Towing with a minivan

Discussion in 'Camper Pre-Purchase Questions' started by Steve in Denver, Sep 13, 2018.

  1. Steve in Denver

    Steve in Denver New Member

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    Sep 1, 2018
    I am considering buying a pop up and would be towing with a minivan. I have a few questions...

    Toyota sienna, AWD, 296 HP.
    3500/350 tow rating.
    4750 vehicle weight
    8990 combined weight rating

    With the family + gear in the minivan we add 850 lbs, leaving about 3400 lbs of capacity for towing. The hitch is rated for the full towing capacity/tongue weight of the vehicle for use with both standard and WD hitches. I have an electronic brake controller.

    We also live in Colorado, and would be using the camper in and around the Rockies, with occasional trips to 10,000 feet.

    1. Does the tongue weight get counted against the GVWR? If so, does the maximum towing weight include the tongue weight or the trailer weight minus the tongue weight?

    2. I have seen references to de-rating towing capacity. How much of a factor is this? I suspect in my case that the engine is not the limiting factor in the tow rating, so I wonder if de-rating isn't really appropriste?

    3. For a trailer and TV of this size, is a WD hitch necessary? Worth considering? A waste of time?

    4. Will adding airbags to the rear spring be a helpful addition, or mostly a cosmetic bandaid?

    5. My current plan is to find a camper with a dry weight of up to 2200 lbs (2000 or less is preferred), and a budget of 500 lbs for gear to keep me well below my maximum weights. Is this reasonable? Too conservative? Too aggressive?

    6. When is away control necessary ,/ helpful? Would a low profile trailer weighing ~50% of the unloaded TV weight normally experience sway problems when towing?

    7. Car has factory oil and transmission coolers (both using engine coolant). Should I be considering a external transmission cooler? If so, any tips?

    8. What other factors should I consider?

    Thanks everyone for this great resource...I have been lurking for a while and have already learned a lot.

    Steve
     
  2. p

    p Active Member

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    Jun 9, 2014
    1. Does the tongue weight get counted against the GVWR? If so, does the maximum towing weight include the tongue weight or the trailer weight minus the tongue weight?
    -just look at the GVWR

    2. I have seen references to de-rating towing capacity. How much of a factor is this? I suspect in my case that the engine is not the limiting factor in the tow rating, so I wonder if de-rating isn't really appropriste?
    -your total capacity is 3500

    3. For a trailer and TV of this size, is a WD hitch necessary? Worth considering? A waste of time?
    -not necessary

    4. Will adding airbags to the rear spring be a helpful addition, or mostly a cosmetic bandaid?
    -air bags for you help. You can even do them yourself. I still would not go over 250 tongue weight.

    5. My current plan is to find a camper with a dry weight of up to 2200 lbs (2000 or less is preferred), and a budget of 500 lbs for gear to keep me well below my maximum weights. Is this reasonable? Too conservative? Too aggressive?
    -GVWR of 2100 lb max(ish) is safe
    (with 2 kids, wife, and equipment)

    6. When is away control necessary ,/ helpful? Would a low profile trailer weighing ~50% of the unloaded TV weight normally experience sway problems when towing?
    -never had a problem. Don't put a bike hitch on the back. It will potentially create sway and probably fall off (fixing the sway problem)

    7. Car has factory oil and transmission coolers (both using engine coolant). Should I be considering a external transmission cooler? If so, any tips?
    -tranny coolers are sometimes included

    8. What other factors should I consider?

    We pulled a 2200 lb trailer of over the rockies a couple times. No problems. I would put air bags in or timberline supports to decrease the affects of tongue weight.

    Have fun.
    Thanks everyone for this great resource...I have been lurking for a while and have
     
  3. Steve in Denver

    Steve in Denver New Member

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    Sep 1, 2018
    2. I have seen references to de-rating towing capacity. How much of a factor is this? I suspect in my case that the engine is not the limiting factor in the tow rating, so I wonder if de-rating isn't really appropriste?
    -your total capacity is 3500

    I wasn't clear in my question - I was referring to de-rating for towing in higher elevation. Does that change the answer?


