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Thread: towing

  1. #1
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    towing

    I wasn't sure just where to post this, but, I figured it was a general enough question to go here.
    My family (wife and 3 year old son) are moving from Philly to Maine in April. Last year we stripped down our belongings and crammed everything that we couldn't part with in our 87 LE 4WD and drove all the way from Portland Oregon. Great trip!
    Anyway we have more stuff now and because the move is much closer, we don't feel the need to get rid of a bunch of stuff. I looked in to renting another vehicle for the trip but the cost seems way too high.
    I've got a hitch. I need to check on the class size and I think the wiring is wonky (I'll have it fixed) but I was wondering if I'm going to kill my van by towing a small trailer.
    We'll have the van packed to the gills and I think MAYBE the smallest little UHAUL trailer might work. Has anyone done this before? The drive from Philly to midcoast Maine is pretty easy, no huge mountains, I don't mind going 60, it'll take more like 10 hours but that s fine.
    My van is in awesome shape and only 150K, but I don't want to abuse it by towing just to save a few bucks! But if I hear some positive feedback I'd look in to it.
    Oh, I have an auto tranny, that probably doesn't help!
    thanks
    mark

  2. #2
    Administrator timsrv's Avatar
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    Re: towing

    You can do it but there will be limitations. Unless it's a custom hitch, the only one made for the van was a class I. Class I hitches are only rated at 200 lbs tongue weight and 2,000 lbs gross trailer weight. Before towing anything you should look under there and see if the hitch has bars going to the sub-frame. If it only mounts to the bumper I wouldn't recommend towing much more than 500 - 600 lbs.

    Assuming you've got the sub-frame bars, and assuming U-Haul will even let you tow one of their trailers (they have minimum tow vehicle requirements), then you will need to limit the weight as to not exceed the 2,000 lbs total. Towing a trailer will kill your gas mileage and will also generate more heat in the engine/drive-train. You will need to monitor your temp gauge and slow down or stop for a while if it gets too hot (don't exceed 75% of gauge travel and don't go near the red zone!). Remember that your transmission gets cooled by the engine radiator, so if your engine is running hot, then so is the transmission. It's okay to use overdrive, but only when it will stay in OD for extended periods. If you get in a situation where the transmission starts "hunting" back & forth between 3rd and OD, you need to turn it off and stay in 3rd. Hunting is very hard on automatic transmissions and can lead to premature failure. Another very important thing (if not the most important thing) is safety. Your brakes will be working overtime on the downhill grades, so you will need to change your driving habits. When you start down a steep grade downshift into 2nd and keep it under 50. Don't ride your brakes! Let the engine compression do most of the work and only use your brakes when necessary. If you start smelling your brakes or begin to experience "brake fade", slow down ASAP and go to a lower gear. Good luck! Tim

    PS: BTW, the trailer wiring on that thing is screwed up. I tried hooking something up once when I owned that van and it instantly blew the brake light fuse. Being an RV guy I should have fixed it, but it was just easier to use another vehicle . Guess I should have mentioned that when you bought it .

  3. #3
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    Re: towing

    I would recommend renting a uhaul box truck or Budget and letting some one drive the van or rent a car hauling trailer instead. all ride in truck.
    nice thing about driving van instead of towing is that you have an easy get about vehicle for running to a restaurant!!

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    Re: towing

    Does anyone know of a place to get a trailer hitch for my '85 van? I just called Uhaul and they couldn't find anything on their computer. They are going to call me back but it sounds like at least a week wait and we would love to take the motorcycles on our vacation this coming weekend.

    Tim do you have anything? I would drive to Battle Ground in a heartbeat to pull this off.

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    Re: towing

    Tim have any experience with Adventure RV? Looks like they might have one...

    http://www.adventurerv.net/curt-clas...n-p-13090.html

    BTW - give me a heads up if you got that last donation... I did it again.

