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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I guess I am the poster boy for this thread. I am sure there is many more people out there that are doing the same. As to whether they would "out" themselves to hear all kinds of feedback ( good and bad ) is another thing. Brian_bp and I have discussed this at the "other" sienna website in detail. That other website is unfortunately shut down along with all the threads... So, here we go again... As I have previously stated this in MY opinion ( and the dealer where I bought the trailer and hitch setup ) that the sienna is an excellent tow vehicle for several different reasons. When comparing the sienna to a new highlander the sienna wins in a lot of different categories or is equal; wheelbase, track, lower % rollover ratings (safercar.gov) and the same motor and transmission etc. My sienna is the awd version, with a final drive ratio of 3.28 while the highlander awd is 3.48. A small plus for the highlander. The sienna DOES NOT have a sticker to give it a 5000lb tow rating though. So, as far as stability and handling go, I am very confident that I have a vehicle that is every bit as capable as the higher tow rated highlander. I obviously have weight distribution, a P3 controller and anti sway control along with an extra tranny cooler. Is there an issue of vehicle longevity? Only time will tell.

The other part of the equation is the trailer shape and type of suspension. My surveyor trailer has torsion flex suspension which does two things; it allows the trailer to sit lower to the ground ( for a lower center of gravity AND a reduced amount of wind drag due to the lower profile) and it is like having a trailer with shocks installed (as previously pointed out to my by Brian_bp, there is leaf spring type suspensions that can accomplish the same thing)

Yes Brian, I will tell you my axle weights when I take the sienna and trailer to the scales in a month or so... let the camping begin ;)

Please remember, this is my experience only and one that I am still comfortable with...

cheers,

shineysideup
 

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To me the Sienna brakes are marginal with the AWD not sure how hilly it is but I do not consider the Sienna a even good tow vehicle acceleration is Ok but not great. I myself would not tow anything of size but that is just me. I used to have a 18' 4 horse trailer and used a 1 ton Crew Cab Dually that to me is a tow vehicle!
 

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Is yours a second generation van? If so, which line from the radiator is your trans cooler attached to, the upper or lower? I have one in a box I need to install when I get a minute.

Mine tows great, I'm a little under the limit but towing a full size camper so the wind resistance is the main issue. I really like this van both for towing and as a daily driver.
 

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shineysideup said:
Yes Brian, I will tell you my axle weights when I take the sienna and trailer to the scales in a month or so... let the camping begin ;)
I saw the nice picture of your rig in the other thread. can you post make/model, and what the brochure specs list its weight as.

i believe that the sienna can pull more then Toyota is willing put in writing, not that I am willing (or experienced) to tow more then 3500lbs

My trailer, which we are buying new, is being delivered at the end of April, a Flagstaff 625d pop-up. I have to credit the guys here (and at the late seinnaclub) to teaching me all the right things about towing: WD, P3 and airbags


Paul
(eagerly waiting for the last of the snow to melt)
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
My trailer is a (forest river) surveyor 235 rks (2009). it has a claimed dry weight of 3850ish lbs but after a little more reading through the brochure the trailer adds weight for the interior and exterior packages. This puts the weight on a sticker in the entrance door at a claimed 4650ish lbs. I don't travel with water or a lot of extra's so I think 500 lbs extra is where I am at for additional weight. Of course the trailer needs to be weighed to be confirmed and I intend on doing this in a couple weeks.
 

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komondor said:
To me the Sienna brakes are marginal with the AWD not sure how hilly it is but I do not consider the Sienna a even good tow vehicle acceleration is Ok but not great. I myself would not tow anything of size but that is just me. I used to have a 18' 4 horse trailer and used a 1 ton Crew Cab Dually that to me is a tow vehicle!
I think the new 3.5L makes up for acceleration when towing. I haven't towed with either engine, but in everyday driving our 3.5L will out pull anything our previous 04 Sienna could without trying. Like when we went through mountain passes with a full load which we done in both our Sienna's, the new engine was very noticeably less strained and had a lot more gusto..lol 8)

As for brakes the stock brakes on Sienna's do suck I almost rear ended someone while braking downhill, I had the brake pedal to the floor. I am sure a good set of aftermarket brakes would help alot when towing.
 

