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Old 07-26-2011, 08:40 PM   #11
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As long as you don't run into a dim-bulb weight policeman you'll probably be OK. My '03 Kia Sedona is also rated at 3500 pounds towing weight in the US. The identical vehicle in Europe is rated for 6600 pounds! Even my (sold) 4x4 Chevy S-10, with the 4.3L V6 engine was only rated at 3500 pounds.

US weight ratings are driven by chicken s**t legal departments who are scared of the lack of competence of US drivers and the ridiculously high damage awards people get in the event of accidents.

My aunt and uncle in the UK towed what I think was about a 2800-pound TT all over Europe for 15 years with a 45-horespower family sedan with drum brakes. Never had a wreck, loved every minute of it. I think they must have had some interesting downhill adventures in the Swiss Alps and the German Black Forest, since their TT only had surge brakes.

Before we emigrated in 1968, I ran across a couple who had towed a 34-foot single-wide house trailer from the north coast of Scotland all the way down to Southampton behind a 950 cc L-head Morris Minor (maybe 35 hp on a good day).

Just after we emigrated, we rented a 16' TT and towed it behind a 65 Falcon wagon with the 200 cubic inch 6-cylinder engine. We went all the way from south Seattle to Big Sur and back. It wasn't until much later I heard that that engine only developed 77 hp, not much more than Uncle's Austin. We had a good trip - the only problem being a lack of brake capacity on long downhill grades. Didn't know about the technique of heavy braking to get the speed down followed by a stretch where you let the brakes cool.

I also had a '58 DKW at the time, a small (950cc) three-cylider 2-stroke engine car. It had four times the braking capability of the Falcon (bigger diameter, twin leading shoes and twice the drum width). I should've towed the trailer with that, except putting a pint of oil down the gas filler and only being able to put 5 gallons to follow was a chore. Imagine in 1968 asking a gas station attendant for "5 gallons and wait until I pour the oil in"!

Unfortunately, liability laws don't allow that kind of flexibility nowadays in the Land of the Free!

Frank and Eileen
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Old 07-26-2011, 08:51 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by laferg69 View Post
The manual states: "Heavy Duty Trailer Tow Package", but I do not know if it has a transmission cooler already installed. How do I find out?

Definitely planning on the combo load equalizing hitch/ anti sway bar.

I'm from California so I was referring to interstate 5 N heading north from Los Angeles. Will I have trouble pulling up that grade in lower gear? That's the worse unless I take a mountain road.

like i said in my other post here, a Chrysler dealer should be able to tell you from your VIN.
the manual isn't what says you have the factory tow package, it's your VIN or if you still have the window sticker, it'll state whether it has it or not.

north-bound I5 from L.A. isn't that bad, just stay in the slow lane doing 55. the south-bound side is steeper but shorter.

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Old 07-26-2011, 08:54 PM   #13
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My buddy wanted to pull my (2) place enclosed snowmobile trailer on a snowmobile trip in the winter (20) degreesF. Weight of total towing package was (1600)lbs. This was a very low mileage Town&Country , we lost the radiator & transmission! Two guys in the van,rented a (REAL) truck to finish the trip! Good luck with your travels. Youroo!!
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Old 07-26-2011, 09:59 PM   #14
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c'mon, people, the OP has a minivan, that he says has the factory tow package.
if he does, he should be able to tow a popup, that's about the only RV a minivan can really tow well.

again, your manual isn't the source to say whether or not you have the factory tow package. it's an option and an owners manual doesn't know whether or not your T&C came with it or not.
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Old 07-27-2011, 08:48 AM   #15
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Have $3000 in the bank for a transmission replacement...they are very very very very common on that vintage chrysler minivan. I had a 96 and a pin blew out of the diff at 82k - 2500 miles after a dealer trans service (trying to avoid the trans issues on that model van) - the pin blew a hole in the trannie case dumping all the fluid on the road.

This isn't the most common failure of those transmissions, so be prepared. You're right at about the mileage where the failures seem to occur. ON a good note the replacement/rebuilt trans (and new vans) don't have the issues.

Otherwise your numbers seem to work. We towed a popup (admittedly, a small light one) with our windstar (tow rating of 2000lbs since it had no tow package) all over the place, up and down the alleghenies, the smokies, etc and never had a moments problem, never even knew it was back there, never slowed up hills, did 70-75, towed in OD, etc.

Being closer to your limits will tax the van more of course, but go slow until you build experience with how the combo works and you should be fine.
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Old 07-27-2011, 12:57 PM   #16
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We towed our 3000 lbs (loaded) Coleman Mesa popup for 8 seasons with Chrysler minivans. Never had a problem because I did the research just like the OP is doing:

1997 Chrysler Town & Country LX 3.8L V6 (tow vehicle from 2003-2007, purchased with 35,000 miles, totalled Dec 2007 with 119,000 miles):
Did not have the towing package. Had the dealer add an aux trans cooler, and I installed a Reese 400 Single Bar WDH kit and a friction sway controller. Had a hitch shop install a Class 3 "Hidden Hitch", Prodigy electric brake controller, and all wiring for brakes, lights, and 12V charge line. I had the trans coolant changed every other year (pan drop with filter change).

