TnBlueJLU

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Ben
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Over the past 2 years I have driven over 9000 miles towing 2 different travel trailers behind my daily driver JLU. My family of 2 adults, 2 kids has camped in a range of campgrounds in nearly 20 states. This has turned out to be a great way for us to travel cross-country and visit some amazing places. I haven't read a lot of detailed towing info on this forum. I hope this info is helpful to someone.

20200624_131252.jpg


Vehicle:

2018 JLU Sport S, Hardtop, 3.6L, 8spd Auto trans
w/ tow package, limited slip rear end, std headlights (not LED)
now ~44,000 miles
BFG K02 A/T tires on JK Rubicon wheels
JL Rubicon takeoff suspension (shocks/springs only), no extra lift

Elec brake controller: Tekonsha 90195 P3
Weight Distributing Hitch: Eaz-Lift 48051 Elite 600lb
Roof Rack: Rhino Rack Pioneer platform on Backbone mount

Travel Trailers:

2018 Forest River Clipper Cadet 16CBH
Dry weight ~2700 lbs
~3200 lbs loaded

2020 Rockwood GeoPro G19BH (removed elec tongue jack & moved battery to rear)
w/ TPMS, “off-road package” (mud tires!?)
Dry weight 3150 lbs
3500 lbs loaded

My experience:

The Jeep was an absolute MVP on these trips. It was completely reliable and predictable, and the drivetrain performance was flawless. Thermal management was perfect, including in some very hot (desert) and demanding (long, steep grades) conditions. I watched coolant, oil, and trans temps and they NEVER budged out of mid-range. The thoroughly modern, fully throttle-by-wire fuel management delivered an average 9.5 mpg while towing. In my opinion a mostly-stock JLU makes for a fine travel-trailer tow vehicle. Super flexible and easy to get in/out of campgrounds and fuel stops etc. It is a great travel/vacation platform when you consider the benefits of having your Jeep available as soon as you drop the trailer.

Handling while towing is predictable at max gross. At 3500 lbs you will never say ‘I can’t even tell it’s back there’, but it was never scary. Handling in a panic stop felt stable and predictable, but this only happened a few times and always straight ahead.

With 400lbs on the tongue, the headlights are no longer aimed correctly and this will not be appreciated by oncoming cars at night. Your WD hitch helps reduce this. Adding helper springs in the rear (like airbags) helps more. When I towed the 2700lb camper in 2019, I installed the Rubicon springs on the back of the Jeep only (which created a slight down-in-the-front stance without trailer). This worked pretty well and along with the WD hitch, kept the headlights aimed in a good place. In 2020 I had the Rubi springs in front too, and used the airbags to level the vehicle. This worked great since it could be adjusted to sit flat with or without trailer. However after 3500 miles a bag split at the seam and failed. Getting the Jeep to sit flat with the trailer did not seem to improve handling, but it looks better.

Towing performance (power) varies based on elevation and speed varies with headwind. Typically on flat ground I could sustain 75mph at sea level, while 68mph was more typical near 5k ft elevation. At sea level the 3.6L can pull a 3500lb trailer up an interstate grade at 70mph in 4th. In general I drove the speed limit or less until I was very comfortable with road and traffic. In any sort of weather or unfamiliar location I do not exceed any posted warning speeds.

I used cruise control a lot, and found that using the transmission lever as a manual gear ‘hold’, or manual shift (M5/M4 most typically), worked very well. Keeping the rpm below ~4300 helps reduce any sense of drama, as well as stress on driver and passengers.

Due to the narrow width of the Jeep mirrors, I recommend a rear view camera on the trailer. With this added, I have never felt the need for tow mirrors (which would have to stick WAY out to see around the camper). I mounted the screen to my rear view mirror in such a way that it is quickly removable when I drop the trailer. I have been very pleased with the AMTIFO FHD 1080p 7in unit, on Amazon for ~$180.

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General thoughts:


I feel that exceeding the 3500lb max JLU tow weight for cross-country travel is not wise. I believe that this max tow rating is reasonable for the JLU for interstate driving. I would not choose to tow more than that on the interstate.

My Jeep/camper combo did best with ~400lbs tongue weight. In general I would try not to exceed this without some help for the rear springs.
Wind is a factor for handling on the highway. Both crosswind and turbulence from other vehicles can push the JLU around more than I have experienced with other vehicles. Stay alert and focused. Slow down in crosswinds.

Unloading the front axle (due to tongue weight acting behind the rear axle) is reducing traction at the front tires. This could affect cornering ability, especially in rain. A WD hitch reduces this effect, but helper springs in the rear do not. In any case leave yourself extra margin. Beware of increased tendency to hydroplane in front.

Watch for high Weight Distributing hitch loads causing excessive torsion on the rear frame crossmember. (The WD hitch helps level your tow vehicle by transmitting a “twisting” force through the hitch, and the frame has to handle this torsion.) Look at the clearance between the hitch and rear bumper to observe this torsion while tensioning the WD hitch bars. This load can increase significantly when the road surface is uneven.

Beware clearance between the front of the trailer (especially the trailer tongue jack) and spare tire, especially if you plan to go offroad. I swapped the power jack that came with my camper with a manual crank jack to gain clearance. I ended up also moving my spare tire to the roof so that I didn’t have to worry about contact. That also allows me to open the back gate enough to open the glass while the trailer is attached. Not possible with the spare in its normal place on the gate.

