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Will we get over the mountains with this set up?

In an effort to increase our fun quotient in the equation of life, my wife and I recently purchased a 18 foot Fleetwood travel trailer, which should be about 2400 pounds fully loaded up. In order to pull this thing around we needed to purchase a more powerful vehicle, but one that we wanted to be able to use on a daily basis without burning so much fuel that we’d have to invade another middle eastern country just to support our habit. So, where that left us was acquiring a 2000 Lexus RX300 AWD. We have already pulled this trailer a bit, but have been reluctant to take it up the hill (over the continetnal divide) but know that will be the big test. We are also holding off on putting in a transmission cooler until we know that this vehicle can pull our trailer, but that issue can be a chicken and egg kind of thing - ie. maybe we would need a tranny cooler in order to get over the hill, but we don’t want to invest money in the car until we know it is the right vehicle.

Any advice would be helpful

What is the towing capacity of the RX300? The answer should be in your owner’s manual. Assuming it is over 3000 lbs you should be fine. It will be a strain and you won’t be going 75 mph up the “hill” but you’ll make it. You will need the trans cooler.

Change the fluids in your trans and differentials much more frequently than the normal service interval given in your manual, and even more often than the severe schedule. You can also expect to replace the trans at some point so put more money into your “maintenance” budget.

The RX 300 really isn’t a heavy duty vehicle so towing will be hard on it. But, it will give you better mpg when not towing than a bigger more tow worthy vehicle. Bottom line is expect to pay for more repairs on the RX 300.

Thanks! this is really helpful. Our vehicle is rated to tow 3000 pounds, but I am wary of ratings in general, especially after a car has over 100K miles. Your response is pretty confirming of what my thoughts are - it will pull, though not gracefully, and not without added costs and maintenance.

Here’s to a summer of camping (and hopefully not a summer spent on the shoulder of mountain highways).

I think you might want to be wary of your weight estimate. Most people grossly underestimate how much stuff they jam into their campers. They forget, for instance, that clothes are heavy, as are cans of beer :wink:

Might want to get the trailer weighed after you load it for a trip.

Yow have already towed “some” with it. The rated towing capacity is 3500 lb. so it should do the job, just not fast. Why would you risk something so expensive (a Lexsus transmission) over something so cheap (a transmission cooler) by tackling the longest pull in the country without a transmission cooler?

I recommend the following:

Before any long towing trips up and over the mountains, you should change the engine oil, transmission fluid, differential fluid, and coolant in the Lexus. All of those systems will be heavily taxed by the trailer, while climbing and descending the Rockies.

Once your back home, I would then recommend changing the oil and transmission fluid once again. Then the next year, all 4 fluids again before the trip, and just the 2 after the trip.

You never indicated how many miles are currently on the Lexus.
Since its now 11 years old, and figuring 10k a year on a vehicle like that, it probably has around 110k miles on it. Chances are the differential and transmission fluids haven’t been touched as of yet.


I would just say no, but I can’t resist these great sounding quotes. “If we do everything by meeting minimum standards, we will certainly achieve minimum results.” Barry Madoff eliminated the risk of actually investing money. It paid off for years. It sounds funny, but if you get his results, you will be 100% successful. That’s 200% more successful than I would expect but I don’t know everything before it happens.

More on Madoff: Who could tell if he was doing anything wrong? He was doing four ripoffs at once instead of the normal three that is the industry standard. Is it so bad these days that I can get away with referring to investment brokers as industry.

For those who want facts, the facts can get you in more trouble than good guesswork will. Good guesswork would suggest that a 3/4 ton pickup would be a better choice for towing; especially if you want to go faster than 35 MPH when going uphill.

For my last stand at complete ignorance: Forget the transmission cooler, you need a fire truck. OK, what you are trying to do makes more sense than using a pogo stick to cross quicksand. With apologies to anybody who mistook this for a serious work of automotive advice. Just don’t let your in-laws get ahold of this one.

Get the trailer weighed with all your gear that you’d take on a cross country trip, then take it to a weigh station and see how much it weighs. If it weighs 3000 pounds, you’ll want something rated for 5000 pounds.
If you can find something with a factory or aftermarket towing package installed, then you’ll not have anything to worry about except fluid changes.

How sure are you about the 2400 lbs weight? The 18’ trailer I found was listed at 4000 lbs DRY weight, pushing 5000 all loaded up, way more than your RX can handle.

Also, just cause no one else mentioned it, don’t forget to subtract the trailer tongue weight from vehicle weight rating. I.E.: All the camping stuff you couldn’t fit in the camper + the weight of both of you.