Potential new PUP owner...need advice on towing package!

Discussion in 'First Time & New Camper Owners' started by cbarkson, Jan 16, 2017.

  1. cbarkson

    cbarkson New Member

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    Hi, my wife and I are looking into buying a PUP for the first time this year to go on camping trips with our three young boys (4, 3, and 1). My question relates to the towing. I have a 2015 Toyota Sienna, WITHOUT the towing package installed. I called the dealership and they said Toyota discontinued the towing package on my model and that aftermarket is my only option. I would normally be ok with this, but I have NO IDEA what I am doing when it comes to cars, especially towing packages! Any advice on how to get what I need (i.e. where to take it) and make sure I get all the important components including correct tow hitch, wiring package, engine coolant, etc? Thanks!
     
  2. neighbormike

    neighbormike Well-Known Member

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    The main things are going to be: hitch, brake controller and transmission cooler. Any reputable mechanic in your area will be able to aquire and install these items. I would also suggest checking Toyota's towing capacities and being careful not to exceed them.
     
  3. Snow

    Snow Well-Known Member

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    First step I would suggest doing would be to find a brochure from 2015 and see what the tow package consisted of or call the dealer and ask them if they could give you a list of what the tow package had.

    Now keep in mind that some of the things you won't be able to do or just won't be cost effective to do.

    Main things you'll be able to do are:
    1) Add a class III hitch, look around at places like Uhaul, pickup truck accessory shops and even RV dealers for a hitch.. A good source to see what is available is etrailer.com and of course the hitch manufactures themselves.

    2) Add the appropriate wiring harness to the vehicle Again an RV dealer is a good place to have the work done (although they can be expensive) Uhaul or a truck accessory shop. Personally I would add a 7 way plug over the standard flat 4 plug, only because your harness is done if you get a trailer with brakes and want to be able to charge the trailer battery while driving.

    3) Add an aux. transmission cooler. You vehicle dealer, truck accessory shop, transmission shop or local garage can install this.

    4) Add a brake controller more so as a just incase thing if the trailer you get has brakes.

    5) Depending on the tongue weight of the trailer you get you may want to look at adding air bags to the rear suspension.

    All the above will make your vehicle tow capable, it will not increase the amount you can tow, so contact the dealer again and have them run your vehicles v.i.n and get the tow rating numbers for your specific vehicle (ratings will vary depending on options).

    One other thing to note, is when looking at trailers use either the trailers "As shipped weight" if available (and a new or newer trailer) and failing that use the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating) of the trailer for the trailer weight.. DO NOT use the fictitious dry weight, this is a basic weight that includes no options what so ever or cargo, water, waste etc. In many cases an awning is actually considered an option..
     
  4. Jughed

    Jughed Member

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    Hitch and brake controller are easy - many places will install them for you.

    IMHO the most important thing - install the largest trans cooler you can fit. The engine has plenty of power & enough cooling capacity built in, and the van itself can handle towing most PUP's, but you have to keep the transmission cool. Transmission fluid doesn't handle heat well, it breaks down quickly & will effect the lifespan of the transmission.
     
  5. JustRelax

    JustRelax Well-Known Member

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    All advise is spot on above. I will only add that you can buy a 7 pin and 4 pin combo unit. If you rig your van to pull you can always get a small utility trailer to haul in the future and that will have a 4 pin on it. They also make a 7 pin to 4 pin adapter but you have to keep track of that. The combo will always be on the back of the van.
     
  6. dlaudens

    dlaudens Member

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    cbarkson:

    1st mistake - believing anything the Toyota dealer or Toyota customer service tells you! I have a 2012 Sienna and each person I would talk with would give me a different story about whether or not my vehicle had the tow package and what exactly was included in the package. Internet was full of mis-information as well.

    Good news is that if you look at the 2015 brochure (page attached), the towing package is standard on almost all 2015 except a couple of the AWD models. Package includes oil cooler, HD radiator, fan, and 'coupling'. Tow hitch and receiver not included. I'm guessing that 'coupling' is just a T connector or the like that will allow the addition of a 4pin connector without cutting wires. 3500 lb towing capacity.

    I installed a hitch and wiring on my 2012 and it's time consuming but doable if you have basic mechanical aptitude. Requires loosening the muffler and trimming some of the plastic splash shield, but the frame is already 'bolt-on' ready for the hitch. I started with a 4 pin connector, but switched popups and eventually installed a 7pin (which was way more difficult to install). I also highly recommend air bags because the Sienna rear end seems to sag easily. I installed the air bags when I did the hitch...makes it easier when you have the plastic splash shields, etc removed when you are routing the air lines.

    I highly recommend etrailer if you do it yourself. Plenty of videos/instructions for the installation and they will quickly reply to your emails if you have any questions....top notch customer service! They can tell you exactly what you need if you give them the TV and popup details.

