Tow limits on cars - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-05-2008, 02:25 PM   #1
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Howdy folks,

I've been looking into getting a small trailer for sometime now and was curious how serious you take the towing limits as stated in your vehicle's owner's manuals. I've seen alot of 13 ft. trailers advertised as being easily towed by cars, even small cars. However my 6 cylinder Chevy Lumina's owner's manual states that I shouldn't tow over 1000 lbs. In retrospect, I've probably already violated that rule, unknowingly. I don't want to be limited to a small teardrop trailer. I would rather have something you can stand up inside of, so I'm leaning towards a 13'. Any thoughts? ... or suggestions on which are the lightest models & brands available. Are any of the older models lighter than the current/new models?

Philip
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Old 01-05-2008, 04:11 PM   #2
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WECOME to our site Philip:

I think most 13footers come in around that weight, some MAYBE a bit less. At that weight it would be advisable to have a trailer with brakes on it just for safety sake. I don't as yet have brakes on ours, but in the upcming rebuild they will be added on with a new torson bar axle!
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Old 01-05-2008, 04:40 PM   #3
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Sorry to disagree with you Doug. My 13' Scamp weighs 1,500+ lbs loaded for camping. I think it's pretty difficult to find a 13' fiberglass trailer under 1,000 lbs.
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Old 01-05-2008, 04:56 PM   #4
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Philip, take the weight rating seriously.

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Old 01-05-2008, 05:49 PM   #5
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Quote:
I don't want to be limited to a small teardrop trailer.
Unfortunately, a 1000 pound towing capacity realistically limits you to a teardrop.
Quote:
Any thoughts? ... or suggestions on which are the lightest models & brands available.
The only thing I can think of to fill that bill would be a 1996 Lite House "[b]Base Camp", and I doubt that more than one or two display models were ever made. Not much more than a tall Teardrop itself, that model was a basic fiberglass body with the Dinette benches that converted to a Bed, and nothing more. To keep the weight down to about 750 pounds dry, ALL amenities (Stove, Frig, Sink, Battery, Spare Tire, etc.) were eliminated. Heck, they even left out the front window. I could have bought one new in 1997 for $4000.

(The fully equipped Lite House was called a "[b]Grand Camp".)

Maybe it's successor Little Joe could custom build you a completely stripped version to mimic what the "Base Camp" was...
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Old 01-05-2008, 05:59 PM   #6
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A lot of the small trailers advertise a low weight.[around 1000 lb] Now add in all the things that you take along like food, bedding, clothes, chairs, canopy, coolers, bar-b-que etc, etc. Most of these brands give the weight BEFORE you add in things like a furnace or airconditioning or a microwave. Byrons 1500 lbs sounds like a good average,and he goes light, some go a lot higher. A 10 gal watertank alone adds 100 lbs if you fill it before leaving home. Are you carrying two propane tanks and do you have a battery? Your spare is another 20 lbs. What you consider a necessity will have to be added to the base weight. My old "cranky" came in at 2000 lbs before loading. I pause to think about the weight I used to haul down the road. It's always said with a smile that you can tow a 13 footer with a bicycle but can you stop it?
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Old 01-05-2008, 06:27 PM   #7
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OOOPSIE!! I neglected to say (in my haste) that the weight was a DRY weight. Nuttin extra added!
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Old 01-05-2008, 06:29 PM   #8
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One of the things not mentioned yet is a transmission cooler. A lot of trucks and SUV's today come with a tow package. My 05 Freestar has such a package and it includes a trans cooler, larger tires, heavier rear springs, all wheel disc brakes, and wiring for trailer lights. Without the cooler I would expect the transmission to overheat and give problems(probably one of the main reasons for the 1000 lb limit). I installed a cooler on my 98 Mazda 2.5L 4 cyl pickup and towed 13' trailers for 4 years with it. I would not recommend using a questionable tow vehicle without brakes on the trailer!
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Old 01-06-2008, 12:27 AM   #9
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Personally, I believe the manf when they set a weight limit of any kind, because they know the vehicle best. Additionally, if you are involved in an accident of any kind (even when you didn't cause it) the law in most states will presume you share some of the fault if you are exceeding your vehicle's capacity. Police are likely to weigh the car and trailer and then look at the numbers.