    4. Will adding airbags to the rear spring be a helpful addition, or mostly a cosmetic bandaid?
    -air bags for you help. You can even do them yourself. I still would not go over 250 tongue weight.

    Even though Toyota specifies 350 as the max?


    5. My current plan is to find a camper with a dry weight of up to 2200 lbs (2000 or less is preferred), and a budget of 500 lbs for gear to keep me well below my maximum weights. Is this reasonable? Too conservative? Too aggressive?
    -GVWR of 2100 lb max(ish) is safe
    (with 2 kids, wife, and equipment)

    That is about 60% of rated capacity. Is that a typical guideline?


    7. Car has factory oil and transmission coolers (both using engine coolant). Should I be considering a external transmission cooler? If so, any tips?
    -tranny coolers are sometimes included

    Tranny cooler is included on this vehicle from the factory (integrated into radiator). I'm wondering if I need an additional tranny cooler for towing.
     
  4. MNTCamper

    MNTCamper Active Member

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    Jun 14, 2014
    With your set up, you will be fine towing up to about 3000 lbs loaded, so you could go up to around 2300 unloaded. I would add an external tranny cooler and practice downshifting when going down hill. Probably your biggest issue is going to be rear end sag with the van due to the tongue weight of the camper.
     
  5. MrsSquid

    MrsSquid Active Member

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    Virginia
    You can always add the airbags later. We didn't have airbags at first. My husband installed them later. I remember him commenting on how much better the vehicle drove. I remember noticing that the rear didn't sag.
     
  6. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    Northern Virginia
    . Not sure if you are aware, but on older campers the dry weight is pretty worthless number. The dry weight does not include any options on the camper such as, propane, battery, AC, awning etc. so it is always best to look at the GVWR of the popup. Newer campers the dry weight may or may not be a little more realistic real weight number.
     
  7. Steve in Denver

    Steve in Denver New Member

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    Sep 1, 2018
    Thanks everyone. I appreciate the input so far.

    As far as the dry weight not being realistic, I was aware that it was a barrel minimum number, and I have been adding 500lbs to the dry weight to allow for the various additional things. I don't plan on getting one with an A/C, so that saves some weight. I probably won't be carrying any / much water, but I will have a battery, propane and an awning. I have been figuring on 50 lbs for each of those...(is that reasonable?) Leaving me with 300+ lbs for cooking supplies, bedding and other gear. I know things add up fast - is 300 lbs a fair allowance?

    Thanks again, folks.
     
  8. mattlreese

    mattlreese Member

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    Sep 6, 2017
    I tow with a Pacifica minivan, it has a dry weight of 4,330 lbs and combined 8600, however it does not have 4270 extra combined towing and cargo capacity.

    I have a 2500 lb dry weight popup and if you do the math I should have 1770 lbs left for cargo, gas, passengers, etc. I can tell you from towing I do not have 1770 lbs of extra capacity. Its likely closer to 1200 lbs.

    So what I am saying is your car dry weight is not a good number to use as its actual higher.

    All that being said you should be able to tow something around 2500 lbs dry at sea level. At 10,000 feet your Combined weight rating is 20% less, so you on paper lose 1800 lbs of towing. The highest I have towed my popup is 2500 ft, and it was fine at that altitude (I just kept the speed to 55).
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2018
  9. MNTCamper

    MNTCamper Active Member

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    Jun 14, 2014
    My pup is about 2800 - 2900 loaded and I tow with a '03 Ody which doesn't have the power you have. I tow it all over the country, 10 days straight above around 8K feet earlier this year. No issues at all. Minivans are very capable tow vehicles - just get it set up right. There is no need to derate towing at elevation, modern vehicles deal with all of this, we have moved way past carburetors.
     
