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Old 03-24-2011, 09:57 AM   #1
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Towing Questions

I can't seem to find a towing forum. Seems like the concern of having a place dedicated to this area has been around for awhile. If this query belongs some place else please redirect it.

Here's my question: we are considering a 2008 Toyota 4runner v8 (4.7 liter) as a tow vehicle for a yet to be purchased airstream. The car has a rated capacity of 7000 lbs. The largest trailer we are considering is 6000. That leaves us supposedly a 1000 lbs overage. Question for you experienced and seasoned towers; is that practical? Should we settle for a lesser weight trailer (say 5500lbs)?

My wife likes the size of a 4runner and does not want to consider a larger vehicle like a land cruiser or Sequoia or a truck. Could use your advice on our balancing act. I'm sure others have faced it too.

Thanks!
Stan from Boulder
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Old 03-24-2011, 10:02 AM   #2
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Old 03-24-2011, 10:08 AM   #3
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When it is raining (snowing), steep, twisting and strong winds...I am happy to have a littlr more truck than I need on a flat road on a sunny, dry day. Go big or plan to stay home when conditions are less than ideal.
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Old 03-24-2011, 10:17 AM   #4
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Tow Vehicles - Airstream Forums link for the tow vehicle forum.

I've read that the 4runner and some other SUVs aren't very stable as tow vehicles. The footprint of these type of vehicles and their basic design is for off road trail use. Makes them great to go over ruts, boulders, etc. but for a good tow vehicle you need a longer wheel base and wider stance. A truck, with crew cab, would do a much better job.

As for tow weight. Keep in mind that you need to consider the Gross Vehicle weight of the trailer, not just what the trailer weighs dry. You will be adding fluids (water, gas, etc.), food, clothing, etc. etc, You also have to account for the weight of what is in the tow vehicle, including people.

If you have neither trailer nor tow vehicle, I would first determine what type and size of trailer you need. Consider what type of traveling you will be doing. How long will your trips are will determine how much closet space you'll require, etc. How many people will be living in the trailer needs to be considered. Once you have selected the type of trailer you plan to buy then find a tow vehicle that will do the job with margin. Consider what type of travel you plan. Will you be going in to the mountains? If so, you might want to consider a diesel engine. Generally, if you are going with a larger trailer, say a 30' or more a diesel will become very useful. Will you be boondocking in areas where the roads are unpaved? If so, consider a 4wd.
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Old 03-24-2011, 10:26 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grotegut View Post
I can't seem to find a towing forum. Seems like the concern of having a place dedicated to this area has been around for awhile. If this query belongs some place else please redirect it.

Here's my question: we are considering a 2008 Toyota 4runner v8 (4.7 liter) as a tow vehicle for a yet to be purchased airstream. The car has a rated capacity of 7000 lbs. The largest trailer we are considering is 6000. That leaves us supposedly a 1000 lbs overage. Question for you experienced and seasoned towers; is that practical? Should we settle for a lesser weight trailer (say 5500lbs)?

My wife likes the size of a 4runner and does not want to consider a larger vehicle like a land cruiser or Sequoia or a truck. Could use your advice on our balancing act. I'm sure others have faced it too.

Thanks!
Stan from Boulder
In general terms most towing advice dispensed on the internet comes from people towing other brands of trailers (which are higher and less aerodynamic) using cheap or out of date hitches and braking equipment. Or from people who like big trucks just because.

If you tow and Airstream with a ProPride (or Hensley) hitch and a Maxbrake brake controller you will do just fine with that setup.
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Old 03-24-2011, 10:30 AM   #6
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Stan,

There is a tow forum but someone has already mentioned that.

I had a 2003 4Runner with the V8 and I LOVED that tv. We moved up from a tent trailer to a 21ft. hybrid with a GVW of 5K lbs. It towed really well. The 4.7 is a great engine and I did shed a tear when we traded it in on our Tundra. The issue here was not so much the ability of the 4Runner to tow our 25 FB but our plans we were formulating. The 4Runner leaves you with little space to bring anything along.

