Full-timing w/4cyl SUV (rated 5000#); tow 16/17' (max ~3500#) or should stick to 13'? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 02-09-2020, 03:01 PM   #1
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Question Full-timing w/4cyl SUV (rated 5000#); tow 16/17' (max ~3500#) or should stick to 13'?

Hello all,

Scoured volvo, general RV, fiberglassrv forums for the answer to the 4cyl question and wanted to ask for a bit more clarity if possible.

My partner and I recently purchased a '17 Volvo XC90, gasoline.
- 5000/500# towing capacity
- air suspension
- engine: 2.0L 4-cyl Supercharged & turbocharged
- AWD
- 8-speed automatic transmission (with option of manual)
- 1210# payload capacity
- Torque: 295
- HP: 316 (not as impt as torque, based on my "research")
- Tow package includes "trailer stability assist," extra engine cooling doesn't seem to be recommended and isn't included in tow package. Got retractable hitch installed at dealership -- we'll get a sway bar and WDH if we tow a 16 or 17 footer.

OUR OBJECTIVE: full-time in a used 13'-15' (only looking for cassette toilet) or 16/17' (open to wet bath as it's most commonly seen in used, but not necessary), w/ interior height 6ft+
Leaning more towards used scamps, burros, bolers; not so much Casitas due to heavy tongue weight

CONCERN: A 16' or 17' fiberglass (usually 3500# max) falls well under the "80% rule," but our recent experience gives us much pause in towing a trailer with more than 3000#.

QUESTIONS:
A. Do you have any experience/knowledge regarding how a "2.0L 4-cyl Supercharged & turbocharged" will perform over 7-10 years on our transmission/engine/driving experience IF TOWING 3200-3500#?
B. Would you suggest being safe and going with the 13"?
C. Real-world weight documentation thread shows 16'/17's to be under 3000, however, since we are full-timing, we may be carrying more heavily??

LOCATIONS we may be driving around more frequently: Northern AZ, Utah, neighboring states,

*Our concern with towing a 16' or 17' fiberglass trailer is due to the following experience:
We hitched up a rental lil Guy Max, 3,140# dry and perhaps 3,600# when we loaded it with our huge Yeti cooler, more food, and a number of camping items.
Didn't end up going through due to insufficient research regarding incompatibility with the sway bar/WDH and how the whole set-up looked after hooking to our regular 2" ball hitch -- looked like too much pressure on the back tires. Payload was probably close to maxing out as well (Payload Max @ 1210#)

PHEWWWW
Thank you for reading, replies are MUCH appreciated!!
Please correct me on anything stated!
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Old 02-09-2020, 06:18 PM   #2
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Full-timing w/4cyl SUV (rated 5000#); tow 16/17' (max ~3500#) or should stick to 13'?

When you say “cassette toilet,” do you mean a porta-potty? True cassette toilets are permanently mounted affairs with a smallish waste tank that slides out of an exterior hatch on the side of the trailer. Common in EU but rare in NA.

What kinds of camping do you plan to do? Developed or undeveloped? Remote or near towns? Hookups? Bath facilities? Seasons and temperatures? Short stays and frequent moves or long-term stays in one spot? While you can make almost anything work in almost any kind of camping conditions, having the right tool for the job makes life easier and more comfortable.

No experience with the XC90, but I think you are wise to be cautious about the rating and leave a substantial margin. Mountains, canyons, high altitudes, and lots of wind in the region you mentioned put extra demands on a tow vehicle. Full-timing usually means bringing more stuff with you; more stuff = less trailer.

I’m thinking a 16’ Scamp or Casita might be a happy medium and a good starting place. They’re just big enough to have a small wet bath, a double bed, and a separate sitting or dining area. You’re likely looking at 2500-3000# gross trailer weight, and 275-325# tongue weight.

Although it’s been done, I cannot imagine full-timing with two people in anything smaller, and I cannot imagine full-timing without an onboard toilet and shower. Sooner or later you’re going to end up dry camping someplace without facilities and without a place to empty a porta-potty.

Welcome, and best wishes!
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Old 02-09-2020, 06:59 PM   #3
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Full-timing w/4cyl SUV (rated 5000#); tow 16/17' (max ~3500#) or should stick to 13'?

I missed the height requirement. Casita 16s are less than 6’ interior height. Scamps are about 6’2”.

Beware bed size as you shop. There are no standard sizes in smaller trailers. The main bed in most Scamp and Casita 16s is 45”x76”. Some call it cozy, but others call it crowded.

