my new golf tdi, towing my airstream

airstreamer

Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2011
Location
tofino, bc
TDI
golf 2011 tdi
hey all - this is my first post on the message boards. just wanted to share how much i love my new golf tdi and how awesome a tow vehicle it is for my airstream.
i know it's not a typical tow vehicle for an RV in north america, but without any mods (other than a custom fabricated hitch of course), i get great mileage, zero overheating (i've driven it through the rockies and across the continent) and it's peppiness is only slightly less with a trailer that's the almost the same weight (obviously the airstream has good brakes). i can see why the golf tdi has won awards in the UK for "best tow vehicle".
i do obviously get a lot of weird looks and comments about it ;)

 

dieseldorf

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Oct 11, 2000
Location
MA
TDI
ex- 1996 wagon, ex-2000 Jetta
Hello, Paul, and welcome aboard!

How much does the trailer weigh when it's loaded?
 

airstreamer

Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2011
Location
tofino, bc
TDI
golf 2011 tdi
hey dieseldorf - it's 3500lbs empty, so about 4000lbs with white/black water.
edit - sorry, it's 3500lbs fully loaded (including water).
 
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dieseldorf

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Oct 11, 2000
Location
MA
TDI
ex- 1996 wagon, ex-2000 Jetta
Do you know the towing capacity of the car, or are we completely ignoring it?
 

evanworld

Member
Joined
Oct 12, 2011
Location
Seattle
TDI
2012 Golf Tech 2D 6M; United Gray
This is wonderful - after passing so many ridiculous gas guzzlers, it's refreshing to see an eco-friendly option. Fancy and classy set up!
 

airstreamer

Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2011
Location
tofino, bc
TDI
golf 2011 tdi
thanks evanworld! the mileage i'm getting while towing is ~25mpg. which i think beats the pants off any V8/pickup type vehicle.
 

jsrmonster

Veteran Member - TDIClub Enthusiast
Joined
Apr 22, 2002
Location
Red Lion, PA
TDI
15 Golf SW DSG, RC3 piped, 99.5 Jetta Rocket PD150 6spd 4motion, 2000 ASV110 RC6 "Silverbullet" 5spd Race Car, 2003.5 Cummins QCLB 4x4 "Blue Monster" Jeep CRD juiced, MB Sprinter van juiced up
Wow, good luck with that! You are living dangerously, but worse putting others at risk too. If you have to swerve for an alligator in the road or a bunny rabbit/deer/dog/cat/armadillo/moose/etc, you will take up 2 lanes gathering control. The tail will wag the dog!

Poor car ;-(

Nice trailer though.
 

airstreamer

Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2011
Location
tofino, bc
TDI
golf 2011 tdi
jsrmonster - i've actually gone in an empty parking to feel the swerving/swaying and it doesn't sway at all (sway bar helps with that) and it doesn't wag at all. have you ever tried - or are you based that on speculation alone (not being mean - just curious)? the trailer corrects as quickly as the car does, and it handles better than my nissan xterra, even with the trailer behind it. with the trailer brakes, the car stops quicker than without too.

i'd say risk to myself/others would be more based on driving poorly. the golf consistently wins "tow car of the year" in europe. in north america people are marketed to for big trucks, so they all believe that's all that can tow anything.

look back 50 years - cars barely had 100hp, big trucks with duelies weren't ever used, and towed much larger trailers consistently. canada/america are just sold "bigger is better for towing" by truck companies...
 

dieseldorf

Top Post Dawg
Joined
Oct 11, 2000
Location
MA
TDI
ex- 1996 wagon, ex-2000 Jetta
Paul, completely ignoring all safety factors, I'll hope you'll give some thought to the load you're putting on the drivetrain of your new vehicle. You've more than doubled the weight the car was designed to move ;)
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis (where it's safe)
TDI
There are just too many to list....
That is a neat trailer. I've thought about getting something like that, but I'll go with something lighter (Airstreams, while very well made, are quite portly).

It is true that setups like this are quite common in Europe. Anyone seen the Top Gear episode where they were using a smallish Kia diesel to pull their "caravan"? It may look funny, but clearly his Golf can pull it. The court remains out on its longevity... I would want an EGT gauge installed (although once you see the EGTs your making, you may not want to pull it anymore!).

