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Vigo
Vigo New Reader
12/6/09 2:41 p.m.

I've owned my tow dolley for probably 5 years now and up to november had never towed it with anything smaller than a long wheelbase 3800 lb Dakota. To my surprise, towing it almost 3k miles to Florida and back with my 3000lb dodge dynasty (which is barely out of the compact car class by today's standards) was the best towing experience ive had with it. To me, when people talk about bigger and bigger tow vehicles, they are mainly going after stability and braking. As far as braking, I can say it would have been a bad idea if my Dynasty had stock brakes. I needed everything i had, but it did not feel unsafe. The dakota does not feel much safer in the braking department, and it is probably rated 3 or 4x as high as the dynasty by manufacturer's suggested liability limits. In stability, the Dynasty was better. I think i know why, but truck owners will turn a deaf ear to it, so ill save my breath.

Ive towed from 16 to 22 ft tandem axles behind the dakota with probably the heaviest load being a diesel ford tractor with a loader bucket on the front that probably weighed 7k + lbs.

I have no experience with fifth wheel towing.

Anyway, if you are picking a tow vehicle based mostly on its ability to tow and not for other factors and the other things you will use it for, i say go for brakes first.. you need enough brakes to get the job done. Past that, go for stability. Think about the forces that are moving into your vehicle from the location of the hitch ball, and what elements of the vehicle are resisting or countering those forces. For example, my opinion based on thinking about things from this perspective is that a short wheelbase chevy Astro on 20 inch wheels will feel more stable while towing than a long bed single cab chevy 1500 truck with 15 inch wheels will, which may go against the grain of common wisdom.

mtn
mtn SuperDork
12/6/09 3:00 p.m.
Vigo wrote: In stability, the Dynasty was better. I think i know why, but truck owners will turn a deaf ear to it, so ill save my breath.

I have to agree here. Obviously never driven either of those cars, but a Crown Vic compared to a Chevy 2500 pickup compared to a 4Runner, I'll take the Vic in terms of stability. Overall (and if I towed often) I'd rather have the other two for power and the stronger transmissions, but the sedans do just fine--and they are better IMHO for backing up.

My girlfriends dad has a 4Runner as well, and he says that after years of towing boats in Explorers and 4Runners, they still aren't as good as the Roadmaster he used to have.

Matt B
Matt B Reader
12/6/09 3:02 p.m.

IT IS VIGO!

(sorry couldn't help myself - carry on)

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
12/6/09 8:28 p.m.
Vigo wrote: Past that, go for stability. Think about the forces that are moving into your vehicle from the location of the hitch ball, and what elements of the vehicle are resisting or countering those forces. For example, my opinion based on thinking about things from this perspective is that a short wheelbase chevy Astro on 20 inch wheels will feel more stable while towing than a long bed single cab chevy 1500 truck with 15 inch wheels will, which may go against the grain of common wisdom.

What all does what for stability? Seems like longer wheelbase would obviously be more stable. How about location of the hitch ball? Would a shorter overhang (hitch ball closer to rear wheels) result in greater stability while towing?

I'm not sure what you're getting at with wheel sizes and how they contribute to stability.

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
12/7/09 1:02 a.m.

Okay... another thought. Any thoughts on or experience with the Caprice Classic? I get the impression that a mid 90's Caprice Wagon might fit the bill pretty well. I don't know what their towing capability is like, or if they have any particular issues or anything.

mtn
mtn SuperDork
12/7/09 1:25 a.m.
Salanis wrote: Okay... another thought. Any thoughts on or experience with the Caprice Classic? I get the impression that a mid 90's Caprice Wagon might fit the bill pretty well. I don't know what their towing capability is like, or if they have any particular issues or anything.

We had a 93 (roadmaster). It was crashed before I could even fathom driving, but my dad said it was one of the better tow vehicles he's had.

Someone might have to correct me, but IIRC the towing package had a transmission cooler out of a truck. I believe it was rated at #5000.