    Rusty2192 likes this.
  10. HC1

    HC1 New Member

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    Nov 3, 2017
    Unless the engine is turbo or super charged the engine will make much less HP and torque at high elevations due to the thinner air. The van will still tow but the performance will not be the same as lower elevations.

    Minivans are unit body vehicles and capable of towing within their rated numbers.

    Might want to load up the minivan with the family, full tank of gas, and as much camping gear as possible and go weigh it, you will likely be very surprised at how heavy it actually is.
     
  11. emoney

    emoney Well-Known Member

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    Jul 7, 2018
    I think your line of thinking is perfectly fine. I figure that 65% of capacity is more than safe. Quite honestly,
    at 65% my TV doesn't even know the TT is behind most times. Yes, the mountains make a big difference, but so does driver's ability so plan accordingly. I don't think the transmission cooler is necessary over and beyond what the factory has already installed. My assumption is that Toyota does NOT include that normally without the towing package. Don't forget, vehicle manufacturer's are giving you a tow capacity assuming 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Even then they've deducted 10% to factory in how many times the trailer makers are fudging their numbers.

    I wouldn't add a WDH or a Sway bar until I actually towed the camper. No need to add things that aren't necessary. If you do have sway and decide a sway bar is appropriate, I'd add a WDH that has anti-sway in their bars. Never know when you'll trade up to something heavier, lol. Plus, how you load the trailer and the TV can and will affect sway. And lastly, it's probably already been mentioned, but the only way to truly know the weight of your rig is to take to a set of scales and have it weighed. Must be a truck stop around you that you can accomplish that goal. Taking it there will maybe even help answer the question of do you need anti-sway or not.
     
  12. 1380ken

    1380ken Well-Known Member

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    Back in the day, if you had 296 hp it was a bad ass race car.
     
  13. Rusty2192

    Rusty2192 Active Member

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    Toyota prescribes to the SAE J2807 tow specs for all of their ratings. Check out everything that spec tests for and I think you’ll be convinced you will be fine with everything you have planned.

    http://www.trucktrend.com/how-to/towing/1502-sae-j2807-tow-tests-the-standard/

    1. Does the tongue weight get counted against the GVWR? If so, does the maximum towing weight include the tongue weight or the trailer weight minus the tongue weight? Tongue weight counts against the TV GVWR. The total trailer weight (axle plus tongue) counts against the GCWR and tow capacity (two separate caluculations).

    2. I have seen references to de-rating towing capacity. How much of a factor is this? I suspect in my case that the engine is not the limiting factor in the tow rating, so I wonder if de-rating isn't really appropriste? The exact same engine/transmission combo is rated at 5,000 lbs towing in the Highlander, so you are correct, the engine is not the weak link.

    3. For a trailer and TV of this size, is a WD hitch necessary? Worth considering? A waste of time? I’d try towing first before going to a WDH. If you get up around 300+ lbs of tongue weight, I think I would start thinking about it to get some weight back on the front axle.

    4. Will adding airbags to the rear spring be a helpful addition, or mostly a cosmetic bandaid? They aren’t necessary, but I find them very helpful and make for a much less stressful tow. I don’t have to worry about bottoming out in dips and entrances and don’t blind people with the headlights at night.

    5. My current plan is to find a camper with a dry weight of up to 2200 lbs (2000 or less is preferred), and a budget of 500 lbs for gear to keep me well below my maximum weights. Is this reasonable? Too conservative? Too aggressive? Definitely reasonable

    6. When is away control necessary ,/ helpful? Would a low profile trailer weighing ~50% of the unloaded TV weight normally experience sway problems when towing? With our Sienna Toyota says sway control is required for trailers over 2,000 lbs (check your manual to see if it’s the same for your year)

    7. Car has factory oil and transmission coolers (both using engine coolant). Should I be considering a external transmission cooler? If so, any tips? I picked up an inexpensive OBD reader and app for my phone to monitor transmission temps on a recent trip to the Smoky Mountains in TN. Mine peaked right at 200 going over the Mountain on I-75 and was around 180 all other times. I think I’m Ok with my little pup but if I ever get anything with more wind resistance I’ll add an auxiliary cooler. You could get a reader too to see how your’s handles the load.
     
