factory towing package vs. 3rd party equipment? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-08-2014, 06:00 PM   #1
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factory towing package vs. 3rd party equipment?

I am getting ready to hit the road with a Casita and a Chrysler Town & Country van. I am in the process of buying the van. Can anyone tell me if there is an advantage to buying the vehicle with the optional, factory-installed towing package vs. buying the vehicle without the equipment and fitting it with needed equipment through a third party specialty shop or good mechanic?
The factory towing package seems to add just under $1000 on a T&C sticker price.
Advice much appreciated.
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Old 01-08-2014, 08:34 PM   #2
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Every vehicle seems to have different levels of equipment or options when it comes to trailer pkgs. You would need to find out from the dealer what is included in the trailer pkg being offered. Then we could best answer your question.
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Old 01-08-2014, 08:38 PM   #3
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Factory towing packages are usually not just a hitch. They often include upgraded and larger cooling systems, transmission cooler, larger alternator, different gear ratios, trailer wiring, some even an integrated brake controller.
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Old 01-08-2014, 10:27 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MC1 View Post
You would need to find out from the dealer what is included in the trailer pkg being offered.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian G. View Post
Factory towing packages are usually not just a hitch.
Unfortunately, when I bought my Honda Odyssey in 2003, the salesman at the dealership claimed that the "Towing Package" included just a hitch receiver and a 4-pin flat wiring harness for $800 which I declined. I had to buy the car to read the owner's manual to find out that Honda considered that a transmission cooler and a power steering cooler were also required to keep the warrantee valid. I wound up having the dealer's service department install the coolers for $800. Then I purchased the receiver and standard 4-pin wiring harness parts from Camping World for $250 and installed them myself. (They just bolt on and plug in) The Brake controller, 7-pin electric receptacle, and battery charge line I had installed by Camping world IIRC for about $300, bringing the total to $1350 to make the minivan ready to tow my Fiber Stream trailer.
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Old 01-08-2014, 10:40 PM   #5
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To add to the information that others have provided I'll share some personal experiences. First, you may have to add additional equipment with "factory" packages. Second, you refer to third party, specialty shops and these can run anywhere from wonderful to lousy. I've seen some really butchered wiring Jobs but I've also seen some fabulous welding jobs. If you know of a shop in your area that you trust it would be a big plus.

If you get the package, what is the rating of the hitch and what is the towing capacity. In addition to what has been previously suggested are heavier springs included? Is a 7 wire harness included ?

I bought a Toyota Tacoma with the tow package and it included a very nice hitch receiver, Trans cooler, 7 wire harness etc. and was rated for a trailer twice as heavy as mine but I still had to add "air bag suspension" All in all, in my case the factory package was a good value but still not enough to suit my needs. If you can find someone with a similar vehicle they could be a big help. For that matter, if you can find a car salesman at the dealership that REALLY knows his product, and good luck with that, it would helpyou make the decision.
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Old 01-09-2014, 12:53 AM   #6
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Does the "Trailer Sway Control" feature shown on their web site only come if you get the towing package? That might make it worth it just for that.

In the old days, one could easily patch in whatever parts one wanted to add in order to beef up a vehicle to get it ready to tow. Slap on a hitch, plumb in a tranny cooler, wire up the trailer plug, maybe set up a brake controller. But new vehicles are getting pretty complex...I'm becoming a fan of "factory installed" as I recognize that they are actually engineering the whole package, including some of the computerized controls, when they set up the vehicle to tow. And getting a tranny cooler installed...without voiding the warranty...and wiring in a trailer plug when some of the lights now have LED's (current differential)... I vote for getting the tow package from the factory.

I paid for the tow package on my Nissan Frontier. Possibly the easiest vehicle to do after market add ons, and I still got the factory tow kit. Maybe I'm just getting lazy...

Edit: I just looked at their web site. Looks like they all get the stability control, ie the anti sway. And they list a class 2 hitch, wiring harness and "load leveling height control" as part of their tow package. In addition, the 3600 lb rating is "if properly equipped"... They do say that the "load leveling" feature is unavailable with some configurations. I think I'd want that.
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Old 01-09-2014, 05:44 AM   #7
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Thank you all. Leonard, I agree the factory package may be the way to go and voiding a warranty without it is a concern. I'll talk with a trusted mechanic and the dealer too. If anyone out there has the Town & Country, I'd love to hear your opinion. The Chrysler van is a bit above a "mini" IMHO. Has some weight, a good wheel base and is comfortable to drive. And the real selling point for me are the fully storable seats. The cargo space can't be matched in this class of vehicle.
Thanks again to all.

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Old 01-09-2014, 05:56 AM   #8
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Thnxs for the update Eileen....

Here is a very good towing article on the Town and Country which may give you some insight on it's capabilities when set up correctly.

RV Lifestyle - Hitch Hints
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Old 01-09-2014, 06:19 AM   #9
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Thanks MC1.
Read the article and it is good information.
Can't believe people are towing 28' Airstreams with T&Cs.
Makes my plan seem very doable w a Casita. Now I'm even more anxious to get this plan in action.
Appreciate you advice and link!
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Old 01-09-2014, 06:32 AM   #10
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Yes. Generally speaking Mini Vans have progressed into a very substantial TV over the last few decades.
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Old 01-09-2014, 08:40 AM   #11
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A while back I was looking at Toyotas, both SUV and pickup. It was common to see "tow prep package" on the sticker and no hitch. Turns out the tow prep package was the transmission cooler and a larger alternator. Typically about $300. The hitch and light wiring harness were extra. On some vehicles that was a 7 pin set up but on others it was only 4 pin. With those you were on your own as far as wiring the brake controller and charge line. Because it involved cutting into the wiring harness to get the brake signal, the dealer would not do it. I suggest you find out what the tow package includes to avoid surprises later. Good luck, Raz
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Old 01-09-2014, 09:24 AM   #12
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Many of the better tow packages (IMHO) contain a larger radiator ,transmission cooler ,power steering cooler .engine oil cooler , a Class !V or V receiver hitch , both 4 and 7 pin wiring connections , towing mirrors , larger alternator ,built in trailer brake controller or a plug and play harness , trailer battery charger feed from vehicle . ETC . I agree with Raz look before you buy , after market alterations to a vehicle are not always cheaper or as effective
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Old 01-09-2014, 09:52 AM   #13
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One towing package isn't anothers. My Astro van came with a towing package that included a hitch, wiring, 3.73 gears, rear differential locker, 4 core radiator and trans cooler. WAY cheaper to have the factory package than to try to add these things myself later. If you plan to tow, I'd spend the money on the factory package. Waranty issues may come up if you have a repair they believe was caused by towing. If you have the factory towing package there would just be fewer parties to point fingers at.

Bottom line, I'd get the factory towing package! Add to that later if you need to.
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Old 01-09-2014, 10:01 AM   #14
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Some good points.

Our 93 Nissan Van was a GXE that came with a factory Tow pkg. 4 core rad, 70 series michelin tires, alloy wheels, 4 pin trailer wiring, extra leaf spring, larger alternator.

Our 03 Infiniti G35 sedan has no trailer pkg available.

In both vehicles Can AM had to install a tranny cooler, 7 pin connector, class 4 receiver, and a brake controller.

Both vehicles successfully towed our 23' for many years.
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