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Author Topic: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?  (Read 1433 times)

McFly

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Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« on: January 15, 2017, 12:46:29 PM »
Hi,

I just found a nice 1996 Ford E150 "Starcraft" conversion van that I like, but the ground clearance looks lower on the conversion van than on standard full-size cargo or passenger vans. Do conversion vans built on a Ford E150 (or similar full-size van chassis) still make good towing vehicles for pulling small travel trailers, even with the lower ground clearance that most conversion vans seem to have?

I'm planning to get a tow package and weight distributing hitch installed on whatever van I buy before trying to tow with it, but I want to make sure I'm not going to run into any unexpected trailer towing problems with a conversion van that I wouldn't have had with a standard E150 cargo or passenger van.

Thanks a lot in advance for your help!

grashley

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #1 on: January 15, 2017, 08:59:24 PM »
There should be a label on the driver door or door frame that states the GVWR and axle WR for the van.  Test drive it to a scale and get it weighed.

By definition, Payload = GVWR  -  Actual vehicle weight.

Payload must include the weight of all passengers, pets, snacks and cargo carried in the van, plus 80# for the WD hitch plus the trailer hitch weight (about 10% of trailer GVWR).

This is ONLY ONE of several needed checks for towing ability.  With a custom van, I have no idea what the payload may be.  Some will add so much weight with the seats and trim there is no room left to tow a trailer.  Others will be much more reasonable.  There is one way to find out!

Others smarter than me will chime in concerning motor, rear end, etc.
Preacher Gordon, DW Debbie
09 Grand Junction 35 TMS  Andersen Ultimate hitch
2013 F350 Lariat LB SRW Supercab diesel 4X4
Nimrod Series 70 popup (sold)
It's not a dumb question if you do not know the answer.

scottydl

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #2 on: January 15, 2017, 09:10:09 PM »
Weight/size of the trailer you choose is more of a factor than the low ground clearance of a conversion van.

A couple other reasons that you see more cargo vans towing trailers:
- Conversion vans have more creature comforts, but all that stuff adds weight and decreases towing capacity
- Cargo vans are more commonly available in 3/4 ton (F-250 or 2500) and 1 ton (F-350 or 3500) versions, which can tow larger/heavier trailers

Keep in mind that "tow package" on a vehicle is not just having a hitch and trailer plug installed.  That factory option can also include upgrades in engine/transmission, radiator (engine cooling), gearing, etc. that all increase the towing capacity.  Same goes for the advantages of 3/4 ton trucks & vans for towing... there's a lot more to it than just having a bigger engine.

Check out the Trailer Life Towing Guides here for info on what different year/makes/models of trucks and vans can tow.  Although that list of downloadable guides only goes back to 1999, the Ford van figures in there are probably close to what a 1996 could handle too.
Scott, wife, 3 boys... and the dog
- 2008 Forest River Wildwood 32BHDS
- 1995 Chevrolet Suburban C2500 tow vehicle
- 1994 Thor Residency motorhome... owned 2007-2012

sadixon49

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2017, 09:09:35 AM »
Back in the 80s, I towed a 24' Bunkhouse with at first a '84 E150 conversion van, then later an '88 E150 Club Wagon. The differences were minor. I thought the main difference was because by the time the 88 came out, Ford had shifted to an EFI engine. Both were powered by 351s but the 88 seemed to have much better power. Some of that may have been that the passenger van weighed less. I never weighed either setup, so I'm not sure.  I took the conversion van to Disney World from the Southwest Chicago area, Joliet, and took the 88 Club Wagon out to Mt. Rushmore, my 2 longest trips. I had no problem with either van on either trip. Nowadays, the internet weight police, would scream that I had too much trailer for my E150s, but back in the pre-internet days, no one told me, I didn't ask, and probably wouldn't have cared anyway. I was considerably younger, and more foolish, at that time, but I did have a good WD hitch, Reese, with an antisway damper, and always checked the trailer brakes before each and every pull. I never felt uncomfortable, overwhelmed, or out of sorts, by the rig.
steve
2017 Jayco Redhawk 26XD
E-450 Ford, 6.8 V-10
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scottydl

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2017, 02:20:49 PM »
I towed a 24' Bunkhouse with at first a '84 E150 conversion van, then later an '88 E150 Club Wagon... Nowadays, the internet weight police, would scream that I had too much trailer for my E150s, but back in the pre-internet days, no one told me, I didn't ask, and probably wouldn't have cared anyway.

