Choosing a tow vehicle

Submitted: Monday, May 09, 2005 at 05:17
ThreadID: 121959 Views:6421 Replies:7 FollowUps:2
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We are seriously considering purchasing a 20' BT in the near future. I would love to hear from anybody with this size van with comments on how their tow vehicle performs. We are thinking about either a Patrol or LC, diesel, but I have noticed quite a few of you also have F250's. All comments welcome.
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Reply By: Flipp'n Lorry - Monday, May 09, 2005 at 07:12

Monday, May 09, 2005 at 07:12
You are sure to get lots of replies from F250 owners on the virtures of their tow vehicles, so I will kick things off as a humble LC Diesel owner.

My guess is that if towing is the sole or major consideration, then the F350's are going to win hands down, not just on performance and towing safety, but possibly even economy.

But maybe the issue is whether you also need to use the vehicle as an everyday car (the situation we are in). We use our LC also as our everyday car, and that is bad enough in terms of parking and manouvering in city spots - I would go absolutely crazy with anything any bigger.

Previous 250 owners tell me that they still feel like trucks and are spartan - I don't know as I have never had a a ride in 250 - but that creature comforts may be a consideration.

And then there is the issue of garaging - I look after my vehicles fastidiously - the 250 would not fit in my garage, and it would break my heart to leave something like that out in the weather.

For us, life is all about compromises, and the LC provides the perfect solution to meeting our various needs.

But like I said at the start - if your focus is solely on towing, the 250 probably doesn't have any competitors.


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Reply By: Dusky - Monday, May 09, 2005 at 21:28

Monday, May 09, 2005 at 21:28

My 20' BT is currently being built. I decided to go for the F250 for four reasons:
1. The wheelbase is 1.1 metres longer than a LC which provides improved towing stability;
2. The carrying capacity is greater than 1000 kg thus there are no problems with the whole rig when carrying 4 people, full fuel load, tow bar, roo bar, extra fuel, water and equipment. The rig is legal and insurance is unlikely to be voided;
3. There is ample power if and when required and I consider this a safety issue not a speed requirement; and
4. Finally, the F250 weighs in at more than 3200 kg unladen which means that a 3000 kg BT is going to have less pushing/wagging effect in an emergency situation.

I have been towing caravans for about 14 years and found that if the unexpected can happen it will. 99% of the time the unexpected is caused by other drivers or animals. I must admit that a LC would be my first choice if towing a smaller van but I like to make sure that while towing, everything is as safe as it can be made.

hopes this helps,

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Reply By: Freewheelers - Monday, May 09, 2005 at 22:30

Monday, May 09, 2005 at 22:30
the bigger the vehicle the better for towing the bigger the vechicle the less use it is for exploring its a comprimise depends on what you want to do where you want to go cheers
Stephen & Deborah

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Reply By: Motley - Monday, May 09, 2005 at 23:31

Monday, May 09, 2005 at 23:31

I tow a 20' Bushtracker with a Lexes LX470 - 4.7L V8 Petrol. The reason for the Lexus was that at the time the 100 Series Landcruiser had been released and I was "assured" there wouldn't be a Turbo Diesel and no, they wouldn't be putting the V8 petrol in 100 Series. Well we all know what happened!

Having said that, we have towed the van for about 25,00km including one major trip up the Birdsville Track, through western Qld, the Gulf etc. I was very happy with performance and once you get over the shock of how often the petrol tank needs filling, it's fine. I agree that the F250 is a better tow vehicle based on wheelbase and power, bus as Stephen says it's all about compromise and we wanted a vehicle that offered some versatility. It's currently our main transport vehicle and we are lucky where we live that there is a lot of off road territory so the vehicle gets a bit of a run on the dirt even without the Bushtracker, as well as touring supermarket car parks!

We are planning a long trip next year and I am exploring some options re a bit more power - it would be handy. At the moment, if you have a LC100 Turbo Diesel, you can get a DTronic chip which gives it a boost. Similarly, for the V8 petrol, Toyota Racing Development (TRD) in the USA have been selling a bolt on supercharger for the 4.&L V8 in the Lexus and Landcruiser. I have found a Melbourne company that have imported them and fitted them. I'm told that for about $10,000 I can get the supercharger, modified air intake and modified exhaust and that will give me an increase in power of about 70kw (about 40 increase).

