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Old 01-05-2024, 12:09 PM   #1
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TV tongue weight management

HI All - newbie here and trying to figure out which towing vehicle to get and wondering about the tongue weight. One option i am looking at has only 500 tongue weight capacity, we're planning at this point to start with a Basecamp 20x, so should be fine. But also eying to stay flexible and when looking at Bambi and Caravel, the 19 and 22 ft have just slightly over 500lbs tongue weight (550 and 525), can this be managed by loading some heavier stuff into the back of the trailer to level the load a little and ok to drive save? How much over the nominal tongue weight by balancing stuff you bring can be managed?



I don't want to buy a huge car that gives us a bad mpg all year long and on long trips as well. Was looking at the Grand Cherokee 4xe and that one has enough capacity but terrible reliability. Looking at the Toyota Grand highlander hybrid max currently. tow capacity of 5,000lbs and tongue weight max of 500 lbs.


Appreciate any thoughts!
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Old 01-05-2024, 01:00 PM   #2
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Moving weight to the rear is a bad idea. It is recommended to have 10% - 15% of the trailer weight on the tongue for optimal towing safety.

One thing to recognize is that AS is notoriously low with their trailer tongue weights. Also, once loaded the weight will be more than what's published. I'd probably add at least 75# to the published weight for a loaded trailer.

Finally, you need to consider payload too. Payload is consumed by the tongue weight, any occupants of the vehicle, and any cargo in or on the TV.

eTrailer provides an excellent write up on the limits of trailer towing and how to determine if you've met all the various limits and what goes into each.

https://www.etrailer.com/faq-how-muc...an-I-tow.aspx?
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Old 01-05-2024, 02:00 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by PeterF66 View Post
HI All - newbie here and trying to figure out which towing vehicle to get and wondering about the tongue weight. One option i am looking at has only 500 tongue weight capacity, we're planning at this point to start with a Basecamp 20x, so should be fine. But also eying to stay flexible and when looking at Bambi and Caravel, the 19 and 22 ft have just slightly over 500lbs tongue weight (550 and 525), can this be managed by loading some heavier stuff into the back of the trailer to level the load a little and ok to drive save? How much over the nominal tongue weight by balancing stuff you bring can be managed?



I don't want to buy a huge car that gives us a bad mpg all year long and on long trips as well. Was looking at the Grand Cherokee 4xe and that one has enough capacity but terrible reliability. Looking at the Toyota Grand highlander hybrid max currently. tow capacity of 5,000lbs and tongue weight max of 500 lbs.


Appreciate any thoughts!
We have always towed with cars, not trucks.

Airstream tongue weights seem to be accurate, but they may not include propane in the bottles, and they don't include any load in the trailer or the weight of a weight distributing hitch (WDH).

A 500 lb specified weight will quickly turn into 650 plus, but if you use a properly adjusted weight distributing hitch, the actual weight on the tow vehicle should actually be a bit less than 500 lbs. Yes, this is confusing, but the tension on the spring bars that moves weight to the front tires of the car also moves weight to the trailer tires.

The real issue in my mind is the ability of the the trailer hitch receiver on the tow vehicle to resist twisting when a WDH is used. If you can find an aftermarket receiver that can handle, say 750 lbs of tongue weight with weight distributing, I'd go with that. These do exist for the Highlander. They can be reinforced after the fact if you notice twisting, but you will need to find a welder willing to do the work for you.

FWIW, I tow a 22FB with a Volvo V60 station wagon. The hitch receiver has been reinforced with a 2" square steel tube attached to the subframe for the rear suspension. The car handles the tongue weight extremely well.
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Old 01-05-2024, 03:19 PM   #4
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Peter, welcome to the Airstream Community and Forums! There’s many similar threads on this topic and even a sub-forum for Audi-Volkswagen-Porsche towing.

You might want to expand your search to include vehicles like the Audi A7, VW Touareg and Porsche Cayenne. They make excellent tow vehicles for single and smaller double axle Airstreams. Some even tow 27’ trailers usually with a reinforced hitch by Andy at Can-Am. You might want to check his website for TV recommendations.

They’re available used and given their robust build, have a lot of miles left in them.

