Towing with a 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan

my husband and I are planning a longer trip with two children (and maybe 3 dogs) for summer 2013. After much discussion, my husband now wants to use our 2007 Grand Caravan (with the drop down seats) to tow a pop up camper or lightweight trailer. Will a transmission cooler help?–his idea. We are planning on heading west from Richmond, VA out as far as the Grand Canyon, and back a more southerly route. Naturally we will be driving through some mountainous terrain. Our van currently has 70939 miles on the odometer. Does this sound doable? what other things should we consider? thank you for your input.

IMHO, a transmission cooler on a minivan is a great idea whether you’re going to tow or not. Given that you will tow, I wouldn’t hesitate. Has this transmission ever been serviced, including a new filter? You might think about finding the most reputable, local transmission shop in your area and take the van to them. Tell them what you plan to do. Have the pan/filter serviced and ask them to add a cooler.

The most important thing, of course, is to make sure that you know the rated towing capacity of the van and stay under it.

Generally a front wheel drive vehicle should not be used for towing. Since they are “front heavy” you may experience a lack of traction if you encounter rain in the mountains. If you decide to tow with this vehicle keep your speed under the speed limit and make sure the trailer is lightweight. Installing a transmission cooler is always a good idea for any minivan.

You also need to take into account the weight INSIDE the van, sounds like you might be pretty heavily loaded. Read your owner’s manual carefully regarding all weight limits. A fully loaded van towing a trailer is going to be quite a load for your transmission and brakes.

Me, I’d find a place to board the dogs and search out some good inexpensive places to stay, forget the trailer. There are many state parks that rent cabins, if you’re wanting that kind of experience. You need to reserve them in advance, you have plenty of time.

But that’s me.

I’d look at renting a small RV. There’s nothing quite like traveling in one.

I once bought an old beat up RV for about $4K. I drove it around the country for a couple of months with a friend of mine. The gas mileage was terrible. But you just park and eat or sleep or shower or whatever without spending much $$ or hassle.

It was a beautiful thing. After we got back we sold it for a little less than what we bought it for.

Lightweight Trailer - YES.

Pop-up - NO.

FWD vehicles are NOT very good at towing.

First off…the weight of the trailer (when attached to the vehicle) has anywhere from 200lbs to 300lbs of weight pushing down on the back of the vehicle. This will actually relieve weight from the Front (drive wheels)…thus less traction.

Second - One way to control the rear wheels in a RWD vehicle is give it a little gas. If your trailer starts wobbling for some reason…it’s much easier to control it with a RWD vehicle.

Agree that FWD vehicles in general are not good for towing unless they have a load distribution hitch which puts more weight onto the front wheels. The Dodge Caravan has a history of transsmission problems and towing with or without a cooler is chancy.

A small pop up trailer is Ok with a cooler installed on the transmission. Read the ownwer’s manual to see what is actauly allowed by the warranty.

Doncnick made an excellent point about the external tranny cooler. It’s a MUST when towing. Especially the amount of weight you plan on towing (people + trailer + gear).

How about a roof top luggage carrier? The transmission cooler is a must either way, but handling might be better.

Other than agreeing with the transmission cooler being a must I’ll add that you should service the cooling system by flushing it out and changing the thermostat, whether the latter is needed or not. You reference the Grand Canyon, southern route, etc. and this means the temperatures are likely to be brutally hot with that affecting both engine and transmission temps.

The dogs would have to be boarded IMO because I can’t see hauling dogs around for that length of time for a number of reasons, including the dogs not being allowed (rightfully so) into certain places and then being confined to a closed vehicle on a 105 degree day.

First thing is to check what the owners manual says about the towing limit. Most non trucks these days are pretty meager in their towing capacity. As far as towing a 2000 pound pop up with front wheel drive, I did it just fine. I towed a pop up with a Buick Park Ave. through mountains, rain, snow and sleet with no problems. Also towed with a couple FWD Buick Rivieras with no adverse handling problems. Prior to that it was a full sized RWD Olds and didn’t really see much of a difference. But do as the others suggest but check the book. I also would be inclined to forget the camper. Its one thing to go someplace and stay for a week but a whole different thing to have to pack and unpack the thing every day.

It’s NOT just the weight of the trailer…but the combined weight of trailer/vehicle/passengers and “stuff” that you also have to consider.

Traction is NOT an issue here…The issue is the tender transmission used in the Caravan…Have a little chat with the manager of a transmission shop…

Before you commit to this trip, take a little shake-down cruise first and see how THAT goes…Personally, I positively DREAD the thought of pulling a trailer, any trailer, on a cross-country trip…

But if you do it, have that tranny serviced and an auxiliary cooler installed…

Yes, look into renting a small Motor Home…

You can do it. But, should you do it? Has the transmission had any regular service up to now? At least I’d have new fluid and filter in the trans prior to the trip and a trans oil cooler is a very good idea. Make sure the cooler is installed by someone who knows how to make sure there are no leaks in the transmission lines.

It won’t have a lot of power and the handling won’t be very good either. Keep the speeds at 65 mph max and below. If the transmission has an overdrive lock out, use that feature when towing.

Be prepared financially to replace the transmission in the vehicle someday. Towing anything increases weight, wind resistance, and friction all of which puts much more stress on the motor and the transmission.

I would skip the pop-up trailer, board the dogs and take a tent (or maybe two tents–one for the adults and one for the kids. Dogs don’t really care to go sight seeing across the nation. If you take the dogs, they need to be in cages for safety. I don’t even drive the 3 miles to my dog’s day care without having him in a cage. The dog likes going to this day care and when I open the door to our minivan and the door to the cage, he leaps right in.
My wife, son and I traveled from the midwest to Arizona, and back. We made the trip in a 1978 Oldsmobile Cutlass, packed the tent and Coleman stove and limited the other items. We didn’t have to tow a trailer. We did spend one night in a motel when we thought the weather might be bad. I think that your Caravan should have plenty of room for carrying the family and camping equipment. However, I would board the dogs.

All great suggestions that generally revolve around reconsidering towing anything more than 1000lbs with a front drive minivan. Regardless of the capabilities of the car, you have two kids and three dogs along with a trailer to keep under control with a front drive which has generally poor handling in hilly terrain. Your demands call for a compact to full size crew cab truck so the dogs can be separated and the vehicle can handle the demands. So to repeat the good Uncle Turbo advice.".can you do it ? Sure. Should you do it ? " …Nope. You can pull trailers safely nearly anywhere you want. But, you need the proper vehicle.

Years ago, I took a similar trip with a 1998 Grand Caravan with around 130,000 miles. No pets, no trailer, but removed the back seat and bought a tailgate tent - wraps around the back of the van with the hatch open. More recently, I took a multiweek east coast trip with a hard sided pop up and learned three lessons about the extra ton PUSHING you: get your speed below the limit at the top of the hill or you may see some flashing blue lights on the way down, allow 50% more space to stop particularly on gravel roads, and observe the truck gear shift signs or you’ll have smoke billowing from your brakes on your way downhill. Have you’re brakes and tires checked beforehand.