  6. #6
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    Re: towing

    I don't currently have anything. Call a welding shop and ask if they can custom fabricate/install a hitch for you. If they don't do it they should know who does. If you go custom they can rig it up with a removable ball mount. I would go with a class III receiver as you will have more choices in accessories. Tim

  7. #7
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    Re: towing

    Quote Originally Posted by Spindrift View Post
    Tim have any experience with Adventure RV? Looks like they might have one...

    http://www.adventurerv.net/curt-clas...n-p-13090.html

    BTW - give me a heads up if you got that last donation... I did it again.
    That one is BS. They use a picture of a beefy hitch but all you'll get is a little thing (about a foot wide) that bolts to the bumper. Nobody makes a hitch for these vans anymore. Draw-Tite made one for a while but it was only a class I (yet better than the one from Adventure as it tied into the sub-frame). You can still find the Draw-Tite ones occasionally at the salvage yards, but IMO a custom hitch would be much more desirable. BTW, your van needs to have coil springs in the back for the Draw-Tite hitch to work. Nobody ever made a production hitch for the vans with rear leaf springs...............so if you have one of those, custom is your only choice. Tim

    PS: Yes! Thank you for supporting TVT!

  8. #8
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    Re: towing

    I fabricated a hitch for my '87 4WD van and pulled a 2-place snowmobile trailer that I built a little house on to bring some stuff from Minnesota to a place we had in Arizona. I can't remember the load we were hauling, but there might have been some lumber and furniture.

    I have coil springs on that van, but even though I've heard it mentioned as a necessity for a manufactured hitch, I don't know why, or if it's a necessity for towing (probably not, since Tim hasn't nixed it, only spec'd it).

    I used the shipping tie-down brackets and then there are some loops under the bumper on both sides that carried the thing. So it bolted through the brackets and hung from the bumper. I wish I'd have taken pictures for a better description, but all I can say is that it wasn't a real complicated fab and it got me across the country with no problem. I'm thinking I probably used U-bolts for the hangers.

    I just went out and looked under the van and, being a Minnesota van, I would never even consider something that just bolted to the bumper. I was feeling around for where I might have mounted (to see if I drilled any holes) and a bunch of rust fell out of there. Then I saw the loops (about a foot in from each side) and remembered that that was what I used.

    Good luck!

  9. #9
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    Re: towing

    Right now I'm rigging up a class III hitch on my leaf spring cargo van (pics to come) but the one I've been using til now was a modified Draw-Tite one. For safety and security it should be tied to the bumper & the sub-frame........just in case the bumper breaks off

    This is one of the Draw-Tite #28056 hitches that was made specifically for all vans 84-89 with rear coil springs. These are an easy install for coil spring vans but not so much on the leaf spring version. This particular hitch uses (2) 7/16-14 "U" bolts (one on each side of the sub-frame mount locations) and 2 grade 5 7/16-14 carriage bolts with flat plates for the bumper mount locations. Important note: These "U" bolts are special for this hitch, so if you find this type hitch in the salvage yard you will need to remove and take all the mounting hardware too.

    Here's the hitch as it comes for the coil spring rear suspension vans (won't fit on vans with rear leaf suspension).


    Here's one of the frame mounting "U" bolts. There are 2 of these, they use 7/16-14 threads


    So basically, you hold the hitch up to the van, get it positioned as close as possible, then use a floor jack or something to hold it secure against the van. Once you can let go of it, mark all the hole locations, then get it out of the way and drill your holes. The "U" bolts are pushed into one hole, and moved around until they will drop down with only the threaded parts exposed (the silver stuff on the threads is an anti-seize compound to extend the life and insure I'll be able to pull back off even years later).


    Here are the bolts and plates I'm using for the 2 center mounts.


    Here I'm using safety wire on the threads of the bolt so I can pull them up through my bumper tube and into position Note: in this picture I am using a smaller bolt to form the safety wire. After it is formed, it will spring back a bit making it too big for this smaller bolt. It will however be the perfect size to grab onto the larger hitch bolt. Once formed, simply thread it onto the bolt like it's a nut, then you'll have a great way to pull it into position.


    Note the large hole I drilled in the center of the bumper to make pulling bolts easier (this will be covered by hitch).


    Here's a bolt coming through.


    Now for the part that makes mine different. Due to different positions of the unibody frame on my van (because the leaf spring type suspension), I cut off the frame mount bars from the hitch and make my own for a custom fit. Note: if you have a coil spring rear suspension, then disregard this part........you've got it made.


    After my new bar is formed, cut, and painted I mount it to the frame and the bumper for extra strength, then repeat on the other side.


    Here's a view from the back looking forward. Note the extra long bolt securing it to the bumper.


    Now I install the modified hitch onto the bumper and secure the outboard edges with the same bolts securing my home made frame mounts. Note If you were installing an unmodified hitch on a coil spring van, these outer bolts are not used.


    And here's the completed installation:

  10. #10
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    Re: towing

    Here's some pictures of my class III hitch I just finished:




























  11. #11
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    Re: towing

    Beautiful work Tim! How much are you gonna sell them for?

