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Old 05-01-2013, 11:58 PM   #1
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Towing w/ 2001 Mercedes ML320

We are about to become Airstream owners in the form of a 19' Flying Cloud. We are looking for some Tow vehicle advice, we currently have a Mercedes ML320. Is this suitable or should we be in the market for something else? Researching the numbers, in theory the vehicle can tow the weight, it is the tongue weight that is marginal (500lbs for vehicle vs. 550lbs for 19' Flying Cloud on Airstreams spec. page). Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you!
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Old 05-02-2013, 12:29 AM   #2
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Weight distribution hitch will solve the hitch weight issue.
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Old 05-02-2013, 01:23 AM   #3
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Thanks, I am researching an appropriate weight distribution hitch with a 5000lb rating as our vehicle is currently without one along with a Prodigy2 brake controller. The trailer comes with an 'Equalizer' brand sway control hitch as part of the purchase. I am in contact with two hitch installers, one in Santee, the other in El Cajon. Any other advice you can offer would be great. Thank you!
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Old 05-02-2013, 04:17 AM   #4
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Congratulations!!!

I'm not an expert by a long shot but in my experience, the published tongue weight is low compared to real world weight when you put "stuff" in your camper. If the published number is already 50# over your tow vehicle's hitch tongue weight capacity, I'd be concerned its not going to get much better. However, there are lots of threads on the forum about beefing up hitches and towing with much smaller vehicles. Search for Andy from Can Am in Ontario and you'll get lots of food for thought.
Good luck!
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Old 05-02-2013, 05:26 AM   #5
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I towed our 20' with an ML500 for years, in the mountains,all over. Loved it. I also towed an SOB (3500 lb) with an ML320 with no problem. The tongue weight for both vehicles is 750 lb, I believe. I think you'll be fine.
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Old 05-02-2013, 05:34 AM   #6
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It should be no problem. The WD that comes with the rig will need to be looked at as far as lbs. no need to look to the north for advise for ca laws. The TV should have plenty of hp to do the job and stop safely.
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Old 05-02-2013, 05:53 AM   #7
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... no need to look to the north for advise for ca laws. The TV should have plenty of hp to do the job and stop safely.
That's not the point; Andy is clearly one of the leading North American experts on towing Airstreams with "lighter" tow vehicles and in reinforcing factory hitches ... especially European ones, in order to get the job done. He really is worth contacting.
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Old 05-02-2013, 07:48 AM   #8
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A weight distributing hitch does not reduce tongue weight, it actually adds weight, its own weight. So your unloaded trailer tongue weight goes from 550lbs to 700lbs give or take (assuming 150lb hitch).

What the hitch does is redistribute load away from the rear vehicle axle onto the trailer and front vehicle axle's.
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Old 05-02-2013, 08:05 AM   #9
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Your vehicle should tow your small trailer with a properly set up hitch but would not under any circumstances tow without a weight distributing hitch.
With an 11 year old expensive to repair German vehicle, I check to see if there is a transmission cooler installed and make sure the cooling system is in top shape. I would also have the mechanic check suspension and brakes. Towing will tax your vehicle more than ordinary driving.
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Old 05-02-2013, 08:39 AM   #10
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A weight distributing hitch does not reduce tongue weight, it actually adds weight, its own weight. So your unloaded trailer tongue weight goes from 550lbs to 700lbs give or take (assuming 150lb hitch).

What the hitch does is redistribute load away from the rear vehicle axle onto the trailer and front vehicle axle's.
Isn't this to say the weight of the hitch is added when the trailer is lowered on the tongue, then removed when the weight distribution bars are tensioned.

But the concern for this vehicle may not be the downward force of the tongue weight, but the upward twisting force of the weight distribution bars as they are tensioned. Can the attachment points of the tow vehicle receiver withstand this twist. That's where I would consult Andrew Thomson of Can-Am Airstream, because he has probably set up such a vehicle is the past.

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Old 05-03-2013, 04:57 AM   #11
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What about exceeding your max payload - no matter how much you tow hitch is reinforced, you can not fix the max payload of your vehicle.

Look for the sticker in the door jam...

Your payload is people (include driver), cargo and tounge weight, of which expect no more than 150lbs being moved aft to the trailer (folks scale tickets confirm this as do the two big anti-sway companies).

This will let you know if you can tow or not.
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Old 05-05-2013, 08:14 PM   #12
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Thank you to all of the above for your informative comments. Due to the history of our Mercedes ML320 not being that reliable, its tongue weight rating for our trailer being not ideal and that we need to still invest into the receiver hitch/wiring/BC for the vehicle. We have decided that we will start the search for a new tow vehicle rather than spend additional money on a vehicle we may not be that confident in. We will therefore use this forum to research our tow vehicle choices. Currently we are considering the following; Toyota Sequoia, Chevy Tahoe as well as VW Tourareg TDI. Any other suggestions? Again it is for a 19' Flying Cloud. Thanks!
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Old 05-05-2013, 09:32 PM   #13
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A basic 1/2 ton pickup truck with factory tow pkg and brake controller is tow-ready out the door at a real decent price and great reliability.

But if you must have only one vehicle look for a tow-rated for your trailer SUV that has been around awhile with good reliability reports. Full independent suspension is a really big deal for towing stability; the Sequoia has it and reliability too. You might look at the new Jeep Grand Cherokee 3.6 gas engine and 8 speed transmission with tow package for much better fuel economy and a decent price.

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Old 05-06-2013, 09:32 PM   #14
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The Touareg TDI or the new Grand Cherokee Diesel would be great candidates for your 19' Flying Cloud at 550lbs tongue weight and I would actually suggest you go for the larger 23FB Flying Cloud at 467lbs tongue weight!

