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Open Roads Forum  >  Folding Trailers

 > towing with Subaru Forester

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rgpoland

norman, ok

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Posted: 01/20/06 12:31pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I just bought a 2006 Subaru Forester with the self leveling suspension. The vehicle has a 2400 pound maximum weight and 200 pound tongue weight. I own a 1998 Coleman Cheyenne popup. It is 17 feet long has a dry weight of 1775 pounds and a 110 pound dry tongue weight. Fully loaded, the trailer weighs 2200 pounds. Can I safely pull this trailer with the Subaru? The dealer I am working with on installing the hitch has suggested a Reese Mini Lite weight distribution system to enhance towing stability and reduce trailer sway. Does anyone have experience or opinions on whether I need a weight distributing system with self leveling suspension?

Caddywhompus

Southeast WI

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Posted: 01/20/06 01:12pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I'll take a stab at being the best advice you are going to get on this topic. I did countless hours of research when I bought my Forester last June. I wanted the most economical, 5-star crash rated, AWD vehicle on the market that could tow our Bethany in a pinch. My research paid off.

I have the 2005 model of the same vehicle. It's a grerat car, I love it. Mine is a 5-speed. We have towed our Bethany with it about 3 times if I remember. The trailer weighes somewhere between #2000 and #3000 depending on how it's loaded. Tongue weight runs right around 250-300 pounds normally. I had the dealer install a class II 350/3500 hitch on the vehicle when I bought it.

The Subaru pulls the trailer great. I have no problems with power or stopping. Handling is outstanding. That said, the rear of the car does sag some when I drop the trailer on the ball, then put 2 kids, a dog and 4 people's suitcases in the back. (Maybe I expected too much? [emoticon] )The sag isn't serious, but it is present.

I own the same Mini-350 hitch you are asking about. It's perfect for popups and light tow vehicles, such as ours. I use the mini-350 when we tow with our Freestar minivan, which is our primary tow vehicle. The problem that prevents me from using the same WD hitch with the Subaru is that nobody makes a class III hitch for the Subie, at least not that I've found. You can't use the WD hitch with class II receivers. The receivers are different size, not to mention the class II hitch is too flimsy for this purpose.

If I towed with the Subaru as my primary tow vehicle, I would do one of two things. First choice would be to get a custom class III hitch made for it with the right design and receiver size for the WD hitch. The second choice would be to install air bags or air shocks in the rear. Normally I don't recommend these things, but if you can't get a class III hitch your options are pretty limited. Since you Subie already has the self leveling system, I would be willing to bet you won't experience the sag I do anyway. If you drop the ball on the hitch and the Subie levels out, then I don't think I would worry about it anymore.

Would I recommend towing with the Forester? Yes. It's a great little tow vehicle, drastically under-rated in this country. (In the U.K. the Forester carries almost twice the rating, and was "tow car of the year" in 2004!) You won't have any problem holding freeway speed in top gear. Heck, the car makes more horsepower than an early 80's Chevy 350 V8! The safety and handling of the Subie AWD system is bar none the best thing on the market in that price range.

PM me if you have any specific questions. And get ready for a slew of "You should not pull anything with a Subaru" posts. Most of those people mean well, but refuse to look at a vehicle from a technical point of view before passing judgement on it. Brace yourself.

-Jimmy



  • '11 Ford Expedition XL 5.4L (Primary tow vehicle)
  • '04 Mercury Grand Marquis 4.6L (Backup tow vehicle
  • '04 Ford Freestar SES 3.9L (another Backup tow vehicle)
  • '97 Lincoln Mark VIII 32v 4.6L (another Backup tow vehicle)
  • '95 Ford Ranger XLT 4.0L (final Backup)


Beacher

Long Beach, CA

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Posted: 01/20/06 01:21pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I'll take a stab at being the second best advice you are going to get on this topic. Just follow what Caddywhompus said! [emoticon]

FloridaNative

Florida

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Posted: 01/20/06 04:53pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Have you weighed the trailer? My guess is that it weighs more than that unless it has few to no options and/or you travel very light.

Regardless, if the weight is in the ballpark the Forester should do fine, but I would get a weight distributing hitch for it (yes, that requires that you find someone who can custom mount a class III receiver on it - or order a receiver from Australia). The self leveling suspension will do nothing for the real problem - lots of weight on the back and removing a lot from the front. The suspension just covers up the problem.

How can a dealer recommend the Reese Mini-350 and not have a hitch that will accept it? Or is he mounting a custom 2" receiver on the car?


-Mike

2007 Toyota Sienna
2006 Cikira 16CC

mbopp

Henrietta, NY, USA

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Posted: 01/20/06 05:28pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

One thing about the Subies - the trailer rating is not derated for passengers and cargo. So its tow rating is 2400# with a full load in the car.

DW's Outback Wagon will tow our PU in theory, but since it doesn't have a hitch I've never tried it.


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Caddywhompus

Southeast WI

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Posted: 01/20/06 09:49pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

mbopp wrote:

One thing about the Subies - the trailer rating is not derated for passengers and cargo. So its tow rating is 2400# with a full load in the car.


That's true. I forgot to mention it. The manual also states that trailer brakes are REQUIRED to tow trailers over #1000. My Bethany has 10" electric brake (I installed myself a few years back) so stopping is not a problem for the Forester. However, I wouldn't attempt more than #1000 without electric brakes. And surge brakes simply DO NOT work smoothly and safely with Class II hitches. Too much flex in the beam sets up an oscillation when trying to stop. The effect is as if the trailer is "spanking" the tow vehicle while you are trying to stop. Makes it nearly impossible to stop smoothly, not to mention the possible damage to hitch or car from oscillations. Been there, Done that.

-Jim

rgpoland

norman, ok

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Posted: 01/21/06 05:46am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Thanks for your all of your comments. I don't think the RV dealer understands that the Reese Mini 350 requires a 2 inch receiver. I also don't think the weight distributing hitch will solve my problem. Because the loaded weight of my trailer will be 2200 pounds, I need at least 220 pounds of tongue weight. The cheyenne's unloaded tongue weight is very low-110 pounds-because it has an empty front storage compartment; the owner's manual suggests that cargo be loaded so that the tongue weight comes up to 10-15% of the total loaded trailer weight. I don't think I should pull a trailer with a tongue weight which exceeds Subaru's recommendations.

I do wonder, however, how the Europeans and Australians are able to pull larger, heavier trailers with these vehicles. I considered a CRV before the Subaru and had read the stats on the European websit for CRV (approx. 3500 lb. towing capacity v. 1500 lb. for the American version). The service rep at the Honda dealership told me the European version had different compenents which allowed the higher towing capacity.

Determining what trailer can be towed with a small vehicle definitely seems like rocket science to me.

soren

Lancaster County PA

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Posted: 01/21/06 06:12am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

rgpoland wrote:


I do wonder, however, how the Europeans and Australians are able to pull larger, heavier trailers with these vehicles.
It's just my opinion and worth what you pay for it. I think there are two reasons that you see much greater two ratings for Europe and Australia. The style of towing they do, and the trailers they pull. There was a fantastic, and long thread here from an Italian trailer owner. It is a completely different mindset to the actual towing process. The trailers are typically traditional full sized units, not hybrids or pop-ups. They tend to be much smaller, shorter and lighter than we would typically own. They have a completely self contained braking system, that does not need a controller in the vehicle. They are towed with amazingly small vehicles, some look too small to tow a little red wagon, much less a 14' travel trailer. The towing style is much different. They don't get a $50K diesel and spend time bragging how they top every hill at 75mph. They have a very low towing speed limit and plod along in the slow lane. They tow with their one family vehicle, not a big suv they bought just to tow with. I don't think that there is a who lot of difference structurally between a Subaru sold here or there, except that it's common to find the same vehicle available in Europe with a much smaller engine. I think it all comes down to the customer. What is acceptable performance in another country might result in a really unhappy customer here. I don't think you have to go as far a Europe to see a difference in this thinking. There is a real difference in Canada. I have been in campgrounds with Canadians who have some suprising combinations. I've seen little cars like Corrollas and Altimas with medium size pop-ups and fiberglas Casita trailers, and minivans pulling far larger trailers than you typically see in the states.

mike4947

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Posted: 01/21/06 11:42am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

The answer to the European rating versus the US rating is to look at the whole rating, not just the towing weight.
In the US most are rated for 2000 pounds with a 200 pound tongue weight.
In the European rating on the same vehicle you might commonly see a 1500 KG (3300 pound) tow rating, BUT with a tongue weight limit of only 75 KG (165 pounds).
The rest of the answer is European caravans (trailers to us) are designed with a completely different weight distribution. They run very heavy to the back with light tongue weights such as out boat trailers due here. That allows for an apx 5-6% tongue weight on the trailer and still have the trailer tow safely at moderate road speeds.
Another factor in this issue is also, distance. travel 500 miles here and you can still be in the same state. In Europe you've crossed maybe 2-3 country borders. On the average they travel quite a bit less distance and at usually a lot lower speed as well.
You can tow a lot more if you only go short distances and/or only go at slower speeds.


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rgpoland

norman, ok

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Posted: 01/21/06 06:15pm Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

How can they get by with a 6% tongue weight? I thought that would cause extreme trailer sway.

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