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Old 04-10-2005, 12:30 PM   #1
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Bought a 17' Layton XL dry weight 3290 lbs.
My tow vehicle is a 2002 Nissan Exterra V6
4x4. Mfgr. rates it able to tow 5K lbs.

It was a struggle w/tranny downshifting on the
slightest upgrade. Also averaged a miserable
9-10 mpg. Am afraid I will destroy the
Exterra if I continue to tow w/it. I think I
should have had a V-8. Any comments would be welcome.
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Old 04-10-2005, 12:30 PM   #2
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Bought a 17' Layton XL dry weight 3290 lbs.
My tow vehicle is a 2002 Nissan Exterra V6
4x4. Mfgr. rates it able to tow 5K lbs.

It was a struggle w/tranny downshifting on the
slightest upgrade. Also averaged a miserable
9-10 mpg. Am afraid I will destroy the
Exterra if I continue to tow w/it. I think I
should have had a V-8. Any comments would be welcome.
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Old 04-10-2005, 12:57 PM   #3
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From my past esperiences with an S-15 Jimmy and an Expolrer, I am not a fan of using any of the small SUV's for a tow vehicle of much more than a pop up.

You should only use about 75% of your tow rating for a reasonable margin. So this is 3750#. Your dry weight is pretty useless. It does not include any options such as A/C, microwave or batteries. You have probably pushed your real weight up to closer to 4000# with all of the camping gear. You can not and should not try to tow in 4th or OD. Looks like you are in reality close to if not over your trucks capacity.

You will run 3rd gear and a lot of grades will require 2nd gear. Plan to add an external transmission fluid cooler to lessen the posibility of a problem.

I'm sorry you are having problems, but you are right at your limits and will have to rev the engine. The Nissian engine developes power at higher RPM's, so you will have to down shift to keep the power up.

Oh, and by the way, glad you found our site.

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Old 04-10-2005, 05:40 PM   #4
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Nothing compares to the torque of a V8 with a tall axle ratio for towing big TT's, but when we towed our hybrid behind our Astro van we had the same problem.

Our Astro van was trailer rated to 5500 # and it pulled our much heavier and longer boat in well in OD on the highway (about 16 MPG), but it just could not manage the much smaller lighter hybrid because it had so much more aerodynamic drag compared to the boat.
It would shift in and out of OD at the slightest hill or wind, so we locked the transmission in LOW 3 and the problem was solved. The higher RPM's in 3 meant more power available even for bigger hills and we towed many miles in many states that way. The fuel economy towing the hybrid was between 10 and 11 MPG on long trips to the Ozarks in Missouri, or Ottawa or for local campground trips as well.

Fuel economy and towing is usually not something that will impress anyone unless the trailer catching the wind is something much smaller like a pop up or a boat. Towing something shaped like a brick will take its toll.

Your Xterra's V6 has more HP and torque higher up in the rev band and compared to our old Astro's 4.3L V6 probably has more power period, so don't give up your truck just yet. Maybe a trip to the weigh scales to get some actual numbers rather than brochure numbers and then try a lower gear for towing to see how that works.

If the weigh scales show actual wieght very close to maximum then you might want to consider traveling with less gear or an upgrade to a more powerful tow vehicle for your future.

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Old 04-11-2005, 04:46 AM   #5
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Sorry to hear you had trouble but you are certainly in good company. Many of us bought based on tow ratings, magazines over zelous reviews (seen some of those trailers behind small suvs in TL?) and dealer assurances (how the heck is a first timer supposed to know?)only to find they have a white knuckle rv experience. I guess honest dealers scare too many buyers away. There are many variables such as terrain you tow in, ie I'm in a big lake valley surrounded by mountains, some grades long and steep. We had stopped going to major centers due to the stress on the truck. My solution was to upgrade the truck to more than I should need for my 4500lb dry 22ft 5th wheel. Went from a half ton 94 350 v8 chev to 02 duramax allison 2500hd, this was the only way I was going to be able to tow comfortably and feel safe with my family and not be constantly worried about the truck granading. For me it was that or sell the whole rig and start flying/motels. You'll find your own solution. Best of luck. Be safe.
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Old 04-11-2005, 09:41 AM   #6
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I don't think there is a more useless or missleading number than a vehicle tow rating. The only numbers that mean anything are the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating and Gross Combined Weight Ratings. My truck has a tow rating of 9600LB and a GCWR rating of 16,000 lb with a 3.55 rear end. The truck empty with fith wheel hitch installed and full fuel weighs 6400 lb so I would already be at my GCWR with nothing in the truck including myself.

A good start would be to take your whole rig to a scale and find out what you really weigh,then you can make some intelligent decisions as to whether you can continue with the Exterra or should get a different vehicle.


If you are close to the maximum weights for your vehicle and aren't having any problems with your engine coolant overheating, you might just want to add a large transmission cooler and perhaps an engine oil cooler, use synthetic oil in both engine and transmission, take your time and have a nice day. I had a couple of the older body on frame Pathfinders which are like your Exterra and they struck me as pretty stout vehicles even though a little under powered.

Going to a bigger, heavier tow vehicle with a larger engine probably won't improve your mileage much. I costs money to tow a trailer. Bout time someone came out with a half ton or mid size SUV with something like a 3L turbo diesel for people towing smaller trailers.
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Old 04-11-2005, 09:42 AM   #7
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Unless you have tow/haul mode on your transmission most manufacturers recommend not towing in OD. This is especially true when you are over half your design tow rate. Even when pulling my 6000 lb trailer with my old 95 1 ton 454 it was not uncommon for it to downshift into 2nd gear. I could run OD on the flats but any headwind or slight grade would cause the tranny to hunt between 3rd and OD so whenever it did that I would downshift to 3rd.
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Old 04-11-2005, 06:34 PM   #8
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<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-title">quote:</div><div class="ip-ubbcode-quote-content">Originally posted by Wilber1:
...Bout time someone came out with a half ton or mid size SUV with something like a 3L turbo diesel for people towing smaller trailers. </div></BLOCKQUOTE>I read somewhere that Ford is developing a 4.0L diesel for its half-ton trucks and vans. I think it is to be introduced by 2008.