Wikipedia wrote: In 1994 the Caprice received the new-generation GM engines, including an optional detuned version of the Corvette's LT1 350 cu in (5.7 L) engine that put out 260 hp (194 kW) and 330 ft·lbf (447 N·m) of torque. The standard engine in all sedans even the 9C1 police cars, was the 200 hp, L99 265 (4.3 L) V8. The LT1 was optional in the 9C1 police-package and standard in the wagon. The LT1 350 was standard in the civilian sedans, with the addition of the B4U towing package. The towing package also gave a heavy duty suspension nearly identical to the 9C1 police car suspension. 2.93 gears, heavy duty cooling, heavy duty rear drum brakes and positraction were standard with the towing package.

And if I search wiki further, the Cadillac Fleetwood from 93-96 (same car except longer, I think) has a 7000# towing capacity.

calteg
calteg New Reader
12/7/09 10:34 p.m.
dean1484 wrote: The tow vehicle has to match the task at hand. I found that having a bigger tow vehicle that made towing easy (almost fun) was what completed a weekend of racing or going to the track.

+1. I'm absolutely shocked that no one has mentioned a 12V 2500 Ram. Definitely overkill, but you could find a fairly nice one with a 6-8K budget.

Vigo
Vigo New Reader
12/7/09 11:17 p.m.
What all does what for stability? Seems like longer wheelbase would obviously be more stable. How about location of the hitch ball? Would a shorter overhang (hitch ball closer to rear wheels) result in greater stability while towing? I'm not sure what you're getting at with wheel sizes and how they contribute to stability.

You're on the right track, as i see it. Got 15 minutes to read?

I want to illustrate my reasoning with two scenarios. In both we think of the tow vehicle as a long rod. Har Har. Undoubtedly ive already lost someone, lol.

First, imagine the rod with a ball hitch at one end of it where force is imparted, a pivot point on which the rod can rotate which is the contact patch of the rear tires, and the front bumper at the other end of the rod. Consider that in a typical tow vehicle and especially in a diesel truck that most of the mass of the vehicle is located at the front end, closer to the front bumper than the pivot point of the rear tires.

A few things become obvious immediately. Force is imparted at the hitch ball, and the distances on either side of the pivot point determine how much of an effect a certain amount of force at the hitch ball will have on the rest of the vehicle. Simple leverage. A longer wheelbase vehicle will probably have proportionally more of the vehicle forward of the pivot, which would increase its resistance to force imparted at the hitch ball, but in some vehicles a long wheelbase version will also put more distance between the hitch ball and the pivot point, which is detrimental.

So yes, a longer wheelbase and a shorter rear overhang (or distance from hitch ball to rear tires) would be best.

For the next scenario, imagine that now the front bumper end of the rod is a fixed pivot point, the other end is still the hitch ball where force is imparted, and the contact patch of the rear tires, instead of fixed, is able to move laterally but is kept centered by the elastic force of some springs. Same basic implications. The longer the distance between the hitch and the springs, the more lateral movement will be produced by a given force. The more distance between the springs and the front bumper, the less lateral movement will be produced at the springs by a given movement at the hitch ball. Also, increasing the strength of the springs will reduce movement generated by a given force. The springs are undamped, so another thing to note is that there will be some oscillation when the force at the hitch ball is removed.

This simulates the lateral elasticity of the vehicle between the body and the contact patch of the tires. We can break this down into two basic areas, the suspension design, and the wheels and tires.

Regarding the wheels and tires, a shorter, stiffer sidewall such as what you'd find on a 20" rim and tire will allow MUCH less lateral deflection than the typical 15" truck tire like a 235/75r15 assuming the same overall diameter, which is what i meant with the wheel size reference. The amount to which the sidewall of a truck tire can 'roll over' is almost sickening to my autocrossing mind. Remember, lateral movement between the rim and the contact patch is not damped by anything either and could contribute to an oscillation effect.

On rear suspensions, im sure that independent rear suspensions allow the least amount of lateral deflection, but most tow vehicles have solid rear axles. Among solid rear axle suspensions, some allow much more deflection than others. A caprice or roadmaster, for example, benefits from this wonderful invention called a track bar. However, your typical leaf spring style rear suspension on a truck depends on the leaf springs themselves for lateral location of the rear axle relative to the body, and there is a LOT of deflection possible there. If you have seen the rear end of a leaf-sprung truck sliding sideways while NOT spinning the tires, you can imagine what i mean. They can be so bad that they will store up energy with huge amounts of deflection in the springs and then release it all at once when the energy overwhelms the grip of the tires, and essentially 'hop' sideways over and over. Additionally, the arch of the springs and whether the axle rides on top or bottom of the springs can contribute to the lateral deflection. Of course, the potential for undamped oscillation here is huge. Anyone ever experienced the 'death wobble' in the steering of a solid axle leaf sprung front end 4wd truck on big tires? Scary.

