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Old 06-19-2011, 05:56 AM   #1
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Newbie needs advice

Hi all, I'm new to the board, a new Sunline owner and new to TT camping.
We've been tent camping for years, but have just recently decided that we needed more comfort and easier setup/takedown.
We first started looking at new TTs but were having difficulty finding a trailer set up like we wanted.
My wife & I will primarily be traveling with our 2yo, but I have 2 grandsons that will also be joining us on occasion. We wanted something that could accommodate us and the 3 youngsters and we preferred not to have to break down the dinette every time one of us needed to stretch out.
To farther complicate things our TV is an '03 7 passenger Merc Mountaineer 4.6 V8. It has been difficult to determine our towing capacity, but long story short we've taken the lowest estimate of 3500# as gospel and tried to stay under that limit.
Considering our weight limitations and the fact that we do want to spend our camping experiences out-of-doors as much as possible (as in no need for the Taj Mahal) we seriously considered a pop-up. However the setup/takedown is almost as bad as the tent/tarp solution and not at all ideal.
Yesterday we came upon a '91 16' Sunliner Sloaris that is in fair shape for a price that is very comfortable, even considering that we'll need to do quite a bit of mainly cosmetic work to get it into the condition we want it. The layout is almost exactly and even a little better than what we had hoped to find. It also has a bit of the "canned ham" look that we both like. Basically it's a cozy little trailer with a lot of charm. We agreed on a price and left a deposit.

NADA lists the empty weight of the trailer at just under 2200#, which will probably put us closer to our tow rating than is optimal, but it's what we have and if it means taking things slow and easy that's OK. Most of our camping will be within 1-4 hrs of home and will rarely require interstate driving.
I've installed a Prodigy brake controller, a Draw-Tite hitch rated for 5K or 8K weight distributed, and we will be installing a tranny cooler on the Merc in the next few days. I've been dragging around boats and utility trailers for 35+ years, and as a kid towed a large farm tractor quite a bit and have never used a weight distro or sway control system, but am now thinking that it might be necessary or at least very desirable for this little trailer.
We haven't picked the trailer up yet and I have no idea of the tongue weight or total weight, but just based on the size of the trailer and our TV, is the WDS and sway control something that I should absolutely have, is it desirable but not completely necessary, or is this mainly something for the big boys and I'm stressing over nothing?
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Old 06-19-2011, 06:47 AM   #2
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Your Mountaineer probably has a tow rating close to 7000lbs. We have an Explorer with a V-6 and it's rated at 5000lbs
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Old 06-19-2011, 07:02 AM   #3
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Welcome to the club!

If you know the exact model number, the files section has the Sunline brochures for a lot of them. That will give you a better idea of the weights. If you can let us know the model, we could also help you find the info. One thing to remember, is that the empty weight is usually pretty far from the loaded and ready to camp weight.

Kanyonkitty on here had a 16 foot Sunline and towed it cross-country, with a GMC Jimmy. She'll be along, to give you some idea what to expect.

Please post some pictures of your camper, when you get a chance... Also look-up Sunlinefan and let him know the VIN on your new Sunline.. He's our resident Sunline historian and there's not much he doesn't know about them!
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Old 06-19-2011, 07:06 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 264SRinPA View Post
Your Mountaineer probably has a tow rating close to 7000lbs. We have an Explorer with a V-6 and it's rated at 5000lbs
Thanks very much, and yes, the 7 passenger version of the Mountaineer is listed in places at +/- 6800. According to the VIN translation -
Standard Towing3500 lbsMaximum Towing7300 lbs

According to our mechanic(a very seasoned Ford guy), a vehicle rated that high should have come standard with a transmission cooler, which we don't have.
I do feel fairly comfortable that it can handle the 16' Sunliner within reason.
I am worried about sway with such a short vehicle though. For towing purposes the Explorer & the Mountaineer are the same vehicle. What are you towing with your Explorer and how well does it handle? Are you using a WDS or any sort of sway control?

Thanks in advance!
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Old 06-19-2011, 07:13 AM   #5
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Thanks EMD ...... due to the place the camper was parked we didn't get any pictures, but should have some to post very soon!
It is comforting to hear that someone towed a 16' cross country with a Jimmie, being as anything a GMC can do a Ford can do better. (Just a joke!)

We'll be posting more about the trailer after we get it home.
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Old 06-19-2011, 08:36 AM   #6
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gritsngravy,

Welcome to the group and congratulations on your Sunline purchase. As previously stated, we love to see pictures of Sunlines.

