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Discussion Starter #1
So,

Last weekend my wife and I took our new popup travel trailer on its maiden voyage down to California and back, 550 miles each way. Overall, the Forester performed well, and we were not disappointed.

First, the weights:
On our way back, we pulled through a weigh station and got some numbers. Keep in mind, these weigh stations are only precise to 50 lb, so you get what you pay for:biggrin:.
Front axle weighed 1900 lb. Rating is 2310 lb. Without trailer is 2050 lb, so ~150 removed.
Rear axle weighed 2250 lb. Rating is 2410 lb. Without trailer is 1750 lb, so ~500 lb added.
This means a tongue weight of about 350 lb. When we got home, we found a tongue weight of 340 lb via bath scale, so that's pretty close. Before we left, I weighed the tongue, and it was about 290 lb. I think the difference is because of the full potty and remaining in the gray water tank.
Trailer axle weighed 2550 lb. Add tongue weight, and total trailer weight amounts to ~2900 lb. We were hoping for ~2700-2800 lb, so we're a little over, but not too bad. ~75 lb was due to fluids that we were needlessly carrying, though. (After getting home, I found that there was still about 5 gallons of water in the gray tank. We did dump, but were on a slope, so didn't get it all. Add the remaining fresh water and potty and that came to the 75 lb.)
Legal weights: Both axles were well under their weight ratings. Also, the total vehicle weight was 4150, which is well under the 4480 lb GVWR. Also, we were within the 400/4000 rating for the hitch. So everything was legal.
GCVWR: Although Subaru doesn't state a GCVWR, it can be derived from what we do know. We know that the 2400lb rating allows a fully loaded car, so it's 2400lb on top of GVWR, minus tongue weight (which is part of the GVWR). So, derived GCVWR = GVWR[car] + TrailerMax - TongueMax = 4480 + 2400 - 200 = 6680. Our numbers add up to 6700, which is right at that number (accounting for the 50 lb precision). I'm ignoring the fact that the US has the lowest trailer rating in all the world, AFAIK :icon_razz:.
So these are the numbers, but they're just numbers. What matters is how it we got along, right?

Power:
Something weird happened. When we started off, it was a challenge going 65 in 5th. So I figured it might be 55 mph max, since I don't want to hold it at 65 in 4th (too high of rpm). Sometime on the 2nd half of the trip down (in California, 55 mph max), I noticed that we had more power and more low end torque. On the way back, we were able to go 65 in 5th without issue. So I think the car reprogrammed its ECU for more power and more low and torque. This week (i.e. not towing), I've noticed the increased torque, and am getting as good or better gas mileage than I was before too! Nice! :banana:
I should also note that we used Premium fuel (91 octane), which I think helped, and it's possible the engine tuned itself to take advantage of it.
So back to the trip (this is the way back, with more power):
At 65 (i.e. Oregon): we were able to keep it in 5th gear, but we did lose speed on moderate hills (maybe 1% or so). I decided that for fuel economy purposes, I'd keep it in 5th unless it was steep enough to lose speed down to 55. Then I'd drop down to 4th gear. However, even at 65 I found we had reserve power in 4th when needed.
At 55 (i.e. California): we were able to easily go 55 in 5th gear, and took a pretty decent uphill to make me have to drop down to 4th to maintain 55. Then we had lots of reserve power.
From a stop: No problems getting going, even with the clutch. The Subie has amazing torque for the very low end (i.e. 1000-1500 rpms), without any lugging (I think Premium might have helped with this too).
Up the Siskiyou mountain pass (6% grade): Going up the mountain, I was able to go 40mph in 3rd gear. I could have gone more than 40, but didn't want to in 3rd. 4th gear wasn't happening at 6% grade. I expected to lose speed going up the mountains, though, and it doesn't bother me. As I said to my wife, we get to hang out with the "big boys" (i.e. the long haulers).

