Some Towing Thoughts - Fiberglass RV


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Old 07-01-2014, 07:26 AM   #1
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Name: Norm and Ginny
Trailer: Scamp 16
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Some Towing Thoughts

We have towed for 7 years with a small tow vehicle, towing 3 different trailers. We are conservative in our towing habits. Since we are about to move to a larger tow vehicle, here's some of our approaches to towing with a small tow vehicle. Some were learned over the years via experience, others from web sites like ours and others, some from excellent sources like Can-Am.

Drag is the primary load on a tow vehicle at all practical towing speeds, increasing rapidly with velocity. For a given tow vehicle/trailer the best one can do to improve economy is to drive slower, for us typically from 55 to 62. We achieve excellent economy. We have never recorded less than 20 mpg for our extended trips towing 3 different small trailers.

In addition to driving at moderate speeds we do little things to minimize fuel usage, like free wheeling to traffic lights and down some hills (manual transmission). We keep the trailer and tow vehicle lines as clean as possible. We do not have roof mounted air, awning or large roof vents. Our solar panels are only a 1/4 inch high and virtually invisible.

Weight distribution within the trailer is as important as absolute weight. We try to locate all heavy items over or near the axle. The one exception is that we carry a half tank of water. Our gray and black tanks are usually empty when towing. We work to keep the tongue weight low, one propane tank and one battery.

We consider weight distribution within the tow vehicle as well. We keep heavy items between the tow vehicle's axles like our case of water and volcano grill.

We have towed with and without an anti-sway bar and have not experienced sway except on our very first trailer trip when we put a generator on the rear bumper.

We now use a sway bar all the time looking upon it as insurance. Every morning when we begin driving I reach over to the brake controller and activate the trailer brakes, checking the brakes and practicing trailer brake activation should we experience sway.

As to emergency weather conditions we avoid high winds, storms, snow, ice and even strong rain. We are fortunate that we are retired and safety is not compromised for expediency.

On hills weight is more important load than drag. Hills have not been an issue. Generally we know where the long down grades are, we carry both the Eastern and Western Mountain directories that list all severe slopes and Ginny is religious about knowing our routes. For designated steep downhill runs we down shift, minimizing our use of brakes and avoid getting up to speeds beyond our normal towing speeds.

On long up slopes air flow through the radiator typically decreases, I have added the ability to turn on the radiator fan before beginning an up hill run. (Once when we had a fan failure I added the ability to spray water from the windshield washer on the front of the radiator.)

To minimize stress we purchase vehicles that easily handle the load, we have over 225,000 miles on our tow vehicle with no signs of stress. Our vehicle does not burn oil and seems to be fully intact, even the original clutch. Those miles include many 1,000s of miles of really rough roads, including severe gravel up hill sections.

Of course we learned a lot over the years, some from outright mistakes. We torque our lug nuts, checking them regularly. We have pressure/temperature sensors on our trailer and tow vehicle. We regularly check our Curt hitch bolts. We have strengthened our hitch at it's weakest point after a non-critical failure.

We keep our trailer tires at maximum pressure. We significantly increase our tow vehicle tire pressures on the tow vehicle to increase sidewall stiffness.

We lock our hitch closed and lock our ball mount in it's receiver, we avoid spring clips having seen them fail. We added a hole to the ball mount allowing it to be moved closer to the axle reducing the effect of tongue weight on the tow vehicle. The ball mount has a bracket to stiffen it in the hitch receiver.

We no longer use extended mirrors and now have a camera mounted in the rear of the trailer. Our tow vehicles standard side mirrors have wide angle corner mirrors.

Another important aspect of our travels is Ginny. She is truly a princess. She never sleeps while I drive and is always checking the passenger side before we change lanes.

I'm sure there's more that escapes me now but I hope this can help others because most of it can apply to any towing situation.

We our about to purchase a Honda Odyssey. Interestingly it is the same width as our Scamp 16 and taller than our CRV. It will be interesting to see what we get for fuel economy from the Odyssey. We are definitely expecting lower numbers with the Odyssey's large V-6 and six speed automatic transmission.

Ginny suggested that the Odysseys so big we could sleep in it.

Safe and many travels,
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Old 07-01-2014, 07:59 AM   #2
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Some Towing Thoughts

Norm,
Thanks for posting your after thoughts! You are a good person to share your RVing experiences with the forum! There are some of us that are looking forward to hitting the road and your writings offers us valuable information to do things the correct way and not to make the same mistakes twice! HA! I hope that I can learn from your travel experiences!

Carl
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Old 07-01-2014, 08:00 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by honda03842 View Post
here's some of our approaches to towing with a small tow vehicle. Some were learned over the years via experience, others from web sites like ours and others, some from excellent sources like Can-Am.
Norm, once again a great post and our experiences mirror's yours.

You mentioned fuel mileage and drag. We once towed a 16', 2,000lb square box trailer for a day with our car. It got us 12 MPG.
By comparision we have averaged over 16 MPG towing our GVWR 5,800lb, 23' Airstream over the past 7 years. It really does demonstrate how the aerodynamics, not weight, affects towing performance. One of the reasons we admire the glass egg trailers is their rounded surfaces and smallish frontal areas which really helps with the tow.

We are folks that tend to side with the "Green" movement. Our planet needs help and we want to do our share to keep it healthy. You will never see a large V8 gas guzzler in our driveway so the prospects of glass eggs and aerodynamic trailers will always be in our future.

We appreciate the good folks at this site for allowing us to participate. We want to learn all we can about the Fiberglass egg culture.

