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Old 05-09-2014, 03:12 PM   #1
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retirement camper search

Hello all-
I set up an account last year, but my RV search was stopped until I got a new vehicle-
Now I have a new tow vehicle, a 2014 Dodge Caravan, the stripped lightweight AVP model. I am a Chrysler retiree (on SS for a year now) and I have turned into a frugal shopper. I am looking at no more than a 17-18ft trailer
I must say, that the 3.6L Pentastar engine is a beast and the six speed has 4 regular and 2 OD gears. It accelerates like my old 1980 460 Ford van with the police timing gear I used to pull my heavy 32 ft'er in 1984.. FYI, tow package upgrades are all standard equipment now on the minivans-- Thank you Fiat!
My max tow weight is about 3500lbs and tongue weight is 350. -
My wife doesn't know it, but our trip from Florida to the Wisconsin Dells in one month is also a search expedition-
Can I find that estate trailer stored in a farmers pole barn it's whole life?
I located a 1989 30ft Mallard for a buddy like that last year- it was like going back in time- to my first RV. The RV bug really hit me with that mint 25 yr old camper. It is strange, but I have no attachment when I walk into a new coach.
I have done some RV tech work since I retired= absolutely no rubber roof RVs for me.
I really like this website and the Sunline campers I saw come through the dealerships- if I had a V-8 SUV I would be looking for only a T-1950.
Can you kindly advise if I can tow a 1700 or not, thanks.
Mark
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Old 05-09-2014, 05:18 PM   #2
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Your biggest draw back is FWD. I pull a T1700 with a Tacoma 4 liter 6 cylinder it's not lack of power but with out a doubt you'll need working trailer brakes and maybe a WD hitch. I would think a T1700 would be close to max I have not weigh mine but loaded I would estimate close to 3,000# The Tacoma is rated 6,500# and there is no way I would consider any thing close to that.
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Old 05-09-2014, 08:09 PM   #3
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I checked my owners manual, it says 3600lbs and I have the spare tire delete, which gives me a little more- My 2005 Caravan was rated 3800lbs, but was 80hp lower than my 2014. I am thinking I better, limit myself to 3000lbs empty weight.
I pulled a 4800lb 5th wheel with a 2005 Ram 4.7L and when I weighted my rig- I was maxed out on when loaded. I had to really plan ahead for the mountains out west. They now use the 3.6L Pentastar in place of the 4.7L V-8, so power is not an issue with my setup.
A couple years ago I was working a winter job at the DMV and a guy comes in with a flatbed car hauler loaded with an old old muscle car for me to read his out of state VIN- My jaw dropped when I saw he was towing with a newer Dodge minivan. He said it towed slow, but he had no issues with handling. The axle was up against the rubber spring bumpers.
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Old 05-12-2014, 06:49 PM   #4
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A rule of thumb is to not tow a total weight more than 75% your tow capacity. I once towed my T1950 of about 4800 # loaded with a 6 cyl Nissan truck with a capacity of 5500. It wouldn't hurt to tow it but I drove on the highway with my foot against the firewall in a lower gear at 50mph and slower going up hills at 8mpg. I never got to more than 35mph by the end of the highway entry ramp and going up hills in the Adirondacks I slowed to 25mph in low gear with a line of cars behind me.

I then got an F150 V8 with a tow cap of 7500# and that was perfect. With that I got 11mpg towing at highway speed. Never slowed down.

Now I tow 8500# with a 6 cyl ecoboost engine with a capacity of 11300# at 11mpg and never slow down but that's another thread.
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Old 05-13-2014, 05:01 PM   #5
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75% is a good rule, but over time the pounds do add up.- I once had an older diesel motorhome come in for repairs to the slide room- I opened the overhead cabinets and I saw canned goods stacked two high- probably a couple hundred pounds of stuff- I asked them if the motorhome handled good in the wind-"uh, no"
They moved all the heavy stuff to the basement compartments before I fixed the slide rollers.
I don't think my minivan will be lacking for power- go to the Dodge dealer and drive one of the new ones with the 3.6 Pentastar V-6-, pretty good 6 speed- a proven 6 year old design( I retired from the Chrysler plant in Kokomo, IN, that made them). It has a pretty low first gear and 4th is a 1-to-1 ratio and then 2 overdrive gears.
I plan on adding the aftermarket load control airbags, if needed.