  14. PaThacker

    PaThacker Well-Known Member

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    Poconos
    One aspect not covered yet.
    Popup campers require the tow vehicle to carry clothes, coolers, toys, bikes, firewood, kayaks, canoes, you name it. All of the stuff eats away on payload and limits the amount you can tow. I carry easy 1,000 pounds in my truck for off grid camping. I don't know what you're planning to do with pup. Colorado is boondocking mecca!
     
  15. Steve in Denver

    Steve in Denver New Member

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    Sep 1, 2018
    Thanks for the input everyone.

    1. I need to learn about boondocking. Any resources to point to?
    2. I was considering a camper with a ~300 lb tongue weight, and I'm concerned that when I load it with gear the weight could be above the rated tongue weight for the Sienna (350). The hitch is rated for 525 lb tongue weight, which seems a bit odd given that it is a custom fit for the Sienna. Question: A WD hitch helps to transfer some of the tongue weight to the front wheels of the TV and to the axle of the trailer...but does it reduce your tongue weight when determining capacity. In other words, would a 400 lb tongue weight in conjunction with a WDH which re-distributes 100 lbs of this weight elsewhere, still be over spec for a 350lb tongue weight rated TV? Also, the WD hitches tend to weigh a good deal...so if you are pushing the tongue weight limit already, and you add another 60-100 lbs near the front of the trailer, doesn't that kinda make things worse?

    -Steve
     
  16. Rusty2192

    Rusty2192 Active Member

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    Jul 30, 2014
    Kentucky
    A WDH will remove a little bit of tongue weight due to shifting weight back to the trailer axle, but it also adds some (probably more) due to the weight of the hitch itself, like you said. The Andersen one seems to be a light weight alternative to the traditional spring bar style WDH.

    It may be different on the newer Siennas, but on our 2016, Toyota does not give a hard tongue weight limit. The Owners manual recognizes that tongue weight varies by trailer type and just says that tongue weight “should” be 9-11%. The sections all around this say limits “must” not be exceeded, so the difference in language is notable.

    Like yours, the Curt hitch I installed has 350/525lb tongue weight capacities for weight carrying/weight distributing, respectively. I personally would feel safe and within the limits if I went up to that 525 lbs with a good quality and properly set up WDH. That said, I would also be sure to run the whole thing over a scale to make sure that higher tongue weight doesn’t exceed the rear axle rating or GVWR as those would be the limiting factors.

    Just for reference, the 2nd generation Sienna’s owners manual specifically allowed up to 525 lbs of tongue weight with a WDH. They just completely removed that section of the owners manual for the 3rd gen and just left in the part below talking about how it should be 9-11%. If they were worried about a hard limit on tongue weight, the manual would say it as it did in the past.

    2983236A-5F27-45F8-8473-2FCB30B45E38.jpeg
     
    Steve in Denver likes this.
  17. mattlreese

    mattlreese Member

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    Sep 6, 2017
    Anothet issue with wd hitch, it typically lowers the ball height and on mini vans you need them raised. Maybe they make them that raise, but its adding a lot of complication to a popup. 300 lb tounge weight is a huge popup.
     
  18. JimmyM

    JimmyM Well-Known Member

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    Franklin, MA
    We also live in Colorado, and would be using the camper in and around the Rockies, with occasional trips to 10,000 feet.

