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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Thought I would share some recent towing experience with our camper. Camper weighs in at 4100 lbs without cargo or water (dry). We add approximately 600 lbs in cargo. This includes a 100 lb generator, 2 gallons of gasoline, a grill with it's own stand, 1 utility table, 5 chairs, tools, general RV supplies and tools, a portable septic tote (empty), fishing tackle, a few board games, a smaller side table, a propane tank (not including RVs tank), a portable propane fire pit, clothes, sheets, towels, pillows and some starter foods, juices, dog food and beer. The beer went in the trailer first as it's considered valuable cargo and cannot be thrown overboard in the event of an emergency. The mother-in-law had two bags, one larger one that seemed rather heavy for one week of camping. Not sure what was in that one. We mostly get our food supplies and the equivalent of two medium cases of water near campsites after unhooking. I still have to go to a CAT scale loaded up, but I know I am pretty close with the cargo weight. We are not exceeding 5K - however, I know I am over on tongue weight by a few lbs.

I am using a Curt weight distributing hitch (up to 6K on towing and 600 on tongue) with a Curt anti-sway friction bar and of course brake controller (Curt Echo Bluetooth). This is helping offset tongue weight. I've also installed Firestone helper airbags into the rear suspension coils (if you consider yourself handy and have a few tools laying around you can do this install yourself and save $$). I drilled the schrader valve access hole right into the steel-tow label plate next to the hitch (right side looking at hitch receiver). Perfect spot. If you want pics of the airbag install I'd be happy to add. These of course do not increase towing or tongue ratings, however, they improve the ride and rear squat with the load. We had 640 lbs of payload in the vehicle - that is all bodies, 3 Adults, two kids, and one dog. With the exception of a couple of bags of chips, some drinks, an iPad and maybe two purses - and some smaller tools with the VW first aid kit in the cubbies in the trunk, that was all we had in the vehicle. I deliberately kept it as empty as possible - with preferring to evenly distribute whatever weight we needed to bring in the trailer. This does not include tongue weight when hitched. We were probably right at or under payload with the hitch mounted. All tanks in the RV, with the exception of the water heater were empty. I added water to the trailer when we arrived to the campground and maxed the tank out - 50 gallons. That put me over the Atlas towing rating - by at least 100-300 lbs. However, we crept to our campsite from there, probably an eighth to one-quarter mile at about 10 mph once inside the campground. Even so, towed perfectly fine - however, I would not tow with 400 lbs of water in addition to our cargo - going any faster or on interstate/hwy roads at highway speeds - at least with the Atlas.

I've towed with this rig now for several hundred miles, steep hills - ascents and descents. The Atlas is extremely well powered and does not feel underpowered at all with this amount of weight - even at higher altitudes - at least as high as we have gone. In two or three instances, I can remember the Atlas hitting 4,000-4,300 RPMS. It still had tons of power left and could have gone faster uphills - but I didn't really push it at all. We kept average speeds of 60 mph (96 kph) with a max of 65 mph on a few occasions when building momentum heading towards a few hills. With our steepest and longest ascent, the oil temp hit 280 degrees for about 3 minutes, but then dropped down quick after we plateaued. This was reaching close to our destination - which was at 7,500 ft elevation, coming from Phoenix, AZ. Yes, it would slow down a bit depending on the grade we were climbing, and I would adjust the pedal back so as not to push the engine too much allowing for the Atlas to do more work at lower RPMs - which it is very good at. You can tell it has good amount of low-end torque power. With this said however, I could have easily kept the speeds higher, at the sacrifice of higher RPMS - which I was working to avoid. Again - the Atlas could have easily done this. It cools just fine - we must have passed at least 10 vehicles on the way home on the side of the road with their hoods up on uphill climbs. These were probably cooling problems. Keep in mind, we had our AC on for 3/4s of the trip as we descended into the Phoenix Valley area with temps quickly reaching 100 degrees.

While driving on cruise control - I kept Sport Mode on for the most part. I found this to be the best mode for having the engine and transmission ready to tackle the climbs as well as to use the engine and transmission to slow down, in combination with the automatic braking it performs on cruise control - which made my life easier having to just monitor the systems using the adaptive cruise and keeping my brake controller app open on my phone watching pressure being applied accordingly. We also have a rear-view camera on the trailer to monitor incoming traffic about to pass us or when we are passing, knowing when to cut back into the lane.

I've decided to post this information to assist anybody else that has thought of, or has considered towing with the VR6 powered Atlas with the tow package. Our Atlas is 4Motion equipped, and although I believe it helped me a few instances when turning over a few buckled roads (I remember one vividly) - it powers all other wheels wonderfully as you can feel it, I don't think 4Motion is required to tow with a similar set up. Additionally, I am very aware of what the manuals indicate regarding weight-distributing hitches. If you are so inclined, as friendly and cautious as you probably might be, I don't need the towing police pulling me over in here. With that said - I could not imagine towing a similar set-up without a weigh-distributing hitch or anti-sway bar assisting the system. I felt that both were doing their job wonderfully as we were going down the road. In one instance, I had a tractor trailer come up to pass, while at the same time hitting the crest of a pass and felt the trailer shudder hard behind us with a massive gust of wind, but instantly freeze in place with the system kicking in - preventing any kind of wobble or sway. I felt incredibly safe the entire time. I will put it to you this way, if you are planning on towing anything over 4K, I personally would use a weight-distributing system coupled along with an anti-sway friction bar attached - preventing any dangerous events on the highway. In other words - I strongly recommend using a WDH - if I was the driver, along with a sway-control bar system if I am towing higher weights. It boggles me that the VW Atlas manuals recommend the opposite. It's possible that they think people may try and tow higher than 5K, with also potentially damaging the frame. I personally believe that if I am towing without WDH and an incorporated anti-sway friction bar at higher weights, I am putting myself and others on the road at risk. I also have no need to go 75-85 mph when towing a medium sized camper with my family in the vehicle while on vacation. And yes, I saw other people doing just that - which to me is getting into dangerous territory. But, maybe they understand something about their vehicles that I do not.

