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Old 05-20-2020, 05:00 PM   #1
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Question What else do I need to tow a 16-22' AS

Hello all,
We are pretty close to pull the trigger on a AS 20FB, before we settle on the size and floor plan I want to rent one (outdoorsy) with similar size just to see if that's the right size for us. So I need to get my tow vehicle ready - I have a ML350 with towing package (2" hitch receiver and wiring/plug right next to the receiver, see attached pix)
So assuming the owner of rental AS will provide everything on the RV side, All I need is a hitch ball mount and a hitch ball right?

The top of hitch receiver is 15.5 inch above ground, and according to AS website the 16-20 AS hitch ball height is 19", all I will need a mount with a 4" rise right? There is a diagram on the hitch receiver, showing 2.75 drop and 2" rise but I don't quite understand what are these 2 numbers are for.
How important is to get it absolutely level? Is couple of inch off ok?
Basically I need to buy this mount without the AS, so I can only take the spec from AS website - I understand different AS will vary a little due to settling. Is it a big deal?

Another question is the hitch weight, while the SUV has a comfortable margin of towing weight (rated 7200lb, vs 5000 lb max RV weight) the 20FB AS has 565LB hitch weight, that's just 10lb shy of my SUV's rated max hitch weight (575LB), Could this be a potential problem?


Thanks a lot!
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Old 05-20-2020, 05:57 PM   #2
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Welcome to the forum!, first off are you sure about the max tongue rating? You didn't mention the year or trim but generally the tongue rating will be at least 10% of max towing. The 2015 has max tow at 6600 and tongue at 660. If your model has 7200 max then tongue would normally be 720 max. Hidden hitch receivers are often much less but yours does not appear to be hidden. More on this later.

If your tongue rating truly is 575, that will certainly be a problem, You can expect a loaded trailer to be around 680-750 depending how it is loaded.

Hitch ball geometry is a bit tricky... The 19 refers to the top of the ball so you figure you'll need to add about 3 1/2 inches from the inside top of the receiver to accommodate the ball height and zero drop shank so I figure you need maybe 0-1 inch rise depending on the specific hitch. For small trailers, 1-1 1/2 inches off is Okay in the short term.

The diagram is describing the maximum drop and maximum rise the receiver can accommodate and stay within the torque limits used to determine the maximum tongue weight. the fact that they place these limits is a good indicator the receiver mounts are wimpy and could explain the light tongue weight you provided.

If you keep your speed below 50, that is all you will need.

Edit: If you want to keep up with traffic, you'll need to add a sway control and weight distribution hitch.

Send some more info on your year and model and perhaps we can be more helpful.
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Old 05-20-2020, 05:59 PM   #3
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The ML specs seem to be sufficient for a 20'. You'll need a brake controller installed to power the electric trailer brakes. You'll have to learn how to use them - how to adjust for sufficient engagement and how to use them in an emergency to correct any sway. Check and make sure the tongue weight quoted includes full LP gas tanks and water tanks, or you may not be within spec. If you are under the rating, you should be good - you have to think that M-B builds in a safety factor above the rating as liability protection.

I tow a 19' with a VW Atlas, rated to tow 5000# and with a 500# tongue weight rating. The trailer is 3500 empty, about 4000 ready to go with a tongue of 500 (confirmed through weighing).

I choose to tow without any weight distribution hitch, as VW does not recommend that, and it is fine to me (others will disagree).

The diagram seems to indicate that 2" is the max recommended rise. That's 1 1/2" short of a match, but I think you'd be fine. You can eyeball the level after hooking the trailer up. If it looks close to level, you are good. Have you read the car's owner's manual for clarification?
A 19' is lighter and has less tongue weight, but that corner bath and large kitchen in the 20 are nice. We were lucky enough to be able to rent a 19' A/S a couple of times 12-13 years ago before we bought a used one, and confirmed that we enjoyed it. If you've found a way to do that today you are very lucky.
Have fun!
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Old 05-20-2020, 06:11 PM   #4
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Good call Robert, a brake controller is a must have also.
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Old 05-20-2020, 06:34 PM   #5
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Thank you Brian!
It's 2014 ML350 V6. with factory tow package. The max tongue weight 576lb number is on the printed table next to the hitch receiver(see attached picture in my post)

This is certainly disappointing. one of the major factor I picked the car was its ability to tow an AS, obviously I didn't do enough homework - I remember I checked 20' AS weight and saw the 7200lb on the car and thought I am covered and went with it.

Is it possible to replace it with a stronger hitch? or the max tongue weight is more of a limitation of the car (too much weight the car would tilt backwards)?

