First half-ton pickup I've ever owned and I love it, even as a slightly gas guzzling daily driver.

I won't weigh in on the hitch conversation because I'm towing a smaller trailer with a relatively inexpensive EA-Z WD hitch which works great.

Just to echo a little bit on what HowieE said about practicing . . . after you finish in the parking lot, got find some interstate where there is truck traffic and get used to the feeling of when an 18 wheeler passes. I was all ready for this feeling of being pushed off the road, when in actuality, you get just the slightest feeling of being pulled to the center just before the semi passes you, but with the proper sway control, that's all you feel, or at least that has been my experience. The nice thing about AS is you just don't get buffeted around.

Happy camping.

Dana
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Old 12-18-2013, 01:56 PM   #9
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The secrete to towing a hill is to remember to come down the hill in the same gear you went up the hill.

Now that does not mean the 1/4 mile hump that you just went over and heard the transmission drop down a gear. That means the sustained hill that you knew you were climbing and waiting to get to the top. Failure to keep this in mind is what leads to brake failures.

If you gear down while descending that long hill you will most likely only need light application of the brakes.

If your truck has a Tow Haul Mode use it while descending. This will automatically drop the transmission gearing if you lightly touch the brakes. If speed still tends to increase a second application of the brakes will cause additional reduction.

Some people have Tow Haul engaged all the time while towing. This causes the transmission to remain in a lower gear longer while accelerating. I prefer to only use it in heavy traffic, for additional braking, and while descending a long hill. You will soon learn what works for you if you have it.

One additional comment that I hope you never have to use is this. If your trailer ever goes into an oscillation do not touch the truck brakes. Put your foot on the gas and apply the trailer manual brakes. Applying the truck brakes will cause the problem to increase.
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Old 12-18-2013, 01:57 PM   #10
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Speaking as the owner of a Hensley Hitch, with a backup camera it doesn't take any longer hitching a Hensley than it does any other model. It's really not complicated.
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Old 12-18-2013, 02:07 PM   #11
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Thanks Dana, really appreciate the feedback. I will try and find Gene in the threads. My husband really enjoys driving his Tundra, and it is basically brand new so we do not want to get rid of it. The other possibility is to size down to a 25' AS to save some weight. The 28' seems to suit our wants and needs best, so we are hoping that will work out. So far, with everyone's great input here, seems like this could work as long as we are mindful of the max payload and find the right hitch. Thanks for the additional practice tips. Good thing we will have some time to practice and live in our AS before we hit the road long-term. One of the main reasons we chose AS is for their reputation for safety and handling (as far as trailers go). Icing on the cake is the great AS community and of course the appeal of the AS, along with all the other good stuff we have yet to discover. Many thanks.
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Old 12-18-2013, 02:13 PM   #12
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Thanks HowieE, I appreciate all of this information. Hope we are never in an oscillating situation like that, but very good to know what to do in case it happens. I definitely like to plan ahead for tricky situations whenever possible.
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Old 12-18-2013, 02:17 PM   #13
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Hi Andy, Thanks for your input on Hensley, that helps. Looks like I have my work cut out for me in researching hitches. It really helps hearing from all of you experienced Airstreamers.
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Old 12-18-2013, 02:26 PM   #14
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streaminlife - I use the Equal-i-zer 4-point hitch. It suits my needs. It does an effective job of weight distribution, I've never had a sway problem, not bothered by passing trucks, is easy and quick to hook up, not too heavy, has a decent price point, and didn't require me to drill holes in the frame or weld anything,