Perhaps my only peeve about Airstreams is their lack of exterior storage. While on the road we like to bring along our bikes, a generator, some additional water and at times, some firewood. Not having a truck would make most of this a huge challenge.

So, to mirror a few observations already made, spend some time thinking about the trailer you are considering. Think of how you are going to use it and where you are going to go. It didn't take us long to realize that the 4Runner wouldn't fit well with our plans. We are both retired now so parking the truck in the garage is not a big issue with us. We do our daily driving in the Prius and pull the Tundra out for trips. Works for us.

By the way, my 25 ft Airstream pulls much nicer than the 21 ft box trailer we used to have even though it is about 2K lbs heavier. It was the storage that pushed us to change.
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Old 03-24-2011, 11:24 AM   #7
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Grotegut, For towing in the mountains around Boulder don't even consider a 4-runner for a 6,000 lb trailer. I have lived in Colorado all my life and owned 5 travel trailers and two motor homes and been uncomfortable driving when my rig is not quite up to the task.
It is not the up the hill power but down the hill braking and handling. White knuckle moments occur when you are going down twisty 8% grades and smell brakes--yours.
Toyota and other manufacturers play games with tow ratings. Check the gross combined vehicle rating of your 4-runner. You will find with a 6,000 pound trailer behind, you will have room for yourself, the Misses, the pooch and a full tank of gas. Left behind are the bikes, the grill and all the other toys you take camping.
Any of the single axle Airstreams would work well with your vehicle.
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Old 03-24-2011, 11:41 AM   #8
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Our local towing expert, Andy Thomson of Can-Am RV Can-Am RV > Home often gives towing lectures and he uses the 4Runner as an example of a poor TV. Although at first glance is has enough power, its problem relates to poor stability due to the short wheelbase and high centre of gravity. But you might be surprised to find that he doesn't particularly recommend trucks either.

Andy is a great guy to talk to...give him a call.
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Old 03-24-2011, 11:49 AM   #9
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I don't know if I'd want to pull my 25' 6300 pound trailer in the Colorado rockies with a 4runner. To me it feels like a big load, but I pack the bed of the pickup and probably suffer from weight creep in the trailer.

But he did say the biggest he was looking at was 6K pounds. How about something around a 19 footer?
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Old 03-24-2011, 03:10 PM   #10
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Many, many thanks to all for your kind advise. You have already given me much to think about and work with. I'll work on my wife regarding a Tundra/Prius combination. We will also return to looking at 19' airstreams. This is a fun challenge to try to get it right for us the first time. Although there may not be such a thing as "right". Life is a process not an arrival.

Thanks to all responders!

Stan
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Old 03-24-2011, 03:41 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Garfield
Our local towing expert, Andy Thomson of Can-Am RV Can-Am RV > Home often gives towing lectures and he uses the 4Runner as an example of a poor TV. Although at first glance is has enough power, its problem relates to poor stability due to the short wheelbase and high centre of gravity. But you might be surprised to find that he doesn't particularly recommend trucks either.

Andy is a great guy to talk to...give him a call.
Garfield! I owe you at least an evening out. I did call Andy at Can-Am. What a great guy. He told me flat out that my existing Sienna would be a much better tv than a 4 runner. Wheel base and other factors make it a good tv for many airstreams. I will still due my due-diligence, but my explorations have certainly taken a new direction. Thanks much Garfield and three cheers to Andy Thomson and our Canadian friends.

Stan
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Old 03-24-2011, 04:47 PM   #12
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Volvo XCxx and a 25fter

I agree, a short wheel base and trailers don't match. The sway will take over much quicker and then comes the FLIP.

