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  #121  
Old 05-05-2021, 04:58 PM
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On the steepest hills (6% or more), the transmission will downshift to 3rd and the engine will rev to 5,000 rpm to maintain a speed around 55 mph. Under these conditions, this is all the power there is because the gas pedal is all the way to the floor! Getting up the steepest section of the Grapevine on I-5 north of Los Angeles takes about 15 mins of cumulative time in this regime. I don’t feel that this is too hard or demanding on the engine or transmission since it is not long duration.

However, if I lived or visited mountainous regions where I was climbing steep grades on a regular basis, I might consider moving to the V8 model, but don’t feel that this is an issue for the generally long relatively flat highways and short-term steep hills that I drive in California.

As I mentioned, I tow at 60-65mph. I know that the law in California requires that all vehicles with a trailer are limited to a max speed of 55 mph. But like Sammy Hagar sings, “I Can’t Drive 55”! With that being said, I have had numerous California Highway Patrol cars drive past and they completely ignore me at that speed.

I got the trailer up to a max speed of 75 mph and found that it took much more effort and concentration to keep everything under control. I think that 60-65 mph is the sweet spot.

While driving at 60-65 mph, the X5 gets an average of 8-9 mpg. I have found that using a baseline of 7 mpg to plan fuel stops works best and using a baseline of 60 mph is pretty accurate when estimating distance to go and/or arrival time.

This all equates to a practical range between fuel stops of 26-gals x 7 mpg = 182 miles or (182 miles divided by 60 mph) a fuel stop every 3 hours.

Continued next post...

Last edited by thstone; 05-05-2021 at 05:04 PM.
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  #122  
Old 05-05-2021, 04:59 PM
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Overall, the E53 X5 tows and handles the trailer weight very well. Both trailers include the use of a weight distribution hitch (WDH) with anti-sway control. While you can feel the weight of the trailer out back, it never feels like the tail is wagging the dog or that there is any concern for maintaining control even as big rigs pass by. The trailer tracks straight and the driving experience is fairly easy.

I had two experiences towing in winds gusting around 30 mph. I could feel the force of the wind buffeting the trailer but it was easy to control without any white knuckling.

On the longest trip, my wife towed for her first time for about 3 hours on the way there and 3 hours on the way back and she didnít have any problems or concerns.

Iíve gained some proficiency at backing up the trailers. I am glad that I rented the U-Haul trailer to practice backing up before attempting backing up with a full-size trailer as the practice allowed me to learn the basic maneuvers. While Iím definitely not a pro, I can at least back a trailer into a parking space within a couple of attempts.

I have a Prodigy P2 proportional brake controller installed in the X5. Both trailers that Iíve towed had electric trailer brakes which made a HUGE difference in stopping confidence and distance. After hitching up once, I didnít get the 7-pin connector fully seated so there was no trailer braking when I stopped at a traffic light. I immediately noticed the lack of stopping power (it would be hard to miss) and pulled over to find the source of the problem. After a quick re-seating of the plug, everything was working normally again.

The E53 3.0L X5 is a very comfortable tow vehicle with a nice ride, good ergonomics, and a great (aftermarket) stereo! The miles pass by easily. Overall, I really enjoy towing with the X5 and already have five more towing trips planned this year. I have found trailer camping to be incredibly convenient and fun.

Continued next post...

Last edited by thstone; 05-05-2021 at 05:04 PM.
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  #123  
Old 05-05-2021, 05:00 PM
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Pro Tips for Towing:
#1: Use a weight distribution hitch with anti-sway control
#2: Use side mirror extensions so you can see around the trailer.
#3: Donít be in a hurry. If youíre used to driving the interstates at 80+ mph (like I am), 65mph will feel like youíre barely moving but I found it best to relax and enjoy the drive.

I havenít encountered any real problems with the X5 while towing, but I have a concern that that the rear of the X5 sags under the load of the trailers. The sag isnít extreme but itís definitely there.

This might be the result of the weight distribution hitches that come with the rental trailers might not be perfectly adjusted specifically for the X5 or it might be that the X5 rear springs are a little soft for the load. There isnít any rubbing or bottoming out over even the harshest potholes and the handling is fine but it looks a bit wonky.

To address this concern, I am installing a pair of Air Lift 1000 air bags in the rear to better level the X5 while towing. These air bags wonít increase the tow capacity of the X5, but they will allow me to add air to better level the vehicle when towing and release air when not towing.
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  #124  
Old 05-05-2021, 05:01 PM
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Air bag install...
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  #125  
Old 05-05-2021, 11:22 PM
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Your experience towing sounds pretty much identical to mine -- I tow a 19 foot trailer up a mountain pass up to about 4500 ft. el. several times throughout the summers. I have a manual trans, so I have spent 10-15 minutes at WOT in either third or fourth many, many times. You really feel the elevation when towing a trailer uphill over a mountain pass.



You definitely should have just adjusted the WDH before installing airbags. You should be able to tune all of that sag out using the hitch. It's designed to transfer tongue weight from the back axle to the front axle. However, I suppose with the aftermarket hitch it may have stiffness issues which prevent it from doing that effectively. The stock hitch might have been milled from a single block of solid steel, it's so beefy (and also incredibly heavy).



