The Adventures of Airstream Mikie

Monday, February 22, 2010

FJ Cruiser vs. Tundra for Tow Vehicle?

Today I received an email asking to compare the Toyota FJ Cruiser (my previous tow vehicle) with the Toyota Tundra (current tow vehicle) when used with the Airstream Sport 17.

I would have answered the email directly, but the message was deleted because of a bug in Google's Tasks (no undelete option!), so I hope answering it here will help.

I got the FJ Cruiser because that's what was recommended to me by the Airstream sales rep. It is not an optimal solution, for several reasons...

1. The rear hatch on the FJ Cruiser can not be opened very far at all when still hitched up. The spare tire inhibits the opening to only about 8". I removed the spare and put it on the roof rack, but the hatch still can not be fully opened when hitched up. The door hits the tongue jack. I think the Airstream rep could not have been aware of this or he would not have made the recommendation.

2. The power of the FJ Cruiser is ok, but not great. Same for the brakes. So it's acceptable for towing the Sport 17, but if you are thinking of upgrading to a bigger Airstream, the FJ Cruiser will need to be replaced with a vehicle with a greater towing capacity.

3. The capacity of the FJ Cruiser is somewhat limited for hauling all the "stuff" you'll probably accumulate. If you want to carry a generator, it will take up a lot of the space in the cargo area. Check the GVWR of the FJ Cruiser. Then subtract the fully wet and stocked trailer weight (max 3500 lbs for the Sport 17) and there's not a lot of carrying capacity left especially when you consider margin for safety, occupants, etc.

4. The Tundra is more powerful and has better brakes, and a much higher towing capacity, and you'll feel much more comfortable towing compared to the FJ Cruiser.

5. If you are carrying a generator in the FJ Cruiser, you will have to carry a gasoline can (or propane tank) inside the vehicle, exposing yourself and occupants to the fumes. Not safe! With the Tundra, the generator fuel can be stored in the bed of the pickup, away from the passenger area.

Hope that helps!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Day at the Beach

Yesterday, Valentine's Day, was a shakedown cruise to test some recently upgraded systems, and a learning experience, overall.

After hooking up at o-dark-thirty in the dimly lit storage facility, I made the very short drive to the beach and started the process of getting squared away. That's when I noticed my half-hearted attempt to connect the cord which goes from tow vehicle to trailer (controls brakes/lights/power). I didn't do a very good job at all, because the cord dragged on the ground and rubbed through the outer coating, and completely through one of the wires inside. Luckily, the lights/brakes still worked, but if the trip had been a few miles longer, it would have severed these lines and possibly caused all manner of catastrophe.

And it's all my fault, too. I knew about this potential problem for months, and have always been wanting to get around to rigging up some sort of spring device to keep the cord up off the ground, yet pay out whatever is needed for turns. Well, I got around to it now, after the fact. A bungee cord is all that I needed. Duh.

But that's what these shakedown cruises are for, to test all the systems. In this case I learned that the geometry is different between the new tow vehicle (Tundra) and old one (FJ Cruiser) which changes how much of the control cord is needed. Less on the Tundra, that's why it dragged.

All the other stuff worked great. The solar panel kept me with electricity all day, as did the extra battery. The new propane tanks worked flawlessly. And the new touchless lid trash bin was excellent.

Good friends Peter and Joey & Carolina stopped by around noon and we had a great time.

The only negative was the beach! There was no sand -- victim of the recent storms. And where sand should have been was all stones. So I didn't get the chance to ride my beach cruiser, or play any Frisbee. But the sand situation is only temporary. It has been doing this for probably billions of years. The sand will be back again soon enough.

And so will I...