Tow Vehicle - Fiberglass RV


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Old 01-04-2007, 10:51 PM   #1
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Anybody here have a Dodge Caravan used to pull their Scamp? We are looking into purchasing a new car and need something that will work with the family and the camper. Not that we consider ourselves the "mini-van" type, but if the shoe fits.. Or maybe if the "car" fits. Can't get rid of the kids but we can get a bigger sized tow vehicle.
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Old 01-04-2007, 11:28 PM   #2
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A few people have reported being able to tow with a caravan. Many, many more have reported transmission failure after towing. Dodge front wheel drive automatics have a history of failing. I strongly suggest that you consider a rear wheel drive vehicle for towing. In a front wheel drive the weight is transferred off the drive wheels.
Check out these sites about the Dodge transmission problems people have had. Sorry about the popups some of them have. Consumer Affairs Edmunds Townhall talk Another Edmunds discussion

There are some small SUVs with rear wheel drive to choose from.
Curt
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Old 01-05-2007, 07:51 AM   #3
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We tow our UHaul CT13 with a 2004 Mazda MPV, which is smaller than the Caravan. The Mazda towing package gives the MPV a 3,000lb. towing capacity, and includes a transmission cooler. The Mazda (Ford) 200 hp V6 easily handles backroads and freeways, mountains and desert, coast-to-coast with no problems. Best part - the van gives easy access to all our camping gear and provides plenty of comfortable space for our dog Kerry's bedroom (kennel box).

I would assume that the Caravan with a towing package would do quite nicely.
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Old 01-05-2007, 07:53 AM   #4
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Many people successfully tow light trailers with a front-wheel drive vehicle. With a 150# tongue weight the amount of weight on the rear tires vs. the front is not significant, IMHO. I would suggest you look at an Odessey or Toyota Sienna, one of which might be my next upgrade to reach the magic 3,500# towing capacity.
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Old 01-05-2007, 07:59 AM   #5
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I'd second the caution about transmission failure on Caravans. They have a hard enough time holding up with just the weight of the vehicle, never mind hauling a trailer.

I know several people who have had multiple transmission failures on Caravans used only for personal transportation. The older ones with the 3-speed auto seemed to be OK, but I wouldn't trust any of the newer ones with the 4-speed.

I don't think adding a trans cooler would make much difference - the failures were caused by internal parts actually breaking.
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Old 01-05-2007, 08:09 AM   #6
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I tow with a FWD Honda Element, but I also have a RWD Jeep Liberty that I have yet to hook the trailer up to.

The Jeep is a small SUV and if set up correctly, has an astonishing 5000 lb limit. (Which was one of, if not THE main selling point for me) When shopping, I was looking for a balance of daily driver economy and tow capability and had pretty much thought I was going to have to get a land barge to get the tow rating. I was happy to discover that I didn't.

The Jeep is not a van, however, and I have kept the Element for "van" type things, so I understand the need for one.

That said, I have no issue with FWD towing, tho it limits me in some areas where traction could be an issue, such as in sand or some of the fine clay forest service roads in my area.

On the street, no problem.

I have a co-worker who just scrapped his Caravan after his 3rd transimission. He never towed with it. I have heard of inherant problems with that tranny from a couple folks, my mechanic included.
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Old 01-05-2007, 10:43 AM   #7
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We used to tow our Coleman Taos tent trailer with a Caravan. It is roughly the same weight as our 13' Scamp, but with a little bit higher tongue weight. The Caravan did pull it, and behaved reasonably well on the road, but the transmission was doing some very "funny" stuff (no one was laughing!) by the time we traded it in. In retrospect, I'm just glad we weren't left sitting by the side of the road...

We now tow our Scamp 13' with a Honda Odyssey, and it's awesome. Does a good job with the Taos as well...