I am the one that towed the T-1661 cross country with the Jimmy, and on that one trip alone I did 9280 miles, and it was not all done on flatland. It was myself, my mom, her fat weiner dog and my 80lb shep/rott mutt. Never a bit of trouble towing. Traveled out west several summers with that combo before I was able to upgrade tow vehicle & trailer. Here is a not so good pic of the rig on the beach in northern calif.

And here is a pic of just the trailer before I painted the stripes back on the door:


Once you get your Sunline home, if you have any questions, post them here and it should not take too long before someone helps you out.

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Old 06-19-2011, 12:08 PM   #7
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Kanyon Kitty that looks like a fine little camper and sounds like you put in a lot of miles with it behind the Jimmy.
Following EMD's advice I went out to the files section and from the floorplans in the '91 brochure it looks like ours is a T1550. That puts the GVR at 2070 with a tongue weight of 235. From a post on another forum I got a better idea of my tow rating on the Merc, which is actually even a little lower than I thought at just under 3200.

I still think we can pack reasonably, travel reasonably and be fine with it.
Going to pick it up this Tuesday and the 75 mile trip home should give me an idea of how well it handles.
Pics are on the way, and thanks again for the help.
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Old 06-19-2011, 12:36 PM   #8
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Here is another post I did concerning a T-1550:

A friend of mine had a 1982 T-1550 that he towed with a 1994 Ford Explorer. He traveled solo, so the trailer was loaded light. We traveled the interstate a lot and all he ever used was a friction sway control, no weight distribution at all and his set-up sat nice and level. Now, your experience might be different depending on how you load your Sunline.

But, you also have a more powerful tow vehicle than our V6's that we were towing with.

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Old 06-19-2011, 04:23 PM   #9
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My first TT was a 19' Sunline with a TV '96 Dodge Ram. Towed it from NJ to NC, NJ to Canada, without WD or anti-sway. I would probably recommend WD for safer towing, but I don't think you need anti-sway with a small unit like a 16', especially if you don't plan a lot of highway driving. I do have both (Reese combo unit) now that I am towing 25'. Good luck and welcome to the world of TT, where you bring your home with you.
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Old 06-19-2011, 10:43 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gritsngravy View Post
Kanyon Kitty that looks like a fine little camper and sounds like you put in a lot of miles with it behind the Jimmy.
Following EMD's advice I went out to the files section and from the floorplans in the '91 brochure it looks like ours is a T1550. That puts the GVR at 2070 with a tongue weight of 235. From a post on another forum I got a better idea of my tow rating on the Merc, which is actually even a little lower than I thought at just under 3200.

I still think we can pack reasonably, travel reasonably and be fine with it.
Going to pick it up this Tuesday and the 75 mile trip home should give me an idea of how well it handles.
Pics are on the way, and thanks again for the help.
Something seems fishy with this, there's no way an '03 V8 Mountaineer is rated for 3200. There are a few factors that go into the tow rating though:
- The V8 engine. The vehicle had a standard V6 with the V8 as an available option. My parents and grandparents both had '03 Mountaineers at the same time, one with the V8 and one with the V6. Pulling a Sunline 2363 (23' and about 4500 lbs loaded) put a strain on the V6, but it was fine with the V8. Power was never an issue- the only complaint I had was the stock mirrors, which I never tried to get add-on mirrors for and should have. The only reason we got away from the Mountaineer was that a ~5000 lb boat on a trailer was a little too much for it.
- The rear tow hitch. The Mountaineer had two available hitches, one simple 1" tube hitch that was a standard hitch on the Mountaineer. If the tow package was ordered, it received the larger 2" receiver tube hitch, plus a trans cooler. It sounds like you don't have the tow package since you added the larger hitch.
- The rear end gear ratio. The rear end gear ratio determines how much transmission will have to work to keep up and will determine what power range the engine is in for pulling a load. Assuming the Mountaineer is the same as the Explorer option wise, it would come with a 3.55 rear end standard and a 3.73 with the tow package. 3.73 is better for towing. I'm not sure if the 3.73 was available without the tow package, but you might want to look into if it has it. The axle code for the 3.73 might be D4, but I'm not 100% sure of that.

It is important to note that your Mountaineer has two different hitch capacities if it has the tow package larger hitch. One is a traditional weight carrying situation where the trailer just sits on a ball. The Mountaineer has something like a 3300 lb rear axle weight capacity, so the axle isn't very big to accommodate a large trailer. Once you subtract the actual rear weight of the vehicle (from a scale) and take any cargo/people into account, that number subtracted from 3300 will say how much of a trailer tongue weight you can have.

