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Old 11-26-2020, 06:42 AM   #1
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Toyota Sienna

Hi! I have a 2012 Toyota Sienna AWD with the tow package. I had a hitch and wiring installed at U-haul. Am I good to go pulling a smaller Bambi?

My tow capacity is rated at 3,500 pounds, but I have seen some crazy videos and pictures, so I am not really sure if that is a suggestion. Has anybody pulled over their weight? If I get the 16ft Bambi, can I pull that through the Rockies? This would be my first trailer and I am nervous! Thank you for ANY guidance!
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Old 11-26-2020, 07:33 AM   #2
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No. You need something a little bigger to tow unless it is a utility trailer for around town use. Do a little research.
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Old 11-26-2020, 09:08 AM   #3
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Towing with a minivan

Last year in Florida I met a couple pulling a triple axle 34' AS with a Dodge Caravan!!!! Of course they were from Canada and had there rig set up by Andy Thompson at CanAm RV. Sooo.... give Andy a call and he will instruct you how to set up your Toyota Sienna to tow just about any size trailer you want.

Seriously, if you want to tow a travel trailer of any size you may want to get an appropriate tow vehicle for your safety and the other folks your sharing the road with. Just sayin.
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Old 11-26-2020, 10:04 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kstein14 View Post
Hi! I have a 2012 Toyota Sienna AWD with the tow package. I had a hitch and wiring installed at U-haul. Am I good to go pulling a smaller Bambi?

My tow capacity is rated at 3,500 pounds, but I have seen some crazy videos and pictures, so I am not really sure if that is a suggestion. Has anybody pulled over their weight? If I get the 16ft Bambi, can I pull that through the Rockies? This would be my first trailer and I am nervous! Thank you for ANY guidance!
Like this? Visit the site, an interesting story, to be sure.
https://www.toadsoftowedhaul.com/the-toadmobile.html
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Old 11-26-2020, 11:30 AM   #5
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Tell us more about the hitch Haul installed. Toyota didn't intend that vehicle to tow so much so the brakes and transmission are a bit undersized. A transmission cooler is a must. An engine oil cooler is not a bad idea either. Performance brake pads will also need to be added for the rockies and other steep grades out west. You will want pads rated for 750 degrees rather than the stock 450-500 degrees. The basic vehicle is a good size and will be safe and stable up to 5500 more with better tires. So the hitch, cooling system and brakes are the problems.
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Old 11-26-2020, 09:12 PM   #6
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Thanks...

...richw46 for referencing my site (although it hasn't been updated in a while).


We didn't get Towed Haul out of storage this year; a combination of COVID, work and a new grandbaby who's living with us meant we just didn't get a chance.


For the OP, if you have any questions about my setup, please ask.



I've been around this site for ten years now and am still surprised at how little other Airstream folks seem willing to open their ears and eyes to non-truck towing solutions.



I've also had ten years of towing the 28' International with the Sienna and have yet to encounter a single real towing issue. That said, I did severely test the brakes on the run from Corning to Buffalo (NY) last year!
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Old 11-26-2020, 09:27 PM   #7
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Steve, please enlighten me to the virtues of towing a 7,600 GVWR travel trailer with a vehicle the manufacturer's engineers say is limited to 5,000 lbs. What engineering, physics and mathematical insight do you have that they missed? Convince me that you know better than they do.

My ears and eyes are open. I will critically evaluate facts. Opinions and faith? Not so much.
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Old 11-29-2020, 07:52 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by BayouBiker View Post
Steve, please enlighten me to the virtues of towing a 7,600 GVWR travel trailer with a vehicle the manufacturer's engineers say is limited to 5,000 lbs. What engineering, physics and mathematical insight do you have that they missed? Convince me that you know better than they do.

My ears and eyes are open. I will critically evaluate facts. Opinions and faith? Not so much.

This will be the third attempt at a reply; the other two seemed to have been lost in the ether.


The manufacturer may have rated the Sienna to tow 3,500lbs, but clearly it's capable of a lot more.


To see the setup, have a look at my website.


https://www.toadsoftowedhaul.com/the-toadmobile.html


There's a whole debate around the voracity of declared tow ratings, which you'll find elsewhere in these pages. The hitch setup was the work of Andy Thomson at CanAm RV in London, Ontario. He knows a thing or two about hitches and towing and his work has proven to be spot on over the ten years I've been towing my trailer.


For the record, the Sienna tows well and I haven't had a single loss of control incident; not one. She starts and stops safely, with neither the front wheel drive, the transmission or the brakes giving me any issues at all.



Average gas mileage over ten years has been 12-14mpg when towing.


