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Hello there, thanks to this forum I have found some great information on towing with the Odyssey which has given me confidence in the Odyssey’s abilities. I have not towed anything in the past, and am preparing to tow a teardrop trailer (Mean Bean) with a dry weight of 1,800 pounds, loaded up to my estimate of nearly 2,500 pounds, with a tongue weight of 200 pounds.

We will be towing on trips varying from 10-500 miles, once a month on average, with some longer trips mixed in (halfway across the country, over western/Rockies passes for sure). So I am really looking to do all the bells and whistles to improve our experience and to keep everything in great condition for years to come. I’m hoping to avoid the need for a truck or SUV until we get more serious about off-roading with this trailer, so I’m fine spending some money for peace of mind. Plus, safety.

I’d greatly appreciate some validation of my approach on the below items and have a few questions. Anything I'm missing or could do better on?
  1. Hitch, brake controller and wiring.
  2. Transmission cooler
  3. Weight-distributing hitch. It appears that the way the trailer is constructed, with the tongue projecting and the two arms essentially blocked by the luggage cargo platform, will not allow a typical weight-distributing hitch to be compatible. I am currently verifying this with the trailer company. They said sway control was not necessary with the trailer. Perhaps there is a variant of a weight distribution system that will work. Perhaps I can get by with this trailer having a 200 pound tongue and no major plans to load up the rear of the van too much (and use other suspension enhancement below). Advice appreciated.
  4. Other suspension leveling. Trying to decide between the Timbren and AirLift systems mainly:
    • Timbren Rear Suspension Enhancement – these are more “permanent” than the air bags from what I’ve read. One comment was that they stiffen things up too much when not towing but another comment was that they adapt continuously and this is good/not an issue.
    • AirLift 1000 air bags.
      • What are peoples’ favorite methods of monitoring/adjusting air pressure? Is the compressor system worth it for all the travel I may do? Would save carrying a bike pump or external air compressor?
    • One comment I read was to not use a weight distributing hitch with the Timbren since they may fight each other. So maybe not a big deal if I can’t install a weight distributing hitch.
    • Any other recommendations for suspension upgrades? I feel like my rear suspension may be permanently lowered a bit due to some hauling I did. I should check that out and see if the OEM springs need replaced, perhaps.
  5. What other bells and whistles, accessories, etc. do you like/use?
    • Power steering upgrades?
    • Monitoring applications? Something simple like a Veepeak OBDCheck BLE with a phone app or the Edge Insight chip tuner (can’t see that being worth the price)?
    • Vehicle tires. I need to research this further for best recommended tires.
    • Need a full-size spare tire for the van rather than the donut. (hmm, what to store in the donut area instead??)
  6. Maintenance, other things I need to research.
    • How often to change transmission fluid with the kind of use I plan on?
    • Plan to avoid trips in snow/inclimate weather with only front-wheel drive.
Other info on the trailer. I think the curved portion of the teardrop trailer will stick up about 13” above the top of the van. We will have a rooftop tent on top of the trailer; it appears to be fairly aero-dynamic and there will be some space between it and the trailer top for airflow as well. My estimates of full-load with excess capacity above ratings:
  • Gross vehicle weight rating = 590 pounds in the good
  • Max towing limits (using 3,200 as max based on 4 occupants) = 730 in the good
  • Gross combined weight rating = 660 pounds in the good
Thoughts on my plan are greatly appreciated. I’m really glad I found this forum for my beloved Odyssey.

Thank you, and hope this helps someone else too.

P.S. – part prices jump around like crazy on etrailer.com
 

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I hadn't heard of the Mean Bean trailers. Took a quick look and they appear to be an interesting trailer. Funny to see an "off-road" trailer hitched to road-bound SUV. :D

I don't tow with my Odyssey; so, I'll leave the specific upgrade recommendations to those that have.

Some general towing comments:
I assume the tongue weight is the dry weight. If the tongue weight is 200 lbs with a full weight of 2500 lbs in the trailer, then you've under-loaded the tongue. The general rule for tongue weight is that it should be 10-15% of the trailer weight. Single-axle trailers should be closer to 15% and tandem axle trailers can be closer to 10%. A 2500 lbs trailer should be about 375 lbs of tongue weight. If you can load cargo and passengers further forward in the van, you'll get less sag in the rear.