Scamp makes deluxe versions with a custom wood interior and a larger 54”x76” main bed. They’re a little heavier than the all-fiberglass versions, but still within 3000# GVW.
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Old 02-09-2020, 07:59 PM   #4
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There is some extra things one might only take for longer or full time camping but there is also some tendency to eliminate items one finds are not used. Over time one will refine the stuff one takes when camping to remove unused items or include items that are more compacts or weigh less to do the same job.

Some of those more space or weight efficient items cost more and the additional cost is easier to justify the more use one will get from them. Doesn't take a lot of times of having to dig past or move an item that is in the way but never used before one leaves it at home.

It isn't like you are going to pack 2 months worth of food just because one is on a 2 month trip. I don't find a 2 week trip involves significantly more weight than a 1 week trip does. For example same amount of clothes, I just have to hit a coin laundry facility or campground with a washer and dryer sometime or do a little hand washing and line drying. In some ways less gear on a long trip than on a weekend trip. More inclined to throw extra "toys" in for a weekend than I am for a 2 week trip.

Smart to have some cushion and not operate at or near limits. For the type of loads you are considering it might be worth taking the trailer loaded to a scale at a feed store, gravel pit, or truck stop to find out the real weight so you won't be guessing at where you are at with tow weights. Same for the weight in the tow vehicle.
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Old 02-09-2020, 08:11 PM   #5
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Why don't you just print out the specifications for trailers you are interested in and then build a spreadsheet so you can compare the features you are looking for side by side? Such as interior head height, tongue weight, etc.
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Old 02-10-2020, 06:00 AM   #6
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Published specifications can be very misleading when it comes to weight. A better source for realistic weight and tongue weight data is the thread “Trailer Weights in the Real World” in the General Chat section of this forum. These are actual scaled and (with 1 or 2 exceptions) fully loaded weights. Post #297 links to a very useful spreadsheet of the data.
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Old 02-10-2020, 07:56 AM   #7
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tugging

We have a 2015 Ford Edge eco 4cy about the same rig as you but we cant pull anything like you have! But our Edge isn't a camper special I added the trailer hitch hooked the lights up and off we go!


I don't feel we are underpowered I guess we should but all the car manufacuters put in plenty of extra stuff in we don't know about our tug also has the optional shifting. Why did they put that in there?

We tug about 1k maybe a tad more I drive 55 to 60 I am not a missle going down the highway. You need to reconsider all that extra stuff they do have stores along your way. Use them for your storage! You need 1 skillet and one pot for heating water if you are going the boonedock route!

Keep clothes to a minimum everything piles on more weight. We pack about 4 to 5 gal or water we have learned to do military baths in cold weather you cant store in your tank anyway. I took one 20lb propane tank off we can run 2 weeks out and with heating water, running a wave 3 heater 10 hours a night for 2 weeks we still came back with propane in our tank. They do have propane fillup places along the way!

With the tug you have I wouldn't worry at all it is powerful! Just take some short trips first to learn things. You will be fine!

good luck you have some amazing things ahead of you

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Old 02-10-2020, 07:59 AM   #8
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forgot something

When pulling your rig be sure to NOT use overdrive or drive go down to s or super. If you don't you will cook your transmission matter of fact before starting this towing game I would check the transmission fluid or have it flused to give you a base on the transmission1

bob


Quote:
Originally Posted by k0wtz View Post
We have a 2015 Ford Edge eco 4cy about the same rig as you but we cant pull anything like you have! But our Edge isn't a camper special I added the trailer hitch hooked the lights up and off we go!


I don't feel we are underpowered I guess we should but all the car manufacuters put in plenty of extra stuff in we don't know about our tug also has the optional shifting. Why did they put that in there?

We tug about 1k maybe a tad more I drive 55 to 60 I am not a missle going down the highway. You need to reconsider all that extra stuff they do have stores along your way. Use them for your storage! You need 1 skillet and one pot for heating water if you are going the boonedock route!

Keep clothes to a minimum everything piles on more weight. We pack about 4 to 5 gal or water we have learned to do military baths in cold weather you cant store in your tank anyway. I took one 20lb propane tank off we can run 2 weeks out and with heating water, running a wave 3 heater 10 hours a night for 2 weeks we still came back with propane in our tank. They do have propane fillup places along the way!

With the tug you have I wouldn't worry at all it is powerful! Just take some short trips first to learn things. You will be fine!

good luck you have some amazing things ahead of you

bob
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Old 02-10-2020, 09:56 AM   #9
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Utah has some very serious grades and high elevations. My favorite road in the entire USA is Utah SR12, from Bryce Canyon to almost Capitol Reef. Has one long 12% grade and another 13% grade. And it goes over 10,000 foot elevation.

