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Old 01-24-2017, 06:10 PM   #1
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Towing with a Mercedes Sprinter 2500 Cargo Van

Hello everyone,

I am a new forum member who is trying to determine the Airstream model that I can tow with my 2016 Mercedes Sprinter cargo van. It is a 2500 model, 4 wheel drive, with the 3 liter - 6 cylinder diesel motor. The Mercedes literature says the maximum weight I can/should tow is a 5,000 pound trailer. (It does not distinguish the weight capacities between the 4 cylinder - 2 liter motor and the 3 liter - 6 cylinder motor that I have. The 6 cylinder motor is the used in the Airstream motor homes.)

So, here are some of the Airstream models and their respective weights: Sport 16 (2,860), Sport 22 (3,634), FC 19 (3,852), FC 20 (4,271), and FC 23-front bunk (4,806).

The Airstream brochure refers to Maximum trailer capacities, which are: Sport 16 (3,500), Sport 22 (4,500), FC 19 (4,500), FC 20 (5,000), and FC 23-front bunk (6,000).

I interpret the second set of numbers to correlate to the weight of the gear one could carry in the trailer. For example, the Sport 16's gear weight limits compute to 3,500 less 2,860, for a capacity of 640 pounds. Do I have this right?

So, here is the four $64,000 questions:

1. Could I tow an FC-23 front bunk if I limit the on trailer cargo to 194 pounds (5,000 towing capacity less 4,805 weight)?

2. Am I over thinking this weight issue and how close to the towing capacity have most Airstream owners used to determine their towing capacities?

3. Has anyone towed an Airstream with a Sprinter van?

4. And lastly, for most people using 16-23 foot Airstreams, what is the weight of the gear/food that you typically carry?

Thanks for your thoughts.

Jerry Simpson
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Old 01-24-2017, 11:12 PM   #2
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The larger trailer numbers you posted are Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings (GVWR). That is the maximum the trailer is rated to carry, fully loaded. It doesn't just include gear, it includes propane, water, and so on. Safe to assume that many are running lighter than their trailer GVWR figures, with camping supplies and tanks full.

Some posters will follow the tow vehicle manufacturer's towing recommendations explicitly. Some even add a safety factor in, and only want to pull a % of the rated towing capacity. It is a subject with some strong opinions.

Personally, I don't worry as much about the rated tow vehicle towing capacity, if I know the vehicle is strong. I would look to the experience of others towing with that same vehicle, with the same powertrain, to understand its capabilities. The tow rating is a guide, but for me, not an absolute. So I would go with your (2), overthinking it.

Now the qualifier. What does matter is the GVWR of the tow vehicle, the TV axle loads (front and rear, each has a spec) and the tire loads. Some worry less about the GVWR and focus on the axle and tire loads; I focus on all three myself.

The tongue weight (net, considering weight distribution equipment) is part of the vehicle payload. Some vehicles have high tow ratings, but not enough payload capacity to carry sufficient tongue weight (assume 10-15%) to be safe for North American trailer designs. If you can carry the tongue weight safely, along with your tow vehicle passengers and cargo, within your tow vehicle GVWR, axle loads, and tire loads, many of us would go with it. If you can't, look for a smaller trailer.

Not having towed with that vehicle, I will refrain from comments about how well it tows and what its real capacity is. I don't know.

Hope all that helps.

Jeff
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Old 01-25-2017, 12:06 AM   #3
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We were told by several RV dealers that the typical cargo in a trailer is going to be about 1,000 lbs. That includes water, fuel, food, clothes, toys, etc. Obviously the smaller trailers with fewer occupants on shorter trips weigh less than large trailers for large families on extended trips. So you should budget 800-1200 lbs. depending on size. The GVWRs you quote fall pretty close to the 800 lb limit.

The easy math is to use the trailer GVWR as your guide. In your case the FC 20 appears to be right on the money. While the 23 would be too heavy with nothing in it if you filled the water tank.
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Old 02-11-2017, 12:40 AM   #4
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I tow a 20' Bambi with a 2005 SPrinter 2500. The trailer is at the 5000 tow capacity of the van. It does okay, it gets the job done. There is definatley a power loss and a drop in the MPG. I live at 6000' and have taken the trail up and over passes to get out of town and i do notice a significant increase in engine temp as well. Sometimes its a little too hot and i worry that if i was going any further id have to pull over and let it cool.
I was actually looking through the forums at what other people are using to tow a 20' as im thinking about something with more power and not at the at the tow limit.
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Old 02-11-2017, 08:35 AM   #5
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My 2 cents: A vehicle's tow rating should be at least equal to trailer's GVWR. That way you won't have to constantly worry about how much you can load into your trailer. Its even better if the tow rating is 10% or 20% more than GVWR of the trailer. Having some reserve capacity makes the towing experience more relaxing for both the driver and the tow vehicle.

While there are exceptions in which a tow vehicle is more/less capable than the tow rating suggests, in general, tow ratings are an accurate specification. Personally, I would not rely too much on subjective opinions as a way to exceed tow ratings. Some members live in flat, cool areas and only have a handful of local camping trips. Their idea of a "fine" tow vehicle could be drastically different than yours if you frequently travel in hot, mountainous areas.

