Minivan TV in the Rockies

Discussion in 'Tow Vehicles, Hitch & Towing' started by Muller 5, Jan 9, 2019.

  1. Muller 5

    Muller 5 Active Member

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    I was reading through some old posts and someone mentioned not towing with a minivan through the Appalachians. My 2015 Town and Country is the only TV I have. What should I expect when crossing the mountains on the way to Oregon? I've never towed before.
     
  2. Steve in Denver

    Steve in Denver Member

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    I live in Denver, and every time I drive over a mountain pass I can feel the loss of power, towing or not. That’s not to say you won’t make it, but you might want to plan on a slower pace. You should also be thinking about whether your vehicle is equipped for towing or not. Does it have a transmission cooler? Is it sized for towing your camper. Generally taking it slow (and taking a break half way up) would be good ideas.

    It’s the going down part that scares me. Does your trailer have brakes? Are you familiar and comfortable with using your transmission in lower gears to slow your descent?
     
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  3. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

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    Towing in the mountains is a different beast in itself from towing anywhere else. That’s when you really realize why the tow ratings are set for what they are on your vehicle. If your trailer and all your gear is under your vehicles max payload you would more than likely make it. But do get to know your gears and get comfortable in using the lower gears. Use your transmission and not your breaks. To be honest I wouldn’t make the trip if your pop up does not have breaks. Stopping a pop up on flat ground is no comparison from slowing or stopping on a mountain side. A very deeply ingrained memory when I was growing up is when our family minivan nearly went over a mountain side because our car and breaks couldn’t stop our pop up (without breaks) on a steep mountain grade. The pop up was very much pushing us. As much as I love the mountains your vehicle really gets pushed to its limits if your towing in them. Anyway, take it slow, watch your gages, stop your vehicle occasionally to give it a rest if possible.
     
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  4. Muller 5

    Muller 5 Active Member

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    I don't know if my pup has breaks, and I don't think it does. If I put all the gear and everything in the TV, lightening the pup, will that help?
     
  5. Muller 5

    Muller 5 Active Member

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    The minivan has a tow limit of 3600 lbs. I don't have the specs on the Colt, but it should be much less than that. I'll be hauling one adult, one 13 yo, a 9 yo in a booster, and a 3 yo in a big car seat. I may have my mother with us. I can keep most, if not all, of the gear in my TV. I have never driven in the mountains period. Never used low gear. How do I practice in MO? Trip to the Ozarks?
     
  6. silvermickey2002

    silvermickey2002 Morris County, NJ

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    We have towed in the mountains of CO (Wolf Creek Pass and rt 550 from Durango to Grand Junction) and thru the mountains in the Ozarks. I can tell you firsthand that going up the mountain is way easier then coming down the other side!!! Learn to use the lower gears and having brakes on the pup really does help. Whatever you do...DO NOT ride the brakes going down!! We are lucky to have engine braking on our 2012 Ford Explorer. Also the ability to shift into manual mode on the tranny.

    Like others have said, you will loose power going up the mountain. Shift to lower gears and slow down and take your time. Check your TV to make sure you have a trans cooler and power steering cooler if you plan on doing some mountain towing. Also, when going down the other side, pull off once in a while to make sure your not heating the brakes up too much. Once your stopped, take a 20 minute break to let the brakes cool down if they are getting hot.
     
  7. CamperMike

    CamperMike Active Member

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    Muller,
    I own and tow with a 2011 T& which has the same powertrain as yours. It has a good OEM trans cooler and is spec'd to tow the whole 3600 LBS regardless of whether it came with the "tow package" Your 2015 Town And Country also has the selectable gears(look in your manual if you've never used it). When going up and down steep slopes, choose 3rd or 4th gear. On the way up, it will help keep you in the power band, and on the way down it will provide significant engine braking. With the power of these vans, and light-weight pup going up shouldn't be too hard. That said, I would get an OBD reader and Torque Pro or a similar smartphone app. Then set it up to monitor the transmission temps. I did have to pull off and let my van cool down when traveling up a long steep grade(something like 8 or 9 miles of 8% grade) outside of yellowstone this summer as both the engine and trans were getting very hot. Using engine braking on the way down, I had no brake issues. Your van also has much better brakes than my 2011 as they greatly increased the rotor size in 2013.
     
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  8. Muller 5

    Muller 5 Active Member

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    CamperMike, thank you so much. I was starting to freak myself out. This is all new to me and I only got the pup last Thursday. I don't even have the hitch on my van yet.
     
  9. SteveP

    SteveP Well-Known Member

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    As a fellow flatlander I'll say that flatland towing can make you cocky. A trip down to Arkansas is probably in order. There are some really nice FS campgrounds in the Ouachitas, my favorite being Shady Lake. But it was dry camping the last time I was there and can get crowded. If you want more amenities and/or reservations I'd recommend Queen Wilhelmina SP. But don't get the idea that this will be anything comparable to crossing The Divide.

