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Hi all,

A little late to the party, but I wanted to post a story about my adventures with my 2009 FWD V6 RAV with towing package.

I gleaned a lot of info from Rav4World that made the purchasing of a hitch and trailer much easier in terms of determining specs and load so I just wanted to note my experience in the event it will help someone else. And I'm glad I'm the owner of a RAV - best vehicle I've ever had in terms of utility (a bit of a pig on gas, but at least it's regular).

The impetus for the trailer was a trip that my family and I were planning for the summer of 2020: a 15,000 km (cross-Canada) trek from Vancouver, BC to St John's, Newfoundland and back. We had our home rented out and bought a Chalet Arrowhead, A-Frame trailer for the trip. We were set to leave in June 2020, but in April Covid hit and we had to put our plans on hold.

My biggest concerns were finding a trailer that maxed out at 3000 lbs loaded (didn't want to get too close to the 3500 lb max just to leave wiggle room), whether the FWD would be a problem as far as traction, and the transmission overheating on some of the steep inclines we would encounter.

I started with purchasing and installing a Curt hitch which cost about $1000 CAD to install. I went to pick up the trailer after getting the hitch installed and the RAV looked like a motorboat with how far down the back was bottoming out and how far the front was lifted. Even though I had never towed a trailer I knew something was wrong. The handling was terrible. Every time I went over a small bump the back of the RAV would toss around like a waterbed; and driving on the highway was an adventure in spongy steering.

I asked the shop about air bags in the shocks and an equalization kit for the hitch, but they were not terribly helpful. The smallest equalization kit they had was for 5000 lbs and they said it would be overkill. They said they could also install airbags in the shocks, but that was going to be another $750 CAD. If I sold the RAV the airbags would go with the RAV and wouldn't add much value to the car so I decided to go with the equalization kit. But I went to a different shop. They were much friendlier. A father and son team who were much more knowledgeable. The smallest equalization kit they could find was also 5000 lbs but they said it would definitely help. So another $500 CAD for the kit and install.

But it works like a dream. It evened out the back by pushing more of the tongue weight to the trailer wheels and the front wheels of the RAV and it helped the handling incredibly - so much so that it felt like there was nothing being towed.

Once I had everything rigged up I was curious about the exact dry weight of the Chalet Camper and the weight of the gear going inside. The specs said the camper should be 1750 dry, but I wanted a more precise number so I went to a government weigh station on a Sunday and unhitched the camper on the scale. The dry weight came in at 1975 lbs. My wife thought I was crazy, but I weighed every item that was going to go into the trailer (less food) and all of the gear came in at another 550 lbs. So a total weight of about 2500 lbs, which was the goal when we started looking for a trailer.

We didn't go across Canada but managed a few camping trips around the province of British Columbia. The biggest test was an early September camping trip to Merritt, in the interior of British Columbia which is a desert climate. It was hot that weekend (33 C or 91 F) and towing up some of the steepest and longest inclines in BC (and probably North America) along the Coquihalla Highway. I kept a close eye on the thermostat and it stayed happily in dead centre - overheating was one of my big fears and the engine stayed cool for the entire 350 km drive. And on the steepest and longest hill up to the Coquihalla Summit I managed to keep it at 100 km/hr (62 mph), although it slowed down to 90 km/h as we approached the summit. During the drive to Merritt, I wanted to keep the speed to between 100 and 110 km/h even though the posted speed limit was 120 km/h (74 mph). So no problems with power towing through the coast mountains.

One of the other criteria for the trailer was that it have brakes and I was grateful for that coming back down some of those big hills. I don't think I would have felt safe if it was just the RAV brakes having to stop an additional 2500 lbs. As it was, even with the trailer brakes there were a few small stretches where I was wondering if I should pull over to the truck lane and just gear down.

All-in-all I'm very happy with the RAV and how it tows. If you're going over 2000 lbs I definitely recommend an equalization kit to redistribute the weight.

Happy RAVing all.

Victor

156745


156746


156747
 

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Like you I prepared my RAV4 for towing about 3000-3500 lbs. For that I have added an auxiliary transmission cooler and an electric brake controller (7 pin connector). Definitely the load distribution hitch is worth the money and I will get one for my rig... when I eventually buy it. COVID put the brakes on this purchase, but it's coming.
Thanks for sharing the pics. I didn't see how the brakes are handled by your trailer. Electrical brakes require a 7 pin connector, the 4 pin one is not sufficient to carry the brake signal.

I went with the Toyota hitch because it add more structural support than the other hitches. More money to purchase... but I saved by installing it myself.
This is how it looks installed:

The 7-way plug and e-brake controller that I installed later:

And here is my auxiliary transmission cooler:
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Good point Sonic, re: connector. I should have mentioned that it was a 7-pin connector that manages the brakes on the trailer. Good luck on your trailer purchase.
 

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What kind of tires are those?
They're P215 / 70 / R16 . My RAV is a Sport that came with low profile 18 inch tires (can't remember the specs), but the ride was hard to say the least. I switched over to 16s to see if I could soften the ride and maybe get a little better mileage. I got a better ride, but the mileage stayed about the same.
 

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I though they look weird (tall) in the picture :)

Mine is a Limited and it came with 225/65R17. I put 235/65R17 on it because the OE looked to "thin" to me.
The 235 came with 104 weight index (as opposed to 102 OE) and are only 1.8% bigger in diameter/circumference. But a 235 spare doesn't fit inside my hard shell cover... oh well, I kept the 225 there.
 

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They're P215 / 70 / R16 . My RAV is a Sport that came with low profile 18 inch tires (can't remember the specs), but the ride was hard to say the least. I switched over to 16s to see if I could soften the ride and maybe get a little better mileage. I got a better ride, but the mileage stayed about the same.
If you want to improve the ride more change the front Sport struts to KYB. I just changed my front Sport struts to KYB and the ride is much better.
 

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Hey @Vancouver Owner, thanks for posting from another Vancouver owner here. We are thinking about towing with our 2007 AWD V6 Sport so the information you provided here is really helpful. Just curious where you had the hitch and equalization kit installed?
 
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