There are similar sized trailers available that are nearly half the weight. I need something I can pull behind both my Passat and my Vanagon, so 2500 pounds is about all I am gonna want.

Also, the Airstream 'Bambi' shown in your link, has a curb weight of less than 3000 pounds. I suspect Airstream sells lighter trailers there?
 
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jlock92

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 7, 2011
Location
Dallas, Texas
TDI
2012 Golf TDI
Paul, completely ignoring all safety factors, I'll hope you'll give some thought to the load you're putting on the drivetrain of your new vehicle. You've more than doubled the weight the car was designed to move ;)
Airstreamer has a point. I remember back in the day (early 1970s on) that you use to always see cars pulling trailers all the time. Most pick-up trucks back them were mainly owned by farmers or businesses for hauling purposes. As a kid, when my family lived in Los Angeles and traveled to Mississippi, you use to see all kind of cars pulling all kinds of trailers along the budding interstate highways (were in the finishing stages back them in some areas we traveled). In fact, the Buick Roadmaster has a higher towing capacity than many pickup trucks during its time in existence (10,000 lbs for the Roadmaster, most trucks were 6,000 to 8,500 lbs).

Like oilhammer said, I would probably go with a small/lighter trailer (like Casita, Scamp, etc) or a popup-style trailer. If you have a new Golf TDI (like myself), you should wait until down the road (after warranty/mileage break-in/some miles under the car's belt) before trying what Airstreamer is doing.
 

airstreamer

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Joined
Oct 24, 2011
Location
tofino, bc
TDI
golf 2011 tdi
oilhammer - sorry, i copy/pasted the wrong curb weight, the US model is just under 3000lbs empty, and 3500lbs with water/cargo. so it's the same, although a slightly different layout inside.

tomc585 - it's auto. all my other VWs (and every other vehicle i've owned) have been manual, but with towing, i wanted to focus more on driving/the road, so i went auto.

all - it's also broken in with 10,000kms before i started towing with, as was recommended by most RV dealers.
 

oilhammer

Certified Volkswagen Nut & Vendor
Joined
Dec 11, 2001
Location
outside St Louis (where it's safe)
TDI
There are just too many to list....
DSG.... holy cow. Yeah, that is probably not a good thing then. Maybe steady cruising on the highway would be fine, though. I'd not want to get caught in any traffic jams.
 

Ski in NC

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Jul 7, 2008
Location
Wilmington, NC USA
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2001 Jetta ALH 5sp stock
I've towed all sorts of things with all sorts of vehicles. Many times WAAYYY in excess of given limits. My take on those experiences is that the limits do not form a clear line between what is safe and what is not.

If a vehicle has crappy road manners when not towing (like most high CG trucks/suv's), then it will be REAL crappy when towing.

A Golf is super sure-footed on the road and that is a big factor in the whole rig being stable.

True, the size of that trailer is eye-opening behind that little car. But the proof is how it handles on the road. The more experience the OP has with the rig, the more he will understand its limits.

Hopefully, he will find the limits without finding the ditch!!

I'm not sure practicing in a parking lot is much use. Where you will lose it is on the highway if you have to make a quick maneuver at 60mph in a crosswind...

Think of this: a road tractor is somewhere around 25-30k lbs. They tow trailers at 50-55k lbs. Over 2X trailer vs tow vehicle weight. OP is a little over 1X.
 

airstreamer

Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2011
Location
tofino, bc
TDI
golf 2011 tdi
oilhammer - i've driven through rush hour in seattle and chicago. it sucks to be stuck in traffic with an RV, but it handled fine. before i bought it i tested in on the highway, city driving, stopping quickly, weaving, etc. i also received advice from many experts who speak globally about misconceptions and towing - all said it was 100% safe, and without remark in any locale but north america.

ski in nc - i have driven with 50-60mph cross winds - that also sucks, but it the trailer/car also handled fine. obviously i drive much more carefully in adverse conditions (not like some pickups with 5th wheels weaving in traffic, doing 90 around turns).
 

vwthingguy

Active member
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Sep 19, 2010
Location
South western Illinois
TDI
2010 Jetta w/DSG, 2005 Beetle (traded off)
Kudos to you Airstreamer!!! If your vehicle and skills permit it, I love it! It just shows what a good driver and good vehicle combo are capable of accomplishing. Like Ski pointed out, semi's carry way over 2X their weight and length, so don't let the nay sayers get to you. The old saying applies, never tell the person who is already doing something that it can't be done. I have seen a U-haul listing that showed that a Ford Explorer couldn't pull a certain trailer, but the mercury equivalent could...go figure that one out. Again, kudo's to you!!!
 

