Are We Overweight? Need Advice!

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gnehls

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Hi! We just bought a Fleetwood Highlander Series Sequoia tent trailer. My husband and I used to go backpacking, but sleeping on the ground has lost its appeal. We thought we'd start with a tent trailer, although this one has a lot of things I didn't know tent trailers could have. We have a sink, stove, oven, microwave, gas heater, AC, ceramic toilet, shower, cd/radio, cable hookup, & sewer hookup. We're excited and yet a bit concerned. Help.

The tow vehicle is a Toyota Highlander, V6 AWD with tow package. The car is rated to pull up to 3500 lbs. The hitch (which we had put on to pull a motorcylce trailer) is rated for 3500 lbs. and has a tongue rating of 350 lbs. To be honest, none of that meant much to us when we bought the trailer. As it turns out, we picked up the trailer 2 days ago, and when we went to fill up the propane tanks, the guy there put a scale on the tongue and said it was 450 lbs. He mentioned a weight distributing hitch, but decided it wouldn't work with the way our batteries and tanks were on the tongue, plus the poles for one side of the trailer would interfere. My first question is how critical is it that we're over the tongue limit? The unloaded tongue weight is 290 lbs. and we have two batteries and two propane tanks.

We decided to fill up the water tank and pack the car and trailer as if we were going somewhere and went to a public scale. The trailer weighed 3,100 lbs.? The front axle of the car had 2200 lbs. and the rear axle had 2800 lbs.

Are we okay? Did we buy something we can't pull? Or are we okay?? It seems fine around town, but obviously we bought it so we could get OUT of town.

Thanks!
 

Tom

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Welcome to our forum and congratulations on the new purchase.

There as some numbers missing to allow us to fully answer your question. But let's deal with the one we have the numbers for:

If your tongue weight is 450lbs and the rated tonue weight is 350lbs, then you need to deal with that. Is it possible to redistribute the load in the trailer to lighten up the tongue weight?

Could you tell us what the GWVR and GCWR ratings are?

The weight of the Highlander, including the tongue weight and the weight of driver/passengers should be no more than the GVWR.

The weight of the Highlander, people and the weight of the loaded trailer should to be no more than the GCWR.
 

John From Detroit

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I would like to know the toung weight with the water tank filled.  If (as in one of my trailers) the water tank is to the rear of the vehicle, it will reduce toung weight when filled, 20 gallons of water could, possibly, pull as much as 100 lbs off the toung,,, However...

Moving the batteries to the rear might help too.

However be careful.  If you move too much weight around you may wind up needing to install sway control as well (I do suggest anti-sway systems on trailers in any case, they really do work)

 

gnehls

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"If your tongue weight is 450lbs and the rated tonue weight is 350lbs, then you need to deal with that. Is it possible to redistribute the load in the trailer to lighten up the tongue weight?"

Well, Tom, there's really nothing in the trailer up by the tongue that I can move. I can remove one of the batteries and one of the propane tanks and leave them home, but will the tongue be lopsided? Is that okay? The two tanks are mounted side by side as are the two batteries. 

Re: the GVWR of the car, we're fine, I think.  It's rated at 5360 and and my car plus driver/passenger plus luggage plus tongue weight is 5010. Good, right? The GVWR of the trailer is 3770, and the trailer with water tank and water heater filled is 3050 (plus tongue weight??) Adding tongue weight, we're still ok, right? I could certainly drain most of the water and just fill up once we're wherever we're going. The water tank is positioned in front of the axle, but there are so many hoses that I don't see any way to have it moved.

John mentioned an anti-sway bar. We did have that installed at the dealer.

Thank you guys for responding so quickly!!
 

Tom

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Is there anything that could be moved further back in/on the trailer, either above or behind the axle? That would reduce the tongue weight.

You still need to confirm that the combined weight of car and trailer (plus people and all your stuff) is less than the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR). It sounds like the actual combined weight is a little over 8,000 lbs, but I have no idea what the GCWR of the Toyota might be.
 

Carl L

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The tow vehicle is a Toyota Highlander, V6 AWD with tow package. The car is rated to pull up to 3500 lbs. The hitch (which we had put on to pull a motorcylce trailer) is rated for 3500 lbs. and has a tongue rating of 350 lbs. To be honest, none of that meant much to us when we bought the trailer. As it turns out, we picked up the trailer 2 days ago, and when we went to fill up the propane tanks, the guy there put a scale on the tongue and said it was 450 lbs. He mentioned a weight distributing hitch, but decided it wouldn't work with the way our batteries and tanks were on the tongue, plus the poles for one side of the trailer would interfere. My first question is how critical is it that we're over the tongue limit? The unloaded tongue weight is 290 lbs. and we have two batteries and two propane tanks.