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I think you should have your brakes checked. I had a dog pop out and run into the side of the van a couple of days ago and the pedal was nowhere near the floor with the ABS running full pop. Thats on a 4 year old CE. My 3yo commented on how it was good he was wearing his seatbelt...


hause07 said:
komondor said:
To me the Sienna brakes are marginal with the AWD not sure how hilly it is but I do not consider the Sienna a even good tow vehicle acceleration is Ok but not great. I myself would not tow anything of size but that is just me. I used to have a 18' 4 horse trailer and used a 1 ton Crew Cab Dually that to me is a tow vehicle!
I think the new 3.5L makes up for acceleration when towing. I haven't towed with either engine, but in everyday driving our 3.5L will out pull anything our previous 04 Sienna could without trying. Like when we went through mountain passes with a full load which we done in both our Sienna's, the new engine was very noticeably less strained and had a lot more gusto..lol 8)

As for brakes the stock brakes on Sienna's do suck I almost rear ended someone while braking downhill, I had the brake pedal to the floor. I am sure a good set of aftermarket brakes would help alot when towing.
 

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hause07 said:
komondor said:
To me the Sienna brakes are marginal with the AWD ...
...
As for brakes the stock brakes on Sienna's do suck I almost rear ended someone while braking downhill, I had the brake pedal to the floor. I am sure a good set of aftermarket brakes would help alot when towing.
Although I am not ready to comment on the main subject of this discussion yet, the issue above (which is more of a concern when towing a heavy trailer) does concern me.

tcp said:
I think you should have your brakes checked. I had a dog pop out and run into the side of the van a couple of days ago and the pedal was nowhere near the floor with the ABS running full pop. Thats on a 4 year old CE. My 3yo commented on how it was good he was wearing his seatbelt...
I absolutely agree with this. I need to be careful to avoid knocking the family parrot off his perch when he is with us, although he really digs those claws in and hangs on!

I have driven our Sienna (2004 LE, now at about 110,000 km / 68,000 mi) in all sorts of weather and road conditions, at speeds well beyond those legally permissible, loaded up to the GVWR and towing up to the trailer and GCWR limits, and up and down all of the major Rocky Mountain passes between Alberta and B.C. and along most of the mountain highways in southeastern B.C. Not all in combination, of course. ;)

I have yet to find a circumstance in which the brakes were not able to use the full extent of available tire traction when I wanted to use it. The only time I have had them overly hot was on one long (several kilometres) and unusually steep (up to 12% grade) switchbacking mountain descent with the trailer when I didn't use enough engine braking... and even then they still worked fine (but smelled!) and suffered no lasting damage.

If a second-generation Sienna's brakes don't work well, I think some troubleshooting is in order. I have no experience with the first generation.

With any significant trailer, of course, trailer brakes are required - in my opinion, and according to the manual. The higher the trailer mass, the more important it is for the trailer brakes to be responsive and properly setup to do something close to their share of the braking work.
 

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Exactly,
The brakes on the trailer should handle the weight of the trailer. There should be little impact on the Sienna when towing a trailer with the brakes working properly. Engine braking is less effective, of course due to the extra weight.

brian_bp said:
hause07 said:
komondor said:
To me the Sienna brakes are marginal with the AWD ...
...
As for brakes the stock brakes on Sienna's do suck I almost rear ended someone while braking downhill, I had the brake pedal to the floor. I am sure a good set of aftermarket brakes would help alot when towing.
Although I am not ready to comment on the main subject of this discussion yet, the issue above (which is more of a concern when towing a heavy trailer) does concern me.

tcp said:
I think you should have your brakes checked. I had a dog pop out and run into the side of the van a couple of days ago and the pedal was nowhere near the floor with the ABS running full pop. Thats on a 4 year old CE. My 3yo commented on how it was good he was wearing his seatbelt...
I absolutely agree with this. I need to be careful to avoid knocking the family parrot off his perch when he is with us, although he really digs those claws in and hangs on!

I have driven our Sienna (2004 LE, now at about 110,000 km / 68,000 mi) in all sorts of weather and road conditions, at speeds well beyond those legally permissible, loaded up to the GVWR and towing up to the trailer and GCWR limits, and up and down all of the major Rocky Mountain passes between Alberta and B.C. and along most of the mountain highways in southeastern B.C. Not all in combination, of course. ;)

I have yet to find a circumstance in which the brakes were not able to use the full extent of available tire traction when I wanted to use it. The only time I have had them overly hot was on one long (several kilometres) and unusually steep (up to 12% grade) switchbacking mountain descent with the trailer when I didn't use enough engine braking... and even then they still worked fine (but smelled!) and suffered no lasting damage.

If a second-generation Sienna's brakes don't work well, I think some troubleshooting is in order. I have no experience with the first generation.

With any significant trailer, of course, trailer brakes are required - in my opinion, and according to the manual. The higher the trailer mass, the more important it is for the trailer brakes to be responsive and properly setup to do something close to their share of the braking work.
 

