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Old 08-01-2012, 01:53 AM   #1
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Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

I hate for this to be one of my first posts, but I'm going to cross-post a somewhat long lead-up to a short question from a thread I started over on RV.net. I'm REALLY interested in the 19' for my family.
Here it is:

I had started another thread in the Hybrid sub-forum that strayed from my original question and ended up talking about my minivan's LACK of capabilities to tow pretty much anything other than a pop-up.

I thought I'd start a new thread to discuss (hopefully in an intelligent manner) the specifics of towing a TT (or HTT) with my minivan.

So, to start, let's look at the vehicle:

2008 Dodge Grand Caravan ~ 105,000 km
3.8L engine (I've found multiple power figures for this engine, from 195 up to 215 HP, the torque figure seems to be pretty consistent at 230 ft-lbs though.)
Currently has a brake controller and class III hitch installed on it, and these components were installed just last summer (2011).
When installing the above, I found out the van already had a factory tranny cooler. It did not come with the factory tow package; no wiring, no hitch, yet did have the cooler on the transmission. Strange, but I'll take it.
Prior to actually buying a trailer, I will have some "helper springs" installed such as the Timbren style that replace the factory bumpstops on the rear axle and help to control heavy loads.
I will also use a weight distributing hitch with the trailer.

Capacities from:
http://www.media.chrysler.com/dcxms/...ifications.pdf
GCWR 8700 LBS
Curb Weight 4483 lbs - distribution F56% (2510) R44% (1972)
Tow Rating 3600lbs
Note about the tow rating I found elsewhere - that 3600 lb figure is based on 2 adults and their luggage. Each person is estimated to weigh 150 lbs. For 3-5 passengers, the rating goes down to 3200 lbs. So it seems that Dodge expects each person to being about 50 lbs of luggage.
For my family, it will be myself (about 225) my wife (not divulging that number based on my own personal safety!) and my two young boys, 4yo (36 lbs) and 6 months. (19 lbs)
I'm putting up our personal weights to illustrate that despite the fact that there will be 4 passengers, we certainly don't fall into what Dodge has classified as a "normal" 4 people. Basically I'm saying I've got a couple hundred extra pounds available, above that 3200 mark.
One other spec I found was that you're not supposed to tow anything with a frontal area greater than 32 square feet. The only thing I can think of this affecting is the ability to go faster on the highway, or straining the engine/transmission.

I have not been able to find axle ratings for the van yet - maybe some others have greater powers than I with the Google and can find those numbers for me


Anyways, after posting all of that above, I pose the question:

Why can't (or shouldn't) I tow a TT with a dry weight rating of 2500 lbs?
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Old 08-01-2012, 04:34 AM   #2
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

Hi: The Adam Blaster... Why not Alf
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Old 08-01-2012, 09:33 AM   #3
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

There is quite a difference between dry & actual weight. For example, my 17B has a dry weight of 2100 lbs. Actual weight packed for a long trip (1 adult) is 3100 lbs.

Before I planned to make an actual trip I'd weigh the loaded trailer, including checking that the hitch weight was within the limits of your vehicle. One last note - I've owned 3 Chrysler Minivans - all have had failed transmissions during their life with a minimum of towing (a 17' boat & 3-4 times per year utility trailer).

On edit -
Since you don't already have the trailer you might want to check Frederick's "Real World Trailer Weights" at the Fiberglass Forum. Frederick has been weighing trailers at many fiberglass trailer meets & posts the results. Most of the Escape 19's come in well over your limit.
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Old 08-01-2012, 09:43 AM   #4
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

There is also a difference bewteen the listed dry weight and what the trailer will weight when it is empty, the ushually the dry weight does not include batteries, ac, propane and other added items when built, i know the 19 ft is supposed to weigh around 2500 lbs but the realistic weight after all the added items will be closer to 3000 lbs and thats before you put personel items like food, clothes and cooking supplies. probably would be a good idea to call and talk to Tammy or Reace they will be able to give you solid answers. and like mentioned in above posts, dodge caravan transmissions have a reputation of not being very strong.
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Old 08-01-2012, 10:47 AM   #5
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

Can you get an after market transmission cooler installed? Also remember you have to add the tongue weight of your trailer to your cargo calculations..
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Old 08-01-2012, 11:06 AM   #6
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

Personally, with a 19 I would not go with any less than a 4,500 to 5,000 lb rating, especially if you carry lots of weight. If you plan any mountainous routes, with your van you would not take the hills very good, and even on flat ground where good acceleration may be needed, it won't be there.

