Adjusting tongue weight- towing with Forester - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 10-07-2016, 01:37 PM   #1
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Adjusting tongue weight- towing with Forester

Best way to adjust tongue weight?

I brought my new-to-me 15A home with a friendís Tundra (so that I could make sure I could tow it with my 2012 5-speed manual Subaru Forester before wiring the Forester for trailer brakes. The Forester is rated for 2400 lbs with brakes, tongue weight 200 lbs. I have a class III 2Ē receiver hitch. Dry weight of the 15A is 1590; mine does not have any water tanks (no bathroom, no sink) so is probably very close to that empty. I was going to go weigh it but donít want to do highway driving until I get brakes.

Other pertinent info: curb weight on the Forester is 3250 lbs, GVWR is 4480, Payload is 900 lbs (so I think they are figuring 300 lbs for passengers).

The first thing I did after I got it home was to determine the tongue weight. This isnít 100% accurate as I was on my drive, slight downward slope towards the tongue, but with dual batteries, one full propane tank, and one nearly empty, it was 290. I removed the two propane tanks and was down to about 230. I put my two canopies (50 lbs each) under the rear dinette/bed and got to about 210. Good enough.

So then I put an adapter on the 4way so that I could hitch up with brake lights and turn signals (still no electric brakes) and took it for a spin. I had not quite enough rise on my receiver bar so I was a little bit nosed down, which should have lightened the effective tongue weight. I drove up the steep hill on my road at about 30 (from 20 as I started) with no problems. It handled fine on turns, and then I turned 90 right and headed up a longer steep hill (steeper than most highway passes) and hit 35 with no problem (again, not starting at highway speed and I didnít go past 35 due to speed limit.) I was careful on downhills not to start with much speed and stay in a low gear since I had no brakes on the trailer.

Then on an almost-level straight run, I tried to make the trailer sway by doing a quick zig zag with the wheel. It wouldnít. Still only about 35 mph at this point, but very stable. I tried this a couple of times and each time the trailer motion damped immediately.

I donít want to get up to highway speeds without electric brakes (my vehicle is only rated to 1000 lbs without them) so I didnít go out on the highway but I was doing fine, the trailer did not feel any heavier than the Campster.

So long story short, it should work fine. Since the tongue weight is supposed to be 200 lbs Iíd prefer staying at about 2000 lbs max. So I added up the stuff I normally take along (using actual weights as far as possible but guessing at clothing and food) and came up with a max of about 480 lbs of stuff including batteries, one canopy and my Dutch oven table and two full size propane tanks both full, and all my stuff in the trailer rather than the car. More typical would be 400 lbs. Driver plus dogs in the car would weigh around 300 lbs. Cargo capacity in the car less tongue weight is about 1000 lbs so some stuff could go in the car. So I feel like it is safely within vehicle capacity and realistic as far as things I carry. (Lots of practice keeping the Campster weight down though there I stuck the canopies up under the bed to keep the tongue weight high enough.) I did decide I needed towing mirrors since I canít see through the Escape like I can through the Campster, and it is a little longer so I canít see in back of it very well.

So how to get a 200 lb tongue weight? I thought about moving the batteries off the tongue to the back bumper but I think that would be overkill as most of the trailer storage space is on or behind the axle, so battery weight on the back would lighten the tongue too much.

I have a receiver hitch on the back. If I put an aluminium cargo rack (20-30 lbs) on that, I could carry my dog exercise pens (Xpens) weighing about 72 pounds total and maybe chairs (33 lbs total) back there. (Iíve been carrying them in the back of the Forester.) That should help. My other thought was to replace the two full-size propane tanks with two 5 lb tanks. Iíd still have switchover capability but I would not be carrying much propane (and I donít use much since Iím usually camping with hookups.) That would save about 50 lbs on the tongue (and overall weight).

Concerns- Iíd be correcting the balance too much with the cargo rack. I can fix that by loading things in front of the axle but I may just want to wait on the smaller tanks to see what the balance is when Iím all packed up.

Another concern-how would the cargo rack affect handling? It puts the weight further out than it was in the low tongue weight experiment I did.

I could just load most stuff behind the axle but things like the Xpens donít fit well there and would be out of the way. So putting them in the cargo area of the Forester or on a back rack makes more sense.

And if you are now thinking, Just get a bigger tow vehicle- thatís in the long term plan, but for the cost of one month of car payment I can get the Subaru wired and set up, and take my time to consider what Iíd want to move to if/when I move up to a bigger tow vehicle. I did not like driving the Tundra- it handled fine, but definitely felt like a truck. So Iím researching other vehicles and one of these days will go test drive a few, but thatís another thread.
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Old 10-07-2016, 02:01 PM   #2
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I think you have an upward battle. AT 1600# your tongue should be around 240# @ 15% to keep sway from happening. Anything you add inside will further increase these numbers. If too light on the tongue, then sway will develop. See here for an example....Wow, WDH Hitch Video
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Old 10-07-2016, 03:14 PM   #3
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forester/tongue weight

