Parts to Prepare 2011 Honda Pilot to Tow Travel Trailer Through Rocky Mountains

Question:

i have 2011 honda pilot and will be puling at new 13foot scamp 1200 empty throughout the rockies, yellowstone and other national parks. been told to get a simple sway bar to sudden stops and icy roads. trailer is easy to pull, had 2inch ball, i have a 2foot ball now and not quite level yet but both were empty when pulling home. can you help me get what we need, and also would like tire lock 3/16 and any other security to keep cute trailer safe when we are hiking.

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Expert Reply:

Your 2011 Honda Pilot that will be towing your new camper trailer through mountainous terrain in the Rockies will certainly benefit from some performance enhancements. A simple friction anti-sway bar like # 83660 can help with crosswinds and air blasts from passing trucks. These are inexpensive and simple to install; their tension is also adjustable. You just need to use a 2-inch bracket # RP26003 on your ball mount to provide a mounting point for the included ball.

Note that this type of sway control MUST be disengaged every time you back up the trailer and also when driving on slippery or icy roads. If you'll be in the mountains during cold weather you may find yourself often having to pull over to disconnect the friction sway bar.

I checked the Honda website for your van's towing capacity and weight specs. You're fine with your trailer dry weight since the van's towing ability is rated as 3500-lbs. Even with the camper fully loaded you'll be well within vehicle capacity. Note that the Scamp website lists the dry weights of their 13-footers as ranging from 1300- to 1600-lbs. GVW is not listed but the 2200-lb axle means the trailer's maximum gross weight will likely be 2000 to 2200-lbs.

This weight is about half that of your van (curb weight is 4310-lbs). This means you might be better off with a weight distribution (WD) system. WD systems are available with sway-control built-in, and these systems do NOT require you to disengage them for reversing the trailer or when driving on slippery roads. You'll want to check the van's top-of-wheel-to-fender clearance with and without the loaded trailer hitched. If you find more than 1-1/2-inches of sag at the rear axle and/or more than 1-inch of rise at the front tires with the loaded trailer hitched then you need WD to even out the forces on both axles.

These systems re-distribute trailer tongue weight from the rear axle to the front axle. This means better steering and braking performance and more even tire wear since the Pilot's front tires will be making proper contact with the road and not be lifted up by trailer tongue weight on the hitch. If you choose a system with built-in sway control (recommended) you'll get all of those handling enhancements: safer braking, more precise steering, more even tire wear AND reduced trailer sway. I linked an article on WD to give you additional background.

The key to choosing a WD system is knowing your trailer's actual fully-loaded TW, with all gear and supplies loaded, water tank full, etc. WD systems must be matched to your actual TW. There are several ways to measure this that are outlined in the linked article; one is an easy-to-use scale # 5780 from Sherline. Once you know your trailer's fully-loaded TW you can use the linked page to select a WD/Sway Control system. Since TW is 10-to-15 percent of trailer weight we'll presume yours is in the range of 300-lbs.

The linked page shows all 300-lb-rated WD/sway prevention systems. The best option is the Reese Strait-Line # RP66082. This system actually prevents sway from starting, rather than dealing with it after it begins. This fits trailer frames up to 2-1/2-inches wide and the only item you need to add is the 2-inch hitch ball, part # A-90. Check your a-frame for adequate clearance for the lift brackets. These require 5-1/2-inches of space along the frame rails and will sit approximately 30-inches behind the hitch ball. If you don't have enough room for the standard brackets you can use bolt-on hanger kit # RP58305 which attach to the sides of the frame with included hardware.

The other towing item I suggest is a transmission cooler. Particularly since you'll be in mountainous terrain a trans cooler will take some of the burden off the transmission by lowering it's fluid temperature. You can use the Derale # D13503. I linked two articles on trans coolers for reference.

Finally, for a lock to keep your camper safe from bad folks while you're enjoying the scenery you can use a universal coupler lock such as # ML389DAT that will fit your 2-inch coupler. If you prefer a wheel lock you can use part # RA-25 from Rack'em.

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Adam R

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