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Old 04-15-2020, 09:37 AM   #1
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Tow Vehicle

Hello Streamers! I have been looking for affordable Airstream for last 2 years, something small but fitting 4 people family in the same time. I found 2006 Safari 20'. This is on the large side for what I have been looking for since I have 2019 Highlander for a TV (w/Tow Package rated for 5K). We live in Midwest so not mountains or even finding a big hill is a stretch. The 20' Safari I found is in very nice condition and would fit our family nicely, but what worries me is the Tonque Weight which according to old manual specs is about 600lbs, while Higlander recommends 10% of Trailer weight so closer to 500 (GVWR is 5K). Question for all you experienced Streamers, Am I crazy considering this Safari with my current tow vehicle for Midwest weekend travels? I need to make sure my kids are safe. Or, do you guys have similar setups and works fine? Please help.
Best, Derek.
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Old 04-15-2020, 09:54 AM   #2
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There’s a search function on this site that will lead you to dozens, if not hundreds, of threads on this topic. But since everyone has time on their hands, I’m guessing you’ll get a lot of “help”.

Let the pontificating begin!
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Old 04-15-2020, 11:04 AM   #3
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Step one is to go look on the yellow sticker on the driver’s side door jam of your Highlander and look at the total payload.
I suspect it will not be an impressive number. Subtract 600# from that and see what it leaves you for people and supplies. Not to mention that factory tongue weights are notoriously underestimated.

I am not in the “everyone needs a 3/4 ton truck” camp but your Highlander is not up to the task at hand.
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Old 04-15-2020, 11:51 AM   #4
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Thank you for your reply, definitely appreciated even though not something I wanted to hear. We did check the stickers and while we would not have much capacity left for cargo (about 200lbs), nonetheless we would be under the max, so I hoped I could get away with it. Especially that in the future (for longer travel) I plan to get more fitted TV just cant take both expenses the same year so was hoping to get away during first newbie year and flat land travel within 200-300 miles around... Thank you all.
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Old 04-15-2020, 04:09 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Derek Volov View Post
Thank you for your reply, definitely appreciated even though not something I wanted to hear. We did check the stickers and while we would not have much capacity left for cargo (about 200lbs), nonetheless we would be under the max, so I hoped I could get away with it. Especially that in the future (for longer travel) I plan to get more fitted TV just cant take both expenses the same year so was hoping to get away during first newbie year and flat land travel within 200-300 miles around... Thank you all.
You will be fine. We have limited cargo capacity left in our TV, but everything we need is stowed in the trailer. We don’t need or carry a generator or canoes, for example, so our TV is basically empty.
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Old 04-15-2020, 06:37 PM   #6
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Something to think about is the Highlander is a front wheel drive (unless yours is AWD). Be sure to account for around 100lbs of weight distribution hitch.

I have a tundra and my wife has a highlander, I tried moving one of my light trailers around with it one day and got a lot of wheel spin.

Most important thing to remember about a Highlander is...


THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!

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Old 04-15-2020, 06:38 PM   #7
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Do you have a trailer brake controller? I think that would be a must, not only for stopping purposes but should you get into a sway situation you can apply the trailer brakes while slowing down. You also have to figure in the weight of the Weight Distribution Hitch. Most hitches weigh around 80lbs. Also your tongue weight is going to have to be really managed. That means how you pack your trailer is critical. It is very easy to see that tongue weight go up a couple hundred pounds; especially if your bedroom is in the front where most of the storage is. So I would get a scale and pack, put some water in your fresh water tank, some in the grey and black water tanks, and then weigh your tongue. That will give you a better sense of what the hitch weight will be.
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Old 04-15-2020, 07:03 PM   #8
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Do you have a trailer brake controller? I think that would be a must, not only for stopping purposes but should you get into a sway situation you can apply the trailer brakes while slowing down. You also have to figure in the weight of the Weight Distribution Hitch. Most hitches weigh around 80lbs. Also your tongue weight is going to have to be really managed. That means how you pack your trailer is critical. It is very easy to see that tongue weight go up a couple hundred pounds; especially if your bedroom is in the front where most of the storage is. So I would get a scale and pack, put some water in your fresh water tank, some in the grey and black water tanks, and then weigh your tongue. That will give you a better sense of what the hitch weight will be.