Also keep this in mind - other pickups and larger full sized SUVs typically have non-WDH and WDH ratings as a guide - usually increasing the available capacities by a few thousand lbs if using a WDH. I am not interested in trying to tow 7,000 or 8,000 lbs using the Atlas. I am just trying to tow at or below 5K (what my Atlas is rated for) safely. I have plenty of adjustment links available on the WDH (not risking binding) and I am not overly pushing the downward or upward forces on the receiver hitch - risking damage to the unibody frame. I've continued to inspect the integrity of the weld contact points of the hitch and surrounding tube and frame points. From what I can tell, Bosal GmbH incorporates a good towing system product during the VW manufacturing process.

In case you are curious, our camper is a 24 feet long, tandem axle, hard-sided trailer rated for a gross cargo-carrying capacity of 6K. Of course - we kept our weights just at about 5K - slightly less for the main and longer leg of the trip - and then I am sure over a bit with water while we set up driving inside the campground at very slow speeds over a very short distance, never exceeding the trailers capacity. The brand is a 2020 Coachmen Apex Nano (lightest for it's kind of trailer with features offered) - model 208BHS. We are a family of 4 to 5 mainly with a 60 lb dog.

While at the campsite - I even had someone ask me how the Atlas towed - and he himself mentioned that he felt that the Atlas is probably one of the most under-rated mid-sized family-tow vehicles out there. Given my experience so far, I could not agree more.

If you have any questions on the Atlas, the set up, airbags, or the trailer - feel free to reply. This site has assisted me quite a bit with my Atlas, and I am happy to pay it forward.

Full disclosure, I am not a towing expert nor am I a Volkswagen Atlas expert and I officially do not advise going against whatever recommendations and instructions your vehicle manual provides you. I am not liable for any kind of damage or catastrophes as a result of the use or application of any recommendations or advice that you may or may not find in my post. I do not represent any companies or entities mentioned in this or any other posts I may create. What I have stated in this paragraph supersedes any previous comments in this post or other posts that I create, in the past, now, or at any point in the future.

Once I get the rig to the CAT scales - loaded, I will update this post with more accurate weights. I may have to invest in a tongue weight scale.

ar
 

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Thanks for your great review. We purchased an Atlas and towing was a large concern of mine, We almost purchased a 4Runner but the wife loved the Atlas, and as a daily driver and for comfort beat the 4 Runner.

I'm struggling with the WDH as the manual says to not use one. As you mentioned in your post the use of the WDH improved the control of towing and my only thought would be that they don't want anyone to twist the frame. Ironically they brag about how strong this uni body is, one of the strongest on the market.

We run a Hybrid trailer, dry weight is 3200lbs and all loaded up around 4000lbs with 400lbs at the tongue. I've towed the trailer not using the WDH and though its ok, I'm not as comfortable as I would be with the WDH. I look at the reason for using the WDH and I cant see why it wouldn't be better, even speaking to the RV dealer they were dumbfounded when they heard that it said not to use one. They basically said just don't crank on it and set it up right and it will be better than dragging the trailer down the highway.

Without the WDH I noticed the front wheels have more of a tenancy to slip on a slight incline from start, sure the AWD saves that but it tells me there is a lot of weight on the back on the vehicle. I would be concerned about losing steering. The WDH would help solve this.

I also noted that in the manual it states to use a hitch that has a maximum distance of 8" from the hitch pin to the centre of the ball, I'm assuming this is to avoid the hitch dragging on the ground. My WDH has a distance of 12", but when a WDH is hooked up you dont have the concern of dragging like you do without. So again WDH for the win.

It just concerns me to do anything against the manual, if there is an accident or an issue will VW or insurance walk away? that being said is using the WDH safer? Though the Atlas is rated for 5000lbs I think towing to that capacity without the WDH is not a great idea.

Im going to setup my WDH and see how it does.

how long did it take to install the airbags? did you feel you needed them even with the WDH?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for your great review. We purchased an Atlas and towing was a large concern of mine, We almost purchased a 4Runner but the wife loved the Atlas, and as a daily driver and for comfort beat the 4 Runner.

I'm struggling with the WDH as the manual says to not use one. As you mentioned in your post the use of the WDH improved the control of towing and my only thought would be that they don't want anyone to twist the frame. Ironically they brag about how strong this uni body is, one of the strongest on the market.

We run a Hybrid trailer, dry weight is 3200lbs and all loaded up around 4000lbs with 400lbs at the tongue. I've towed the trailer not using the WDH and though its ok, I'm not as comfortable as I would be with the WDH. I look at the reason for using the WDH and I cant see why it wouldn't be better, even speaking to the RV dealer they were dumbfounded when they heard that it said not to use one. They basically said just don't crank on it and set it up right and it will be better than dragging the trailer down the highway.

Without the WDH I noticed the front wheels have more of a tenancy to slip on a slight incline from start, sure the AWD saves that but it tells me there is a lot of weight on the back on the vehicle. I would be concerned about losing steering. The WDH would help solve this.

I also noted that in the manual it states to use a hitch that has a maximum distance of 8" from the hitch pin to the centre of the ball, I'm assuming this is to avoid the hitch dragging on the ground. My WDH has a distance of 12", but when a WDH is hooked up you dont have the concern of dragging like you do without. So again WDH for the win.

It just concerns me to do anything against the manual, if there is an accident or an issue will VW or insurance walk away? that being said is using the WDH safer? Though the Atlas is rated for 5000lbs I think towing to that capacity without the WDH is not a great idea.

Im going to setup my WDH and see how it does.

how long did it take to install the airbags? did you feel you needed them even with the WDH?
When we initially started looking at an upgrade for our 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee, we also looked at the the 4Runner - and came to the same conclusions when comparing to the Atlas. Could not compare in terms of space and comfort for a daily driver. In addition to that, years ago I used to sell Porsche, Audi, and Vdubs, (including the Touareg) and already knew about their engineering and performance. Once we felt the difference and I remembered how the cars drove, we had a hard time being steered away from the Atlas. So I understand your reasoning for leaning towards it as well.

I will be frank with you - I still struggle with the idea of "going against the grain" when it comes to a written word, especially in something so official as a manual. I guess there are two camps of people. Those that will absolutely not, and there are those that ask, why not? - with extreme prudence, precautions taken, and careful planning and consideration. There might be one more camp - those that just don't pay attention to anything or any rules.

