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Old 06-25-2019, 08:47 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Tow Rig/Daily Driver/Weekend Toy thoughts?

So, in my other thread, I lamented that I've got the wrong truck. I failed to fully consider my input conditions (size of family, need for not-tent accommodations, etc.) and hit a payload/tow rating limitation due to how Ford rates the M5OD-equipped 2nd Gen Explorer. Swapping in an auto and lower gears won't change the ratings attached to the VIN.

As a result, I am researching for another vehicle. It'll be a while, because I sunk all my "toy money" in this Explorer and can't get much of it back out, but that just gives me time to refine the plans more.

Requirements:
4 seatbelt positions for adults (One kid is 13, the other is 9, they'll be "full size" soon...).
4*/4* or better NHTSA crash rating (or equivalent).
Low-range equipped transfer case.
Tow rating of ~4,000lb or better.

And the hard part: Minimum 1600lb payload capacity (including driver, passengers, etc.)

You may ask where the payload capacity comes from:
~450lb trailer tongue
~100lb weight distributing/anti-sway hitch stuff
~750lb total of driver and 3 passengers (only a bit of room for growth on the kids with this number)
~300lb skidplates, rock rails, beefier tires a few sizes taller than stock - no winch or lift.

There's not much room there for "personal belongings inside the cab for during the drive" either. Or the 75lb dog and her crate if we want to take her. Or Grandma if she wants to come along, too.

This to tow a modest 16-17' travel trailer to a campsite and go play on off-road trails, plus commute to work the rest of the year. So I'd prefer not to have a 3/4-ton or 1-ton fullsize (though the payload number basically is pointing directly at that, so I may be adding to the ranks of our fullsize tow-rig hypermilers...)

It's pretty crazy trying to figure out how much something can actually tow, once you factor in the tongue weight against the payload rating and the weight of the passengers, etc. 10,000lb GCWR doesn't matter much if there's no payload left for the tongue! Check the specs on a 2008+ Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited, for example: Payload of 980lb, Tow Rating of 3500lb. It can't fit my family and tow that much trailer.

If anyone has tips on compact/popup travel trailers 3500lb or less GVWR that have 3 separate sleeping positions (one ~Queen for us parents, two ~Twins for the kids) a toilet with a door, a shower that doesn't require sitting on the toilet, a microwave, small range, mini-fridge, furnace and A/C I'm all ears. Likely max stay of just under a week without moving, so having to do pumpouts/refills not so bad. Hard-side is *definitely* preferred - there's a good chance that if it takes 20+ minutes to set up a tent-type folding popup in the rain it'll get vetoed by the rest of the family that have to sit in the tow rig while I set it up. Plus all it takes is one rainy week in which it can't dry out after one rainy weekend camping and having to fold it up/drive home with the canvas all wet and it'll be a mildew-fest in there.

If you can recommend one that's 1800lb or less fully loaded for camping (full water tank/LP tank, sheets, kitchen supplies, etc.) and is known to "dry out well", that'd drop the payload requirements a fair bit, too. Basically an 1800lbGVWR popup camper that meets the above needs. That might possibly be towable with the Explorer, maybe need to put the spare in the trailer though.

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Old 06-25-2019, 10:50 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cajunfj40 View Post
So, in my other thread, I lamented that I've got the wrong truck. I failed to fully consider my input conditions (size of family, need for not-tent accommodations, etc.) and hit a payload/tow rating limitation due to how Ford rates the M5OD-equipped 2nd Gen Explorer. Swapping in an auto and lower gears won't change the ratings attached to the VIN.

As a result, I am researching for another vehicle. It'll be a while, because I sunk all my "toy money" in this Explorer and can't get much of it back out, but that just gives me time to refine the plans more.

Requirements:
4 seatbelt positions for adults (One kid is 13, the other is 9, they'll be "full size" soon...).
4*/4* or better NHTSA crash rating (or equivalent).
Low-range equipped transfer case.
Tow rating of ~4,000lb or better.

And the hard part: Minimum 1600lb payload capacity (including driver, passengers, etc.)