So, everybody knows about the death wobble of trailer towing. Even scarier than death wobble in the steering. Its easy to blame it all on the trailer or how its loaded, yadda yadda yadda, but in my uneducated opinion its better to look at the tow vehicle itself. The distance from the hitch ball to the rear contact patch is a force multiplier, and the undamped lateral elasticity of the rear suspension and tire sidewalls can store and release energy and set up a scary, destabilizing lateral oscillation.

So, some vehicles may have a surprising stability advantage over the standard issue half ton truck. A vehicle with a short rear overhang, a good track bar setup, and stiff sidewall tires will have a big stability advantage over a vehicle with a long overhang, no track bar, soft leaf springs, and massive sidewalls on the tires, like a stock longbed chevy 1500 for example. But rarely is a tow vehicle going to have it all.. Despite its long overhang, a caprice wagon on 20s with a factory track bar might be pretty dang stable. A 1 ton dually diesel truck, despite its long overhang and tall sidewalls may be pretty dang stable because its sidewalls are relatively stiff compared to lighter trucks, the leaf springs are SUPER stiff and dont allow much deflection compared to 1/2 ton springs, and it has a long wheelbase and a ton of mass at the front end. And i imagine it would be horribly unstable to tow with a 15 passenger van with a super long overhang, soft sidewalls, and no track bar.

Ive never towed with a fifth wheel setup but im guessing they almost never feel unstable, because the location of the hitch ball over the axle removes the leverage effect of having it on the back bumper.

/ too long of a dang post.

dxman92
dxman92 Reader
12/8/09 12:06 a.m.

http://sacramento.craigslist.org/cto/1499143154.html

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
12/8/09 12:16 a.m.

Stupid question but, it would appear that the Chevy Astro and GMC Safari are the same thing, yes?

dxman92 wrote: http://sacramento.craigslist.org/cto/1499143154.html

I'm really favoring a van for the option of relatively comfortable sleeping at the track.

mtn
mtn SuperDork
12/8/09 12:28 a.m.

Yep

aeronca65t
aeronca65t HalfDork
12/8/09 7:04 a.m.

I think I've probably replied to similar threads like this.....

I towed with a Ford Freestar mini-van for five years. Pulled to at least 50 events with it (six times to BeaveRun....an 8-hour pull for me). My tailer with car weighed about 3000# and the van was rated at #3500 (with trans cooler). I always ran electric brakes.

Mini-vans are excellent daily drivers and mine returned an honest 20 mpg in normal use and a bit over 16 mpg towing. I've slept in it plenty of times at races. Ford recommends keeping the trans out of lock-up when towing and I always followed that rule. The engine spins a bit higher, but I never had a problem. I traded it in this year because I wanted a bigger van (Chevy Express cargo) to carry a generator, pit bike, more tools and more spares (we're planning on some longer pulls to more faraway races). Also, I wanted to take advantage of the 2009 IRS tax deal for new vehicle purchases.

Bobzilla
Bobzilla HalfDork
12/8/09 7:38 a.m.

This is my preferred tower:

She just got new shoes (265/65/17 Kumho KL51) and Denali wheels last night. Lost 6lbs per wheel.

dxman92
dxman92 Reader
12/8/09 7:44 a.m.

I've switched from truck to Astro finding mode now: http://sacramento.craigslist.org/cto/1491947238.html

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
12/9/09 1:09 a.m.
dxman92 wrote: I've switched from truck to Astro finding mode now: http://sacramento.craigslist.org/cto/1491947238.html

Yeah. I have been doing that. Dang are those things cheap and plentiful. I am thinking 2wd. However, the '03 was supposed to have gotten upgraded brakes, suspension, and wheels that would be really nice.

edit: So, although I would prefer 2wd, should I pay a premium for it over AWD? Seems like an '03+ AWD for less money would be a better value than a '99-'02 2wd for $1-2k more.

