Towing A Scamp 16 with a Minivan - Fiberglass RV


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Old 07-12-2012, 05:17 PM   #1
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Name: Joe
Trailer: 1996 Scamp 16
South Dakota
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Towing A Scamp 16 with a Minivan

I am posting my experience towing with a minivan because I am sure others are in my situation. We wanted to get a camper but didn't want to purchase a new vehicle to tow it. We have a 2009 Chrysler Town and Country minivan. Our minivan did not come with the tow package. At the time we purchased it we had no plans to tow anything. The tow capacity without the tow package is 2000 pounds and with the tow package is 3600 pounds. I contacted the dealership and asked for them to install the tow package. I found out they cannot install the package, but they can install parts from the package. The tow package included the hitch, wiring, load leveling shocks, engine and tranny cooler. The wiring did not include a brake controller. They assume under 3600 pounds that you don't have brakes on the trailer.

They hitch is Mopar and requires them to cut out a portion of the bumper. The Uhaul option fit under the bumper. The difference is a couple inches in height on the hitch which I think is worth doing the OEM hitch. It was way more expensive. It cost 2X the cost to have the dealer install their hitch over Uhaul. I did it not only for the height, but to help protect my life time warranty that I have from Chrysler. If the dealership installs it, they can't deny a warranty claim based on trouble the install caused.

The wiring is Mopar original same as the tow package, 7 pin. I doubt there is any difference from Uhaul in performance, but again warranty protection was my reasoning for using the dealership.

There is no Mopar brake controller for the Town and Country, so they installed their preferred aftermarket brand at a cost comparable to Uhaul.

I researched load leveling shocks in depth. With the Town and Country riding low I was concerned that I would need something to keep the back end up. The dealership knew amazingly little about the load leveling shocks. It shows this was part of the tow package in 2009 so my assumption was they would have replaced some or would at least be aware of what they are. I talked to three people at the dealership, two had no idea what they were. The third person said there were factory suspension enhancements that could not be done aftermarket. I finally gave up on the load leveling shocks. People complain about the cost and I am not sure if I could even have them retrofitted since I have springs/struts right now. I did talk to the dealership about air bags which could be installed. The air bags inside the springs could be inflated to stiffen and lift the rear. I like the idea but at a cost of several hundred dollars to install, I left that for later.

The 2009 Town and Country comes standard with a transmission cooler, but it may be smaller than the tow package version. I have not been able to get an answer to that. I will say that in 2010 after 10K miles on my Town and Country, the transmission went out and was replaced under warranty. I do have a life time warranty on the transmission, which is another reason I don't want to sell my van. I plan to drive it into the ground!

When we researched travel trailers we quickly moved towards the fiberglass variety due to their low weight and great features. We narrowed to the Casita or Scamp. At the end of the day, the weight of the Scamp 16 was a perfect fit for us. With a dry weight well under 2000 pounds we felt comfortable towing this with our van. We knew we would need to be careful to keep the tanks empty and avoid loading too much inside it. Full tanks could add 400 pounds or more so we could easily run it up to 2300 with tanks full and some gear in it. Still we felt that was comfortable within the range of the Town and Country.

I did purchase a hitch/ball assembly that had adjustable lift up to +6 inches to raise the ball height. This was needed since the Scamp recommends 21" ball height. Even with the OEM hitch being a couple inches higher than Uhaul, I still needed 3-4 inches lift to meet the Scamp requirement. The low ride heigh is probably the hardest part of towing with a minivan.

We purchased our 1996 Scamp 16 last week and drove it 300 miles. I had the brake controller hooked up and it stopped great, same or better than without the trailer attached. There was some wind, but I had no noticable sway. I have no anti-sway bars. I kept the speed at 55-58 mph the entire drive. Tires are rated up to 65. I could easily have gone faster but I controlled myself. I usually drive 80 mph on the same stretch of road so it was definately a slower pace. I will never drive over 60 mph to be safe. We stopped regularly and I checked the tire pressure and heat on the hub. I had the bearings repacked so that seemed to help keep them cool. Neither was ever hot to the touch, but interestingly the passenber side was always cool but the driver side was always warm (not hot). Something is obviously different on that side of the trailer. The Town and Country got 17 mph on this drive.