My wife decided on the perfect camper for our needs, and after much consternation, discussion, research on effectively case-studies, phone-calls across the country with other Atlas owners that tow and different kinds of weights (higher than 5K in some cases - yes there people that have towed more than 5K with the Atlas) - and finally more back and forth with my wife on the camper - I decided that given my crappy negotiation skills with her, my paranoia had to give, the camper was to be ours, given the information and experiences that were out there. I am sure this strikes a chord with a lot of people out there. In this case, the dog house would have been the camper, and I rather sleep in my stick-built home rather than living inside of a camper that I picked; not my wife.

I think in your case you are not really pushing any limits. You are well under 5K lbs and your tongue weight is fine. I think the least I would do in your case with that much weight is to install the airbags, and attach an anti-sway bar to the hitch - using a hitch with a sway tab like the Curt 45820 Anti-Sway Trailer Hitch Ball Mount, along with the anti-sway friction bar (Curt 17200 anti-sway bar kit is an example). I think with the airbags and that set up, it's better than just a straight ball hitch alone with the weight. The Airbags will lift the squat - but not as much downward correction on the front axle. The WDH helps tremendously with keeping your rig and connection taut and rigid preventing sway and keeping steering contact firm on your Atlas, but the anti-sway friction bar should correct any subsequent sway you still might experience as a result of not using a WDH. The Airbags took me me about 1.5 hours to install, 45 minutes with the learning curve of the first airbag - and then a second 45 minutes to install the second airbag, run the airlines, cut and clean up the connections. The airbags make the ride feel more solid in the back even with the WDH. It also raises the back a bit, helping with some headlight correction as well. It is noticeable and keeps the truck level. Without the airbags the rear axle squatted noticeably more. Even if it didn't affect function, aesthetically - it would bother me incessantly.

With regards to whether or not VW or your insurance would walk away - I will put it to do this way; the VW Atlas manual also says not to drive faster than 50 mph (80 kph) on the highways towing a trailer, and only up to 60 mph (96 kph) in very special, or exceptional circumstances. What does exceptional mean? Is that left up to interpretation? Who's interpretation? Was it an exceptional circumstance? Who says? I personally don't drive much past 60 mph when towing, but that's not what I see on the roads. I think rather than trying to figure out all of the different ways that somebody can really mess up while towing, the safe bet is to place exacting limits and rules for everybody.

I don't believe that the Atlas is designed to have two different kind of ratings, one with and one without WDH. I do think that the engineers are confident it can tow (and how it can tow) what they say it can tow (maybe more) but they want to publish what they want to publish to play it safe for everybody and any possible outliers that don't care or don't read the manual. I personally also would not try and tow 8,000 lbs and attach a WDH to that amount of weight and drive 2k miles over sharply undulating roads, speed bumps, and off-road adventures with the Atlas. I think that's asking for trouble. I believe if you stay within the ratings - you should be fine, as long as you have some kind of sway control depending on how much trailer weight you are pulling, and how long it is, and if it is evenly weight-distributed (cargo inside trailer).

Use common sense; don't drive fast, keep back away from cars, check your air pressures, give yourself enough time to react always and space to slow down, and enjoy your vacation.

Headed out this coming week for 7 days up to about 6,500 ft elevation - I will continue to add to this thread with more of my experiences.
 

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When we initially started looking at an upgrade for our 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee, we also looked at the the 4Runner - and came to the same conclusions when comparing to the Atlas. Could not compare in terms of space and comfort for a daily driver. In addition to that, years ago I used to sell Porsche, Audi, and Vdubs, (including the Touareg) and already knew about their engineering and performance. Once we felt the difference and I remembered how the cars drove, we had a hard time being steered away from the Atlas. So I understand your reasoning for leaning towards it as well.

I will be frank with you - I still struggle with the idea of "going against the grain" when it comes to a written word, especially in something so official as a manual. I guess there are two camps of people. Those that will absolutely not, and there are those that ask, why not? - with extreme prudence, precautions taken, and careful planning and consideration. There might be one more camp - those that just don't pay attention to anything or any rules.

My wife decided on the perfect camper for our needs, and after much consternation, discussion, research on effectively case-studies, phone-calls across the country with other Atlas owners that tow and different kinds of weights (higher than 5K in some cases - yes there people that have towed more than 5K with the Atlas) - and finally more back and forth with my wife on the camper - I decided that given my crappy negotiation skills with her, my paranoia had to give, the camper was to be ours, given the information and experiences that were out there. I am sure this strikes a chord with a lot of people out there. In this case, the dog house would have been the camper, and I rather sleep in my stick-built home rather than living inside of a camper that I picked; not my wife.

I think in your case you are not really pushing any limits. You are well under 5K lbs and your tongue weight is fine. I think the least I would do in your case with that much weight is to install the airbags, and attach an anti-sway bar to the hitch - using a hitch with a sway tab like the Curt 45820 Anti-Sway Trailer Hitch Ball Mount, along with the anti-sway friction bar (Curt 17200 anti-sway bar kit is an example). I think with the airbags and that set up, it's better than just a straight ball hitch alone with the weight. The Airbags will lift the squat - but not as much downward correction on the front axle. The WDH helps tremendously with keeping your rig and connection taut and rigid preventing sway and keeping steering contact firm on your Atlas, but the anti-sway friction bar should correct any subsequent sway you still might experience as a result of not using a WDH. The Airbags took me me about 1.5 hours to install, 45 minutes with the learning curve of the first airbag - and then a second 45 minutes to install the second airbag, run the airlines, cut and clean up the connections. The airbags make the ride feel more solid in the back even with the WDH. It also raises the back a bit, helping with some headlight correction as well. It is noticeable and keeps the truck level. Without the airbags the rear axle squatted noticeably more. Even if it didn't affect function, aesthetically - it would bother me incessantly.

With regards to whether or not VW or your insurance would walk away - I will put it to do this way; the VW Atlas manual also says not to drive faster than 50 mph (80 kph) on the highways towing a trailer, and only up to 60 mph (96 kph) in very special, or exceptional circumstances. What does exceptional mean? Is that left up to interpretation? Who's interpretation? Was it an exceptional circumstance? Who says? I personally don't drive much past 60 mph when towing, but that's not what I see on the roads. I think rather than trying to figure out all of the different ways that somebody can really mess up while towing, the safe bet is to place exacting limits and rules for everybody.