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
12/11/09 12:07 a.m.

Okay, new question.

If I don't find a vehicle with a tow package, how difficult is it typically to install the appropriate hardware?

This would be on an Astro/Safari, so I don't think the "tow package" has any additional tranny cooling. I imagine the hitch itself is easy to do, seems like the wiring is the only part that would cause any issue.

Bobzilla
Bobzilla HalfDork
12/11/09 6:45 a.m.

DO install a transmission cooler.... even if you never tow a thing. The 700R4/4L60 will love you long time. Reese makes a good Class III hitch, trans coolers are cheap and if you wanted the extra insurance you could install an engine oil cooler.

dean1484
dean1484 GRM+ Memberand Dork
12/11/09 6:53 a.m.

Air shocks (adjustable) or possibly the addition of air bags in the springs. Since I dont know the rear suspension configuration in that you will have to do some homework on that.

dj06482
dj06482 GRM+ Memberand Reader
12/11/09 8:12 a.m.
Bobzilla wrote: DO install a transmission cooler.... even if you never tow a thing. The 700R4/4L60 will love you long time. Reese makes a good Class III hitch, trans coolers are cheap and if you wanted the extra insurance you could install an engine oil cooler.

+1 the number one enemy of auto transmissions is heat, so a good transmission cooler is a must.

The other advice is to read up on whether you should tow in OD or not. In my particular truck ('94 Chevy K1500 with the 4L60E), I need to tow in D, not OD. In addition to what would be pretty frequent downshifting/upshifting between 3rd and 4th, the transmission fluid does not flow as well when in OD. This is something that is very model and year specific, so definitely do your homework. In my case, there's a sticker on the driver's side door that says something to the effect of "Never tow in OD."

Salanis
Salanis SuperDork
12/12/09 7:28 p.m.

So which of these two would you go with?

'98 Safari, RWD, 130k miles, w/ tow package - $3k http://sacramento.craigslist.org/ctd/1507406054.html

'04 Astro, AWD, 91k miles - $5k http://sacramento.craigslist.org/ctd/1505427758.html

The Astro/Safari got upgraded in '03 with rotors in the rear, and 6-lug 16" wheels. I also understand the RWD has a completely open diff, too.

SpeedTheory
SpeedTheory GRM+ Memberand Reader
9/16/10 2:09 p.m.

Bumping this up. Looking to tow a ~2300LB Miata + gear on an open trailer. Newer P71 work?

dean1484
dean1484 GRM+ Memberand Dork
9/16/10 2:28 p.m.

Round town sure. Any serious interstate halling and you will probibly want more of a truck / suv

mtn
mtn SuperDork
9/16/10 2:39 p.m.
SpeedTheory wrote: Bumping this up. Looking to tow a ~2300LB Miata + gear on an open trailer. Newer P71 work?

Where do you live? Here in the flatlands of Illinois our crown vic was fine. I wouldn't want to mess with it if I were driving up hills though, and would go with an Astro/whatever brand pickup/SUV

miatame
miatame Reader
9/16/10 2:42 p.m.
SpeedTheory wrote: Bumping this up. Looking to tow a ~2300LB Miata + gear on an open trailer. Newer P71 work?

There is something about your avatar that I like...I can't put my finger (or my face) on it...

"Work" and comfortable are two separate things while towing. My Jeep Cherokee worked for towing our E30 to Gainesville, my buddies Trailblazer SS was a lot more comfortable.

Vigo
Vigo HalfDork
9/16/10 3:04 p.m.

Ive talked about towing with Cherokees before.. and i just did it again last night. Cherokees have the power, but they DONT have the brakes and they DONT have the stability.. cherokee rear leaf springs are some of the floppiest in existence, the rear sidewalls are typically huge, and there is no weight holding the back end down. Ive been in a cherokee (the one pictured below) that jackknifed at like 7mph because the weight of the trailer can push the back end around so easily..

But like i said, ive done it before, i did it yesterday, and ill do it again.. but if i was buying a car specificallu to tow with, id stay FAR away from a cherokee.

And ive also towed with a trailblazer and loved that.. VERY nice tow vehicle. Comes with 2" receiver built right in, too!

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