One trick I learned 30 years ago is to get a windshield washer tank & pump from a junk yard and rig up the two spray nozzles in front of the radiator- I switched them on when climbing mountains- keeps the engine and tranny cool. I used it on my Dodge 4.7L Ram truck and never had any heat problems in the summer out west towing a max weight 5er. This rig will have the same setup.
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Old 07-01-2014, 08:44 AM   #6
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I was mistaken on my transmission- it has only one .69 overdrive- it is really well designed for towing- and an extra kick down gear which is nice on hills. I just got home from 3000 miles on the road and my 2014 minivan was getting 27-28mpg hwy mpg's. We looked at several Sunline rvs in the midwest, but they were all "well-used".
I found out from the dealer that with a weight distribution hitch, I can look at campers with a hitch weight of 450lbs and still have a margin of safety. - he looked it up.
from Allpar.com-- Chrysler 62TE six speed transmission.
Smaller steps between ratios helped smooth shifting, as the engine speed doesn’t change as often with each shift, while the wider range allowed both quicker acceleration and better mileage at highway speeds.
The 62TE’s second gear was a considerable distance from first, and all other gears were fairly close together. The fifth gear was a 1:1 ratio; the overdrive gear was similar to the 41TE.
1st- 4.127 2nd-2.842 3rd-2.284 4th-1.452 4th-1.570(prime) 5th-1.000 6th/OD-0.690 ( final drive ratio-3.214) The “fourth prime” gear carries on the tradition 45RFE/545RFE’s “prime” gears, used for kickdowns only. When the driver accelerates, the transmission uses the standard fourth gear; when the driver hits the gas from fifth or sixth, the transmission may kick down to “fourth prime” instead, to make the shift feel smoother.
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Old 02-01-2015, 06:54 PM   #7
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Well folks, I never found my small Sunline. I was always too late- they sold fast. Florida is not the state to find a small 16-18ft Sunline.
So, I built a MMC, mobile man cave. It's just for me and I had a lot of fun planning and building it. I still have the inside to finish, but I'll be done in a couple more months. It weights 760lbs right now. It's better than a tent, hehe.
I bought an HHR with 38,000 miles this summer and it tows my tiny trailer just fine.
It's almost 11ft long.
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Old 12-10-2017, 02:32 PM   #8
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Well, I have outgrown my small camper and am going to sell it. It was a fun project, but I decided I want a full stand up room camper, after all. I think I can transfer all my experience building my camper into rebuilding a 16-17ft'er Sunline. The roof I made for my camper out of overlapped PVC shower panels hasn't leaked a drop. My last road trip of 2500 miles averaged 16-17 mpg at 60-63 mph. Loaded weight probably close to 1000-1100 lbs.
Mark
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Old 12-11-2017, 06:33 AM   #9
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Glad to hear the trailer has held up well for you! Hopefully you can find a suitable replacement that fits your needs now. I don't think you'll find a stand-up size Sunline that you can tow with your HHR though. The frontal area wind drag will torture it.
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Old 12-11-2017, 12:08 PM   #10
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I am selling the HHR soon and getting the wife a car , She wants" - my main vehicle is my 2014 Dodge Grand Caravan.
One of the reasons, I built this camper, is it fits under a 7ft garage door and I could store it inside my garage. The code police show no mercy here. I am planning to move to a new 55+ community in central FL that has a dedicated and fenced RV storage lot for homeowners. Problem solved.
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