Thank you for taking the time to reply. I appreciate all the pointers and things to consider. This is incredibly helpful. Definitely considering WD hitch (may go w/aluminum to save few lbs) and Break Controller is a must (unfortunately in Highlander its not just plug-in rather custom wiring but it can be done). Best,
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Old 04-15-2020, 11:20 PM   #9
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Hi if you go to the 20 foot flying cloud thread there is a lot of information that you may find interesting. In addition, there is an owner, Bob that tows his 20 foot with a Highlander. Lives in Oregon and travels the US.
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Old 04-17-2020, 08:33 AM   #10
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Thank you! I will definitely try to find the form and track down Bob! Thank you so much, especially that it looks like I will finally become the Airstream owner!
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Old 04-17-2020, 11:13 AM   #11
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Hi Derek, greetings from central Kentucky and welcome to the forum.


Does your Highlander have the tow package with a frame hitch, tranny cooler and larger alternator/battery?
Is your Highlander all wheel drive?

If your answer to these is no then I think the hitch weight is not the biggest problem. My 2004 4Runner has a maximum of 700 lbs. but with the WD hitch I'm OK, never had a problem, but then I have 4WD with V8 and towing package. Regardless of what my AS specs are (600 lbs. dry weight), with the batteries and propane tanks, using a Sherline scale my tongue weight is 730 lbs.

In my opinion, you are right at your vehicle's maximum, probably a little over. I believe you should upgrade the tow vehicle or look for a smaller AS, maybe a 19'. Something else to consider is an older AS, which are generally lighter, but will probably need repairs.
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Old 04-18-2020, 09:00 AM   #12
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Thank You. Yes, 4wd, has tow package w/up to 5k lbs towing capacity and 1300 lbs load. You are 100% right, I am near the max. That’s why I know that for any longer trip I wouldn’t want to risk it. However, I am trying to figure out if for MI & WI camping I can get away during first summer owning AS (I am not new to camping, done share of tent camping and renting trailers at camp grounds but I am brand new to owning RV and Towing - little scary). Thank you and I appreciate you taking time to share your thoughts.
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Old 04-18-2020, 01:45 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Derek Volov View Post
Thank You. Yes, 4wd, has tow package w/up to 5k lbs towing capacity and 1300 lbs load. You are 100% right, I am near the max. That’s why I know that for any longer trip I wouldn’t want to risk it. However, I am trying to figure out if for MI & WI camping I can get away during first summer owning AS (I am not new to camping, done share of tent camping and renting trailers at camp grounds but I am brand new to owning RV and Towing - little scary). Thank you and I appreciate you taking time to share your thoughts.

Sorry, I should have re-read your first post, all the details are there. You have done your homework. A WD hitch will not reduce tongue weight, according to the eTrailer site.

Expert Reply: Weight distribution works to distribute the tongue weight of a trailer up to the front axle of the tow vehicle so that it will sit more level and handle/brake better. That being said the systems do not "reduce" tongue weight or allow you to tow beyond the capacities of the vehicle.Aug 24, 2016
According to the specs, you're 100 lbs. over your maximum tongue weight with all tanks empty and no propane. Your Highlander is new and the extra weight might damage it and it might be unsafe as well. My AS of the same year, 23', says the weight is 600 lbs. but my scale says 730 lbs with no fluids and 1 full propane cylinder. I do have stuff stored in the front so that's what brings up the weight.



