Towing a travel trailer with a mini-van

My friend David sent me a note the other day – he’s got a mini-van and is buying (has bought) a hybrid trailer like ours.  He was getting some contradictory advice on towing.  Will his mini-van tow this trailer safely – is really what he wanted to know.

Camping in Nothern California

So I shared with him our experience in towing our hybrid with two mini-vans.

We had a Chrysler Caravan (98 I believe) and it had a 3 L 165 hp Mitsubshi motor with a three speed transmission.  It towed our very small, 1000 lb tent trailer well, not that we had a great deal of  get up and go…it was sluggish with just a 3 speed transmission. But it did the job.

The 05 Uplander – Revelstoke BC

In 2005 we were fortunate enough to move up to the Chevy Uplander – not the best mini-van on the market – however that allowed us to purchase our current Surveyor Hybrid and with a four speed transmission the Uplander pulled the trailer fairly well.   We needed to add the transmission cooler and the class 3 hitch along with the appropriate wiring but we did not touch the suspension or the alternator.  We left them as supplied by GM. We did of course add the equalizer bars to the towing arrangement which really kept the van and trailer level.

The Uplander was introduced in 2004/5 and replaced the  Venture.  The Venture had a very reliable 3.4 L 185 hp V6.  The Uplander got a slightly more powerful 3.5L 201 hp V6.  My only complaint was that on inclines it would rev up to 4500 rpm and going through the mountains that meant at times an incline of 17 km.

Camping in Billings Montana

I did check this out with GM who assured me that the engine could do 4500 rpm “all day”.  Really?  All day?  I still didn’t like it.

In 2008 we were able to move up to the 2008 Uplander.  This final version of the Uplander (GM ceased production that year) was given the 3.9L V6 producing a much better 240 hp.

Our experience has been that the additional 40 hp allows the vehicle to pull the trailer without needing to run into such high rpm’s.  In fact we often call pull our trailer at 100 km/hr running at just over 2000 rpm.

The 2008 also came with a built-in transmission cooler and once again we didn’t touch the suspension.  The equalizer bars continue to do the trick.

I pointed my friend Dave to the canamrv.ca website.  This company has been working with Canadians to set up tow vehicle/trailer combinations for years.  Take a look at some of the combinations that work!

You may wish to look at this article from the RV Lifestyle magazine (Vol. 41 No. 2) Hint: click on the article to enlarge it.  After you’ve read it, I would love to hear what you think?

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