I'd be cautious about the Caravan. It'll work in a pinch, but I'd do it assuming that you are hastening the demise of some already questionable parts. This of course is just my opinion; your mileage may vary. Hopefully not literally!
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Old 01-05-2007, 10:47 AM   #8
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Thanks so much for all of your replies. It's the reason why I love this sight so much. It looks like the Caravan is out so we're looking at Honda Odyssey and Nissan Quest. Any thoughts on those options?
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Old 01-05-2007, 11:22 AM   #9
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Dyed in the wool Honda fan here, you probably won't go wrong with the Oddessy. Many folks here tow with one and report nothing but happy results.

I also like the Quest. I have used them as rentals and they are VERY nice.

Our company car is a Nissan Murrano, nice rig, and it withstands the rigors of many different employees driving it. You think "nothing handles like a rental"? That abuse seems to double with company owned cars. I have seen our company cars get trashed in a couple months. Nothing seems to kill or demoralize the Murrano.

(Cept for the one guy that smokes in it, and when we catch who it is, he will get a lynchin!)
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Old 01-05-2007, 02:15 PM   #10
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I think all of the relevant points have been made, so I'll just add my vote for the viability of a front-wheel-drive minivan - in my case the Toyota Sienna - as a tow vehicle for a light travel trailer. Or in my case, not so light: my Boler B1700RGH is about twice the weight and bulk of a typical 13' egg.

The Caravan is, in most respects, a typical front-drive modern minivan. The transmission issue seems to be a matter specific to this product (and it's far from the only vehicle to have transmission issues), not the vehicle type or configuration.

Candi: why Honda Odyssey and Nissan Quest but not Toyota Sienna? They are all similar (as are various Ford, GM, and eve Kia options), and all could work well... I'm just curious.
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Old 01-05-2007, 03:08 PM   #11
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How about the tow vehicle in the latest picture on the site. It appears to be some kind of bucket. Talk about going green and clean. Where can I get one of those and how many miles per bucket full du u get?
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Old 01-05-2007, 03:52 PM   #12
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You can get the Sienna with AWD which could come in handy*. The Odessey is only FWD.

* Like to this special place http://www.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&a...mp;t=h&om=1
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Old 01-05-2007, 08:20 PM   #13
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Quote:
I think all of the relevant points have been made, so I'll just add my vote for the viability of a front-wheel-drive minivan - in my case the Toyota Sienna - as a tow vehicle for a light travel trailer. Or in my case, not so light: my Boler B1700RGH is about twice the weight and bulk of a typical 13' egg.

The Caravan is, in most respects, a typical front-drive modern minivan. The transmission issue seems to be a matter specific to this product (and it's far from the only vehicle to have transmission issues), not the vehicle type or configuration.

Candi: why Honda Odyssey and Nissan Quest but not Toyota Sienna? They are all similar (as are various Ford, GM, and eve Kia options), and all could work well... I'm just curious.
I'm not actually ruling anything out right now, just looking into a few at a time. My husband and I just got serious about looking yesterday and we've spent lots of time on the internet researching. I'll certainly look into the Toyota Sienna.
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Old 01-05-2007, 08:23 PM   #14
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Quote:
You can get the Sienna with AWD which could come in handy*. The Odessey is only FWD.

* Like to this special place http://www.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&a...mp;t=h&om=1

Love it! Wouldn't want to get caught there with only two wheel drive. But that means you wouldn't have to leave, right? It might be a good thing, afterall.
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Old 01-05-2007, 09:02 PM   #15
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Candi,

I've had 4WD vehicles since my first Jeep CJ-7 in 1979. I've driven them since 1974. Remember that the purpose of 4WD is to take you places much more remote to get stuck in so your tow bills can eclipse your car and insurance payments!

Roger
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Old 01-06-2007, 12:47 AM   #16
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...Remember that the purpose of 4WD is to take you places much more remote to get stuck in ...
So maybe it makes sense to tow a travel trailer with a 4WD, so you have somewhere to stay while waiting for extrication?
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Old 01-06-2007, 09:25 AM   #17
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First the 4 wheel drive then the winch (The one attached to the front of the 4wd, not the one yelling in your ear for being stuck in a 4wd)
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Old 01-06-2007, 09:34 PM   #18
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Ah yes, gotta love the humorous digressions...

