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2018 Explorer Sport - Towing a Travel Trailer

Hello,
Been a long time Ford owner, but about to venture into towing for the first time. I just bought a 2018 Explorer Sport (w/ V6 Ecoboost) and will be buying a camping trailer within the next few weeks.

I understand the 500/5,000 max weights in the owner manual, and am curious if anyone on here tows near the 5,000lb max? The trailer I'm looking at is 4,200lbs dry, so factoring in supplies/gear/etc, I'll be right at that 5k max weight. I'd be using a WDH as well.

I'm much more interested in safety and control (vs. fuel performance). There are some smaller trailers I'm looking at, but really like the one at 4,200lbs dry, so hoping the Explorer can handle. I'm in Washington, so will be going over mountain passes.

Would really appreciate to hear from other owners that are towing camping trailers.
 



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jbb0177

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Well, I've read a bunch of blogs/forums and while there is definitely a wide variety of opinions and experiences, I'm thinking 4,200 lb dry simply too much (for anyone curious, it was the Venture Sonic 220VBH).

Would still be interested to hear from folks that have a Sport model and are towing a travel trailer. Would be interested in size/weight of the trailer you have and how your towing experience has been.
 






d0n4331

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If you read the fine print in Ford's towing guide for the Explorer - max trailer frontal area is 40'^2 (6' by 6'6" more/less). Basically, the Explorer is limited to a pop-up or a boat.

The Venture is 10'3" by 7'6" = 77'^2 more/less, almost double.

SAE 2807J was supposed to help with tow ratings, but engineers have found creative ways to interpret to get the highest ratings.

You need to have 150lb driver and passenger, but nothing is said on where the passenger needs to sit; so they put passenger in back row, then with tongue weight, they hit rear GAWR, before GVWR. So, 10,400lb GCWR of Explorer - 4,900 empty weight - 150lbs *2 - 110 lb fuel (full tank) and they come up with a 5k limit after rounding. Frustrates the heck out of the F-150 guys - big numbers in brochure, but doesn't translate to real towing. (GMC and Dodge are doing same thing, so no one is calling kettle black).

A more appropriate way to look at is: GCWR - GVWR = Trailer GVWR, so 10,400-6,160 = 4,240lb trailer GVWR. Subtract 1k lbs for stuff in trailer and you should be looking at ~3,250 lb dry trailer.
2018 Forest River Rockwood 296 HW is about the max officially towable. :(
 






thebrakeman

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Your intuition is correct, as well as the advise about frontal area.
PS - For frontal area, I usually do not include the ground clearance of the trailer. So:
-Height = 123" - 18" (clearance?) = 8.75ft
-Width = 90" = 7.5ft
Frontal area (HxW) = about 65 sq-ft (still much greater than your 40sq-ft limit)

The turbo motor would really shine in the mountains, as it would not be affected so much by the thinner air. However, pulling a full-height trailer, with increase wind-resistance, means the turbo will stay on-boost for more of the time. The F150 EB combo has gearing and cooling for HD towing, and has been put thru torture testing to prove it's worth. The Explorer EB combo is gear and cooled for acceleration (not HD towing). I fear drivetrain would perform very well, but at the cost of longevity.

If on flat ground with that combo, you might get away with it, limiting speed (which you would not actually do). But in the mountains, you need less trailer. And we haven't even talked about stability. Pretty sure you would need a WDH to get the 5,000 lbs rating, which you may or may not have considered.

Also, if you load the trailer right to 5000 lbs (which is likely) you would have no capacity left for passengers in the Explorer. This is just not a good idea, for many reasons.

I recommend you find a "high-wall" popup camper, with a GVWR (max loaded weight), no more than 4,000 lbs. Or, get a more capable tow vehicle.
 






d0n4331

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Getting my reputation established: [email protected]$$ response:

a. Last time I checked, tires touched the ground and axle is below middle of tires.
b. The hole you are making in air goes from lowest point on Explorer, which is probably <6" to bottom of airdam plus tires * width of trailer plus area of towing mirrors on the Explorer.

So starting 18" up misses a lot of real area. My calculation, while conservative, is pretty close. If you are having to calculate the clearance under the Explorer, you are probably over the limit/if sales guy is selling trailer 6' tall by 7' width = 42 ft sq, you are probably still ok. :D

jbb0177:
You also need to watch tongue weight - most trailer manufacturers quote dry weight (gives best numbers) but that doesn't include the propane tanks, battery or the cargo you loaded into the trailer. It isn't unusual to see 50% increase in 'ready to roll' hitch weight versus the dry weight.