I don't believe that the Atlas is designed to have two different kind of ratings, one with and one without WDH. I do think that the engineers are confident it can tow (and how it can tow) what they say it can tow (maybe more) but they want to publish what they want to publish to play it safe for everybody and any possible outliers that don't care or don't read the manual. I personally also would not try and tow 8,000 lbs and attach a WDH to that amount of weight and drive 2k miles over sharply undulating roads, speed bumps, and off-road adventures with the Atlas. I think that's asking for trouble. I believe if you stay within the ratings - you should be fine, as long as you have some kind of sway control depending on how much trailer weight you are pulling, and how long it is, and if it is evenly weight-distributed (cargo inside trailer).

Use common sense; don't drive fast, keep back away from cars, check your air pressures, give yourself enough time to react always and space to slow down, and enjoy your vacation.

Headed out this coming week for 7 days up to about 6,500 ft elevation - I will continue to add to this thread with more of my experiences.
I've been running the Curt WDH on the back of my 2018 Highline for a year and half now, no issues. I tried pulling our travel trailer (4300 lbs fully loaded) without the WDH, and would never do it again - terrifying.

When I was discussing with the RV dealer and towing shop about options, they explained to me (what they feel and interperet) the main reason why VW says not to use a WDH on the OEM stock towing package - the OEM hitch is simply a round bar, bolted between the two rear frame members. No structure added to allow the WDH. They described this is basically a 'pulling hitch'. So yes, it can 'pull' 5,000 lbs, but it cant bear any significant weight / torsion. The Curt WDH adds the needed structures and geometry to create a 'load hitch' - a hitch that can safely bear weight / torsion into the frame.
 

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I am using a Curt weight distributing hitch (up to 6K on towing and 600 on tongue) with a Curt anti-sway friction bar and of course brake controller (Curt Echo Bluetooth). This is helping offset tongue weight. I've also installed Firestone helper airbags into the rear suspension coils (if you consider yourself handy and have a few tools laying around you can do this install yourself and save $$).

ar
Thank you, alramos, for sharing the great experience.
I am considering a similar setup for an Airstream Bambi 20FB. Floor Plans | Bambi | Travel Trailers | Airstream
Could you please elaborate on the model of your Curt WDH and helper airbag? Link? Thank you.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you, alramos, for sharing the great experience.
I am considering a similar setup for an Airstream Bambi 20FB. Floor Plans | Bambi | Travel Trailers | Airstream
Could you please elaborate on the model of your Curt WDH and helper airbag? Link? Thank you.
That Airstream looks sweet I am sure you will enjoy some camping trips with it.

I could not find a model # on the actual Curt WDH - or any associated parts, however I found a sticker that indicates max loads of 600# tongue, 6,000# trailer. According to my manual, and the website, I am almost positive it will be Curt Part # 17000 - given the label information that is on the actual WDH. This does not include the trailer ball, or the Curt sway control friction bar I mentioned above. I would have to check on the size of the trailer ball - as it was all provided by the RV dealer. I believe this is the correct WDH (at least the one I am using). - Round Bar style.

Regarding using the WDH; be sure to lubricate at the insertion points of the spring round bars into the head of the WDH. You will want to do this before every longer trip, or every other trip. I learned quickly that if you don't do this, the WDH will groan and creek something fierce when making turns into gas stations and campgrounds. It will sound like Chewbacca trying to wake everyone up for breakfast. Not fun. You want to be stealth like. Don't listen to anyone that says you are not supposed to grease the WDH. Lubricating at the right points is essential if you want to have a quiet towing experience. Refer to the attached images with the red arrows on where to lube the spring round bars (bottom set of arrows). I have not had a need to lubricate the snap-up brackets yet, but it might help (top red arrows). Do not lubricate the anti-sway bar as the friction is what creates the rigidity to keep it from swaying. You don't need the anti-sway bar for short local trips on local roads. Only required for highway driving or highway speeds driving. I remove it when backing up if I've had it connected (for example arriving at the campsite and backing in somewhere).

This Curt anti-sway control bar (based on appearance) seems to be identical to the one I have attached to my WDH. I can try and verify later today, if I don't update it's the right one.

Firestone Coil-Rite Air Helper Springs - Rear Axle

Union-T for airlines - (One access point to inflate both airbags to equal pressure instead of having to drill two holes) - for this, I ended up using the "Air Lift" brand union-T connector as the Firestone Union T was on back order several weeks. They both perform the same function - and I've checked for air leaks with no problems on the Air Lift brand.

They sell a No-Drill Mount bracket (for the schrader valve access point) - however, after spending an inordinate amount of time trying to find a suitable place for mounting it - I gave up and just drilled a hole directly into the tow-information label plate to the right of the receiver. Probably the best spot anyhow. I ended up not using the mount bracket - and I wouldn't recommend ordering it as I am sure you will have the same challenge using it.

I also didn't use the heat shield that comes with the airbag system. Once you are under the chassis you will find there are a couple of ways to route the airlines away from the exhaust system and pipes, back to the bumper and out by the receiver hitch. I'm including pics of the airbag install for reference. I will also add that - once you attach the permanent line from the airbag through the bottom of the coil, there are "protective sleeves" for the airlines that you will want to slide into the air line prior to attaching the line to the airbag - closer to the airbag side. I am using these right at that juncture, so as to protect the line as it turns up. I will try and photo that and add later. I pushed the sleeve right up and back towards the airbag touching the airbag itself- and taped the other side against the airline and sleeve where the sleeve ends using electrical tape and it's been holding so it doesn't slide back up into the chassis. You will see what I mean when you follow the Airbag instructions. I think that's the best spot for the sleeves as it can protect the line in the event of road debris/rocks etc. Also, spraying the bags themselves lightly with some silicon grease helped quite a bit in sliding the bags between the coils without having to perform major surgery on the assembly. On the valve stem itself, I am using a regular plastic schrader valve cover that screws on (think bicycle screw on cap) rather than the metal one that it comes with as it will better protect it and keep dirt out. Be safe and use jack stands and a heavy duty floor jack.