You are proposing to pull a trailer with a GVWR of 3770# with a tow vehicle rated at maybe 3500#. ? What is the model year of your Toyota? ? I cannot find a V-6 AWD in the Trailer Life tow ratings for 2006.

Lightening your tongue weight is not a great idea. ?The tongue weight should be at least 10% of your trailer weight. ?12-15% is better. ? A tail heavy trailer is unstable and you are proposing to run the trailer without any sway control.

Where are you planing to tow your trailer? ? I hope not in the Pacific or Mountain West. ? ?You have to discount your tow ratings by 15-20% in those regions because of altitude and long grade problems.

We need more data to give you a real answer.
 

gnehls

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"Is there anything that could be moved further back in/on the trailer, either above or behind the axle? That would reduce the tongue weight.

You still need to confirm that the combined weight of car and trailer (plus people and all your stuff) is less than the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR). It sounds like the actual combined weight is a little over 8,000 lbs, but I have no idea what the GCWR of the Toyota might be."


Sorry, I didn't know what you meant by GCWR when you first mentioned it. I just looked in my Highlander brochure and in the car's manual, but it doesn't list that figure, only the GVWR. I couldn't find that info. online, either. Sigh...
 

gnehls

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"You are proposing to pull a trailer with a GVWR of 3770# with a tow vehicle rated at maybe 3500#.? ?What is the model year of your Toyota?? ?I cannot find a V-6 AWD in the Trailer Life tow ratings for 2006.

Lightening your tongue weight is not a great idea.? The tongue weight should be at least 10% of your trailer weight.? 12-15% is better.? ?A tail heavy trailer is unstable and you are proposing to run the trailer without any sway control.

Where are you planing to tow your trailer?? ?I hope not in the Pacific or Mountain West.? ? You have to discount your tow ratings by 15-20% in those regions because of altitude and long grade problems."


Carl, my Toyota is a 2005. Yes, I do have a sway bar installed. Currently, my tongue weight is 15% of the trailer weight, so I guess that's perfect. Thank you for telling me not to move weight to the back and creating a stability problem.

I live in Southern California and do plan to tow in the mountains. Since my trailer weight is currently 3050 with water, I could remove the water and be towing 85% of the tow rating. Am I understanding you correctly?
 

Tom

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The GCWR should be on the weight specification plate, possibly in the glove box or on the door jam. Unfortunately, the Toyota web site doesn't provide that information.

Didn't mean to suggest you to create a stability issue, but it appears from your numbers that you're going to be over the maximum specified tongue weight. I'll bow to Carl's superior knowledge of trailers and towing, but it seems you could reduce your tongue weight to 10-11% of the trailer weight and be within the specified tongue weight of your car's hitch. If not, I hope your hitch's tongue weight rating is conservative.
 

John From Detroit

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Just so you know Tom, I read it the same way you did (Toung weight issue)

There is some safety built into the maximum weight ratings however I do not suggest testing it
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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Since you said your water tank is in front of the axle, reducing the water load will also reduce the tongue weight to some degree. Since it also reduces the overall trailer weight (GVW), the desirable amount of tongue weight also decreases.  You can also try to stow any gear you have in the trailer toward the rear when traveling, putting that weight behind the axle as far as practical. Weight placed behind the axle relieves weight from the front (works like a teeter-totter).

As Carl says, you want to maintain 10-15% of the trailer GVW on the tongue to make sure it follows the car properly (and safely!). At 3100 lb GVW, you need 310-465 lbs on the tongue. At 350 lb tongue and a 3100 lb GVW, you would have a bit over 11% of the weight on the tongue, which isn't too bad, though I'd be happier to see it at 12%.  If you removed 10 gallons of water you would reduce the GVW by about 80 lbs and probably lightens the tongue by [maybe] 30-40 lbs, that would get you closer.

