Towing my 78 Surfside - Fiberglass RV


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Old 07-25-2007, 03:25 PM   #1
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Trailer: Surfside 1978
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I have just returned from a holiday pulling my surfside with my 2002 Toyota Sienna minivan which states in the manual that the towing capacity is 2000 lbs. We purchased the van with a hitch attached to it. I'm not sure if there is a towing package but I don't believe there is. The paper in the closet of your surfside says the GVWR 1650lbs. We never experienced any problems but now i'm concerned that I may be hurting our Toyota by towing the surfside which may be too heavy for it. I've been reading alot about the tongue weight and the GVWR. If we have not had any problems towing the trailer thus far- we went over 1000kms, does this mean all is well or should i call toyota and ask about installing a tow package. The thing is, i'm not sure if i need it. When we were going up hills- not too many of them, we sometimes needed to shift into 2nd. How do you know when you're trailer is too much for your vehicle before your damage your tow vehicle? Any info would be helpful. Thanks.
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Old 07-25-2007, 04:46 PM   #2
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You'll find as many opinions about towing as there are people pulling trailers. I pull my Surfside with a 98 Subaru Forester rated for 2000 pounds and have experienced no problems over several long trips through the mountains. Your Surfside is within the rated limits of your tow vehicle. It would not hurt to run it past your dealer and see if he recommends a transmission cooler. Your Sienna may not require one. The info I pulled up on Google suggests that the Sienna has a standard tow rating of 3500 pounds; however, no use arguing with the manual in hand.
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Old 07-25-2007, 05:44 PM   #3
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Trailer: Boler (B1700RGH) 1979
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The Sienna manual (for both generations, and all model variations) does specify a towing limit of 2000 lb (907 kg) without the towing package, and 3500 lb (1587 kg) with the towing package.

There is indeed a towing package, and they're not talking about the hitch or a wiring adapter for the trailer lights. Instead, they mean a higher-capacity transmission fluid cooler (and perhaps other components, depending on year). In practice, nearly all later Siennas have this package; I did not explicitly purchase it for my 2004 Sienna LE (it was not offered), and Toyota Canada later confirmed that all 2004 Siennas sold in Canada included the package automatically (that's why it wasn't offered in the order form). At least some first-generation Siennas used a separate transmission fluid cooler for the towing package (not just one built into the radiator); that may include 2002.

Toyota's customer service line (and presumably the dealer) can confirm the equipment on a specific vehicle, given the VIN code. If I had a 2002, I would just call and check.

If a second-generation (2004 or newer) Sienna needed to be shifted to second gear on a hill with roughly one-ton trailer, it must be an extraordinarily steep hill or just a low road speed. The first generation (including 2002) had less power, but even they are successfully used to tow 3000 lb trailers. At highway speeds in the Rocky Mountains I don't need to manually shift to second for adequate performance (that is, passing everything else with a trailer...) even with my 3000 lb 17' Boler... but at lower speeds the lower gear would be reasonable.

Individual condition vary, of course, but towing 700 lb less than my current trailer with my 2004 Sienna LE wouldn't concern me at all, and Surfside seems like a good match for the 2002... but it's always good to check.

The Sienna manual lists both the tongue weight limit (350 lb or 158 kg with the towing package and without a weight-distribution system) and GVWR (8700 lb or 3946 kg with the towing package, two wheel drive). It would likely be impossible to load a Surfside enough to exceed the GVWR of this second-generation Sienna (you would have to exceed the trailer's GVWR), even with a full passenger+cargo load in the van, but the tongue weight is worth checking; the first-generation Sienna's limits are not much lower, if at all. (In the 2004 manual, all this is in the "Starting and Driving" section under "Trailer towing").
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Old 07-25-2007, 05:45 PM   #4
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Name: Brian
Trailer: Boler (B1700RGH) 1979
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Quote:
The info I pulled up on Google suggests that the Sienna has a standard tow rating of 3500 pounds; however, no use arguing with the manual in hand.
I agree that the manual is the authority, but I don't think there's actually a conflict in this case.

Unofficially published tow ratings often apply only to the "properly equipped" version of the vehicle, so they assume all available tow packages (and for the trucks perhaps the shortest final drive ratio, etc) are included. In the Sienna's case, as for most current minivans, that would indeed be 3500 lb.
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