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Old 09-19-2013, 03:20 PM   #1
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2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser for towing an Escape 19

Request for advice concerning setting up a 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser for towing an Escape 19
As relative novices to towing (we’ve towed only a pop-up and a small boat and that was 30 years ago), we’re fairly ignorant of the finer details of what’s required for towing a travel trailer. But after lurking a bit on this forum and on the FJ forum, we hope we’ve absorbed enough to now ask some useful questions. All advice will be most welcome and especially, of course, from those on this forum who have towed an Escape 19 with an FJ (cpaharley, ice-breaker, and GaryH).
By way of background, the FJ has a towing capacity of 5000 lbs and after calculating on the basis of both the GCWR and the GVWR, I’m not concerned with the capacity of the FJ to safely tow the 19, assuming prudence in loading both the trailer and the TV. My questions have to do with setting up the FJ. By way of background, we’ve got the OEM, Class 2 hitch installed with a 4-pin connector. We intend to travel throughout the lower 48 States and the southern portions of Canada. I doubt that we’ll do much traveling in the dead of winter and even then it would be heading south, not likely into snow country. Our questions are:
1. We know we’ll need a 7-pin connector. Are some brands better than others or is this a generic item?
2. Will we need a drop ball mount with the FJ/19 combination? If so, what’s the optimal distance? Are some brands better than others or is this a generic item?
3. Do you have any recommendations for a specific break controller? We see that the Prodigy is well thought of in some quarters. Is that the Tekonsha Prodigy P2 and P3 models? If so, which model would be the better choice for the FJ/19 combination? We see that the Escape folks have a brake controller as an option. Do you know what brand they offer?
4. According to my local Toyota dealer, the FJ has a built-in transmission oil cooler. Is an additional transmission oil cooler advisable? And if so, should a bypass be considered for winter and/or non-towing situations? Are some brands better than others or is this a generic item?
5. Would an engine oil cooler be advisable? If so, is a particular brand recommended or is this a generic item?
6. Would it be useful to replace the stock alternator with a heavy duty alternator? If so, is a particular brand recommended or is this a generic item?
7. Would it be useful to replace the stock battery with a bigger one? If so, is a particular brand and/or capacity recommended?
8. Are mirror extensions/replacements advisable and, if so, which brand/model is recommended?
9. One of the results of lurking has been that we’re leaning towards the Andersen WDH. Would anyone recommend an alternative and advise why the alternative would be a better choice for the FJ/19 combination (with novices at the helm)?
10. How useful would a back-up camera be? Is it mainly a marriage-preservation device? If a camera is advisable/useful, is a particular brand recommended?
11. Are additional back-up lights advisable/useful? If so, what placement would be optimal? And is a particular brand recommended?
12. Any other considerations for setting up the FJ or its interface with the Escape 19?
Again, thanks in advance for taking time to advise us. We hope to be able to return the favor in some way down the road.
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Old 09-19-2013, 04:03 PM   #2
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The only thing I added was a pair of fog lights for extra visibility at night, other than that, you will need an Andersen w/d hitch to keep the FJ level and the noted brake controller. I recommend the factory hitch as it looks built in and Toyota installs for a nominal fee. I believe the Escape 19 is 20" hitch height which the andersen hitch can easily be be adjusted for. Then hook up and enjoy. I'm not too faraway and would help if you wish to stop by. P/M me if you want my phone#
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Old 09-19-2013, 04:09 PM   #3
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Congratulations on your new purchase. Sounds like your FJ Cruiser is pretty well set up for towing your new 19. I always like people who know GCWR, that is so important. The next most important thing is the transmission on your vehicle, that tranny cooler is great.

My next advice is do not purchase anything extra or special until you start using and towing. Sometimes we get caught up in something like mirrors, spend $110 and find they really are annoying and the regular mirrors work just fine.

My wife is the backup camera, she went to school to be an aircraft Marshaller. You wife can become one as well. Nothing beats having a person back of the trailer. Here is the for her to take the class, the second portion is , the course takes about 13 minutes. The problem with this course is my wife now wants a set of the lighted sticks they use on the ramp.


I will let some of the FJ owners chime in with their experiences.
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Old 09-19-2013, 04:20 PM   #4
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I bought the conventional WDH sold by Escape. They set it up when I went to the factory to pick up the 19'. Since then have towed about 6000 km with zero towing or sway issues.



My FJ is also pretty much stock (i.e. no mods to transmission cooler or alternator).