If I did the airbag install, anybody can do it. I saved myself almost $600 bucks in labor by doing it myself (according to the last quote I received for the install after parts). I do also enjoy tinkering a bit. If you know somebody handy or want to have someone else install it, that's always an option as well. Hope this helps.

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Discussion Starter #7
That Airstream looks sweet I am sure you will enjoy some camping trips with it.

I could not find a model # on the actual Curt WDH - or any associated parts, however I found a sticker that indicates max loads of 600# tongue, 6,000# trailer. According to my manual, and the website, I am almost positive it will be Curt Part # 17000 - given the label information that is on the actual WDH. This does not include the trailer ball, or the Curt sway control friction bar I mentioned above. I would have to check on the size of the trailer ball - as it was all provided by the RV dealer. I believe this is the correct WDH (at least the one I am using). - Round Bar style.

Regarding using the WDH; be sure to lubricate at the insertion points of the spring round bars into the head of the WDH. You will want to do this before every longer trip, or every other trip. I learned quickly that if you don't do this, the WDH will groan and creek something fierce when making turns into gas stations and campgrounds. It will sound like Chewbacca trying to wake everyone up for breakfast. Not fun. You want to be stealth like. Don't listen to anyone that says you are not supposed to grease the WDH. Lubricating at the right points is essential if you want to have a quiet towing experience. Refer to the attached images with the red arrows on where to lube the spring round bars (bottom set of arrows). I have not had a need to lubricate the snap-up brackets yet, but it might help (top red arrows). Do not lubricate the anti-sway bar as the friction is what creates the rigidity to keep it from swaying. You don't need the anti-sway bar for short local trips on local roads. Only required for highway driving or highway speeds driving. I remove it when backing up if I've had it connected (for example arriving at the campsite and backing in somewhere).

This Curt anti-sway control bar (based on appearance) seems to be identical to the one I have attached to my WDH. I can try and verify later today, if I don't update it's the right one.

Firestone Coil-Rite Air Helper Springs - Rear Axle

Union-T for airlines - (One access point to inflate both airbags to equal pressure instead of having to drill two holes) - for this, I ended up using the "Air Lift" brand union-T connector as the Firestone Union T was on back order several weeks. They both perform the same function - and I've checked for air leaks with no problems on the Air Lift brand.

They sell a No-Drill Mount bracket (for the schrader valve access point) - however, after spending an inordinate amount of time trying to find a suitable place for mounting it - I gave up and just drilled a hole directly into the tow-information label plate to the right of the receiver. Probably the best spot anyhow. I ended up not using the mount bracket - and I wouldn't recommend ordering it as I am sure you will have the same challenge using it.

I also didn't use the heat shield that comes with the airbag system. Once you are under the chassis you will find there are a couple of ways to route the airlines away from the exhaust system and pipes, back to the bumper and out by the receiver hitch. I'm including pics of the airbag install for reference. I will also add that - once you attach the permanent line from the airbag through the bottom of the coil, there are "protective sleeves" for the airlines that you will want to slide into the air line prior to attaching the line to the airbag - closer to the airbag side. I am using these right at that juncture, so as to protect the line as it turns up. I will try and photo that and add later. I pushed the sleeve right up and back towards the airbag touching the airbag itself- and taped the other side against the airline and sleeve where the sleeve ends using electrical tape and it's been holding so it doesn't slide back up into the chassis. You will see what I mean when you follow the Airbag instructions. I think that's the best spot for the sleeves as it can protect the line in the event of road debris/rocks etc. Also, spraying the bags themselves lightly with some silicon grease helped quite a bit in sliding the bags between the coils without having to perform major surgery on the assembly. On the valve stem itself, I am using a regular plastic schrader valve cover that screws on (think bicycle screw on cap) rather than the metal one that it comes with as it will better protect it and keep dirt out. Be safe and use jack stands and a heavy duty floor jack.

If I did the airbag install, anybody can do it. I saved myself almost $600 bucks in labor by doing it myself (according to the last quote I received for the install after parts). I do also enjoy tinkering a bit. If you know somebody handy or want to have someone else install it, that's always an option as well. Hope this helps.

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Alramos and others,
Thank you for taking the time to post.

We've started the search for a camper to replace our 2800# popup. Before I bought the Atlas, I towed it with a 2011 Toyota Sienna (3500# tow capacity) with airbags from Jegs and a WDH. I towed it twice with the Atlas without aribags and the WDH. The Atlas pulled it great, but I really missed the WDH.

(Had I read the manual regarding not using a WDH, I would never have bought the Atlas. Very stupid for a vehicle that can tow 5000# not to be able to use a WDH.)

In my camper search, I've been trying to stay within the tongue weight (500#), GCWR (10015# if I remember right), and tow weight (5000#) limitations of the Atlas with the factory tow hitch, as listed in the manual and on the door jam. This effectively eliminates just about camper over 18'. I'm not saying I'd violate the 5000# tow weight or GCWR, but the 500# tongue weight would be violated with anything more than a Twinkie packed in just about any camper forward of its axle.

I came across the same Curt WDH, and wondered why the heck wouldn't it work.

I REALLY like the Coachmen Apex Nano 208BHS, but had ruled it out based on the tongue weight of 516#. With gear in the front storage compartment, it would be way over the 500# limit.

Thank you all for confirming my thinking that an aftermarket WDH will work just fine. Now, my camper options are more open.
 

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GREAT post and thanks for taking the time to detail it all. Though I have a Atlas, I also have a minivan and 09 Jeep Liberty (which too has a 5000lb towing capacity. The MOST i've towed with the Jeep is 3800 (and some change) scout trailer for summer camp but NEVER went above 60mph. Now, I've not towed anything larger then a UHaul 6x12 cargo trailer that might have had 2000lbs of stuff in it, it was more "well mannered" then the Jeep. Glad to know the Atlas can do it's job. I didn't notice how much your fuel economy suffered. I'm sure it can't be any worse then my Jeep.
 
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Discussion Starter #10
Alramos and others,
Thank you for taking the time to post.