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I wanted to mention that I upgrded from a voyger brake controller to a prodigy and really noticed a difference, especially in situations where you vary between highway and slow speeds, e.g. stop and go traffic jam conditions on the interstate. Before, I would have to really boost it up for the higher speeds but it would be jerky and lock up at slower speeds. The prodigy just works great at all speeds and conditions.

I suspect with a heavy truck you can get away with a crummy brake controler or poorly setup hitch, but for a minivan it really metters. When I first drove mine with 3200 lbs, I drove around the block without enough tension on the bars due to the hitch angle, what a mess it was wallowing and scraping. After setting it up right, it tows really, really nice.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I agree with all the posts saying that sienna brakes are quite adequate. As far as I am concerned, as long as the trailer has its own brakes, this issue is a wash. Of course there is the issue of a cheap poorly functioning brake controller that could make things unnecessarily interesting. I have a prodigy p3, didn't even consider cheaping out in this regard. Has anyone any experience with the jordan ultima brake controller?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
took T.V. and T.T. to scales

I had the chance on the weekend to take my rig (yes, the 23' surveyor and van ;))to the local scales ( actually need new tires so I decided to get some hard numbers ). I was at a flying J scales in Ontario Canada; my trailer had two full 30lb. propane tanks, a battery, most of our camping stuff (dishes, towels, blankets etc.) We have no groceries in the trailer or clothing. Here are the numbers... front axle of the van; 2860lbs, rear axle of van 2780lbs; trailer axles combined; 4460lbs ( could not get all axles on individual scales, they are set up for transports! ). The total gross is 10100lbs. with two adults, child seats and some other kids things - no children though (not a big deal, together they weigh 80ish lbs.) Hey Brian, the numbers all add up - again! (maybe we have some super accurate scales in Ontario? :D)

So, I will try and stick with my 98T load rated tires for a little extra margin... though I will be looking to upgrade to at least an "H" speed rating...
 

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I agree that sticking with the 225/60R17 size (assuming that's implied by the 98 load index) makes sense for stability. To get more tire margin (not more axle capacity) one method is to skip P-metric tires in favour of euro-metric (i.e. 225/60R17 not P225/60R17) and look for extra load (XL) rating.

I will have a comment about weights... When I get a chance to work it out.
 

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Re: took T.V. and T.T. to scales

shineysideup said:
I had the chance on the weekend to take my rig (yes, the 23' surveyor and van ;))to the local scales ( actually need new tires so I decided to get some hard numbers ). I was at a flying J scales in Ontario Canada; my trailer had two full 30lb. propane tanks, a battery, most of our camping stuff (dishes, towels, blankets etc.) We have no groceries in the trailer or clothing. Here are the numbers... front axle of the van; 2860lbs, rear axle of van 2780lbs; trailer axles combined; 4460lbs ( could not get all axles on individual scales, they are set up for transports! ). The total gross is 10100lbs. with two adults, child seats and some other kids things - no children though (not a big deal, together they weigh 80ish lbs.) Hey Brian, the numbers all add up - again! (maybe we have some super accurate scales in Ontario? :D)

So, I will try and stick with my 98T load rated tires for a little extra margin... though I will be looking to upgrade to at least an "H" speed rating...
I am a regular participant at popupexplorer.com, a great camping trailer forum. There are frequent lively discussions there about towing and tow vehicles. I find myself in the role of defender of the abilities of the Sienna and minivans in General to tow pop up/ tent trailers within their ratings. Many continue to insist only a V8 truck or SUV should ever tow anything.
Your numbers are so far over the ratings, it's really hard to compare to them anymore. Over 1500lbs over GVWR partly loaded sounds awfully heavy to me. Plus the barn door effect of a full height TT!
Personally, I don't have the expertise to fully evaluate what the effect of exceeding these ratings will be. I know there are a few individuals who have some expertise in this, like Andy Thompson at Can-Am. I know such setups often require custom work on the vehicle. I will watch with great interest your experience with this setup over time. I however am not interested in taking part in an experiment like this in my Sienna which I intend to keep for a long time, with my family that I intend to keep for much longer it it.
Best of luck, (really)
Larry
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
lnorman said:
I am a regular participant at popupexplorer.com, a great camping trailer forum. There are frequent lively discussions there about towing and tow vehicles. I find myself in the role of defender of the abilities of the Sienna and minivans in General to tow pop up/ tent trailers within their ratings. Many continue to insist only a V8 truck or SUV should ever tow anything.
Yes most SUV's and trucks have much higher tow ratings;
So, lets buy a SUV that is RATED to tow 5000lbs... say a Jeep liberty (V6 of course)! The jeep has a sticker saying it can tow 5000lbs so it must be.