Most 7-pin connectors are pretty much the same. Make sure you get the connector wired to provide 12V power from your FJ battery to the connector. This will charge the trailer batteries while you tow (and will also provide power for your wireless controller if you go that route - see next bullet).

I have the Prodigy RF wireless brake controller which works well, and was discussed in Post #25 of this thread: E-Day is Nearly Here

I have also discussed in detail the mileage that I have experienced towing with the FJ and that is in Post #30 of this thread: The Gas-Mileage Thread

I did find that the stock FJ mirrors are not wide enough to provide a good "look behind" while towing the 19'. We purchased the Grand Aero Mirrors from Costco, and they seem to work quite well.
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Old 09-19-2013, 05:44 PM   #5
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Thanks Jim, FB, and Dave. Appreciate your thoughts. Dave, will check out the threads you reference.

Glenn
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:35 PM   #6
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I have a few comments, and I'm going to split them up into separate posts so if someone quotes me they won't get a big pile of text...

Quote:
Originally Posted by abby View Post
... those on this forum who have towed an Escape 19 with an FJ (cpaharley, ice-breaker, and GaryH).
This doesn't help answer any of the questions, but I think it's interesting that with the relative rarity of the FJ Cruiser (compared to other SUVs) and the rarity of the Escape 19 (compared to other travel trailers and even Escapes), there are three of this specific combination belonging to Escape Forum members!
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:36 PM   #7
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Hitch class

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... we’ve got the OEM, Class 2 hitch .
It is surprising that any Toyota OEM hitch on a vehicle with Class 3 towing capacity would only be a Class 2 hitch. Is this definite, or did you perhaps mean 2" hitch?
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:37 PM   #8
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7-pin connector

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We know we’ll need a 7-pin connector. Are some brands better than others or is this a generic item?.
They are relatively generic, but some have a four-pin or five-pin connector beside the 7-pin so common 4-pin trailers (such as a rental cargo trailer) can be used without an adapter - that seems like a good idea to me. If Toyota provides a hidden connector for a 7-pin connection, the kit that connects to that is obviously the desired choice.
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:38 PM   #9
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Ball mount

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Will we need a drop ball mount with the FJ/19 combination? If so, what’s the optimal distance? Are some brands better than others or is this a generic item?.
The ball mount is part of the head of a weight-distributing (WD) hitch, so if you use a WD system there will be no separate selection of ball mount. The drop of all WD system heads is adjustable; the trick is that sometimes different shanks are offered, which allow for different ranges of adjustment. I would get the shortest one which covers the range needed by the FJ/Escape with a bit to spare.

Using the 20" height provided by Jim, subtract 3" from that for the height of the ball, and that means you want the ball mount platform 17" off the ground. Measure the height to the top of the receiver box opening on the FJ, subtract an inch or so to allow for the back of the FJ settling under the trailer's weight, and the difference is the amount of drop needed.
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:40 PM   #10
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Brake controllers

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We see that the Prodigy is well thought of in some quarters. Is that the Tekonsha Prodigy P2 and P3 models? If so, which model would be the better choice for the FJ/19 combination?.
Yes, "Prodigy" means any of the three generations of this Cequent/Tekonsha product (original, P2, P3). I would only buy the current version if I didn't already have one, but there is little functional difference in them... mostly the newer ones just have nicer displays and controls. I don't feel any need to replace my original Prodigy with a P2 or P3.

I don't think the specific tug makes much difference to the choice of controller, among the normal modern proportional controllers.
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:41 PM   #11
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Transmission cooler

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According to my local Toyota dealer, the FJ has a built-in transmission oil cooler. Is an additional transmission oil cooler advisable? And if so, should a bypass be considered for winter and/or non-towing situations?
Essentially every modern automatic transmission vehicle has a transmission fluid (oil) cooler as standard equipment, usually integrated into the radiator. Additional cooling capacity is provided by the larger coolers included in Toyota's "towing preparation package". I don't know if such a package is offered for the FJ (it is offered for only select models), but if it is, it will probably required by Toyota to reach the maximum rating towing capacity.

I would not add an extra external transmission cooler unless I had a confirmed high fluid temperature issue, because I don't want to mess with the transmission plumbing. Toyota's rating is based on tests under full trailer load which must not cause excessive fluid temperatures (especially if the FJ - like other Toyota models) is rated as per SAE's J2807 test standard (a stringent test that Ford, GM, and Chrysler are afraid to use).