My opinion, look for a 19'. Good luck, be safe.
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Old 04-18-2020, 01:59 PM   #14
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This is a good YouTube video for new trailer buyers to review. It shows what happens when you move weight to the rear of the trailer.
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Old 04-18-2020, 02:05 PM   #15
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Expert Reply: Weight distribution works to distribute the tongue weight of a trailer up to the front axle of the tow vehicle so that it will sit more level and handle/brake better. That being said the systems do not "reduce" tongue weight or allow you to tow beyond the capacities of the vehicle.Aug 24, 2016
I have seen eTrailer's response. Perhaps someone here can explain it, but on its face it makes no sense to me. If the hitch "distributes" tongue weight to the front axle and we know that it also distributes weight back to the trailer axles, how can it not reduce tongue weight? It can't be in three places at once. Must be some special physics beyond my reach. Now, before someone says it, I completely understand the comment somewhere else that you can ignore the weight movement because your loaded tongue weight is likely to be heavier, but that is a different topic entirely.
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Old 04-18-2020, 03:20 PM   #16
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Higlander recommends 10% of Trailer weight
Derek: I looked at the Ford towing guide for my year SUV, 2018. For every vehicle it says "Trailer tongue load weight should be 10% of total loaded trailer weight," but it separately shows a max "tongue load." For each vehicle listed, the max tongue load is simply 10% of the max trailering capacity weight. It suggests that max trailering capacity is measured with 10% tongue weight.

With my trailer, I am within the max tongue load but, if I believe my trailer's specs, I am at 14% tongue weight because its a travel trailer. You might ask Toyota if there is a max tongue load for your Highlander that is apart from its 10% recommendation.
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Old 04-19-2020, 11:39 AM   #17
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In another post the OP says he has ordered the AS to be shipped to him. I guess we'll see how that turns out. The 2006 20' AS dry tongue weight is 600 lbs., 100 lbs. over the Highlander's maximum. A WD hitch isn't going to fix that and don't forget, that's dry weight. I wish him well.
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Old 04-19-2020, 12:28 PM   #18
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This is a good YouTube video for new trailer buyers to review. It shows what happens when you move weight to the rear of the trailer.
The U-Haul video demonstrates only one aspect of trailer loading. It shows what happens if your tongue weight is too low and your speed is too high. There is another aspect to loading a trailer and that is having too much tongue weight. This can cause your rig to jackknife in a hard turn. The traditional recommendation is to have a tongue weight greater than 10% but less than 15%. Lately, though, it seems that 10% may be close to the ideal target tongue weight.

It is very difficult to load a properly designed travel trailer with too little tongue weight. You would almost have to start moving cabinets and fixtures around. Not so with a cargo trailer like a U-Haul. If you don't pay attention to loading a cargo trailer you could get yourself in trouble.
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Old 04-19-2020, 12:41 PM   #19
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I have seen eTrailer's response. Perhaps someone here can explain it, but on its face it makes no sense to me. If the hitch "distributes" tongue weight to the front axle and we know that it also distributes weight back to the trailer axles, how can it not reduce tongue weight? It can't be in three places at once. Must be some special physics beyond my reach. Now, before someone says it, I completely understand the comment somewhere else that you can ignore the weight movement because your loaded tongue weight is likely to be heavier, but that is a different topic entirely.
E-Trailer is using confusing terminology. What they are trying to say is that a W/D hitch cannot change the loading of the trailer or tow vehicle. All it does is reduce the downward force on the rear tow vehicle axle. The mass, the mass center of gravity and the inertia of the trailer and tow vehicle remain unchanged.
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Old 04-19-2020, 12:55 PM   #20
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If the standard Highlander hitch has a 500 lb tongue weight limit, the obvious solution is to purchase an aftermarket hitch receiver. There are custom fit receivers available for the 2019 Highlander, from Curt and Draw-tite, which bolt on without welding, and which are rated for up to 900 lbs tongue weight. See etrailer for examples.

The Toyota ratings for the rear axle still apply; changing a receiver doesn't alter that, but using a stronger receiver (which sells for around $150) does allow one to uses WD equipment and manage tow vehicle axle loads to be within ratings. The combination will be safer with the WD equipment installed and properly adjusted, as well.

The stock hitch receiver may be fine with WD equipment, but light weight hitches are all too common and it is an easily solved problem.
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