Brake controllers only work if the trailer has electronic brakes. Most of the single axle trailers, including teardrops, that I've seen don't have them. Might want to double check that. The P3 is a great controller. But, if this is your only trailer for the van, it might be overkill. You could go with a P2 or cheaper controller since you only need to set it once for that trailer.

Transmission cooling is a necessity in any TV. Oil cooling is helpful, especially if you know you'll go through hot places. Consider having thermostats as part of each cooling line so that you don't cool it too much in the winter (if you're in a cold place).

Note the limitations Honda has for number of occupants and towing capacity. Honda has done a better job than any I've seen of telling you what the conditions are for "4 occupants equals 3200 lbs towing capacity". They assume each occupant weighs 150 lbs (or less) with 15 lbs of cargo each. Really they're talking about 4 teenagers and not 4 In-n-Out loving Americans. Essentially, use the weight of the occupants and cargo to subtract from your towing capacity.

Tow slow...55-65 mph on the highway if all conditions are awesome. Slower, if they're not. You'll maintain control better if you do, and get better mileage.
 

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Don't be shy using the disengage overdrive button on the left side of the shifter going down hills..... easier then warping your rotors when riding your brakes.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I hadn't heard of the Mean Bean trailers. Took a quick look and they appear to be an interesting trailer. Funny to see an "off-road" trailer hitched to road-bound SUV. :D
Ha, yeah and our van obviously won't be taking that thing on too many gravel roads or other terrain. We plan to use the van for a few years at least for accessing most of our paved campgrounds, etc. We'll get more serious with a truck or better SUV in the future for those off-road trips. These trailers are so cool! The teardrops seem to have become a large niche.

Thank you for the guidance on towing. On the tongue weight, I had thought the same thing, that the tongue weight will no longer be close to 15% of the trailer weight, let alone 10% with the weight of 200 pounds. I can probably load some stuff on the cargo platform to add some effective tongue weight (unless that load is transferred to the trailer axle). But you're saying to then load towards the front of the towing vehicle in that case? If the tongue isn't heavy enough, do I not want to then load the back more to compensate, instead of the front? I'm confused. What is physically happening with a tongue that is too light?

Yes, the trailer comes with brakes, fortunately. The dealer said most people don't use them though (which I thought odd). I'll definitely be using them. Thanks for the suggestion that the P3 may be overkill. I don't think we'll have anything else to tow so I don't need to multiple trailer settings.

Thanks for the other tips on weight and driving slow. Definitely will do (and not visit In-and-Out too much... 😄). Much appreciated!
 

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Don't be shy using the disengage overdrive button on the left side of the shifter going down hills..... easier then warping your rotors when riding your brakes.
Thank you. Actually our rotors are currently slightly warped and our mechanic is fixing that this week with our oil change. Could be from our larger camping loads coming down from multiple passes over the years. I'll get more friendly with the O/D button!
 

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Thank you for the guidance on towing. On the tongue weight, I had thought the same thing, that the tongue weight will no longer be close to 15% of the trailer weight, let alone 10% with the weight of 200 pounds. I can probably load some stuff on the cargo platform to add some effective tongue weight (unless that load is transferred to the trailer axle). But you're saying to then load towards the front of the towing vehicle in that case? If the tongue isn't heavy enough, do I not want to then load the back more to compensate, instead of the front? I'm confused. What is physically happening with a tongue that is too light?
Loading the TV and the TT are different beasts. Moving the weight forward in the TV helps to keep the front end from lifting as much by shifting that weight forward on the front wheels. And, it will leave more of the rear wheel suspension travel to absorb the weight of the TT hitch. You don't want the front end lifted too much because that reduces your traction. You need that for steering and, in a FWD, for driving and towing. This video is about the WD hitch, which you don't need. But, it makes important points about the need to keep the front end down on the TV.

You still want to find a way to ensure the TT's hitch weight is correct, which should be about 15% of the total trailer weight. Put more of the weight at or in front of the axle than you put behind the axle. General rule is 60% forward and 40% behind the axle. UHaul has a decent video of what happens when you put too much weight behind the axle.
(or Curt:
) YouTube has lots of videos about how to load trailers and test the tongue weight even if you aren't at a scale.
 