Egg manfs have been very likely in the past to fudge the numbers on the low side and then claim the "options" (like kitchen, battery, propane tank, spare tire, etc, etc) drive the "wet" weight up. My 91S13 weighs about 1,700 lbs loaded for the road, but the catalog said 950 lbs...

The tow capacity on your vehicle is likely set for good weather at sea level. Ford says deduct 2% for every 1,000' of altitude. Experienced RVrs recommend towing at only 75-80% of rated capacity.

Towing is more than just getting the rig moving, it's also about stopping it and keeping it from swaying itself into the ditch. Power is not enough.

The limits are set with not only the engine in mind, but the wheelbase, rear overhang, hitch fastening, transmission, suspension, tires, differential ratio, etc.

Finally, you will find a lot of folks who get pleasure in getting away with towing over the limits, as a sort of contest with the authorities who set the limits and the challenge, but they won't be around to help you out of the ditch or in court. Done some retrospectively stupid towing things in the past myownself and I marvel that I did get away with them.
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Old 01-06-2008, 06:08 AM   #10
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Howdy folks,

I don't want to be limited to a small teardrop trailer. I would rather have something you can stand up inside of, so I'm leaning towards a 13'. Any thoughts? ... or suggestions on which are the lightest models & brands available. Are any of the older models lighter than the current/new models?

Philip
Philip,

The replies so far probably have you writing off the 13' idea, or considering a different tow car. Have you considered a teardrop with an adjoining tent? My wife and I started off that way and had a ball. We now have a 13' Scamp and a larger tow vehicle, and will sell the tear this spring. Having a tent to put up and tear down every time you move is a little hassle, especially if wet; however, you can end up with a lot more space than in a 13' trailer. And yes, you have to stand outside to cook, unless you go with something like a T@B, but most egg campers seem to do that by choice anyway, weather permitting. So unless you're looking for camping well into cold weather on either end of the season, you may want to give the tear a second thought. I think it's a great way to get started.

Parker
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Old 01-06-2008, 06:53 AM   #11
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Hi: I couldn't resist...had to weigh in on this topic. Our tow veh. is rated to tow 1250 lbs. but is also rated to carry 7 pass. and cargo totaling 2000 lbs. I feel with 4wh disc ABS + a tranny cooler and 2 pass. & reasonable gear and a Boler with a G.V.W.R. of 1700 lbs. we are towing responsibly. The T@B that I looked at had a G.V.W.R. of 2000 lbs... I feel while a small trailer the T@B is no litey
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Old 01-06-2008, 12:22 PM   #12
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To echo some of the previous comments, in my opinion, a lot of people know the tow limit of their vehicle, but don't know the real weight of their trailer. I think it all boils down to actually getting your trailer weighed when full and ready to go, and basing your decision on that real weight only. It's relatively easy to do and puts a stop to the guessing game. "Dry weight" and UVW numbers are pretty useless numbers in real life, and many manufacturers tend to "cheat" as much as possible by weighing trailers with less than what you would define as "nothing" in them.

Also, I don't see any trailers on the T@B web site that weigh less than 1520 lbs "dry".
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Old 01-06-2008, 01:17 PM   #13
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Also, I don't see any trailers on the T@B web site that weigh less than 1520 lbs "dry".
Sorry, I wasn't even thinking about the weight of the T@B. You're right; they're pretty heavy. Plus, most people can't really stand up in them. I was simply referring to it as one of the few teardrops (if you can still call it that) with an indoor stove.

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Old 01-06-2008, 06:59 PM   #14
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The dry weight of my 1984 Casita 13' is 1280. Yet it's stated on it's paperwork from Casita as shipping weight of 950. I believe that it didn't include things like a stove, icebox, empty propane and water tanks, I would even hazard a guess that they didn't include cushions and possibly cabinets.

So, beware...