Also take into account the weight carried inside the vehicle, including occupants and the tongue weight of the trailer.

If your weights are all within the manufacturers guidelines, you can still safety tow on moderate terrain. Your performance will be definitely affected.
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Old 08-01-2012, 11:13 AM   #7
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

I am sure you found this info yourself, but there are quite a few stipulations to the 3,800 pound towing capacity. If all these specs are not met, Dodge would likely exempt themselves of any liability.

The standard towing capacity is 1,800 pounds, but Grand Caravans with the 3.8-liter or 4.0-liter V-6 can pull up to 3,600 pounds when they're equipped with the Trailer Tow Group option package, which adds an upgraded radiator, engine oil cooler, heavy-duty transmission oil cooler, trailer wiring and rear automatic leveling.
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Old 08-01-2012, 12:49 PM   #8
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

The Escape 19' is a 4000 lb trailer, the Escape 17' is a 3500 lb trailer. I think you are limited to the 17' which will sleep 4 with the front gaucho. Do not forget that your 3200 tow rating is less than 3500 for the 17' but with proper packing you should be under. Another issue is your carrying capacity of the van. You do not give us that info. That is what the van can carry with passengers, fuel and luggage and maybe 400# of tongue weight. You never want to tow in excess of your capacity for various safety as well as legal ramifications.
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Old 08-01-2012, 01:15 PM   #9
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

I look at the issue from $ view. If I am going to $20K for a quality camping trailer then to protect that investment I am going to purchase the best vehicle I can to move that trailer. This has slowed my purchase of an Escape trailer much further that I am happy with, but when I do get there I will be able to camp and travel safely. All things considered the family's safety should not be compromised. It does not need to be a new vehicle just sized right for the job.
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Old 08-01-2012, 01:41 PM   #10
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

Alf do you know that owner? or if they are a member here? Thought they would be good info for the Adam.
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Old 08-01-2012, 02:31 PM   #11
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

From here:
http://www.allpar.com/model/m/cargo-van.html

I found payload was listed at 1500 lbs for the models equipped with the smaller 3.3L engine.
Obviously I can safely say that my van would have at least that capacity, but likely more.
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Old 08-01-2012, 02:44 PM   #12
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

Tongue weight was a bit difficult to fine, but from here:
http://www.justanswer.com/dodge/2bd4...d-caravan.html
(It's a VERY comprehensive list of specs for the van.)

My van's tongue weight will fall on the upper scale of between 335-380 lbs.
Again based on that 4 passengers* notation.

I still can't find axle ratings though...
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Old 08-01-2012, 02:49 PM   #13
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vermilye
There is quite a difference between dry &

On edit -
Since you don't already have the trailer you might want to check Frederick's "Real World Trailer Weights" at the Fiberglass Forum.
Thanks for that link!
Some of the 19's did come under the 3500# mark, but most seemed to be just below 4000#.
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Old 08-01-2012, 02:50 PM   #14
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffZ
Can you get an after market transmission cooler installed?
The van already has a tranny cooler. I guess I could get a larger unit, but I think the benefit of doing that would probably be minimal...
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Old 08-01-2012, 02:58 PM   #15
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Bennett
Personally, with a 19 I would not go with any less than a 4,500 to 5,000 lb rating, especially if you carry lots of weight. If you plan any mountainous routes, with your van you would not take the hills very good, and even on flat ground where good acceleration may be needed, it won't be there.

Also take into account the weight carried inside the vehicle, including occupants and the tongue weight of the trailer.

If your weights are all within the manufacturers guidelines, you can still safety tow on moderate terrain. Your performance will be definitely affected.
I have taken the weights of the occupants and our gear inside the van into account - but just estimates based on past cross-country trips. Granted with the trailer, the amount and weight of stuff inside the van would definitely decrease. I would likely weigh the whole setup with lots of stuff loaded in the van and then re-weigh with the same stuff transferred to the trailer. This would help to make sure I have the gear in the most appropriate position.

