Custom towing setup for an Airstream - Chevy Traverse Forum: Chevrolet Traverse Forum
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post #1 of 73 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 11:52 AM Thread Starter
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Custom towing setup for an Airstream

Hi All!

I recently traded my 2001 Yukon for a 2011 Traverse and had it set up for towing my Airstream and thought I'd post my experience.

One point of interest is that my Traverse LS did not come with the towing package so everything of importance had to be added after market. If buying new, I would strongly recommend anyone planning to tow buy a model with the tow package because it's much cheaper than adding after market. In my case I was unwilling to pay the price of a new Traverse and bought a 2011 rental return with 32000kms (saving me $10k off new) so I was willing to pay the extra after market cost to set it up properly for towing.

A second important point is that this is a custom setup by the well know Can-Am RV folks here in London, Ontario. They are one of the few towing experts with the skills and knowledge that are important when pushing towing limits.

My trailer is a 2001 25SS Safari which weights 4850 lbs dry and 6000 lbs GVWR. I don't travel with liquids (other than propane) and expect the trailer weights about 5500 lbs when packed loaded.

The Setup:

Since my Traverse does not have the tow package everything of importance needed to be added:

- installed Class III Hidden Hitch reinforced w/two steel angle irons that run forward underneath the spare tire and are welded onto the vehicles under body -- the spare tire had to be remounted slightly to accommodate and now hangs a little lower. The additional reinforcements stiffen the hitch and spreads the weight/towing forces over a wider area of the Traverse which is important for unibody vehicles. Note ideally a Class IV would have been used but apparently there are problems finding a Class IV that fits the Traverse well and can be reinforced properly -- something that Can-Am RV routinely does to most of its installs.
- installed Hayden #405 Ultra transmission cooler (Manufacturer says it doesn't fit the Traverse but it does if you don't mind scraped knuckles)
- installed 7-PIN Bargman wiring harness w/breaker and converter for battery charging.
- installed DirecLink brake controller. This is an inertial based controller plugs into the computer diagnostic port and has access to real-time vehicle data including transmission temperature. Has separate gain adjustments for both normal "highway" speeds and low speeds which is nice to have with the Hensley. The handset it modular and can easily be removed when not towing.
- Added TOW/HAUL button. I needed the three button switch w/rear wiper, traction control and tow/haul (GM part no. 15839585). Fortunately this was plug and play -- the car's computer is already programmed for it. My dealer said it wasn't really necessary to add -- suggested just to select 'L' and use the paddle shifter, but I decided to add the switch anyway since it was so easy to do.

As per Can-AM's advice, since I don't tow in the southern US in the summer I didn't replace the rad, but will monitor the temperature going forward.

I've been towing with a Hensley Arrow since our first 30 foot TT and would not consider towing with anything else. When setting up the Traverse I had to change the 2" drop stinger for a 4" drop. The 1000 lb spring bars were still OK but the barrel jacks need to be tightened up to the maximum setting (similar to my old Yukon).

The Traverse has 17" of ground clearance to the bottom of the 2" receiver which drops to 14" after hooking up and adjusting the WD bars. The trailer sits perfectly level and there's maybe a 1" difference in wheel clearance on the Traverse (rear sits lower). When loaded up this will likely increase by a good inch, but the difference will be minor.

Weight Summary:

2011 AWD Traverse Specs for reference:
Curb Weight = 4790 lbs
GVWR = 6411 lbs
Payload = 1524 lbs
GAWR(F) = 3196 lbs
GAWR(R) = 3527 lbs
Tow Capacity = 5200
GCVWR = 9990 lbs


Actual CAT scale weights of loaded Traverse and trailer, ready to camp:
Front Axle = 2800 lbs (88% max)
Rear Axle = 3260 lbs (92% max)
GVWR = 6060 lbs (95% max)
GCVWR = 11660 lbs (117% max)

So I'm over GM's recommended max tow rating by 17%, but am under the most important ones. IMO "tow rating" is more of a manufactures recommended guideline than anything else, but certainly due diligence and regular maintenance will be required.


Road Test:

We took the trailer down the local highway and after some experimenting set the DirecLink to +16 for towing normal speed and -3 for low speed. With the Hensley the trailer handled very well, as expected. When driving to Can-AM for the final tweak of the setup I didn't have the spring bars tightened enough and noticed some porpoising but all sign of that was gone after they were tightened up. I did notice a hint of little side-to-side wobble when making sudden direction changes which was likely due to the mushy OEM 'P' tires that are likely at 32 PSI (forgot to check). For now I'll inflate to max 44 PSI and later will likely replace them with high performance lower-profile tires that should remove the slop. I'll probably stay with P tires for the ride comfort though.