Just a few numbers in the category of stability first though;

wheelbase - 106" (sienna 119") winner, sienna; track front and rear 61" (sienna front - 66", rear - 67") winner, sienna;

Now lets look at other areas of the liberty;

horsepower - 210 (sienna '04 - 215 under new rating?) winner, sienna; torque - [email protected] (sienna [email protected], not sure if this changed with hp ratings?) winner, sienna; payload 1150 (sienna 1325 for '04 sienna xle limited awd) winner sienna; 4 speed transmission (sienna 5 speed) winner sienna; BOTH UNIBODY.

the website for jeep states that the trailer can only have 64sq. ft. of frontal area (8' high x 8' wide which my surveyor is...) and should not exceed 25' (as my surveyor fits this category with other benefits that I will elaborate on further).

I know which one I would rather pull a trailer with... furthermore why would Jeep take such a "risk" with such an incapable vehicle? Either the liberty is highly overrated ( I could see the lawsuits now... ) or the sienna is highly underrated... ;)

just my two cents

shineysideup



lnorman said:
Your numbers are so far over the ratings, it's really hard to compare to them anymore. Over 1500lbs over GVWR partly loaded sounds awfully heavy to me. Plus the barn door effect of a full height TT!
A surveyor trailer has torsion suspension that allows the trailer to ride closer to the ground than a conventional leaf spring suspension. I guess there is a leaf type suspension that does the same thing according to Brian_bp but I did not see it on the trailers I was considering. The surveyor trailer also has a pronounced slope on the front end that allows it to "ahem" cut through the air (it is better than no slope at all and not nearly enough in my opinion, see the new bullet trailer) Just comparing the same trailer to say a kz spree trailer there is about 6sq. ft. less of wind drag in height alone (a roof height of 100" for surveyor and 110" for the kz spree for example) Obviously one of the most aerodynamic (and iconic) trailers produced is the airsteam trailers. The starting price for a 16' bambi? is like $37k and up! Not very family oriented either or I would have considered it... albeit used for that kind of coin.

lnorman said:
Personally, I don't have the expertise to fully evaluate what the effect of exceeding these ratings will be. I know there are a few individuals who have some expertise in this, like Andy Thompson at Can-Am. I know such setups often require custom work on the vehicle. I will watch with great interest your experience with this setup over time. I however am not interested in taking part in an experiment like this in my Sienna which I intend to keep for a long time, with my family that I intend to keep for much longer it it.
Best of luck, (really)
Larry
Larry, I plan on having this vehicle for at least another 160K... I cannot argue that I could be compromising my van's longevity but so far so good... about 2500km of towing last year (the most we likely will ever do is about 7500km which you know is a hell of a lot of camping!). We have a big trip planned down east (Cabot Trail area, no the trailer will not be on the trail!) the first of the summer. Should be 4000+ km in a couple weeks+. On a side note my buddy is bringing his 5th wheel and new tundra truck along with his family, I will have lots of mileage and performance comparisons! Should be interesting.

Still want an SUV to tow a big trailer? Why don't you have a look at the highlander and see how it compares to the sienna? Did I mention rollover ratings yet? I Got some numbers for that also... I'm sure you know which one is lower...

forget about the "numbers" for a minute and look at what specs for each vehicle say. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the manufacturer tow ratings. A 2004 sienna can tow 2000lbs but with a tow package all of a sudden 3500lbs? Same suspension, same body etc. So it is my belief that I have one of the safest tow vehicles for my trailer and family (which I would not put in harms way being irresponsible)

By the way, do you have weight distribution for your trailer? Have you been to the scales to make sure you aren't overloading your back axle or tires? My vehicle is not overloaded, the towed weight is though, big difference to me) I not trying to sound mean but you don't really know what you have until it is weighed...

