Seeking advice on towing and buying - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-24-2013, 03:35 AM   #1
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Name: Brenda
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Seeking advice on towing and buying

Still in the market for a camper/trailer. I am weighing all the pros and cons of my decision but my first decision is about the towing. I have a 2000 s70 volvo 4 door sedan which is listed at 3,300 towing capacity. I have not used the car for towing yet so no idea how it tows.

Anyway, before i plunge and buy something, want to get any feedback/advice on towing. What trailer weight should i be looking for to purchase? What else should be a consideration in towing other than just trailer weight?

thanks
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Old 04-24-2013, 03:43 AM   #2
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Well, did not see the maintenance forum was for towing questions. Oh well.

I am looking to buy my first camper. Go tent camping maybe 4 times a year. Want to buy a trailer so to make camping more comfortable and clean. Also hoping that the camper will make it quicker and easier to pack and ultimately to camp. There are three of us in my family and we are comfort campers. Right now I have a 4 door sedan and have to use a car top bag and have an a basket that uses my hitch and still i have to really spend some time getting everything fitting in my car.
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Old 04-24-2013, 05:16 AM   #3
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Welcome to the forum, Brenda. I'm sure you will get several responses. Towing with a 13 year old car with limited capacity may be hard to do. Does the 3300# include your passengers? What type of hitch is installed. You need need to install a electric brake controller as trailers over certain weights will have brakes. You want a bath? To sleep 3 persons you can get a 13' trailer that is the smallest and lightest. However fiberglass trailers last a long time, it is possible your tow vehicle will be replaced during your ownership. Think about that possibility and your choices can expand.
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Old 04-24-2013, 06:09 AM   #4
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Brenda: We camped in tents also for a few years. Define "comfort"? Our tow vehicle is a Ford Van 1993 with a tow capacity of 5500 and we comfortably towed about 4,200 lbs with that and can't imagine towing at the 5500. When it comes to tow vehicles, it has been our experience that age is not as important as quality of the vehicle and a Volvo, especially if well-cared for is quality, right? Would love to have the wagon! Where did you get your tow limit from, a chart or the owner's manual? Do you have the owner's manual? You'll be a lot happier towing as far under the weight limit as you can especially being new to towing. Be aware that most manufacturers list a "dry" weight and that doesn't include options. I don't have the link handy but somewhere on the forum is a "Trailer Weights In The Real World" that is very useful. My other thought is that with a smaller trailer, a lot of times you still end up loading the vehicle also because we once had a tent trailer with limited storage and had to fill the back of the station wagon with "stuff", lots of it. ***This is the link to the trailer weight posts: http://www.fiberglassrv.com/forums/f...rld-43010.html
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Old 04-24-2013, 06:31 AM   #5
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Euro cars can make great tow vehicles. However, you'll need to keep the tongue weight down. Folks who tow with trucks are used to keeping 10-20% of the trailer weight on the tongue. You'll want to keep more like 5-10% on the tongue. Also, don't count on towing at 80 MPH. With less weight on the tongue, your car will handle better, but the trailer may sway at high speeds. Most trailers aren't made to go that fast, anyway.

I used to tow with a Mercedes sedan years ago. I towed other cars on a dolly, and it worked like a champ. In fact, that car has over 600,000 miles on it now!

I can't stress the tongue weight enough. With American and Canadian trailers, you might have to relocate heavy items in order to bring the tongue weight down to a reasonable level.
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Old 04-24-2013, 06:36 AM   #6
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Tongue weight, yes? It should give that in the owner's manual. I have a car and I had checked the tow limits on a chart and it said "2,000" lbs with a 200 lb limit on the tongue weight but the owner's manual said "1,000" lbs with the 10% (100 lb) tongue weight limit.
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Old 04-24-2013, 06:36 AM   #7
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to FiberglassRV Brenda, we're glad you're here!

You'll find lots of assistance from the kind and helpful people here at FiberglassRV.

Just wanted to pop in and say HI
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Old 04-24-2013, 07:25 AM   #8
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I agree keeping the tongue weight towards the low side is important with most small tow vehicles. At the last weigh in our Scamp 16 weighed 2400 lbs and our tongue weight is about 200 lbs.

I regularly weigh the tongue and plan to weigh the trailer before our next Newfoundland trip.
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Old 04-24-2013, 07:58 AM   #9
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That tow rating is for a new Volvo and may not be valid 13 years and 150,000 miles (?) later. Towing a trailer with a 13 year-old car may quickly bring about some unfortunate surprises, ones like a transmission failure. I would get more input on this from a Volvo forum that relates to your vehicle.

