Towing with a 2000 Astro Van

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SarniaTricia

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Hello
I have a 2000 Astro Van- class 3 dealer installed hitch
I am towing a 1988 Lynx Prowler

Before I purchased the Prowler I did a lot of research on what my van could pull..... and from what I understood it had a 6,000lb towing capacity (new) .... I kept in mind that the van is now 18 years old and stopping would be more my issue.... I found an old, but well maintained, Lynx Prowler....

I was told the trailer had a dry weight of just under 2,000lbs... But we all know that once the equipment/propane/battery is loaded on ... it's a little more.... (I do not travel with liquids in tanks)

My first trips were (2 hours one way) in March and a real eye opening learning experience!!
My first step after the march trip was to look into sway control!!
I have installed a friction sway control arm.
I have yet to go to the scale and weight everything (just found out how valuable this info could be from here)
I have yet to figure out my tongue weight either, but I'm assuming around 600 wouldn't be too far off?

I would like to take my rig to Springfield, Massachusetts in October (from the Detroit, Michigan area)
I am currently looking into a weight Distribution system and have found one used.... the guy said it is rated for 1,000lbs.... and it is a round bar system... good price....

The problems and questions....
Clearance... there isn't much.... will the round bent bar system even clear?

Would having a stronger WD hitch be an issue? (like I mentioned, price is right)
I think 1,000lbs is too heavy (I guessing my needs would be 600lb)

Looking for an affordable WD system as $ is tight, but want to be safe!!

My reasons for getting the trailer was to cut down on hotel costs when traveling to rabbit shows.... also, to offer an alternative to driving home from these shows exhausted from a full day.  oh yeh, and for the family to "DO THINGS" together... kids are 18 & 22 and want to go camping with us now!!! hey for us!!? hubby and I have soloed with the camper two times already this year and I've attended at least 6 shows with it...
 

captsteve

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First, your tongue weight should be around 200 lbs maybe 300 when loaded. ideally 10% of total weight of trailer.

On a small unit like that, a sway bar may be overkill. first I would figure out why it is wagging on you. I would bet if you weigh it you will find your tongue weight way off and most likely find the whole thing overloaded, including your van. Look at your GCWR and CCC and do the math to figure exactly what you are working with.

once you balance the load in your camper I bet it will pull straight and not wag the dog
 

garyb1st

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As Steve said, you need to weigh both the trailer and Astro Van.  From their you can determine the proper hitch.  Since you obviously had some problems towing, don't purchase an anti sway system based on assumptions.  If possible weigh your trailer when loaded for travel with full water and propane.  Then you can determine your approximate hitch weight.  If you don't have any experience in this area, find someone who does and is willing to help you.  Don't take a chance with an overloaded trailer. 
 

SarniaTricia

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Amherstburg, Ontario
OK....

Would my local weight scale be able to help me out?

I pretty independent, but I feel I need to do something to make travel a bit less white knuckled for a 10+ hour drive.... (hence the reason I'm asking you folks..  ;) )

 

captsteve

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They probably would not be much help.

Look here- http://www.rvforum.net/joomla/index.php/26-towing-and-towables

There are some step by step instructions that may explain and help.
 

SpencerPJ

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I think the 1000# WDH system is way too much.  I will possibly damage your trailer or Astro with the rigid stiffness it will produce.  Just my opinion.
 

SarniaTricia

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THANK YOU!!!

CaptSteve: I now Have the KNOW how to weight my rig.....
I was in the Library earlier today reading and totally missed the article on weighting.

I want to do this early next week
(I hate to leave anything to the last minute and October is just around the corner!!)
I will check google and I'm fairly sure were I can find a place to weight everything....

I'll be back with weights and van/trailer specs soon.....  :eek:

I have passed on the 1,000lb WD system (thanks Spencerpj and Garyb1st) ..... no matter the price, if it isn't safe, It's not a bargain. The other used WD I was inquiring on, they couldn't tell me the weight rating.... so pass on that too!.. Hopefully once I get balance on the rig all figured out, a WD would be overkill and the friction sway-bar would be enough for my big October trip!!
 

captsteve

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With something that small, once it is balanced and within weight spec, you may well find you need nothing.

Also make sure the air pressure is set properly for the trailer as well as the van and by that I mean, get axle weights at the scale and inflate the tires as per the tire manufacturers inflation chart (you can download it from tire makers website.) not the door sticker or what is on tires.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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You DO need a WD hitch, preferably one with built-in sway control rather than those add-on friction gadgets. And you DO need to get that trailer weight, along with the van, and determine the tongue weight. 10-12% of the trailer weight has to be on the hitch ball, and once it is, sway should be of little concern.

You didn't state a trailer size, but I'm guessing that trailer is in the 3500-4000 lb range when loaded for travel.  That would mean you need a minimal WD set-up, probably 400-600 lbs of weight shift capability.  That 1000 lb model you are looking at is overkill and may not be able to be adjusted enough to work.
 

grashley

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The library article Steve referenced is very good.  In summary: (assuming a platform scale)
1 Weigh the entire rig.
2. Weigh just the Astro with the trailer still attached.
3. Weigh the Astro without the trailer attached.

