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Old 03-13-2012, 10:57 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Towing Capacity

I have a 2011 Outback with trailer hitch. Been looking at pop-up campers. Reading my manual, I see that trailers without brakes should weigh less than 1000 lbs. When we bought the car I was just told that towing capacity was 3000 lbs. No mention that no trailer brakes limited towing capacity. Anyone towing a trailer without brakes weighing 2500+ lbs.? Is it really unsafe or damaging to transmission/engine?
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Old 03-13-2012, 11:30 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Unsafe.

3000 is the towing capacity for the H6 Outback with trailer brakes.
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Old 03-14-2012, 09:55 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tommyd View Post
I have a 2011 Outback with trailer hitch. Been looking at pop-up campers. Reading my manual, I see that trailers without brakes should weigh less than 1000 lbs. When we bought the car I was just told that towing capacity was 3000 lbs. No mention that no trailer brakes limited towing capacity. Anyone towing a trailer without brakes weighing 2500+ lbs.? Is it really unsafe or damaging to transmission/engine?
Is that an h6 3.6l or the 2.5 cvt or manual? There are additional conditions besides trailer brakes. The empty weight of an rv trailer is not your packed weight. Google living lite aluminum rv trailers. The garbage built by the big brand rv companies are all too heavy with low quality materials any way.
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Old 03-14-2012, 02:50 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Default Towing capacity

We have towed our pop top camper all over the Mountain West for years. You definitely don't want to skimp on brakes.

Get electronic brakes and a brake controller (offers more control, preferred for campers) or hydraulic surge brakes (preferred for wet applications like boat trailers) for your camper.

You're talking about adding another 50%+ more weight to the maximum gross vehicle weight of your car. You can't expect the vehicle's stock brakes to stop that much weight safely. There are physical reasons for why trailer brakes are required above the vehicle's lower limit. Even with trailer brakes, your stopping distances are going to increase substantially.

Read up on towing capacity, tow load balancing and braking before you commit to a trailer.

Here are the basic tow capacity formulas:
Gross vehicle weight = curb weight + payload capacity
Gross combined vehicle weight = curb weight + payload capacity + net trailer weight.
Net trailer weight = gross trailer weight - tongue weight.

You subtract the tongue weight from the gross trailer weight because it is carried by the car's suspension - you don't want to double-count it.

We have a 2005 XT. As an example on our car, we're looking at a gross vehicle weight of ~3500 + 900 = ~4400#
Net trailer weight = ~2100 - 200 = 1900#
Combined vehicle weight = 4400 + 1900 = ~6300#.

Our car has a maximum tow rating of 2700#. This implies that the maximum combined vehicle weight for our car with trailer brakes is about #6900.

You don't mention where you want to go. Mountain terrain requires that you go conservative on your figures. Don't buy a trailer that maxes out your vehicle if you're going to tow at altitude. In fact, I wouldn't advise buying a trailer that maxes out your vehicle under any circumstances.

Tow load balancing:
Notice also that you have to reduce the car's payload by the tongue weight. In other words, our car has a payload capacity of 900#, but the 200# of tongue load has to come off that, otherwise you'll overload the car's suspension.

The tongue load should also be 8-10% of the trailer's gross weight, otherwise the trailer won't track well. Since our cars have a 200# tongue weight limit, that implies a maximum trailer weight of ~2500#. Pushing the limit with a 3000# trailer and a 200# tongue weight is about as far as I would go. Stability in cross winds will suffer.

The Outback makes a fine towing vehicle as long as you respect its limits. I love being able to drive a vehicle that tows our camper and hauls our stuff but still handles like a car, not a snow-plow. Engine power matters, engine/transmission cooling capacity matters, braking capacity matters, weight distribution matters, trailer cross-section area matters (a pop-top camper will be fine). You need to look at the whole picture.