There are cons of course; we have to travel lightly with no thoughts of firewood or kayaks. The pros are having a practical daily driver and the fact that it's not heavy on the gas when not towing.


I get it that people love a big truck and they like to take everything, including the kitchen sink, when they camp, but it doesn't have to be that way. With a professionally set up TV/Trailer combination, ten years of trouble-free and safe towing speaks volumes.
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Old 11-29-2020, 09:48 AM   #9
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I did not look up the tow specs on this vehicle. I am just speaking Generally.

Below is some food for though to the original poster:

1-Having a hitch on the vehicle does not mean you have a strong enough hitch set-up to safely tow an Airstream.
The weight rating of the hitch, and how the hitch is attached to the vehicle, and the weight ratings of the vehicle all come into play. If the vehicle is unibody vs body on frame also impact this. Rare experts such as Andy at Cam-Am are experienced to evaluate and recommend how to do this. It is likely the average person at an average RV, U Haul, or auto dealership is not able to do this.

I would expect that you may have currently a hitch capable of towing a U Haul trailer with a lower weight than the Airstream. You may also not have a full 7-pin wire harness that would be needed to legally tow an Airstream. The Airstream will require powered trailer brakes. Lower weight trailers like smaller U Haul rentals and even a lot of boat trailers only require a 4 wire set up so that the trailer brake LIGHTS work. But these use the vehicle brakes, and don't have actual brakes on the trailer.

2-Will you "ruin" your vehicle by using it to tow when it wasn't designed for this?
The advice given above by others about brake pads, engine coolers, batteries, etc. are legit concerns. If you vehicle is not off the shelf really made to tow 3500-4000 pounds then you are asking it to do beyond what it was initially set up to do. Even if you do add these items you may be overall shortening the useful life of the vehicle. Which may or may not be OK with you.

3-90% or 50-70%?
If you choose to set up a less than ideal vehicle to tow, even once you have done all you can, are you running on the edge of capacity? If so are you comfortable with that?
Will you feel OK going up a mountain at 50 instead of 65? Will you feel your safety is compromised if you don't have extra JUICE to surge and accelerate if necessary as a safety or accident avoidance maneuver? This bothers some people more than others.
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Old 11-29-2020, 09:52 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by MrUKToad View Post
This will be the third attempt at a reply; the other two seemed to have been lost in the ether.


The manufacturer may have rated the Sienna to tow 3,500lbs, but clearly it's capable of a lot more.


To see the setup, have a look at my website.


https://www.toadsoftowedhaul.com/the-toadmobile.html


There's a whole debate around the voracity of declared tow ratings, which you'll find elsewhere in these pages. The hitch setup was the work of Andy Thomson at CanAm RV in London, Ontario. He knows a thing or two about hitches and towing and his work has proven to be spot on over the ten years I've been towing my trailer.


For the record, the Sienna tows well and I haven't had a single loss of control incident; not one. She starts and stops safely, with neither the front wheel drive, the transmission or the brakes giving me any issues at all.



Average gas mileage over ten years has been 12-14mpg when towing.


There are cons of course; we have to travel lightly with no thoughts of firewood or kayaks. The pros are having a practical daily driver and the fact that it's not heavy on the gas when not towing.


I get it that people love a big truck and they like to take everything, including the kitchen sink, when they camp, but it doesn't have to be that way. With a professionally set up TV/Trailer combination, ten years of trouble-free and safe towing speaks volumes.
A towing combination that is set up correctly and optimally will tow great and handle very well. When set up is combined with proper trailer loading and near ideal tire pressures, the trailer will itself be stable at most highway speeds in the absence of significant impulse inputs like wind gusts, a sudden hard steering wheel input or road imbalances (like dropping a wheel off the pavement) etc. As long as the trailer itself is stable, and one does not insert and significant impulse response, the ride will be comfortable and confident, but that is no guarantee the combination is stable for sway and oversteer, the two most common causes of serious towing accidents, short of driver error.

Hitch installers may test for handing performance and trailer stability, but I have yet to see any who test for combination sway and oversteer stability. I'm pretty sure I understand why they don't. Manufacturers do test for these two significant risks and set limits on that and other criteria. Properly set up combinations have a narrow window of about 2 degrees of trailer yaw angle where the system remains stable, and if the driver is experienced the combination will always remain within that window at higher speeds where these instabilities exist. If an unstable system goes beyond the window, amplification will occur and if the driver does not react fast with the correct response, the condition will quickly amplify to the point were the vehicle can no longer respond properly to driver input and the combination will go out of control.