I also understand that Toyota will release a new Landcruiser in either late 2006 or 2007 which has a 4.4L twin turbo diesel with awesome power and torque, but it's hard to find any solid information.

Bottom line? On current specs, if you are leaning towards a Nissan or Toyota Turbo Diesel, I’d investigate a chip upgrade – not essential but just a bit more power on the hills. For me, the versatility of the Landcruiser makes it a better choice although I would like some more power. You notice it mostly on a long haul through the hills. However, once you are on the dirt and conditions, rather than gradient, dictate speed, then the 100 Series will do the job fine and you can also unhitch and go to town without worrying about where you are going to park!

Hope this helps.

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Reply By: Bushtracker - Tuesday, May 10, 2005 at 01:08

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 at 01:08
You have had a lot of good input from four or five people.... Here is my analysis based on the feedback from a 1000.... And it is well rounded, but all points should be considered as you are on the edge at about 20'.... I might even add, don't get the tow vehicle first, because if you find you really fall in love with a 22' for example, you would be in trouble with a Toyota...

All points to consider on a new tow vehicle: Toyota, the 100 series, 80 series, the big F-250 and F-350 Fords, and the Nissan Patrol, are our most common tow vehicles, with Discoveries and Rovers in fourth place. For larger vans say over 20’, there is another contender. Ford is now back in the Country with a fabulous big 7.3 Diesel that gets better fuel economy towing than any of them, and may take over the number one spot in the next few years. About 75 of our Clients are in the 4x4 F-250, 350 Fords, and they are safer with a longer wheelbase, more comfortable, twice the power with a big 7.3 litre International truck V8 turbo diesel, more brakes, more torque, and they get better fuel economy! What’s more is they are twice the truck in power and safety and cost nearly the same as the new Toyota... If you are not bringing it home to the city to park, and making serious travel plans with a van over 20’, then you owe it to yourself to have a look at what may become Australia’s new #1 Tow vehicle...

On the new Turbo Landcruiser, there are many on the road, and it is still our most common tow vehicle, but I am a bit concerned about a few issues that Clients report concerns over:
1) The full engine electronic management makes it very hard to trouble shoot out bush if you have a problem. While this is present in many new vehicles, I am just a bit uncomfortable with something you can't fix without a computer. Mind you, this is just my opinion.. It is the trend with all new vehicles, even Ford, but it is a concern.
2) The IFS ( Independent Front Suspension), may have too many moving parts, and people have had problems already in the bush. It may be a luxury town car design, just not robust enough for the Outback.. Mind you, this is also just my opinion, and not the gospel, but I am concerned. There have been reports of sideways drift in the steering on the corrugation on a big curve in the road..... Not good... It is reported that it can be overcome by decelerating on the curves, to stop the harmonic motion of the IFS reacting to the corrugation; but is not a good sign.. And there have been some reports of mechanical failures and such that are a bit worrying…
3) The IFS required that the wheels be off-set 65mm to the inside, and not only are the wheels hard to come by, but they cannot work with our suspension in any case.... The tyres would just rub on the chassis, and the wheels go inside of the backing plate on the brakes, so the emergency hand brake would not work.... Now if you want to buy one, and many have, it is not a terminal problem. You would have the same stud pattern, and two spares on the caravan. The van wheels would fit the IFS 100 Series, it is just that the IFS wheels will not fit the van. In any case you are about 10 times more likely to need the van spares on the tow vehicle, which does work; than needing the one spare on IFS, for the van which already has its own two spares.... Or we can adapt the IFS wheels to your van with 65mm spiders that actually space out the wheels that 65mm offset... There are however two drawbacks. Firstly it costs $1000 for the adaptors and spare wheel carriers, and secondly they weigh about 35 kilos of steel to drag around plus bigger spare carriers to total about 40kg extra... I suggest the earlier option before this is better...
4) Also: Cost is high in the IFS, when you can get a very good vehicle secondhand for half the money, and add an aftermarket turbo.. If you are not coming back to the City, you should also look at the new Ford F-250 and F-350. They have a massive 7.3 litre that is 50% more powerful and gets better fuel economy reported when towing a big van- It is made just for that job....