Although it is interesting that now (older and wiser? ;)) you have an heavier duty van (E-450) with an even smaller trailer (22 footer).
Scott, wife, 3 boys... and the dog
- 2008 Forest River Wildwood 32BHDS
- 1995 Chevrolet Suburban C2500 tow vehicle
- 1994 Thor Residency motorhome... owned 2007-2012

McFly

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2017, 11:31:07 AM »
Keep in mind that "tow package" on a vehicle is not just having a hitch and trailer plug installed.  That factory option can also include upgrades in engine/transmission, radiator (engine cooling), gearing, etc. that all increase the towing capacity.  Same goes for the advantages of 3/4 ton trucks & vans for towing... there's a lot more to it than just having a bigger engine.

Thanks a lot for all that helpful information, and for the Trailer life towing guides!

Is it fairly easy to find a professional shop or service center who can install a tow package, if the van I buy did not already have one installed as a factory option?

Around how much would it cost (roughly) to get a tow package installed on an E150 or similar van that did not come with one as a factory option?

(I've heard some U-haul centers will install a towing hitch for little or no cost if it was bought from them, but couldn't find rough estimates about the cost to also buy and install the other mechanical upgrades that would do more to protect the engine and transmission while towing.)

P.S. Thanks a lot to everyone else who replied too: I will definitely get the van weighed before towing, and I enjoyed the stories about towing with the 1980's E150 vans.  :)

scottydl

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #6 on: January 17, 2017, 01:54:02 PM »
Is it fairly easy to find a professional shop or service center who can install a tow package, if the van I buy did not already have one installed as a factory option?

First you need to know what the towing package included, on the year/make/model of vehicle you are considering.  All manufacturers towing packages are not equal.  That's why you won't find any general estimates for such an upgrade, since it could involve a variety of upgrades.

I looked at the 1999 Trailer Life guide (oldest available on their website) to check out the E-150 van ratings.  There are only three options and here's what it says:

- Econoline van E-150, 4.6L V8 ... 6600# towing capacity
- Econoline wagon E-150, 4.6L V8 ... 6100# towing capacity
- Econoline van E-150, 5.4L V8 ... 6900# towing capacity

There are tiny little letters by each of those listings, but none of them refer to needing the tow package.  So it is not a factor, on 1999 Ford vans anyway.  I'm guessing the conversion van is the "wagon" and that 500# lower capacity is likely because of the extra comforts installed... nicer seats, trim, cabinets, roof extension, etc. all add weight.

Take a look at the E-250 and E-350 vans, and you will see that the towing capacities are as high as 7500# and 10,000# respectively.  I doubt it would be cost effective to buy a 20yo E-150 van, and upgrade it to the point of E-250/350 strength, which would be about your only option to improve towing capacity.  The costs of cooling/suspension/gearing upgrades would probably dwarf the value of the van itself.

If you're hooked on the Econoline van for towing, you'd need to make sure the trailer you choose is small/light enough to be handled by it as-is.
Scott, wife, 3 boys... and the dog
- 2008 Forest River Wildwood 32BHDS
- 1995 Chevrolet Suburban C2500 tow vehicle
- 1994 Thor Residency motorhome... owned 2007-2012

McFly

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #7 on: January 17, 2017, 03:31:26 PM »
I doubt it would be cost effective to buy a 20yo E-150 van, and upgrade it to the point of E-250/350 strength, which would be about your only option to improve towing capacity.  The costs of cooling/suspension/gearing upgrades would probably dwarf the value of the van itself.

If you're hooked on the Econoline van for towing, you'd need to make sure the trailer you choose is small/light enough to be handled by it as-is.

Thanks! So far all trailers I've been interested in are under 5000 pounds already, but I will definitely take your advice and aim for as lightweight a trailer as I can find.

Re: upgrades, I was originally wondering if it would be worthwhile to try to have cooling or other mechanical upgrades installed just to extend the E150 van's life, even when towing a light trailer (but not so I could try to tow a heavier trailer, which I definitely won't attempt). But it sounds like it's probably not worth the cost and trouble of doing that to an E150, if my max loaded trailer weight would be under 5000 pounds anyway?