We have a Benz GL 350 that has the same V6 Turbo Diesel engine as some Sprinters -- GL's engine is tuned to have more horse power and torque though. We tow a 26 ft Avion that has a 5000# empty weight (Travel ready it weighs 6000#). GL is rated at 7500#. Its fine both in flatland and in mountains.
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Old 02-13-2017, 07:31 PM   #6
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"My 2 cents: A vehicle's tow rating should be at least equal to trailer's GVWR." That's my view, too. We want a late 90's/early 00's 34' Airstream. GVWR is 9800 pounds for the non-slide versions and 10,500 for those with a slide. We're coming out of a MH, so all of the stuff in the basement has to go in the truck (we're full-timers). I'd love to get a Navigator (used, of course) but they can tow only 8000 pounds. I might be able to get away with it, but why take the chance? I'm looking for an F350. I'd rather be safe than sorry.
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Old 03-12-2017, 05:56 PM   #7
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It is great

Hey JerrySimspon.
I orginally posted a response to your questions a few weeks ago but have some more info. Previous to this i hadnt gone to far with the trailer.
So...
I just got back from a 4 week road trip through CA, NV, AZ. Towed a 20' Bambi with a 2005 2500 Sprinter.
It was awesome! Does really great and gets 17 mile per gallon!!
Drove through super strong winds and large gust, up over mountain passes and long highway miles.
No complaints.
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Old 03-12-2017, 07:10 PM   #8
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I towed my new '06 19 CCD with a 2004 Sprinter 2500 with the 5 cal Mercedes diesel for 5 years. It did OK but eventually had a massive transmission failure at 115,000 miles and then a blown #2 cylinder at 160,000 miles. The van still sits at my shop waiting for the right used engine to come along for it's resurrection. I might note that the van/trailer combination was always at max. CGVW during cross-country trips.

MPG took a serious hit from around 20 to 13-15MPG, and climbing power was also just barely acceptable.

My new 2011 with the 6-cyl diesel has far more horsepower/torque and tows heavy loads far better. While I have sold the Airstream, I have used the new Sprinter to tow fully loaded cargo trailers along with a full interior pack that brought the CGVW again up to the max. The new engine does a much better job maintaining speed and ascents, but mileage still takes a big hit, as one would expect!

One thing that you are not considering is the tongue weight and as mentioned, the associated rear axle weight rating. You have a 500lb max. on your tongue weight, and almost any of the trailers mentioned will exceed that. I have air bags at the rear of both vans and a fully upgraded rear suspension on the 2011 with larger sway bar, full Koni shocks and added leaf springs. This keeps the van level under load, but will NOT increase the RAWR.

You also need to fully consider braking, transmission temperatures (highly recommend adding an aux. transmission cooler) and perhaps and external engine oil cooler as well IF you intend to keep your van for an extended period of time and expect it to last over 100,000 miles.

My present Sprinter 2500 service van gets fresh oil every 5000 miles, trans fluid changes every 30,000 miles and full service at a minimum of 10,000 miles. It's at 155,000 miles now and getting ready for another of my annual treks from Fl to OR and back.

It doesn't really boil down to a question of 'will the van do the job' but rather one of 'how long will the van do the job before a major repair is required.
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Old 06-05-2018, 01:29 AM   #9
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I now pull our 19' Bambi (when we take our grandkids) with MB Sprinter 2500 144 Wheelbase Passenger with 2 rows of seats removed for minimum weekend camping gear consisting of a small 12v/12v ref, bed & sink/stove module with 400ah to store energy from 260 PV. All of the gear & amenities weigh about the same as the two seats I removed. The Sprinter is rated to tow 5,000#, I can feel the Bambi behind it but still safe & fuel consumption does not suffer a little.The Bambi, per manual is 5,000#, which before this spring was towed by my H2 SUT & Ford F250. Both heavy & over capacity for the 19' Bambi, I did not even feel I was towing and fuel consumption did not suffer at all, both were lucky to have 10 to 12 mpg by themselves anyway.
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Old 06-05-2018, 01:32 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by understilts View Post
Hey JerrySimspon.
I orginally posted a response to your questions a few weeks ago but have some more info. Previous to this i hadnt gone to far with the trailer.
So...
I just got back from a 4 week road trip through CA, NV, AZ. Towed a 20' Bambi with a 2005 2500 Sprinter.
It was awesome! Does really great and gets 17 mile per gallon!!
Drove through super strong winds and large gust, up over mountain passes and long highway miles.
No complaints.
Awesome feedback! I get about
the same mileage with our 2016 2500 towing 19' Bambi.
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Old 10-30-2019, 09:07 PM   #11
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Max towing weights apparently tied to unibody frame

On the Sprinter Forum, one gentleman who was towing regularly with a Sprinter said that he had read in a Mercedes manual that the key differences in the towing weight of the 2500 and the 3500 were tied to the structural metal thicknesses in the Unibody frame. He said that in addition to the metal thickness being thicker in the 3500 some other elements were also stronger in the 3500. He preferred towing under 5,000 pounds with the 3500 because the dual wheels on the back made it more stable and gave him more safety margin for stopping. He lives in an area where he has to evacuate for hurricanes on a semi-regular basis. This information is from several years ago but is likely to be the same.