I'm sure you will have more to say and I look forward to the debate ;)

cheers,

shineysideup
 

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shineysideup said:
I guess I am the poster boy for this thread. I am sure there is many more people out there that are doing the same. As to whether they would "out" themselves to hear all kinds of feedback ( good and bad ) is another thing. Brian_bp and I have discussed this at the "other" sienna website in detail. That other website is unfortunately shut down along with all the threads... So, here we go again... As I have previously stated this in MY opinion ( and the dealer where I bought the trailer and hitch setup ) that the sienna is an excellent tow vehicle for several different reasons. When comparing the sienna to a new highlander the sienna wins in a lot of different categories or is equal; wheelbase, track, lower % rollover ratings (safercar.gov) and the same motor and transmission etc. My sienna is the awd version, with a final drive ratio of 3.28 while the highlander awd is 3.48. A small plus for the highlander. The sienna DOES NOT have a sticker to give it a 5000lb tow rating though. So, as far as stability and handling go, I am very confident that I have a vehicle that is every bit as capable as the higher tow rated highlander. I obviously have weight distribution, a P3 controller and anti sway control along with an extra tranny cooler. Is there an issue of vehicle longevity? Only time will tell.
shineysideup
Shinysideup,
thanks for the messages and links to the article you sent. I thought it important to bring my comment here now.
What is missing from the above description, as you have now explained to me is that this a professionally set up rig by arguably one of the most experienced experts in the field, and that it required custom work on the vehicle. Is this important? I think so.
It's easy to point out the similar drive trains etc. on the Highlander and Sienna and theoretical advantages in center of gravity and geometry to the Highlander. But that does not equate to an equal rating, and perhaps not even an equal capability. It is not just a sticker that says 5000lbs. it is an engineering department that backs that sticker. How many elements go into that assessment? I don't know, but I'll bet a lot. Since the rig is only as good capable as it's weakest link, it is of no value to say that the Hp or torque or tranny or whatever is up to it, if you aren't sure of the axles, the wheels the tires and even the mounting nuts for the hitch and the sheet metal where they attach. I have considerable experience with towing these vehicles as a consumer, but I can't guess at these factors. It may be that the towing professional who set you up has a deep understanding of these elements, though even he he would not have access to data and test results that the Toyota engineers would. I can understand placing trust in his years of successful experience, though this is still a judgment call.
What I feel strongly about is that if you are going to advocate towing beyond ratings as you have in this thread, it is important to fully disclose all the work required to do this and on who's advice. Obviously everyone is responsible for due diligence in deciding on what they can or can't tow, but I think it would be a shame if somebody got into big trouble towing this kind of weight, without the custom work or outside expertise you had based on information from threads like this one.
Larry
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Larry, I have mentioned that this setup came from a dealer... I have not named them (although I did in the "old" site) for a couple reasons... I would tell anyone if they asked though... I don't work for them number 1... I have said that this is a decision that I am comfortable with... it may not be for everybody. If I am coming across as saying "that you should buy whatever you want and tow it" I have been misrepresenting myself. I made this decision BEFORE I bought the trailer (yes you can test tow at the dealership for free, before you buy) and still feel for me (with the help of the dealership and their years of experience, test towing on a track etc. etc.) it just works. Yes you need to be setup properly for towing anything and taking a drive down the 401 doesn't give me any warm and fuzzy feelings seeing some "properly rated" vehicles and the condition they are towing in (like front tires BARELY on the ground and the bumper almost dragging, but it's a truck, right?) The only thing I am advocating is that I find the sienna (should I say, MY SIENNA) a decent tow vehicle with excellent road manners the way the dealership has set it up. I turn it turns, I stop it stops! ;D
 

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Just a thought/question....is the Highlander's higher weight rating because the Sienna sacrifices part of that in order to carry more people? I tried a quick browse of Toyota's website and could not find the seating capacity for Highlanders.
 

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shineysideup said:
Larry, I have mentioned that this setup came from a dealer...
The thing you may not realize if this is a local dealer for you, is that this particular dealer is the exception, perhaps even unique in this regard. In pretty much every other case I have ever heard of, the critical factor in the biggest trailer a dealer will setup for you is your credit rating. If they get paid, and you can tow it off their lot without sparks they are happy. If you doubt that..., well who do you think sold those folks their trailers with the front wheels nearly off the ground? I am sure there are a few dealers out there with sufficient integrity to not sell you too much to safely tow, but I have NEVER heard of another who will perform a full analysis of a rig and recommend/perform changes to make it work, often involving new tires and wheels, welding at the frame and hitch etc.

A successful Can Am setup proves only that Can Am has used a particular vehicle as a component in a towing combination to whatever degree of satisfaction is achieved. To generalize that as saying what this vehicle "can tow" is where there might be a problem. If a guy walks across a beach of broken glass and shouts out to the crowd onshore "come on in, the water is fine!" I just think he really ought to mention it if he has custom steel shank flip flops on.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
topspy said:
Just a thought/question....is the Highlander's higher weight rating because the Sienna sacrifices part of that in order to carry more people? I tried a quick browse of Toyota's website and could not find the seating capacity for Highlanders.
I'm not sure if it is standard or not but the highlander is available with seating for 7. ;D
 
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