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What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon?
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joe cool
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:49 pm    Post subject: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

We have a tent trailer, around 2000 pounds with a tongue weight around 250 pounds, electric brakes with an electronic brake controller. Can a Vanagon handle this or would that be a bad idea?
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:43 pm    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

Apparently about 2,000 lbs...

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:56 pm    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

Based on the towing I've done over the past 35 years I'd say 1,000 pounds is not much of a problem for these vans with a stock engine. Sure you may have to downshift on the hills but you'll get there. Folks have towed 6,000 pounds with these vans and commonly exceed the gross vehicle weight ratings just running around with accessories and gear on westfalias. I think you'll hear all kinds of numbers and experiences. So of course you can tow 2,000 pounds and yes you will be downshifting more often and stressing the tranny. The big question is how well your setup will stop in an emergency situation, which really comes back your equipment. Tires, suspension, shocks, brakes and brake controller. You may just have to try it to get your best answer.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 12:37 am    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

2wd up to 2000kg
4wd up to 2500kg

Vans with German plates alowed 4500kg total van + trailer.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 2:15 am    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

Waldi wrote:
2wd up to 2000kg
4wd up to 2500kg

Vans with German plates alowed 4500kg total van + trailer.


Strictly speaking, I believe those EU weights were only for turbo diesel vans and only if the they had a 'Special Certificate' from VW for uprated towing, otherwise it was 1500kg for 2WD and 2000kg for 4WD / Syncro. Also these are only for braked trailers - unbraked trailers were strictly maximum 600kg.

I'm not sure what the rated towing capacity was on US Vanagons.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 4:42 am    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

I would say that a Vanagon 'may' be able to handle it. It is at the upper limit (or maybe over) but at least you have electric brakes for the trailer. I would be concerned about keeping under control in an evasive maneuver situation. Others have towed as much and more.... YMMV.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 4:52 am    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

I think you can get more than 2000 tows into a Vanagon, unless they are halluxes.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:51 am    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

I always say just how far and how much is expected..
local 50 miles of flattish 2ndry roads (meaning 65mph max) sure
300+ miles of hilly interstate at 70mph+ nope.. not for all that long..

it can do it, but what do you expect it to do it for and how long is the key.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 7:45 am    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

Thanks for the replies. It does not sound like there is consensus on this.
Braking is not a concern for me, the electric trailer brakes work great. Transmission, on the other hand, is a concern. I imagine Vanagon transmissions are probably quite pricey. Is this the weak link?
(We are currently towing the trailer with a 2003 Toyota Highlander. It has just enough muscle but the front wheel drive only makes for poor traction on loose surfaces. I would love an excuse to replace it with another bus, but maybe that is a bad idea?)
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 7:52 am    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

I'm surprised by the responses. My gut reaction is 2000 lbs is too much. The eye bolt tow bar for one is not rated for that. I think it is a class 3 rating, 100 lb tongue and 1000 or 1500 lb total. But even with a heavy duty frame hitch I think you would run into problems not having enough power to get up hills.

I towed a completely full 5x8 enclosed trailer from my house to a storage yard about 15 miles away and it was pitiful trying to get up inclines. It is one thing using it for short trips, but a travel trailer implies more miles on winding roads. I think the strain on the engine and transmission and the lack of driveablity would make it unpleasant for regular use.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:03 am    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

joe cool wrote:
We have a tent trailer, around 2000 pounds with a tongue weight around 250 pounds, electric brakes with an electronic brake controller. Can a Vanagon handle this or would that be a bad idea?


Year, engine, manual or automatic?


Describe how you will be towing it - distance, time, and terrain before the advisability can be determined.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:39 am    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

2000 KG would cover my race car and trailer. I'll need to try that at some point.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:42 am    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

That's what I want to hear, Mark!!! Cool
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:44 am    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

I dunno, but mine did fine with this, what's yer guess?

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 11:46 am    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

469 bhp in the gray one? Wink
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 12:00 pm    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

Have not yet put it on my Dyno... I keep one in my basement, so it'll just be a quick drive-in-drive-out thing Wink
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 12:04 pm    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

If you are thinking about getting a vanagon for the purposes of towing that trailer I would choose a different tow vehicle. As for replacing the transmissions it just depends on your perspective. In general you can have one rebuild for $1,500-2,500 if you pull the transmission. My sister's 06 Ford mini van lost the torque converter and that is estimated to be a $2,700-4,000 job. I'd rather throw money at the vanagon than an 06 ford mini van. Vanagon transmissions hold up best with the stock engines and no towing duty. They just aren't that "strong" for heavy duty service. This is all hypothetical so maybe you tow a 2k trailer and rebuild the tranny in the next 25,000 miles instead of getting 50,000 out of it. Again it will do it but I think it would be a comprised situation in an emergency and you'll have a new set of issues to work through. I would buy something else for towing that trailer.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 12:21 pm    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

If you have a NEW transmission with all new VW-quality gears, bearings, shafts cases etc. you can probably can go to 2000 lbs. If not in the mountains, and if not "far" such as on a multiday trip. And if you don't have a big engine, pushing the trans harder than it was designed for.

Here's towing about 1200 lbs back in 2010, and I remember the gut-feel like it was about "the limit". This was a 125 miles tow. Knowing what I know NOW, I would limit this to a short careful trip. I'd do 125 miles, but perhaps more carefully. Back then I thought 3rd gear was being careful, even if it was 5,000 RPM.

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The reality is that your trans probably has a few old parts in it. At ~30 years old, it could have been rebuilt once or twice already. And perhaps ALL old parts. And was it rebuilt to meet a price point like $1095 and 90 day warranty? Or was it rebuilt for original quality? These two rebuild levels are appx $4-5000 difference in cost. When rebuilt to $5000, you don't forget that choice...... Wink
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 1:39 pm    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

I've towed ~1300 lbs of trailer + motorcycles behind my 1980 aircooled Vanagon. Did SoCal to Flagstaff,AZ and then on to the Grand Canyon before heading for home again. Maybe 1500 miles all told.

It was not fast, but it could generally keep up 55MPH except in places like Cajon pass,etc where I'd be going slower anyways. Certainly going up Cajon where I'm going 35-40 in 2nd gear anyways the trailer did not really slow me down any.

I do not use the tow-hook attachments for towing however, I use a Rocky Mountain Westy bumper which is a very stout piece.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 2:14 pm    Post subject: Re: What is the tow capacity of a Vanagon? Reply with quote

I tow this every summer for 250 miles each way to go camping. More than 1000 lbs with our yurt and supplies. No elec brakes. Very conservative on down grades due to no elec brakes.

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