    You need to check the payload limit on your TV, should be on a sticker on the drivers door or door pillar. Subtract 40 lbs for your hitch, at least 250 for the tongue weight and the estimated weight for any other accessories you've added. Then add up the estimated weights for the people and cargo you'll carry in the van. If you start getting close it's time to start paring down the load.

    I've pulled my pup through the Rockies with a 3500# limit and did not enjoy it. I would highly advise adding brakes. If you don't have the tools or inclination, any auto mechanic who's willing should be able to do the job. If there's a trailer dealer nearby who deals in cargo and stock trailers with a service dept. that would be my first choice.

    You need to get the wheel bearings inspected and packed anyway and can do both jobs at the same time.
     
  10. Muller 5

    Muller 5 Active Member

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    Etrailer.com is actually 30 minutes away and they install for free if you buy from them and let them video the install. I have two plugs on the trailer. An 8 point and a 4 point. It looks like the 8 was original, but the PO taped it out of the way and put the 4 on.
     
  11. p

    p Active Member

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    We towed from Calgary to Victoria in one day with a 2012 Caravan pulling a 2200 lb trailer. Two kids, two adults and everything including the kitchen sink.

    No problems with power. Slight drop in trailer hitch due to weight...but not an issue.

    Enjoy your travels.
     
  12. CamperMike

    CamperMike Active Member

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    I also just looked up the Colt.... it's a light Pup. I would definitely practice towing it before taking a huge trip, but your van should easily handle it. My pup is over 1000lbs heavier than yours.
     
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  13. kitphantom

    kitphantom Well-Known Member

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    I've never had a minivan, so the limitations are foreign to me. We towed our sub-800# pup without brakes through the 4 Corners States with our '96 Outback and '05 4Runner (took it across the country with that). It did OK, but after having trailer brakes, I would not tow again without them.
    Knowing when to take breaks on both uphill and downhill is a good thing. If you've acquired too may followers in what we call "the collecting game", it's definitely time to pull over when there's a spot to do so.
     
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  14. SteveP

    SteveP Well-Known Member

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    That would be a no-brainer for me. Convert everything to a 7 pin Bargman plug while you're at it.
     
  15. Muller 5

    Muller 5 Active Member

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    Why 7?
     
  16. SteveP

    SteveP Well-Known Member

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    It's pretty much the de facto standard now days. If you ever want to trade the TV or the pup for newer it will not require new wiring in 95% of the cases.
     
  17. Muller 5

    Muller 5 Active Member

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    Sounds logical.
     
  18. mattlreese

    mattlreese Active Member

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    How high were the temps that made you want to pull over? I have a pacifica but its likely the same engine. The V6 penstar has been around for a while. So far the highest I have had is 220 towing, but have not towed above 2500 ft yet.
     
  19. CamperMike

    CamperMike Active Member

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    Both engine and trans were approaching 240F. It was 90+ degrees outside and many miles of a tall grade. Thank goodness these vans use synthetic trans fluid or it would have been cooked. On smaller inclines it never really gets much over 220F on mine, and trans is usually closer to 200F.
     
  20. MNTCamper

    MNTCamper Active Member

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    You aren't going to have any issues towing the colt. You should actually put as much stuff in the camper as you can as long as you don't go over the axle and load weight limits of the pop up. Towing uphill it is pretty easy to recognize if your speed is reduced and you would potentially need to downshift. Your pup is quite small, so honestly you aren't going to have any uphill issues with the van from a power perspective. Downhill you need to downshift. How do you know when - well, practice helps - not practicing on the freeway. The way I downshift is that when I am going downhill, if I am picking up any speed with the van pop up combination, I down shift (and keep an eye on the RPMs). The key to downshifting is to be ahead of the curve and not let the speed or RPMs get too high before you downshift and to let the engine do the braking for you. With my camper, there have been times when I have been going down hills and shifted all the way down into 1st gear (going down some steep hill in Lassen National Monument for example). That was going down at ~15-20 mph in some steep sections and I didn't need to use the brakes. Other times on the freeway or more major roads, I would downshift into 4th or maybe 3rd gear to keep the speed under control. When downshifting, the RPMs can get up in the 4K and above range. Again, if the RPMs and the speed keep climbing, you need to downshift more. But, if the speed and RPMs in any one gear is too high, then you will need to brake to slow down some before shifting down to another gear. Once you do this a few times, you can recognize when gear you need to be in depending upon how steep the hill is and how fast you intend to go (type of road).

    I tow with a 2003 Odyssey and my camper weighs about 2900 lbs loaded - much heavier than yours. The last two years I towed all over out West and had no issues at all. In fact, we got to the point where we rarely used the brakes on most downhills. We also have a fully loaded van. You can practice downshifting on any decent sized hill, just to see the effects even if you don't have the camper. You'll get the hang of it pretty quick in regards to what gear to be in to go what speed. Actually, if you take 80, or 70 to 80 there really aren't any major grades on those roads to Oregon anyway because they are freeways and they simply don't let them get that steep. Just make sure all the mechanical up ready to go on the camper and on your van and have fun.
     
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