He also mentioned that the 3500 extended body sprinter has the reduced 5,000 pound towing capacity because the extra length of the unibody does not have the strength to resist bending of the 144 and 170 non extended body sprinters.

Since this weight limits are based on the capacity/strength of the body, I would stay within them. He suggested that if you buy a Sprinter, you buy it with the towing package because the engine computer of the Sprinter knows when you are towing (assuming you do all the wire connections) and corrects for some driving/towing issues automatically. Aftermarket programming of the Sprinter Computer is not always done correctly and you might not find out that it was not done until too late.

I do not have a link to the thread but you could probably google it successfully.

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Old 11-05-2019, 11:16 AM   #12
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Andy Thompson of CANAM RV London Ontario towed a 34 footer with a 144 Sprinter motorhome and wrote about it in RV Life Mag. Contact him for more info.
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Old 01-15-2021, 12:56 PM   #13
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Sorry to bring this thread back to life but we are also facing a similar dilemma. What did you end up deciding? The issue I'm running into is less about the weight of the trailer. We want to get a 20FB Caravel but the tongue weight of 565. Is it okay to run a lightly heavier tongue weight? The factory hitch says 500. Which is god awfully low for such a vehicle.
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Old 01-16-2021, 07:41 AM   #14
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This is in response to the question about what Airstream trailer I bought to tow with my Mercedes 2500 Sprinter van:

I can't really respond to your question about which Airstream trailer I bought because I decided to buy a motorhome, rather than tow a trailer.

However, I also subscribe to the Airstream Class B forum, and a recent post might help you with your decision. That person has an Airstream Interstate and he/she decided to buy an Oliver trailer. He reported that the airstream interstate tows it very well.

I hope this helps.
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Old 01-16-2021, 08:23 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by miguel3000 View Post
Sorry to bring this thread back to life but we are also facing a similar dilemma. What did you end up deciding? The issue I'm running into is less about the weight of the trailer. We want to get a 20FB Caravel but the tongue weight of 565. Is it okay to run a lightly heavier tongue weight? The factory hitch says 500. Which is god awfully low for such a vehicle.
Mercedes caps the tongue weight at 500 lb primarily because the 5000 lb rating is set for the European market, where Caravans don't generally have tongue weights in excess of 10%. On that basis, it is difficult to know, given the sprinter is already heavily modified what safe tongue capacity is for US travel trailers, which are much more substantial than European Caravans. You certainly cannot go by anecdotal comments from others as the data is too limited to know if it is actually safe or the people reporting have just been lucky.

So, what to do? We can attempt to determine if the limit was set due to rear axle weight limits. We can also compare the sprinter to other commercial vans and trucks to estimate stability issues.

If you give me actual weights of your sprinter, loaded. Actual tire specifications and size, Vehicle dimensions (wheel base, ball overhand from rear axle) Suspension type, including spring type and stableizer bars) and all the weight limits as equipped, I can estimate limits for the vehicle using an Airstream instead of the European Caravans.
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Old 01-16-2021, 01:40 PM   #16
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No need to look at other brands. I would simply look to the variation across two different wheelbase Sprinter models. The one with the long rear overhang has a reduced 5000 lb tow weight rating (and corresponding reduced 500 lb tongue weight limit). The one with the shorter rear overhang has a higher tow weight rating and corresponding tongue weight limit.

The manuals speak about vehicle and axle loading. It is typically a concern with vans modified into RVS.

We know that unibody structures are more rigid than body on frame structures, so body strength isn't likely to be an issue.

We know that the two models use the same part number hitch receiver, labelled as being capable of the higher tongue load.

The most glaringly obvious issue to address is tow vehicle rear axle loading (tire and axle, actually). That will require scale information.
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Old 02-14-2021, 01:57 AM   #17
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No need to look at other brands. I would simply look to the variation across two different wheelbase Sprinter models. The one with the long rear overhang has a reduced 5000 lb tow weight rating (and corresponding reduced 500 lb tongue weight limit). The one with the shorter rear overhang has a higher tow weight rating and corresponding tongue weight limit.

The manuals speak about vehicle and axle loading. It is typically a concern with vans modified into RVS.

We know that unibody structures are more rigid than body on frame structures, so body strength isn't likely to be an issue.

We know that the two models use the same part number hitch receiver, labelled as being capable of the higher tongue load.

The most glaringly obvious issue to address is tow vehicle rear axle loading (tire and axle, actually). That will require scale information.

Thank you!
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Old 02-14-2021, 07:39 AM   #18
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I don't find anywhere that Mercedes provides tongue weight guidance over 500 lb for any 2500 van in any configuration. I find 750 lb limits for some of the 3500 series. Can you tell us where you found guidance from Mercedes for higher than 500 lb tongue on the 2500 model with shorter overhang?
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