Towing with a VW diesel Jetta

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Towing with a VW diesel Jetta

Postby dcweas » Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:51 pm

Hi all. I have a 2004 VW diesel jetta with 170k or so miles on it. We will be driving for the second year from Layton Utah, and this year we are planning on towing a small trailer. I have read ad nauseum on the internet, and people have good success towing small trailers (as in a box/cargo trailer, not camper) with them. In fact, in Europe, people tow campers with them!

What I cannot find is information on people making long trips with them, such as the one from Utah to BRC. I am wondering what others' experiences have been?

And, should you wonder, the car is well maintained, gets an average of 40 mpg (not towing anything), it is an automatic but it is tiptronic so it can kick over into a sort of manual if need be, and we are planning on putting our camping gear, 2 bikes and water for the week in the trailer (our car was claustrophobically full last year).

I have never towed anything a day in my life, but my husband drives a tractor trailer for a living (14 years experience).

Thanks in advance :)
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Postby TomServo » Sat Feb 12, 2011 8:56 pm

Utah to BRC shouldnt be bad at all! Dont know the towing capacity of a Jetta, but a small trailer doesnt sound bad. If you can find a reciever for a jetta then do it!
anything worth doing..is worth overdoing

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Postby Token » Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:06 pm

Doable. Diesels have good torque which is needed for towing.

If I were doing this, here would be my points of interest:

1. Keep the transmission cool - I would install an extra transmission cooler. Cheap if you do it yourself.

2. Be able to stop safely.
a. Make sure to get a trailer with 14" tires and electronic breakes.
b. Install a brake controller.

3. Upgrade the rear springs.

Good luck.
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Postby dcweas » Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:12 pm

Token - do you mean the rear springs on the car? I just got brand new shocks 5k miles ago, top shelf (or whatever you call the best of the best shocks)

My mechanic has a side business building trailers, so I will likely enlist his help in, if not building, at least procuring a trailer, and will add your suggestions to my list of demands1
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Postby Token » Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:29 pm

Yes, springs on the car.

After you fill the trunk, add the tow hitch and then attach the trailer, you will probably put several hundred more pounds than the vehicle was designed for on that rear end.

Extra stiff or progressive springs will help a bunch in reducing sway and sag. Jeta has McPhearson struts, so a spring swap should not be too difficult.

In the end, this is levels of comfort we are talking about. If you don't do anything to the springs, just drive 5Mph slower and leave ALLOT of breaking room in front of you.

If you go with electric breaks and a good break controller, you might be OK without doing the springs. These are only suggestions.
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Postby motskyroonmatick » Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:45 pm

It should be easy to get a receiver hitch attached to your Jetta because many bike racks slide in those sockets and every Jetta around here has a bike rack on the back of it. Get a trailer that has no more floor square footage than 2/3 of the square footage area the car occupies. This is my made up rule but I thought it would be reasonable. Split the very heavy items 50/50 between the car and trailer. Load the trailer in a well balanced manner front to back and side to side. Put heavy things in the center of the trailer or over the axle of the trailer. It is good to have some tung weight but not too much.

When chosing a trailer I like to have it no more than 6 inches wider than the tow vehicle on each side. I think this gives good visibility and in a way limits the amount of weight you can haul because narrower trailers are usually shorter. Make sure the trailer deck when loaded and hooked to the loaded car is level. If it dips toward the ground at the front it is highly likely that the trailer won't pull correctly and will weave down the road. This condition is not fun to drive with and is unsafe. At minimum this condition will wear out the tires faster.

I would not exceed 1500 lbs total weight of trailer and load and 1300 lbs would be much better. I don't think it is absolutely necessary to install a brake controller (The latest from Prodigy is an excellent controller) and have electronic brakes on the trailer but it definitely would be the safest thing to do and would make stopping easier and over all vehicle control much better. People pull double jet ski trailers around with this size car all the time. Those trailers don't have brakes and I see this situation as some what the same.

I would go in to this with the idea that the trailer will give you a bit of breathing room in the car but don't go overboard trying to put a whole theme camp in the trailer. Definitely drive slower and multiply your following distance by at least 2 times. Take it easy in the hilly sections of road.
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Postby Thecatman » Sat Feb 12, 2011 9:49 pm

I have an 03 Jetta TDI with 150,000+ on it I use for commuting.
I don't have a hitch on mine but I've seen some on the road with a 1" or 1 1/4" reciver hitch. I don't think a 2" can be put on.

