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stephrage

Proper Towing Vehicle for 22' Travel Trailer

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Hi and thanks in advance for any advice or suggestions!

My husband and I have a 22' travel trailer, 3200 lbs dry. I don't know the GVWR since it's a trailer from the 80s and I can't find this information about it (but I'm assuming 5000 might be a safe estimate?)! We're looking to buy a tow vehicle for it; this will be for full-timing in the trailer. We've already done a lot of research and read lots of opinions, but it seems like much of the advice is geared towards folks hauling larger trailers. 

We started out thinking about trying to tow with an SUV, but read some scary stories of people flipping while towing with SUVs. I see lots of recommendations for 3/4 to 1 ton diesel trucks. My question is: is this really the best way to go, even with as smaller trailer like ours, or would something like an F150 (or possibly a larger SUV like a Tahoe/Suburban) work just fine? We're buying used and budget is a factor, so we really don't want to pay for more truck than we really need. 

Top priorities:

1) Safety: I'll be driving and I've never towed anything before, so I don't want to worry about sway, flipping over, being underpowered, etc. 

2) Ability to get us anywhere: we plan on traveling all over, and we love Colorado, so it needs to be able to handle the trailer in the mountains! 

 

I know a lot of this depends on specific ratings for specific vehicles, but I also feel like I see a lot of people basically saying that just because a vehicle is rated to tow a certain amount doesn't mean it is a good idea, or that it will be able to tow this amount up hills etc. 

Anyone have any recommendations, advice, stories of similar situations, words of encouragement, ... ? Thanks! :)

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Welcome to the Escapees Forum!!!

An issue that is not mentioned all that often, but that can become one especially for SUVs is the relationship between the wheelbase of the tow vehicle and the length of the travel trailer. Here is a link to a discussion of this issue

Another thing to investigate is what the frontal area of the trailer is that is used to calculate the tow rating of the SUV or other potential tow vehicle. For lighter duty vehicles like SUVs and 1/2 ton pickups it may be more on the order of a cargo or horse trailer than a travel trailer.

Many folks recommend a safety margin between the ratings of the tow vehicle and the weight of the trailer to be towed. This calculator may be helpful in determining an adequate tow vehicle. Since you do not have the GVWR of the trailer, if at all possible load it as you would for travel and get it weighed. As an alternative, assuming that it has properly rated tires, multiply the maximum weight rating of the tire by the number of tires and then add 15%. That should at least get you in the ball park of the trailer's GVWR.

Again, Welcome to the Escapees Forum!!!

 

 

Edited by trailertraveler

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First of all, Welcome to the Escapee forums! We are here to help so will do all that we are able. 

It would be helpful if we knew a make and model for the travel trailer that you have as it might enable us to find more information about it. Where did you find the dry weight listed? Does it have 1 axle (2 wheels) or 2 axles(4 wheels)? The GVWR should be listed on a data plate somewhere on the trailer frame, usually near the hitch.

I highly doubt that any trailer with a dry weight of 3200# would have a gross weight of any more than 4500#. Gross weight limit is important to know so that you can be sure that you do not overload the designed weight limit and cause yourself extra problems. When choosing a vehicle to tow with, the most important weight is the actual weight of the loaded trailer when ready to travel and you can get that by taking it to a scale and getting it weighed. You will need a scale where you can unhook the trailer to get accurate trailer weight. It is also important to know that loaded tongue weight which is typically between 10 & 15% of the GVWR. 

I can give you an example of a comparison of dry weight and gross that is somewhat typical as the travel trailer that we own is 20' long. Our trailer has a dry weight of 2980# and the GVWR is 3800#. Looking at the spec sheets for travel trailers in the 20' to 25' length with dry weights between 3000 & 3500# will typically have a carrying capacity which ranges between 25% & 30% of the dry weight. In your case, if your trailer is rated to carry 30% of it's dry weight that would be 960# for a GVWR of 4160#. I suspect that would be pretty close.

 

Another thing to be considered is the type of hitch that you will tow with. If your trailer has an aluminum frame as ours does, the use of an equalizer hitch is probably forbidden because the added force applied to the frame by an equalizer could damage the trailer's frame. Our travel trailer came with a warning that the use of an equalizer would void all warranties and likely damage the frame. I do use a sway bar assembly on ours but never an equalizer which is really not needed for the weight involved since any properly rated tow vehicle will be capable of dealing with hitch weights up to 500# but the antisway equipment is of major importance.