Just today I saw a 25ft AS being towed by a Volvo XCxx, couldn't catch the number , a small one, on I-10 in West Louisiana, The AS was pointed down in the front and the Volvo was just slightly down in the back. Didn't notice a WD hitch. But did notice it was from Mass. Wow, what a haul that must be with that set-up. I don't think that is a proper TT/TV set up at all.
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Old 03-24-2011, 05:04 PM   #13
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Just a quick question.. are you planning on towing to the 9000-12000+ elevations? This is really unique circumstances and it would be good idea to check with someone who had lots of experience with higher mountains.

Normally aspirated engines lose 3% power per thousand ft. elevation at best (those with feedback fuel injection). Thats at the crankshaft, when all the driveline losses are taken into account the wheel horsepower percentage loss is even greater.

I'm not trying to throw a wrench in your plans, but I'd be worried a Sienna would have a hard time starting to move a load at 10,000 ft. on some hills with a 25' trailer. The engine would have trouble generating enough torque at the converter stall speed to start the load moving. It is entirely possible in the high mountains to have only about 50% of the sea level horsepower at wheels available..moving more than 10,000 pounds in steep terrain. Research density altitude if you have a bit of time.
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Old 03-24-2011, 09:16 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Garfield View Post
Our local towing expert, Andy Thomson of Can-Am RV Can-Am RV > Home often gives towing lectures and he uses the 4Runner as an example of a poor TV. Although at first glance is has enough power, its problem relates to poor stability due to the short wheelbase and high centre of gravity. But you might be surprised to find that he doesn't particularly recommend trucks either.

Andy is a great guy to talk to...give him a call.

I listened to Andy's talk a couple of weeks ago and thought it ironic that this thread was discussing the 4Runner. I don't think he dismissed that particular TV, but he did offer many better alternatives for towing an Airstream. I'm pleased that he recommended the Sienna as that is the TV we've chosen, although I know that many people will blanche at the thought of a Minivan in front of a 6000lb trailer. To those people I'd say try to get to hear one of his talks because you'll see that the physics and the math of using something other than a truck to tow really do add up (given properly set up and appropriate hitch system, of course). I know that most people on this forum will not want to get out of their trucks, and that's fine, but there are also plenty of us who see a safe and sensible alternative.
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Old 03-24-2011, 09:27 PM   #15
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I was very narrow in my scope of comment on Andy's recommendation. It simply pertains to:

10,000 ft. summer day Toyota Sienna:
160 HP
147 ft pound torque at 4500 RPM

And I think I'm being generous because I didn't factor driveline losses.

I have strong doubts about launching the rig at the stall speed of torque converter. Remember with less power the stall speed will be lower, further compounding the issue.
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Old 03-25-2011, 11:16 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Grotegut View Post
Garfield! I owe you at least an evening out. I did call Andy at Can-Am. What a great guy. He told me flat out that my existing Sienna would be a much better tv than a 4 runner. Wheel base and other factors make it a good tv for many airstreams. I will still due my due-diligence, but my explorations have certainly taken a new direction. Thanks much Garfield and three cheers to Andy Thomson and our Canadian friends.

Stan
Hey, it's a pleasure Stan -- I think Andy's always worth listening to whether you take his advice or not.

I didn't mean to suggest the 4Runner was particularly bad TV, it's just that it's not the best for reasons mentioned. I've been towing with a shorty Yukon for six years that has very similar characteristics and will attest to everything that Andy says about it being a poor TV.

Right now I'm in the process of replacing our Yukon with a Chevy Traverse to tow our 5000 lb 25 foot Safari. Andy has set up a number of customers with these who seem pleased with their handing and performance.

I'm sure Andy mentioned it but with any modest TV you will need to watch how you load the rig -- most cargo will have to go in the trailer to ensure you don't exceed the Sienna's GVWR.

And it goes without saying you'll need a quality WDH w/anti-sway capability. You might need to look at the tires as well...depending on how much towing you will be doing.