That is my experience so far. At only 300 miles, I am not an expert. I do feel comfortable towing the Scamp. I could see adding air bags to keep the rear up. I plan to weight the trailer loaded to make sure I keep the weight in range.
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Old 07-12-2012, 05:36 PM   #2
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Thanks for an interesting post, Joe.

How did you get a lifetime warranty on the van?
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Old 07-12-2012, 05:36 PM   #3
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Congrats on your new camper. Those 16's are nice.

You might get better knowledge on the value of the load leveling shocks vs air bags at an RV place.

Keeping the speed and weight down will do a world of good. You gain fuel economy, safety and save wear and tear, a three-fer.
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Old 07-12-2012, 05:52 PM   #4
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Thanks for an interesting post, Joe.

How did you get a lifetime warranty on the van?
In 2009 Chrysler offerred a life time warranty on drivetrain, during the "Cash for Clumkers" program when Chrysler needed gov't bail out. It encouraged me to but my Ram1500, I figure it will be my last truck, now that is a sad thought!!
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Old 07-12-2012, 07:54 PM   #5
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Hi Joe. Sounds great!

If you feel that you'd like more damping of up-down motion in the rear while towing, I'd suggest a pair of Rancho RS9000XL shocks. Sams4x4.com has the pair for $180 with free shipping. These shocks have an easy 9 position adjustment from soft to firm. Sam's store is across town from me and they are good. I got Ranchos installed on my Mountaineer about 7-8 years ago and have been happy with them. To adjust, I reach underneath and turn a knob (you can feel it click at each position). Usually I use position 4 for unloaded, and position 6 or 7 when trailering.

Since the tow package came with an extra cooler, I'd really recommend getting one installed. U-Haul can do it, or nearly any repair shop. Heat is your transmission's enemy, and a warranty might be called void if they find out you've been towing more than 2000 lbs. (big if, but why not be safe).
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Old 07-12-2012, 08:21 PM   #6
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Thanks for an interesting post, Joe.

How did you get a lifetime warranty on the van?
Kingfish from "Amos & Andy", in his inimitable bombastic way, said...
"Yes suh Amos, Ya know thu BIG print giveth, and thu FINE print taketh away!"
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Old 07-12-2012, 09:02 PM   #7
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Thnxs for the informative post Joe.

I too have towed many years with a Mini Van and found it to be a great TV.

I had a subscription to RV Lifestyles magazine and a few years ago they had a great road test article on the new Town and Country with the 4.0. They really liked the way it handled the big trailer. It had a custom HD receiver and a WDH. I later found out they did 1,000's of miles of testing without issues.

Not sure if your drivetrain is the same as the tester but overall it was fine. You will probably find your set up works great.

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Old 07-12-2012, 09:56 PM   #8
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Trailer: 1996 Scamp 16
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I should have added to my original post that I have the 3.8 liter V6. The 4.0 liter has a little more power but it doesn't increase the tow rating. All Chrysler models had a lifetime warranty on the engine and transmission in 2009. In addition we purchased the lifetime bumper to bumper warranty. We just pay a $100 deductible and anything is fixed accept consumables like tires and brakes. I never buy warranties, but I negotiated this one down to $1800 and I plan to keep the van forever. The only gamble at the time we purchased it is whether Chrysler would be in business to honor it. They seem to be doing much better with some Fiat guidance.
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Old 07-12-2012, 11:34 PM   #9
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Name: Tim
Trailer: Scamp 16' Deluxe side bath
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I tow my 16' scamp with a 2005 dodge caravan, 3.8 v6 and it has a tow package rated for 3500lbs. I too get about 15-17 mpg depending on winds and my speed. Only thing I could recommend is to drive in the "3" gear and not 4th because the overdrive will want to contantly shift and thats hard on the tranny. Otherwise it's a great tow vehicle. I have an after market brake controller, that seems to work fine. I was advised that because of the tow package a brake controller would not be necessary for anything less than 3500lbs but I went and installed it anyway.
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Old 07-13-2012, 07:00 AM   #10
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We towed our Egg Camper with our 2010 Chrysler minivan but switched to towing it with our 2009 Chevy Silverado with 5.3 V8. MPG with the Chevy is the same or better than with the minivan but the Chevy seats are WAY more comfortable. That's why we switched. The minivan towed fine but its seats were/are terrible.
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