Every hitch has its pros and cons.
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Old 12-18-2013, 02:28 PM   #15
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On the hitch you will never see the end of advice in a written forum. Your best best is to go to a campground on a Sunday morning and watch and ask questions. You have to see the different systems under actual conditions to see what you won't see here in writing.
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Old 12-18-2013, 02:48 PM   #16
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Kscherzi - good to know. I noticed the Equalizer hitch is the one listed on the Airstream Accessories Order Sheet, and I was wondering about it - if it is indeed the same as the one you have. I am thinking I might put together a pros and cons list to try and wrap my brain around the question of the hitch. Thanks for your help.
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Old 12-18-2013, 02:52 PM   #17
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HowieE - yes, I am starting to get the picture, lots of differing opinions on hitches. All the advice is helpful, though, and so far there seem to be four contenders I can research. I like the idea of going and seeing the different systems in action.
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Old 12-18-2013, 03:21 PM   #18
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I use an Equal-i-zer 4-point hitch. I had an Eaz-Lift before. Both are great hitches, but the Equal-i-zer is so much easier to hook up. I want to buy a used Hensley or Pro-Pride when I grow up. I say used because that's the only way to hit the price point I want to be in.
I would say if you are able to afford it get a Pro-Pride from the beginning. I will probably be buying a used Hensley because there is one semi near me at a reasonable price. He bought a new Pro-Pride because he deemed it slightly better.
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Old 12-18-2013, 03:25 PM   #19
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Streaminlife - welcome and you're asking all the right questions. Everyone has opinions and always assume positive intent.

My free advice (worth everything you're paying for it) is to know WHY you make your decisions based on WHAT you're trying to accomplish.

There are so many opinions and experiences, I fear it's impossible to be happy with your setup unless you know the why behind the what.

For me (and your mileage may vary significantly so take this with a salt lick), I knew the single most important factor for me was to prevent sway from happening. For that, there were 3 choices - PullRite, ProPride and Hensley. PullRite no longer manufactures a trailer hitch for my model tow vehicle so down to 2 choices. ProPride is a more modern version of the Hensley Arrow and the newer, subtle, nuanced differences fit my needs best. Decision made.

Tow vehicle - I purposely overdid it and went with a 3/4 ton diesel pickup to ensure great towing capacity and cargo carrying capacity. I have a 27fb Flying Cloud and could probably do with a half ton truck, or, if I were interested in a trip to Canada could probably get set up with a better daily driver at CanAm (e.g., minivan, SUV, station wagon, midsize sedan, etc) but I wanted to ensure all my weights were WELL within manufacturer recommendations. Decision made.

If I weren't clear on WHY, every post here would make me depressed second guessing my setup. I'm fully satisfied with my decisions and now just enjoy camping like you read about! The worst day in the Airstream is MILES better than the best day in the office :-)

Last - my wife and I went to a CDL driving center for a 2-day safe RV driver training program. Having never done this before, I couldn't see how driving around in an empty parking lot would help. How would I know what the heck I was doing? This structured program (75% of which was in reverse! ) gave TREMENDOUS confidence and peace of mind. Brand new truck and trailer - that was a no brainier decision and one I highly recommend though again, your mileage may vary considerably.

Know the why behind the what and enjoy enjoy enjoy whatever you do! :-)
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Old 12-18-2013, 04:11 PM   #20
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I just looked at the ProPride website, and wow they are expensive! On the other hand, the Equalizer hitch is not cheap. I can see how spending the extra money now COULD save money later. Safety being first measure, I can see us coughing up the extra money and going with something like the ProPride. Since we will be living in our AS for months and traveling all over the U.S., safety (i.e. sway control) is one of my big "WHYs" behind the what.

Our Toyota was a planned purchase, specifically for towing our soon-to-be AS. The problem is that I focused on the towing capacity only, and failed to consider payload, tongue weight and all that other good stuff: 10,000 (minus) 7,600 seemed to yield a big enough margin for extra weight, but I had no idea there would be much more to consider than just the tow weight. My fault for not digging deep enough and also relying too much on our salesperson at the car dealership for answering my towing questions. Live and learn, and I am so happy to have found this forum.

I am going to carefully consider all the numbers and hitches and things. As of now, I feel good about moving ahead with the 28' and perhaps one of the more expensive sway control hitches.

The WHY of the bigger, 28' trailer is primarily comfort, but since the WHY of safety outweighs the WHY of comfort, we can always go with the 25' if the margin seems too close weight-wise. I am hoping the safety WHY and the comfort WHY will line up perfectly, now that would be really cool.

ONE QUICK QUESTION while I think of it: Is the ProPride hitch weight distributing, too??
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