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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
My wife and I recently returned from a 30 day, 6,000+ mile trip from Northern California to central Florida and back.

We towed our Airstream Basecamp trailer and, after removing the 2nd and 3rd rows of seats, the back of the van carried two Recumbent tricycles and various cycling parts/ tools bags and personal luggage. The van was topped with a largish Yakima box mounted to a Yakima tower rack.

On balance, the trip was good and everything performed reasonably close to expectations. Here are some observations that deserve mention:

Towing - Weight

The 16.5 ft. Airstream trailer is about 2,500 lbs dry and about 3,000 ready to travel. Using the standard 10% of tow weight as a starting point for hitch weight capacity, one might think that the 5,000 tow capacity of the Metris would leave quite a bit of headroom for the hitch, but the Basecamp is designed with most of the heavy parts like fridge, stove and kitchen cabinetry at the front of the coach so, without loading it up, it starts with some 425 lbs tongue weight. Having two full propane tanks on the front of the frame is common for trailers, but they contribute greatly to the total 470 lbs presented to the ball hitch.

The result of that weight was a lowering of the rear of the van to a point just short of feeling a light front end and consequent iffy steering or raising the angle of the headlights to a point where oncoming drivers started freaking out. In fact, we drove over 3,000 miles with only a hint of lighter steering feel and never had a problem with headlights being too high.

Still, I wanted to regain some of the sag that came with hooking up the trailer so I ordered a set of Superspring rear coil inserts while on the road which I installed after they arrived at our destination in Florida. The inserts gave back about 1.5” of that which was lost after hooking up the trailer. That translated into more rear travel and more feel in the steering wheel. I would guess that anyone towing a trailer that brings more than 400 lb. tongue weight to the Metris would do well to add something like the Superspring inserts. Ideally, an airbag solution would be more flexible, but as of last month when I was researching options, non of the airbag manufacturers offered a setup for the Metris.

Towing - Electric Brakes

I use a Prodigy in my Jeep Grand Cherokee while towing the Basecamp and it works great. Unfortunately, my 2018 Metris Passenger van has none of the wiring/modules that are necessary for getting a signal from my right foot to the trailers electric brakes so some kind of wireless controller was in order. To add further misfortune to the missing circuitry in the Metris, the Prodigy RF receiver has to be bolted to the front of the trailer frame (oh boy, more tongue weight) and has been found to be iffy in pairing with the Metris without first pairing it with a Chevy or some other American vehicle. Too many chances for failure for my liking.

Just prior to our trip, I discovered the Curt Echo Bluetooth controller. It had just been released and I decided to give it a try as it added no additional weight to the trailer frame and was designed to work from a smartphone app (iPhone, in my case).

The controller plugs into the 7 pin receptacle on the Metris and the 7 pin plug from the trailer plugs into the controller. You pair the controller to the phone and you are in business. The app gives adjustments for brake power and sensitivity. While it does not seem as intuitive as dialing in the Prodigy P3 that I also use, I fussed with the settings during the early part of the trip and it didn’t take long before I forgot about the controller. It simply worked to keep the trailer from pushing the van and it reduced braking distance significantly over no trailer brakes.

Only downside of the Curt Echo was discovering that the plastic flap the covers the female end when the trailer plug is not inserted and also serves to provide a plastic “catch” which keeps the trailer plug in place broke in half which made for no safety catch to hold the plug in. Luckily, I discovered it at the next stop and whipped out several zip ties. The zip ties worked for the remaining 4,000 miles which gave me the confidence to ask Curt to hold off on trying to get me a replacement while on the road. The new controller arrived a couple of days after we returned. Kudos to Curt.

Check Engine Light

After leaving New Orleans and heading toward Dallas, we passed through Baton Rogue and encountered rain that lasted some 450 miles; at times at an intensity that made simply seeing the road ahead difficult. Though the Metris handled the physical act of getting us through the downpours safely and sure footedly, the check engine light light decided to come on which turned the engine from a turbocharged four into a Briggs and Stratton V twin with one fouled plug. I shut things down and fired it up and the light went out... well the first time, it went out. The next time it came on without reducing power and the third time it went into Briggs mode again.

We made it to Dallas and luckily stayed about 4 miles from a MB dealer. They took us in early the following day and cleared the fault. They were not sure what caused the light to come on so I mentioned the rain and wondered whether water could have gotten into the airbox. The tech took it apart and agreed that the airbox that draws air from the passenger wheel well must have sucked just enough moisture (after 450 miles of monsoonal rain) to trigger the fault. No problem since. My suggestion while driving a Metris in a monsoon is don’t or at least slow way down to lessen the water force/volume coming up the front wheel well.

Road Noise

We chose the Passenger van for many reasons and reduced road noise over the cargo version was high on the list. In practice, that decision was borne out as worthwhile except for one set of circumstances.

A significant portion of our American roadways are in horrible shape or have been repaired with poor performance patch jobs that are more third world than transcontinental US super Highway quality. The net effect is that while the passenger van is generally acceptable on road noise, crappy patch jobs (which in some states last for dozens of miles) or application of chip seal instead of quality asphalt makes for tire noise that can (and does) drown out music and books on tape. Even the mega buck sound system I installed couldn’t overcome the tire noise on certain long lasting highway sections.