Towing puts a lot of unexpected strain on drivelines. I managed to destroy a transmission on a Mecedes diesel by towing a fairly light pop-up camping trailer about 3000 miles, and it it was only 8 years old with 85,000 miles on it's clock.



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Old 04-24-2013, 08:15 AM   #10
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Bob, Did you have a transmission cooler? I think a transmission cooler is critical under high load conditions.

Brenda,

You didn't mention if you had an automatic or manual transmission. We have a manual transmission so we did not require the addition of a transmission cooler.

Our tow vehicle is 9 years old with 185,000 miles and works just fine. Only you know the condition of your tow vehicle and maybe more important how you drive.

The best advice, once you consider the suitability of your tow vehicle, is take it easy when towing and pay attention.

You should buy only trailers with trailer brakes.
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Old 04-24-2013, 08:36 AM   #11
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Yep, not only did it have a huge Hayden cooler, it had an extra fan in front of that and it even had a Mercedes factory hitch that had to be shipped from Germany. I was teaching a Diesel Fundamentals class at the time and made sure it was properly set up. However, I have since learned from many sources that the Mercedes automatics in sedans is not a good choice for towing. (apparently still isn't, as if someone would tow with a new 250C) The engines may last forever, but not the transmissions.

Unless they bought the car new, an owner of a 13 y.o. vehicle can usually only guess about what care was taken in it's earlier years.

For example, when I worked for a well known film company, we turned our lease cars in at 60,000 miles and did almost no preventive maintenance, not a good start for any car.

Volvo has had a reputation (at least back in the B-20 daze) of lasting forever, and it wasn't uncommon for owners that bought a new car every 2-4 years to skimp on routine maint., as they knew the car would be long gone from their lives before any problems appeared.

I would be very, very careful about starting out towing with any 13 y.o. sedan.



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Old 04-24-2013, 09:38 AM   #12
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Bob
It's amazing that a Mercedes Diesel can't successfully tow a popup.
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Old 04-24-2013, 09:50 AM   #13
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As mentioned, it's not the diesel part, it's the automatic transmission. I had looked into getting a 5 cylinder MB 300TD wagon as a TV and found the same reports, if you can't get one with a manual transmission... fergetit!!!!

I see ads for the 5 cylinder 3.0 diesel MB's with over 600,000 miles on the original engine. There is a shop in the San Diego area that swaps MB 3.0 diesels into 1986-1993 Toyota flat bed trucks, for landscape/gardeners,and they often start with donor engines with 250k-300k miles on them.



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Old 04-24-2013, 10:27 AM   #14
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We drive our vehicles until they turnover put their tires in the air and take their last breath! Debt-free for years because of that and loving it! Condemning a vehicle because it is older? In that over 20 year old van, we have traveled thousands of miles, AZ to NC, NC to KS, KS to AL, AL to KS and we bought it when it was 4 years old (over 60,000). It is funny when we travel to see how many older vehicles (some held together with tape and wire) are crossing the country and the ones on the side of the road tend to be the newer vehicles.

I think that Brenda probably has some idea what shape their vehicle is in. Also, if I remember right, we don't know what sort of distances she is planning to be traveling. With our first trailer, we stayed pretty close to home. She might well be planning to do the same.

I would say the biggest question is what amenities she is looking for and establishing the weight limit on towing more firmly.
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Old 04-24-2013, 12:33 PM   #15
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Welcome Brenda! As you can see you will get lots of opinions here regarding what your vehicle can or cant tow and some may not even agree with what the manufacture claims it can either - some may suggest more some may suggest less.

Suggest you start by reading your manual carefully and see what it indicates for not only tow cap but the tongue weight limit as well. Think you will find that "most" of us agree (but not all) on one thing and thats a trailer with a 10% tongue weight or more is a good thing safety wise vs one that is less. Also take a look if the vehicle's manufacture requires brakes on any trailer the car tows over x so many pounds - thats pretty common. It will be up to you to determine what condition your older vehicle is actually in and if its up to towing at the limits set out for it when it was a much younger vehicle.

