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Towing in the Mountains with a 3rd gen 4Runner

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onesojourner View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote onesojourner Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Towing in the Mountains with a 3rd gen 4Runner
    Posted: 05 Sep 2019 at 12:49pm

I thought I would post my experience towing a travel trailer to the Rocky Mountains in CO this summer. The tow vehicle is a 1998 3.4 Limited 4runner with just a bit over 215k on the clock. We have owned the truck for about a decade and 115k miles. I replaced the radiator about 5k ago. I do not have an aftermarket transmission cooler. I did replace the rear springs with some 2906 Rear Coils and some Bilstein 5100 Rear Shocks. I have a Blue Ox weight distributing/ anti-sway hitch.

I was a bit concerned that the 4runner may not be up for a trip out west prior to this trip. We live in a fairly hilly area and the 4runner does the job but it can barely maintain 55mph on some hills. Planning ahead and getting a run at things helps a ton but it does not make for a particularly relaxing drive. So far most of our trips have been under 400 miles from home. We have taken the 4runner out to the rockies one time it was loaded the to gills with 4 people, bikes on the back and all our gear inside. It maintained the speed limit but it was using most the power the automatic would freely give. It maintained the speed limit with just a bit more spare capacity.

OK back to this trip. I did not weigh the whole setup but from my best calculation I would say that the trailer plus gear/water/fuel/ people was around 3500-4000 pounds. I will start when we got on 70 West through KS. The first day on 70 we made it about halfway across the state. I ran about 68 for most of the trip and would drop down to about 60mph on a few hills. The second day was a bit rougher. We had a pretty decent north east headwind. That combined with some of the longer climbs would cause the cruise to give up the ghost. I was trying to maintain 62mph and I could not. The wind let up about halfway to Denver and things were a bit easier. Once we got to somewhere around Morrison I never left 2nd gear and spent a fair bit of time in 1st at around 30-35mph. I really could have used an extra gear between first and second. I headed north on 40 towards Winter Park. There was no traffic and having access to 2 lanes all the way up made the drive decent. I kept it in 2nd most of the time and just took it easy. Transmission temperature sensors weren't cool in '98. I meant to throw the digital thermometer in my tool bag but I left it behind by mistake. The trailer brakes did a fine job on the way down. They did get hot a bit towards the bottom of 40 but I was trying to give the transmission a break. I never really had any noticeable fade. MPG came to about 10.18 to this point. The worst was the stretch when we were fighting the wind and that was 8.8. The fuel guage is a bit wonkey, but this is primarily in the top half of the tank and it seems pretty close for the last half. I still don't trust it though so I went by range for the most part. I Filled up every 130 miles or less and carried a 5 gallon can on the tongue just in case. The range is the worst part of using this guy as a tow vehicle in my opinion. Anyways, we made it to Grand lake and setup camp.

Running around the mountains we got nearly 20mpg on one fill up. I have never seen this truck get that high. Normal mpg is around 16. The trip back seemed a bit easier. The worst of it was the climb up 40 from winter park. It was 2 lanes for the trip down. I did pull over a few times on the decent to let people pass since I was taking it easy on the brakes.

About an hour from home I did start to have some weird electrical issues. I do have a Bluetooth OBDii gadget hooked up to the port. It was showing about 8.7-9.9 volts. My battery dummy light came on while on the interstate going 70 while passing an extra slow semi. I just started loosing power, not a lot but enough. I ended up stuck beside him for way longer than I would have liked. I did eventually get around him and I was stuck going about 60.

I pulled off and I found the vent fan on with the vent barely cracked. I wondered if that vent might have gotten pushed closed by the wind and in turn caused the fan to pull a bunch of amps. I got back on the road. My tack was flipping on and off. I was able to go about 60 on the back roads. I was still showing around 9v. We did make it home. While backing the trailer in I went to roll the window down so I could hear my spotter and that was the final straw. It died and didn't even pretend to try to start. I tried to charge the battery a bit the next day and it was having none of it. I took it in to the parts store and they got it charged up and ran some load test and said it was good. I went home with an alternator. I put the battery back in and it started right up. I then took the battery terminal off and let it run for a bit. The voltage varied between 12-15v with the battery disconnected. I also found the trailer deep cycle battery completely drained. I am not a fan of intermittent electrical issues so I would like to get this one figured out.