I typically average around 12-13 mpg while towing though, so I wonder why you are seeing 9. Mine has been pretty consistent around that territory, and I have logged every tank since I bought the car.
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  #126  
Old 05-06-2021, 09:48 AM
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8mpg

My v10 Ford Excursion got better mileage than that...which is something that I very rarely was able to say
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  #127  
Old 05-07-2021, 12:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by c-bass View Post
8mpg

My v10 Ford Excursion got better mileage than that...which is something that I very rarely was able to say


My guess is that climbing 4200 vertical feet over Grapevine/Tejon Pass on I-5 (north of LA) is a big hit to the mileage. Next time towing, I'll check the mileage over a long section of flat ground to see how it compares.
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  #128  
Old 05-07-2021, 12:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bdc101 View Post
You definitely should have just adjusted the WDH before installing airbags. You should be able to tune all of that sag out using the hitch. It's designed to transfer tongue weight from the back axle to the front axle. However, I suppose with the aftermarket hitch it may have stiffness issues which prevent it from doing that effectively. The stock hitch might have been milled from a single block of solid steel, it's so beefy (and also incredibly heavy).
Since the trailers and WDH's are rentals, I don't have the flexibility to fully adjust the trailer hitch to perfectly match the X5 - I kind of have to take it "as-is" unless there was a glaring issue.

I am planning to continue renting trailers since the travel trailer market is insane right now (up to 6 months wait for delivery of a new trailer) so I think that the air bags will help for the time being. Then when I buy my own trailer, I can adjust my WDH to eliminate any rear sag and not need to put any air in the bags.
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  #129  
Old 05-07-2021, 01:17 PM
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Do the trailer rental companies give you the WDH along with the trailer? I've never heard of renting a trailer before, so I don't know what they require you to do. You should just buy your own WDH if you intend to eventually. You'll probably find that it makes towing much more stable when it's properly adjusted, even on straight/flat roads. It seems odd that the trailer rental company would require you to use their WDH, but let you drive off without adjusting it properly. Though like I said, I know nothing about renting that sort of thing.
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  #130  
Old 05-07-2021, 06:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bdc101 View Post
Do the trailer rental companies give you the WDH along with the trailer? I've never heard of renting a trailer before, so I don't know what they require you to do. You should just buy your own WDH if you intend to eventually. You'll probably find that it makes towing much more stable when it's properly adjusted, even on straight/flat roads. It seems odd that the trailer rental company would require you to use their WDH, but let you drive off without adjusting it properly. Though like I said, I know nothing about renting that sort of thing.
Renting a travel trailer these days works a lot like AirBnB: there are national websites where private trailer owners post their trailer for rent and renters (like me) use the website to reserve the desired dates, make payment, get insurance, etc.

RV Share - Rent RVs Direct from Local Owners

Almost all of the trailer owners provide a WDH that comes with the trailer rental. So when I arrive to pick up the trailer, we just insert the WDH into my receiver, couple up the trailer, hook up the chains and 7-pin, do a safety walkaround, and I'm ready to roll out.

There are two parts to a WDH: the portion that has the ball that inserts into the receiver of the tow vehicle and the portion mounts on the trailer frame and provides an attachment for the weight distribution/anti-sway bars. The portion that mounts on the trailer frame is somewhat permanent because it is mounted in a very particular location (according to the hitch manufacturer's directions) and is held on with numerous heavy bolts.

Therefore, its not practical for a renter to bring their own hitch and spend an hour bolting it onto the frame of the rental trailer and then having to spend time removing it when the trailer is returned. Also, the frame heights vary from trailer to trailer so a renter may have to own more than a single set of mounting brackets to be able to mount the portion of the hitch that attaches to the trailer frame to a wide range of trailers. It's much easier for the renter and the owner to simply use the hitch that the trailer owner provides.

Proper adjustment of the WDH often takes multiple tries. Its not as simple as just following the installation instructions and you're done. Usually the WHD is installed according to the hitch manufacturer instructions and then the owner adjusts it until its set just right.

This iterative adjustment process isn't something that most trailer rental owners are willing to spend time doing (if they even know how). Thus, if the trailer looks "pretty good" when its hitched to the tow vehicle, then the expectation is that the renter will use it "as is" and not waste an hour of the owners time trying to adjust it "perfectly".

I use "quotes" because everyone (each renter and each owner) has their own definition of what is "good enough". Thus, what justifies taking additional time to make a hitch adjustment is somewhat arbitrary.

Taking a conciliatory approach seems to avoid any conflict with the trailer owners who might consider a request to make further hitch adjustments to be "nit picking" and upset them.

In practice, this system works pretty well even though it's not optimal. Since the sag on the X5 is minimal and the trailers tow perfectly fine, the baseline hitch settings for the trailers that I have rented seem to be "good enough" for me to use without any concern for safety and provide a very comfortable and confident towing experience.

However, in the instance of the white GeoPro trailer, the trailer owner's hitch was clearly not set up to tow with my X5 and the owner and I both saw this. In this case, the owner readily agreed to take the time to make a hitch adjustment to get it "good enough".

As I said in my earlier post, when I purchase my own trailer and hitch, then I will take the time to adjust the hitch perfectly to dial out any sag. In the meantime, I'll use the air bags to fine tune the rear ride height. Its not a perfect solution but that seems to be one of the trade offs for using rental trailers.

Last edited by thstone; 05-07-2021 at 06:41 PM.
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