The stock Continental VancoFourSeason tires are, in my view, very loud over less than pristine surfaces; even louder than the Michelin X-Ice snow tires that I ran this past winter. Anyone who has similar experiences with stock tire noise is encouraged to add their comments.

Bottom line is that the Metris performed admirably. It was comfortable for long (up to 675 mile) day’s. Mileage was 15-16 mpg overall with trailer and large box on top, cargo space is amazing with preinstalled tie downs, air conditioning was spot on throughout the van and power was quite adequate. The van has a ton of torque which makes it ideal for towing. All in all, a good trip.
 

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Might be that when towing your drawing a fair bit more air into the motor as its under higher load/turbo is spooled higher so it may have pulled in more moisture.

Nice looking setup!

Couldn't you also use a weight distributing hitch? Then you can dial in whatever amount of force you want.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I have used weight distributing hitches with a trailer that had room to store the bars, etc. when the tow vehicle is disconnected. This trailer is real basic regarding storage and I don’t want to leave the hardware out or in the van while out and about.

I still check in on WDH offerings to see if anyone has one that is real small and easy to stuff somewhere,
 

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Air bags will certainly raise the back end giving you more clearance and a level ride. But it won't change the weight distribution. Just because the fulcrum (rear suspension) is raised, it won't change the fact that the same downward force on the ball hitch results in the same upward force on the front suspension. Hence the weight distributing hitch which adds another lever.
 

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I can recommend the Anderson WDH. It is small and lighter than others, and no bars to stow. I wouldn’t use it on a large trailer, but it does well on my ~3700lbs trailer.
 

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Thanks for posting this.

It sounds like the real issue is that the tongue weight is too high.

I wonder if there is an assumption that people will pack heavy items into the back of the trailer?
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Thanks for posting this.

It sounds like the real issue is that the tongue weight is too high.

I wonder if there is an assumption that people will pack heavy items into the back of the trailer?
I have monitored the tongue weight with various packing configurations and it has never gone beyond the presumptive limit of 10% of the 5,000 lb. “capability” of the Metris. I am guessing that anyone who runs a trailer with similar tongue weight will have the same effect even though it would be less than the rated weight.

After moving a bunch of stuff out of the back of the van and the front of the trailer to over and behind the trailer axle set, it’s down to 410 lbs. Even at 410, the rear coils compressed the same as when it was up about 470 lbs. The SuperSprings gave back about 1.5”.
 

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I read your post with great interest as I have a 2016 Metris passenger which I removed all the seats and used it for cargo, etc. I also rely on it for my only driving vehicle. I chose the passenger for the safety and other comfort features not available on the cargo version. I have been contemplating buying a small travel trailer, namely an R Pod which is overall 20 ft and will probably weigh 3500 to 4000 pounds with cargo. I posted a question on the R Pod forum about opinions on the suitability of my van to tow, not that I would exceed the 5000 pound weight limit, but it only has a 4 cylinder engine. most of my responses said not to do it, but I have my doubts. You seem to be saying it is quite capable, but did you find yourself using the paddle shifters when encountering significant grades, etc? Any thoughts you have are appreciated. Marty
 

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Discussion Starter #18
The ratio between gross trailer weight and tongue weight can be a lot more complicated than the typical 10-15% of gross trailer weight.

My trailer will never see more than 3,500 lbs, but the tongue weight even when it is empty is 420 lbs. Part of this is that Airstream put a bunch of heavy built in stuff way up front. In addition, the trailer is single axle with the axle well aft of mid point in the frame.

In 6,000 miles, I think I hit the paddle to downshift once and that wasn’t because I actually felt a need to do so, it was because I just wanted to see what would happen on that hill.

I might have mentioned that I also use a 2014 Jeep GC to pull this trailer. It has a 6,200 lb. tow capacity. But it has a few ft. lbs. less torque than the Metris. We spent the vast majority of our trip in serious danger of speeding tickets. I don’t see the Metris as deficient as a tow vehicle for its rated weight, although rear air bags would be nice (the Jeep has air suspension front and rear and it is a pleasure for towing).
 

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Discussion Starter #19
BTW, a weight distribution hitch will help transfer the weight that would otherwise rest on the ball to a point forward of the rear axle of the tow vehicle. It certainly will not increase the tongue weight capacity of the vehicle, though.
 

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I read your post with great interest as I have a 2016 Metris passenger which I removed all the seats and used it for cargo, etc. I also rely on it for my only driving vehicle. I chose the passenger for the safety and other comfort features not available on the cargo version. I have been contemplating buying a small travel trailer, namely an R Pod which is overall 20 ft and will probably weigh 3500 to 4000 pounds with cargo. I posted a question on the R Pod forum about opinions on the suitability of my van to tow, not that I would exceed the 5000 pound weight limit, but it only has a 4 cylinder engine. most of my responses said not to do it, but I have my doubts. You seem to be saying it is quite capable, but did you find yourself using the paddle shifters when encountering significant grades, etc? Any thoughts you have are appreciated. Marty
This is a turbocharged engine, so it has a lot more power and torque than the average 4cyl motor. It should be able to tow up to the rating without significant difficulty, it has 7 gears to work with also, which helps a lot. Obviously on a steep grade in any gas powered vehicle your likely going to have to run some higher rpm's if you want to maintain a higher rate of speed....just the nature of gas engines.
 
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