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Loading the TV and the TT are different beasts. Moving the weight forward in the TV helps to keep the front end from lifting as much by shifting that weight forward on the front wheels. And, it will leave more of the rear wheel suspension travel to absorb the weight of the TT hitch. You don't want the front end lifted too much because that reduces your traction. You need that for steering and, in a FWD, for driving and towing. This video is about the WD hitch, which you don't need. But, it makes important points about the need to keep the front end down on the TV.

You still want to find a way to ensure the TT's hitch weight is correct, which should be about 15% of the total trailer weight. Put more of the weight at or in front of the axle than you put behind the axle. General rule is 60% forward and 40% behind the axle. UHaul has a decent video of what happens when you put too much weight behind the axle.
(or Curt:
) YouTube has lots of videos about how to load trailers and test the tongue weight even if you aren't at a scale.
Great videos and information. That makes sense. It seems I'll need to look deep into the weight distribution on the trailer. The trailer axle is about a third in from the rear, which helps, but a lot of the heavy stuff on the trailer is in the very back (galley w/ cooler, stove, gear, etc. and water tank of 18 gallons). Still, some decent weight should be towards the front of the trailer.

Would loading the rear of the van a bit heavier also help counteract the light tongue? Is the goal to decently balance the weight among all three axles within their individual weight ratings? It seems that could help with a somewhat rear-loaded trailer that may try to sway, to help keep the van more stable. Still can imagine it's not as ideal. I think we will be pretty well weighted in the front of the van with occupants and not much cargo in the rear. I'll have to do some weight measurements and trial and error (I can throw some more weight towards the front of the trailer with bikes on the trailer's front rack especially).

Thank you.
 

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Would loading the rear of the van a bit heavier also help counteract the light tongue?
No, the problem is the lever effect on the trailer. Too much weight on the back of the trailer lifts the tongue, which lifts the rear of the TV. It also means that there is a very short distance between the weight and the fulcrum (trailer's axle), which is what causes it to sway more.

Is the goal to decently balance the weight among all three axles within their individual weight ratings?
Yes, however, I would focus mostly on getting the trailer weighted correctly. As long as you are within the van's towing specs, how you load the van will work out. My suggestions for the van's loading optimize it. But, loading the trailer correctly is critical.

BTW, nice to know that you have trailer brakes. That said, you'll need to ensure that whatever harness you install has the 7-pin plug. The 4-pin plugs only control the lights. OEM plugs are only 4-pin.
 

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I have the p2 controller-it’s great! Also have Timbrens and it works great towing and when not towing. Thought Honda does not recommend load distribution or sway bars. Van is a unibody frame not a heavy duty truck box frame, wouldby want to tweak the frame. Wouldn’t worry about springs unless they permanently squat after all that towing.. haven’t seen it on ours. I put the best rotors and brakes I could find on ours (frozen rotors and akebono yellow brakes). Transmission cooler and change the transmission fluid every oil change and you’ll be set. Sounds like a neat road trip!
 

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Whatever transmission cooler you're adding, you might want to add a thermostatic valve while doing the install. Just learned that this week, you can read on my TruCool thread here. When you're towing over-cooling might not be an issue, but when you unhook the trailer and are tooling around it might be so while you're there you might as well spend the extra $50-ish bucks and add this in.

Hopefully you read up on the Brakes/Rotors threads and got the types recommended here; tested, tried and true.

Good luck!
 

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You have quite a well-researched list of good ideas/adds.

We use the P3 brake controller. I wanted more feedback with the P3 display. It's probably overkill since you really only have to calibrate it once, but I like the diag screen and boost function if I feel I need more brakes downhill and curves on-demand.

Also, get a full-size spare and put all the cargo in the trailer (properly loaded as discussed above) and only keep the passengers and minimal necessities in the van. We kept the full-size spare in the van's rear cargo well in a big garbage bag to keep it from marking up the interior.

I considered airbags, but with a good weight-distribution setup, I didn't see the need to go through that extra customization. I spent more time on customizing the wiring for charging/brakes and video camera hardwire from console to the hitch; then connector to the end of the trailer for ease of lane changes and backing up.

The Mean Bean looks neato, but I agree the cargo tray might get in the way of WDH. With a large amount of cargo in the trailer, you may want to rethink the a-frame setup on it and see if there could be some reconfiguration to raise the basket and accommodate a WDH just to get more weight out of the van, especially with the tent top which I'm guessing 175-250# (like an extra passenger) on the roof.