And our trips between Windsor, ON and here in AB cover pretty flat ground. I'm not saying my family wouldn't get into the mountains, but it wouldn't be our regular route and wouldn't occur very often.

As for our accelerating abilities, I would definitely have an eye out for where and when I'd be able to merge in with other traffic. I actually feel I'm pretty competent in looking ahead in traffic and planning my moves early on.
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Old 08-01-2012, 03:04 PM   #16
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

Quote:
Originally Posted by strawbarry
I look at the issue from $ view. If I am going to $20K for a quality camping trailer then to protect that investment I am going to purchase the best vehicle I can to move that trailer. This has slowed my purchase of an Escape trailer much further that I am happy with, but when I do get there I will be able to camp and travel safely. All things considered the family's safety should not be compromised. It does not need to be a new vehicle just sized right for the job.
I definitely agree that my family's safety is priority #1, that's pretty much why I started this thread. The question really is, if towing at or near 100% capacity of the van, am I actually creating a hazard? If so, then I'll have to eliminate the 19' from my possible trailer choices.
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Old 08-01-2012, 03:08 PM   #17
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

Quote:
Originally Posted by gocamp
Alf do you know that owner? or if they are a member here? Thought they would be good info for the Adam.
Definitely!
And that was another reason to start this thread - hopefully I could speak directly with people with the same vehicle/trailer setup that I am looking at.
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Old 08-01-2012, 04:04 PM   #18
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

Hi, Adam Blaster,
As soon as I see a towing capacity of 3600 or the more common 3500 lbs., I know it is not sufficient for a 19'. As you say, you are required to subtract whatever you load up your vehicle with besides 2 people and some luggage. That will put your actual towing capacity a few hundred pounds lower, closer to 3000.

As the two Jims said, you are limited to a 17' with that vehicle as you should have a towing capacity of 4500 to 5000. It is not a matter of towing on the edge or right at the capacity as it seems certain that you would be just plain overweight from the get-go. Of course, there are people who do that because they never took the loaded weight into account.

A 19' can be towed with just about anything but if you want to have the numbers for safety, they do not add up right in this case. Also, as Jim mentioned, should you have an accident, there is legal liability. I can assure you that the first thing that will be looked at is those numbers and possibly even by your own insurance company to avoid payments. I don't know if anyone has had that problem but I don't want to find out.

In any case, using your own numbers, you can see that you do not have the capacity there. If you just want people to tell you to go ahead, there are plenty of them! Hope you can get something else for a TV that will meet the capacity requirements.
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Old 08-01-2012, 08:06 PM   #19
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

The issue of the "real world" numbers is definitely something that I'm ignorant of.
I'm thinking in my head of the additional equipment that isn't included in that ~ 2500lb figure - awning, spare tire, propane, etc.
I imagine that optional equipment and fluids/gases would probably add a couple hundred pounds, and that would be prior to me putting any of my family's possessions in it. Am I right in thinking that?
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Old 08-01-2012, 09:06 PM   #20
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Re: Towing a 19' with my Dodge minivan?

You could take that 2500 lbs and jump it up to 3700 lbs. immediately. There are very few 19's in existence so only a few people have actually given their loaded weight. It could be 3500 but then it could be 4000. 3700 is probably an average of what we have seen. That would be with some fluids such as some propane but not a full water tank which you should not travel with (even if boondocking you could probably find some water relatively close to your destination, and the same may be the case with propane for most people). I don't know if true or not but I understand that the front box was mostly made with the low (dangerous) tongue weight that some people were coming to rallies with, partly because they would travel with full water tanks. The filled-up box or just the batteries in it takes care of that tongue weight (not that it doesn't need to be checked so that it is not the opposite.)

I would expect that you would have a few hundred pounds in the vehicle which will lower the towing capacity. Invariably people find other things to buy once they have the trailer and, oh yes, some of them weigh plenty. Electric tongue jack, generator, a little boat, the new big dog or whatever they now have to have, and they had made no allowance for another thing. Whatever pounds you count now, for sure you will actually be heavier than that.

At least you are looking at it and checking the numbers and aware that the loaded weight is what counts. Good for you!

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