Anyone tow with a Ford Freestar 3.9? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 03-23-2008, 11:36 AM   #1
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Hi, I'm new here and have a few questions. First of all, I have been camping for the last few years with a smaller Coleman pop-up. As the family has grown, the need for something larger has as well. I currently use an '05 Ford Freestar with the 3.9L engine. It didn't have the tow package but I have added a class II hitch w/4-pin electric hookup, better brakes, synthetic trans fluid (tranny cooler on the way). What experience has anyone had towing a larger camper with this kind of van and what kind of camper should I look for? I usually drive within an hour or 2 in any direction to camp, so I am not generally doing long hauls. Thanks!

Chad
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Old 03-23-2008, 01:29 PM   #2
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It looks like the Freestyle will pull up to 3500lbs with a tow package (which seems to be the transmission cooler / hitch / wiring harness). I think this pretty much leaves you open for a lot of choices - for sure any of the 13 foot - 16 foot trailers and maybe even the larger 17's.

We just went through deciding what to get and had decided on a 17' bigfoot. There are a few threads on this forum about family trailers and after reading them I changed my mind and we went with a 13'. In the end, with a 17 you get more storage and a bathroom plus sleeping room for more then 6. We always camp near bathrooms and the less stuff we have the less stuff we have to worry about.

Hope that helps
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Old 03-23-2008, 01:37 PM   #3
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Whoops, I should add that we have been tenting it for years so for us a 13 foot trailer is luxurious, for someone with a Popup the smaller space may be a downgrade.
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Old 03-23-2008, 01:41 PM   #4
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Chad, check your owner's manual to be SURE that the trans fluid is the right one. I have just been reading some threads on RV.NET about that; Ford service will REFUSE to put synthetic in some but will in others. Not sure why, but from the tone of the posters I don't believe it's because they want to sell their own stuf (they'd make more on the repair job) -- Transmission is one place not to get it wrong...

Check your owner's manual, VIN and door label, to get the towing capacity for YOUR TV, bearing in mind that cargo and passengers are deducted from that if not stated otherwise. Note the notes on reducing TC for altitude. Most experienced folks, except the ones who like challenges, like to tow at only 75% of capacity to allow for things like altitude, weather, tuneup, etc.

Once you have your upper weight limit in hand, do some research on this site for typical trailer weights. One way to estimate is to take trailer's GVWR, multiply it by 115% to account for tongue weight and use that as an upper weight for a trailer. Typically, the real, wet and loaded, weight will be between that number and the dry weight.

Freestar has been mentioned recently on RV.NET, so you might want to do a search there. Also, there may be Freestar groups on the net with info.
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Old 03-24-2008, 06:53 PM   #5
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Thank you all for your replies. I was thinking somewhere in the 15-17' range. I did a little research on the synthetic transmission fluid since that was new info for me. I couldn't find anything real specific on the Freestar. It seemed that some Ford purists prefer the Ford fluid, but the transmission itself was a rather stock standard transmission. I did find that Freestyle owners were to only use one specific kind because that transmission was a CVT and worked differently than traditional transmissions. This weekend is the RV show by me, so I will be looking at the ultralights for sure. I've been looking forward to it since the RV show last year!
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Old 03-24-2008, 08:18 PM   #6
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Hi, I'm new here and have a few questions. First of all, I have been camping for the last few years with a smaller Coleman pop-up. As the family has grown, the need for something larger has as well. I currently use an '05 Ford Freestar with the 3.9L engine. It didn't have the tow package but I have added a class II hitch w/4-pin electric hookup, better brakes, synthetic trans fluid (tranny cooler on the way). What experience has anyone had towing a larger camper with this kind of van and what kind of camper should I look for? I usually drive within an hour or 2 in any direction to camp, so I am not generally doing long hauls. Thanks!