Make sure you have good tires and the sidewall strength specs is up to the additional cargo/trailer/WDH add. Our last tire purchase was Michelin Defender LTX and they worked great.

See this post and my other links within for more detailed info on my setup:

Having a transmission cooler (& wiring harnesses)...
 

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Would loading the rear of the van a bit heavier also help counteract the light tongue? Is the goal to decently balance the weight among all three axles within their individual weight ratings? It seems that could help with a somewhat rear-loaded trailer that may try to sway, to help keep the van more stable. Still can imagine it's not as ideal. I think we will be pretty well weighted in the front of the van with occupants and not much cargo in the rear. I'll have to do some weight measurements and trial and error (I can throw some more weight towards the front of the trailer with bikes on the trailer's front rack especially).
This is scary wrong. The loading of the tow vehicle has nothing to do with the safety (weight distribution) of the trailer for towing purposes. The less tongue weight you have as a percentage of the total weight of the trailer, then less stable it will be at speed. See here: Tow me down!

The takeaway message here is that the 10-15% recommendation is for absolute safety. Anytime you get below ~10% on the tongue, you start risking trailer sway - and that risk rises significantly with vehicle speed.

Secondarily, when you use weight distribution, the amount of weight you remove from the rear axle gets transferred to the front tow vehicle axle and to the trailer axle(s). Keep that in mind when it comes to axle weight ratings. Your trailer should still be within range in all respects, but just keep it in mind. You can easily spend a few $$$ at the local Cat scales and get a true measurement of everything you are interested in.

Also keep in mind that weight behind the rear axle of the tow vehicle also reduces the weight on the front axle and puts more weight on the rear axle that you would otherwise expect by a small margin (ratio of the lever arms).

You can probably find a low-weight-rated weight distribution hitch setup that would work, but it may not be necessary if you otherwise load the van and trailer correctly.

-Charlie
 

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Discussion Starter #13
I have the p2 controller-it’s great! Also have Timbrens and it works great towing and when not towing. Thought Honda does not recommend load distribution or sway bars. Van is a unibody frame not a heavy duty truck box frame, wouldby want to tweak the frame. Wouldn’t worry about springs unless they permanently squat after all that towing.. haven’t seen it on ours. I put the best rotors and brakes I could find on ours (frozen rotors and akebono yellow brakes). Transmission cooler and change the transmission fluid every oil change and you’ll be set. Sounds like a neat road trip!
Thanks for your comment on your experience. I'll try the Timbrens and go for the P2 controller.

Indeed, the 2015 Odyssey manual says a weight-distributing hitch is not recommended. It says "An improperly adjusted weight distributing hitch may reduce handling, stability, and braking performance." I've seen some on this forum using them anyway, and so I assume they have theirs properly adjusted so that it works for the Odyssey. My trailer's luggage pan will get in the way of most or all weight-distributing hitches, so I am going to not get one and instead focus on loading the trailer properly. The trailer manufacturer says sway control is not needed, but I'm not sure exactly how they can say that without a more thorough evaluation of my entire setup which we're doing here. Regardless, for now I won't try to do any sway control, of which the hardware may also interfere with the luggage pan anyway.

Thank you for the other tips as well on rotors and brakes.
 

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This is scary wrong. The loading of the tow vehicle has nothing to do with the safety (weight distribution) of the trailer for towing purposes. The less tongue weight you have as a percentage of the total weight of the trailer, then less stable it will be at speed. See here: Tow me down!

The takeaway message here is that the 10-15% recommendation is for absolute safety. Anytime you get below ~10% on the tongue, you start risking trailer sway - and that risk rises significantly with vehicle speed.

Secondarily, when you use weight distribution, the amount of weight you remove from the rear axle gets transferred to the front tow vehicle axle and to the trailer axle(s). Keep that in mind when it comes to axle weight ratings. Your trailer should still be within range in all respects, but just keep it in mind. You can easily spend a few $$$ at the local Cat scales and get a true measurement of everything you are interested in.

Also keep in mind that weight behind the rear axle of the tow vehicle also reduces the weight on the front axle and puts more weight on the rear axle that you would otherwise expect by a small margin (ratio of the lever arms).

You can probably find a low-weight-rated weight distribution hitch setup that would work, but it may not be necessary if you otherwise load the van and trailer correctly.