Hope this helps, and good luck with your shopping,

-brian
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Old 03-14-2012, 03:25 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Tommyd, the towing capacities of the 2011 OB are 2,700 pounds for the 2.5i with manual or CVT transmission and 3,000 pounds for the OB with the H6 engine. This is under normal circumstances. These capacities are reduced in hot temperatures (over 104 deg. F.) or operation in mountainous areas.

Keep in mind that at weights above 1500 pounds, you should have trailer brakes installed.
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Old 03-16-2012, 11:45 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Most popups will either come with trailer brakes or have the mounting tabs on the axles. Trailer brakes are needed. This is true for any tow vehicle. Unfortunately, a lot of truck/ suv owners ignore the manufactures requirement or don't pay attention to GCVW.
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Old 01-01-2013, 02:08 PM   #7 (permalink)
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OEM Class I hitch vs. Class 3 Aftermarket
The OEM max tow rating of 2700 Lbs and max tongue weight of hitch do not make sense--. Most info I've gathered estimates the tongue weight to be 8-10% of the trailer weight, or 216-270 lbs. Max tongue weight in the manual is for the OEM hitch is 200 lbs. I'm considering trailer ultralites (i.e., Amerilite, Spree) in the 2400-2600 lb range, and I'm concerned that an OEM hitch install will limit my choices to pop-ups. The etrailer site lists hitches with greater wt. ratings, but the manual says "fumes and rust" are the consequences of installing a frame-bolted, aftermarket hitch. The UK Subaru site has higher tow weight maximums, so I'm wondering if the manual specs are more driven by the lawyers rather than the engineers. Any experienced campers out there towing an Ultralite camper using the OEM hitch?

Last edited by Boxer; 01-01-2013 at 02:17 PM. Reason: better description of problem
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Old 03-08-2013, 01:51 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Brian, that is good info. I'm going to an RV show in Portland, OR today and taking a close look at those figures you mentioned. Thanks for that. I have toyed with the idea of the Sylvan GO trailer, but a bit pricey. I have a 2013 3.6 Outback. 1 inch trailer mount. Not like my Expedition that this replaced. Just big concern on the towing as you mentioned in your comments to Tommyd. I think I'll stick to Pop Ups but still watch the weights. R/
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Old 04-05-2013, 05:08 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Here in Europe, the limitation without brakes is mostly 750 kg (1650 lbs).
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Old 04-06-2013, 05:06 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxer View Post
OEM Class I hitch vs. Class 3 Aftermarket
The OEM max tow rating of 2700 Lbs and max tongue weight of hitch do not make sense--. Most info I've gathered estimates the tongue weight to be 8-10% of the trailer weight, or 216-270 lbs. Max tongue weight in the manual is for the OEM hitch is 200 lbs. I'm considering trailer ultralites (i.e., Amerilite, Spree) in the 2400-2600 lb range, and I'm concerned that an OEM hitch install will limit my choices to pop-ups. The etrailer site lists hitches with greater wt. ratings, but the manual says "fumes and rust" are the consequences of installing a frame-bolted, aftermarket hitch. The UK Subaru site has higher tow weight maximums, so I'm wondering if the manual specs are more driven by the lawyers rather than the engineers. Any experienced campers out there towing an Ultralite camper using the OEM hitch?
The tongue weight limit does not change for your car with a change in hitch. It is what the suspension and structure of the vehicle is designed to support. A heavier hitch will only subtract from that load capacity (it's weight vs the weight of the lighter rated stuff). You can not do anything to your vehicle that will increase any of it's ratings (from a legal standpoint). The heavier hitch might give you piece of mind, but the actual failure point of the lighter equipment is most likely able to withstand peak loads 2-3 times the rated weight. Again, your tow ratings as stated in the manual will not change no matter what you change. They are what they are. part of the reason for the higher ratings in Europe have to do with the fact that all of Europe limits tow speeds to about 50 mph. They also run much lower tongue weights in Europe. If they tried to run the speeds we do here, they would get passed by their trailers in short order.
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