On Edit: Many times I have towed our 23' empty at just over 3,500lbs. Then set out on a two week trip road ready at 4,500lbs. The extra weight was noticed slightly when getting up to speed but was not noticed at all when highway cruising at 60MPH. Note we tow with a 3.5 V6.
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Old 07-01-2014, 08:19 AM   #4
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Shape and weight

W-
We have similar experiences. Our first trailer was a 'box' trailer; it was also the lightest trailer nearly 500 lbs less than the Casita 16. Even though our Sunlight 15 was lightest towing it resulted in the fewest miles per gallon. Shape and frontal area count.

On the positive side, the 1982 Sunline had all significant weight over the axle including water, gray and black tanks. It was a very nice design except wood structure became an issue after 25 years.
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Old 07-01-2014, 09:20 AM   #5
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Another Towing Thought

Most of the time we are on the road early and stop around noon. This reduces the stress on our tow vehicle because we're rarely driving in the heat of the day. I know it's a small thing but in the right direction.

Another factor is that we travel during the off season, rarely in the summer. As a result it's usually cooler and definitely less crowded. This year we were the first camper on the way north and in most campgrounds in Newfoundland. When we do travel in the summer it's usually north to cooler climates like Alaska and Canada.

As to Airsteam and many fiberglass RV shapes there is no doubt that the aerodynamic load is directly related to shape (Coefficient of drag) and frontal area.

This was very apparent in towing our light Sunline and in the design of cars like the Prius, low coefficient of drag and small frontal area, they both pay at any speed.

(This was written before MC1's post that really shows the value of aerodynamics. Thanks W)
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Old 07-01-2014, 09:34 AM   #6
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Norm,
When are the off seasons for traveling? Also, when you start early on the road, what time is early? How long for lunch, do you stop to rest and eat? It appears that timing is vey important for RVing. Small tips will help to make the trip safe and keep the traveler happy!
Thanks
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Old 07-01-2014, 10:21 AM   #7
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Summertime is considered peak travel season. Also there's more travel traffic around holidays like Christmas/New Year's.
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Old 07-01-2014, 10:24 AM   #8
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Mike,
Thanks for the advice! By the way, since your advice is worth every penny, the check is in the mail!
Carl
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Old 07-01-2014, 10:45 AM   #9
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Nice summary of years of experience.

Found it interesting that you made a conversion to use windshield washer as radiator spritzer. Did the same thing on my school bus camper but used a spare washer tank and pump wired to a push button. On trips through Colo. in the summer got tired of having to pull over on long mountain passes and use a spray bottle to mist the radiator. Plenty of power but not a lot of speed so would tend to run hot on the long climbs.

We have friends that travel in an Odyssey and they really like it, the don't tow but for comfortable travel and "motel camping" the say it is the best vehicle they have owned.
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Old 07-01-2014, 11:20 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Bob Miller View Post
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4. How fast were they driving. At 70 MPH I would expect those differences, not so much so at 55 mph.
BM... you are correct. To be fair, and completely accurate the best way to compare aerodynamic differences would be by using a wind tunnel. FYI test have also been done using them and the results clearly show the affects of dramatic wind resistance at 55MPH. Folks on this forum, towing in this speed range can gleen some good info from the results.

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Old 07-01-2014, 11:33 AM   #11
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The most important part of this link is that there's someone in the is thinking about these issues and doing first order testing and experimentation.

In this case Andy was not testing an Airstream and clearly states the test speed. I would surely be happy if there were people who wanted to do more rigorous testing. Until then Andy deserves to be praised for his efforts.

As to dominate engine load, on a level road air resistance for the typical car becomes the largest load beginning about 30 mph where it exceeds rolling resistance and internal resistance.

It is true that air resistance increases rapidly with speed.
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Old 07-01-2014, 10:15 PM   #12
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Off Season

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Norm,
When are the off seasons for traveling? Also, when you start early on the road, what time is early? How long for lunch, do you stop to rest and eat? It appears that timing is vey important for RVing. Small tips will help to make the trip safe and keep the traveler happy!
Thanks
Off season for us us September thru June, time when most people are not on the road, partially because kids are in school. When we leave depends on where we're going.

We try to be home for July, August and usually September, partially because we have a cottage at the beach in NH.

Our early start depends but typically at 8 am, we are early risers. If we're on the road at lunch time we sometimes snack on a banana, nuts or raisins, Other times we"ll treat ourselves to the relatively rare burger. In Newfoundland it was usually fish and chips and a few times a "mess". The mess became a favorite.

In Labrador on the Trans Labrador Highway we just stopped in the road and Ginny cooked something up/

We usually stop once a day during the 4 hour drive, probably for 15 minutes. I do a walk around checking the tires (even though we have tire pressure sensors on the trailer.)
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Old 07-02-2014, 06:37 AM   #13
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Norm, you should write a book. There's a wealth of knowledge in your posts. Your tips for traveling with an RV are loaded with technical application and advice for the lifestyle. Your enthusiasm finds it's way into all your writing as well. I know you're retired, but maybe when you're down in FL later and not on the move?

As an aside, I knew a guy (coworker) who ran the windshield washer hose under the dashboard on the drivers side. He filled the washer fluid tank with Vodka and made mixed drinks on the fly! I like your application much better.

Tom
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:11 AM   #14
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Norm,
Thanks! It appears that you all go at your on pace and stop when ever you desire to investigate the area? That is the great thing about retirement! You can travel at a slower pace and take time to smell the flowers! Life goes by to fast while we are busy working, rush here and rush there, never taking time to slow down and enjoy things and make memories! Norm, you and Ginny keep enjoying the good life and making memories!
Carl
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