To test for these conditions one has to impart an impulse input large enough to go beyond that narrow window of stability, but that itself can be very risky. So we don't need to quibble about opinions, I am asking if you or the installer can provide a test result or physical evidence specifically regarding sway and oversteer response that shows Toyota is wrong about their vehicle and that it in fact has much higher safe towing capacity than they advertise. You had a nice response but it was not instructive to the question asked.

Ten years of towing experience says a lot about the driver, but very little about vehicle stability for sway and oversteer. It is fine that you have been able to make your system work, but it is unwise to advocate others do the same unless you can assure them they won't have stability issues if they happen to let the trailer yaw get away from them.
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Old 11-29-2020, 02:17 PM   #11
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A towing combination that is set up correctly and optimally will tow great and handle very well. When set up is combined with proper trailer loading and near ideal tire pressures, the trailer will itself be stable at most highway speeds in the absence of significant impulse inputs like wind gusts, a sudden hard steering wheel input or road imbalances (like dropping a wheel off the pavement) etc. As long as the trailer itself is stable, and one does not insert and significant impulse response, the ride will be comfortable and confident, but that is no guarantee the combination is stable for sway and oversteer, the two most common causes of serious towing accidents, short of driver error.

Hitch installers may test for handing performance and trailer stability, but I have yet to see any who test for combination sway and oversteer stability. I'm pretty sure I understand why they don't. Manufacturers do test for these two significant risks and set limits on that and other criteria. Properly set up combinations have a narrow window of about 2 degrees of trailer yaw angle where the system remains stable, and if the driver is experienced the combination will always remain within that window at higher speeds where these instabilities exist. If an unstable system goes beyond the window, amplification will occur and if the driver does not react fast with the correct response, the condition will quickly amplify to the point were the vehicle can no longer respond properly to driver input and the combination will go out of control.

To test for these conditions one has to impart an impulse input large enough to go beyond that narrow window of stability, but that itself can be very risky. So we don't need to quibble about opinions, I am asking if you or the installer can provide a test result or physical evidence specifically regarding sway and oversteer response that shows Toyota is wrong about their vehicle and that it in fact has much higher safe towing capacity than they advertise. You had a nice response but it was not instructive to the question asked.

Ten years of towing experience says a lot about the driver, but very little about vehicle stability for sway and oversteer. It is fine that you have been able to make your system work, but it is unwise to advocate others do the same unless you can assure them they won't have stability issues if they happen to let the trailer yaw get away from them.









Regarding test results, consult with CamAm RV. They do extensive on road and track testing and can no doubt pull out much data should you need it. Ask Toyota the same question then you won't get anything like as comprehensive answer. Indeed, I've asked Toyota Canada for the methodology they used for determining the tow rating on the 2011 Sienna and was met with a stony silence. As I said, there has been much debate about how manufacturers' set their tow ratings - it's odd that it's not public knowledge (and I discount SAE J2807 because it isn't binding and doesn't apply to all vehicles) - but people in the industry will tell you that it has more to do with liability and marketing that it has to do with engineering. Again, consult Andy Thomson.



I don't fully agree with the experienced driver angle, either. CanAm sets up thousands of TVs and trailers with huge success, but I'm certain their customers reflect the general towing population and are not limited to experienced or better than average drivers.


I do agree, though, that people new to towing would be best advised to seek experienced or professional help in their choice of trailer, TV and hitch.
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Old 11-29-2020, 03:40 PM   #12
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Can Am does handling performance tests. They do not do appear to do stability tests for oversteer, and after asking many times, the question has yet to be answered in a straightforward and definitive way. It would be really nice if Can Am shared any data on sway damping, and understeer gradient they might have. Manufacturers generally won't publicly share their proprietary information on testing methods and results for many reasons. I am familiar with the rhetoric in the towing community about towing ratings. I also have a bit of industry information about what is actually done and I have a limited amount of proprietary industry data as well. I can assure you, the people in the industry argument is half baked. Engineering is not the only factor but it is the foundation on which all other factors rest.

In any case, your response being a combination appeal to (partial) experts, dismissal of actual experts (Toyota) an appeal to the unknown and red herring arguments. On that basis one should conclude you don't know if your Sienna combination is stable.

I fully agree hitch installers cater to the experienced and unexperienced alike. I can also say there are more than a few customers who have abandoned the approach of towing over the vehicle's rated capacity. Some due to accidents, some due to close scares, and some because they thought better of it.
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Old 11-29-2020, 05:54 PM   #13
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Can Am does handling performance tests. They do not do appear to do stability tests for oversteer, and after asking many times, the question has yet to be answered in a straightforward and definitive way. It would be really nice if Can Am shared any data on sway damping, and understeer gradient they might have.
https://www.canamrv.ca/blog/post/hit...sion-bars-441/

Have you read this article? I think it articulates Andy's approach very well.