We towed a 23’ Flying Cloud with a VW Touareg TDI (trailer stated tongue weight in the 500’s) but the actual weight loaded for camping was closer to 750 lbs. The Touareg’s max was 770 lbs. so we were within specs. It was a wonderful TV with fully independent suspension, 6 piston disc brakes and short rear overhang - all desirable features for towing. We got 16 MPG towing and in the 30’s otherwise.

Another factor to consider is the amount of payload the tow vehicle has. This number includes tongue weight and anything inside the tow vehicle (passengers + cargo). The other number to educate yourself about is the axle ratings. These numbers can be found on a door sticker of the vehicle. You can take your TV and trailer to a CAT scale, found at truck stops and weigh all three axles at the same time to see if you’re within specs or overloaded.

We got twofootitis x2 and upgraded to a 27’ Airstream Globetrotter. We decided towing a 27’ with our Touareg was a bridge too far and upgraded to a 3/4 ton PU.

Good luck with your research!
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Old 01-05-2024, 04:29 PM   #5
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Packing to reduce tongue weight is fine as long as you still end up with 10 percent tongue weight. It’s literally how all European trailer manufacturers achieve lighter tongue weights.

Get a proper scale to measure tongue weight and start packing. But WEIGH THE TRAILER FIRST (with all your stuff in it) so you know the tongue weight you are shooting for. Eg, if your trailer weighs 4000 pounds fully loaded with fresh water then shoot for 400 to 450 pounds of hitch weight.

Heads up. Some hitch weights go down when you add water if the tank is behind the axle. Our teardrop is like that. No idea on the Basecamp.

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Old 01-05-2024, 06:07 PM   #6
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PeterF66,
Your comments about the right tow vehicle are the opener for the most contentious recurring can of worms to grace this forum.
Let me just say that a small engine struggling with a big load will use as much gas towing as a better matched TV, and the former is more likely to die an early death, negating the gas savings.
We have found a lot of daily uses for our half ton truck, and it gets a livable 18 to 20 mpg solo. As long as we keep our economical primary car, it’s not a bad situation.
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Old 01-06-2024, 07:33 AM   #7
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I tow a heavier trailer. I went with a full sized pickup. I know, not for you. But my point is I get 20 mpg overall with the large truck. How much are you going to save if you buy something smaller that gets 25-28 mpg? How many miles a year do you drive? I think it is best to go a little large on the TV. I personally would want a TV that has some margin in TW for the largest trailer I want to tow. Maybe a Can Am reinforcement if you have to go small. Towing a trailer is a luxury that has to be paid for somehow. Increased use of fuel all year is just part of the overall cost. Tow capacity, comfort, safety, reliability, and last mpg. And a guess...the smaller the trailer the more "stuff" you are going to want to put in the TV.
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Old 01-06-2024, 09:36 AM   #8
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Here is an excellent resource for you complete with a calculation spread sheet to help you decide.
https://www.keepyourdaydream.com/payload/
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Old 01-06-2024, 09:41 AM   #9
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I tow a heavier trailer. I went with a full sized pickup. I know, not for you. But my point is I get 20 mpg overall with the large truck. How much are you going to save if you buy something smaller that gets 25-28 mpg? How many miles a year do you drive? I think it is best to go a little large on the TV. I personally would want a TV that has some margin in TW for the largest trailer I want to tow. Maybe a Can Am reinforcement if you have to go small. Towing a trailer is a luxury that has to be paid for somehow. Increased use of fuel all year is just part of the overall cost. Tow capacity, comfort, safety, reliability, and last mpg. And a guess...the smaller the trailer the more "stuff" you are going to want to put in the TV.
I’m somewhat in this camp. What constitutes “bad mileage all year long as well as while towing?” We tow a 25 with an Expedition Platinum. Towing can range at 65 mph from 8mpg with a strong head wind and hills, to 12-15 mpg with relative calm and reasonably flat. No towing is 18-21 mpg which I am happy with. I also have the benefit of a 28 gallon fuel tank, so greater range. Payload not an issue with 2 travelers under 150 lbs, under 200 lbs of gear in SUV, varying weight in propane tanks based on use, and no less that a half full fresh water tank. Personal preference.
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Old 01-06-2024, 09:45 AM   #10
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PeterF66, you certainly can load in a way that "might" minimize your TW but be careful. I have no experience towing a Base Camp but with a traditional trailer some tongue weight is necessary for stability. That said, there are many here on the forum that do or have towed with cars. Listen to what they have to say, they are the experts.
I am thinking that a hybrid might be the way to go for you. While towing nothing is going to help much but if this is a daily driver for you, a hybrid will really help. I drive a Toyota Rav4 hybrid and it is very impressive as far as dependability and mileage. This would NEVER be used to tow.....anything but there are others out there that can. Good luck in your search.
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Old 01-06-2024, 10:08 AM   #11
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I’m about to purchase a 7x16 aluminum box trailer with dual torsion axles. I’m going to pull it with my Sprinter 3500, so I’m paying very close attention to the math. I purchased a tongue weight scale from etrailer. Another idea is to look at Weigh Safe Trailer Hitches.