Handling/Safety
Braking: No problems at all braking. We settled for nothing less than the Prodigy brake controller. After we got it adjusted right, it took about the same braking power as without the trailer. Easy, smooth, straight stops.
Handling/Sway: In general, the trailer followed perfectly. At one point I let go of the wheel (on purpose), and it just kept going in a straight line. It was very easy to handle and control. There were a few moments of sway (induced by something), but nothing serious. 1 or 2 times gently back and forth before petering out was all. We may consider a friction sway control, though, just to make things a little easier.

Fuel Economy
Here's another funny thing: Oregon gas is different than California gas. I've noticed this before on other trips to Cali with both the Subie and our Civic: we get better gas mileage using California gas than with Oregon gas. But it matters big time while towing.
65 mph: On our way down, we got 15 mpg on Oregon gas. However, on California gas (we filled up before coming back into Oregon), we got 17 mpg. Sure enough, our first fillup in Oregon, we dropped right back down to 15 mpg. I officially dislike Oregon gas now :Banane36:. I think it's the ethanol they put in it.
55 mph: In California (with California gas), we got a full 20 mpg, towing the whole way :woohoo:.
Over the passes: We didn't gain or lose anything going over the Siskiyou pass (either way). Whatever mpg we lost going up, we gained going back down, and it ended up being a wash.

One more note about our rig: We're using a light duty weight distributing hitch, but don't have it cranked up very far. Basically, we just wanted to add a little stability, and take a bit of the load off of the rear axle. I think that's part of it handling so well. If you're wondering, it's the Draw-tite single bar WDH (400/4000 rating).

So I think that covers it. Hopefully this is useful info for somebody.
Here are a couple of pictures of our campsite and rig:



 

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Discussion Starter #2
I'm surprised that nobody's interested in how our trip went. I tried to provide it as a technical resource for anybody looking at how the Forester does with a particularly heavy trailer. But I haven't got any responses.
Was it too technical? :confused:
 

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The Sub kit guy
2005 Forester X & XT VF39
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A lot of people don't visit the site on the weekends.

That's a lot of great info! How was the rear sag? When I tow with my SG I install spring boosters in the back. It helps a lot with heavy loads. I used them when I towed home 2600 lbs worth of sand on Sunday.
 

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2010 Forester 2.5X Premiu
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lol, it DOES look huge.

I didn't see the thread at all til today ... I plan to print it out and keep it as a reference guide.

Thanks so much Mathguy for this information!
 

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2009 2.5 Touring
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Very well written resume of your maiden voyage.

And I'm happy to learn that everything went fine for you... even with a manual transmission.

You must be a better manual driver than I am cause on my first maiden voyage with a lighter pop-up (Flagstaff 620ST), I burned the clutch. The dealer then toll me that I should never keep it in 5th whenever going uphill while towing.

Because of this maiden voyage, I did not trust the manual transmission and changed the Forester for an automatic one.

Now, I miss the manual transmission when not pulling...

I'm also surprise about what you said about the use of premium gas... Maybe I should try it myself!
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the comments. I'll address some of the questions:

A lot of people don't visit the site on the weekends.

That's a lot of great info! How was the rear sag? When I tow with my SG I install spring boosters in the back. It helps a lot with heavy loads. I used them when I towed home 2600 lbs worth of sand on Sunday.
Rear sag was fine for me, certainly within reasonable expectations. I didn't measure the rear, but did measure the front which was up ~1/2 inch.
The second picture shows it all hooked up, so that shows the amount of rear sag. It was taken at a rest area we stopped at.

Very well written resume of your maiden voyage.

And I'm happy to learn that everything went fine for you... even with a manual transmission.

You must be a better manual driver than I am cause on my first maiden voyage with a lighter pop-up (Flagstaff 620ST), I burned the clutch. The dealer then toll me that I should never keep it in 5th whenever going uphill while towing.

Because of this maiden voyage, I did not trust the manual transmission and changed the Forester for an automatic one.

Now, I miss the manual transmission when not pulling...

