Weights and measures, the sequel

Julie, Anthony, Airstream

The Rig

2017 Airstream International Signature 23FB (links to the one we actually bought)
GVWR: 6,000 lbs.
Unit base weight (dry weight): 4,806 lbs.
Hitch weight: 440 lbs.
Length: 23’9”
Width: 8’
Height: 9’9”

2016 Chevy Colorado Duramax Diesel
2.8L Duramax Diesel. In the Chevy Colorado 6-speed implementation it produces 181HP and 369 LB-FT of torque at 2,000 RPM.
GVWR: 6,200 lbs.
GAWR FRT (steer): 3,400 lbs.
GAWR RR (drive): 3,500 lbs.
Maximum trailer rating: 7,700 lbs.
Maximum tongue weight: 900 lbs.
Maximum payload: 1,421 lbs.
Length: 17′ 9” (212.7”)
Width: 6′ 2” (74.3”)
Height: 5′ 10” (70.6”)
Side note, the diesel Chevy Colorado comes with an integrated trailer brake as standard.

ProPride 3P – 1000 hitch

CAT scale readings

Chevy Colorado & 23FB Airstream International
Steer axle: 2,740 lbs. (81% of rating)
Drive axle: 2,820 lbs. (81% of rating)
Trailer axles: 5,140 lbs. (86% of rating – GVWR)
Gross weight: 5,560 lbs. (90% of rating – GVWR)

On May 31st, 2015, we took our old rig over a CAT scale with an identical 86% trailer axle loading. Those results below, showing our current setup is more balanced.

Ford F150 & 28′ Airstream International
Steer axle: 3,440 lbs. (92% of rating)
Drive axle: 4,240 lbs. (105% of rating)
Trailer axles: 6,564 (86% of rating – GVWR)
Gross weight: 7,680 (100% of rating – GVWR)

How does it tow?

Overall, very well indeed. It doesn’t struggle, it doesn’t sway, and it’s level.

Power

The 2.8L diesel engine and 6-speed transmission combination does the job but does not permit for the silliness of the Ford 3.5L Ecoboost (a lot of boost, no eco). The Ford was able to tow at 75mph up Wolf Creek Pass. We haven’t tried but it is clear the small diesel Chevy will not. On most highway onramps we are merging at highway speeds (65 – 70mph).

Transmission temperatures have remained reasonable* on hot days and consistent with the bigger Ford. Sample readings from the Chevy below:

Air temp.: 97F
Transmission temp.: 215F
Speed: 65mph

Air temp.: 100F
Transmission temp.: 217F
Speed: 64mph

* I asked Chevrolet (via Twitter DM) what the maximum operating temperature for the transmission is. Chevrolet’s response, and it’s cool they provided one to a Twitter DM, was there isn’t one published. The most credible guidance I could find was to match maximum operating temperature with break-down point of the transmission fluid. In the 2016 Chevrolet Colorado, this fluid is Dexron VI, which breaks down around 265F.

The average MPG while towing was 16.5, and about 26 not towing. The F150 Ecoboost setup (Max Tow package gearing) delivered just over 13, not towing, and about 10mpg while towing. So the Chevy setup is remarkable. But as I mentioned earlier, that comes at the cost of power.

Sway

Another high point has been the ProPride 3P hitch. I will enthusiastically validate this hitch eliminates sway. The trailer has now been driven from New Jersey, to Iowa, to Arizona. Through wind and rain it does not sway. When the wind gusts, the sensation is like driving a SUV being pushed by the wind. You don’t feel the trailer being pushed independently of the truck.

At $2,700 the PP3P was expensive. I don’t know how much better it might be than the alternatives – I haven’t tested them. But the PP3P does work as advertised and that’s what I bought it for.

Weight distribution

The truck is level, which is good enough for me, and weight on the the front and rear axles is perfectly balanced (see above). Weight distribution is easily adjustable using a wrench should the load change.

Unlike the previous rig, I have not yet had to measure wheel arches, add helper springs or install larger trunnion bars to maintain level towing.

– Anthony, Waukee, Iowa

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A New Airstream

Airstream & Chevy

It’s been over two years since I have written anything here. I see my last post was about maintaining lead acid batteries, so it was probably time to take a break.

We do have an overdue update. Last year we sold our 28′ Airstream International back to the dealer. It was a very sad day.

There was no particular reason. We just weren’t using it. Iowa doesn’t have any “nature” left. Iowans use campers to tailgate, which we don’t do. I struggle having expensive things sitting in storage, to be maintained and slowly rot. So we sold it.

Fast forward a year to May, 2017. We bought our second Airstream. Unlike our first, we bought this Airstream just for fun, not to perform a full time lifestyle experiment.

So we wanted something more nimble, that could be towed easily with a smaller tow vehicle. I didn’t want to sign up for a lifetime of big truck ownership.

We sold ourselves on using it for a couple of big trips each year and as a weekend winter cabin. We imagined spending more time in the years ahead if job flexibility permitted.

We settled on the Airstream International 23FB. The largest of the small (8′ body) Airstreams, paired with a ProPride 3P hitch to a 2016 Chevy Colorado diesel.

Did this combination work? Yes – very well. More to come.

– Anthony, Waukee, Iowa