The second place to start to look once you know what your weight limits are is the thread Trailer Weights in the Real World. This list may quickly help you narrow your search down as it clearly lays out what you can expect each brand and size of trailer to actually weigh. You will see lots of claims by owners and manufactures that the trailer only weight x so many pounds. The list on the thread is what you should in reality expect what ever size and brand to weigh once you load it with your stuff - but dont count on it weighing much if any less than what is shown. Its hard to say how much stuff people had in their trailers at the time of weighing but they were all mostly weighed at arrival at a 3 day fiberglass trailer meet.

Have fun looking at all your options.
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Old 04-24-2013, 06:07 PM   #16
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Again (and lastly) : While the specs in a 13 year old owners manual are a good starting point for a new veicle, don't underestimate the need to investigate and understand the current condition and capability of your tow vehicle "At it's current age, condition and mileage"..

Jim Thorpe had geat specs in his prime, in 1912, but no one expected that performance 40 years later
Jim Thorpe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

And despite what some have observed, I have seen many, many an older vehicle make the trip from "broken down beside the road" dirctly to the junque yard because repairs were either more than the car was worth, or more than the owner could afford on the road. The garages at Barstow, Blyth, Needles and Baker CA are full of them.
(And near Rodgers Pass as well for you up north)

Makes it hard to get your trailer home, much less the rest of the family.

And, somehow, I don't think that the o.p. is writing is an experience mechanic.

No Pollyanna here.....



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Old 04-24-2013, 07:08 PM   #17
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Age is less important than actual condition of tow vehicle, especially sytems or parts that work harder when towing. Transmission, brakes, cooling, tires, wheel bearings, and the suspension are all impacted by towing. A good honest mechanic that is experienced with your make of car is the best resource after the owners manual. From experience they know what fails in your make and model, and under what usage.

Distance and terrain matter too. I see your from Fla. lots of places you could go on short 100 - 150 mile trips without hitting anything like the terrain you get in the mountains out west. Heat would be more of an issue in your area, as you go north you can hit some long rolling hills and mountains that will put more strain on the auto systems mentioned above. A 1000 - 1500 mile trip is an entirely different animal especially if it consists of driving all day for 2 or 3 days each way.

Camper is more convenient than packing and unpacking tent gear by far. If you can leave the camper packed with the camping "stuff", replace the bug spray and paper towels in the spring and only need to load food and clothes.... what's not to love about that?

Slowing down makes a big difference in how hard your car works to tow a trailer. Trailer brakes with a good brake controller can take on a lot of the braking load and increase safety alot.

The hitch or tongue weight under 10 or 12 percent means the trailer is tail heavy and really prone to swaying, easy to get the "wiggles" and have the trailer shove the car around to the point where control is lost.

As to comfort camping, less stuff is more comfortable. Room is at a premium in a small camper. If you can't put it away it will be in the way. Especially if rain forces four of you inside for the day. And 100 lbs of gear left behind is that much less work for the car or loading and unloading.

You might want to check the Rallies, Get-togethers, Molded Meets (Upcoming) - Fiberglass RV Find something in your area so you can look at models the trailer weights in the real world indicates you can tow. My Scamp 13 ft sleeps 4 but our two teenage grandsons are NOT going to fit in those bunk beds.
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Old 04-25-2013, 09:30 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by honda03842 View Post
Bob
It's amazing that a Mercedes Diesel can't successfully tow a popup.
I doubt it had to do with the towing. Probably a bad trans getting ready to go anyway. I towed with a diesel Benz that I bought with 200,000 miles on it. I added a custom tow hitch and towed a popup, cargo trailer, and other Mercedes cars with it. I sold that car at 410,000 miles with the original engine and trans going strong. That car now has over 600,000 miles on it and the engine has just developed a knock. The trans is still good, though.
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Old 04-25-2013, 09:37 AM   #19
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Jesse, I was hoping that Mercedes diesel transmission problem was an aberation.
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Old 04-25-2013, 11:14 AM   #20
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As I mentioned, I was teaching a "Diesel Fundamentals" class at a community college at the time and heard from several others in my classes that had similar experiences with 80's MB Transmissions from towing.

All one has to do is visit the MB sites that are similar to this one for multiple sources of advice from literally 1000's of MB diesel owners. The general consensus, and there are some exceptions, is that adding a trailer isn't a good idea with the automatic diesel.

Certainly my negative experience doesn't make a rule nor does a positive one do likewise.

But , then again, if my 240D's transmission was already about to fail with only 80,000 miles on it, that wouldn't speak well for them either.

Bottom line, I ruled out a 300TD as a TV, unless a standard transmission was installed.



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