Best process is to start with the trailer that best fits your needs and then obtain the tow vehicle that is well suited to pull it. Sounds like you are committed to that Volvo. Years ago I did it the same way, RV dealer "assured me" that I had more than enough TV. I ended up upgrading my tow vehicle after our first big trip as it did not work out well (crested a steep highway grade at 29MPH, overheating, etc.)

If you have to slow down too much on a major highway, you can become a road hazard. At 29MPH, I was going slower than any of the semis. It was a disaster. I had no business being on the interstate.

Until you hook up and start towing, and go up a steep, high elevation grade, you really don't know. There are always people out on the internet that will tell you they do fine. I've seen some crazy tow situations. Some people have to carefully choose their routing ahead of time, avoiding big grades, sticking to secondary roads, etc. I'd rather not have to worry about my route.

Certainly if a 13 footer works, your Volvo should be more than adequate. A 17 foot Casita would be challenging, and you might do fine with a 16 foot Scamp. Realize on FG trailers, size is measured end to end, not the trailer body. So a 13 foot Scamp has a 10 foot trailer. I've met a couple that had been full timing for two years in a Trillium 1300 (13 footer as well). They loved it. I know I couldn't do it, but they were doing just fine. No bathroom in their trailer. As the trailers get really small, you give up critical space to get a bathroom. A pull out portapotty, while not glamorous can work.
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Old 02-10-2020, 09:58 AM   #10
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Full-timing w/4cyl SUV (rated 5000#); tow 16/17' (max ~3500#) or should stick to 13'?

Quote:
Originally Posted by k0wtz View Post
When pulling your rig be sure to NOT use overdrive or drive go down to s or super. If you don't you will cook your transmission...
Maybe, maybe not. Newer transmissions typically have failsafes that will give warning or even shut things down into a limp mode when transmission temperatures get too high. Better not to let that happen, but late model vehicles generally won’t let you “cook” the transmission.

“Never use overdrive when towing” dates from early days when overdrives were flimsy tacked-on affairs. Nowadays overdrive gears (often two or three) are no different than the rest and transmission control software is much more sophisticated. In many cases it’s perfectly fine to keep it in D let the transmission select the right gear. Some even have a tow mode setting that adjusts shift patterns for pulling a trailer.

Consult your owner’s manual for recommended use of the transmission when towing. Mine says to lock out overdrive on hills (up or down). On steep grades I occasionally have to manually shift into an even lower gear. It’s all in the manual.
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Old 02-10-2020, 10:51 AM   #11
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Might want to look at Escape TT in chilliwack, BC. Near Vancouver.

https://escapetrailer.com/

Light weight. We have a 17B.
Room for all we need. 2 persons.
Exchange rate to USA lowers costs. Custom build if wanted.
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Old 02-10-2020, 11:12 AM   #12
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I would’t tow with a small 4 cylinder vehicle but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t . As long as the vehicle is rated to pull your trailer , hook it up and go
The worst thing that can happen is the vehicle fails and you have to buy a new upgraded tow vehicle , not the end of the world
Some people have to tow at 5 mph over the speed limit and some are content to tow done the interstate at 45 mph , that’s a decision you have to make .
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Old 02-10-2020, 01:10 PM   #13
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I would NOT pull anything over my 13'er with my '99 Nissan Frontier. It's a 2.4L engine. I live in the "hills of Tennessee" and on many of the hills I have had to pull (manual transmission) in 3rd gear with the motor winding pretty good. That'll get you down to about 50 mph max! My trailer weighs in ready for the road right at 1800 MAX! So to think (and my truck is also rated at #3500 towing pounds which is a JOKE!) that I would pull more is not even remote in my mind I assure you.

I HIGHLY advise against towing anything larger than a 13'er with a 4cyl period unless you're 100% certain you will never pull it over a hill- much less a MOUNTAIN!

I'm speaking from 10 yrs experience.
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Old 02-10-2020, 03:16 PM   #14
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I agree with the post that said figure out your camper THEN figure out what it takes to tow it. Your going camping, the features and size of the camper are the critical piece. You need a bathroom or don't, head room, bed size, ground clearance, air conditioner, kitchen features, etc. all need to be figured out so you don't end up with a camper you don't like so you can have a vehicle you do like.

I have a Ford Escape V6 with 3500# tow capacity. My lean 13 ft. scamp, no AC or bathroom is not a significant strain. Comes in under 2k loaded. I did have them put trailer brakes on it when I replaced the axle because not able to stop can be more trouble than going slow up a grade.