By the way, the tongue weight is included in the trailer GVW, so you do not add it to the weights in the specs/brochures. But if you weigh the trailer with it still hitched to the car, then you do have to add the tongue weight to the weight carried on the trailer axle, to get the total trailer weight. That's because the scale detects only the weight resting on the trailer axle when the tongue/hitch is off the scale and resting on the car. The easiest way to get total trailer weight is to weigh the car by itself, then weigh the car with the trailer hitched, as one unit. Then subtract the car-only from the total to get actual trailer weight.

Your main danger in overlaoding the tongue is that the hitch itself will break or it will tear away from its mounting to the 4Runner's frame. Both of those things were designed for a max of 350 lbs downward pressure (tongue weight). That could conceivable be fixed with a heavier duty hitch, a Class III hitch in stead of the Class II you currently have.  A Class III would carry up to around 600 lbs of tongue weight.  A good welding shop could probably beef up your current hitch somewhat as well.  However, a secondary problem is that the back end of the Toyota is getting pushed around by all that weight.  The tongue weight exerts sideways forces on the rear of the car as you turn, creating steering difficulties and twisting the car's frame.  This would most likley show up in an emergency maneuver, just when you can least afford it. A weight distributing hitch would help with that problem, transfering some of the tongue weight to the front of the Toyota. 

I would suggest going to a competent hitch shop and seeing if they can come up with a way to install one. Might have to raise your battery & LP tank somewhat to make room for the spring bar mounts, but perhaps that may not be too difficult.  You could also ask about a Class III hitch, but they probably do not make one designed for a 4 Runner, since the towing capacity itself is limited to the Class II range anyway.

The last alternative is to shop for a bigger tow vehicle. A Toyota Sequoia would handle this trailer beuatifully and even a larger one if you ever upgraded in the future. A Sequoia is good for about 6500 lbs and 600 lbs tongue weight.  Expensive solution, though.  :eek:

Please complain to the trailer dealer about them selling you more trailer than you can safely tow. RV dealers are mostly very irresponsible about this, with the salesmen always saying "sure your car/truck can tow this".  But a dealer who sells trailers is presumably an expert and should be giving reliable advice to their customers. Anything else is unethical at best and potential grounds for a lawsuit at worst.    I'm not suggesting that you sue them, but you should make them aware that you are dissatisifed with their professionalism. Maybe they will be a bit more forthcoming with the next customer. Maybe... :-\

 

Carl L

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Carl, my Toyota is a 2005. Yes, I do have a sway bar installed. Currently, my tongue weight is 15% of the trailer weight, so I guess that's perfect. Thank you for telling me not to move weight to the back and creating a stability problem.

The Trailer Life tables for 2005 do not list the Highland, V6, or AWD -- only the 2006 tables do.? This is not a good sign in my opinion.? ?Reese Products lists a Class III? ::) hitch reciever for your truck (P/N 33075) as a bolt-on unit.? It lists a maximum tow ratiing of 3500# for the combo.? To my mind this means the controlling factor is your truck, not the hitch receiver.

Your controlling factor here is going to be your tongue weight I fear.? ?Let me recommend an item that I have used:? the Sherline Products Load Master Trailer Tongue Weight Scale.? ? See it at their website by clicking on this link
http://www.sherline.com/lm.htm.? ? For $99, it is a deal.? Small and easy to use, you can check tongue weight as you load up.

I live in Southern California and do plan to tow in the mountains. Since my trailer weight is currently 3050 with water, I could remove the water and be towing 85% of the tow rating. Am I understanding you correctly?

Hoo boy.? ?You live where I live.? ?

First of all some routing advice.? ?Avoid the Grape Vine on I-5 southbound.? ?Avoid Cajon Pass on I-15 northbound, use I-215 instead.? ?I-10 is ok.? ?US 101 is ok tho you are going to dislike Gaviota Pass.? ?Avoid the Angeles Crest.? ?If you insist on trying to make Big Bear confine your ambitions to CA-38 thru Redlands.? Even there you are iffy.? ?Avoid S-22's Montezuma Grade if going to Anza Borrego.? ?I did it once with my rig.? ?Never again, especially downwards.? Use 1-10 to CA-86s to S-22 at Salton City take 22 into Borrego Springs, but no further.? ? I-5 southbound is no sweat.? ?I-8 eastbound is a full page in the Mountain Directory forget it.? ? Go to Death Valley via Baker and Death Valley Junction.? ?US-395 to Bishop is no sweat.? ?The Sherwin Grade to Tom's Place is going to be a 1st gear hill either way.? After that no sweat to Carson City and Reno.? ? Avoid trans-Sierra Passes except I-80.? ?