You may ask where the payload capacity comes from:
~450lb trailer tongue
~100lb weight distributing/anti-sway hitch stuff
~750lb total of driver and 3 passengers (only a bit of room for growth on the kids with this number)
~300lb skidplates, rock rails, beefier tires a few sizes taller than stock - no winch or lift.

There's not much room there for "personal belongings inside the cab for during the drive" either. Or the 75lb dog and her crate if we want to take her. Or Grandma if she wants to come along, too.

This to tow a modest 16-17' travel trailer to a campsite and go play on off-road trails, plus commute to work the rest of the year. So I'd prefer not to have a 3/4-ton or 1-ton fullsize (though the payload number basically is pointing directly at that, so I may be adding to the ranks of our fullsize tow-rig hypermilers...)

It's pretty crazy trying to figure out how much something can actually tow, once you factor in the tongue weight against the payload rating and the weight of the passengers, etc. 10,000lb GCWR doesn't matter much if there's no payload left for the tongue! Check the specs on a 2008+ Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited, for example: Payload of 980lb, Tow Rating of 3500lb. It can't fit my family and tow that much trailer.

If anyone has tips on compact/popup travel trailers 3500lb or less GVWR that have 3 separate sleeping positions (one ~Queen for us parents, two ~Twins for the kids) a toilet with a door, a shower that doesn't require sitting on the toilet, a microwave, small range, mini-fridge, furnace and A/C I'm all ears. Likely max stay of just under a week without moving, so having to do pumpouts/refills not so bad. Hard-side is *definitely* preferred - there's a good chance that if it takes 20+ minutes to set up a tent-type folding popup in the rain it'll get vetoed by the rest of the family that have to sit in the tow rig while I set it up. Plus all it takes is one rainy week in which it can't dry out after one rainy weekend camping and having to fold it up/drive home with the canvas all wet and it'll be a mildew-fest in there.

If you can recommend one that's 1800lb or less fully loaded for camping (full water tank/LP tank, sheets, kitchen supplies, etc.) and is known to "dry out well", that'd drop the payload requirements a fair bit, too. Basically an 1800lbGVWR popup camper that meets the above needs. That might possibly be towable with the Explorer, maybe need to put the spare in the trailer though.
Dont get bent out of shape about the load rating. My F150 has a rear axle rating of about 1,100, with a max trailer weight of about 3K. I max out the axle and have double the trailer, no problem, just have to slow down a little.

Keep in mind most load ratings have a safety factor of at least 3-4X, sometimes more, you can easily run double "capacity" and be fine.
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Old 06-25-2019, 11:07 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Sorry, trying to stay legal here.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shaneajanderson View Post
Dont get bent out of shape about the load rating. My F150 has a rear axle rating of about 1,100, with a max trailer weight of about 3K. I max out the axle and have double the trailer, no problem, just have to slow down a little.

Keep in mind most load ratings have a safety factor of at least 3-4X, sometimes more, you can easily run double "capacity" and be fine.
Hello Shaneajanderson,

I'll be polite about this, because it's the first reply and is the most common response I run across when searching for more information on this topic. Next most common is "the tow rating is the tow rating, a weight distributing hitch makes the tongue weight disappear".

I'm sorry, my insurance company (and the insurance company for whomever else might be involved in a potential accident) won't accept either argument. Neither will the cop at the scene. I've towed over-gross before - it was not fun, and it was not a good idea. I do not care to do it again unless it's a very temporary situation involving getting a vehicle to a repair facility or similar.

Also, in general, to head off other similar ideas: no, there's no way to add load-carrying capacity to a given vehicle unless you are a registered up-fitter. Airbags and such just make the existing rating (minus the weight of the airbags and such) ride/handle better.

Extreme Lightening ideas, though, go for it! Tubular space-frame (full roll-cage, basically) cab with fiberglass sheet panels, for example.

Note: I already did some preliminary figuring for carbon fiber rock sliders with UHMW wear strips. They'd only weigh 10 pounds or so each but would cost over $900 in materials alone... Aluminum or carbon fiber skidplates, aluminum rims and skinnier/lighter tires, etc. all are fair game. Bonus points for links to places that already make them.