I'm also surprise about what you said about the use of premium gas... Maybe I should try it myself!
When we first picked up the trailer, and I was getting used to the Prodigy in a parking lot, I did burn the clutch a bit. It was because of the "get up to 25mph quickly" repeated several times over.
Bringing it on home, it seemed a little "loose", so I was just a little concerned.
However, with all the burn worn off (during daily commutes) and the clutch returned to normal, we didn't have any problems with burning, or clutch smells, during the trip. I did make sure to take it easy on start ups and finish clutch engagement as quickly as possible.
 

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I'm surprised that nobody's interested in how our trip went. I tried to provide it as a technical resource for anybody looking at how the Forester does with a particularly heavy trailer. But I haven't got any responses.
Was it too technical? :confused:
Lol, don't sweat it, I read the whole thing and enjoyed it very much so it wasn't a complete waste of time although I am a technical guy.

I am glad things went well however I don't think the higher octane gas was offered any better power than regular octane fuel because from what I understand, it's just more resistant to detonation but it wouldn't surprise me if the fuel you got in California was worth more MPG if it contained less ethanol.
 

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2010 Forester X manual
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8 Posts
Thanks for the report

A great write up. Just about to have a brake controller in my 8 week old manual Forester X so that can tow my 1000kg camper so am very interested in your experience. I don't envisage too much trouble towing with it but from what I read will take it easy on the clutch. Have taken it for a small tow a couple of times around the neighborhood already and towed ok. About 2 cm drop at back (85kg ball weight). We usually tow for about 8-10000k per year and this will continue with the Forester.
The only issue when I was towing was that I stalled a few times when reversing. Since the software update (it was recalled), it has been transformed and no problems reversing since.
Thanks again
MattD
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Lol, don't sweat it, I read the whole thing and enjoyed it very much so it wasn't a complete waste of time although I am a technical guy.

I am glad things went well however I don't think the higher octane gas was offered any better power than regular octane fuel because from what I understand, it's just more resistant to detonation but it wouldn't surprise me if the fuel you got in California was worth more MPG if it contained less ethanol.
Ya, I'm not positive that the premium fuel made the difference. I understand the concept that if you're not experiencing any knocking with 87 octane, then 91 octane is just a waste of money.

Something changed, though, that provided more power/torque. My thought is that the ECU might have re-tuned itself into a place where it provides more torque, but now only works with the Premium fuel, and now provides marginally better fuel economy under normal conditions. (Otherwise, why wouldn't that be the standard tune, if it works on 87 octane too?) I conjecture that if I were to switch back to 87 right now, it might knock a little before it returns itself back to the "normal" tune. I don't want to try that though to find out. When the camping season's over, I'll reset the ECU before the first fill of 87, just to be safe.
I don't really know what the total behavior of the ECU program is, so this is all just a guess. I don't have any better theories on what changed, though, but would be interested in other people's thoughts.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
A great write up. Just about to have a brake controller in my 8 week old manual Forester X so that can tow my 1000kg camper so am very interested in your experience. I don't envisage too much trouble towing with it but from what I read will take it easy on the clutch. Have taken it for a small tow a couple of times around the neighborhood already and towed ok. About 2 cm drop at back (85kg ball weight). We usually tow for about 8-10000k per year and this will continue with the Forester.
The only issue when I was towing was that I stalled a few times when reversing. Since the software update (it was recalled), it has been transformed and no problems reversing since.
Thanks again
MattD
Just FYI, if you're planning to do the wiring yourself, check out this thread regarding the challenge I had getting wires through the firewall (it's more challenging on an MT than on an AT): http://www.subaruforester.org/vbulletin/f85/how-do-i-get-through-firewall-09-m-t-71213/
This reminds me that I promised pictures. I'll have to get on that. :icon_redface:
 

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2010 Forester X manual
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Thanks for the advice. In previous cars have done myself but as this is my first new one, have decided to pay.
Cheers
Matt D
 

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Thx for the details! :icon_cool:

I have towed 2000 lb+ popup with prodigy controller and 5 passengers in both 2000 and 2004 5 spd NA Foresters. I did load the trailer carefully to minimize gear in the car. I have found what is too light for tongue weight to the point that sway becomes more of an issue over 55. I'm guessing I probably run about 250-300 lb tongue weight also. I have never put it on scales but would like to at some point. It's fun passing folks on 2-lane highways on the way to the beach while towing! :D

I installed Oil Press and Temp gauges so I am looking forward to see how much things vary in summer going up mountain grades and at high speeds on interstate while towing.