(This particular conversion was originally a 1996 E150 cargo van with a tow capacity of 6600 pounds, according to the Carfax + trailers.com's specs for that year. So if I left a bit over a 20% margin of safety and made sure never to tow more than about 5000 pounds, maybe I'd be OK just getting a basic weight-distributing hitch installed, and not worry about other upgrades?)

scottydl

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #8 on: January 17, 2017, 05:45:42 PM »
Most people here recommend a ~10% safety margin as far as weight goes, so anything above that and you are good to go.  If you started towing with that combo and experienced engine heat issues for instance, then there are supplemental cooling systems that can be added to your radiator (just one example).  But pulling a 5000# trailer with a vehicle rated for 6600# should not be a problem.

Also I am only somewhat assuming that 1996 statistics will be similar to the 1999 numbers that I posted.  The van itself that you are considering should have a yellow sticker in the driver's doorframe that has all the capacities listed for that vehicle.  The RPO sticker (often on the inside of the glovebox door) will also have 3-4 digit codes for every option the vehicle has, and can be researched to make sure you are getting the engine, transmission, etc. that you are expecting.
Scott, wife, 3 boys... and the dog
- 2008 Forest River Wildwood 32BHDS
- 1995 Chevrolet Suburban C2500 tow vehicle
- 1994 Thor Residency motorhome... owned 2007-2012

grashley

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #9 on: January 17, 2017, 06:02:45 PM »
No yellow labels before 2009.

Are you looking at a 5000# DRY WT trailer or a 5000# GVWR trailer?  The dry wt is a worthless number!
Preacher Gordon, DW Debbie
09 Grand Junction 35 TMS  Andersen Ultimate hitch
2013 F350 Lariat LB SRW Supercab diesel 4X4
Nimrod Series 70 popup (sold)
It's not a dumb question if you do not know the answer.

scottydl

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #10 on: January 17, 2017, 06:37:28 PM »
No yellow labels before 2009.

Ah, well the load label might not be yellow... but SOMETHING should be there on a late 90's van.  My 1995 Suburban has one.
Scott, wife, 3 boys... and the dog
- 2008 Forest River Wildwood 32BHDS
- 1995 Chevrolet Suburban C2500 tow vehicle
- 1994 Thor Residency motorhome... owned 2007-2012

robertusa123

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #11 on: January 17, 2017, 08:56:25 PM »
Convention vans are based on the same van as a regular van but they have a ground effect skirt added to them to give them the low rider look........ I had to removed the skirting from my convention van.   To get the ground clearance i wanted I have 1995 Chevy based convention van.  It has the tow package and can tow 6500 lbs.  But the national speed limit was 55 when the van was built so 70mpg is not a but hard........ You van with the big v8 and tow package is rated at 6,600 tow.   But its light on carge capacity.  And the stuff that makes a conversion van like the high too and seats tend to be on the hevwy side
« Last Edit: January 17, 2017, 09:05:35 PM by robertusa123 »
1996  26ft. 3 kids 2 dog and the wife too

grashley

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #12 on: January 18, 2017, 07:00:23 PM »
Scott
Before 2009, the yellow label with the max cargo weight was not required.
As long as I can remember, a label, usually on the driver door or door jamb has stated axle wt, GVWR, tire sizes and inflations.  Payload can be calculated from this, plus a scale wt.
Preacher Gordon, DW Debbie
09 Grand Junction 35 TMS  Andersen Ultimate hitch
2013 F350 Lariat LB SRW Supercab diesel 4X4
Nimrod Series 70 popup (sold)
It's not a dumb question if you do not know the answer.

scottydl

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Re: Towing trailer with Starcraft E150 conversion van?
« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2017, 05:38:46 AM »
As long as I can remember, a label, usually on the driver door or door jamb has stated axle wt, GVWR, tire sizes and inflations.  Payload can be calculated from this, plus a scale wt.

Indeed that's probably what I am thinking of.
Scott, wife, 3 boys... and the dog
- 2008 Forest River Wildwood 32BHDS
- 1995 Chevrolet Suburban C2500 tow vehicle
- 1994 Thor Residency motorhome... owned 2007-2012

 

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