If I did add a cooler, I would definitely put in a thermostatic bypass, unless I could confirm that the way it is plumbed in allows the transmission's own internal valving to control cooler flow appropriately. This is even for summer conditions - transmission fluid should come up to a good operating temperature as quickly as possible, and cold is not good (although really hot is even worse!)

All of this assumes an automatic transmission. If you have a manual transmission, I don't see any need for a cooler in this application (generally only racing vehicles use them for manuals).
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Old 09-19-2013, 06:43 PM   #12
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Back-up lights

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Are additional back-up lights advisable/useful? If so, what placement would be optimal?.
This is not specific to the FJ, and I have not yet done this myself (because we are not currently using our existing trailer), but I think the most useful trailer backing lights would be mounted on the side of the trailer, near the front, facing rearward... because that lights what you need to see, and not the area behind the trailer that you can't see in the mirrors anyway. This arrangement is called "docking lights" on motorhomes (some of which come with these from the factory).

I would just connect them to a manual switch on the trailer (powered from the trailer battery), because I'm not backing into anywhere (especially at night) without getting out and looking first... but of course they could be wired to the centre pin of the 7-pin connector if the tug is wired to match.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:41 PM   #13
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Quote:
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It is surprising that any Toyota OEM hitch on a vehicle with Class 3 towing capacity would only be a Class 2 hitch. Is this definite, or did you perhaps mean 2" hitch?
Brian,

I meant what I said . . . but I didn't know what I was talking about.

I went out and put a flashlight on the hitch and it is, indeed, a Class 3 hitch, rated for 5000/50. And it's a 2" square opening. Good catch. Thanks.

Glenn
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:43 PM   #14
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Maybe my idea is weird... but I think backup lights are not to help ME backup... but to tell other people... LOOK OUT, I'm backing out of a parking space, etc. I've yet to see backup lights on any towable that lights up the area to give much help. I agree with Brian... get out and LOOK. In fact, I work for a worldwide transportation company and we call it GOAL.. Get Out And Look.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:44 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian B-P View Post
They are relatively generic, but some have a four-pin or five-pin connector beside the 7-pin so common 4-pin trailers (such as a rental cargo trailer) can be used without an adapter - that seems like a good idea to me. If Toyota provides a hidden connector for a 7-pin connection, the kit that connects to that is obviously the desired choice.

Thanks. I'll check for a hidden connector.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:52 PM   #16
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In the past I added down lights to some of my trailers that illuminated the area around each stabilizer and the electric hook up as well as the sewer pipe area. At night backing up I was able to discern if there were any irregular areas under the trailer that needed avoidance, so that later on while hooking up, I did not have to move the trailer again due to some hole or object that was in my way. It is on my list to someday do the same to the Escape.
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Old 09-19-2013, 07:57 PM   #17
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Brian,

Thanks for the additional, topic-specific advice on the 7-pin connector, the ball mount drop, the brake controller, the T-oil cooler, and the back-up lights. I really appreciate the effort to educate me.

Glenn
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Old 09-19-2013, 08:02 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Donna D. View Post
Maybe my idea is weird... but I think backup lights are not to help ME backup... but to tell other people... LOOK OUT, I'm backing out of a parking space, etc. I've yet to see backup lights on any towable that lights up the area to give much help. I agree with Brian... get out and LOOK. In fact, I work for a worldwide transportation company and we call it GOAL.. Get Out And Look.
Thanks Donna. Hadn't heard about GOAL before but, now that I've heard the acronym, I'm a GOAL kinda guy. But I also like Brian's idea of lights on the trailer side. Belts and suspenders. Never know when a tree is going to jump out of the shadows.

Glenn.
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Old 09-19-2013, 08:05 PM   #19
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Quote:
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In the past I added down lights to some of my trailers that illuminated the area around each stabilizer and the electric hook up as well as the sewer pipe area. At night backing up I was able to discern if there were any irregular areas under the trailer that needed avoidance, so that later on while hooking up, I did not have to move the trailer again due to some hole or object that was in my way. It is on my list to someday do the same to the Escape.
Interesting thought, Jim. Maybe I should get the 19 pre-wired for the down lights before the foam insulation gets sprayed on. Does that make sense to you?

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Old 09-19-2013, 08:54 PM   #20
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yes, if Escape will do that, but if you battery is in your storage box outside it would be relatively easy to add lights and attach to the battery afterwards. In my scenario the battery is inside, oh well back to the drawing board.
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