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Old 04-11-2005, 06:44 PM   #9
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Ken talks about a 75% rule. That is a good rule of thumb. But I prefer a simple formula to get to a specific towable weight..... GVWR + GVWR = GCWR. Or in other words, the GVWR of the tow vehicle plus the GVWR of the trailer shall not exceed the GCWR of the tow vehicle.

Here is the form when one starts with a tow vehicle....GCWR - GVWR = GVWR. Or in other words, take the tow vehicle's GCWR and subtract the tow vehicle's GVWR and the answer will equal the heaviest GVWR trailer you should buy.

Don't you just love all of the advise you get AFTER you've laid out all that cash? I feel for you because I've been there, and I've done that!

Once I had a -ton conversion van with 6-cylinder engine and a 5000# tow rating, so....I bought a trailer with a 4900# GVWR. I thought that was good. WRONG! The GCWR was 10,000, the GVWR was 7000, which when applied to the formula above means that I could only pull a trailer at 3000# maximum. Soon after that trailer purchase, I invested in another tow vehicle with a 7.5L V-8. With its 18,500# GCWR and 8750# GVWR, it was very capable of pulling a 9250# trailer. I'll tell you that the 7.5L V-8 didn't know that it was pulling 4900#. I've read this quote elsewhere, "There's no replacement for Cubic Inch Displacement"

GVWR + GVWR = GCWR
GCWR - GVWR = GVWR

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Old 04-12-2005, 04:20 AM   #10
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A related story. 5 years ago I got a great deal on a '94 half ton Suburban with the 350 engine. Bought a 28' Sunnybrook (loaded weight 6400# - within the Suburban's tow rating). In the 5 years I replaced the engine once and the transmission twice. Could have saved money by getting the right tow vehicle right away. Biggie size your tow vehicle. Hey, you do it with your fries!!
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Old 04-12-2005, 05:09 AM   #11
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George, the GVW +GVWR = GCWR is not really a good one to use as it is REALLY conservative. If I used it on my rig, my truck has a GVWR of 11,500# and my trailer GVWR is 14,000#. Using this I have to have a truck with a GCWR of 25,500#. My truck has a GCWR of 20,000#, so I'd be way under on a truck size. When in actual practice, my rig is right at 20,000# GCW and my truck is 10,500# GVW. I am within limits on both by weight ratings, but by your rule, I am 5500# off.

The GVWR + GVWR method does not consider that the truck is carrying a large portion of the trailer weight on the pin and should not be couted twice.

What it all gets right down to is you really need the actual weights of the truck and trailer.

Ken
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Old 04-12-2005, 06:19 AM   #12
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Yep, the GVWR + GVWR = GCWR formula doesn't work very well for 5th wheels.

If one really wants to remain within the vehicle manufacturer's ratings when selecting an RV, he will need the actual laden curb weight (LCW) of the tow vehicle. The LCW is the actual scale weight of the vehicle (by axle, if at all possible) with driver, passengers, all options and accessories (including trailer hitch), full fuel tank(s), cargo, pets, bar-b-que pit, firewood, coolers, etc. just as one will be heading down the road with the RV in tow.

With this LCW as well as the tow vehicle's GCWR and GVWR, one can use the following formulas:

Tow vehicle's GCWR - tow vehicle's LCW = maximum allowable total weight of loaded trailer

Tow vehicle's GVWR - tow vehicle's LCW = maximum allowable hitch/pin weight of loaded trailer

A conservative approach when RV shopping is to use the trailer's GVWR as the total loaded weight and 12% (bumper pull) or 20% (5th wheel) of the trailer's GVWR as loaded hitch/pin weight in the above calculations.

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Old 04-12-2005, 08:31 AM   #13
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Ken,

I understand your math and agree that your actual weights work for your truck. We can agree that you are an experienced RVer, and that you bought your rig with the knowledge of your truck's wet curb weight. But this thread was started by a newbie camper seeking information, who owned a small SUV, and judged his towing capacity from the printed owner's manual. Please for the benefit of newbies, without a dual-wheel pickup and fifth wheel, and those who can be misled by RV and auto salesmen, let them learn the conservative way for their knowledge.


Rusty, Most newbies don't have any idea how to load their tow vehicle before they start camping and towing. Therefore, LCW doesn't work for a newbie in the way that it works for experienced RVers.

Respectively, I believe that the GCWR-GVWR=GVWR formula will work perfectly for a 2002 Nissan Xterra and that is how this thread started.

George
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Old 04-12-2005, 09:26 AM   #14
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Actually, George, what Ken and I posted was the accurate way to utilize the tow vehicle's GVWR and GCWR data in the selection of an RV. Without knowing the laden curb weight of the vehicle (as opposed to some advertising brochure curb weight with no options, no accessories and only a 150 pound driver), the prospective RV buyer cannot make an accurate computation and resulting evaluation regarding the suitability of a particular RV for his/her application.

Yes, I agree that your simplified GVWR + GVWR = required GCWR formula is conservative in that it will keep a prospective purchaser from overloading his/her tow vehicle, but it may also result in buyer's remorse when, as Ken pointed out, this purchaser later discovers that their tow vehicle could have handled more RV without exceeding its ratings than the buyer purchased.

A reader of this thread is free to utilize any formula(s) they choose, but it's only fair that they recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each.

Rusty
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