Power was very good. Off the line it was peppier than my old 4-spd 5.3L Yukon which was always slow to get going from 0-25kph but picked up when it entered it's power band. The Traverse revs high off the mark but gets up to speed faster -- which I credit the VVT and 6-speed tranny.

Afterwards my DW and I took short cruise down HWY 402. Acceleration to highway speed was very good, overall not dissimilar to the old Yukon. We quickly got it up to 110 kph (69MPH) in light traffic (a little faster than I normally tow) were the Traverse was happily pulling along in 5th at 2500 RPM). There was a very slight cross wind but that was all. When we came to a hill the transmission would quickly drop down to 4th and RPMs jumped up to 3500. Although I generally tow a little slower around 105 kph, I think this behaviour is what I can expect much of the time -- that is the Traverse will drop down a gear pretty quickly when it want's to. At the same speed the Yukon would tend to stick in 3rd gear at 2700 RPM for a longer period before dropping down to 2nd, which is understandable since it did have more torque and was running at higher RPM's.

Overall the Traverse handled the trailer beautifully and was noticeably more comfortable to drive than the Yukon. When not towing there's no comparison as the Traverse is MUCH nicer to drive.

The mileage figures have yet to be proven out but I'm hoping to get 12MPG (US) when towing at 105KPH which is about the same as I got with my old Yukon.

So far everything is coming together as planned. The only glitch so far is the DirecLink transmission temperature reading was wrong -- showing 14 degrees F. We suspect the temperature is actually 140 degrees -- apparently only the first two digits are displayed. Unfortunately we have not been able to get a response from the manufacturer to confirm. There's some suggestion the reading is wrong in that it seems low. Further investigation is warranted.

If you're interested, here's another persons experience towing a 30 foot Airstream with an Enclave...

http://www.rvlifemag.com/RV37_4/hitchhints374.html

I'll post updates through the season as I gain more experience.

UPDATE: 2012-05-07

Early indications from a test drive our first 3-hour round trip on HWY 401 (express way) is positive.

I'm very pleased with the power available in town -- the Traverse's VVT and 6-speed transmission really puts out the torque "off the line" (pulling away from a stoplight) as compared to my old 2001 Yukon. Nice.

On the highway I'm able to cruise at 100 kph (62 MPH) doing 2200 RPM in 5th gear in "normal" conditions, keeping up with transports. The only time it want's to drop down to 4th gear (3200 RPM) is on an incline and/or into a stiff headwind. I just set the transmission to "L"ow and which locks out 6th and forget it.

Even with the excellent Hensley hitch, I'm totally amazed how well this rig tracks down the highway. Of course the Hensley eliminated trailer-induced sway completely, but the bow-wave of passing big rigs would still affect my old Yukon and require some steering input -- and this even though I upgraded my Yukon's OEM P tires to LT's. In comparison, and even with my Traverse's OEM P tires, most times NO steering input is required when being passed by big rigs...it's just as if they aren't there. Amazing. The only thing I can but this down to is the superior aerodynamics of the Traverse compared the the box-shaped Yukon, the aerodynamic shape of the Airstream and of course the Hensley. Very impressive.

As for mileage, so far I'm averaging 12 MPG (US) at 100KPH (62 MPH). I have to say that I was kind of hoping for something better, but it is what it is. The good news that my Traverse is capable of delivering 23 MPG on highway solo, which is much better than my old Yukon.

Based on the DirecLink controller reading, the transmission temp maxed out at 150 degrees F -- ambient temp was around 55 F at the time.

Cheers!


2011 Traverse LS AWD in cool Midnight Blue tugging a 2001 25' Airstream in SW Ontario, Canada
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post #2 of 73 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 12:17 PM
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Re: Custom towing setup for an Airstream

people are going to want to see pics of the cooler install-- at least its final location

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post #3 of 73 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 03:39 PM
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Re: Custom towing setup for an Airstream

Others have added the tow mode button to their non-factory towing equipped Traverses. It is a plug and play type install meaning they just added the switch and everything worked as if it had been factory installed.

Good luck and welcome to the boards.

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post #4 of 73 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 04:37 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Custom towing setup for an Airstream

Quote:
Originally Posted by rbarrios
people are going to want to see pics of the cooler install-- at least its final location
I've tried my best to get a few shots without taking things apart -- you can see the cooler mounted to the front-left side of the rad in line with left fan.

First shot shows the cooler from the front and the second two show also from the front looking up from the bottom.








And if anyone is interested, here's a couple of shots showing the hitch reinforcement, consisting of two steel angle-irons welded from the backside of the Hidden Hitch to a lip just forward of the spare tire bay -- photos shows right side only but there's another one on the left side as well.