Thanks,

Quote:
Originally Posted by BayouBiker View Post
Welcome to the forum!, first off are you sure about the max tongue rating? You didn't mention the year or trim but generally the tongue rating will be at least 10% of max towing. The 2015 has max tow at 6600 and tongue at 660. If your model has 7200 max then tongue would normally be 720 max. Hidden hitch receivers are often much less but yours does not appear to be hidden. More on this later.

If your tongue rating truly is 575, that will certainly be a problem, You can expect a loaded trailer to be around 680-750 depending how it is loaded.

Hitch ball geometry is a bit tricky... The 19 refers to the top of the ball so you figure you'll need to add about 3 1/2 inches from the inside top of the receiver to accommodate the ball height and zero drop shank so I figure you need maybe 0-1 inch rise depending on the specific hitch. For small trailers, 1-1 1/2 inches off is Okay in the short term.

The diagram is describing the maximum drop and maximum rise the receiver can accommodate and stay within the torque limits used to determine the maximum tongue weight. the fact that they place these limits is a good indicator the receiver mounts are wimpy and could explain the light tongue weight you provided.

If you keep your speed below 50, that is all you will need.

Edit: If you want to keep up with traffic, you'll need to add a sway control and weight distribution hitch.

Send some more info on your year and model and perhaps we can be more helpful.
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Old 05-20-2020, 06:41 PM   #6
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Thank you Robert!
About the brake controller - in one of the picture I attached, on left side of the hitch you will see a wiring/plug cover, on the plastic cover there are wiring labels, one of them says 'electirc brake' I thought the car has brake controller included?


Quote:
Originally Posted by robert claus View Post
The ML specs seem to be sufficient for a 20'. You'll need a brake controller installed to power the electric trailer brakes. You'll have to learn how to use them - how to adjust for sufficient engagement and how to use them in an emergency to correct any sway. Check and make sure the tongue weight quoted includes full LP gas tanks and water tanks, or you may not be within spec. If you are under the rating, you should be good - you have to think that M-B builds in a safety factor above the rating as liability protection.

I tow a 19' with a VW Atlas, rated to tow 5000# and with a 500# tongue weight rating. The trailer is 3500 empty, about 4000 ready to go with a tongue of 500 (confirmed through weighing).

I choose to tow without any weight distribution hitch, as VW does not recommend that, and it is fine to me (others will disagree).

The diagram seems to indicate that 2" is the max recommended rise. That's 1 1/2" short of a match, but I think you'd be fine. You can eyeball the level after hooking the trailer up. If it looks close to level, you are good. Have you read the car's owner's manual for clarification?
A 19' is lighter and has less tongue weight, but that corner bath and large kitchen in the 20 are nice. We were lucky enough to be able to rent a 19' A/S a couple of times 12-13 years ago before we bought a used one, and confirmed that we enjoyed it. If you've found a way to do that today you are very lucky.
Have fun!
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Old 05-20-2020, 07:39 PM   #7
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It's the wimpy hitch mount. There were different styles. Yours is the semi-concealed one and it is weak in twist moments. Several manufacturers make some nice Class III hitches with three mount points and a much stronger receiver. Get one of those for about $300. Take a look at the photos, it doesn't look too bad on the car. An install will cost about $100 or maybe 2 or so hours of your time if you're handy with wrenches.

The ML350 is wired for a controller but the controller is not installed. There are several good options for controllers. Some easier to install than others.

with a new hitch, a controller and at least an anti-sway friction bar you will be set. I would add some light WD also, but you could talk me out of it. It will handle a touch crisper with WD but the improvement will be slight in your case.
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Old 05-20-2020, 07:59 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hovr View Post
Hello all,
We are pretty close to pull the trigger on a AS 20FB, before we settle on the size and floor plan I want to rent one (outdoorsy) with similar size just to see if that's the right size for us. So I need to get my tow vehicle ready - I have a ML350 with towing package (2" hitch receiver and wiring/plug right next to the receiver, see attached pix)
So assuming the owner of rental AS will provide everything on the RV side, All I need is a hitch ball mount and a hitch ball right?

The top of hitch receiver is 15.5 inch above ground, and according to AS website the 16-20 AS hitch ball height is 19", all I will need a mount with a 4" rise right? There is a diagram on the hitch receiver, showing 2.75 drop and 2" rise but I don't quite understand what are these 2 numbers are for.
How important is to get it absolutely level? Is couple of inch off ok?
Basically I need to buy this mount without the AS, so I can only take the spec from AS website - I understand different AS will vary a little due to settling. Is it a big deal?

