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As the title says, I am looking to tow a small (5X8) cargo trailer to transport my band's equipment. About 900-1000 lbs for the trailer and somewhere around 500 lbs of equipment. Anyone have experience towing this size/weight with a 2.5L, 4 cylinder Outback wagon? I've looked up the towing capacity but many people tell me this can vary from the manual to real-life conditions. Looking for anyone who's done something like this successfully/unsuccessfully with their outback.

What mods should I make? When people talk about trailer brakes, is that referring to better brakes for the Outback? Or brakes that would go on the trailer? Pretty new to all of this, so any help would be appreciated. I searched first, but could only find info on newer outbacks. :29:
 

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2004 Outback Wagon, Mystic Blue Pearl
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It's definitely doable. Trailer brakes are brakes on the trailer itself, and are recommended for trailers over 1000 lbs. For a 1500 lb trailer you might be able to et away without them if you tow mainly on flat ground and you leave plenty of following room, but having them would make life a lot easier.

The cooling systems on these care are really too small, so if you are towing in temps over 85 degrees, and especially on long hills/passes you will have overheating issues. Also a auxiliary transmission cooler will help protect the transmission if you have an auto.

I have towed a 1000 lbs of motorcycles and trailer thousands of miles and my car doesn't seem any worse for the wear.
 

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2013 Outback 2.5i Premium
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I have towed a similar setup for many 1000 miles with my 2003 Outback that had a lower tow rating (and less power). I never had a problem with it.
 

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OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
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Cooling is the weakness. This is more about when and where you tow.
flat land.....no big deal, tow away.

if towing steep grades in 100 degree 90% humidity weather...that is when you'll have issues.

My H6 could tow 2,500 pounds up mountain grades, but it wanted to overheat - a lot more than yours and notably asking too much but also a bigger engine and it was only 85 degrees outside.

A dedicated transmission cooler might pull more heat away from the cooling system and help some.

Trailer brakes are an excellent option to have, very wise investment. If you've never emergency braked when towing and had the weight pushing your back end....it's not something fun to learn the hard way.
 

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Cooling is the weakness. This is more about when and where you tow.
flat land.....no big deal, tow away.

if towing steep grades in 100 degree 90% humidity weather...that is when you'll have issues.

My H6 could tow 2,500 pounds up mountain grades, but it wanted to overheat - a lot more than yours and notably asking too much but also a bigger engine and it was only 85 degrees outside.

A dedicated transmission cooler might pull more heat away from the cooling system and help some.

Trailer brakes are an excellent option to have, very wise investment. If you've never emergency braked when towing and had the weight pushing your back end....it's not something fun to learn the hard way.
^--------- What he said. I towed for nearly 11yrs with my 2001. By the way your max rating is 2000lbs - 200lbs tongue weight. The car physically handles up to that weight just fine regarding handling etc - but from about mid 80 temps and up the cooling system will fall short long before the 2.5 runs short on power. So hot summer trips with some climbs involved you will be running the heater and crossing your fingers you can keep the engine temp in check beyond about 1200lbs trailer weight.

Having said that flat towing short trips etc your idea would be 100% workable you just won't be hauling the band to Dillon Colorado in the summers. Or say over the Grapevine on I5 from LA etc.
 

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OBW H6 VDC, Tribeca, XT6
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Having said that flat towing
yes, the effects of grades on towing are not stated nearly clear enough. you can pretty much ignore like folks posting from Florida on this issue, LOL. it's really easy to pull an enormous load on a properly weighted trailer....you can move huge trailers in a parking lot with just your hands. moving a heavy load is not hard. it's the grades that take a lot of work and generate a lot of heat.
 

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2001 VDC/SC One of a Kind
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Lower gears reduce engine load. In an Automatic, gear shift in 3 on grades up or down serves two purposes: reduce load on the engine and transmission, helps slow it down. Reduce your engine load and the temperature is controlled better.

A good transmission cooler can be installed in short time for little cash out of pocket.

For everyone else with overheating issues when towing, it takes a little work but is do able. Here's the build:

One simple heater core or large oil cooler hosed in from the outlet side of the OE heater core to the extra cooler that can be mounted either in front of the radiator or underneath the car where it won't get impacted on the offroad trips and get a decent air flow across it. The outlet out of the extra core feeding back into the block where the original hose resided. You should get a decent drop in coolant temperature under load.

Going another route, which would take a little bit more manufacturing would be to incorporate a vacuum operated heater control valve that you can function from inside the car that would allow normal flow when not towing or during extra cold seasons and extra cooling when necessary.

Just doing the math off the top of my head, option one no more than $100, option two maybe add in another $50 or less.

Don't shake your head. I come up with oddball ideas all the time. And they work. Large core radiators are short supply for Subarus. Unless you have one made. Or you're in Europe where they tow RV's with these cars.


