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Planning a roadtrip with a travel trailer

Hello, I am planning a road trip around our country towing a small travel trailer. maybe 22 to 24 ft. I would like to tow with a SUV. Do I need a V8 engine? Is there a make/model you would recommend. I’ve never towed anything before, any advise? We currently drive a 95 Ford Explorer, best car we’ve ever owned. 258.000 mi.

I, too, have done very little towing. However, others correcting what I say should help get the correct answers.

You will need to determine the weight of the trailer - “small” isn’t adequate. Your owners manual will likely have your vehicle’s towing capacity. Some vehicles have different options with one being for towing - get right one for your car. Towing is hardest on the transmission rather than the engine, so “towing package” options commonly include additional cooling capacity for the transmission fluid. Not that the engine isn’t important, just not as important as the transmission.

The other capacity referenced will be the tongue weight. That is the downward force directly on the ball. It looks like it’s typically 10% of the towing capacity. I’m given to believe that most trailers are designed so that if you evenly load the trailer, you should not exceed the 10% ratio, tongue/total.

Last night, I walked through the campground at a nearby state park. Most of the vehicles pulling trailers were trucks with eight cylinder engines, although there were a few V6s. I’m thinking if you do a lot of towing, bigger will work better. But start out getting those trailer weights.

V8 not required! Today’s turbocharged V6s often have higher capacity with flatter torque curves than their V8 counterparts. When researching new vehicles the manufacturers will list towing capacity on their website. Some vehicles may also have restrictions on the frontal area of the trailer. When purchasing specify towing package option.
So, take a look at a new Explorer! ( I am biased as a Ford ‘guy’ due to the reliability of every Ford I have owned and the honesty of the dealership I use), but check out midsize or larger SUVs from other manufacturers as well.

I don’t think of 22’ to 24’ as “small”. As others have said, get the weight you’re towing first (make sure to add in a lot for everything you’ll put in the travel trailer), then look for vehicles rated to tow at least that much, I’d prefer 20%-30% cushion, at least.

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Also, don’t make the rookie mistake of loading all the heavy things in the rear of the trailer or you will be swaying all over the road. Go to a place that sells a lot of trailers to get advice on what kind of hitch you need depending on the weight of the trailer. You will also need the right wiring and trailer brake controller for your trailer brakes.

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The folks who sell travel-trailers for road-trip family vacations know a lot about that. Suggest to ask at your local trailer dealership also. I did some of that sort of vacation/camping traveling in the 1970’s and used an F100 Ford pickup truck w v8 engine, manual trans, and never had any problem at all. I don’t think the trailer was quite that big, 16-18 foot as I recall, but I also had a small camper on the back of the truck and an aluminum fishing boat on top of the truck/camper, and two dirt-motorcycles, so quite a bit of weight overall. Like I say, beyond driving a little slower and carefully than the sedans on the road, never had any problem at all.

My sister and brother-in-laws rig. This past spring, Iowa to Washington State to Maine, and back to Iowa. No problems. BTW, he did the Washington to Maine trip on a bicycle.

For what not to do, Watch “The Long, Long Tailer” starring Lucy and Desi.


Thank you!!

Thank you!


I’ve towed a little and 22-24’ is a medium sized trailer, not a small trailer. You will need either a V-8 or a turbo V-6. You will also need a geared automatic transmission, not a CVT (continuously variable transmission) or DCT (dual clutch transmission).

A trailer of this size should have dual axles which will help it be more stable. It must also have trailer brakes. Make sure the trailer hitch is the right class, probably a class 4 hitch and I’d recommend a center pull hitch or leveling hitch. If you are getting a used trailer, check the age of the tires, they could easily be over age and you don’t want to experience a trailer tire blowout, although a 2 axle trailer isn’t so bad.

On trailers, tires and wheel bearings are important. I pulled a camper I always carried a spare hub complete with new bearings greased and ready to install on the road if I needed to. Make sure they are replaced or serviced before taking off.

Agree weight in the front is absolutely important to avoid fish tailing.

Similar to my cousin’s setup although their tow rig is a Toyota fj with a 20ft Shasta trailer that’s a tribute to the 50’s trailers.

Keep in mind that those Rpods are pretty light for their size. A similar sized normal trailer wouldn’t be as much fun to pull.

OP, when you weigh the trailer, you need to load it for camping and then weigh it. A lot of people weigh their RV empty, think they’re under their maximum weight, and then throw 500 pounds worth of clothes, bikes, camp furniture, food, and beer in it. And then they fill up the water tank. By the time they’re done they can be hundreds of pounds over the max weight.

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