Good luck!
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Old 03-25-2011, 12:19 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tpi View Post
I was very narrow in my scope of comment on Andy's recommendation. It simply pertains to:

10,000 ft. summer day Toyota Sienna:
160 HP
147 ft pound torque at 4500 RPM

And I think I'm being generous because I didn't factor driveline losses.

I have strong doubts about launching the rig at the stall speed of torque converter. Remember with less power the stall speed will be lower, further compounding the issue.
Torque converter stall isn't a function of engine power, it's a function of the resistance of the rest of the vehicle to move and the characteristics of the torque converter itself.

e.g. for a theoretical Sienna, the stall speed will be a higher RPM when the trailer is hitched up than when the minivan is empty... the engine will reach a higher RPM before the vehicle starts to move.
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Old 03-25-2011, 12:40 PM   #18
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Maybe not clear here. I'm talking about engine speed when front wheels are stopped, and engine at full throttle . We used to refer to that as stall speed. My scenario involves starting on a steep up hill which may be problematic to gain any speed at all.

I'm just guessing 2K RPM. I have access to late model Sienna, I can check sometime. I feel the Sienna would be a poor choice to pull 6K pounds in the Colorado Rockies.

Perhaps the OP can chime in and indicate whether he wants to camp at very high elevation. When I visit Colorado I frequently am at 9000 ft or higher. I've crossed the 12,000 foot level quite a few times.
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Old 03-25-2011, 01:39 PM   #19
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Stan,

What trailer are you considering? I assume the 6,000 lbs. means fully loaded, not dry weight.

We have a 2006 4Runner with the V6 engine. Previously we had a 2000 and the 2006 holds the road a lot better and while an excellent off road vehicle, it is a good road vehicle too. There has been some redesign since and I don't know how those handle. Consumer Reports always has bashed the 4Runners, but I think they prefer sedans and hate trucks. Toyotas are criticized for poor road feel, but I have not found that so. I do believe a dump truck will have more road feel, but it won't fit in my garage. We had a Tundra with the 4.7 liter and it's a good engine, but I wouldn't want to tow ourtrailer in the Rockies with it.

SUV's have poor payload because their bodies are heavier than the same chassis with a pick up body on it. And, if you have an SUV, do you want to carry fuel and a generator in it? For short camping trips where you don't need many supplies, a 4Runner with a smaller trailer would work ok.

But, don't let the desire for a 4Runner determine the size of the trailer. The trailer will probably be with you a lot longer than the tow vehicle. Check out trailers at the 2 Colorado dealers (but consider buying elsewhere) and see what fits best for you, then consider what tow vehicle fits that trailer.

The 5.7 L. Tundra will tow anything up to 25' and very possibly 27' and 28'. It has enormous power, handles well for a full size pickup (much better than the 1st generation Tundras) and has reasonable payload for a 1/2 ton pickup. Fit and finish on newer Toyotas are not what they used to be, but we are pleased with our 2007 truck. It has towed from Key West to Alaska's North Slope without incident. Toyota sometimes put crappy tires on vehicles—argue for Michelins instead. And the seats on the SR5 need better cushions.

We like the medium size SUV and larger truck combination for our purposes. We have discussed smaller vehicles for a daily driver, but they feel so small, have poor visibility in traffic, and are hard to get in and out of with my back injury. And my wife still talks about the Sequoia we had for a while as a comfortable road trip vehicle—the Sequoia is enormous (as is the 2nd gen. Tundra) and would make a good tow vehicle with the 5.7 L. engine for smaller trailers. Parking it or a Tundra in downtown Boulder would be a challenge. Gas mileage is a factor, of course. The 4.7 and 5.7 L. both have poor numbers—around 16-17 without towing. The 5.7 L is slightly worse than the 4.7, so you gain nothing in gas mileage by buying a 4.7 L. truck, though the numbers may be different in a SUV.

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Old 03-25-2011, 02:04 PM   #20
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Gene gives sound advice.
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