It can be a little difficult to accept having to drive a larger and probably lower gas mileage vehicle when not traveling but overworking an engine to tow is going to cream your mileage in that situation. The V6 goes from around 25 mpg down to ~17 mpg when towing. I sometimes miss the 28 mpg of my old vehicle but the difference between 28 and 25 mpg is small enough that it makes the V6 worth it.

Look at your "normal" miles per year. Divide by the mpg to determine how many more gallons of fuel you have to buy per 1 mpg lower efficiency. At some point the cost of the small amount of extra fuel is more then offset by easier towing and better fuel economy when towing. Lower RPM's from the bigger motor can mean less fuel than smaller motor at higher RPM's in a towing situation.

On upgrades I am willing to lose speed to maintain RPM's at a fairly moderate level. With a V6 that lower speed is still a safe highway speed. Smaller engine might not manage that as easily. Don't forget turbo is just forcing more air/fuel into engine but power is a function of RPM's and displacement. Smaller displacement engine will have to use more RPM's to achieve same power as larger displacement engine.

An example would be my old CRV 4 cylinder didn't do much better on highway mpg than the V6 Escape when carrying a passenger and luggage. Poor aerodynamics and the engine was wound up pretty high much of the time. Cruise would downshift to second on hills in Missouri if I used it. Said passenger about needed to change shorts the first time cruise did that hard downshift and high engine revs. I stopped using cruise because a couple of suitcases and a passenger put that little engine "over the edge".

Many if not most vehicles will have a "hill" mode or "towing" mode button. This can do as little as prevent going into overdrive or enable a different shift pattern suitable for towing. Owners manual will advise on if that buttons use is required for towing. My Escape when towing would tend to shift up into overdrive for any downgrade or if I coasted at all and down again for any minor upgrade. Button prevents overdrive gear from being used so it avoids the frequent shifting.

One last little item. Depending on where you travel a less common vehicle can carry with it some extra issues regarding parts for repairs, assuming you can find anyone who can work on it. Especially out west one can find it takes a day or two to get a moderately common part for a domestic auto, not sure what that wait would be for something that wasn't as common such as a Volvo part. Had a Volvo, loved it. Paid through the nose for parts and in a major urban area still had to wait for parts sometimes.
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Old 02-10-2020, 03:23 PM   #15
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Dear all, my husband and I are astounded and so grateful for all your incredibly helpful and detailed replies!

(We have checked out a Casita 16 and 17 and Escape 17B, Cloud 13, and T@b400 so far.)

We are looking at 16’ and 13’ Scamps/Bolers (6ft+) and any 14-15’s that happen to come on the used market.
We know we want the bed and a dinette at the least.
Shower is still optional to us. If we get a 13’, we’ll do the portapotty (thanks for the correction, Jon in Az) and solar shower + shower tent.

(I like the trillium but it has only a front bench. Most 13’s also have a front bench. l have wondered where I can find a carpenter/individual that would convert the front bench to a dinette—we have access to our parents’ tools, but seeing folks selling their WIP trailers after realizing how much work it takes... gives us pause as we want to do any mods the right way)

J Selleck, we really liked the Escape 17B when we checked it out! Just reconsidering the overall weight on our TV

Darral T., Thanks for your response! Punched in some #s and looks like you're towing @ ~51%; If we tow 3000#, that would put us at 60%... oi...

I have found that most 4cyls are rated at 3500#, and yet my vehicle is rated @ 5000#, and on top of that, not much info on the latter towing-wise.

Not related to towing side-reply:
I am reading the full-timing section as well to see people's experiences.
We want to try and boondock/BLM as much as possible and heeding the 14-day rule. I'm seeing the mixed recommendations about that -- small water tank seems to be an issue for folks, and some don't recommend leaving one's trailer on BLM land.
Right now, we are tent campers who have BLM'd/dry camped quite a few times, so we THINK we can keep our water usage down and take those military showers & get a cheap chain gym membership if needed. ((is this a discussion better placed in the full-timing threads? While I do voraciously read posts, I appreciate a discussion, BUT I don't want to be a thread-starting-hog))

We are definitely going to whittle down our belongings and look forward to the minimalism! Thank you for the tips, k0wtz!

I am thinking... somehow find a way to rent a trailer that weighs 1800-2000# "dry" and load it to ~3000# to see how it feels first-hand.
(It's been challenging finding a trailer that light available for rent, but will see!!)

I have a few more follow-up questions and replies to your comments that I will work on soon. Just wanted to say thank you for now!!!!
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Old 02-10-2020, 05:18 PM   #16
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Full-timing w/4cyl SUV (rated 5000#); tow 16/17' (max ~3500#) or should stick to 13'?