Don't worry about the length to wheel base of either SUV vs. the trailer - I had a Pro Pride hitch and towed my 25FB Classic all over the country (mountains, desserts, high winds of the plains, etc.) with great success - the only problem was I couldn't have any other weight then myself, one passenger and my bags in the back of the Airstream with 1/2 filled propane bottles and yea, although it towed like a champ all across the country, in the back of my mind I was always a bit anxious plus so cognizant of my weights (pantry and fridge were packed as the weight was over the axles of the trailer) but never packed anything forward of the axels on the trailer due to the damn tongue weight issues, let alone anything in the SUV other than one passenger - am I repeating myself again?

Both of these SUV's (my Touareg TDI and my new SRT Grand Cherokee) actually have max payload equal to or exceeding most 1/2 ton trucks. In fact, my new daily driver - a 2014 Jeep SRT has more payload than that F-150 EcoBoost Crew Cab had (1209lbs) that I owned for one week (and wanted to use to tow my downsized 27FB as I like the 27FB layout better than my 30 footer) vs. the max payload of the SRT at 1,350lbs which is right around the T-Rex that I towed with...

So, guess what Iím saying is Ė go with the 23FB, you can easily tow the weight, less tongue weight and a nice layout for just a few more bucks!!!
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Old 05-06-2013, 10:06 PM   #15
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John, thanks for the reply. Like others on here it is a case of chicken and the egg. For us it is the trailer that has come first, we purchased the 19' Flying Cloud just over a week ago and then questioned how well our current vehicle would tow it. We are extremely excited to join the Airstream community but are hoping it will not sit too long whilst we find a vehicle. As a small family of three we felt the 19' would be good and to be honest we were basing the size partially on what our current vehicle could manage, but in hindsight felt a bigger/stronger vehicle would get us off to a more successful start. Sincerely, Ian
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Old 05-07-2013, 05:44 PM   #16
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That '19 Flying Cloud is a really nice trailer, thinking new SUV because if you go F-150 or 1500 I would want a topper so stuff in the bed wouldn't get wet and that takes another 200 lbs off your max weight....
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Old 05-07-2013, 11:04 PM   #17
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Old 06-05-2013, 07:53 AM   #18
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The Touareg TDI or the new Grand Cherokee Diesel would be great candidates for your 19' Flying Cloud at 550lbs tongue weight and I would actually suggest you go for the larger 23FB Flying Cloud at 467lbs tongue weight!

Don't worry about the length to wheel base of either SUV vs. the trailer - I had a Pro Pride hitch and towed my 25FB Classic all over the country (mountains, desserts, high winds of the plains, etc.) with great success - the only problem was I couldn't have any other weight then myself, one passenger and my bags in the back of the Airstream with 1/2 filled propane bottles and yea, although it towed like a champ all across the country, in the back of my mind I was always a bit anxious plus so cognizant of my weights (pantry and fridge were packed as the weight was over the axles of the trailer) but never packed anything forward of the axels on the trailer due to the damn tongue weight issues, let alone anything in the SUV other than one passenger - am I repeating myself again?

Both of these SUV's (my Touareg TDI and my new SRT Grand Cherokee) actually have max payload equal to or exceeding most 1/2 ton trucks. In fact, my new daily driver - a 2014 Jeep SRT has more payload than that F-150 EcoBoost Crew Cab had (1209lbs) that I owned for one week (and wanted to use to tow my downsized 27FB as I like the 27FB layout better than my 30 footer) vs. the max payload of the SRT at 1,350lbs which is right around the T-Rex that I towed with...

So, guess what Iím saying is Ė go with the 23FB, you can easily tow the weight, less tongue weight and a nice layout for just a few more bucks!!!
A couple of things to note:

1) If you go to the Flying Cloud forum and asks the folks there, you would see that the loaded tongue weight of 23 FB Flying Cloud is around 780# (that's a lot more than the 467# dry tongue weight). As someone noted, you need to also add the weight of the weight distribution hitch (if you are using one). That could be from 50# to 250# depending on the WDH you are using. Hence, you would be needing a hitch that could support 850# to 1050# (again depends on the WDH you are using). This may cause you to run out of payload on your tow vehicle.

2) You can find the actual payload on the sticker on A pillar on the driver side. The figures published by most car companies does NOT include a full tank of gas or any options that you have added to the vehicle (Hence SRT's payload most probably is not 1350#, but less). A simple rule of thumb is to deduct 250# from the published payload for the actual payload (or go with the sticker on A pillar for exact payload).
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Old 06-05-2013, 08:19 AM   #19
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You can find the actual payload on the sticker on A pillar on the driver side. The figures published by most car companies does NOT include a full tank of gas or any options that you have added to the
Actually - the maxpayload includes a full tank of gas but does not include the "150" pounds for the driver (some folks make this claim) - as already stated, such in use with a pickup truck - add a shell, tonneau cover, heaver rims, all such options subtract from this "maxpayload" of the vehicle as configured when it rolled off of the assembly line.

Where is that "beating a dead horse" icon - I need to use it on my posts...
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Old 06-05-2013, 08:36 AM   #20
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Actually - the maxpayload includes a full tank of gas but does not include the "150" pounds for the driver (some folks make this claim) - as already stated, such in use with a pickup truck - add a shell, tonneau cover, heaver rims, all such options subtract from this "maxpayload" of the vehicle as configured when it rolled off of the assembly line.

Where is that "beating a dead horse" icon - I need to use it on my posts...


I guess since there is not a standard way by which the car companies calculate the payload, it would be the safest to go with the A pillar sticker (Not the numbers at company websites/etc).
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