2011 Traverse LS AWD in cool Midnight Blue tugging a 2001 25' Airstream in SW Ontario, Canada
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post #5 of 73 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 04:46 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Custom towing setup for an Airstream

Quote:
Originally Posted by ls973800
Others have added the tow mode button to their non-factory towing equipped Traverses. It is a plug and play type install meaning they just added the switch and everything worked as if it had been factory installed.

Good luck and welcome to the boards.
Yes, so I've read. My Dealer quoted me $85 for the part, something like $75 for shipping plus installation. If I was towing full time I'm sure it would be a good investment, but I don't tow all that often and when I do I manage the system all the time and I'm not sure it would be worth the cost.

It's certainly something I'll keep in mind, though -- and thanks!

2011 Traverse LS AWD in cool Midnight Blue tugging a 2001 25' Airstream in SW Ontario, Canada
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post #6 of 73 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 07:44 PM
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Re: Custom towing setup for an Airstream

seriously a plug and play? I hope its true, after all that i've read in these forums
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post #7 of 73 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 08:34 PM
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Re: Custom towing setup for an Airstream

Now, if you want to keep an eye on your temps, you should go out and buy a Scangauge 2. I just bought one from Canadian Tire about 2 months ago and I love it. I keep track of all them temps I'm worried about....oil temp, transmission temp, water temp, air flow temp, HP output, instant MPGand more. It is the best towing tool I have, because now I can see if something is getting too hot and try to compensate. I'd love to see the pics of the entire rig if you have them.

I think our Traverse tows really well too. I'm sure your airstream is more aerodynamic than my trailer, but yours is longer, so I'm thinking that we have very similar towing characteristics. Enjoy!

2010 Traverse 1LT<br />Built 3/10 in Lansing, MI<br /><br />Ontario, Canada
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post #8 of 73 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 08:36 PM
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Re: Custom towing setup for an Airstream




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post #9 of 73 (permalink) Old 03-18-2012, 10:29 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Custom towing setup for an Airstream

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quantum
Now, if you want to keep an eye on your temps, you should go out and buy a Scangauge 2. I just bought one from Canadian Tire about 2 months ago and I love it. I keep track of all them temps I'm worried about....oil temp, transmission temp, water temp, air flow temp, HP output, instant MPGand more. It is the best towing tool I have, because now I can see if something is getting too hot and try to compensate. I'd love to see the pics of the entire rig if you have them.

I think our Traverse tows really well too. I'm sure your airstream is more aerodynamic than my trailer, but yours is longer, so I'm thinking that we have very similar towing characteristics. Enjoy!
Thanks very much Quantum. Silly me forgot to snap a pic of the rig on Saturday, but I'll get one in the next month or so.

Interesting little tool that Scangauge -- how do you connect it?

EDIT: I see it connects to the OBDII port -- too bad that's where my DirecLink is connect to! LOL Guess I'd need a "splitter". I sure somebody makes one.

Thanks for the tip...

Gary

2011 Traverse LS AWD in cool Midnight Blue tugging a 2001 25' Airstream in SW Ontario, Canada
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post #10 of 73 (permalink) Old 03-19-2012, 02:15 PM
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Re: Custom towing setup for an Airstream

Quote:
Originally Posted by Quantum
Now, if you want to keep an eye on your temps, you should go out and buy a Scangauge 2. I just bought one from Canadian Tire about 2 months ago and I love it. I keep track of all them temps I'm worried about....oil temp, transmission temp, water temp, air flow temp, HP output, instant MPGand more. It is the best towing tool I have, because now I can see if something is getting too hot and try to compensate. I'd love to see the pics of the entire rig if you have them.

I think our Traverse tows really well too. I'm sure your airstream is more aerodynamic than my trailer, but yours is longer, so I'm thinking that we have very similar towing characteristics. Enjoy!
I remember, some time back, chatting with you about obtaining a temp gauge for the tranny. The Scangauge 2 you are using covers all bases ..... nice find!

In our Chevy store, we, at a point in time, had a "Midas" Motor Home franchise. We sold the units, serviced them, etc.

We had issues with tranny coolers that were "zip tied" to the radiator, had issues with rubber hoses and clamps to the tranny cooler. Issues were tranny failures or radiator failures, due to losing tranny fluid or engine coolant, through leaking radiator cores..

Midas made several changes to keep the tranny cooler from leaking or to keep the radiator cores from leaking ... due to weight and vibration of " attached" tranny cooler.

Tranny cooler was mounted with its own mounting brackets with rubber insulators / isolators.... away from the face of the radiator to allow cooler air flow. Instead of rubber coolant lines and clamps, lines to tranny cooler were either steel lines OR fittings were utilized to make the transition from factory steel lines to braided lines, then braided lines to tranny cooler that used fittings. No more rubber hoses and clamps, too risky, and too costly, as Midas discovered.

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