Is there anyone out there towing 2500kg with a Pathfinder 51?

Submitted: Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 15:16
ThreadID: 91244 Views:3303 Replies:8 FollowUps:17
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Ok, so the story so far...

We have a 2009 Pathfinder (bought in 2011) and a 21' van. We would like to talk about rig dynamics.
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Reply By: Robin Miller - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 15:44

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 15:44
Might be worth spelling out the model type and Issue Friday_dog , there is also a Pathfinder site.

The one in our family is Ti Petrol but it only tows 1500kg and it really hardly even feels the load.

There are a number of different parameters to the stability and traction control systems as well and these can play a part - one thread a while back in relation to Prado's towing had 3 rollovers which was put down to these interactions.

Another friend has the basic 2.5lt diesel version and absolutely hates it.
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Follow Up By: friday_dog - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 16:58

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 16:58
Hi Robin
Our vehicle is a Ti diesel version and, as this is our first 4x4, we have no point of comparison for many aspects of its behaviour. As our day-to-day car is a Citroen C5 diesel wagon, it doesn't help much for baselines for a full size 4x4. Although overall the Pathfinder is a comfortable drive and seems to do most things competently, we actually bought this vehicle with two criteria in mind. First, its has the capacity to tow our van, and second my wife (who has back problems) could get into/out of the vehicle reasonably easily (and she 'tried on' all other candidate vehicles).

We don't have any problem with the actual towing either, given the load limit is 3000kg, and it seems to move our van quite easily. And apologies for the lack of clarity, but weren't referring to any of the control systems in the Pathfinder itself.

Our problem is thus, raising our issue on the Pathfinder Club board, tends to get discussion specific to the vehicle, and as they seem to be mostly interested in off road applications, not much on towing a big van. Their solution was airbags or stronger rear springs.

On the other hand raising our issue on caravanner boards gets very quickly into mechanics of the van/vehicle equipment. ie all the problems are because 'you haven't adjusted/loaded things properly', 'you haven't used the same equipment as me...', and 'you should know better.'

Its our first 4x4 and first van, so we are looking for answers, and would rather talk to someone who actually knows how this type of combination works. Many responses we have generated in other areas, start with 'you made a mistake buying this configuration of van....', or 'I don't know this piece of equipment but I know you are doing something wrong, and this is what it is...'

While we respect the opinions, and value the input of all who have taken the time to respond to our questions, we would actually like to try to problem solve/share experiences with someone who has some directly comparable experience. Thus our question.

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Reply By: Nomadic Navara - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 15:47

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 15:47
Just ask your questions in open forum. I have a D40 which shares the same mechanicals.
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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 15:50

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 15:50
Details of your van would be a big help as well. Make, model, length, layout, Tare weight, ATM, actual loaded weight and loaded ball weight.
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Follow Up By: friday_dog - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 18:04

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 18:04
Hi Peter
You are actually having a related discussion with the MD on this topic elsewhere, but to paraphrase.

The van is a Viewfinder Ossa, 21', front kitchen, middle onsuite, rear bedroom, 2200kg Tare, 2800kg ATM, 2720kg actual loaded weight, 260kg loaded ball weight. There is an 800 eaz-lift WDH fitted and a single sway bar.

She is getting very stressed because many responses (but not all) to her questions fall into the categories mentioned above and have tended to overload her with technical detail.

There are approximately 90 other copies of this van on the road currently, towed by a range of other vehicles, but no-one uses a Pathfinder. The WDH is adjusted up to the same level as other units and none of them have reported the same vehicle levelling or stability issues.

I agree your D40 has same mechanicals as the Pathfinder, except for the use of leaf springs, rather than coils for the rear suspension, I believe. I also know of other Navara owners who have included a small added plate onto the leaf springs to improve carrying capacity.
Thanks for your time.

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Follow Up By: Nomadic Navara - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 19:58

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 19:58
Graham, basically there is nothing wrong with the pathfinders for towing. They do not need the rear suspension beefing up unless you are overloading them. I have two friends who tow larger vans than yours with Pathfinders. Neither have modified their tugs. If you are having towing problems due to your vehicle I suggest you have problems with your individual vehicle. I suggest you need to have it fixed rather than modified.