Another question is the hitch weight, while the SUV has a comfortable margin of towing weight (rated 7200lb, vs 5000 lb max RV weight) the 20FB AS has 565LB hitch weight, that's just 10lb shy of my SUV's rated max hitch weight (575LB), Could this be a potential problem?


Thanks a lot!
We have a 2019 Honda Ridgeline with a max towing weight of 5,000 lbs and tongue max of 600 lbs if we only have 2 people in the truck. If we add more people the tongue weight capacity goes down. The good part is that it has a high cargo number (~1,600 lbs) so we can put more camping items in the box of the truck. We picked the 2019 22' Sport because the empty weight is 3,634 lbs and the tongue is 422 lbs. This is one of the single axle trailers in the Airstream line up.

The tongue weight is the challenge for most vehicles, unless you go to a larger truck.

Once you get your mind set on getting an Airstream, you are going to want to make sure that you don't overload the tow vehicle. Perhaps a look at a lighter trailer in the Airstream line up would fit your tow vehicle better.

If you go with a single axle model trailer, you will most likely stay with in the limits of your tow vehicle.

Is there a brake controller hooked up to the 7 pin connector? You will want to control the trailer brake force. When I had my Camplite, my controller was set at 2.0 and with the Airstream the controller is set at 7.0. I have a Prodigy P3 controller which has a read out to tell what the force is set at.

The hitch ball should be 2 5/16". I picked up a weigh safe hitch for my Ridgeline which came with 2 different ball sizes and it is 6" adjustable so I can adjust it to 12 inches over all (6" up and 6" down). The weigh safe hitch gives me current tongue weight at a glance so I can figure out what I need to move to ensure that I have enough on the tongue to limit sway. Like BayouBiker says, keep your speed down until you can get a good feeling for the weights. You will want between 10 to 15% of the trailer weight as your tongue weight. More is better to minimize trailer sway. Keep in mind that in Places outside of North America, drivers pulling trailers can't exceed 60 mph.

For your test trip, an adjustable hitch would make it easy to level the combo out.

Ideally, you don't want your combo to be pointing up or down. Level is best.

Another thing to consider is clip on side mirrors. The AS model that you are renting will probably be 8' wide and your MB will not have mirrors wide enough to see around the trailer. Those can be found just about anywhere, I picked up a Dometic set that clips to the car's mirrors and pushes your field of view out by a foot on either side.

My 2019 Sport is 7'-4" wide which is the last narrower trailer and with the Ridgeline, I don't need the mirrors anymore but it is close.
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Old 05-21-2020, 12:17 PM   #9
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You are receiving great advice! I would add a recommendation to check out some campgrounds in your area and see how other owners are towing their similar trailers. I have seen few 20’ trailers at the parks we have visited in our coast to coast trip in 2018 and our current GA to CO trip. Plus, a lot of months at LYH in Melbourne, FL. My guess is that most of these shorter trailers are spending time at State, local and National Parks, since they are so easy to maneuver in tight spaces.

Towing at 50MPH as someone suggested - in my over 4,000 miles to W Coast and back, I have not seen anyone drive this speed except on large climbs = not an option.

Food for thought - IF you fall in love with your AS, and your family grows beyond two, you may decide like many others on this Forum have decided, that a longer trailer is in your future? At that point you would need to change TV and trailer, which is usually an expensive exchange. Depending on how much you will use the trailer will drive your decision on how to tow your AS. My vote, is to not play on the margins that an OEM might design extra towing capability, I would only consider a trailer that comfortably fits into your TV’s capabilities. CAN AM in Canada will disagree, but once you have seen a Subaru two door sports car (forgot the model #) towing a shorter AS with wires coming out of the trunk connecting to the tongue of the AS, and TV suspension looking like it could pick up a small stone in the roadway, you might reconsider your current TV and planned acquisition?

Good luck making the decision and enjoy whatever setup you end up with.
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by superChop View Post
Towing at 50MPH as someone suggested - in my over 4,000 miles to W Coast and back, I have not seen anyone drive this speed except on large climbs = not an option.
LOL so right! I suggested the 50mph as a one time event for his trial rental venture so he won't have to get a full setup till he has everything settled. Thanks for the opportunity to correct my mistake! The slower speed will allow him to delay purchase of a new hitch receiver, weight distribution and anti-sway measures. He should not delay purchase of a brake controller.
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Old 05-21-2020, 04:06 PM   #11
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Thank you both! I actually wasn't planning on towing faster than 55mph, haha. btw, what would be the most fuel efficient cruising speed?
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Old 05-21-2020, 04:15 PM   #12
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Airstreams have a large frontal area. Your mileage will start dropping above 45mph and it just keeps getting worse.
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Old 05-22-2020, 08:24 AM   #13
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19 foot Caravel/Toyota Tacoma

We got a 19 Foot Caravel this year. We have a newer Toyota Tacoma and choose to get a Blue Ox weight Distribution hitch. We love it and highly recommend it because it makes pulling the AS much more enjoyable. We had it out on the freeway with strong winds last weekend with no problem. I think our limits on the vehicles are similar. Enjoy!
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Old 05-22-2020, 09:15 AM   #14
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Gas Efficiency Towing - you must be kidding??