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Keith C

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Thank You!! I have been looking for information regarding towing a small trailer but have found very little.
I found this article:
https://drivinvibin.com/2020/09/20/trailers-that-can-be-towed-with-a-jeep/
which was helpful but your info is great.
We have many friends that have RVs that they tow with a truck (which I traded in for the Jeep) to go out to the desert for weekend camping trips. I have been looking for an option to join them that is a bit better than a Roof Top Tent. My wife requires a bit more than primitive camping!
 

av8or

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I appreciate the write up. I feel the same way, I tow a camper with my 3.6 and it does shockingly well! I don’t push it hard, and i get over 11 mpg.
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Left Field

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Having recently done a coast-to-coast round trip with a fully loaded ZJ and camper, and looking forward to the next trip in a JLU, your write-up was exactly what I am looking. Thanks!
LF
 

TrailScooter

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Apreciated information TBlue.. Been wondering about fuel usage and handling etc...

But, can you do it all again with a JT Rubicon? :fingerscrossed:
 

Keith C

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I appreciate the write up. I feel the same way, I tow a camper with my 3.6 and it does shockingly well! I don’t push it hard, and i get over 11 mpg.
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That's a great picture. Life goals!
 

zfike88

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Any reliability issues worth noting with the jeep?
 

robynE

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All I can add to this is the ABSOLUTE necessity for a PROPERLY ADJUSTED weight distribution hitch (a properly adjusted WDH should not leave your headlights pointing upward unless your tongue weight is really well over 400 to start out) and conscious and diligent assessment of EXACTLY what your tongue weight is. Bottom line for everyone: Buy a tongue scale!

My 2018 2.0 Turbo tows SUPER EASY and I will say "I don't even feel it back there" even on take off from a stop light. I've got a 2021 4xe or order though and its got a lot more power than this one.

My 2019 [email protected] 400 is 2700 dry, 3200 wet at most and I'm a single traveler who is also a minimalist, I made some minor mods like switching out the LP tank from a 20lb to a 10lb, and I built a (much better looking) and lighter dinette table, moved the spare tire under the bed (where it was anyway from the factory) My ready to camp tongue weight is 380. The WDH will distribute 1/3 of that to the trailer axle and 1/3 to the front axle on the Jeep , and a remaining 1/3 on the rear axle. I'm almost perfectly level when I tow with only a 1/2" rise on the front and 1/4" squat on the rear from when I have nothing attached and when I'm hooked up and ready to pull out.

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Jaeth

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Love the write up. Thank you. What WDH setup are you (and others) using? We currently have an Aerolite 174e, and I'll need a good WDH to pull it with the JLUR in a couple months.

We had one when I was a kid we used with our XJ and trailer, but most I've seen these days are WDH and sway control all in one.
 

_olllllllo_

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Great write up and thank you for sharing your experiences. I am looking at an Off Grid Trailers Expedition 2.0 trailer that is 1800 lbs dry.
 
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TnBlueJLU

TnBlueJLU

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  • Thread starter
  • Thread Starter
  • #13
Any reliability issues worth noting with the jeep?
Absolutely no reliability issues with the Jeep during or after the trips. The only things that have failed were aftermarket items that I installed myself.
 
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THANK YOU for posting this. I have a TJ Wrangler; We have 2 kids with multi-state plans as well. I am a seasoned Jeep fan. Wife has been trying to convince me to get a 4runner/Tacoma, etc to pull a trailer.

I can now do both! And since you have done it with 2 kids - SO convincing.
 

robynE

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Trust me, I am PRO towing with a Jeep Wrangler (4 door of course and a weight distribution hitch) but you absolutely have to be mindful of your tongue weight and not just the gross weight. I personally wouldn't consider going over a 420 tongue weight(I'm at 380 fully loaded and ready to go) and even that is over the 350 max set by Jeep. I do understand that for legal reasons, they understate the capability, but....

I would be especially aware of the payload weight inside the jeep with two adults, two kids, and all the camping gear in the Jeep, and in the trailer.

Here is how to determine if your weight distribution hitch is adjusted properly:

WDH Set Up

1) Level trailer and measure from ground to top of coupler.
Measurement: _________

2) Measure from ground top of hitch ball on Jeep.
Measurement: _________

*Top of hitch ball should be ¾” to 1” taller than top of trailer coupler.

3) With Jeep loaded for trip (also account for weight of passengers) but uncoupled from trailer measure distance from ground to top of front wheel well without WDH or any weight on hitch. (use same measurement spot for all measurements)

Front Wheel Well Measurement A: ________

4) Hook up camper to Jeep without WDH arms (full weight on hitch ball). Measure front wheel well again.

Front Wheel Well Measurement B: ________

Total difference between A and B measurement: ________

Half of that difference: _______

5) Hook up WDH.

Front Wheel Well Measurement: ________ (should be within half of the difference between A and B.

Should be at least halfway back to measurement A. Higher than A this means hitch is under adjusted. Lower than A means WDH is over adjusted.

If you can’t get the measurement within the appropriate range (half the difference) then you are unable to tow safely.
 

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