    1. Does the tongue weight get counted against the GVWR? If so, does the maximum towing weight include the tongue weight or the trailer weight minus the tongue weight?
    -No it does not. As long as you do not exceed EITHER GVWR or GCWR (combined weight). You're OK

    2. I have seen references to de-rating towing capacity. How much of a factor is this? I suspect in my case that the engine is not the limiting factor in the tow rating, so I wonder if de-rating isn't really appropriste?
    -I don't think you would de-rate unless you USUALLY towed at that altitude. Higher altitude = less power. Also, less cooling for brakes. Air is less dense. Going up hills will be slower. But 296HP to start with helps. I tow a 6000lb hybrid with 310HP

    3. For a trailer and TV of this size, is a WD hitch necessary? Worth considering? A waste of time?
    -If towing the max (3500lbs) I'd say it's necessary. The 350lb tongue weight will sag the rear, but more dangerously, it takes weight OFF the front tires. Weight distribution puts weight back onto the front tires. With 2200lbs, I'd say, you might find it useful.

    4. Will adding airbags to the rear spring be a helpful addition, or mostly a cosmetic bandaid?
    -It'll definitely remove the sag. Even with WD, there is additional weight on the rear. Minivans are spring for comfort, not load carrying. Do not make the mistake many do. Air bags remove sag. That's it. Just because the rear is no longer sagged, does NOT mean weight hasn't come off the front. That's the job of a WD witch.

    5. My current plan is to find a camper with a dry weight of up to 2200 lbs (2000 or less is preferred), and a budget of 500 lbs for gear to keep me well below my maximum weights. Is this reasonable? Too conservative? Too aggressive?
    -Going right up to or over the GCWR is too aggressive. I think 2200lbs is too conservative. A pup with a GVWR of 3000lbs gives you a little "safety factor" and leaves you open to more pup models to chose from.

    6. When is away control necessary ,/ helpful? Would a low profile trailer weighing ~50% of the unloaded TV weight normally experience sway problems when towing?
    -There are too many variables to know if sway will be a problem. The only thing that a fact is that if you move weight from the tongue to behind the axle, you will be more prone to sway. Not that you WILL have sway, but you'll be prone to it. There are many WD hitches with sway control built in. Do NOT get the Reese SC. I've had my WD bars pop out of the saddles on 3 occasions.

    7. Car has factory oil and transmission coolers (both using engine coolant). Should I be considering a external transmission cooler? If so, any tips?
    -Absolutely. Yes. If you tow, you should have an external/auxiliary transmission oil cooler. I prefer the plate type to the tube/fin type. Nearly ALL modern transmissions have an internal thermostat to regulate temperature. So "over cooling" won't really be an issue. I'd suggest something in the 5"x12" range. My truck has a 4x22" cooler from the factory and it NEVER overheats the fluid.

    8. What other factors should I consider?
    -Brakes. Folks have mentioned downshifting on hills. Yes, do that. However, you will still be putting more stress on your brakes. I'd recommend finding out of there are "performance" brake pads available for your van. Not "track" pads, those are problematic for many reasons. I use Hawk LTS pads on my Expedition and they are amazing. Towing or not.
     
    Steve in Denver likes this.
  19. Steve in Denver

    Steve in Denver New Member

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    Sep 1, 2018
    Thanks for that. I checked out the 2018 owners manual, and indeed it omits a hard rating for the hitch weight. I think I have encountered the 350 number on a forum somewhere, and I took it to be a true fact. I'm happy to see that it isn't so. I will say that I'm not too excited about towing something with a high tongue weight, though, so I hope I can find a trailer that isn't so "tongue heavy." :)

    I see that you are in Kentucky - I was born and lived there until about 10 years ago. I sure hope you know which basketball team to root for. :)

    -Steve
     
  20. Steve in Denver

    Steve in Denver New Member

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    Sep 1, 2018
    Yes, I have seen that as an issue. I think at least some of the WD hitches allow for adjustment of the height, so that should help. Agreed that 300 lbs is a huge tongue weight for a pop-up, but the Flagstaff MAC 228 (which is otherwise a really good fit for us) has an incredible tongue weight of 336 lbs for a dry trailer weight of 2218 lbs!

    That's over 15%, so not within the 9-11% range that the Sienna manual suggests. This is harder than I want it to be. :)

    https://www.uvsconsole.com/manager/admin/cp-brochures/144778389746671.pdf
     

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