Of particular interest to me, as someone who has had tow vehicles set up by his shop, is this quote: "most loss-of-control trailer accidents are the result of sudden wind changes."

The only time I've had any discomfort in 30,000 miles of towing was in a very stiff cross-wind - and I had a nearly new hitch that was just broken in and needed a bit more tension.

For me, I will take a safe, good handling and economical unit body daily driver that handles the trailer perfectly well virtually 100% of the time over an expensive, long, large, high centre-of-gravity body on frame vehicle that only has one very small advantage in terms of safety - the ability to resist trailer-induced oversteer in a circumstance that will almost always have driver error as the causal factor - and which is at least in part mitigated by a proper ball mount angle.
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Old 11-29-2020, 06:55 PM   #14
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Yes, I have read that article a few times, just read it again. He does articulate his approach and it is one basis for me to say hitch installers do handling performance tests but not sway damping or sway stability or oversteer stability tests. In that article the author seems to dismiss both as problematic or somehow unrealistic.

Re; sudden wind changes. Sway must be induced by an impulse of sufficient magnitude to draw the trailer at a yaw angle greater than the narrow stability range, generally 2 to 2-1/2 degrees. The SAE test the author seems to object to has that effect. Wind gusts can do that also and a vehicle with sufficient geometry and mass will damp out that sway and allow the driver to maintain control. Vehicles that are towing beyond their capability will not damp the resulting sway, it will amplify leading to loss of control. I think I understand why some hitch installers who advocate exceeding limits have a problem with the SAE test method.

You may have reached a valid decision for you. However I note you are towing a 22' trailer where mid sized unibody SUVs and similar daily drivers excel and nothing can tow a 22' better. My comments are not directed at your configuration. I am responding, in this thread to an undersized, underweight vehicle towing a 7600 GVWR 28' trailer.
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Old 11-29-2020, 07:54 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by BayouBiker View Post
Can Am does handling performance tests. They do not do appear to do stability tests for oversteer, and after asking many times, the question has yet to be answered in a straightforward and definitive way. It would be really nice if Can Am shared any data on sway damping, and understeer gradient they might have. Manufacturers generally won't publicly share their proprietary information on testing methods and results for many reasons. I am familiar with the rhetoric in the towing community about towing ratings. I also have a bit of industry information about what is actually done and I have a limited amount of proprietary industry data as well. I can assure you, the people in the industry argument is half baked. Engineering is not the only factor but it is the foundation on which all other factors rest.

In any case, your response being a combination appeal to (partial) experts, dismissal of actual experts (Toyota) an appeal to the unknown and red herring arguments. On that basis one should conclude you don't know if your Sienna combination is stable.

I fully agree hitch installers cater to the experienced and unexperienced alike. I can also say there are more than a few customers who have abandoned the approach of towing over the vehicle's rated capacity. Some due to accidents, some due to close scares, and some because they thought better of it.





Have you ever driven one of CanAm RV's setups? If not, let it go, Brian.


Hitch installed and set up by a professional shop that has nigh on fifty years experience and many thousands of satisfied customers.



Their work and expertise has proven good over the past ten years for me, and over millions of miles for other customers.



I'm good to go.
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Old 11-29-2020, 08:08 PM   #16
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They drive and handle wonderfully, like a dream, sure and firm, with no hint of any hidden issues that will be exposed if trailer yaw gets away from you. If that's enough for you and you understand and accept the risk, fine. Just be forthcoming and divulge to others that you don't know what will happen if you get outside of the window the installer tested for. Quit treating the manufacturers test team like they are a bunch of fools or wimps beholden to the market group.
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Old 11-29-2020, 10:40 PM   #17
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This is fun...

I always enjoy the "minivan tow vehicle-haters" posts. Your Sienna might do a nice job moving a modern Bambi around. The new ones are much bigger, heavier, and bulkier than their awesome vintage cousins. Still minivans are, as mentioned and advertised, low with long wheel bases and plenty of torque and power that is also economical. All in all, dream tow vehicles for most.



I am able to avoid chastisement when I post about towing our '64 Bambi II with a Chrysler Town & Country. The "tow specs" for the T & C rate it as able to tow 3600 lbs. My Bambi was 1950 lbs. from the factory. We are around 3000 lbs loaded. The T & C with its 6-speed automatic transmission provides a stable, firm, economical towing platform. But towing vintage is a far cry from towing modern when it comes to Airstreams.