In summary, this is just my engineering opinion on the matter, but I no longer think that a new IFS Landcruiser is the only game in town, and you may want to rethink your stand as it seems that there are several other choices that make sense..... It is just my "Duty of Care" to keep you informed of any potential downside to your ideas... In this case it is just an opinion and not scientific analysis, but I think you may want to consider the point of view... People still buy the new IFS Landcruiser Turbo as our #1 tow vehicle, because of parking in the city or tax considerations or other reasons, but there are other options...

Toyota still offers the Standard 100 Series with the standard diesel and no IFS. So here is another idea: There has been a great deal of success in turbo charging the Toyota standard diesel… I mean we know of hundreds.. ARB put Safari Turbo kits on them for ten years!!! The only ones we have heard of having problems were people problems in not feeding the engines enough oil and water!!! Everyone that said something bad about after market turbo on a 1HZ motor, which is really rare to hear something bad anyways; when questioned, really had to admit to not checking oil or water and that is not the turbos fault!!! The only problems seemed to be the Factory Turbo engines that had a fault in the lower ends in the mid 90's. Tracy, one of Bushtrackers Directors has had three 80 Series Toyotas with aftermarket turbos added on for him and his Wife… We hear of them going about 600,000 kms. He even took the turbo off one when he updated and ran it on the next one out to 340,000 before he sold that one!! After market turbo does not seem to be a problem at all…… And it is the same engine in the Standard 100 Series.

As to selection of a tow vehicle.... There is possibly another option to consider.... A secondhand vehicle for half the money.... You should take a look at a magazine called the "4 x 4 Trader". There will be 500 vehicles in there for sale every month.. About once every three months for some reason there will be a half a dozen vehicles reduced to ridiculous prices all at once!! You have plenty of time while your Bushtracker is being built.....You can get the RACQ to have a look at it, send pictures over the internet, negotiate a price, and have them meet you at the Airport to pick you up... For half the money, I am not sure that it isn't another option, as I also do not like the trend in the new vehicles with computer run complex systems that cannot be rectified in the Bush.. For example-I know personally, I would like a 97 to early 2000 Toyota 80 Series or an a couple of year old GXL 100 Series for half the money, maybe even with extra equipment already on it; rather than all the fancy electronic run injectors and injection pumps of the new ones. The same goes for the other Brands. It seems as though the Company Engineers are designing the engines to take the maintenance out of the hands of the do it yourself people and make them dependent on the Dealerships for all service... Just a personal view, but maybe it is another option to consider for half the money... Especially if you are a handy sort of a person yourself.... It is what I did in getting a new Cruiser for my wife, I bought a 2000- 100 Series, aftermarket turbo and intercooler, and it was loaded with extras like long range tanks, diff locks, air compressor, and much more.. It has no engine electronics to run the injection pump, injectors, and controls; and I think it is twice the vehicle as new, for half the money. It also has the tried and true solid front monobeam axle housing... Same comfort and power and looks as the new IFS Cruiser, but twice the reliability at half the cost.

Sooooo, the Toyota is still our #1 tow vehicle, with Ford coming up strong, and then the Nissan Patrol 4.2 Turbo, remaining our most common tow vehicles. But the Nissan 3 litre automatic is not in the running…. No one is reporting that they are happy towing with it. There must be a reason it has a lower tow rating and is far cheaper.. The larger Nissan has a larger tow rating and good track record and good reports as a tow vehicle, but is not available in an automatic… If you want an automatic you are back to the new IFS 100 Series Cruiser, or a Standard 100 Series, not the IFS Turbo list above, but a Standard one and add the turbo on later…. Or go see the new big Fords and possibly fall in love….