You are better calculating using 13% hitch weight when looking at trailers if you don't have actual. 500/.13 = 3,850lb max trailer.
 






jbb0177

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Thank you everyone. Super helpful and nice to get confirmation on the Sonic being too big. I'm currently looking at Apex Nano 193BHS. Dry weight/tongue weight/and even GVWR all work (and even with the fact I won't tow with trailer water talks filled). I feel that even gives me some wiggle room.

Totally understand the frontal area guidance, but it's just that, guidance. Ford clearly states the 40ft is a "limitation and consideration" and not "max allowed" or some other type of definitive wording like they use for tow capacity.

From what I've read, it seems the main negative aspect of going over frontal area (within reason) is fuel economy given the high drag. I'm fine with this. My longest trip will be 4 hours.

Would be great to still hear from others that are towing a travel trailer with a newer model Sport.
 






thebrakeman

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don4331, No worries on the reply!
However, we're not calculating the "clearance under the Explorer". The requirement is speaking of the frontal area of the trailer (as you know). Fact is, a lot of air flows under the trailer. I thing all would agree that if this span of air were not there, wind resistance would be much worse. There is a lot of room between the back of the truck and front of the trailer box, so tow vehicle ground clearance isn't necessarily the limiting factor. I agree that your calculation is conservative, which can be considered a good thing. I'd rather assume the worst, than be sorry. But I would not want somebody to assume frontal area all the way down to the pavement, and rule out an otherwise OK high-wall popup, or utility trailer. I think there is 7-15 sq-ft of area that is largely free for air to move, under all trailers.
 






thebrakeman

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jbb0177,
Do not assume that fuel economy is the only downside of exceeding frontal area limits. Note that frontal area limit increases when you add a HD towing package. That package does not make you get better fuel economy. It adds additional cooling, and/or changes gearing to reduce the engine load, so it can handle the increased wind resistance of more frontal area. If you exceed frontal area requirements, yes, fuel economy will suffer. But even worse, you are working the drivetrain beyond design intent. Will the truck fall apart? No. Will it catch on fire? No. Will driveline components be damaged at a faster rate? Yes. Just something to be aware of. Just like tow rating. Exceeding them will probably never result in something catastrophic, but it's not good for the vehicle in the long term.
 






vos

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I have a 2016 Ford Explorer limited all wheel drive with the regular 3.5 V6 and I towed my travel trailer which has a dry weight of about 2700lbs loaded 3500lbs and about 20 feet in length. I specifically chose this trailer because on paper the explorer should be able to tow it. It does but it struggles. For instance when I was on flat land towing I couldn’t do more than 80km/hour there was a strong headwind that day I’ll admit but my husband almost turned around at that point. Trailer was not loaded just bedding, a cooler, and some odds and ends. It was just myself, my husband and our 55lb dog in the Explorer along with a weekend bag that’s it and it struggled. After that day we never used our Explorer again for towing the camper. Sure towing the quad around and the utility trailer is not an issue but the camper nope. I used a weight distribution hitch which did help with sway. But in my opinion the Explorer is just not strong enough for the full size travel trailers. I also had a pop up and the Explorer had no problem towing it but the frontal clearance of my new one is just a little too much for my Explorer.
 






uskern

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Hi all,

Following this thread as we're going to get a light trailer later this year (and I'll update this thread again).

We are driving a 2018 Ford Explorer Sport with the class III trailer tow package.

Where I am at right now (based on this thread and some other research):

1. Even though the 2018 Ford Explorer Sport does have a connector for a trailer break controller, it's entirely optional - just because the max. weight of the trailer is pretty limited. We installed the Tekonsha P3 and I am happy to post pics later today.

2. We're going to do a multi-month road trip: 2 adults, 1 toddler, 1 baby. We intentionally bought an SUV, just because it's not really worth driving a truck in downtown Boston.

3. We are originally from Switzerland and I did a lot of research over there too. Fun fact: when you buy a trailer in Europe, the max frontal area is NOT something you look at. There is not even guidance on that. What matters instead is the GCWR, if your vehicle can tow a certain trailer on a road with an ascend of 8% or 12%, and the max axle weights. I guess there is more wind in the US and fewer mountains haha.

3. What I am considering right now in terms of trailers: anything below 2000 lbs should work fine, 2500 dry is probably the maximum (see vos' post from above).

Option 1: Travel Lite F-20 (dry about 1700 lbs): https://travellitecampers.com/travel-trailers/travel-lite-falcon/

Option 2: R-POD 180 (dry about 2600 - that MIGHT be problematic). r-pod West Coast Travel Trailers by Forest River RV

Thanks and best,
Goofy
 






Mbrooks420

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You have a factory Ford installed tow package? If so, neither of those trailer should be a problem. The Travel Lite wouldn’t load, but from the google images they have a sweet front.
 






uskern

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Yes, it's the factory installed tow package!

