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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi All... This is old ground for many who tow with your Outback, so please share your wisdom: new owner of a 2005 LL Bean edition. Beautiful well equipped car with the 3.0 six cylinder boxer. Came with OEM trailer hitch. My understanding is that USA model limits towing load to 3000 lbs and 200 lbs. tongue weight... but higher limits in Europe for the same model. I'm considering purchasing a gorgeous, fully restored '60 Mobile Scout travel trailer. 15' and 2700 lbs. dry, 270 lbs. on the tongue with one full propane tank. If I travel with the propane OFF the tongue, that's about 230 lbs. Also I would travel with the fresh water tank empty and light gear. Is this unrealistic for the H6 engine and transmission. The trailer has electric brakes and I would consider a transmission cooler installation.
Your thoughts and especially your experience would be appreciated. I've scoured this forum for existing threads on this subject and the advice is all over the map! :)
 

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I think the car will handle it. The biggest concern is transmission temperature and mountainous routes where you'll need to use the transmission to help control downhill runs. The engine and transmission should be up to par maintenance wise, good thermostat, working fans, good battery and proper working alternator. Be sure the tires are rated for the weight you'll have on the tongue and in the car.

Premium fuel all the time especially when towing.

http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/96-outback-unpaved/109770-outback-pulls-18-wheeler-more.html
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Cardoc... Sensible advice, thanks. New tires are coming in the spring for the Suby and I'll consult my shop about the cooler. Do you recommend synthetic oil and more frequent oil and brake fluid changes?... What about engine coolant? What do you think of the tongue weight? In this scenario, what would be an ideal ratio to the trailer weight. Do I really need to move the propane off the tongue?... or could I afford a bit more weight behind the trailer axel to lighten the tongue? FYI: I live in the western US and there will be some elevation changes on my journeys.
 

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2011 Outback 2.5i Premium, CVT, Steel Silver, all-weather package. Upgrades: Tweeter kit, BlueConnect, media hub, remote start, Curt 2" receiver hitch.
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The tongue weight is worrisome. At least in the new models, they actually have a lower tongue weight rating in Europe than the US. My trailers are well within the tongue weight rating (I can lift the tongue pretty easily) and still my headlights are blinding oncoming drivers. I really wish we got the Euro adjustable headlights here in the US.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
McBrew... Thanks for the note of caution. Is the tongue weight a concern of the rear crush zone framing or the suspension... Or both? Is there something I can do to modify the rear suspension? Sounds like it would indeed be wise to lighten the tongue weight through re-balancing the trailer load and/ or removing the propane when underway. Thoughts? FYI: This is a 2005, so it's not the latest gen OB.
 

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Synthetic oil is always best regardless of towing. Brake fluid change is 2 yr/30k miles and is sufficient. When you have the cooler installed, have it added in downstream of the radiator portion.

The tongue weight is more suspension travel than anything else. You can swap in BAJA or King springs with a stiffer rate that will help with vehicle control and help keep the car level. Air adjustable struts on the rear could also be an option, or air springs that would fit the strut assembly.

Doubt it has anything to do with crush zones. I got hit by a Honda Civic in the rear hard enough that the Honda license plate left an impression in the bumper. Bent down the bumper post, damaged the bumper skin and busted the plastic bumper skin mounts. No frame damage. No metal damage to the gate or quarters.

If you get the proper load range hitch, proper tires and pressure, watch the engine temperature and balance the trailer proper to keep weight forward of the axle, it'll do fine.

The 5 speed will help you a lot with its gear ratios.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Ok, Cardoc. So I might think about changing my so called OEM hitch on the outback?... It's only rated to 200 lbs. TW and 3000 lbs. total? When you say "keep weight forward of the axle"... How much is enough? Many on this forum would argue that 200 TW is enough, but in this scenario and with this trailer I don't think that can happen. So let's say the trailer at 2700 lbs. is loaded max. to 3000 lbs. for travel, where would you want the TW to safely be?... @ 10%... more/less? That could be as much as 300 lbs. Another respondent to this thread, McBrew, found that "worrisome". Why? Do you?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
Cardoc.. Regarding crush zone stresses from heavy tongue weight. I think the concern of some on this forum is that the crush zone is precisely engineered to be strong up until an impact of a certain force is applied from behind. If in your case if you didn't suffer some pretty profound neck whiplash, you simply didn't get hit hard enough to surpass that engineered point when the crush zone gives way to protect the passenger cabin. The concern then in towing is the levered and eccentric downward force on the rear section of the frame. Does anyone here believe that periodic trailering with 250-275 lbs tongue weight will truly compromise the frame of this car? Or as Cardoc suggests is only an issue of suspension sway and compression?
 