The second type of hitch situation is a weight distribution system, as discussed briefly already. The hitch system basically adds two spring bars that help to distribute the trailer's tongue weight between the trailer axle(s) and both vehicle axles. As a result, the hitch capacity increases significantly, to the tow rating typically advertised.

All that being said, the tow ratings for the V8 Explorer are as follows:
- 3.55 rear, 2 wheel drive, Class II 1" hitch: 3280 lbs.
- 3.73 rear, 2 wheel drive, tow package: 7160 lbs.
- 3.55 rear, all wheel drive, Class II 1" hitch: 3420 lbs.
- 3.73 rear, all wheel drive, tow package: 7000 lbs

So, if you didn't have the tow package, but you've added the larger hitch and trans cooler, you will probably be close to using the tow package ratings. Here on SOC, we like to recommend that you don't exceed about 75% of your max tow rating. So if you have a vehicle that you've now made possible to pull about 7000 lbs, we recommend you don't exceed 5250 lbs. So any of the 5000 GVWR trailers (GVWR- max the trailer should weigh with your stuff in it) will work with this vehicle. Many of those trailers weigh just under 4000 lbs empty and dry, leaving about 1000 lbs of cargo capacity.

If you have the 3.55 rear, I'd be inclined to pick a value in between but closer to the tow package value. I feel the majority of the 3.73 value is due to the larger hitch. So I'd say with your larger hitch, if you have a 3.55, I'd say you could assume a value around 5500-6000 lbs. Still plenty for a T-1550.

So all in all, I wouldn't be worried about a T-1550 with your Mountaineer after you've done the upgrades. The biggest difference in tow ratings is because of the difference in hitches. I think you'll need to worry about not overloading the 1550 before you need to worry about overloading the Mountaineer with it.
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Old 06-20-2011, 04:03 AM   #11
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Thanks Sunline Fan. We aren't the original owners. Found the stamp yesterday afternoon, we do have the 3.55 rear end. The Merc came with the 1" hitch & no transmission cooler. According to the manual that's 3200 with either the V8 or V6.

I'm more worried about the transmission than the engine. From experience with a V6 Ranger and a fairly heavy(for that truck) Carolina Skiff the thing most noticeable was the constant shifting on anything other than level ground. Disengaging the OD solved most of that for the Ranger. The higher rearend will mean slower starts and more umph needed for steep climbs, but I do think the V8 has enough to handle it.
Adding the transmission cooler and the class III hitch will probably give us what we need to haul the 1550 OK.
After I get her home and loaded I'll make the call on the WD system. I'm leaning that way at this point.


Agree 100% about the mirrors, I bought a couple of the strap-on CIPAs.

I really do appreciate all the help so far, and being new to the TT world we'll probably be asking for a lot more of it in the next few weeks & months.
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Old 06-20-2011, 11:14 AM   #12
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Well, it sounds like you are doing everything right.

Watch how far the front of your Mountainer lifts when you put the sunline on the hitch and you will know if you need weight distribution or not.

Yes, the transmission would be the biggest worry but a good cooler should solve that. Even with the newer electronic transmissions, they still say to tow without OD. Even though the trailer does not weigh much, the wind resistance is going to be a big factor.

I think though that with your upgrades and that size sunline you will have a pleasant towing experience.
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Old 06-22-2011, 11:12 AM   #13
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Well the little trailer pulled just fine the 75 miles from the foothills to down home. Tongue weight seemed well within the Merc's comfort zone, no excessive drop in the rear or lift in the front. Kept it down to 60 or under (tires are dry rotting) and had to try hard to get much sway. Got passed by plenty of 18 wheelers, still no sway. The only thing I noticed was a bit more bounce than I get with the boat(not quite as bad as the 71 Vista Cruiser we all used to pile into headed for the drive-in). Not sure if the weight distribution system will help with that.
Only real negative was watching the trip 'puter tell me 11.2mpg, 12.6 mpg, 13mpg ...... 13 mpg average over a 75 mile trip(Normally 20 & change). Was hoping for better but we can live with it.
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Old 06-23-2011, 09:07 AM   #14
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12.6 mpg is great. Be very happy with that number on a gas engine. Remember that even though the trailer is light, there is alot of wind resistance. You will want to keep it under 60mph even with new tires unfortunately as they are only rated to 65.

I don't think a WD hitch wil help much with the bounce if the trailer is bouncing on those old tires and may even make it worse depending on where the bounce is comming from and what kind of hitch.

If it's the weight on the hitch bobbing your tow vehicle up and down on the back then a WD hitch would help with that.

Anyway, that's a great looking trailer and it sounds like you will have a troublefree towing experience which of course enhances the entire camping experience.
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