TheJeeper

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Joined
Oct 22, 2011
Location
CT
TDI
Still Searching...
Airstreamer, this rig is awesome!!! I absolutely love the airstreams, always wanted like an '88 or so, but that's a later-on (retirement...) dream lol. But huge props for using your golf as a hauler. I'm still in the buying process and search for an '04-'05 golf or jetta tdi, and really wanted to get some sort of ultra-light camper tow with it, and I would be using an auto also. I certainly don't have the cajones to tow an airstream, but this is definitely a really cool inspiration! And I own a 1993 F250 7.3IDI non-turbo diesel truck, and myself and a few others have towed loads that FAR surpass the manufacturer's recommendations for the vehicle, not just to be rebels, but with tried and tested experience the trucks were more than capable, and mine has been now for over 267K miles on original, un-rebuilt or beefed up driveline. I know an F250 and a Golf are like apples and ELEPHANTS, but the point is that the vehicles can handle, with proper driving and experience, more than "recommended". My point is, if you can handle that rig and have without issue or breakage, keep on keeping on! Again, awesome rig man!

Derek
 

dbwill

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 11, 2011
Location
Sarasota Florida, USA
TDI
2011 JSW 6M
I'm not sure the comparison to length and weight ratios is valid here. Doesn't it make a big difference that the pivot point on the semi is over the rear axle and the pivot point on a car or pickup towing is well behind? On the car, the first motion of the trailer is in the opposite direction of the car, then it swings back. That sets the stage for an oscillation that can throw you in the ditch. A semi or 5th wheel has the trailer initial motion in the same direction as the tow vehicle so it should be much more stable.
 

Andy T

New member
Joined
Oct 26, 2011
Location
London Ontario
TDI
2010 Jetta DSG
The pivot point location on a fifth wheel is an advantage for stability however there are also several disadvantages to a fifth wheel system. The pivot point is up very high along with the Centre of Gravity. A fifth hitch does not transfer weight to the front wheels of the tow vehicle. A fifth wheel gives a very stable feel running straight down the hiway but it does not have a lot of control in an accident avoidance situation espessially if you have to go onto a shoulder or median to avoid something. As well fifth wheels generally have much longer stopping distances because huge weight is transfered to the back wheels of the tow vehicle.

This Golf and Airstream combination is more stable and stops quicker than probably 98% of the RV's on the road. You really would have to drive it to beleive it.

We have been towing wth TDI's since 2006. We put 150,000 kilometers on our 2006 TDI with a 5 speed manual. At least half of those kilometers were towing and it did deliveries all over Canada. We did wear out the clutch at 140K but this car did hundreds of test drives often with people that had not driven a manual in years so I don't see that as too bad. The DSG and the 6 speed manual have a much lower first gear ratio so we will see how it holds up. We now have a 2010 Jetta with 95,000 kilometers on it and about 60K of that is towing, so far there have been no issues with it. The Jetta is not as stable as the Golf due to the longer rear overhang but the suspension is so nicely tuned on these cars it still works very well.

Independent rear suspension is a huge asset when towing. If you are looking for a TDI to tow with, the new Jetta with the twist beam axle is not as good as the 2010 and installing a proper receiver on it is consderably more difficult. The new Passat is not a problem.

Low aerodynamic drag, good balance and suspension on the trailer are considerably more important than just weight when assessing a trailer for towability. I hope this helps for those that may want to RV but not give up their amazing fuel economy.
 

08jetvette

Veteran Member
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Sep 27, 2011
Location
DFW
TDI
2003 Jetta, 2000 Golf
Wow, I would hate to get in some nasty crosswinds with that setup! That trailer looks to be too tall for the Jetta.
 

mittzlepick

Veteran Member
Joined
Mar 18, 2001
Location
union maine
TDI
2004 jetta wagon (365k)2001 wagon tire burner 6spd 2003 wagon(417k)
trailer trucks haul loads that outweigh themselves why can't a car? I hauled my fifth wheel at 15 16000 pounds with my 9000 pound truck well enough
 
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