Determining if Your Vehicle Can Tow an Airstream
There is a myth that any car can tow an Airstream. Not so! While an Airstream does have enhanced towability and trackability compared with other trailers, it is important to remember that Airstreams are just as heavy as other trailers. It should also be noted that over the years new features have been added to the Airstream models, and thus they are now heavier than they were in the 50’s or 60’s.
So how do you determine if your vehicle can tow an airstream? Your first step should be check your vehicles owners manual. Determine your vehicle’s towing capacity. If you can’t find the information in the manual, check with your dealer. You should never exceed the vehicle’s towing capacity! Never!
Your next step is to determine the weight of the Airstream you want to tow. You can find a list of Airstream weights, dating back to the 1954 models here: http://www.airstream.com/files/library/006da6c5c1005fbf.pdf. Don’t forget to factor in the weight of personal belongings, LP gas and hitch parts (a good estimate is 800-1100 pounds). You can also figure 8 pounds per gallon of water.
Compare your vehicle’s towing capacity with the adjusted weight of the Airstream. Don’t be tempted to think you can save much weight by packing light. You’ll find that most lighter pickups, Mini-vans, SUVs and older cars will be limited to models under 22 feet, or in many cases under 18 feet. Notice we say “older” cars. Today’s cars, with their uni-body construction and small gas efficient engines just aren’t built for towing anything substantial. On the other hand, many SUVs, especially the larger ones, should be able to tow mid and shorter length trailers.
Sway control and load distributing hitches can help make the journey an easier one. Sway control adaptors help reduce fish-tailing. Load distributing hitches increase stability and reduce rear end sag. It is possible to find hitches with both sway control and load distributing features, but note these do tend to be a bit costly. If you choose a smaller Airstream and have an adequate tow vehicle you may not need these special hitches, but they won’t hurt and may make you feel more comfortable.
Other factors to consider are the terrain you will be traveling, the weather you expect to run into, and your own experience level. Traveling with an Airstream can be a great adventure if you do a little preparation and homework before you set out on the road!