We've started the search for a camper to replace our 2800# popup. Before I bought the Atlas, I towed it with a 2011 Toyota Sienna (3500# tow capacity) with airbags from Jegs and a WDH. I towed it twice with the Atlas without aribags and the WDH. The Atlas pulled it great, but I really missed the WDH.

(Had I read the manual regarding not using a WDH, I would never have bought the Atlas. Very stupid for a vehicle that can tow 5000# not to be able to use a WDH.)

In my camper search, I've been trying to stay within the tongue weight (500#), GCWR (10015# if I remember right), and tow weight (5000#) limitations of the Atlas with the factory tow hitch, as listed in the manual and on the door jam. This effectively eliminates just about camper over 18'. I'm not saying I'd violate the 5000# tow weight or GCWR, but the 500# tongue weight would be violated with anything more than a Twinkie packed in just about any camper forward of its axle.

I came across the same Curt WDH, and wondered why the heck wouldn't it work.

I REALLY like the Coachmen Apex Nano 208BHS, but had ruled it out based on the tongue weight of 516#. With gear in the front storage compartment, it would be way over the 500# limit.

Thank you all for confirming my thinking that an aftermarket WDH will work just fine. Now, my camper options are more open.
I know how you feel regarding the tongue weight limitations and feel the same way about being restricted to 500#. The only comforting thing for me regarding that is that for the most part - industry recommendations and towing experts generally agree that an acceptable tongue weight as far as percentages for SAE J684 standards is 10 to 15 percent of trailer weight. I would hope that the engineers considered that when indicating the max ratings. That of course does not change the fact that 500 lbs is stamped on the Atlas for max tongue weight - that along with the fact that I am sure they want you to be within 500 lbs - after considering the 10-15%. The only other thing that keeps it from being a white knuckle experience for me going down the road is that both VW and Audi in their manuals encourage drivers when towing to load the tongue to the max permissible weight possible. Again, going back to some fudge factor - you would think engineers have accounted for some degree of deviation.

We will eventually be upgrading to an Expedition with the idea of eliminating any anxiety with trailering with this particular camper and another heavier one we plan on upgrading to in the future that will fall well within the Expedition's ratings. However, as long as I have this set up, I will continue to update this thread with my experiences.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
GREAT post and thanks for taking the time to detail it all. Though I have a Atlas, I also have a minivan and 09 Jeep Liberty (which too has a 5000lb towing capacity. The MOST i've towed with the Jeep is 3800 (and some change) scout trailer for summer camp but NEVER went above 60mph. Now, I've not towed anything larger then a UHaul 6x12 cargo trailer that might have had 2000lbs of stuff in it, it was more "well mannered" then the Jeep. Glad to know the Atlas can do it's job. I didn't notice how much your fuel economy suffered. I'm sure it can't be any worse then my Jeep.
I failed to record the mileage for the entire trip - but halfway "up" the climb headed to our camping spot - I checked the economy and we were getting an impressive 11 mpgs. It was actually high 11's - between 11.5 and 11.9 - however, I did not check it afterwards and I am sure our last ascent did not help as it was one of the longer and more steep grades we had to tackle. I will try and be better about it in the next couple of days we take off on another trip.
 

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That Airstream looks sweet I am sure you will enjoy some camping trips with it.

I could not find a model # on the actual Curt WDH - or any associated parts, however I found a sticker that indicates max loads of 600# tongue, 6,000# trailer. According to my manual, and the website, I am almost positive it will be Curt Part # 17000 - given the label information that is on the actual WDH. This does not include the trailer ball, or the Curt sway control friction bar I mentioned above. I would have to check on the size of the trailer ball - as it was all provided by the RV dealer. I believe this is the correct WDH (at least the one I am using). - Round Bar style.

Regarding using the WDH; be sure to lubricate at the insertion points of the spring round bars into the head of the WDH. You will want to do this before every longer trip, or every other trip. I learned quickly that if you don't do this, the WDH will groan and creek something fierce when making turns into gas stations and campgrounds. It will sound like Chewbacca trying to wake everyone up for breakfast. Not fun. You want to be stealth like. Don't listen to anyone that says you are not supposed to grease the WDH. Lubricating at the right points is essential if you want to have a quiet towing experience. Refer to the attached images with the red arrows on where to lube the spring round bars (bottom set of arrows). I have not had a need to lubricate the snap-up brackets yet, but it might help (top red arrows). Do not lubricate the anti-sway bar as the friction is what creates the rigidity to keep it from swaying. You don't need the anti-sway bar for short local trips on local roads. Only required for highway driving or highway speeds driving. I remove it when backing up if I've had it connected (for example arriving at the campsite and backing in somewhere).

This Curt anti-sway control bar (based on appearance) seems to be identical to the one I have attached to my WDH. I can try and verify later today, if I don't update it's the right one.

Firestone Coil-Rite Air Helper Springs - Rear Axle

Union-T for airlines - (One access point to inflate both airbags to equal pressure instead of having to drill two holes) - for this, I ended up using the "Air Lift" brand union-T connector as the Firestone Union T was on back order several weeks. They both perform the same function - and I've checked for air leaks with no problems on the Air Lift brand.

They sell a No-Drill Mount bracket (for the schrader valve access point) - however, after spending an inordinate amount of time trying to find a suitable place for mounting it - I gave up and just drilled a hole directly into the tow-information label plate to the right of the receiver. Probably the best spot anyhow. I ended up not using the mount bracket - and I wouldn't recommend ordering it as I am sure you will have the same challenge using it.

I also didn't use the heat shield that comes with the airbag system. Once you are under the chassis you will find there are a couple of ways to route the airlines away from the exhaust system and pipes, back to the bumper and out by the receiver hitch. I'm including pics of the airbag install for reference. I will also add that - once you attach the permanent line from the airbag through the bottom of the coil, there are "protective sleeves" for the airlines that you will want to slide into the air line prior to attaching the line to the airbag - closer to the airbag side. I am using these right at that juncture, so as to protect the line as it turns up. I will try and photo that and add later. I pushed the sleeve right up and back towards the airbag touching the airbag itself- and taped the other side against the airline and sleeve where the sleeve ends using electrical tape and it's been holding so it doesn't slide back up into the chassis. You will see what I mean when you follow the Airbag instructions. I think that's the best spot for the sleeves as it can protect the line in the event of road debris/rocks etc. Also, spraying the bags themselves lightly with some silicon grease helped quite a bit in sliding the bags between the coils without having to perform major surgery on the assembly. On the valve stem itself, I am using a regular plastic schrader valve cover that screws on (think bicycle screw on cap) rather than the metal one that it comes with as it will better protect it and keep dirt out. Be safe and use jack stands and a heavy duty floor jack.