And while we’re on this topic of trailers, I want to make certain I have a good jack to lift the trailer frame in case of a flat tire. I was looking at a Pro Eagle 2 ton, but I may just get a Harbor Freight Badlands 3 ton. My concern is to get enough lift and get the tire changed quickly if stuck on the highway. Any input is appreciated.
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Old 01-06-2024, 10:48 AM   #12
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FWIW… we had a 2009 Toyota Highlander w/5000lb tow capacity. We had a 3000lb fiberglass camper with 450lb tongue weight and even with a properly setup WD hitch I was white knuckle driving for two years. Suspension to soft.
Bought a 2012 VW Touareg TDI which was incredible. Towed in the ball sometimes with maybe 1/2” sag. Stiff sport suspension w/a short overhang from rear suspension……
Now we have a 25ft Airstream and an 2024 Toyota Tundra.
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Old 01-06-2024, 10:51 AM   #13
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Towing a smaller trailer

I tow a Caravel 20fb (5,000 lb GVW) with a Jeep Grand Cherokee (5.7 V8) with towing which is rated at 7,200 lb. The actual hitch weight is about 650 lb or about 20% above the published weight. The Jeep has a class IV receiver and tows well with a WD hitch. Payload is limiting (1100lbs) but we travel light. Jeep is now 4 years old and has never had any problems. Gas mileage with the HEMI engine is poor and while towing it gets about 14 mpg. I would be concerned about towing a heavy trailer with a vehicle at its towing limit.
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Old 01-06-2024, 10:58 AM   #14
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We have had a dedicated 2012 Ram 2500HD Cummins diesel since 2013 to tow both our 2013 25FB International Serenity and now our 2014’ 31’ Classic. A 6.7L diesel is not a daily shopper short trip engine. Diesels of this size typically spend their lives as work trucks or towing where there are long hours on and usually under load. We see 10 to 12 mpg towing and 16 to 18 on the highway not towing.

We acquired a 2021 Land Cruiser with 5.7L V8 and 8 speed transmission to tow our 2015 23D International Serenity that originally was towed with a 2007 Mercedes ML 320 CDI turbo diesel. At 207,000 miles the Mercedes was tired and the third repetition of a major $$$ repair was imminent so the Land Cruiser took over.

I do not drive the Land Cruiser daily (retired) as while it can get 21 mpg @ 70 mph on the interstates it typically gets17 to 18 for local driving. We get 11.5 to 13 mpg towing the 23D. It is a very competent and comfortable to drive vehicle and has the specs appropriate to tow the 23D to smaller parks where the Ram is just too big for the job. We do have a hitch for the Ram if needed as its receiver opening is 5” lower than the one on the Land Cruiser. Both trailers have ProPride hitches.

So our daily vehicle is a 2020 Toyota RAV4 hybrid that gets 44 to 45 mpg. It would be taxed to tow a golf cart on a small trailer.
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Old 01-06-2024, 11:28 AM   #15
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Agree,

I agree with all you said.