Well, went to check out the Toyota Sienna today. Did you know that the brochure says that tow packages come standard on all models from 2006/07? But beware; the stickers at the place we looked at did not all have the extra transmission and power steering cooling with the electric harness, etc. available on all their models (which is what a tow package normally includes). I think what they meant by "tow packages", which I think was deceptive, is that all models are capable of towing 3500lbs with no extra features. The salesman kept telling us that the XLE AWD came with a tow package and had the set up already. But we kept looking at the sticker and it did not say so. Finally we came straight out and asked him to look the VIN number up (it was a used 2004) and, sure enough, no tow package. He then agreed to add a hitch, put on an extra oil cooler (?) wiring harness, etc. No charge. I'm thankful to my savvy husband whose keen eyes caught the descrepency. In the end, no buy, though the salesman tried really hard.

The lesson? Always do your homework first, ask for it in writing, look closely at what the sticker does and does not list as the features on the vehicle you are looking at.

One question I have, and maybe you can answer this Brian. Is there really any difference in the front wheel drive and the AWD when towing something as light as the 13ft. Scamp? I don't think we'll want to get a bigger camper someday but do you think it would make a difference if we pulled a 16ft.er with it? The Sienna 06 has only a 3.3 liter engine but the 07 is a 3.5 liter engine. Obviously the 07 has more power but I'm not sure if I'll need that much power if we get AWD.

So, which is better, the AWD or the more powerful engine?

The Quest is out, very bad reviews in Consumer Digest and hubby respects their opinions.
Toyota Highlander-good engine, interior is way too small.

Didn't have time to try out the Honda Odyssey or the Pilot. Maybe we'll look some time this week or next weekend. If this post is still active I'll let you all know what I think then.

Thanks for all of your opinions, it really helps.

Candi
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Old 01-06-2007, 10:53 PM   #19
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Quote:
Is there really any difference in the front wheel drive and the AWD when towing something as light as the 13ft. Scamp?
My posting #12 with the link to Gold Bluffs Beach Campground might answer your question.

We found that beach a few years ago when we had a class C motorhome. The sign at the road said 'no vehicle lengths over 20', but we figured our 24' RV would be okay, and it was. It's a windy road over the coastal hills down to a very private, very nice campground right on the ocean. Had a nice stay and hoped to come back.

Fast forward to 2004, the year we got our Scamp, and a trip back to the coastal highway in with our FWD Element. Turned off the highway, and headed down the gravel road to the campground. Immediately there is a steep hill, and because of traffic we didn't get a lot of speed up, so about half way up we slow down and the wheels start to spin. So we do a u-turn and go back down and consider making another run at it but decide not to try since we could encounter simlar problems on other hills or the retun trip. So sadly, no Gold Bluffs Beach experience on that trip.

So that was 20,000 towing miles ago, with many trips up steep paved roads, down many gravel and dirt roads (note: avoid towing over washboard roads), in rain and no-snow with no problems, easily towing our Scamp with our 4-cylinder Honda FWD.

Conclusion: You don't need AWD to tow a 13'-17' fiberglass trailer, unless you're going to Gold Bluffs Beach, and even then, maybe not! Would it be useful, yes in maybe a few instances at the cost of a 1-2mpg mileage penalty all the time. I've also been told by someone towing with a RWD van that they have experienced wheel spin,

Good luck.
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Old 01-07-2007, 12:55 PM   #20
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I believe that incompetent sales staff and poorly designed literature sabotage a lot of good work done in vehicle design.