If I did the airbag install, anybody can do it. I saved myself almost $600 bucks in labor by doing it myself (according to the last quote I received for the install after parts). I do also enjoy tinkering a bit. If you know somebody handy or want to have someone else install it, that's always an option as well. Hope this helps.

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Thank you so much for all the details. Thank you for the time.
 

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Thought I would share some recent towing experience with our camper. Camper weighs in at 4100 lbs without cargo or water (dry). We add approximately 600 lbs in cargo. This includes a 100 lb generator, 2 gallons of gasoline, a grill with it's own stand, 1 utility table, 5 chairs, tools, general RV supplies and tools, a portable septic tote (empty), fishing tackle, a few board games, a smaller side table, a propane tank (not including RVs tank), a portable propane fire pit, clothes, sheets, towels, pillows and some starter foods, juices, dog food and beer. The beer went in the trailer first as it's considered valuable cargo and cannot be thrown overboard in the event of an emergency. The mother-in-law had two bags, one larger one that seemed rather heavy for one week of camping. Not sure what was in that one. We mostly get our food supplies and the equivalent of two medium cases of water near campsites after unhooking. I still have to go to a CAT scale loaded up, but I know I am pretty close with the cargo weight. We are not exceeding 5K - however, I know I am over on tongue weight by a few lbs.

I am using a Curt weight distributing hitch (up to 6K on towing and 600 on tongue) with a Curt anti-sway friction bar and of course brake controller (Curt Echo Bluetooth). This is helping offset tongue weight. I've also installed Firestone helper airbags into the rear suspension coils (if you consider yourself handy and have a few tools laying around you can do this install yourself and save $$). I drilled the schrader valve access hole right into the steel-tow label plate next to the hitch (right side looking at hitch receiver). Perfect spot. If you want pics of the airbag install I'd be happy to add. These of course do not increase towing or tongue ratings, however, they improve the ride and rear squat with the load. We had 640 lbs of payload in the vehicle - that is all bodies, 3 Adults, two kids, and one dog. With the exception of a couple of bags of chips, some drinks, an iPad and maybe two purses - and some smaller tools with the VW first aid kit in the cubbies in the trunk, that was all we had in the vehicle. I deliberately kept it as empty as possible - with preferring to evenly distribute whatever weight we needed to bring in the trailer. This does not include tongue weight when hitched. We were probably right at or under payload with the hitch mounted. All tanks in the RV, with the exception of the water heater were empty. I added water to the trailer when we arrived to the campground and maxed the tank out - 50 gallons. That put me over the Atlas towing rating - by at least 100-300 lbs. However, we crept to our campsite from there, probably an eighth to one-quarter mile at about 10 mph once inside the campground. Even so, towed perfectly fine - however, I would not tow with 400 lbs of water in addition to our cargo - going any faster or on interstate/hwy roads at highway speeds - at least with the Atlas.

I've towed with this rig now for several hundred miles, steep hills - ascents and descents. The Atlas is extremely well powered and does not feel underpowered at all with this amount of weight - even at higher altitudes - at least as high as we have gone. In two or three instances, I can remember the Atlas hitting 4,000-4,300 RPMS. It still had tons of power left and could have gone faster uphills - but I didn't really push it at all. We kept average speeds of 60 mph (96 kph) with a max of 65 mph on a few occasions when building momentum heading towards a few hills. With our steepest and longest ascent, the oil temp hit 280 degrees for about 3 minutes, but then dropped down quick after we plateaued. This was reaching close to our destination - which was at 7,500 ft elevation, coming from Phoenix, AZ. Yes, it would slow down a bit depending on the grade we were climbing, and I would adjust the pedal back so as not to push the engine too much allowing for the Atlas to do more work at lower RPMs - which it is very good at. You can tell it has good amount of low-end torque power. With this said however, I could have easily kept the speeds higher, at the sacrifice of higher RPMS - which I was working to avoid. Again - the Atlas could have easily done this. It cools just fine - we must have passed at least 10 vehicles on the way home on the side of the road with their hoods up on uphill climbs. These were probably cooling problems. Keep in mind, we had our AC on for 3/4s of the trip as we descended into the Phoenix Valley area with temps quickly reaching 100 degrees.

While driving on cruise control - I kept Sport Mode on for the most part. I found this to be the best mode for having the engine and transmission ready to tackle the climbs as well as to use the engine and transmission to slow down, in combination with the automatic braking it performs on cruise control - which made my life easier having to just monitor the systems using the adaptive cruise and keeping my brake controller app open on my phone watching pressure being applied accordingly. We also have a rear-view camera on the trailer to monitor incoming traffic about to pass us or when we are passing, knowing when to cut back into the lane.

I've decided to post this information to assist anybody else that has thought of, or has considered towing with the VR6 powered Atlas with the tow package. Our Atlas is 4Motion equipped, and although I believe it helped me a few instances when turning over a few buckled roads (I remember one vividly) - it powers all other wheels wonderfully as you can feel it, I don't think 4Motion is required to tow with a similar set up. Additionally, I am very aware of what the manuals indicate regarding weight-distributing hitches. If you are so inclined, as friendly and cautious as you probably might be, I don't need the towing police pulling me over in here. With that said - I could not imagine towing a similar set-up without a weigh-distributing hitch or anti-sway bar assisting the system. I felt that both were doing their job wonderfully as we were going down the road. In one instance, I had a tractor trailer come up to pass, while at the same time hitting the crest of a pass and felt the trailer shudder hard behind us with a massive gust of wind, but instantly freeze in place with the system kicking in - preventing any kind of wobble or sway. I felt incredibly safe the entire time. I will put it to you this way, if you are planning on towing anything over 4K, I personally would use a weight-distributing system coupled along with an anti-sway friction bar attached - preventing any dangerous events on the highway. In other words - I strongly recommend using a WDH - if I was the driver, along with a sway-control bar system if I am towing higher weights. It boggles me that the VW Atlas manuals recommend the opposite. It's possible that they think people may try and tow higher than 5K, with also potentially damaging the frame. I personally believe that if I am towing without WDH and an incorporated anti-sway friction bar at higher weights, I am putting myself and others on the road at risk. I also have no need to go 75-85 mph when towing a medium sized camper with my family in the vehicle while on vacation. And yes, I saw other people doing just that - which to me is getting into dangerous territory. But, maybe they understand something about their vehicles that I do not.