That sort of idea can offset the "off-road mods" weight.

Only trouble is, if it takes forever to fabricate, it won't get made. I've pretty much proven to myself that long-term projects just don't happen anymore.
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Old 06-25-2019, 11:28 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I think you will find that towing anything with off road tires 2 or three sizes larger than stock is the deal breaker. I have always driven to the play spot and then installed the off road tires. I towed my big trailer with my winter tires one time and never again. The tall tread wiggles and then the trailer goes where it wants.
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Old 06-25-2019, 12:07 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by me and my metro View Post
I think you will find that towing anything with off road tires 2 or three sizes larger than stock is the deal breaker. I have always driven to the play spot and then installed the off road tires. I towed my big trailer with my winter tires one time and never again. The tall tread wiggles and then the trailer goes where it wants.
Hello me and my metro,

Good to know! Given that most of my miles will be commuting anyway, I'll probably be leaning towards the all-terrain side of the "beefy tire" equation. Maybe a hybrid like a Wrangler Duratrac or Cooper Discoverer STT.

Taking the "fun tires" (like some bias-ply Super Swampers) along to swap out for the trails would add to the trailer load and tongue weight. Something else for me to factor in. Hmm - that could also mean shorter tires for towing/commuting, and just rely on low-range to handle the taller tires off-road.
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Old 06-25-2019, 09:04 PM   #6 (permalink)
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You can pick your tow car based on your camper or pick your camper based on your tow car... and you're already committed to the tow car. So you're asking too much from your hypothetical camper: tiny (lightweight) but with an enclosed bathroom that isn't stacked inside its shower?

Decent space with light weight means a pop up, which means a fake (if any) bathroom. We made our own: we have a Coleman camping toilet in the nook to the right of the door and run a shower curtain across to close it off as needed. The bed areas have their own curtains too. It's us in the king, one kid in the double, one in the dinette. The dog can come too.



And looking at this page, my camper's a lot lighter than I had thought. Good news, because we fill it and have boats strapped on everywhere.
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Old 06-26-2019, 02:07 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I was going to leave this one be, but I have to speak up.

An Explorer is not the best tow vehicle. They are quite sloppy on the road and are top heavy. I would suggest new shocks/sway bar links/bushings if they are older. Good brakes are a must. The transmission is not a strong point, being an R1 series.

You can upgrade your rear springs for some extra payload. The tires may have to be upgraded as well to carry the extra weight. I suggest running rear tire pressures of at least 45 lbs when towing. They will track better and you will have better control. Trailer brakes, trailer brakes.

I'm going to disagree about the up-fitter comment. Increasing a vehicle's capacity (by ~300-800 lbs) is not very difficult for most people. It involves primarily suspension, tire, sway bar, brake, and sometimes transmission upgrades. I am a firm believer in upgrading these things if the vehicle is going to tow/carry much of anything because of the poor build quality for weight management. Vehicles squat under a load, and this makes it handle in unwanted ways. Eliminating squat/roll is a huge step in making a vehicle more safe. I know I left a lot out, and I am not suggesting that anyone try to double their load capacity, but there are very easy ways to make a vehicle more safe when carrying weight.

Don't over do it with tongue weight. A decent amount goes a long way.
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Old 06-26-2019, 06:32 AM   #8 (permalink)
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The latest Explorer is light years away from its predecessors. And would make an excellent tow vehicle if set up for street performance. The police-spec models are quite capable.

Trailer weight isn’t ever the burden. It’s trailer shape which matters. A fully aero travel trailer can handle the REAL problem of highway travel and that is adverse winds. Tow rigs are involved in loss-of-control accidents due to natural or man-made sudden gusts, AND the driver incorrectly dialing in too much steering. It all happens and is over in 2-3 seconds.

1). Step One

With driver only and gear kept permanently aboard (till the day it’s sold) Scale the vehiccke after topping off the fuel tank at a travel center. (CAT SCALE phone app). Go inside to the fuel desk for the paper copy.