To add to Tokens suggestions, don't forget the timing belt issues.
Won't be pretty if you chunk it and have to end up spending an unplanned for, $4,000+ for a new head and valves etc in the middle of BFE.
I know from experience :oops: .
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Postby Thecatman » Sat Feb 12, 2011 10:00 pm

Another thing:
is it an AT or 5 speed. The autos are good for about 125,000 miles. You've passed that.
My torque converter started slipping this time last year at about 142,000 and had to replace the whole tranny. $1800. Went to 3 shops and they all said the same thing.
Just some food for thought since your's is up there in milage...for an 04.
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Postby dcweas » Sat Feb 12, 2011 10:07 pm

Thecatman wrote:Another thing:
is it an AT or 5 speed. The autos are good for about 125,000 miles. You've passed that.
My torque converter started slipping this time last year at about 142,000 and had to replace the whole tranny. $1800. Went to 3 shops and they all said the same thing.
Just some food for thought since your's is up there in milage...for an 04.


It's an automatic, with the tiptronic. It doesn't have a new transmission, but does have a new turbo 30k miles ago. High milage - yes - I was a hospice nurse, and drove an average of 700 miles a week...



These have so far all been really great suggestions - thanks! :)
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Postby AntiM » Sat Feb 12, 2011 10:15 pm

I recommend Big Bubba's trailers here in Ogden over on 12th. They will build a custom trailer with no deposit required.
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Postby ygmir » Sat Feb 12, 2011 10:20 pm

AntiM wrote:I recommend Big Bubba's trailers here in Ogden over on 12th. They will build a custom trailer with no deposit required.


why does the text and tenor of this reply, seem familiar?.........

:lol: :lol: :lol:
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Postby Thecatman » Sat Feb 12, 2011 10:35 pm

dcweas wrote:it is such a great car,


A place I take mine to in Reno, told me it was an good investment. The only thing I take mine to the dealer for is oil changes cuz I was a sucker and paid $900 extra for "lifetime oil changes".
If I trade this one in for another, I'll probably go to Strong VW in SLC.
I've heard good things about them from a woman here in the Reno area that went there for her's.
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Postby dcweas » Sat Feb 12, 2011 10:37 pm

Thecatman wrote:
If I trade this one in for another, I'll probably go to Strong VW in SLC.
I've heard good things about them from a woman here in the Reno area that went there for her's.


That's where I bought mine. I would second your friend's opinion.
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Postby gyre » Sun Feb 13, 2011 1:05 am

If you don't own a truck, a small trailer is the best money you'll ever spend.
Light weight is crucial.
Good handling is crucial, more crucial the lighter the tow vehicle.

Put synthetic fluid in the trans and a good cooler, after or instead of the radiator cooler.
Actually all modern cars need a separate cooler.

Install beefier anti-sway bars.
Lots of shock, spring and bar options for anything german.

Check out trailex if you can afford them.
My trailer is custom made from an early subaru rear end.
So far I haven't seen a better base, but narrow.
Mine is 32" x 8' 5".
Narrow is more aerodynamic and tracks better.
13" trailer tires are available for more weight than you will ever carry.
I also have a long tongue for stability.

You should always try to put the weight in the car and the bulk in the trailer.
Not always possible, I know.

A great approach is a single wheel trailer.
These approximate all the expensive devices used on trailers to control them, but for cheap.
They attach on two points, hinged, and use a swivel wheel.
Normally height is set by the wheel, but I've seen one with an outboard wheel and suspension,
Not sure how that type reverses.
Single wheels drive like one single vehicle.

Surge brakes are another option.
In mountains a full brake set is a good idea though.

Put conspicuity striping all around your trailer.
If you don't like zebra stripe, it is made in solid white and red, many sizes.
I suggest turn signals on the side, besides other lighting.
Side turn signals on your car are a good idea with a trailer too.
Ron Francis has a good, if directional type.
https://www.ronfrancis.com/prodinfo.asp?number=BL%2D69A
Superior to the euro turn signals.

I like strong reversing lights too.
I can recommend some.
Most are really unsuitable for the job.

I prefer a two inch receiver.
Usually you have to modify or custom make one.
Newer hitches are declining in quality.
All except one brand are chinese crap now.
If you can find an older or euro hitch, get it.
Probably a factory hitch for that car.
I had a 2" receiver on the Sable I took out two years ago.

