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Newbie Question: Towing a Popup Camper

Discussion in 'Tow Rig Forum' started by Ryan Bennett, January 18, 2018.

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    1. Ryan Bennett

      Ryan Bennett New Member

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      Hi All! New to the forum here, so thank you for answering my question. I apologize if this has already been asked. I attempted to look through the forums already to find a similar situation.

      I am planning on purchasing a used 2015 - 2017 Explorer this summer. Most of the Explorers I have seen do not have the factory tow package. I would like to get a popup camper as well to tow with the Explorer, so I am looking at a trailer weight of about 2,000 lbs before adding people and stuff for camping.

      If I add a class II or III hitch with wiring and install an additional transmission cooler, will that be enough to tow? I see that the additional tow a packages have an oil cooler as well. I would be driving in the summer, about 300 miles in Michigan. Is the oil cooler necessary or overkill?

      Thanks!
       
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    3. shucker1

      shucker1 Elite Explorer

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      Class 3 would be best.

      Better safe than sorry.

      Additional transmission cooler is not a bad idea either.

      It will only save your transmission in the long run.

      Best to to with O.D. in "Off" position so the transmission does not generate excess heat.
       
    4. boominXplorer

      boominXplorer Elite Ranger Elite Explorer

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      I'd honestly search for a truck with a tow package since you haven't bought one. The factory stuff added on is primo compared to aftermarket in my opinion.
       
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    5. thebrakeman

      thebrakeman Well-Known Member

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      As long as you plan to keep the loaded weight of the popup no more than about 3000 lbs, that's still Class 2 territory, and leaves you with 500 lbs to spare for whatever passengers and cargo you put in the truck. Class 2 or 3 hitch would be fine. Trans cooler optional, as the base model should be fine thru 3500 lbs MAX rating. But it wouldn't hurt, as long as you didn't go crazy and use a cooler designed for a HD truck. If the trailer has electric brakes, get a Tekonsha Prodigy P2 or P3, and use those brakes!

      If you were talking about going in the 3500-5000 lbs range, then I would start recommending the factory Class 3 Towing Package. In that case, I would agree to look for the right vehicle with the package, since you haven't bought the truck yet. But for under 3500 lbs, IMHO, that's not required, and you can expand your search.
       
    6. Mbrooks420

      Mbrooks420 High Voltage. Elite Explorer

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      Aren’t these Explorers rated for no more than 2,000 pounds without the tow package, no matter the hitch rating?

      I agree with Boomin, I’d get the factory tow package and save yourself the headaches.
       
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    7. thebrakeman

      thebrakeman Well-Known Member

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      Mbrook, you are correct. My mistake. I thought I remembered it having 3500 base rating.
      https://www.ford.com/resources/ford/general/pdf/towingguides/17RV&TT_Ford_Explorer_Sep7.pdf

      OP popup will likely be loaded to 2,600 lbs. With passengers and cargo in Explorer, you will want more than 3,000 lbs tow rating.
      That means getting a V6 (with or without turbo), with towing package. Guide says you need a WDH to get the full 5,000 lbs rating. In my opinion, if popup is kept below 3500 lbs, WDH is not required, but would help. They do make LD WDH kits, which I used when towing a 3100 lbs popup behind Chrysler minivans.
       
    8. Ryan Bennett

      Ryan Bennett New Member

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      Thanks for the replys. What's WDH? Weight Distributing Hitch?
       
    9. Halford1

      Halford1 Active Member

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      No need for WDH if the Explorer has tow package but may be needed for different brand vehicle. My 2014 Explorer XLT has the tow package and it pulls my 3500LBs Coleman Niagara beautifully. I had used CarGurus and it helped me find the Explorer with Tow Package. It takes time to find the perfect Explorer. You can add tow package, color preference to the CarGurus search, it will help you find the right Explorer.

      Even if you added class III hitch, the max tow weight is still 2000 lbs. Just get the Explorer with Tow Package and it would work out perfectly for you. It is worth it. Having the tow package, it is practically stress free.

      The Tow Package comes with many features: plugs with wires set up, special suspensions, curve control, trailer sway control, engine cooler, and bigger radiator. I may be wrong with some features, it has been awhile since I read about the tow package. It is almost like tow and forget about it.

      If you experienced swaying issues, you may need to redistribute the heavy stuff between axle to front inside camper. put the light stuff in back area. It solved the swaying issues. If it did not work, then it may be one of the electric brakes in camper that caused the sway.

      If you bought a popup, try looking into www.popupportal.com.
       
    10. thebrakeman

      thebrakeman Well-Known Member

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      Right. Get at least 10% of the loaded-camper's weight on the hitch-ball. That will make the rig generally stable.
      The electronic trailer sway control (works with stability control system), should then only kick in if you need to make an emergency lane change, get passed too close by a semi, or run into a heavy side-wind.
       
    11. Halford1

      Halford1 Active Member

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      The question about the Max Tow weight - does it also include the weight of passengers or the max weight only focuses on what you are towing?
       
    12. Mbrooks420

      Mbrooks420 High Voltage. Elite Explorer

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      Tow weight is trailer, GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) is the passengers, trailer, and all cargo.
       
    13. Halford1

      Halford1 Active Member

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      shoot, I was hoping that the GVWR would be only limited to the weight of the trailer
       
    14. thebrakeman

      thebrakeman Well-Known Member

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      Halford1,
      It depends on the vehicle and OEM, but I believe (as I posted in the other thread) all Ford vehicles specify that the max tow rating is only available with an empty vehicle plus the driver. Any passenger or cargo weight in the tow vehicle must be subtracted from max tow rating. Add 750 lbs of passengers and cargo in the Explorer, your 5000 lb tow rating is reduced to 4250 lbs.
       