This question had me laughing again! I do not believe you should ever be concerned with MPG when towing, other than to calculate when you need to refill your gas tank! If you drive in the mountains, MPG may be around 10MPG, if you drive in the flatter areas of the country it may go up into the low teens for a diesel. If you drive 45MPH to get great mileage in your normal around town and highway vehicle, then you might be patient enough to tow at that speed. Recommend you tow your AS a few times at a normal 60/65MPH, calculate MPG and then work that number with the size of your tank for planned pit stops.

Examples from TV’s other than your own, are a bit misleading and may not be helpful, but here’s one gas story (diesel TV have a little better mileage when towing, but usually pay a higher per gallon fee for their diesel fuel: 2018 4,000 mile cross country trip to your area of the country with an ‘09 F150 supercab, 4.6L engine - we averaged about 10.5MPG. This year, at about 1,500 miles so far, with the ‘19 F250 supercab, 6.2L gas (AND Apple CarPlay) engine we are averaging in the low 10’s for MPG. The newer truck has 8 more gallons of capacity than the ‘09 (34GL vs 26GL) and I had hoped we could avoid stopping for fuel while hitched to the trailer. All of you veteran AS’s and SOB’s are laughing, because you know that unless you limit your daily drive to less than 300 miles, that will be impossible when driving long distances (we averaged 400 - 500 mile days on this trip to CO).

A factor that has not been addressed much in this forum, is the amount of gas you need in your TV once you arrive at your destination for the night! Every time I arrive at a RV park AND disconnect the trailer, our TV can idle for 15+ minutes. My wife gets a little irritated when I suggest we have at least a 1/4 tank of gas available prior to unhitching. From observation of other travelers at the RV Park, this lag time in turning off your engine is very normal.

Finally, some not requested advice on refueling your TV enroute - especially for someone new to towing - use any gas station with high covers and large separation of refueling lanes and lots of room to pull out of the refueling lane. When we moved up from a 13’ Coleman tent trailer to our 26’ ‘64 Overlander, I was a bit challenged even at a truck stop, since I had not become comfortable with blocking another refueling station with my AS. Those days have passed with the addition of a triple axle ‘89 Excella AS! Our process for selecting a refueling stop is to use the truck stop apps (Love, Pilot/Flying J, TA, etc.). We prefer Pilot/Flying J since they give us a whopping 5cents off per gallon with our GOOD SAM membership, plus they state “RV Friendly” for those locations that have great separation at the gas pumps and good parking availability.

HOVR - you have started a remarkable and extremely rewarding journey as a new AS owner and you have this FORUM that is filled with experts on every question you may have, so please continue to ask those questions that come into your life, even after your towing adventures begin. I mentioned in my earlier post to visit a local RV park and ask some of the folks in the park about their towing experiences, brand of trailer is not important. They will always be glad to share these experiences with someone! Not sure how far from Olympia, WA that you live, but Land Yacht Harbor in Olympia is an AS park and other SOB’s are allowed. The houses on the left side of the park as you enter are limited to AS owners only. I ask questions of owners of TV’s that appear to be under equipped to tow a particular trailer, like Tundra’s, newer SUV’s, etc. All drivers claim to LOVE their TV! My favorite interaction was in Wyoming at a Rest Area on I-80 - A crew cab Tundra with a topper over the bed filled with camping supplies, so that you could not see through the topper and three people in the back seat was pulling a single axle AS. It was obvious that he was over most of the OEM’s safe towing weights! Headlights were pointed at the sky, not the top of trees! When I asked my question on how the Tundra was towing this AS, he said “PERFECT”! Most of you know my corny sense of humor, so I asked him if he would be driving at night, because if he was, all the passengers by the windows would need bright flashlights to illuminate the road!

In closing, you have only begun the process of asking questions of these seasoned AS experts! The more you tow, the more questions that will arise! Have you been encouraged to join WBCCI and a local club? If not, these are wonderful opportunities to travel with like minded and wonderful people at Rallys and on Caravans that in a normal year cover the entire lower 48, Canada and the Last Frontier - Alaska. Perhaps we will meet you on a Caravan or Rally in the future and you can share all your exciting adventures with us?
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Old 05-22-2020, 02:44 PM   #15
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superChop, thank you so much for your advice and I really enjoyed your comment!