It's very easy to make a superior hitch to most sold now.
We used a northern tools receiver tube.
I took one look at the crap harbor freight was selling and ran to northern.
I usually adapt older receivers though.
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Postby gyre » Sun Feb 13, 2011 1:22 am

300 pound trailex
Image

I recommend evans cooling fluid for diesels.
Worth looking at.
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Postby Freesponge » Sun Feb 13, 2011 11:01 pm

Just drive a little slower on the hill climbs than what you would normally do otherwise and reference the maximum towing capacity and go from there. I don't think you will have any problems at all if keep an eye on your heat gauge and let the car idle for about 5 minutes before you shut it off.
Those cars go forever so you don't have much to worry about other than exceeding the max weight. If you hauled the same amount inside your car last year you should be fine towing an equal amount.

My diesel jetta has 310k miles on it and its on the original motor, trans and clutch. You have to try hard to break these cars. Mine also gets the mythical 50mpg if i don't exceed 65mph.

Happy Trails.
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Postby AntiM » Mon Feb 14, 2011 7:42 am

If you can, practice driving with the trailer before your trek. It is a new set of skills. When in doubt, take your speed down a notch.
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Postby gyre » Thu Feb 17, 2011 2:59 am

Remember that you can never stop faster than the trailer, or do anything faster than the trailer.

The best driver I know for towing, says he thinks of himself as driving the trailer, not the tow vehicle.

You must be especially wary of idiots cutting in front of you, ignoring your longer stopping distance.
I've had people do this just to make an immediate turn, apparently not knowing how close they came to being hit, as I struggle to stop.
Handling is as important to a tow vehicle as a sports car, maybe more.
I imagine many people must be startled when the heavily loaded vehicle they cut off, suddenly pushes their rear end up to the the front seat.


Recently they did a news story on a new hiking trail that crosses the city, about people stopping for the pedestrians.
Most people still aren't aware that it's even there.

As they were doing the story, a car stopped for some walkers.
It was immediately hit from behind at 40-45 mph, on camera.
Bang!
There is a lesson about caution there somewhere.
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Postby Token » Fri Feb 18, 2011 1:04 am

That's exactly why you run the 135W high beams when towing.
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Postby teardropper » Fri Feb 18, 2011 3:01 pm

gyre wrote:300 pound trailex
Image

I recommend evans cooling fluid for diesels.
Worth looking at.


Oooh, gyre, I want one of those.

And, yeah, that TDI will tow a small trailer very nicely. I have a 2002 TDI and have used it for my 1000# teardrop trailer.

And Token has the good advise about what you need. Heed his cautions. There's really nothing I could add.
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Postby Thecatman » Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:19 pm

Thats a real nice trailer there gyre.


I think it would be cool if VW offered as an option, a jake brake of sorts
for the diesels. Even an aftermarket. I don't tow a trailer, but it would save my brakes going to and from work since I usually go through Virginia City. From my house at 4350' to 6789' at the top of Gieger grade, down to 4400' in south Reno all in like 20 miles or so.
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Postby gyre » Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:45 pm

I bet there's a way to adapt such a brake.
They make a lot for pickups.

Lots of brake upgrades for vws.
That might be a viable option too.
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Postby gyre » Sun Feb 20, 2011 1:52 pm

Thecatman wrote:Thats a real nice trailer there gyre.
.

I love trailex stuff.
They have a full range, enclosed too.

To be clear, mine is not a trailex, but custom built of square tube and very light.
The liner I'm making now will double the weight, but allow three times the cargo.
Folding sides of exterior plywood and a rear gate.
My original steel gate fell off and I couldn't find it.
I'm using acrylic white on it, very visible.
I could almost have bought marine grade by the time I finish painting it.
It's looking good though.
Five layer fir plywood, half inch and 5/8"
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Postby Thecatman » Sun Feb 20, 2011 10:33 pm

The Dodge Cummins comes stock with a Jake brake, or some kind of exhaust/compression brake that sounds like a semi going down hill.



I'd like a small trailer like that to pull behind my truck so I can haul a 55gallon drum of bio diesel from the gas station to home.
I don't want to put it in the back of my truck. An empty drum is no
problem but a full one weighing 450lbs +. Be kinda hard to wrestle around.
I could probably tow it with the car too.
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Postby gyre » Sun Feb 20, 2011 11:12 pm

The lower trailer height really helps.

I've seen add on exhaust kits for small trucks.

Do you know of a hinge that I could use on the sides that fully swings both ways?
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