    15. jbb0177

      jbb0177 New Member

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      GVWR is gross weight of the vehicle (vehicle, fluids, passengers, cargo). It does not include trailer. GCWR is the total combined weight of loaded vehicle + loaded trailer. For my 2018 Explorer Sport w/ EcoBoost, Ford says GCWR is 10,400 lbs.

      I'm currently trying to figure out what size trailer my Explorer can handle (safely), so the GCWR is helpful.
       
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    16. thebrakeman

      thebrakeman Well-Known Member

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      Actually, just to be clear, GVWR and GCWR is how much the vehicle(s) CAN weigh. They are "Ratings".
      GVW and GCW are the actual gross weights, with fluids, passengers, cargo, loaded trailer, etc.

      To plan for a potential trailer, figure out how much your Explorer will actually weight, with a full tank of gas, driver, and passengers aboard. Subtract that actual (or estimated) GVW value from your 10,400 GCVWR. The result will be the allowable weight of loaded trailer that you can handle (not to exceed your 5,000 lb max tow rating). This is a slightly more accurate method, versus subtracting passenger weight from the 5,000 lbs max tow rating, since the 2nd method does not take into account the fact that you may have some excess capacity if your truck is not heavily optioned. This comes more into play with larger trucks, but could still be a factor here.
       
    17. d0n4331

      d0n4331 New Member

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      I don't know about Explorers as Ford makes no claim that they adhere to the standard, but for my F-150, Ford complies with SAE J2807, which requires 150lb driver, 150lb passenger, 'standard' options (no a/c delete)* and standard hitch (no carbon fiber/unobtainium models).

      Being very specific on GVWR: It is weight of base vehicle, driver, passengers, cargo, fuel & trailer hitch weight.

      Using jbb0177 Explorer Sport as example:

      Base Explorer 4,900lbs
      Gas (18 gals) 115lbs
      Driver 162 lbs**, SO 135**, Munchkins 75lbs, 50lbs, Pet 8lbs.
      WDH*** 55lbs
      Luggage - 50lbs * 4
      Ready to roll weight = 5,700 lbs

      (adjust weights above as appropriate for your personal case)

      Explorer Sport GVWR 6,100 lbs

      So, jbb0177 can afford 400lbs maximum hitch weight.****

      Normal TT has ~13% of weight on hitch; 400/.13 = 3,075lbs max trailer; then subtract beer, food, propane tanks, battery to get dry trailer weight you should be looking at. 750-1k lbs isn't unreasonable.

      Same thing done to the F-150 crowd has them losing their minds - instead of being able to tow the 13.2k on the brochure, they are limited to about 6,500lbs). And they can't tow the beautiful 10k lbs trailer they just put a non-refundable down payment on.

      On hitches:
      Ford limits Explorer to 200lbs w/o WDH, so towing much over 1,500lbs, you need Cat III hitch.*****

      *Spare tire delete is contentious.
      ** Taken from Engineering Design Graphics, 4th edition 50th percentile individuals.
      ***From SAE J2807 spec
      ****No calculation has been done to see if Explorer is overweight on rear axle.
      *****I have never seen a Cat II WDH; boats are exception you can get away with 7% hitch weight so you can tow a 3k boat and trailer with Cat II hitch.
       
    18. jbb0177

      jbb0177 New Member

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      Explorer Sport GVWR is 6,300 lbs as an FYI.
       
    19. Mbrooks420

      Mbrooks420 High Voltage. Elite Explorer

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      Do they all have the same spring codes?
       
    20. d0n4331

      d0n4331 New Member

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      I was going with weights/GVWR I got from C&D; It was as much to be illustrative as exact. I don't know if you have SO, Munchkins, etc or actual weights. I could have used my case but after I add my son (played nose tackle for his high school team), me, significant other and daughter, I would have 0 towing capacity. (Which is why I have F-150.)

      I'm going to continue with jbb0177's example, just because it gives some real numbers:

      Coachman RV Apex Nano 193bh: Brochure numbers look good - 375lb hitch is <400lb limit; trailer less than lower of GCWR - TVW (10,400 - 5,700 = 4,700lbs) or hitch max = 5k lbs @ 3,495. Looks good, so we go to deal.

      All the Apex 193bh on lot come with "Nano" and "Western" packages as "standard" optional equipment. (awning, spare tire, etc) so dry weight of the trailer on the lot is 406lbs hitch/3,750lbs. For all intents and purposes, still OK - scales aren't accurate to 1%, but right at limit.

      But we decide to weight the hitch and get a number of 506lbs?! Why the increase? RV dealership has added a Group 27F battery (60lbs), 20lb propane cylinder - full (40lbs) and brackets for the WDH. As they are at front of trailer, weight is on hitch. But we haven't loaded the trailer yet...

      If we load 750lbs into trailer (average amount) and 20% is on hitch that is another 150lbs of hitch weight (tough to keep to 20% as the external storage is almost always at front of trailer) the ready to roll weight of TT is 656lb hitch! (Which is why my rule of thumb says add 50% to the brochure value).*

      And yes, I have made the mistake, which is why I now have an F-150 in addition to my Explorer. That was easier than tell everyone we needed to reduce the trailer by 50%.

      *Apex trailer is a little more nose heavy (~15% ready to roll) than average as it is single axle, but single axles are more prone to sway, so need to be more nose heavy. Trailer could probably be loaded to 500lbs hitch; but might not trail real nice that way.
       

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