I have learnt so much in last couple of days, and I am honestly a little overwhelmed by the friendliness of this community.

This year was supposed to be the one we start our weekend AS journey, but the COVID19 thing has made it a bit more difficult, like visit dealership, rent/try AS to figure which model, etc. But there are so many things I realized that I could prepare, learn and that's what I am doing, you will certainly see many questions from me.

Thanks again!
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Old 05-28-2020, 01:05 AM   #16
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Please don't forget that you need a brake controller! I spent the day learning about them myself.
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Old 05-28-2020, 06:42 AM   #17
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My experience shows that a 2" offset from level is too much.


I had a hookup scenario that I really wasn't sure about level. Didn't check. Bought the hitch and stinger with my trailer attachment hardware and went about my business. Had the equipment installed by the trailer dealer, so thought everything was dandy.


Each spring I check things over and make sure of the hitch/mechanic's condition. One year I found a crack eminating from one corner of the hitch box. Not good.


I ordered another hitch and found, to my surprise, that the box was now about 2" (I'd have to go measure again to make sure) different in height than the earlier one. What gives? Is my stinger no good now?


I contacted the supplier of the trailer setup who also supplied the stinger and explained the situation and asked how they matched stinger offset with the trailer and car models. It was a guestimate, and nowhere was the hitch offset mentioned. But they did say that having the setup level during travel is preferred.


My current setup is pretty level, so I could keep the stinger as is. The first hitch, with the crack, made the setup off level. I could then put 2 and 2 together noting that the off-level condition put a bending load against the hitch box. This eventually led to the crack, in my opinion.


So far after several years the new box seems OK.
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Old 05-30-2020, 03:07 PM   #18
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It's 2014 ML350 V6. with factory tow package. The max tongue weight 576lb number is on the printed table next to the hitch receiver(see attached picture in my post)

This is certainly disappointing. one of the major factor I picked the car was its ability to tow an AS, obviously I didn't do enough homework - I remember I checked 20' AS weight and saw the 7200lb on the car and thought I am covered and went with it.

Is it possible to replace it with a stronger hitch? or the max tongue weight is more of a limitation of the car (too much weight the car would tilt backwards)?

Thanks,[/QUOTE]


I suggest you write Andy Thomson at CanAm RV in Canada. (https://www.canamrv.ca/) He has set up 1000's of hitches for cars that can tow a lot less than yours. He did my set up and I have been able to switch from different vehicles and trailers since then. He is the guru of hitches. And he'll answer all your questions via email or phone. Great resource!!!
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Old 05-30-2020, 07:40 PM   #19
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Lightbulb GLE350 & 22FB Safari

I'm towing 20FB Safari with 2016 GLE350 just fine. I think the ratings for ML350 are about the same. ~7600 tow and ~570 hitch. Weight distribution hitch will handle your hitch weight concerns. Breack controller is a must. Keep your finger on the break controller’s trigger when going over bumpy/windy bridges or when taken over by large trucks. I use Tekonsha. See images. Google for GLE350 install instructions to factory tow package.

I don’t know about ML350, but GLE350 with tow package has sway control also in the car itself. You won’t notice it before you really need it. It just kicks in breaks on one tire at the time when sway starts to affect the car.

Make sure your hitch supports sway control bar. It's not a must, but after first two trips I ordered one from Amazon for $60 and hope it will help a bit with passing trucks.

DISCLAIMER: My experience is only with GLE350, so please don’t trust that it would work excatly the same on ML350. When I bought my Airstream from Colonial Airstream, they made sure that the weight distribution hitch and other towing equipment was properly attached and sufficient for the trip.

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Old 05-31-2020, 08:44 AM   #20
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Food for Thought

This is a tool for evaluating what various tow vehicles are rated to tow: https://webcontent.goodsam.com/trail...wGuide2020.pdf. At the beginning of the document, payload is explained. Tongue weight is only one portion of the cargo/payload available for your TV. Seems like you are happy operating at a very tight margin and are probably over your payload for your TV? Rest Assured that you are not the only TV that is over payload. Most Toyota’s towing AS’s of 23’ or longer are usually close or over on this important calculation. As I traveled down the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park with my 26’ AS, This past week, I was very pleased to have made the decision to purchase a super duty with 3500 lbs of payload Great brakes and transmission hold AND bulk to control the trailer!
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