For the first two years we towed our trailer with an SUV and then we bought an older Dodge 2500, crew-cab, short bed, diesel truck. Towing with the SUV was done safely, even in an emergency stop in heavy traffic but it was also work to do so. I found that after about 6 hours of travel I was worn out and if there were high winds it took less. With the truck we hardly notice the trailer behind us. The truck is both heavier and also longer than the SUV and that is an important factor. The gas-powered SUV would get 20+ mpg without the trailer and 11 mpg towing. The truck gets 19 mpg empty and 15 towing. 

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Thanks everyone for the input! The trailer is an '82 LeStrada (the 21FTG, I believe): here's the only specs I found online about it. I might be misunderstanding something here, but it seems like the GVWR doesn't matter a whole lot if we're looking at bigger trucks. All of the vehicles I mentioned have towing capacities listed upwards of 8000 lbs, so it seems like regardless that will be well above the full weight of the trailer (even with the 20% margin of safety). I guess that's why I was wondering if we really need such a big truck. Am I missing something in how to understand towing capacity? 

 

11 hours ago, jayco1 said:

Rarely does anyone ever wish they had gotten a smaller truck.

:) That makes sense, but it's mostly a monetary concern for us right now!

 

On 2/2/2018 at 9:02 AM, Kirk Wood said:

The gas-powered SUV would get 20+ mpg without the trailer and 11 mpg towing. The truck gets 19 mpg empty and 15 towing. 

That's actually really helpful to know! One of the concerns is paying the least amount possible for gas (although I understand we will be paying more for it than my little Honda-Fit-driving brain can comprehend, one way or another). But if you actually get better gas mileage towing with the diesel truck, then that makes it sound way better!

Edited by stephrage

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But diesel usually costs a bit more per gallon. You are actually looking at only a small amount per year, even if you are full-timing.

Wally Byam (founder of Airstream) used to say that the tow vehicle should be heavier than the trailer. That may have been excellent advice back in the 50's and 60's, but may not be all that accurate today, but still probably a good starting point. One of the big towing questions is the actual weight capacity of the tow vehicle. Assuming that your 5000 pounds GVWR is accurate, you will have somewhere between 500 and 750 pounds of tongue weight that is carried on the rear axle IF you don't have a weight distributing hitch. Now think of all of the stuff that may ride in the bed of the pickup and don't forget the people and stuff inside the truck. Ideally, you will load the truck up with full fuel, normal complement of people and pets AND all of the other stuff that will be in the truck (and don't forget the bed cover). Go weigh the truck, getting both front and rear axle weights. Now subtract those numbers from the Gross Front (Rear) Axle Weight Ratings which are found on a sticker on the door. The difference, if any, is what you can still add to the truck. Generally, the larger the truck the more weight it can safely carry.

Just for fun, go to ford.com and look at the brakes and load capacities of an F150 and F250. Remember that a base model truck can carry a few hundred pounds more than a Platinum. That's one of the reasons why you see so many base model trucks being used by contractors (the other is price).

Yes, the F250 is MUCH more expensive than a similar F150, but you are getting a LOT more truck. Look for a used F250 and you will probably be happy.

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11 hours ago, stephrage said:

But if you actually get better gas mileage towing with the diesel truck, then that makes it sound way better!

It is really much more than fuel consumption. The fuel for a diesel will cost more but it is offset by the higher mpg. Maintenance on a diesel will cost somewhat more but the life of the truck is much higher. If you travel a lot the real payback is in the more relaxed driving. The fact that the truck handles the load with ease means that the driver can be far more relaxed and travel is more enjoyable. 

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Also keep in mind where do you plan on going?  To California to visit Disneyland?  Gasoline is close to $4.00 a gallon

in California and diesel is approaching $5.00 a gallon.

You said your TT is a 1982?  You will find many campgrounds that will restrict the age of your RV (10 year rule), state

and federal parks do not.

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If you're not familiar with diesel engined pickups, I have to tell you you have to be VERY careful when buying a used one.  Certain years, and certain engines, are notorious for being EXTREMELY expensive to fix when - not if - something goes wrong.  Repairs can easily exceed the cost of having a NEW gasoline engine put into a gas pickup.  Fords in particular had some very bad diesel motors, known to be problematical.  Don't take my word for it, do your own research.  There are lots of Youtube videos talking about their problems, and how much they cost to fix.