I have owned an F-350 for three years and went all over out Bush with it… I still own two Cruisers… Now, at 20', even 21', Toyota is still in the running.... However, there is another real issue in towing a larger van: It is not about off-road, all four wheel drives are a tractor in low range gear off the road. It is more of a safety concern on the highway... The Toyota is not a full sized tow vehicle for larger vans, on the global perspective, only here... It is an issue of the length of wheelbase for leverage on the van at high speed, when you have to make a radical maneuver to avoid an accident or a spilled load or a Bullock or something... The wheelbase of the Landcruiser runs out of safety margin somewhere around 21’... Even my own 100Series Landcruiser is up on its maximum limit with my 21’ van. It is just just not safe if something happens to cause a radical move at 100 kph.. There is just not enough leverage to do it safely with the wheelbase of a Landcruiser, and that is where the F-250 or F-350 Ford, or Chev or Dodge trucks really shine. Each 10% increase in wheelbase gives about 100% more leverage on the caravan due to the fulcrum effect… Incidentally, the overall reports are that they get better mileage when towing as well. So, with your best interests in mind, you should consider the larger American tow vehicles for the long wheelbase issue, for vans from about 20’ and up. While Toyota will do it, up to 21’ with caution, Fords will just do it safer, and with more comfort, more power, more brakes, more room, and better fuel economy. Toyota is better if one is returning to life in the city, for parking. But if one is making a Lifestyle change out of the city, you would have to consider the Ford F-250 or F-350, or a fully imported Chevrolet or Dodge. The advantage of Ford is now a nationwide Dealership network and support in Australia.

Hope this has been a help,
Kind Regards, stg at Bushtracker

"The Last Stand In Open Country"

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AnswerID: 566303

Reply By: Agnes Lifestyle - Tuesday, May 10, 2005 at 07:19

Tuesday, May 10, 2005 at 07:19
We have a 16' and recently towed it around Aussie.Our tow vehicle is a Nissan 4.2 t/d manual modified to give 28% more power.What we discovered was that whilst towing, no problems.But stop on a hill and it's low range or no go. Now in the bush on dirt roads low range isn't a problem but on bitumen low range can cause problems with your transmission.On short spurts uphill Nissan will tell you that there should be no problems.Climbing uphill from the east coast going west is a different story.Some of those ascents go on for 6 klms.My nightmare is bloke in an orange vest stepping out in front of me with a stop sign in his hand.To go on for 5 klms in low range over a twisting turning bitumen road would ,I think, do quite some damage to the transmission.Ever noticed how difficult it is to steer after just a short distance in low range on bitumen particularly steering around corners.The solution is to make sure you add an auto transmission to what ever you buy.Diesels are very sluggish off the line until the turbo comes in;at about 1800 revs.I understand that the auto takes off at about 2200 revs.;turbo is in, lots more take off power, no problems.Or buy a petrol,didn't have this problem with my 4.5 manual petrol.F250's are big in the bush and big in the car park,particularly parking stations.
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Follow Up By: MattandLana - Wednesday, May 11, 2005 at 10:37

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 at 10:37
Hi Agnes.

Three suggestions for your nightmare:

1. If you have manual locking hubs and leave them unlocked while you're on the bitumen, I think you can use low range without the drivetrain winding up. (Some expert please confirm?)

2. Some transfer cases can be shifted from low to hi range on the move, slowly and gently and with plenty of "doubling-the-clutch", but it depends on the car. Worst that will happen is you'll crunch the transfer case gears gently and get stuck in neutral between high and low, and have to coast/brake to a stop, engage low range, and start again.

3. If you do have to drive in low range, and are going slowly enough, run two wheels on the gravel shoulder, which might give you enough slip to limit the wind-up.

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Reply By: Agnes Lifestyle - Wednesday, May 11, 2005 at 23:14

Wednesday, May 11, 2005 at 23:14
Yes you can run in low range without the hubs in my father in law did it regularly without any apparent damage. I believe you can snap axles etc. if not used with care. Unfortunately the GU has auto hubs.I have thought about changing the hubs back to the manual type;cheaper than replacing the gear box with an auto or just hope there is a gravel verge.
Cheers Ron.
AnswerID: 566305

Follow Up By:- Thursday, May 12, 2005 at 02:21

Thursday, May 12, 2005 at 02:21
On Toyota 80 and 100 series full-time 4WD LC's (manual as far as I know and have done) there is a plug you can pull off the transfer case to enable travel in low range without the centre diff lock locked. This works by preventing the automatic locking of the centre diff lock when selecting low range. Not only is this could for the above mentioned scenario but is also excellent for reversing trailers and vans without riding the clutch. The 100 series manual is also very easy to change from low to high range on the move with the above advice, lots of double clutching and pausing the transfer case in neutral, being worthwhile. With a bit of practice you can make your five speed, high range 'box a seven/eight speed, split ranger. Just don't go from high to low.
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