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Old 07-13-2011, 09:38 PM   #1
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Towing with a TDI VW Jetta

On our vacation to the Adirondacks this past week I ran into a fine Canadian couple who were towing a 2008 20' AS Safari with a TDI Jetta of the same vintage. They were all set up with a weight distributing hitch system and towing mirrors. I was shocked by the rig- but the gentleman assured me they feel very safe and capable with the car as a tow vehicle.

Turns out they have towed with this combination across country a few times, over the Canadian Rockies and coastal mountain range, from sea level to 7000' above sea level with no problems. He attributes this to the low torque of the TDI, a manual transmission, and the correct towing set up done by Can-Am RV Center in London, Ontario.

I have some pictures of the car and trailer and the towing package, but none of the rig hitched up to go. I will post them when I get time.

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Old 07-13-2011, 09:58 PM   #2
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These people are out of their &^%$# minds. IMHO.

How can they even handle the tongue weight? Braking?

TDI's can hardly handle braking when loaded with stuff from the lumber yard!

Yes, it can be "pulled", they have the torque.

But safe? YIPES.
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Old 07-13-2011, 10:24 PM   #3
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I sure hope the Jetta's brake system components were upgraded as part of the setup.
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Old 07-13-2011, 10:30 PM   #4
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Tell you what - I've got a Passat TDI, and it's a very nice little car (though one body size bigger than the Jetta) and it's got lots of low end torque. Engine is pretty comprarable to the Jetta's, but possible a bit beefier, but I wouldn't tow a garden trailer with it. I just don't think the suspension is up to it, the brakes are designed only for the vehicle itself, and if I recall correctly, there's not even a factory hitch for it ... so I just wouldn't go there ... all I can say, is "Good luck with that!"
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Old 07-13-2011, 10:41 PM   #5
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Hey All

I don't see braking as the issue. The Jetta's brakes stop the Jetta. The Airstream's brakes stop the Airstream.

In Europe there is a frame hitch available that allows the Jetta and Golf TDI to tow a max load of 3,600 lbs.

I am giving some consideration to towing a Basecamp with a VW Golf TDI. I would think that this combo would be able to achieve 25 mpg. I would prefer to tow with the Golf as I believe it would be more stable and the tongue weight would be less of a problem with the short distance between the rear wheels and the tongue.

I suspect the Canadian couple felt comfortable because they have logged lots of miles with their combo and it has been properly engineered by Can-Am.

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Old 07-13-2011, 10:49 PM   #6
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I don't see braking as the issue. The Jetta's brakes stop the Jetta. The Airstream's brakes stop the Airstream.
Just out of curiosity, what happens when the Airstream's brakes fail on a 10% downhill grade when a Jetta is in front?
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Old 07-13-2011, 10:56 PM   #7
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You get a vw golf at the bottom! Lol
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Old 07-13-2011, 11:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
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Just out of curiosity, what happens when the Airstream's brakes fail on a 10% downhill grade when a Jetta is in front?
I would think the brakes on the Jetta are capable of stopping that rig at least once. I'd feel more comfortable w/ surge brakes, I think; they're more reliable than electrics.

I have a Jetta TDI, and while I'm not likely to tow w/ it, it has plenty of handling, power and brakes to pull my 1000 lb boat. It's a far better tow
vehicle than my CJ7 was....

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Old 07-13-2011, 11:10 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TouringDan View Post
Hey All

I don't see braking as the issue. The Jetta's brakes stop the Jetta. The Airstream's brakes stop the Airstream.

In Europe there is a frame hitch available that allows the Jetta and Golf TDI to tow a max load of 3,600 lbs.

I am giving some consideration to towing a Basecamp with a VW Golf TDI. I would think that this combo would be able to achieve 25 mpg. I would prefer to tow with the Golf as I believe it would be more stable and the tongue weight would be less of a problem with the short distance between the rear wheels and the tongue.

I suspect the Canadian couple felt comfortable because they have logged lots of miles with their combo and it has been properly engineered by Can-Am.

Dan

Well said Dan. I keep telling people that if the brakes will stop the car (which they do), then the trailer brakes will stop the trailer. Like you, I see no issue at all.

You can rest assured that Andy Thompson at Can Am would not have sent a customer out in a combination that either didn't work or wasn't safe; his reputation is made on these things and that reputation is formidable. He tends to work on the math and physics of towing rather than the general received wisdom and hearsay that is prevalent in the RV world. He then proves his work with track and road testing and ultimately, of course, with thousands of happy customers.

I'd imagine all the Can Am customers out there will be smiling at the success of the Jetta as a tow vehicle for an Airstream and the somewhat alarmed comments of the non-Can Am customers.
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Old 07-13-2011, 11:11 PM   #10
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Just out of curiosity, what happens when the Airstream's brakes fail on a 10% downhill grade when a Jetta is in front?
What if they don't?
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Old 07-13-2011, 11:29 PM   #11
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I would not panic because I would already be in a lower gear using engine braking to keep my speed down. The VW 4 wheel disc brakes would then be adequate to provide additional braking as needed. Also, we are talking about a 3,000 lb car here and a similar 3000 lb trailer. I suspect the 6,000 lb truck towing a 9,000 lb (or more) trailer would have more of a problem stopping than the VW would.

I always use engine braking for controlling my speed when going downhill whether I am driving my car (5 speed manual) or towing my trailer (6 speed auto). This has allowed me to drive 150k on my 02 BMW 330 Coupe before replacing the brake pads.