You are going to hate Siskyou Pass in Southern Oregon on the I-5.? ?However, you should be able to do it in 1st.? ?In fact, us lightweight trailer trash get a lot of 1st gear/30 mph in our lives so get used to it.? I do notice that as I grind along at 30 mph up Siskyou about the only rigs passing me are deadheading semis.? ?I get a lot of company over in the slow lanes with big 5ers, Class-Cs and Class-As.? ?The first law of RVing is that junk expands so as to fill the space available to stuff it into.? ?This is the Parkinson's Law of RVing.? ?Neither you nor I are immune to it.? ?Certainly none of the motorhomers here are either.? 8)

Next loading advice.? You have a 3500# tow rating limit.? ?85% of that is 2975#.? 10% of that is 298#.? 15% is 446#.? Your tongue weight rating is 350#.? So that last weight is too heavy.? ? Anyway, take the Tongue Weight scale and set it up on your loaded trailer.? Now start unloading the trailer, dumping water for instance, until that scale reads less than 350# but more than 300#.? Now you are in business, and know you are in business.

Good luck, enjoy,? and make your next truck an F150 or 250.? ? ;D

?
 

gnehls

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You guys have been the greatest. Thanks for all your time and input. Guess we'll buy one of those Sherline weight scales, and we'll probably just camp near the ocean. Mountain camping, my preference, will have to wait until we're ready to buy another tow vehicle - not soon!
 

Jeff

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gnehls said:
You guys have been the greatest. Thanks for all your time and input. Guess we'll buy one of those Sherline weight scales, and we'll probably just camp near the ocean. Mountain camping, my preference, will have to wait until we're ready to buy another tow vehicle - not soon!

The trick is not to not go to the mountains but learning to try a little at a time until you determoine the limiitations of your rig. There is nothing wrong with going up and down the hills SLOWLY and CAREFULLY. ;D
 

gnehls

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Jeff, thanks for the encouragement. I needed that.

BTW, some good news! I found the GCWR for my car. It's 8860, and I'm well under that. The public scale had me at 8040 fully loaded.
 

Alaskansnowbirds

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gnehls said:
Jeff, thanks for the encouragement. I needed that.

BTW, some good news! I found the GCWR for my car. It's 8860, and I'm well under that. The public scale had me at 8040 fully loaded.

Since you have some leeway on your GCWR why don't you have a larger hitch installed. It seems to be the weak link in the system.
 

Carl L

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Mountain camping, my preference, will have to wait until we're ready to buy another tow vehicle - not soon!

Oh no you don't, you are not getting off that easy.  There are plenty of mountains you can access.  Remember I talked about US395.  Whole raft of monta?as around there.  Camp low and drive the tow vehicle high.  Mamoth has he lakes like Lake Mary.  The desert can offer mountains.  I mentioned Anza Borrego Desert State Park.  Sample Tamarisk Grove Campground in the winter and spring.  A gorgeous spot with a good ration of mountains.  Up in the San  Diego backcountry, we always like Lake Cuyamaca and the USFS campgrounds there -- they did have a bad fire years ago and so I know not what the CG looks like now. 

Up above Santa Barbara on CA 54 iirc, you have Lake Cuyamaca a reservior park with great campsites.  Access it via US 101 and  Solvang.  I like the W&E sites but the full hookup sites are fine too.  Don't miss the ranger boat tour of the wildlife on the lake.  Flying Flags RV Resort in Buellton is a nice pied a terre for touring the Santa Y?ez Valley and the Sideways country.  Over next to Ojai you can find Lake Casitas, for world class large mouth bass fishing.    Up on the coast west of Malibu on PCH try out Sycamore Canyon SP and campground, mountains and ocean there.    Loads of beach parks that you rig should fit in nicely.  Try Capenteria State Beach Park in Ventura County.

Joshua Tree NP has some nice CGs in the Jumbo Rocks area -- you can get to watch the crazy rock climbers as a bonus.
 

gnehls

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Carl, you are a funny guy!?Okay, I won't give up so easily. I plan to practice backing up and parking this weekend. I'll start with "easy" trips and work my way up.

Once again, thank you for all your help. You have no idea how wonderful it is to have so many people take the time to help someone they've never met. I look forward to meeting some of you one day!
 
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