I am still working on diagnosing this issue. I got the trailer battery partially charged back up and it seems to be nearly drained again. I am still playing catch up at work so I have not touched anything on the trailer to see what might be draining things. Any advice on testing/troubleshooting would be greatly appreciated.

TLDR;

I towed a trailer weighing about 3800 pounds from about 900ft to 11,300 and and back, for for a total of about 1900 miles. Mileage was about 10mpg and the fuel stops were frequent. Control was excellent and I never felt out of control even when being passed by semis. 

Overall I am pretty happy with how things went minus the electrical issue at the end. I will probably do it again next year but I am not totally sure.

https://imgur.com/gallery/E10oCFX

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StephenH View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote StephenH Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2019 at 1:02pm
Question: Were you trying to run the refrigerator on battery while you were towing? If so, that could explain the low battery. If your TV's charging system is not able to push adequate amperage to the trailer, it can't both run the refrigerator and charge the battery/batteries at the same time. Use Propane to run the refrigerator while towing instead.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote onesojourner Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2019 at 1:30pm
Yep, I was indeed running the fridge on 12v. I will have to dig through the manual to find out what the amp draw is of that, unless someone has a rough idea. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote GlueGuy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2019 at 4:41pm
Originally posted by onesojourner

Yep, I was indeed running the fridge on 12v. I will have to dig through the manual to find out what the amp draw is of that, unless someone has a rough idea. 
The fridge pulls about 10 amps when on 12V.  I would check to see if your TV is putting out 12V to the trailer when running. 

That said, if you blew a fuse or something stopped 12V going to the trailer, that would not explain why the voltage went down on your TV. If it's not the battery, then the only possibilities are alternator and/or voltage regulator. On most all newer vehicles the alternator and voltage regulator are one and the same.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote podwerkz Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2019 at 5:35pm
Its a situation that is common with travel trailers. I assume this was an r-pod.

Leaving the propane valve ON and the fridge on propane during travel is a risk that some are willing to take. Be sure to turn the flame off BEFORE you roll into any gas station. Nuff said.

I prefer to put up with an under-performing fridge rather than the risk of propane use while traveling. This is a decision each of us must make.

There are some other options, such as setting the fridge to a lower (warmer) setting while on 12volts, running a separate heavy duty cable to charge and power the batteries, buying dry ice on the outbound leg of the trip, or using a good quality cooler packed with ice and food....


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Post Options Post Options   Quote Toyanvil Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05 Sep 2019 at 5:43pm
Running the motor with your battery disconnected can hurt alternator, If you are showing 13+ volts with motor running and lights and AC on your alternator is ok.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote onesojourner Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Sep 2019 at 9:31am
Originally posted by GlueGuy

Originally posted by onesojourner

Yep, I was indeed running the fridge on 12v. I will have to dig through the manual to find out what the amp draw is of that, unless someone has a rough idea. 
The fridge pulls about 10 amps when on 12V.  I would check to see if your TV is putting out 12V to the trailer when running. 

That said, if you blew a fuse or something stopped 12V going to the trailer, that would not explain why the voltage went down on your TV. If it's not the battery, then the only possibilities are alternator and/or voltage regulator. On most all newer vehicles the alternator and voltage regulator are one and the same.


Do you have any idea what a fan can pull? How about if the vent is not open?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote GlueGuy Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Sep 2019 at 10:04am
Originally posted by onesojourner

Do you have any idea what a fan can pull? How about if the vent is not open?
Do you mean the bathroom fan (AKA Fantastic Fan)? That does not draw very much at all. Maybe an amp, but I don't know for sure. If the vent is not open it might draw a little more, but not much of a difference I think. I'd have to test it to be sure.
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