Against the door sticker showing AXLE/WHEEL/TIRE limits, note the range remaining. (Post it)

From this info is how one sets a weight distribution hitch.

Example: a 800-lb trailer tongue weight will — after correct distribution — be relected on a scale reading as approximately under 300-lbs to the front axle; a little over 300-lbs to the rear axle and 200+/lbs to the trailer axles.

But, no, despite acres of ignorance this IS NOT about “Payload”. Load the vehicle as you will with 800-lbs and the scale will show the bulk of it o the rear axle. The only legal limits are the tire/wheel/axle Load limits. .

The “best” tow vehicles have a VERY short rear axle to hitch ball distance. As well, fully independent suspension and low center of gravity. All of which describes the current Explorer.

Agreed that the older ones were terrible in every role above 35-mph. Dump it for something worth using.

The current ones have more than enough power to pull a truly aero trailer up to 23’ or so without issues.

A pickup is nothing but a high risk vehicle.

There are plenty of trailer choices. An Airstream of 10-15 years of age has shed nearly all depreciation. From there, prices again start to rise. It shouldn’t need much of anything g given covered storage and regular maintenance. The other upmarket brands have been out of production 20-years or more, BUT will cost less and need less than any Airstream of comparable age & condition.

How the trailer will be used, the distances contemplated, are more to the point of what’s important. The tow vehicle is NOT very important as so many vehicles are fit subjects.

It’s the trailer that matters.
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Old 06-26-2019, 06:39 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cajunfj40 View Post
Hello Shaneajanderson,

I'll be polite about this, because it's the first reply and is the most common response I run across when searching for more information on this topic. Next most common is "the tow rating is the tow rating, a weight distributing hitch makes the tongue weight disappear".

I'm sorry, my insurance company (and the insurance company for whomever else might be involved in a potential accident) won't accept either argument. Neither will the cop at the scene. I've towed over-gross before - it was not fun, and it was not a good idea. I do not care to do it again unless it's a very temporary situation involving getting a vehicle to a repair facility or similar.

Also, in general, to head off other similar ideas: no, there's no way to add load-carrying capacity to a given vehicle unless you are a registered up-fitter. Airbags and such just make the existing rating (minus the weight of the airbags and such) ride/handle better.

Extreme Lightening ideas, though, go for it! Tubular space-frame (full roll-cage, basically) cab with fiberglass sheet panels, for example.

Note: I already did some preliminary figuring for carbon fiber rock sliders with UHMW wear strips. They'd only weigh 10 pounds or so each but would cost over $900 in materials alone... Aluminum or carbon fiber skidplates, aluminum rims and skinnier/lighter tires, etc. all are fair game. Bonus points for links to places that already make them.

That sort of idea can offset the "off-road mods" weight.

Only trouble is, if it takes forever to fabricate, it won't get made. I've pretty much proven to myself that long-term projects just don't happen anymore.
You’re seriously mistaken about insurance, hitch capability, etc. Or Payload, tow capacity, etc.

That you even THINK a 4WD offroad Exploder makes a suitable highway vehicle is depressing as hell.

With the right trailer a Honda Odyssey is a good choice.

Solo family duty precedes ALL OTHER SPEC

.
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Old 06-26-2019, 08:41 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Slowmover everything you've said made sense, thank you. I also had never heard of insurance claims being denied, or people being ticketed for exceeding vehicle capacity in a private capacity; commercial operations are a whole different matter of course.

On the note of the Honda Odyssey: this makes sense. Before I knew about the extreme importance of aero I had a town and country, and with that same van I pulled a ~1,500 pound pop up camper which absolutely felt like it wasn't there. later I pulled a dunk tank which may have weight 200 lbs, though I doubt even that much, but was an aerodynamic horror, and the whole trip I had to run in direct drive and even then the van struggled. I've never made the connection before but with what you said now I know why the huge difference.

Now you've got me wanting to look for a more aero friendly camper that my current old holiday rambler that's a total brick, and just aerodynamically terrible in every way.

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