Dan
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Old 07-14-2011, 12:07 AM   #12
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I have the Jetta TDI manual transmission. Plenty of torque at low rpm, stiff and solid suspension handles incredibly well, disc brakes all around stop it on a dime. Heavy in front and light in rear, I think it could tow very well and be very stable doing it.

I also have the 20' Safari and I've been thinking about it. I suspect it would be more stable than the pickup and stop at least as well, wonder mostly about the gearboxes holding up. Our excellent TDI experience will probably put us in a Touareg TDI so we don't have to drive around in a pickup when we are out for six months.

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Old 07-14-2011, 12:09 AM   #13
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Ben, please post the pictures. Thanks!

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Old 07-14-2011, 06:27 AM   #14
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Andy from Can Am RV in Canada drove the TDI combo to Alumapalooza in 2010. Here is a link to the thread page with a photo by Tinloaf. It's in post #174.

I also drive a '09 TDI, but am not going to use for a tow vehicle. It may be able to do it... but, I personally don't have the comfort factor. Maybe it's a mental stereotype, but I have more comfort with a bigger engine/size vehicle (truck).

http://www.airforums.com/forums/f290...tml#post857689

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Old 07-14-2011, 06:56 AM   #15
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I was a bit curious about this - I wanted to investigate how times have changed. Perceptions have shifted to the idea that you can only tow with a truck, but not long ago, towing with a car was commonplace.

Consider a 1980 Chevy Malibu. Rated to tow 4000 pounds (from what I could find online), the Malibu weighed less than the Jetta and was similar in size. Even with a V8, the Chevy had less torque than the TDI. No doubt the Jetta will stop better, handle better, and has a better cooling system. The only advantage the Malibu might have is the ease of bolting a hitch to its ladder frame, but hitch upgrades to the Jetta can address that.

What happened? Everyone started buying SUVs for their family car instead of buying sedans. Automakers realized there was no marketing advantage to fully validating higher tow ratings for sedans in this market, so they basically stopped doing it. That's a shame.

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Old 07-14-2011, 06:56 AM   #16
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It's brain freeze....their "frost-backs" after all.

My plan...if I see what I consider an un-safe traveler, I steer clear.

Just because you can, doesn't mean you....never mind.
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Old 07-14-2011, 07:22 AM   #17
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I have an '06 5-speed manual Jetta TDI that I use as my daily driver and I love it because it gets a little better than 50 MPG. I don't know that I would want to tow anything with it, especially an Airstrem. But that's just my opinion and you know what they say about opinions...

We were at our leased site at Penn Wood Airstream Park a few years ago for the Autumn Leaf Rally and a few units from Canada came in for the rally. One of the Canucks was towing a 34' Airstream with a Cadillac CTS! The rig was set up by Can-Am. Again I am sure the CTS had the power to pull it, but I would be a little concerend about stopping it.

Here's a picture from days of yore...This was in the marketing pamphlet we found in amongst the paperwork when we bought our '87 34' Excella 1000. It always makes me smile...
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Old 07-14-2011, 07:53 AM   #18
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Quote:
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Kevin

I would not panic because I would already be in a lower gear using engine braking to keep my speed down. The VW 4 wheel disc brakes would then be adequate to provide additional braking as needed. Also, we are talking about a 3,000 lb car here and a similar 3000 lb trailer. I suspect the 6,000 lb truck towing a 9,000 lb (or more) trailer would have more of a problem stopping than the VW would.

I always use engine braking for controlling my speed when going downhill whether I am driving my car (5 speed manual) or towing my trailer (6 speed auto). This has allowed me to drive 150k on my 02 BMW 330 Coupe before replacing the brake pads.

Dan
Don't take this as a criticism, but do you really mean "always"?

Using engine braking on wet roads or even worse when towing on ice (of any kind) is a really bad idea. Using engine braking when going down hill on wet or ice covered roads is a really, really lousy idea.
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Old 07-14-2011, 08:36 AM   #19
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Quote:
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You can rest assured that Andy Thompson at Can Am would not have sent a customer out in a combination that either didn't work or wasn't safe; his reputation is made on these things and that reputation is formidable. He tends to work on the math and physics of towing rather than the general received wisdom and hearsay that is prevalent in the RV world. He then proves his work with track and road testing and ultimately, of course, with thousands of happy customers.

I'd imagine all the Can Am customers out there will be smiling at the success of the Jetta as a tow vehicle for an Airstream and the somewhat alarmed comments of the non-Can Am customers.
This is exactly what my new acquaintance said over and over. He could not say enough good things about Andy Thompson's reputation and how he can "see" when a trailer and tow vehicle combination will work when others nay say it all over the place. The couple seemed to be very confident in their rig. It looked amazing, too!

We did not talk about any problems with braking, but Frank said he uses the car's gear box to slow down. Says he likes to drive a car, not have the car drive him, hence he is all about manual transmissions!
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Old 07-14-2011, 08:49 AM   #20
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Yes, I really do mean always. When you are going downhill, you either need to use the brakes or engine braking to keep your speed under control. The tires/pavement friction do not know or care what is providing the braking force to slow the wheels down. I don't believe that I have ever lost traction going down a slippery hill using engine braking. Now, I do not use complete engine braking to control my speed. I always use the brakes a little bit, so that if I start slipping, the anti-skid feature of the brakes can perform their function. I have had quite a bit of experience in slick conditions as I go to Snowshoe skiing (WV) quite often in the winter. I also grew up in Michigan.

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