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Towing with XT

16504 Views 45 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  OCRentAPopo
I'm hoping to tow a Spec3 racecar (spec weight w/ driver 2900lbs) on an aluminum double axle trailer with brakes (1300 lbs) with a 2005-2009 Outback XT manual. So, I'm looking at 4200lbs loaded trailer weight with a corresponding tongue weight of roughly 420lbs (10%).

The US towing specs are 2700lbs gross trailer weight and 200lbs tongue. Apparently, European models (self-leveling suspension?) are rated at nearly 4000lbs though I haven't found tongue weight.

I figure I can stiffen up the suspension and get that at least as good as Euro spec with King Springs, maybe stiffer struts of some kind, and upgraded swaybars. I'm not sure how to increase max tongue weight, though.

Long story short, any thoughts on how to increase the max tongue weight? What's the weak link?

I've done tons of searching on this forum, legacygt and subaruforester etc. with no luck. I'm aware that this might be dangerous. Please don't respond with safety first, buy a truck, think of the children etc. Thanks for any responses.
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Is this the video you're referencing? BMW 8 series getting towed by some sort of wagon.

Ah, yes I forgot that part. I'd use a class 3 weight distributing hitch.
You are an idiot.
Agreed, for this and many other reasons. But, the line between idiot and genius is often very thin. I like to walk it.

#1: So you're saying I need to reinforce the unibody and use a weight distributing hitch. Got it.

#2: Add cooling capacity.

#3: Become a sleazy lawyer to defend against lawsuits. Already done.
#4: Create steel subframe that runs nearly half the length of the car.
Ugh. Alright... point taken. By the end of all these ridiculous modifications I will have ruined a nice Outback and killed a family. Nuts.

So, next on the list is to try to find a sporty manual tranny vehicle with a decent towing capacity. My tow vehicle will be my DD. I really want to avoid driving a Yukon, Tahoe, Expedition or similar SUV as my DD.
I just don't have room for a race car, tow vehicle, trailer and additional DD. The Washington D.C. area is crowded and I'm not moving to the country just to find garage/driveway space. I love the country but the commute isn't worth it.

Clutch wear would definitely be an issue but I'd be willing to replace my clutch every 50k if it meant I could have a decently fun tow vehicle.

It's my understanding that manuals are significantly less prone to overheating under load. I'm not aware of any available tranny coolers for manual transmissions.

I have not looked at the OEM radiator... I don't own an Outback XT, just an old '97 Legacy Outback. I'm still weighing my options on a tow vehicle / daily driver. Looks like it won't be a Subaru.
Alright my craziness presented itself again last night. I started thinking about tongue weight and how it's similar to cargo weight, so long as the cargo is located rear of the rear axle. People put whole replacement engines and loads of gravel in the back of Outbacks no problem. I wouldn't think twice about putting 400lbs of crap in my rear cargo area so why not tow w/ 400lbs of tongue weight?

Counterargument: When you brake the tongue-weight increases due to negative acceleration and weight shift. So, if the tongue weight at a standstill is 400lbs, the max tongue weight while braking could easily double. There are also lots of variables like wind, incline and potholes to consider.

I dunno, maybe an extended towing subframe and weight distributing hitch isn't such a terrible idea. Also, anything rated to tow 4000lbs is not fun to drive and definitely not available in a manual transmission.
all of the struts are way underdamped to deal with those forces. You'll end up with the trailer telling the car where to go.
The suspension is easy to modify. I'm already planning stiffer springs, thicker swaybars and, if need be, firmer struts. I'm not aware of any off-the-shelf struts that would work for the Outback, but I'd guess I can get some Koni inserts to work just fine.

It's really the unibody I'm concerned about. If that won't buckle, the rest can be modified to work.
Towing with XT v2:

Spec3 Racecar: 2900lbs
Towing Dolly: 500lbs
Tongue Weight: 195lbs (((2900lbs / 2) + 500lbs) x 10%)

This seems more reasonable. Also the tongue weight calculation is a random guess and probably inflated; thoughts on the math there? I just have to hope I don't wreck/break the racecar such that it requires a flatbed. Even so, the risk of occasionally paying a tow company is better than owning a big dumb automatic SUV. Bonus: tow dolly will take up less room than trailer.
Can you get trailer brakes on a dolly?
Yes. A quick search found at least one place that sells dollies with electric brakes. Many others with surge brakes. I'd go electric.

2006 OBXT has a curb weight of 3500 + tools/fuel + people. Dolly + Racecar = 3400. Tail wagging the dog seems like a concern but not a horrendously stupid deathwish.

I'm sticking with the manual. Don't care about traffic or replacing clutches. The clutch in my '97 Outback (which does not tow anything but does get thrashed) has 94k on it with no slippage. I figure I can deal with half that lifespan and still be fine with it.
The best way to strengthen the unibody would be to use the Australian tow hitch.
I don't understand how a hitch can strengthen the unibody. Do you mean distribute weight across a larger section of the unibody? Also what is different or special about the Australian hitch that isn't offered in an aftermarket class 3 hitch?

That said, if you can't afford a $3,000 80's 3/4 ton pickup, you are in the wrong hobby. Racing is expensive.
I agree. It's not so much the cost of a tow vehicle as the room to keep it. Tow vehicle + trailer + racecar + DD = four parking spots. I'm trying to reduce that number. If I can tow with my DD and use a dolly, I reduce that number to 2.5 parking spots.

I plan on using a class 3 hitch w/ weight distribution. Coupled with stiffer springs, some to-be-determined added damping, and stiffer swaybars, the suspension should be up to the job.

Thanks for the support. I don't think Chevy or Ford ever made their big sedans with a manual tranny. While I enjoy modifications, I think an auto to manual tranny swap in a car that never came with one is a bit more than I can handle. Also, I need a wagon for storage and moving the dog around. If they made the Dodge Magnum in a manual I'd probably be looking at those. I used to have a 1984 Chevy Caprice Wagon with a 305 that could probably handle towing but it was an automatic and not exactly fun to drive.

Extra stuff will be in the Outback, not on the dolly/racecar. Obviously this contributes to suspension load, braking performance (4pot/2pot upgrade?), and drivetrain wear. I plan on loading the heaviest stuff forward of the rear axles. It has the benefit of adding weight to the tow vehicle so the tail is less likely to wag the dog.

Thanks for the link. That hitch looks hardcore. I wonder if I could adapt one of the aftermarket class 3 hitches to use the same mounting points.

The bent unibody cars I've seen all bend just behind the back door ie at the end of the safety cage / primary frame of the car.
Can you describe the area of failure more? Do you mean just behind where the Aussie HD hitch mounts exit the frame rails? Do you mean further forward where the rear frame rails meet the main frame?
If you sit in the back seat your butt is the bend point beefing up the over hang behind the rear wheels doesn't do a thing to address where the unibody bends at the back of the passenger cage.
I see. So much further forward than the Aussie hitch goes. Still, unibody failure shouldn't be an issue if I keep my tongue weight down by using a dolly instead of a full trailer. I think the aftermarket class 3 hitches should be fine for dolly towing.

I'm hoping my car won't have to tow very often. My brother lives nearby and has a 2012 Touareg TDI which will be the primary tow vehicle. My OBXT or whatever I end up getting will be the secondary tow vehicle.

Thanks for the link re: weight distributing hitches. I'm not sure I'll really get how they work until I see one in person. I imagine it's fairly simple, just difficult to describe and illustrate.

I'm in full-on search mode for an XT. I'll post some pics and stuff when I finally find one.
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