The [b]towing "package" which includes an additional transmission oil cooler is the type of thing which is normally called a "towing prep package"; it provides towing capacity but does not include the actual wiring and hitch. This is not a Toyota concept, it is true of all manufacturers, although in many cases there are also packages with the final wiring and hitch (Ford Super Duty trucks even offer a brake controller). In my year (2004) of this same generation of Sienna, the towing rating was 2000 lb without the package, and 3500 lb with it; all Canadian Siennas had the package, and perhaps it is now standard in the U.S. as well.

In the case of the Sienna, there is no wiring in the "prep package". Both a wiring setup (converter/isolator and connector for the lights) and a receiver-type hitch are available from Toyota, and can be purchased as options on the van, but they are both dealer-installed. There are no trailer wiring packages or hitches installed at the factory, and I think you'll find that is true of the other brands as well. I bought both of these through the dealer at the time of my initial purchase, but they can be added later, using Toyota parts or aftermarket, with no problems.

Quote:
...Is there really any difference in the front wheel drive and the AWD when towing something as light as the 13ft. Scamp? I don't think we'll want to get a bigger camper someday but do you think it would make a difference if we pulled a 16ft.er with it?
My Boler is longer, wider, and heavier than a 16 ft Scamp, and twice the weight of a typical 13 ft. Scamp; I find I am not lacking for either power or traction. I have found the front tires spin when climbing out of steep camp sites on gravel, or accelerating full-throttle to get onto a highway, but it's not a problem. With my trailer and our usual cargo load (up to the axle ratings!), the van has about the same load on front and rear axles, which is not a great combination with front wheel drive; with a lighter trailer and reasonable cargo load, it should be no problem at all.

Having said that, I would prefer AWD, but more for winter operation than for the towing advantage.

There has been significant discussion of AWD versus FWD in the SiennaClub.org forum, and there is no clear consensus - it depends on your priorities, but is not necessary for towing. One frequently identified downside to the AWD is that it eliminates the underfloor storage space for a spare tire, so run-flat tires are used instead, which are expensive and have their own problems.
Quote:
...The Sienna 06 has only a 3.3 liter engine but the 07 is a 3.5 liter engine. Obviously the 07 has more power but I'm not sure if I'll need that much power if we get AWD.

So, which is better, the AWD or the more powerful engine?
Well, it's really not an either/or choice, unless you mean financially, since both 2006 and 2007 versions have AWD available. I suppose if I were replacing mine and had to choose, I would go for AWD, but I live in a northern rural area... for towing, I suppose more power might be beneficial, but I keep up with the highway traffic (when I am willing to pay the fuel economy penalty and choose to...) with the current van.

To put this in perspective, that "only 3.3 liter" engine (identical from 2004 through 2006) puts out more power than any of the GM, Ford, or Chrysler competitors did in the same model year as mine (2004). I can tow my Boler at a sustained 130 km/h (80 mph) - I said "can" [b]not "routinely do" - and can pull up a long 7% mountain grade at 100 km/h (62 mph), so it's not like I'm yearning for more power. I think Odyssey owners are similarly well provided with power.

For later resale value, the difference of one model year may be significant, especially with the well-known engine change. It is not just 0.2 L more displacement, it is actually a different generation of engine.

I have little respect for any of the "consumer" magazines, but they are not alone. Nissan was getting scathing reviews for its quality in various models at the time of the current [b]Quest's introduction a few years ago. That may have been a temporary problem, but it was severe enough to get attention in the business press as a significant concern for the corporation. That's one of a few reasons we chose the Sienna over the Quest, but it does appear to be a very capable minivan.

The [b]Highlander and Sienna generally share major mechanical components (engine, transmission, front suspension, steering...), although they don't necessarily get upgrades in the same model year. Essentially, they are SUV/wagon and van versions of the same vehicle, and I believe that Sienna's longer wheelbase makes it the better tow vehicle; it certainly met our requirements better. For now, if you were to want a hybrid, the Highlander would be the only choice among these two, although there is a hybrid version of the Lexus SUV/wagon which also shares the same components.
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