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2001 Outback 2.5 with 5 Speed
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I don't know exactly what this trailer weighed, but my h4 5speed pulled it just great. It sounds similar to your situation. I left it in 4th gear going up a larger hill doing 60, and was able to drive in 5th gear at 70 and it never had an issue. Sure acceleration is slower, and braking is longer, but it did the job. Just had to drive a little more careful but I had no issues. I borrowed my dads trailer to move a light load, just a queen size mattress, box spring, and frame. But it was much easier to use that then strapping it all down on the top, lol.

I just have the Subaru factory hitch installed, and used a 2" ball on a 1 1/4 sized drawbar. The hitch/receiver is rated for 2000 lbs, and 200 tongue weight. The draw bar and hitch ball was rated for 3000 lbs, or 300 lbs tongue weight.

IIRC the 2nd gen models are rated at 2000 lbs max. So even with your 1400-1500 pound question, it "should" be able to do it. But I like some of the suggestions by other members. Trailer brakes would help, and a transmission cooler would be optimal on an Automatic.

Subaru Towing information page

Subaru archived models, options, prices, history- all models- 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006... 1969
 

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2000 OBW, AT, 290.5k miles when I sold it
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I pull a 4x8 Harbor Freight special (read: Chinese) trailer with mine, never had any issues. I've had it loaded at least 1500, probably more through the Cumberland Gap in the summer several times going between IN and MD, never had an issue. I don't have an auxiliary cooler, either. If I planned in doing that all the time, I probably would invest in one.
 

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I pull a 4x8 Harbor Freight special (read: Chinese) trailer with mine, never had any issues. I've had it loaded at least 1500, probably more through the Cumberland Gap in the summer several times going between IN and MD, never had an issue. I don't have an auxiliary cooler, either. If I planned in doing that all the time, I probably would invest in one.
This is the best description I could find for the Huntington Lake Regatta that hundreds of people haul sailboats too every July. This is the road that fried my buddies 4spd AT in his 2.5L forester hauling a 1700lb boat. Out side temps mid day on the first major climb locals call the Four Lane section can be in the 100-110 degree temp range easily.
http://www.davewyman.net/ClimbtoKaiser.html

I hauled my 600lb rig up to this lake several times with the 2001 5spd MT top speed on the hard climbs was around 30-40mph in 3rd gear. Some of the very steep short twisty single lane sections we were down to 2nd gear in the 20mph speeds.

This is why we bought an old Landcruiser to haul our larger 1700lb boat to the regatta. That truck would run the AC the whole way even in 110+ temps while running about 40mph on the steepest climbs. The subaru we ran the heater while towing the 600lb rig.

Even no trailer there were many climbs like say the I5 Grapevine run from LA or to LA in summer temps often 100+ where no AC and keeping speeds in the 50-60mph range was needed to keep running temps in the normal range for the 2001 2.5 running the 5spd MT.

Any time outside temps were 80 degrees and lower we could hammer through those climbs with full power and not so much as even wiggle the temp gauge.

Outside temps play a big role in the gen 2 and 3 models and their hauling ability vs cooling capacity etc.
So far our Gen 4 has proven to be far FAR better regarding cooling capacity! Perhaps something Subaru learned from Toyota given Toyota has always been pretty good at providing ample cooling capacity.
 

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2002 outback ltd, 2002 outback LLbean, 2005 outback LLbean, all wagons
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Just a thought, Has anyone put a 6 cyl radiator in a 4 cyl for extra cooling? Would this fit? Thanks
 

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How about with a 5-speed manual? Planning on buying a 2700lb popup camper. Is that too much to handle or am i gonna burn up my clutch trying to start up on hills?
 

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How about with a 5-speed manual? Planning on buying a 2700lb popup camper. Is that too much to handle or am i gonna burn up my clutch trying to start up on hills?
I think in SubiSailors other posts he suggests the manuals are not so good, at the hard work of towing a trailer that heavy.

We beat on the subject recently with chamet's thread on gen3. He got a good old Jeep, ...as he wanted the option of towing off road.

http://www.subaruoutback.org/forums/109-gen-3-2005-2009/119097-new-3-0-2005-outback-owner-towing-concern.html
 

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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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I tow a popup, but it is under 2,000 pounds. One thing you've gotta keep in mind is the tongue weight. Most American made trailers are tongue-heavy. In Europe, it is common to have just 4-6% of the trailer weight on the tongue... here, it is common to have 10-20%.

I would bet that a 2,700 pound popup is going to have more than 300 pounds on the tongue. Your car is rated for 200 pounds max... maybe lower. Excess tongue weight can damage the hitch, hitch mounting points, and even the unibody.
 