As far as clutch burning you shouldn't have a problem as long as you're not overloaded and don't ride it. The only time I have gotten burnt clutch smell is when I knew I was a little overloaded (locally hauling dirt in a heavy U-haul open trailer) and at 135,000 mi + so clutch probably didn't have much life left anyway.

One thing that helps that most people don't even consider doing is greasing the ball. Yes, it is messy and more to do but it helps a lot. After unhitching you have to wipe off the ball and put a cover over it. I also put a bag over the tongue (which can help keep dirt/sand out as well). I use a gray-black wheel bearing grease with "moly" in it. It makes it much easier to park backing up and maneuvering the trailer. Since less jockeying is required to get the trailer where you want it, the clutch is happier!
 

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oh, one other thing. what tires are you using? do you know their load rating and do you run 44 psi in the rear when towing?

A lot of tires are 94 or 95. When I had to replace mine recently I was able to get a 99 with a good A/S tread I liked. I think it added maybe 200 lb rating ea over the 94 if I remember correctly.
 

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A lot of people don't visit the site on the weekends.

That's a lot of great info! How was the rear sag? When I tow with my SG I install spring boosters in the back. It helps a lot with heavy loads. I used them when I towed home 2600 lbs worth of sand on Sunday.
What kind of spring boosters? Those spacer thingys that fit between the coils?

Sag is noticeable but not much of a problem for me. I had worse handling issues with the first kind of tires I tried recently unloaded compared to towing trailer loaded! (It felt like the rear of the car was steering itself a little). Fortunately the second different kind of tires I tried was the trick.
 

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It's amazing what these Subarus are towing. That small RV looks so huge next to the Forester.
 

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Thanks for this writeup. I just bought a 2004 Subaru forester and will be towing my pop-up with it. It is smaller (1500lb dry weight) no plumbing to speak of. I am planning on adding the transmission cooler already, but had not thought about the weight distribution hitch. Is this something you all would recommend for a 1500lb trailer? Tongue weight seems to be close to 150 lb since I'm able to pick it up. I'll put a scale under it before a haul and adjust the load inside.
 

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2011 forester X auto
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Hope you still enjoy forum. Thanks for excellent technical report. Have you towed same weights without load leveling device. I tow a 14ft van with very similar axle loads. Rear sag is 1.5 to 2 inch which causes no problems. However ride comfort is reduced by fore/aft pitching on older deformed pavements, and gives my wife sore neck. In Aust load leveling devices are not recommended. For my 2011 X, I am considering fitting self leveling struts as I think are used in your model Forester. $2400 will be well spent if it cures the problem. How frequently do you tow such loads, and have you had any hitch looseness, or problems. I will also see if the hitch you use is available in Aust. Again thanks for your report, and I hope you see this. Kind regards marty.
 

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2013 Forester manual
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Brand new to towing - just got a full size pop up

Thank you so much for this thread!!!! I just bought a full sized pop up (dry weight - 1875, hitch weight 233) and have been concerned about towing it with the sub. My maiden voyage home from the RV dealer ended up with me burning the clutch trying to back in into the driveway - rookie mistake, Im hoping. Anyway, the RV Dealer said my 2013 Forester was within the limits for a trailer this size and i have a brake controller with a Class III hitch but I still would like to hear from someone experienced with towing something this size or bigger. I want to make sure that its safe and does not shorten the lifespan of my car or her parts. Feedback?
 
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