  12. #12
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    Re: towing

    Lol, this type of work I only do for myself (or for those who don't need to ask about the price ). With the "barely adequate" equipment I have this sort of thing takes too long (took me all day). Unless you're willing to pay around $1k I wouldn't be interested in the job. You could however take some of my pictures to a welding/fabricating shop and have them build one like it for around $500 (just a guess). Tim

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    Re: towing

    Wow that is a beautiful thing. Nice work Tim.

    My family mechanic told me to bring him a picture and he would weld one up for me. I have the coil spring '85. I am wondering ... should I take him the first picture of the manufactured hitch (with two arms to sub frame) or the photos of the one you just did (with one arm). The most I plan on towing is a motorcycle trailer.

    I assume the one armed variety would be a little easier to build right?

  14. #14
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    Re: towing

    Just give him a link to this thread .

  15. #15
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    Re: towing

    That looks like a very nice hitch. I used the same "loops" on the bumper, but there are some "ears" on both sides of the "frame" that I thought were shipping tie-downs, but may have been for the leaf spring option. I agree with you about tying to bumper AND sub-frame, because, like I said, my bumper is very rusty, and looks like it would easily fall off (that's the Minnesota van). The one that I got in Texas last winter appears to have a more trustworthy bumper, though, so I might be more likely to feel comfortable with that one.

    I'll probably plagiarize your design, if, and when, I get around to mounting a new hitch

  16. #16
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    Re: towing

    Can anyone walk me through (with pictures) how to install a 4way trailer plug?
    Thanks!

  17. #17
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    Re: towing

    Which type are you after? The most common is the flat 4 molded rubber type (it just hangs by the wires). There are also 2 popular "mounted" round types and a whole slew of others that are less common. Of the mounted round, the most common is usually chrome plated and has a picture of a trailer cast into the metal lid. If you post a picture of it I'll tell you the recommended position of the wires. Of course, it really doesn't matter what position the wires are in as long as the trailer end is wired to match.

    Regardless of what plug it is, our vans utilize what's referred to as a "3 wire" system (separate bulbs for turn lights and brake lights). Trailers typically use the "2 wire" system (same bulb used for brakes & turn lights). This means you will need a 3-2 wire converter in order to get things to work correctly. When you purchase the converter it should come with wiring instructions. There are different types of converters out there (powered & non-powered). The inexpensive one in the link above is non-powered. Powered converters are superior in performance AND they reduced stress to the van's electrical system. The simple non-powered converters are usually adequate for part time towing of small trailers (trailers with only one brake light bulb per side). Tim

    PS: As you might notice from my pics above, I used the 7 way flat pin style tow plug. I chose this because it's the most universal type tow plug available. There are adapters available that go from this type to any of the other types. I just keep the popular adapters in my glove box, then I can plug into any style configuration I might come across.

  18. 01-31-2013, 05:46 AM

    Reason
    Wrong topic

  19. #18
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    Re: towing

    I installed a used Draw-Tite #28056 hitch on my 86 van today (thanks skyflyer for providing the hitch!). I'll be towing a small 4X6 covered utility trailer that's been raised so I needed the trailer ball to be higher than the fixed position of this hitch. I cut the end off the ball mount and welded a class II receiver to the stub. I also drilled and added a couple more bolts to the bumper on the outboard edges of the hitch. Here's the end result:






  20. #19
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    Re: towing

    I was going to attempt installing a tow hitch in my van with leaf springs. Is there anything on the market, maybe for a different car, that with less hacking could come close? It might be a little easier that fabricating something from scratch.

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    Re: towing

    Quote Originally Posted by timsrv View Post
    Class I hitches are only rated at 200 lbs tongue weight and 2,000 lbs gross trailer weight.
    Good info as always. Research tells me a Class III hitch is rated at 10,000 lbs. gross trailer weight (GTW) with a maximum trailer tongue weight (TW) of 1000 lbs.

    Given these vans being so light I assume maxing out the hitch capacity is not the greatest idea. I was however looking to tow a 2000-2500 lb tractor with my 87 Toyota Van (has a custom Class III hitch already installed) from rental yard to home. Apart from hitch capacity is anyone familiar with or know how to calculate what the vehicle is equipped to safely tow overall with the Class III?

    I'd like to avoid popping a wheelie all the way home (and I'd like to make it home)!

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