Since my tow capacity is 1500, I've been doing some modifications to lighten the load, including putting the dog on a diet.

Paula
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Old 01-06-2008, 10:58 PM   #15
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Hi: I couldn't resist...had to weigh in on this topic. Our tow veh. is rated to tow 1250 lbs. but is also rated to carry 7 pass. and cargo totaling 2000 lbs. I feel with 4wh disc ABS + a tranny cooler and 2 pass. & reasonable gear and a Boler with a G.V.W.R. of 1700 lbs. we are towing responsibly.
This is where we start to get into the guessing games about why a particular manf set a limit. One of the figures one should look at is the Gross COMBINED Weight Restriction, which is the maximum the TV and trailer combined can weigh. Keep in mind that all these numbers are like links in a chain and the smallest number defines the chain, regardless of what the other numbers may be.

In this case, there's a big difference between a load in the vehicle and a load behind the vehicle, because the former may only break or wear something out, but the latter can put a rig in the ditch or opposing traffic when serious sway is induced by the wind, road surface, speed, etc. This is where stuf like wheelbase and overhang come into the manf's considerations when setting limits.

I strongly recommend getting actual scale weights, because vehicle and axle GVWR/GVAR are only upper limits set by the manf and until one actually weighs the rig, one doesn't even know if one is exceeding that.

For example, Scamp 13' trailer GVWRs have gone from 1,200 lbs in the '80s, through 1,600 lbs in the '90s to the current 2,200 lbs currently. Essentially, the actual weight of all these trailers in the base models have not changed, just the rubbering in the axles... What I'm trying to say here is that when the actual weight of a trailer under consideration isn't known, the GVWR is a good theoretical upper limit, but it should be replaced by a scale weight (fully loaded) as soon as possible.
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Old 01-07-2008, 07:12 PM   #16
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I'd wager that most of the Honda Element owners in this forum exceed the mfrs. 1500lb. tow limit with the loaded weight of their eggs.

Personally, I believe in wide margins, and tow my UHaul (1550lbs loaded) with a TV rated for 3000lbs.
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Old 01-07-2008, 09:22 PM   #17
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Sorry to disagree with you Doug. My 13' Scamp weighs 1,500+ lbs loaded for camping. I think it's pretty difficult to find a 13' fiberglass trailer under 1,000 lbs.
Yes, I think 1500# is rather conservative also, our 13 Scamp w/ no water (or tank), no battery, 1 propane tank, fully packed, scaled @ 1600# last Spring on the way home from the NOG... Larry
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Old 01-08-2008, 11:14 AM   #18
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Thanks everyone for your input. It's why I wrote and asked.

I s'pose I aught to look into getting a different vehicle before pursuing a trailer like I want...Or reconsider teardrops...Or maybe a shell that I could finish out myself.

Thanks again.

Philip
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Old 01-09-2008, 10:58 AM   #19
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I towed 1450 with my Element. Technically, it was in legal limits. I am sure lawyers would argue implied safety margins vs. actual specified ones should anything have occurred.

That said, even tho I was comfortable with the Es abilities based on actual towing experience with it, and stopping, wear and tear on the car etc, I would not go ANY higher for fear of the law, and knowing that I was at the upper end of the spectrum.

The Element also had some conflicting specs, or I should say the platform did, (CRV based) in other countries, which rated it at a higher capacity. These conflicting ratings are what made me comfortable at that weight, but as mentioned before, I would not have exceeded the US published limits under any circumstances.

My E was equipped with cooler and the 13 footer I was tugging had brakes.
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Old 01-09-2008, 01:55 PM   #20
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These little trailers get pretty heavy when we load them up.

Once last year, I took the truck and trailer through a set of scales, and if I recall, the truck was 4400 with a full tank of gas, a full 70 qt cooler and an extra 5 gal of water, with two people, and 150 lbs of dogs. The 13 ft Scamperoonie went right at 2100 with a full refrigerator, full water, a week's worth of groceries and another 5 gallons of water. And the porta-pottie.

Our license on the 85 Scamp 13 says 950 Lbs.

They get heavier than we realize.

Garo
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