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10% is a general figure to keep the trailer stable while driving down the road. Are you planning on using a trailer sway bar? That would also help and you could keep the weight centered over the axle of the trailer.

A proper fit hitch rated for what is being pulled will not effect the crush zone. The trailer, with brakes, will not caused damage if everything in the connection is snug the way it should. As for a rear impact, if that should happen, the trailer is going to absorb an impact before the car will. Even with long periods of towing, it will in no way weaken the structure of the car. Tongue weight on these vehicles effect overall handling and beefing up the suspension for long tow periods helps keep the car manageable.

Mike uses the Green Machine (2000 2.5 SOHC MT Outback) for towing a trailer around Austin all the time. At times he has it loaded to max capacity and the car is pulling over 3000 lbs. He balances the load in the trailer and the hitch is a Class III. The car handles it with ease. He even caught himself running 80 on the turnpike and didn't realize it since the car was pulling without much effort. There is zero indication that the frame is effected. It does have a good set of springs on it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
Thanks again Cardoc. So you have no problem whatsoever with my H6 3.0 pulling up to 3000 lbs. and 270 lbs over the tongue, w/ class II hitch, transmission cooler and stiffer springs? You would do this if it were your car similarly equipped? Also, keep in mind, I won't be tooling around flat Austin like your friend Mike. We're talking about open road towing with elevation. Not full time or 10 times a year, but perhaps 2-4 times.
Do you recommend a particular anti sway bar you like? I don't have experience with them, but the Hensley Cub looks interesting and is a unique design.
 

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Does anyone here believe that periodic trailering with 250-275 lbs tongue weight will truly compromise the frame of this car? Or as Cardoc suggests is only an issue of suspension sway and compression?
I don't do much trailering and none at all with the kind of weight you're talking about.

I don't think you're going to fold the unibody in half by lugging this around 1000 miles a year. (It does occasionally happen, the rearmost windows blow out and the back doors pop open, never to close again)

I do think you need to be vigilant, measure that tongue weight on each trip to verify that you haven't accidentally overloaded.

Make sure you pack the car accordingly too- that tongue loading counts against the ~950lb vehicle max payload, so you shouldn't plan on having that much in the car beyond yourselves & small hand luggage.

Knowing that you're maxed out in one criteria should remind you not to push it too hard in any other.
 

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Curt Weight Distribution | HitchSource.com

Damage occurs when the trailer is overloaded or the connection between the car and trailer is insufficient. Same with a truck, which can be damaged from improper connection or overloading the equipment.

Considering the strength of the Outback, what it can endure and the torque output of the H6, I would with the right setup. Pulled a 2600 car on a trailer with my 99 Outback without a glitch.

The brakes on the trailer will help prevent a hard push on the frame when stopping. A sway bar will help with the connection between the car and trailer for control. Insuring the hitch is installed proper is important.

If you can balance the trailer with reduced weight on the tongue, it simplifies the equation for the amount you can put in the car. But I don't believe 250-270 lb tongue weight is going to cause a problem.

Austin isn't all flat. East of I35 is predominantly flat, west is hills.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Cardoc: "Austin isn't all flat…." I stand corrected ;-)

I certainly can lighten the tongue weight by removing the propane tank from the tongue while traveling and securing it in the back of the trailer interior. This would certainly change the balance… but is it really worth it?

Can you expand on sway bars? I'm not experienced with them. Do they have to be used with weight distributors (which I believe Subaru strongly discourages with Outbacks)? Can you recommend a specific one for the rig I've described thus far? I mentioned Hensley Cub above, which does not use cams or friction… but apparently has to be permanently installed to the trailer. Thanks.
 