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I spent 12yrs towing with our 2001 2.5 5spd MT Legacy GT Limited it was rated for 2000lbs. Weight wise it handled fine - cooling was an issue with anything over about 1200lbs - 85+ degree temps and anything but flat ground hauling. Trust me we found the cooling limits many times almost every time I towed my 1800lb racing boat as long as the temps were below 80 degrees out and it was just me in the car with bar basics and the boat so probably no more than 2000 max total between me and the boat I could get to regattas solo though with no major extended climbs involved.

The new 2010 body shape and technology DRAMATICALLY improved heat generation under load and also heat shedding ie air flow through the front of the car the cooling system is 1000 times improved over the 09 and older wedge style body shape and systems. We bought the CVT because the throttle response on the new 2.5 with MT was down right lousy to the point that the empty 2010 MT bogged down to near stall with an empty car during a hill start vs my 2001 legacy with less power and 180,000 miles on it on the very same hill start with my 1800lb boat behind it had far more snappy hill start than the new 2010. Even my wife taking her turn on a second test drive in a different MT subaru wagon said that the hill start power was lousy which the thought of towing our boat up a boat ramp or climbing up a hill in SF with the boat would have been as we figured not even possible with the new MT.

The CVT has a torque converter it climbs just fine even with the boat the boat is over the cooling related warning of 1350lbs in 104+ temps and 5+ mile climb however 50,000 miles of hot road trips and packed car and as I said the cooling and heat management in the new 2010 and newer cars is 1000 times improved over the old generation Outbacks.

Our go anywhere camping rig my target weight for the trailer was 1200lbs empty or less. I ended up with a 4x6 900lb trailer which we can take anywhere in any temps or climbs with zero issues. The 1800lb boat I packed as light as possible and kept our trips to flatter fewer climbs and when we did have climbs tried hard to avoid the hot time of the day when we did the climb so far as I said the cooling system is far superior to the older cars. Another boat owner same boat we towed just replaced his 09 Outback with a new 2014 3.6 the main reason was for the improved cooling and the simple fact he towed his boat from SF to Tahoe where he has a second home he makes this trip a bunch! He said the new car is light years better and hardly even notices the boat on the haul up the mountain.
 

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What class hitch do you have on your 01 outback? I have an 01 with the 2.5L 4cyl with a class 1 ish hitch.. similar ratings 1500 towing weight 300lbs tongue on a 1.25" reciever. looking to tow a 5x8 with a fully loaded car and likely trailer. Would this work on a. this hitch package or b. this car? Also I live in the beatuiful and hot desert of Moab UT so the heat will definitely be a factor and temps upwards of 115 in the summers.
 

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What class hitch do you have on your 01 outback? I have an 01 with the 2.5L 4cyl with a class 1 ish hitch.. similar ratings 1500 towing weight 300lbs tongue on a 1.25" reciever. looking to tow a 5x8 with a fully loaded car and likely trailer. Would this work on a. this hitch package or b. this car? Also I live in the beatuiful and hot desert of Moab UT so the heat will definitely be a factor and temps upwards of 115 in the summers.
The only number that matters is 200lb limit on the tongue weight. And Moab can be hot and has some steep places. 5x8 trailer depending on its build can easily be 1000lbs empty. My some what middle of the range in build weight 4x6 open trailer is 900lbs empty.

5x8 box trailer? Or open trailer? How much gear? The hitch rating isnt your issue. The trailer weight vs outside temps and lack of cooling capacity is your #1 issue with your generation. I ran synthetic oil it helped some with the heat. The radiator and cooling system needs to be at 100% most cars 15+ yrs old with lots of highway miles crossing buggy states will have radiators that are not very efficient at cooling due to being packed full of bug carcases.
 

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What class hitch do you have on your 01 outback? I have an 01 with the 2.5L 4cyl with a class 1 ish hitch.. similar ratings 1500 towing weight 300lbs tongue on a 1.25" reciever. looking to tow a 5x8 with a fully loaded car and likely trailer. Would this work on a. this hitch package or b. this car? Also I live in the beatuiful and hot desert of Moab UT so the heat will definitely be a factor and temps upwards of 115 in the summers.
Remember: while the hitch itself may be rated for a 300lb tongue, the car it is bolted onto is only rated for 200lb.

Also remember: Outbacks have a ~975lb payload capacity. If you allocate 200lb to a trailer tongue, you've got ~775lb left for occupants & internal cargo.

Most 5x8 sized trailers (including Uhaul) weigh around 1000lbs empty, so you get ~1700lbs of cargo in the trailer before you max out the car.

However, keep in mind that you're now up in the weight range where Subaru now recommends trailer brakes, and most 5x8s don't have any.

You're also down to about 7% of the trailer weight being carried by the tongue, which is less than the 10% commonly recommended for best highway handling.

You can cheat any & all of these factors- people routinely do it. For cross-town moves and short low speed trips it's no big deal. But I think that a plan involving cheating all of them at the same time plus highway usage plus 115°F heat is a plan for failure.
 
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