Quote:
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i have found that most 4cyls are rated at 3500#, and yet my vehicle is rated @ 5000#, and on top of that, not much info on the latter towing-wise.
Four cylinder gas engines range from zero tow rating to 7500#. Quite a few, mostly small turbos in compact and midsized crossovers, are 3500#, as you say.

But you have some company at the high end. Here are a few four cylinder gas turbos with higher ratings:
Subaru Ascent 2.4L turbo @ 5000#
Mercedes Metris 2.0L turbo @ 5000#
Ford Ranger 2.3L turbo @ 7500#
That’s just off the top of my head.

Comparing one of these new engines to a 20 year old non-turbo four is not helpful. But I like your analysis comparing percentages. That’s how I tend to look at it, too. A Scamp 16 will run 50-60% of your rating, a generous margin to all but diehard V8 fans.

Horsepower and torque are just two of many factors that go into a tow rating. The Ford Mustang GT with a V8 and gobs of power and torque is only rated to tow 1000#.

One other thing has changed over the last 20 years. There is now a testing standard for tow ratings used by most manufacturers. It requires climbing a 12 mile 6-7% grade in 100 degree temperatures at a minimum speed of 45 mph without exceeding engine of transmission operating ranges. The test also requires repeated launches from a stop on a 12% grade, and some stopping and handling tests. It’s not a perfect test, but it has forced some manufacturers to revise their ratings or upgrade their vehicles. For more information google “J2807 tow testing standards.”
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Old 02-10-2020, 06:50 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jo1 View Post
Darral T., Thanks for your response! Punched in some #s and looks like you're towing @ ~51%; If we tow 3000#, that would put us at 60%... oi...

I have found that most 4cyls are rated at 3500#, and yet my vehicle is rated @ 5000#, and on top of that, not much info on the latter towing-wise.
Before you get too hung up on those percentages, consider this:

Your turbo 4 mated to the 8-speed makes more horsepower and more torque than my 3.5L V6, which drives a 6-speed automatic transmission in a 2015 Toyota Highlander rated to tow 5,000 lbs. I see that your 1st gear ratio is much higher than mine, so I'm guessing in higher gears your torque may be hurting. I know for a fact that fellow Highlander owners happily tow 19' Escapes which outweigh any of the trailers you are considering, with the possible exception of a light 19' vs. a heavy Casita 17'.

My understanding is that turbo engines suffer a steeper hit to fuel economy when towing than a non-turbo engine with comparable output, but that's based solely on a comparison of the F-150 ecoboost engines vs the V8.

If you are unhappy with how heavy the rear of the TV looks, your options are pretty much a weight distribution hitch, overinflating your tires (not to exceed max PSI on the sidewall), and/or adding suspension enhancement like sumosprings. I don't own or need one, but the Andersen hitch is popular among lightweight trailer owners for ease of use and its light weight.
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Old 02-10-2020, 07:29 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justus C View Post
Before you get too hung up on those percentages, consider this:

Your turbo 4 mated to the 8-speed makes more horsepower and more torque than my 3.5L V6, which drives a 6-speed automatic transmission in a 2015 Toyota Highlander rated to tow 5,000 lbs. I see that your 1st gear ratio is much higher than mine, so I'm guessing in higher gears your torque may be hurting. I know for a fact that fellow Highlander owners happily tow 19' Escapes which outweigh any of the trailers you are considering, with the possible exception of a light 19' vs. a heavy Casita 17'.

My understanding is that turbo engines suffer a steeper hit to fuel economy when towing than a non-turbo engine with comparable output, but that's based solely on a comparison of the F-150 ecoboost engines vs the V8.

If you are unhappy with how heavy the rear of the TV looks, your options are pretty much a weight distribution hitch, overinflating your tires (not to exceed max PSI on the sidewall), and/or adding suspension enhancement like sumosprings. I don't own or need one, but the Andersen hitch is popular among lightweight trailer owners for ease of use and its light weight.
If I am reading you correctly, you’re saying neither vehicle is suitable for towing , their transmissions and engines are mismatched and the ratings are not based in reality ?
I am old school and have more faith in displacement than in turbos and extremely high RPMs .
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Old 02-10-2020, 07:39 PM   #19
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Do you agree though, that round wheels work better than square ones?
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Old 02-11-2020, 07:32 AM   #20
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For a rental you might try a tent trailer loaded. They seem to have more rentals than small trailers.
Best wishes in your journey and welcome to the forum’
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