    Now for my unscientific opinion of the Sienna as a tow vehicle: I think you will be OK with a lighter popup that doesn't have trailer brakes. Your kids are small now, but as they keep growing and you accumulate more gear, you'll have to be concerned with tongue weight and overall gross weight. Just for an example, if the tow capacity is 3500 your ideal tongue weight would be in the 10-15% range or 350-525 lbs (and Id' stay at the lower end). Besides the popup weight, everything behind the rear axle counts towards the tongue weight, so the kid(s) in the backseat and the cooler/gear in the rear hatch count towards that weight, as does the weight of the hitch/receiver. The Sienna rides fairly low to the ground, so be careful navigating steep driveways, etc as you will bottom out easily (thus the need for air bags).

    FWIW - My latest popup (with brakes) is appx 2500 lb and I'll only tow it with the van empty and only 1 or 2 passengers. Usually just to/from storage. Have a truck that tows it for camping.

    Dave
     

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  7. Rusty2192

    Rusty2192 Well-Known Member

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    Fellow Sienna owner here.

    Starting in 2014 all Sienna's came standard with the Tow Prep Package. All you need to add is a hitch and wiring and your TV is rated to tow 3,500 lbs. There is no thing as a full tow package on the Sienna's. Even if you took it to the dealer they would be doing the same thing you can and adding aftermarket parts.

    I got all of my materials from etrailer. I went with a Curt class iii hitch, the 4-way light kit, and their trailer brake wiring upgrade kit, which came with a nice 4-way to 4/7-way plug plus all wires needed for both the brakes and charge line.

    I haven't added an additional auxiliary transmission cooler to mine yet (there is a small one from the factory) but probably will before any big trips just to be safe.

    How big of a pup are you planning to buy? Also, as dlaudens pointed out, most AWD models aren't rated to tow. The consensus on the Sienna forums seems to be that it's due to the extra weight of the AWD system.
     
  8. NorcrossFlyer

    NorcrossFlyer Active Member

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    I have a 2011 AWD Sienna and the tow rating was only ~10lbs lower than than what the manual says. Basically you are trading the weight of the spare, which you don't have for the the weight of the AWD hardware plus about 10 or so lbs.

    As for towing with a Sienna, I did ok with my first pup (~2700 lbs). With a brake controller it stopped well enough. There was some sag in the back but my headlights weren't a threat to aviation. I messed around with WD hitch and found that the leveling I got out of it wasn't worth the effort of putting it on and taking it off. Had I planned on keeping that pup I would have kept my van as a TV and put in air bags. But my new pup is 600-700 lbs heavier and it just pushed the van around, which led me to a purchasing a new TV. An annoying aspect of the Sienna is there is no place to put a proportional brake controller, so I was stuck using a timed version. There are just too many angles and airbags near the drivers seat for a proper front-back mounting. Not the end of the world but a proportional controller is better.
     
  9. cbarkson

    cbarkson New Member

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    Thanks for all the advice! Good to know that I already have the prep package installed. I'll probably just buy what I need on etrailer and take it to a local mechanic for install. I have a FWD model so the AWD issue won't be a problem. I'm looking at buying a PUP with GVWR around 2700 lbs so should be comfortably within the limitations of the Sienna. Looking at possibly a Coachmen Clipper Sport 108ST. Any thoughts on best brands/models of PUPs? I thought there was supposed to be product reviews on this site, but haven't been able to find them yet.
     
  10. MD Saga

    MD Saga Pop-up journeymen

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    Our 2006 Sienna also had the unadvertised tow package. I think they discontinued it around 2008, but looks like its back in, again.

    I added brakes to our Viking and wired in a controller. I think brakes are a must for Sienna. Hitch installation was fairly straightforward. I got a Hidden Hitch online.

    As mentioned, the Sienna sits very low. I ended up using draw bar meant for a 4" drop, and flipped it over for a 3" or so rise, to level out the tongue.

    Our Sienna was whacked by a drunk driver and I think the hitch helped reinforce the back and part of the reason why our daughters came away just shaken up, but with no injuries.
     
  11. scubacamper

    scubacamper Well-Known Member

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    Though I have the Chrysler T&C I'll still add my 2 cents to the conversation. With most PUP's that don't have a slide or duel axels your van will tow it easily...I try not to tow over 3K loaded which is easy.

    I got my towing package from U-Haul $350 with the on-line coupon. They do the wiring harness, light's, hitch, everything and guaranteed for the life of the vehicle assuming you don't tow beyond the recommended requirements for the vehicle.

    I was told about them by the tech at the dealership when Chrysler want to add a new radiator, leaf springs and a host of other things totally over $2500. Haven't had an issue yet after 4 years of towing. Best of luck.
     

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