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There an be a number of issues with too high of a tongue weight. When towing wth a truck (the standard in the US) it is recommended to have 10% or higher TW. In Europe, where towing with small cars is the norm, they recommend at least 4% TW. It must be noted that they tend to tow at slower highway speeds in European countries -- often limited by law to around 50-60 MPH.

I have towed with cars ranging from sub-compact to mid size. High (even within manufacturer's spec) TW usually results in very poor ride quality. My previous car had a TW limit of 180 pounds. I had a trailer with a 170 pound TW. It was so bad I almost gave up before I got the trailer home. I redistributed weight in the camper to bring it down a bit, which helped. Later, I switched from a steel LP tank to a fiberglass one and relocated the battery to a hatch just behind the axle. This brought the TW down to about 130 pounds and made a day and night difference in towability. It also kept the camper and car nearly level, which is better for braking and headlight aiming.

Even though my OB is 800 pounds heavier. Quite a bit larger, and has double the tow rating, it seems to react about the same in regards to TW.

4-6% tongue weight is NOT a problem at 65 MPH. However, you want to be cautious about adding weight or moving weight to the very rear of the trailer. The more mass is placed away from the axle, the more it will tend to exaggerate sway. It creates a pendulum effect. I must say that I have been towing campers and other trailers since I was 16 and have never experienced sway.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
"so you shouldn't plan on having that much in the car beyond yourselves & small hand luggage….Knowing that you're maxed out in one criteria should remind you not to push it too hard in any other."

Rasterman: great advice. I would keep little in the car and put most gear and extra load behind the trailer axle. Looking for ways to re-distribute movable load AND keep the trailer balanced.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Jesse: Thanks again for your cautious advice and experience. You're counter balancing cardoc's optimism ;-). So you seem to be saying that the rig I've been describing would result in a poor ride?… and shifting too much load behind the trailer axle could exaggerate sway under certain circumstances. Hmmm. Time to think this trailer choice through again from the beginning. So, I'll ask you the same question I asked Cardoc; would you drive this rig as I described it? If not, what would you change? A different tow vehicle? I'm not sure that's an option for me.
 

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This is actually a really cool hitch/anti sway setup. I had not run across it because I haven't towed an RV in 13 years and I had equipment for it that was working at the time.



Again, the trailer needs to be balanced regardless. You can't put a shite load of weight behind the axle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Yes… I just saw the Hensley. No friction… rather geometry solves the sway problem. McBrew agrees with you about too much weight behind the axle. I'm rethinking the whole equation. If I want the '60 Mobile Scout at 2700# and 270# TW, I may have to consider another tow vehicle… not to replace the Ouback, but something in addition. Cardoc is convincing that the Outback, with some precautions, won't break in half under the load, but McBrew makes a case for a not so good ride, regardless of how I distribute weight. An ol' pick up for a few grand might make the Mobile Scout work… any suggestions?
 

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Yes… I just saw the Hensley. No friction… rather geometry solves the sway problem. McBrew agrees with you about too much weight behind the axle. I'm rethinking the whole equation. If I want the '60 Mobile Scout at 2700# and 270# TW, I may have to consider another tow vehicle… not to replace the Ouback, but something in addition. Cardoc is convincing that the Outback, with some precautions, won't break in half under the load, but McBrew makes a case for a not so good ride, regardless of how I distribute weight. An ol' pick up for a few grand might make the Mobile Scout work… any suggestions?
A H6 outback could be very nice, and maybe the best light trailer tower, but I would not want to break it with the tongue issue. They say honda ridgelines or pilots are great with their similar unibody but stupid money for used.

A old chevy 5.3, or a dodge 318 with a limited slip rear might be nice. Lots of good used 2wd trailer towing trucks are out there. (turn tighter, less parts). If you don't think you need a limited slip rear: try this.

I got a friend who use to pull his bass boat and a snowmobile trailer. He had something like a 1999 chevy 5.3 1500 4wd. Open lockers until you put it in 4wd. In the summer, he had the bass boat on, and it just rained enough to lift the oil and the diesel off the road. From a stop to get on the 4 lane he had to put it in 4wd to get under way, without it too much spinning. It was a new truck then and he was very disappointed. So watch what you buy.
 
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