The problem with your MD is she will not accept that your WDH is not properly adjusted. The wheel arch heights that your MD posted clearly show your WDH is doing very little work. Although my friends employ Hayman Reese WDH it does not make any difference in operation, they both work identically. Both of then are able to tension their WDH to bring the height of their vehicles down to be the same as or lower than the height before the van was attached. You need to put more tension your Eaz-Lift bars to put more weight onto the front of your vehicle.

To get more tension on the WDH bars you may have to tilt the ball head back. This will lower the rear ends of the bars and will give them more tension when you snap them up into place. Raise the coupling of the van 75 - 100 mm higher than the normal travelling height with the jockey wheel to make it easier to hitch the bars. You may also have to lower the head on the shank (and thus lower the ball) to maintain proper trim with your van when you get the rear of the tug back to proper height.

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Follow Up By: friday_dog - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 21:40

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 21:40
Hi Peter
Thanks for your response.

I do not think the Pathfinder will have any problems with our van and I also believe that much of the unsettled highway behaviour will be corrected when I get everything leveled out.

I also understand my MD's frustration with the information/advice she had been receiving. Your last post and one from another contributor were the only posts to say more than 'adjust'. She has been going through many other boards and actually found a description of how to set the bars using the front van jack, just before this information was delivered. The problem for me is that I would think that if the rear springs on our Pathfinder are a little 'tired', then the back end drop would probably look exactly the same as if the WDH was ineffectively adjusted. So I believe there might be two factors at work here. We will eliminate hitch adjustment tomorrow as one of the factors, then, if needed, move to the second.

There are certainly many other posters who talk about sagging rear suspensions, even in light load conditions, so there may well be other Pathfinders needing some 'renovation.'

We had only ever looked to bring the suspension back to as normal as possible, we do not intend to do much off road, so ride comfort, while towing our van is the desired outcome.

Anyway, again thanks for your advice.

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Follow Up By: friday_dog - Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012 at 20:18

Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012 at 20:18
Hi Peter
First thing, at dealers tested their tech's patience. We tried every combination of hitch height, ball angle and chain tension we could think of. Some better, some worse results. The best we got was rear wheel arch gap 70mm and 130mm on front wheel arch gap, with car empty. Took out for drive on best setting, and then when straight to Pedders.

Ok, at Pedders. Diagnosis was rear suspension (unloaded) sagged 35mm, and with the van hitched 85mm. Installed heavy duty standard springs, and airbags, which brought body height back to factory standard. Adjusted van to level on hitch. Wheel arch measurements even.

On test drive, front of Pathfinder felt much more stable, however very windy day and on drive up Hume to home, kept to 80kph as wind gusts moved van around a bit.

Will try to move chains up another link tomorrow and raise rear tyres pressures on Pathy 5psi.

Will keep posted, but thanks for advice.

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Reply By: Pradobob - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 16:11

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 16:11
There is an interesting thread related to that topic here at the moment.

Hope the link works, and I hope the info is useful.
AnswerID: 475098

Follow Up By: friday_dog - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 18:14

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 18:14
Hi Bob
Thanks for the link and yes it does work.

However, that thread was actually started by the MD and she's getting a bit overwhelmed by some of the very technical responses. I was hoping to find someone who was prepared to talk, not lecture, as seems to be the tendency there.

A couple of correspondents there (Peter included) have been very helpful with addressing her concerns, and this is appreciated.