They just launched a new site, check this out: Falcon Ultralite Travel Trailers - Travel Lite RV Campers

So it sounds like everything between 2500 and 3000 lbs dry weight should be fine - but might not be super fun to drive with (referring to Vos' post from above: "2700lbs loaded 3500lbs and about 20 feet in length"... "It does but it struggles").

Would you go with a weight distribution hitch for a trailer in the 2500 lbs dry range?
 






Mbrooks420

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It wouldn’t think it’s absolutely needed, but tiring with a weight distributing hitch is always better. Since you are planning a long trip, I’d spring for it. It’ll make your towing experience from the drivers seat more enjoyable.
 






Gerald C

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Hello everyone,
This is my first post since joining.
I just leased a 2018 Ford Explorer XLT with the factory Class III tow package installed. We intend to tow a hybrid camper with it but I am having a problem finding a proper cable to connect an electric brake controller to the electric brake wiring without hard wiring it.
Ford tells us we could void the warranty and lease terms if the controller is hard wired. I assume there should be a connector somewhere under the dashboard for a cable plug but I'm told nobody makes them, even etrailer.com shows one for the 2018 Explorer but said over the phone that they don't have any.
I was wondering how USkern connected his Tekonsha P3 in his Explorer Sport
Any information will be appreciated, thank you
 






Mbrooks420

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@uskern
Ford didn’t have a solution for this, as in a harness they sell? This is the reason I couldn’t lease a vehicle.
 






uskern

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Hey - you should be able to see the connector by using a flashlight (use your iPhone / Android, just take a pic with the flash turned on, it works nicely). It's right underneath that cover below the steering wheel. I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be there in the XLT.

Photo is below.

IMG_9150.jpg
 






Gerald C

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Thank you for the reply and picture.
I have old knees and could not get low enough to see it and the pictures I took didn't show anything either.
Initially, Ford and etrailer.com said nobody manufactured a cable with a connector for the 2018 Explorer then a couple of days later they called back and said they found a cable that should work. Our Ford dealer agreed to install the controller and cable and test it to make sure everything works without voiding the warranty or terms of the lease.
If we are successful and end up with a working brake controller I will update this post with what cable we used in the Explorer with the Tekonsha P3
 






uskern

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Ha, congratulations :)

We used this cable from Amazon:
Tekonsha 3035-P Brake Control Wiring Adapter for Ford https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001NZQIDE/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_QBwqBb7E9RC9X

Let us know what you end up using.

Best


Thank you for the reply and picture.
I have old knees and could not get low enough to see it and the pictures I took didn't show anything either.
Initially, Ford and etrailer.com said nobody manufactured a cable with a connector for the 2018 Explorer then a couple of days later they called back and said they found a cable that should work. Our Ford dealer agreed to install the controller and cable and test it to make sure everything works without voiding the warranty or terms of the lease.
If we are successful and end up with a working brake controller I will update this post with what cable we used in the Explorer with the Tekonsha P3
 






thebrakeman

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Yes, it's the factory installed tow package!
They just launched a new site, check this out: Falcon Ultralite Travel Trailers - Travel Lite RV Campers
So it sounds like everything between 2500 and 3000 lbs dry weight should be fine - but might not be super fun to drive with (referring to Vos' post from above: "2700lbs loaded 3500lbs and about 20 feet in length"... "It does but it struggles").
My previous recommendation for a 5000 lbs-rated (Class 3) Explorer going thru the mountains, was a high-wall popup not to exceed 4000 lbs actual loaded weight.
If you can find an aerodynamic full-height trailer (like Rpod, etc), and keep it under 3000 lbs, I would also think you'd be in good shape.
Would you go with a weight distribution hitch for a trailer in the 2500 lbs dry range?[/QUOTE]
At less than 3000 lbs, your TW should not exceed 350 lbs, which should not need a WDH. Although if you want a nice ride, check into the Reese mini-350 WDH kit (integrated sway control).
But I would highly recommend a friction sway controller, if you do not use a WDH with integrated sway control. 3000 lbs hanging off the back could be a handful, especially if these Rpods (etc) tend to be tongue-light. Either way, make absolutely sure that at least 10% of loaded trailer weight is on the ball.
 



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SteveP8

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We tow a Casita (fiberglass egg) travel trailer; empty wt 2450, Gross wt 3500, tongue wt 360, same width as Explorer, just a bit higher. Pulls great.
 






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