For someone on a budget, a diesel motor is not a good idea.

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1 hour ago, Optimistic Paranoid said:

If you're not familiar with diesel engined pickups, I have to tell you you have to be VERY careful when buying a used one.  Certain years, and certain engines, are notorious for being EXTREMELY expensive to fix when - not if - something goes wrong.  Repairs can easily exceed the cost of having a NEW gasoline engine put into a gas pickup.  Fords in particular had some very bad diesel motors, known to be problematical.  Don't take my word for it, do your own research.  There are lots of Youtube videos talking about their problems, and how much they cost to fix.

For someone on a budget, a diesel motor is not a good idea.

There were horror stories about the Ford 6.0. I put 205K on mine and pulled 8000k. Only had a 2-3 hundred in repairs. Always let it warm up and ran Amsoil oil and oil changes @ 20,000 mi. Have a newer Ford with the 6.7 diesel 800ft.lbs of torque and 500 hp @ 1800 rpm witch is 70 mph. Its a pulling fool getting 13-14 mpg if you stay between 60-65mph pulling 12 k. Worked for GM for 40 yrs. and drive a Ford now. Chevy's are great trucks for hauling groceries but a Ford is a work truck. Stay away from a 1/2 ton if you can afford it. Been there done that. You'll find a big difference in braking also. HP doesn't mean crap when towing. You want torque (what gets you going) at the rpm you drive. If you do the math HP numbers are usually around 100+ mph.

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On 2/16/2018 at 1:22 PM, Phil Saran said:

Gasoline is close to $4.00 a gallon

in California and diesel is approaching $5.00 a gallon.

Not quite what I am hearing from family who live in CA. 

Quote

Historic California Annual Average Price

  • 2008 - $3.53
  • 2009 - $2.68
  • 2010 - $3.10
  • 2011 - $3.82
  • 2012 - $4.03
  • 2013 - $3.88
  • 2014 - $3.75
  • 2015 - $3.16
  • 2016 - $2.72
  • 2017 -$3.01
 
Weekly Retail Gasoline and Diesel Prices

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cumminsdecal_zps4c030117.jpg

OK,

I have to admit that reading Kirk bought a Dodge diesel after many years writing he preferred gasoline in motor homes was a surprise. Kirk seeing you bought a Dodge Cummins like I have been promoting for years really was a surprise, that means you now know what I meant all those years. I'm not used to agreeing with you.;)

OK I am not a brand fan (Dodge/Ford/Chevy) but a few important considerations in buying a used diesel. It is a fact that all long haul 18 wheeler tractors are not only diesel, but in line six cylinders. No eight cylinders. Over the Road (OTR) truck companies track every penny and can't afford a lot of down time. inline sixes rule the roads for heavy hauling. So for me, it has to be Cummins.

8 cylinders have thinner piston rods and cams as well as many more moving parts. So although I drive a Chevy HHR with custom flames in the front, I drive only Dodge diesel trucks only because they have Cummins under the hood. But I don't like the new engines with exhaust fluids and 1/3 less mileage than the 1992-2007 Cummins diesels had. I towed a 36 foot fiver and used a1 ton diesel 1992 Dodge dually (dual rear wheels) from 1997-2003 when we came off the road to care for elderly parents. We finished that obligation and are moving back to Colorado this summer. Our 92 was old non progressive springs as later years have from 1994 or so on. Those springs were great under a load but a rough drive off load and using it as a car. All my trucks have been long beds save one I got rid of quickly.