Used my dad's pickup for 1-2 trips in 2008.

2000 Chrysler Grand Voyager SE 3.3L V6 (tow vehicle from 2009-2010, purchased with 80,000 miles, sold with 105,000 miles):
Did not have the towing package, but it did have the factory aux trans cooler as part of the rear A/C package. I was laid off for 2 weeks that summer, so I purchased and installed myself a new Class 3 Hidden Hitch, the same Prodigy, and the complete wiring (hood to hitch) for brakes, lights, and 12V charge line. Used the same WDH and sway control. I had the trans fluid changed once after I did all the other work (pan drop and filter change).

You do not need a trans cooler if it already has the factory tow package. The package in '97 replaced the shared radiator/cooler with a dedicated engine radiator and huge dedicated trans cooler. Add another if you really want to, but you're already good to go.

Per your owner's manual, if the loaded trailer is greater than 1000 lbs, they recommend a WDH and brakes. If more than 2000 lbs, WDH and brakes are required.

As far as the weights, I recommend you ignore that chart that estimates weight based on # passengers and cargo. Instead, you will find your actual GCVWR (combined rating) at 8300 lbs (with tow package). Subtract the empty weight of van (~4400 lbs?) and popup (~2250 lbs?) and you are left with approx 1600 lbs. This is the combined weight available for passengers and cargo in both vehicles (camper never to exceed 3500). Subtract the weight of you family, and you are left with cargo capacity.

The '97 3.8L, we kept on pretty much flat Michigan, Ohio, and a little bit of Canada (not far). The 3.8L is a nice torquey motor, and felt very comfortable off the line. Likewise, it kept up on the highway just fine. With the WDH and sway controller, it was rock solid up to 75mph, though I tried to stick to 65mph.

The '00 3.3L, we took thru Chicago (never do THAT again!), to Wisconsin Dells, down and up the Mississippi valley, and most of the way across Minnesota to Walnut Grove (yes, Little House on the Prairie). This was in the summer with the A/C on full. Kept it in OD for the entire trip except for the run coming up from the Mississippi River (held 3rd). The manual says OD is fine unless it's "hunting".

In short, as long as the vehicle has been well-maintained, I highly recommend Chrysler minivans as popup tow vehicles. As I said, I was always in the 2900-3100 lbs range (8000-8200 lbs combined). As you can see, depending on your family size, you may or may not be able to take the trailer to the 3500 lbs limit and still be within the 8300 combined limit.

As far as the transmission, the failure rates are not like what you hear. Just remember, for every bad experience, there is probably 100 good experiences. I can personally testify to 2 good Chrysler minivan transmission from that vintage. The '96 vans (3rd gen) were much improved from what I understand, over the 2nd gen.
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Old 07-27-2011, 01:36 PM   #17
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Mine was a 96 with the mitsubishi enging (3.3? don't recall, been a long time) that had the trans issue. Bought new, sold with 105k on it.
Got a 97 used in 01 (85k) and the previous owner had the trans replaced the year before we got it. Perhaps with the bigger trans cooler the 97 and up are better, I can't say. Sold with 113k on it.
Didn't tow with either one.
Have known many friends with similar vans and just about everyone has had a trans replaced. But her in western PA we have hills and snow - perhaps these are issues that add to the wear and tear on a trans?
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Old 07-27-2011, 01:37 PM   #18
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You can get a Build Sheet directly from Chrysler/Dodge by putting in your VIN number. This will tell you EXACTLY what your vehicle is equipped with. Just put "Please send me a build sheet for this vehicle." in the "Please enter additional information....." box. Mine showed up in my e-mail inbox the very next day.

Here is the website link:

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Old 07-27-2011, 02:49 PM   #19
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Several years ago we had a pop-up and towed it to the mountains here in WV several times with our Plymouth minivan and never had any problems.
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Old 07-28-2011, 10:25 PM   #20
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The issue with the pin going through the case is due to the spinning of tires. whether intentional or not. Chrysler came out with a redesigned differential with a differnt way to hold the pin in that eliminated the problem. not all the older rebuilds got the updated diff.

to the OP if you see a small trans cooler behind the grille then it has the tow pkg. if you can`t tell there then the oil filter housing will have a small canister attached to it with 2 coolant hoses running into it. Oil to water oil cooler. also the towpkg will have the load leveling shocks in the rear. they are fat and will have a yellow sticker on them!

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