-Charlie
Thanks, Charlie. Would you mind clarifying what you see as wrong? Regardless, here's what I'm thinking for my best practice in lieu of being able to add a weight-distributing hitch with/without sway control due to my specific trailer:
  1. Critical
    1. Ensure tongue weight is 10-15% of the ~2,500 pound wet, fully-loaded trailer weight. Dry tongue weight is 200 pounds (dry trailer weight is 1,800 pounds), so I need to load at least 50 pounds to get to 250/2,500 (10%), effectively, on the tongue by adding gear, bikes, etc. near the front of the trailer (mainly following the 60%/40% loading front of/back of trailer axle, respectively).
    2. Key assumption: adding weight via gear (firewood, bikes, rooftop tent) near the front of the trailer will effectively transfer to the tongue rather than the trailer axle. It's a simple single-axle trailer, so I believe this to be an accurate assumption but validation appreciated!
    3. Bottom line: do some continual trial and error and weigh specific setups on scales so I get the best weight setups specific for the Mean Bean trailer, with variety of conditions (water tank filled versus partially filled versus empty, etc.). Develop a cheat sheet on my phone so I know how best to adjust on trips.
  2. Important
    1. Loading of the van as the tow vehicle. Loading from front first. Mindful of anything behind the rear axle, which should be minimal.
    2. My question on adding weight to the rear towing vehicle axle to compensate for a light tongue was not the greatest. Instead, assuming the trailer is properly loaded with 60%/40% front to rear weight and weight is added to the tongue to get to 10-15% (following the Critical above), THEN is the idea to see about cargo distribution in the van so that the axles are weighted approximately equal, or in the ballpark, acceptable?
Great link to that study on towing, dynamic oscillation, etc. Very informative, and no doubt I'll be starting with extreme caution (slow, slow, slow) the first time I hitch this thing up and will take it to the scales to weigh!

Thanks for your time.
 

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The wrong part is the idea that loading the rear of the tow vehicle will counteract overloading the rear of the trailer. The tow vehicle and the trailer are loaded independently. Load the trailer "front heavy". Be careful not to overload the tow vehicle. Limit the weight in the tow vehicle according to the total weight of the trailer.

1) Your tongue weight is a little low. 10-13% is best for tandem axle trailers. 13-15% is best for single axle trailers. Assuming 2500# trailer, the tongue weight should be no less than 250# (bare minimum) and no more than 375#. Your ideal is probably somewhere around 350# of tongue weight. There are YouTube videos showing how you can use a bathroom scale to check your tongue weight.

2) True

3) Good idea. As you camp more, you'll also develop standard gear lists and load-outs which will make this more intuitive. But, always a good idea to test different setups.

1) That's how I would do it. Look at the squat in the different configurations to eyeball it.

2) Yes...evenly distributed is better for the tow vehicle. Again, you can just eyeball this.
 

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The scary part is connecting anything about how the tow vehicle is loaded to the sway safety of the trailer setup.

Philipat covered it pretty well.

It sounds like you are ready, willing and able to do it 'right' - so that's good (with experience, you could probably 'wing it' with the setup you are trying to run with just knowing some rough figures). Your door sticker will have axle weight ratings for the van. With that information and the current weight on each axle (available at a weight station) and the specs of the trailer will get you close enough to give things a try.

Loading weight in a vehicle should (generally) be done with the most weight forward as possible. Sharing the load between the front and rear axles will be best for axle ratings and handling safety. Of course, if it is 'just' camping gear, that won't be a huge deal - but leaving as much rear axle weight carrying capacity for the tongue weight of the trailer will be best. Don't forget passenger weight in your calculations.

Also, measure your hitch ball height and its height with known weights on the hitch ball. (you standing on it is a good proxy) The rear springs should be (fairly) linear - so you can 'calculate' the effective hitch weight by the change in ball height with the trailer hitched and unhitched. (this is how you 'wing it' in most situations - but knowing the numbers based on calibrated scales would be best).

Heck, on my little utility trailer, I 'weigh' the tongue weight by just picking it and taking the weight off the hitch ball to check tongue weight...

-Charlie
 
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Discussion Starter #17
A big thanks to you both for your detailed responses. I think I have the fundamentals down and am ready to execute and keep adjusting/improving! I'll report back with my experience when I pick up the trailer in late October.

Cheers.
 
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