FollowupID: 750060

Reply By: DDCman - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 18:21

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 18:21
I have a 2011 pathfinder 2.5L towing a 16' Trakmaster. The van's tare is 1995 KG, but it has since had an extra battery and an extra solar cell added to it, and we generally travel with one water tank full (has 3 x 85 L tanks) plus full gas bottles. On top of that there is the usual junk, so probably about 2400~2500 all up. Anyway, I am very pleased with the way the set up works. I will add that I have a wd hitch fitted into the standard Nissan receiver which works for me. Steady as a rock, even when big trucks whoosh past. There are some hand wringers out there who will say you can't do that because of it's not clearly stated in the hand book or whatever, but the vehicle itself seems pretty strong to me. Common sense and bit of trial and see (I won't say error!). I have the chains on the second link, which levels it out completely, not that it really needs to pull it up that much.
If it's hilly terrain I tend to travel in 4th. On the flat, auto works fine. I sit on about 100K, slow down to about 80 when climbing a hill. It will go harder, but that costs diesel for no real reason. I've only been towing/vanning a little while, so am no expert. Basically, you have to suck and see for yourself. As you have discovered, there is lots of advice on all the forums, a lot of it conflicting!
AnswerID: 475105

Follow Up By: friday_dog - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 20:16

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 20:16
Hi Graham
Ok, first thanks for a grounded response. BTW I refer to it as 'trial and success'.

Can I ask a couple of clarifications first. One have you made any changes to the standard suspension ie air bags/shocks? Two what make of WDH are you using? Three how do you tension the chains on the WDH? What distance have you towed overall approximately?

I have just received a post on another site, which says, after connecting van to vehicle, to use van jack to raise hitch about 75mm, and then connect the chains. This is the only thing I have heard about which actually addresses issues of 'adjustment' mentioned by many other posters.

Anyway we are glad to have heard from someone with some related experiences.
Thanks again.

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Follow Up By: DDCman - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 22:35

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 22:35
The suspension is stock standard.

The wdh is 800lb Haymen Reese.
We bought the Van in Brisbane, so had to tow it back to Melb. We meandered our way back over a 2 week period. Nervous at first, but then a piece of cake after two weeks. Have since done a short trip over xmas.

The chains on mine have 11 links. I use the 9th link from the bar, ie there is only one 'floating' link, so it is by no means stressed. I use the foot long helper bar to put it on to the A frame holder thingo. I reckon I could do it one handed (not wise though, could be de-balled in a blink!). Once that one is on, the other, I just about could do by hand, as the first one alone almost does the job, so all the stressing and stuff that you have to do(as I read on the caravan forum) is a puzzle to me. Maybe your ball weight is just way out of whack and is just too heavy?
FollowupID: 750083

Follow Up By: friday_dog - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 23:19

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 23:19
Hi Graham
Thanks for response.

Given the HR website says the minimum length below the bar should be four links, your's is well understressed, and that's good (but don't blink).

Our Pathy seems to be suffering from a combination of insufficient stress on WDH (it has three loose links) and possibly a somewhat tired rear suspension (seems to quite common from other boards). Am going to try resetting the WDH tomorrow, and if not enough height gained will go to Pedders for replacement springs.

Towball weight is well in limits, we got that checked last week.
Again thanks for sharing experience.
FollowupID: 750088

Reply By: Member - Vern - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 19:23

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 19:23
Friday Dog

I have a 24.5ft van weighing in a 2.6t empty and until recently I towed it with my 2006 Pathfinder. As far as i am concerned the Pathfinder had more than enough power to tow the van. I have just bought a Patrol and the Pathy had more power however the van and vehicle are a lot more stable.

AnswerID: 475114

Follow Up By: friday_dog - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 21:57

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 21:57
Hi Vern
Thanks for your response.

I agree the Pathfinder should manage our van with comfort. The main problem we have faced is the rear suspension drops when the van is hooked up, and at present only recovers a little when the WDH is connected. We have had many comments on the point that the WDH needed adjusting. We have now found out how this might be achieved. If we achieve a partial fix, will mean we need to move to the suspension issues.

Getting the body level on the Pathy should, I believe, correct its odd on road behaviours.

Anyway again thanks.
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Follow Up By: Member - Vern - Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012 at 06:59

Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012 at 06:59
Hello Graham.

I had no drop in the rear of the Pathfinder at all ,
There was a number of reasons for that.

(1) I changed the draw bar from Nissan to Hayman Reese. Nissan do not recommend Load levelling devices on their draw bars
(2) I did have a suspension upgrade (2" lift) which was one of the best things I did to the Pathy.
(3)I also had Poly air bags in the rear coils which also helped when adding the van to the back of the pathy.

