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Towing a travel trailer

My husband and I just bought a 1978 camper ( travel trailer). We have a 2000 Grand Cheroke w/ V8 (his) and a 2003 Xterra w/V6 (mine). Jeep specs says it will tow 6500#, Vterra 5000#. The trailer should be just under 5000 when full. I was reading online forums about whether my Xterra can tow the camper. Some say yes, it’s fine, just better at shorter distance and under 65mph. Some say its wheelbase is too narrow to tow this safely. Is it safe to tow or should I use husband’s Jeep? For either vehicle, will towing shorten life of transmission? I have heard of a transmission fan you can install to increase towing capacity. Do you recommend this? thanks!

Towing is tough on any vehicles transmission, and all the rest of the drive train especially differentials. You should add a transmision “cooler” to your tow vehicle(s). Get the differential fluid changed before you start towing and yearly once you start towing.

Just about everyone underestimates the weight of the travel trailers. Then they load up the trailer and vehicle with more and more gear. Both of your vehicles are going to be challenged by the load, but the Jeep should be the better of the two at handling it.

I don’t know about the Xterra wheelbase vs the Jeep, it seems they aren’t that much different. I suspect the Xterra would be overloaded beyond is rated capacity and therefore not as good at towing the load.

You should really get the trailer weighed so you know just what you are dealing with. Since the trailer is basically a big square box it creates a lot of wind resistance. Your gas mileage and workload on the vehicle go up dramatically as your speed increases. At 65 mph you are going to get about 8 to 10 mpg at most. Slow down, it is easier on the tow vehicle and your wallet. This is a 50 mph rig and you can get up to 60 or 65 downhill sometimes.

A transmission cooler is not a fan, it is a small radiator that is mounted in front of the engines radiator. Overheating will quickly damage a transmission and pulling a trailer that outweighs the SUV will certainly cause a lot of heat. Hopefully the trailer has brakes. Have them checked out and road tested by someone familiar with towing trailers. Also, have the tires closely inspected. They may have a great deal of tread and look good but if they are more than 6 to 8 years old they might not be safe.

The Xterra is not a good candidate for a tow vehicle mainly because it’s a V6. The Jeep Cherokee has the power (V8) but it’s really too light to tow a 5K load. You may be able to tow the trailer with the Jeep over short distances and at a slower speeds (50-55mph). You really need a larger vehicle with a complete tow package because neither one of your vehicles is up to the task especially if you intend to tow a few hundred miles in a day.

As long as the camper’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) is less than 5,000 lbs., both vehicles can be used to tow this trailer. If the trailer’s GVWR is 5,000 lbs. or more (and less than 6,500 lbs.), you should only tow it with the Grand Cherokee. In either case, you will probably need a weight distribution trailer hitch with a sway control bar like this: