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Big Sienna Hybrid Factory Tow Hitch problem

3356 Views 31 Replies 13 Participants Last post by  Mikeyee
Anyone had this problem with their 4th gen Sienna?
In 2021 I ordered a Sienna XLE AWD with factory tow package from Concord Toyota in California. We waited 5 months and finally received it in May 2021.
In all of the Sienna specifications the tow rating of this vehicle is stated to be 3,500 lbs when equipped with a factory tow hitch.
Now that we are looking to tow a camper, the trailer dealer tells us that our hitch is only rated for up to 1,500 lbs. The factory hitch is a 1 1/4" receiver and cannot handle more than 1,500lbs.
When we ordered the Sienna and optioned for the tow package, there was no information stating that the tow package would only allow for up to 1,500 lbs.
The dealer sales man also did not say anything about a reduced tow rating.
All marketing materials detailed 3,500 lb tow rating with the factory hitch.
I have now mentioned this to our Toyota dealer, the service department and also called Toyota customer service. Everyone has said 'Sorry, but we cannot help you with this issue.'

Has anyone else had this issue? I can't imagine that I'm the only new Sienna owner out there with this experience.
I also can't imagine that Toyota would sell a van and hitch combination like this with no warning to the customer, while promoting that this combination will actually work to tow 3,500lbs.

I feel like Toyota is dismissing this issue and deciding to take zero responsibility. This is actually a large mistake and there really is no easy solution as the hitch will need to be cut off of the frame.

Hoping someone has some advice for us - or at least get the word out about the new Sienna's issue with towing.

I have to say - the van itself is fantastic. 5 star vehicle. This towing issue is a big bummer though.
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Not sure what to say. Many of us have opted for the Ecohitch made by TorkLift instead because 1) it looks way better and 2) it is a 2" hitch with a 3500lb rating.

Sorry for your troubles, I'd be pissed too.

I would definitely recommend against the factory hitch. I was told by Stevens Creek Toyota service, the only way to replace the factory hitch to 2" receiver size involves cutting it off the vehicle frame with risk of damage to the frame!

Doesn't this seem like false advertising by Toyota and the dealership? Are auto companies allowed to do this and then just shrug it off? This van is an awesome vehicle for just about all family driving. But, we also bought it to handle a 3,300 lb trailer. Had we known about the tow hitch issue we would have chosen a Highlander or Lexus GX - there wasn't an after market hitch at the time I ordered.
Class 2 hitches are up to 3500lbs. the hitch itself even says 3500lbs. Sounds like dealer doesn't know what they are talking about.
Thanks for the info. I just checked the tow hitch bar and it does say rated for 3,500lbs. (I need to start getting into this myself). So I’m not sure why the Toyota dealer didn’t know this. Service manager definitely was not paying attention even though he made a video of the entire assembly.

So we should be good to go with the 3,300 lb trailer and the 1 1/4” receiver. I will post back here if there’s any other issues.
Maybe not. If that's the total weight, it's close but if one still needs to add enough camping gear, luggage, water, food, gray water, fuel tanks, etc. for a family, it will easily be overweight. Way overweight.
Trailer gross weight is 2,700lbs.
We will weigh it down up to 3,300lbs.
No fluids. Will have propane and batteries, food and gear.
Tongue weight will be less than 350lbs. Payload is 1240lbs. We would then have 890 payload left for humans and gear inside the van.

Sienna tow hitch does drag on dips - this is a concern. Does anyone recommend airbags for the rear end of these hybrid vans?
would be nice to have an easy solution to reinforce the rear suspension.
It's not a straightforward equation, but yes, there is definitely a trade-off between trailer weight and weight in the van. To calculate weights by the book, there’s GVWR, GAWR and GCWR limits. You want to make sure none are exceeded.

I have to make some assumptions here, as I don't have specific empty weights. Let's start with the GVWR. The manual lists a vehicle capacity of 1170-1420 lbs. Google says the base curb weight of the Sienna is 4610 lbs. Assuming this is for the lightest model, and that all models have the same GVWR (bad assumption, but probably decently close, then this implies a GVWR 4610 + 1420 = 6030 lbs. The actual GVWR is listed on the sticker on the driver door. But for this example, we'll assume it's 6030 lbs. If @djaral updates with his door sticker GVWR, I'll update the math in this post. With this GVWR, I'm assuming the difference in people/cargo weight (1170-1420 lbs) in the van is due to differing curb weights of the vehicle.

Tongue weight is weight held by the vehicle, so your 1170-1420 lbs, with 350 lbs tongue weight, becomes 820-1070 lbs.

Now we'll consider GCWR. This is 8995 lbs for AWD. We'll use 4610 lb base weight + 1070 lb cargo + 3300 trailer = 8980, which is 85 lbs over the GCWR of 8895. So we have to adjust maximum cargo capacity down a bit. Assuming my assumptions are correct, this means with the OP's 3300 lb loaded trailer weight, the OP is limited to approximately 735-985 lbs of cargo and people in the van. So the OP is on the right track, and not far off, but may be a little on the high side after considering GCWR, GAWR, and GVWR. Certainly they have a better handle on this than a lot of people I see towing trailers, so bravo! Keep it up @djaral!

GAWR is much harder, there's too many variables to give a number in a post like this, so GAWR needs to be checked on a scale. GVWR and GCWR should be checked on a scale too. There's plenty of articles on weighing, but the basic is load the trailer and vehicle as you would for a trip (all cargo, all people). On a multi-axle scale (like for semi trucks), weigh the connected vehicle + trailer. Position the van so the front axle is on one scale, the rear axle on a second scale, and trailer on a third scale (if possible). This will give you your total van + trailer weight (GCW), compare this to the max GCWR of 8895 lbs. Verify each van axle weight against the GAWR listed on the driver's door. Finally pull off, disconnect the trailer, and weigh the van by itself to ensure the GVW is less than the GVWR on the driver's sticker. If you use a weight distributing hitch, there's a couple more steps in the weighing process, but the OP hasn't mentioned that, so we won't cover it here.

My 2020 Silverado I used to have, was rated at 9600 lbs towing weight. However, it basically boiled down to if you had the full 9600 lbs in a trailer, the truck was limited to 2 average adults and a small amount of cargo, even though when not towing, the truck had a cargo capacity of about 2200 lbs! Towing 9600 lbs, carrying 4 adults plus cargo in the bed? Nope, you'd be WAY over the ratings.

In any case, make sure you have a good trailer brake system, and take a few minutes to ensure the brake gain is properly adjusted for maximum braking without locking up the trailer tires. I consider trailer brakes far and away the most important part of towing heavy loads, because if you need to stop fast, you need to be able to stop fast. Driving ~25 MPH, manually apply full trailer brakes with the brake controller, without applying vehicle brakes. If the trailer tires lock up, decrease brake gain and re-test until they don't. If they don't lock up, increase brake gain and re-test until they do, then step the gain back down until they don't. If driving on dirt, gravel, or wet roads, re-test and step the brake gain down, as the trailer tires will lock up much easier in these cases. The goal is to find the point of maximum trailer braking without locking up the trailer tires, as locking the trailer tires will greatly reduce braking force, and trailer braking systems don't have ABS, unlike your van, so once locked up, they will stay locked up until you reduce braking force. When properly set up, I could brake just as fast when towing a ~9000 lb camper with my Silverado as I could when driving the Silverado unloaded, and that camper weighed 180% of the weight of the unloaded truck! Trailer brake importance cannot be understated!
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