Bobbie 54, I'm impressed at all of your planning and trying to make things work and then testing and I don't impress easily due to my mistakes and efforts. I believe you'll figure something out considering what you have to work with and then learning what feels right. How about one propane bottle that for us lasts a long time and maybe a 5 that can be a spare. Also I would consider the weight ratings on your tires since you do have only one axle. I put a simple one bar WDH on a small trailer once, the hitch was meant for a tent trailer and I put it on a 17' Casita behind a 1/2 ton truck just to help out sway and bounce elimination. We have slowly moved up to the 21' now but I sure like the looks of the 15, wife would never go back that far in size.
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Old 10-07-2016, 04:58 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
I think you have an upward battle. AT 1600# your tongue should be around 240# @ 15% to keep sway from happening. Anything you add inside will further increase these numbers. If too light on the tongue, then sway will develop. See here for an example....Wow, WDH Hitch Video
I've always aimed for 10% with no problems- and as I said, I couldn't get sway when I tried. Most things on towing say 8-15%. So I think at 2000 lbs (assuming nothing much in the car) and 200 lbs tongue I should be good.
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Old 10-07-2016, 05:01 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by azjack View Post
Bobbie 54, I'm impressed at all of your planning and trying to make things work and then testing and I don't impress easily due to my mistakes and efforts. I believe you'll figure something out considering what you have to work with and then learning what feels right. How about one propane bottle that for us lasts a long time and maybe a 5 that can be a spare. Also I would consider the weight ratings on your tires since you do have only one axle. I put a simple one bar WDH on a small trailer once, the hitch was meant for a tent trailer and I put it on a 17' Casita behind a 1/2 ton truck just to help out sway and bounce elimination. We have slowly moved up to the 21' now but I sure like the looks of the 15, wife would never go back that far in size.
Enjoy,
Jack
Not sure what you mean about the tires- the trailer tires? The trailer isn't going to be over the weight they were designed for. Neither will the car. Both will be well under max weight ratings.
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Old 10-07-2016, 06:47 PM   #6
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trailer tires

They at times are cheap or old.
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Old 10-07-2016, 07:17 PM   #7
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Oh, I get it. No, they are fine, and not too old, though I'll double-check that before any trips. But they'd have had to be a few years old when they were put on a new trailer to have aged out now. I'll have Les Schwab check their condition for me (since they have on more than one occasion told me I don't need new tires I'd trust them if they say I do.)
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Old 10-10-2016, 01:12 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cpaharley2008 View Post
I think you have an upward battle. AT 1600# your tongue should be around 240# @ 15% to keep sway from happening. Anything you add inside will further increase these numbers. If too light on the tongue, then sway will develop. See here for an example....Wow, WDH Hitch Video
15% is an arbitrary number, used as a "rule of thumb" value for setups with a weight-distributing hitch (WDH). I don't see any relevance of it to this situation.

The rig in the video is used to demonstrate the importance of proper loading to stability. It is a near copy of one built by Bailey of Bristol, a caravan manufacturer in the U.K. (but the Bailey one is less crude). Like other European trailers, Bailey caravans are stable at reasonable speeds with 8% tongue weight and no WDH... if the mass is not placed out at the ends of the trailer. Their spare tires are not hung out the back, and even the propane (or butane) cylinders are tucked back against the body.

At 8% it would be 128 pounds. 8% is relevant: it is a reasonable tongue weight fraction used in Europe for stable operation under their operating conditions for a trailer with the mass well-centred in the trailer. No Escape is suitable for operation at 100 km/h or 60 mph on our roads at 8%, unless mass is moved from the extreme ends to locations closer to the middle, but that shift can be done. Fortunately, it is not necessary to go that far.

With a loaded weight of 2000 pounds, and a tongue weight of 200 pounds, that's a 10% tongue weight fraction. That's really conventional, and should be no problem... unless you make the trailer less stable in the process. To keep the trailer as stable as the stock configuration, with less tongue weight, mass needs to move closer to the middle - not way out on a lever on the back. I don't think that a rear cargo rack belongs anywhere near a trailer loaded for a low tongue weight fraction, especially an Escape 15, which is relatively long in the back (axle to bumper) compared to the length in the front (axle to coupler). People do successfully use racks with Escape 15 trailers, but I don't think anyone has a good result in combination with low tongue weight.
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Old 10-10-2016, 09:45 AM   #9
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Brian, I agree, but would point out that by design (with the exception of LP tanks and batteries) Escape trailers already have most significant weigh well distributed between both sides and clustered near the axle(s). The axle(s) are far enough behind the center to aid stability. Reace deserves a lot of credit for designing trailers with a lot of inherent stability.

In my opinion, traveling with full fresh and waste tanks should be avoided; heavier items should be stored in cabinets nearest the axles and as low as possible, and lighter items (clothes, bedding, etc) stored in front and rear cabinets.

I've said it many times, we have traveled in gusting 55+mph sidewinds, had to make emergency stops and lane change to avoid problems, and never felt the slightest hint of sway with our previous 17B. Opinions vary, but I do feel that the standard WDH we used added even more to the stable feel.
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Old 10-10-2016, 10:01 AM   #10
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A lot of the places we camp have no water or dump site, hence traveling with full to some extent tanks happens often. Mines a 5th wheel, but my pin weight can vary by a couple hundred pounds depending on how things are loaded, mostly the holding tanks. Yes, I've had it weighed.

My fresh is behind the axle, the grey and black in front of it. The pin weight gets heavier the longer you camp without any hookups.

If you are a full hookup campground camper, as many are, then this would not be an issue.
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