If I was starting over again and keeping with the Base Camp no trading up I would seriously look at the Ford F-150 Hybrid. TFL Trucks did a one year review on his and liked it, said its a keeper. The warning as many of us have found out is we upgrade weight and trailer and have to move up in Tow Vehicle. Rather look odd have a F-250 towing a Base Camp vs a Odd with a Smart Car towing a Base Camp LOL. Of course you argue anything after you go to the museum and see Willie towing his Airstream with the bicycle-


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PeterF66,
Your comments about the right tow vehicle are the opener for the most contentious recurring can of worms to grace this forum.
Let me just say that a small engine struggling with a big load will use as much gas towing as a better matched TV, and the former is more likely to die an early death, negating the gas savings.
We have found a lot of daily uses for our half ton truck, and it gets a livable 18 to 20 mpg solo. As long as we keep our economical primary car, it’s not a bad situation.
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Old 01-06-2024, 04:37 PM   #16
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I agree this is a religious issue; everyone has their own opinion from their perspective. We are SUV people and like a nimble vehicle that is our daily driver as well. I can confirm @jeffmc306 that our Audi Q7 tows our 25' Globetrotter without any difficulty. It's rated 770lbs TW and 7,700 towing capacity (335HP, supercharged). We had an enforced hitch installed at Can-Am. Can-Am swears by the VW chassis and they will tell you SUVs are the best tow vehicle for Airstreams (their opinion of course, religious I know).

However, before the GT we towed a 16' Bambi without any weight-distribution or anti-sway. We traveled all over (mountains, windy plains), etc. and had no difficulties. A 20' Basecamp is of course different, the Bambi with our Weight-Safe was around 475lbs TW, so not too far off.

If budget is an issue, we bought our 2017 used in 2021 with 70k miles for around $32k. It's up to 120K miles and no major issues (tires are expensive). Also, I found Can-An to be very friendly and helpful if you lean SUV and a have candidate vehicle. They should be able to give you an evaluation.
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Old 01-08-2024, 12:09 PM   #17
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Thanks!

Thanks all for the very helpful information and thoughts, I think I got the fundamentals now and am leaning toward a Mercedes GLE450 or GLE450e, but for 7,200lbs and TW 625lbs, that should give us enough safety margin and has decent gas mileage, especially the 450e then.


Really appreciate all the help and everyone's input!
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Old 01-08-2024, 02:04 PM   #18
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"...I want to make certain I have a good jack to lift the trailer frame in case of a flat tire." Not to hijack the thread, but measure how much clearance you have from the ground to the jack point with a FLAT tire. Don't ask me how I know. <grin>


Please do pay attention to actual tongue weights. I've known (from this forum) for some time that Airstream is rather optimistic with their tongue weights. I've learned from experience that others are, too. I'm thinking that a tongue scale would be a good addition to the tool box.
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Old 01-08-2024, 04:20 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by PeterF66 View Post
Thanks all for the very helpful information and thoughts, I think I got the fundamentals now and am leaning toward a Mercedes GLE450 or GLE450e, but for 7,200lbs and TW 625lbs, that should give us enough safety margin and has decent gas mileage, especially the 450e then.


Really appreciate all the help and everyone's input!
If you’re camper had a weight of 7200 pounds and a tongue weight of 625, you will soon be an expert at explaining what trailer sway feels like.
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Old 01-08-2024, 05:13 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by PeterF66 View Post
Thanks all for the very helpful information and thoughts, I think I got the fundamentals now and am leaning toward a Mercedes GLE450 or GLE450e, but for 7,200lbs and TW 625lbs, that should give us enough safety margin and has decent gas mileage, especially the 450e then.

Really appreciate all the help and everyone's input!
Hi Peter,

Ok: rule of thumb: You want approximately 12% of your trailer’s weight on the tongue. 12% to 15% is the range that is normally used; in Europe, they do often go with just 10%. So we’ll say 10% as the critical minimum tongue weight: that’d be 720lbs at a minimum for a trailer weighing 7200lbs, ideally 864lbs, up to 1,080lbs.

A tongue weight of 625lbs for a 7200lb trailer is dangerously light, will be prone to sway.

If a vehicle has a limit on the tongue weight it can take (ie, usually advertised as 10% of its tow capacity (even though it should be 12%)), you can calculate what the max trailer you can ‘safely’ tow (which might be less than the tow rating). If you have a vehicle that has a tongue limit of 625lbs, setting that as 12%, you could tow a camper that weighs 5208lbs. If you want to put it right at that 10%, then it’d be 6250lbs, at the max.

(Do you know what the tongue limit is of the Mercedes?)

Now, with all that said: I’m basing my calculations off the typical traditional calculations. There are others who may vary from these conventions. There are different camps of theories of safe towing.


Just some things to think about….
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