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Follow Up By: 4X4Treker - Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012 at 19:30

Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012 at 19:30
Not sure what you have done to the Patrol but be careful I had poly air bags on my Patrol and the right hand rear coil tower gave out and I had to have it replaced and I was advised that most of the problem was due to the air bags as they do not let the suspension use its travel to absorb the bumps, so I had both rear coil towers replaced and then strengthened and I am about to put in the new coil tower brace sold by superior engineering on as an extra safe guard, most of the damage to my suspension was from off road use but I also tow a 2.5 ton Island Star Off Road so I gave the Patrol a 50mm lift with variable rate coils so that the springs take the load.
I also use a load distribution on the hitch but only ever on a low tension setting.

I would be looking at a suspension upgrade with variable rate springs in the rear and I see that you are not placing high tension on the WDH this is a good thing even though the Pathfinder runs a ladder chassis it is not as strong as the larger 4X4 chassis like the Patrol and the Landcruiser

Happy Holidays
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Follow Up By: Member - Vern - Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012 at 19:59

Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012 at 19:59
Hi there Treker

I have not done the lift in my Patrol as yet but was planning this in the next few weeks. I was going for the 3" lift and poly airs in the rear, however I will re-think the Poly airs on your recommendation and experience.

My parts supplier and fitter also said not to go for the Poly Airs.

Thanks for the heads up on this issue.

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Follow Up By: friday_dog - Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012 at 20:24

Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012 at 20:24
Hi Vern
We had heavy duty standard springs put in by Pedders, and airbags. We will not have them inflated above minimum except with van attached.

Pedders only concern was apparently raising suspension on Pathys was that it caused added stress on CV joints due to changed angles. So we went for standard heights.
Thanks for help.

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Reply By: stevie1947 - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 20:58

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 20:58
I have a 2009 Pathy 2.5l and tow a 21'6" Island Star caravan which weighs around the 2.5t. The only "add ons" are Polly Airbags, DP chip and a hayman Reese levelling kit. I can sit on 100 in the right conditions without any sway, but in cross winds I am a lot more carefull.
To get the tug and van level you need to adjust the chains which should pull the rear of the tug upwards. My chains are adjusted on the 5th link from the bar.
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Follow Up By: friday_dog - Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 23:06

Monday, Jan 16, 2012 at 23:06
Hi Stevie
Thanks for your response.

On our first trip, I had the WDH chains on the fifth link, but this did not raise the Pathfinder body back to level. We have a strategy for tensioning the bars more tomorrow, so we will see what happens.

BTW why did you install the Poly Airbags?

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Reply By: Member - Bucky - Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012 at 05:50

Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012 at 05:50

We had a 2003 Twin Cab Navara, and it as a little sagy/unstablestable, weighted up towing.
I fitted Poly Air Bags, and with 12 psi in them, the difference was amazing.

I set the valves around my fuel tank filler, replacing 2 of the 3 screws with the valves, that hold the filler in place.
A simple bike pump was my adjuster. ( quick and easy )

When not towing, I run the minimum 5-7 psi, and the Navara drove normally.

By the way, I had 2 sand bags (approx 300kgs) permanently in the tub, for even weight distribution on all 4 wheels, and that also made a huge difference to handling

Hope this helps a bit
AnswerID: 475164

Reply By: Nomadic Navara - Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012 at 15:22

Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012 at 15:22
For all of you who have beefed up the rear suspension and added air bags for towing, have you also beefed up the front suspension to maintain the correct amount of understeer for your vehicle? At lower speeds and in good conditions your rig may seem more stable. However if your speed unexpectedly creeps up on you downhill or something else happens to to create instability in your van yo most likely will have far less chance of controlling your rig.

Read what an engineer versed in vehicle suspension design has to say on the subject - Site Link

Warning - The average mechanic running one of those specialist suspension joints has no clues on this matter.

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Follow Up By: friday_dog - Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012 at 22:39

Wednesday, Jan 18, 2012 at 22:39
Hi Peter
Thanks for your continued advice and interactions.
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