Chad
In Canada Ford uses only the 4.2L V6. Mine has the factory tow package which gives me everything you mention plus, all wheel disk brakes and 235/60R16 tires instead of the standard 225/60R16's. Last summer I towed a 15' Trillium one weekend and averaged 19MPG(Imp. gal.) in hot windy weather through rolling hills terrain. I am going to South Carolina in a few weeks with our 13.5 Bigfoot and hope to get even better mileage with it. There are other members on this forum who are towing near the 3500 lb limit, so it can be done, but I believe it makes a big difference if you want to go into mountainous terrain. If you're going to stick to short hauls and know enough to keep the speed down and stay out of the mountains you can probably get away with going near the upper weight limit. The tranny cooler is a must and I like to have brakes on even the 13' trailers in case I need to make a panic stop. If you camp mostly in warm summer weather then you can have a lot of fun with a 13' if you cook and eat outside. On the other hand if you run into wet or cold weather you will likely find it crowded if there is more than two people and you have to cook and eat inside.
If you look at 16' or 17' fiberglass models check the interior height because some of them are less than 6', and also watch the tongue weight. Your Freestar won't handle some of the tongue weights without a weight distributing hitch and possible suspension upgrades. You could also look at stick built trailers because of lower prices but the fiberglass units seem to last longer and hold their value better.
There is a buyer's checklist available on this site which allows you to make a detailed assessment of any used trailer you might find. Be forewarned that these fiberglass trailers are in high demand, so having a few hundred dollars in your pocket for making a deposit is almost mandatory. Have fun.
Bill
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Old 03-24-2008, 08:59 PM   #7
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In Canada Ford uses only the 4.2L V6. Mine has the factory tow package which gives me everything you mention plus, all wheel disk brakes and 235/60R16 tires instead of the standard 225/60R16's. Last summer I towed a 15' Trillium one weekend and averaged 19MPG(Imp. gal.) in hot windy weather through rolling hills terrain. I am going to South Carolina in a few weeks with our 13.5 Bigfoot and hope to get even better mileage with it. There are other members on this forum who are towing near the 3500 lb limit, so it can be done, but I believe it makes a big difference if you want to go into mountainous terrain. If you're going to stick to short hauls and know enough to keep the speed down and stay out of the mountains you can probably get away with going near the upper weight limit. The tranny cooler is a must and I like to have brakes on even the 13' trailers in case I need to make a panic stop. If you camp mostly in warm summer weather then you can have a lot of fun with a 13' if you cook and eat outside. On the other hand if you run into wet or cold weather you will likely find it crowded if there is more than two people and you have to cook and eat inside.
If you look at 16' or 17' fiberglass models check the interior height because some of them are less than 6', and also watch the tongue weight. Your Freestar won't handle some of the tongue weights without a weight distributing hitch and possible suspension upgrades. You could also look at stick built trailers because of lower prices but the fiberglass units seem to last longer and hold their value better.
There is a buyer's checklist available on this site which allows you to make a detailed assessment of any used trailer you might find. Be forewarned that these fiberglass trailers are in high demand, so having a few hundred dollars in your pocket for making a deposit is almost mandatory. Have fun.
Bill
We would be on flat land for sure here in N. Illinois. Actually on the topic of suspension upgrades, i bought this van when used. It was a fleet van, but best I can tell it was just driven around because the carpet and sidewalls were spotless. It is the S model not cargo so I have 3 rows of seats. I did however get the original sticker with it and it has the cargo suspension upgrade. I looked it up on Ford's site and I guess it adds upwards of 1000 lbs of interior cargo weight capacity. That may not do a whole lot for towing, but it is nice to have the beefier suspension package.
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Old 03-25-2008, 02:00 PM   #8
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There may be 'hidden' parts to a tow package. For example, on my 98 Ranger, there's a 'camper' relay to handle the trailer lights without affecting the truck lights. There is a cooler for the power steering pump. The six-cyl engine rates a bigger differential than the smaller engined-trucks and the auto trans is also different. The differential ratio may or may not be different.

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Old 03-25-2008, 08:18 PM   #9
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There may be 'hidden' parts to a tow package. For example, on my 98 Ranger, there's a 'camper' relay to handle the trailer lights without affecting the truck lights. There is a cooler for the power steering pump. The six-cyl engine rates a bigger differential than the smaller engined-trucks and the auto trans is also different. The differential ratio may or may not be different.

The van actually has the same relay which is set up to bypas the vans own lights. I had the hitch professionally installed and they set it up that way. Now I have an extra wire complete with fuse connected to the battery. Ford thing I guess. I've looked up the info on the OEM towing package, but I don't recall Ford offering a power steering cooler. Their OEM package consisted of the hitch, wiring relay, trans. cooler (which I am having installed), bigger battery and alt. The gearing appears to be the same.
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Old 03-25-2008, 10:47 PM   #10
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The Ranger has a different derivation than many of Ford's products, so there may be differences. IIRC, the wiring diagram in my service material shows the camper relay as 'if equipped', but I might be wrong about that.

Also, other things, although not part of towing package, may be 'hidden' which establish tow rating. For example, when a '98 Ranger jumps to the 4.0L V6, the auto transmission is a different model (still five speed, but different) and the rear axle has a larger differential, so the whole powertrain is beefier than the next engine down.

BTW, check on EBay for availability of the Ford service manual on CD for your year. Prices for the older years come down. The one I have is indeed exactly the same info as what the parts guy at the Ford store has, except his is part of a monster data base and mine is just models for one year.
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Old 04-13-2008, 11:54 PM   #11
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I have a 2005 Freestar also and have towed a 15 foot Trillium with it for a couple of years. I have the 4.2 engine and it has lots of power for the Trillium. I have now moved up to a 17 foot Boler and have no qualms about pulling it with the Freestar.

The only problem I have had with this van was in installing a brake controller. My Ford dealer advised against connecting the controller to the brake light system. This would cause a failure in the "burned out bulb" system. I checked with Ford and they said the same thing. "Don't connect anything to the brake light wiring." They also said that it would void my warranty. Tekonsha concurred with this advice.

So what I did was to install a separate brake switch on the arm of the brake pedal. If anybody wants to do it that way I can e-mail you pictures of my system.
Al Nelson
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