Cummins diesels in the Dodges have been known to go 800,000 miles without major work to the engine. MY '92 1 ton dually went between 600k and 700k miles, that is estimated as the odometer part of the speedo stopped working a year before we came off road. My mechanic bought for $1000 over high book because of the Transfer Flow 64 gallon tank and exhaust brake. all the rest of my Diesel trucks were 2500s. My 2002 was sold looking and driving like new with 405,000 miles on it and got 20 mpg. I bought a Ford Ranger since it we'd sold the RVs, and it had trouble pulling my 20 foot dual axle car hauler utility trailer so I traded for a lighter weight ten foot single axle trailer. Never again. That Ranger looked great and rode nice but with so little power and slow acceleration it still only got about 18-19 mpg. Goodbye gas. Having had two Dodge Cummins at that point I had learned a lot about them. for older 1992 -2007 had the best of the engines mpg and long dependable life. 1998-2007 had increasingly better mileage and brakes/transmissions. 2005-2007 are the direct rail injection quiet Dodge Cummins diesels, and the best mileage getting up to 23 mpg off load, and 12 mpg on load with an average weight fiver. So I bought a great deal on a short bed 2006 2500 Dodge diesel that had been leveled and the muffler removed. I replace the muffler and it was not even close to the comfortable ride I got from my 2002 long bed Dodge diesel. I get it, parking lots and drive-through take outs are built smaller and cheaper for the much smaller cars and trucks people drive these days. Harder to park and get into fast food take outs. Fortunately we rarely eat fast foods. So I went looking for a long bed Dodge diesel. I found they are scarce as hen's teeth. It took almost six months to find a perfect low mileage long bed Dodge diesel and I found no 2005-2007 long beds at reasonable prices and single rear wheels. I finally found one that fit all my parameters, a 2004 Ram 2500 5.9 Cummins crew cab and all electric everything as well as a perfect drive train, glass, and interior, with a big locking aluminum storage box in bed (level with the top of the truck bed) Rhino lined, and with fifth wheel hitch rails and a Reese 15k hitch. This truck has alloys and new tires to boot when I bought it for $9k. Itgets a flat 20 mpg as I don't tow again yet.

Used Cummins Rams and mileage. I have found that if there is no blow by or leakage underneath and service records or receipts I consider low miles anything up to 125 miles on them. This 2004 I have had 130k miles and is perfect! My 2002 I bought with 300k miles and it was perfect and rode well for 105k miles for me. You can see the 2002 maroon one, the 92 dually, and the 2006 on my photobucket here: Photobucket: http://s1359.photobucket.com/user/RV_Roadie/library/Pups and Property/Vehicles?sort=3&page=1

Ideally a 2005-2007 5.9 Cummins only. The 2007 also came with the first year of the 6.7 Cummins. To me that was the beginning of the end. The later years are OK, but they lost mpg with all the new smog mods for diesels.

For RVing you can't beat long bed for fivers. IF a travel trailer then a short bed is OK if you like the ride off load. With all Dodges I buy from individuals like in Craigslist or online sales. I don't like buying vehicles that have been detailed in the engine compartment and especially not steam cleaned underneath. I want to see a few years of dust and road grime that is dry not oily.  Many trucks were company crew trucks and that can be bad or OK.

So I prefer long beds, 2005-2007, 5.9 Cummins, Dodge Ram 2500s for lighter weight trailers and the 3500 duallys for all the rest. Under 150k miles best. Quad and crew with back seat only. No single cabs.

Last tip. Never let your light duty (1/2, 3/4, 1 ton) diesel idle for more than a minute. Stick to the manufacturer's oil change intervals and filters, but the biggest tip is to never idle it for more than a minute, use the block heater in extreme cold areas on a timer to save electricity.

18 wheel tractors can idle their engines for the air and heat because they have throttle controls. Diesles coke up after long idling because a diesel will bot warm up at idle, only under load. So at idle you get incomplete burning of the of diesel and black sooty smoke on start and engine damage over time. This is why folks think black oil is normal on diesels. at 6k mile intervals I have oil change techs and mechanics tell me that I must have made a mistake because my oil was just changed. I would tell them that I just don't idle it too long. Also when cold I don't put too much pedal on it until the temp gauge shows some warming up after a mile or two.

It takes several oil changes for my used trucks to be cleaned out of all the coking. If they are in good shape otherwise that's fine with me.

Good luck and remember you can get a deal on a truck that was left sitting up too long thus low mileage and oil pouring out of the main seals when they dried out. Replacing them can be under $500, cost me $250 here when I kept my 3500 92 sitting up while driving my 2002 for a year. I fixed it and my mechanic bought it as I was driving the 2002 for another year. I now know that a diesel needs to be driven at highway speeds and fully warmed up once a month art the least. Just running it for a few minutes won't heat it up enough to boil out any condensation and avoid coking it up every time. My experience is with 1992-2006 Ram Diesels only.

The front end must not have any wobble when it hits bumps.

Hope that helps, my opinion and experience only.

YMMV

Sources and pics:

Old style piston rod comparison is second pic titled old style. THey got them a bit stronger on the later models:https://www.dieseltruckresource.com/forums/general-diesel-discussion-92/diesel-connecting-rod-pics-new-50908/

 

Edited by RV_

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