3  -  2  is your hitch weight.
1  -  3  is your trailer weight
2  is your loaded Astro weight.

2  should not exceed your Astro GCWR, (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) shown on a tire placard around the driver door
1  should not exceed the Astro GCWR  (Gross Combined Weight Rating) found in the owners manual.

Hitch weight MUST BE AT LEAST 10% of the trailer weight.  More is fine, as long as the Astro is not overloaded.  Less causes lots of sway.

IF the hitch weight is too low, move stuff from the back of the TT (behind the axles) to the front.  The farther forward, the more of the load is carried by the tongue.  Weight in the back actually reduces tongue wt.

Check your tires.  Van tires will have a Load Rating on them.  Make sure this number X 4 tires exceeds the weight of the loaded van.
Same for the trailer tires.  On the trailer, also check manufacture date.  This is a 3 digit number molded into the tire, indicating week of the year and year of manufacture.  125 would be the tire was made in March (12th week of the year) of 2015.  Anything over 7 years old is needing replaced, regardless of how much tread is left.
Also check tire pressure in each tire and inflate to max allowed pressure.
 

SarniaTricia

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Thank you Thank you Thank you!!
I now have a grocery list of things to do for my rig....

Gary RV_Wizard ... The trailer is a 15ft single axial Lynx Prowler M15F .... Dry weight is listed as 1990lbs...

I have been experiencing a dip at the tongue that I was hoping was going to be corrected with new shocks and some balancing...
I need to do some weighting and shifting.... and hopefully get everything more stable.

My step son towed the trailer to Grand Bend this weekend and only experienced a "feeling" during some wind on the way home... He has a larger GMC truck and the load was much more level (no dip at the hitch) 
 

SpencerPJ

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A quick search, looks like your Astro can tow 5000#.  You will be fine with that trailer in my opinion.  A WDH will help with that dip, that is there purpose to shift weight to the front tires. And with the WDH, you typically have some up & down adjustment to help level out the trailer.  Etrailer.com is a great website for more info as well, and great prices. 
 

grashley

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The trailer information really helps!  The van GVWR is 5960, as the placard says.

I still suggest getting the rig weighed to make sure you have sufficient tongue wt and nothing is overloaded.  You should be okay, maybe a bit of rearrangement of the cargo.
 

SarniaTricia

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After talking with my husband and step-son last night and telling them my plans... we are about 90% sure that a WD system is what is needed to bring the weight off the back axel and level things out....

I'm still going to weight the rig as instructed.... I've got the place arranged, just need to get the time.... (maybe Friday early AM)  I'm going to load the van like I would for the big trip to Massachusetts, minus live critter (bags of feed will fill in for the animals)  I still have to check my manual re: GCWR, the manual I found online said my dealer could help calculate that... ;D

It's canning season right now and I've got baskets of fruit that are begging for jars or jamming..... either way the spoilable items get attention right after scheduled shifts at work....

Thanks for being such a great group to put questions too!!
Patricia  :))
 

SarniaTricia

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Amherstburg, Ontario
As suggested I did Weight my Tongue (bathroom scale) and it is 320lbs
I purchased a WDH with a 300-500 tongue weight rating.

Installed the WDH this weekend.....
I think I need to adjust things again as I did not find a significant difference in the overall ride
(test drive was done up to 90km/hour on regular roads not highway)

I use a friction sway bar as well (not shown in the photos)
I will need to pick a day soon to be late for work to get weight on my rig as the end of October is running up quickly on me... (the day I need to drive 12-15 hours with my rig)

Here are some photos... 
(I did cross my chains for the test drive and I did connect my power and lock my blue lock and installed my friction anti-sway bar and the jack is cranked up enough to put the whole weight onto the WDH)
 

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SpencerPJ

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SarniaTricia said:
I think I need to adjust things again as I did not find a significant difference in the overall ride
(test drive was done up to 90km/hour on regular roads not highway)

Just my Opinion

It looks like trailer is sitting correct, so the height of the ball seems correct.  You seem to have a little sag still in your rear end of the Astro, you might try setting one link tighter on the chain, and it will push the front end down.

 

jubileee

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My astro van has factory tow package. This includes a very robust anti sway bar, lower rear axle ratio, and heavy duty cooling system. With the already light weight distribution on rear axle, I feel the anti sway bar a must, towing or not, having owned a Astro without a sway bar.
 

SarniaTricia

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Amherstburg, Ontario
jubileee said:
My astro van has factory tow package. This includes a very robust anti sway bar, lower rear axle ratio, and heavy duty cooling system. With the already light weight distribution on rear axle, I feel the anti sway bar a must, towing or not, having owned a Astro without a sway bar.

Jubilee.... I'm thinking the investments of a "Sway bar" for the rear suspension on the Astro might be a good idea... not thinking that the WDH is going to be anything more then better fuel mileage and maybe easing on the overall wear and tare on the vehicle....
I didn't want "ANOTHER" payout before this rather expensive Convention.... but, For safety's sake...I just might need too... :|
 

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