We had also towed for a year or two with a 2004 Ford Freestar minivan. It also did a fine job with the actual towing of our vintage Bambi, but it rusted out. Fords. They do that. We did the trip from PA to London, Ontario to have Can-Am set up the Freestar. The rest of the van rotted away, but the receiver Andy set up for us would outlast the apocalypse. The van is gone...I kept the receiver. The Chrysler did not get Can-Am's attention. It has an off-the-shelf Curt brand receiver and it does fine.



But...see the other picture. This is not of our rig. It is of a (1990s) Chevy Astro van towing a 34 footer! I shot this the first time we stayed at Jersey Shore Haven Airstream Campground at the Jersey Shore. I have been around Airstreams literally my whole life (like as in my first camping trip was at 6 days old), so I have seen pretty much everything. But this combo shocked me a bit. That is until the guy took the trailer from its spot to the dump station and was as comfortable behind that steering wheel as anyone could be. A short wheel base, Chevy "minivan"...towing a tri-axle?


I guess anything is possible.
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Old 11-29-2020, 11:04 PM   #18
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Please ask your auto insurance if your van is safe enough to tow at max but without passenger, baggage, food, water or any junk in the van. I blew out my old 1999 Ford Explorer that is MUCH stronger than any mini-vans (used to have Windstar). I just added hitch and airbags. I discovered that it was NOT enought to make it a tow vehicle. In order to make it a TV, I should have added a bigger radiator, tranny cooler, engine cooler, tow program in transmission, better rear axle, so forth. Adding a hitch would not boost up the max tow weight. I used Cargurus and found 2014 Ford Explorer with FACTORY INSTALLED TOW PACKAGE (has all the works), it is slated to tow up to 5000 lbs and tongue weight of 500 lbs. Has tow program in transmission which helps. DYI or dealer installed package will not raise the max tow from 2000 lbs to 5000lbs. I did my research and found the appropriate tow vehicle for Bambi models. If I want to tow 23 footer and longer, I WILL get bigger TV like Expedition but I would have to do more research before buying Expedition to make sure it is capable of towing safety.

I cannot in good conscience to enable whatever is not true. I know Airstream is so expensive and in order to tow AS, it would need the appropriate TV that may be expensive.

Some will insist its fine. it is your risk and also big risk for nearby drivers. You may end up in court losing a lot of money - probably more expensive than AS and bigger TV.

You can always buy used qualified TV... I want you to enjoy the camping trips without the unnecessary risks.
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Old 11-30-2020, 05:53 AM   #19
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I always enjoy the "minivan tow vehicle-haters" posts. Your Sienna might do a nice job moving a modern Bambi around. The new ones are much bigger, heavier, and bulkier than their awesome vintage cousins. Still minivans are, as mentioned and advertised, low with long wheel bases and plenty of torque and power that is also economical. All in all, dream tow vehicles for most.
Me, I like minivans as tow vehicles. I am in the "unsafe tow vehicle-haters" club. The Sienna max tow rating has remained consistent and constant since its first year in 1998 at 3500. It and all other minivans have low tow ratings (less than 4000 lb), short wheelbases (less than 120 in) and light weights (less than 4700 lb). They are in no way suitable to safely and competently tow the most common and most popular travel trailers being purchased today which are 28' average length. They are suitable for fewer than 25% of the towing market. Most is the wrong word, so is "long wheelbase".

(snip....)

Quote:
But...see the other picture. This is not of our rig. It is of a (1990s) Chevy Astro van towing a 34 footer! I shot this the first time we stayed at Jersey Shore Haven Airstream Campground at the Jersey Shore. I have been around Airstreams literally my whole life (like as in my first camping trip was at 6 days old), so I have seen pretty much everything. But this combo shocked me a bit. That is until the guy took the trailer from its spot to the dump station and was as comfortable behind that steering wheel as anyone could be. A short wheel base, Chevy "minivan"...towing a tri-axle?


I guess anything is possible.
Delusion is certainly possible as anyone who believes an Astro can safely and stably tow a 34' trailer must be. It will tow just fine at low speeds and on straight flat roads. Keeping that combination on the road were it to experience any significant trailer yaw acceleration is not possible, like perpetual motion it is imaginary.
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Old 12-05-2020, 08:31 AM   #20
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Thanks! You guys are awesome and helpful! I am still not sure if I will get an Airstream, but I know that it will be a 16-footer if I do. The Airstream dealer is telling me that I can tow the 16ft just fine... but they also want me to buy it, so large grain of salt there. I think I may be scared to ever drive a trailer now, anyway. Lol! Thank you all for your guidance!
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