Also keep this in mind - other pickups and larger full sized SUVs typically have non-WDH and WDH ratings as a guide - usually increasing the available capacities by a few thousand lbs if using a WDH. I am not interested in trying to tow 7,000 or 8,000 lbs using the Atlas. I am just trying to tow at or below 5K (what my Atlas is rated for) safely. I have plenty of adjustment links available on the WDH (not risking binding) and I am not overly pushing the downward or upward forces on the receiver hitch - risking damage to the unibody frame. I've continued to inspect the integrity of the weld contact points of the hitch and surrounding tube and frame points. From what I can tell, Bosal GmbH incorporates a good towing system product during the VW manufacturing process.

In case you are curious, our camper is a 24 feet long, tandem axle, hard-sided trailer rated for a gross cargo-carrying capacity of 6K. Of course - we kept our weights just at about 5K - slightly less for the main and longer leg of the trip - and then I am sure over a bit with water while we set up driving inside the campground at very slow speeds over a very short distance, never exceeding the trailers capacity. The brand is a 2020 Coachmen Apex Nano (lightest for it's kind of trailer with features offered) - model 208BHS. We are a family of 4 to 5 mainly with a 60 lb dog.

While at the campsite - I even had someone ask me how the Atlas towed - and he himself mentioned that he felt that the Atlas is probably one of the most under-rated mid-sized family-tow vehicles out there. Given my experience so far, I could not agree more.

If you have any questions on the Atlas, the set up, airbags, or the trailer - feel free to reply. This site has assisted me quite a bit with my Atlas, and I am happy to pay it forward.

Full disclosure, I am not a towing expert nor am I a Volkswagen Atlas expert and I officially do not advise going against whatever recommendations and instructions your vehicle manual provides you. I am not liable for any kind of damage or catastrophes as a result of the use or application of any recommendations or advice that you may or may not find in my post. I do not represent any companies or entities mentioned in this or any other posts I may create. What I have stated in this paragraph supersedes any previous comments in this post or other posts that I create, in the past, now, or at any point in the future.

Once I get the rig to the CAT scales - loaded, I will update this post with more accurate weights. I may have to invest in a tongue weight scale.

ar
Hey there, i just bought a Nano 208bhs thinking that it would be a good fit for the 2019 v6 Altas. Im having concerns about the hitch. You know that its not rated for a WDH just plain towing. I have the factory 5k rating tow package but my trailer dealer wants to install a second WDH below the factory one.

Can you tell me a bit about your experience? Did you put in the WD insert into the factory 5k hitch? If possible, I’d really appreciate a pic of your receiver/setup and any advice you can give.

Thanks,

Joss
 

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Hey there, i just bought a Nano 208bhs thinking that it would be a good fit for the 2019 v6 Altas. Im having concerns about the hitch. You know that its not rated for a WDH just plain towing. I have the factory 5k rating tow package but my trailer dealer wants to install a second WDH below the factory one.

Can you tell me a bit about your experience? Did you put in the WD insert into the factory 5k hitch? If possible, I’d really appreciate a pic of your receiver/setup and any advice you can give.

Thanks,

Joss
Hi Joss,

I’ve been towing an apex nano 191rbs with my Highline for the past year and a half. Do not put a WDH into your factory receiver. As you said, the factory hitch assembly can not accommodate a WDH.

You will need the aftermarket hitch assembly installed, I had a Curt receiver installed on mine. Sits directly under the factory hitch. You will be very happy you installed an aftermarket assembly, the atlas handles far better with a WDH on it.

Do you have an electric brake controller installed?
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Yeah, Ive arranged for the trailer dealer to install the appropriate hitch/receiver and a brake controller. An extra 1600$ that i wasn't planning on spending but if it buys me peace of mind for the next ten years then i suppose it will amortize nicely. I was hoping that it was more of a CYA thing on the part of VW but that doesnt seem to be the case.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Hey there, i just bought a Nano 208bhs thinking that it would be a good fit for the 2019 v6 Altas. Im having concerns about the hitch. You know that its not rated for a WDH just plain towing. I have the factory 5k rating tow package but my trailer dealer wants to install a second WDH below the factory one.

Can you tell me a bit about your experience? Did you put in the WD insert into the factory 5k hitch? If possible, I’d really appreciate a pic of your receiver/setup and any advice you can give.

Thanks,

Joss
Congrats on the Nano - I think with time you will be enjoying the camper if you haven't been already. We find that the 208bhs checks mostly all of the boxes for our camping needs currently (considering our main tow vehicle as well). You will also probably realize that after towing with the Atlas, you will usually have more than enough torque and power to tow, as well as enough braking power with a brake controller.

To answer your question, I've been inserting the WDH into the factory hitch. No problems so far, however - I've been considering speaking to a local and experienced welding expert in my area (Phoenix area) that has worked on reinforcements and modifications to factory hitches, as well as second hitches to frames such as BMWs and VWs to see what his thoughts are on the Atlas, and what he would do differently to ensure a safer towing experience. I will update this thread as I get more information. I don't currently have a pic of the WDH set up will try and remember to snag one next time I set up (will try and head out in a couple of weeks - however, looks like you have decided on a second hitch receiver to circumvent the factory receiver.)
 

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We have just returned from 416 mile round trip up to the Coconino / Kaibab National Forest area of Williams, AZ / Flagstaff AZ - originating from the Phoenix area. It was an uneventful (towing wise) - but fun trip for the whole family and cousins. Same set up as my original post, however, second vehicle chasing since we had extra people sleeping in the camper with us. Extra supplies went into second vehicle.

Elevation to destination was about 1K ft less than my original post - at about 6,500 ft, however - I noticed that we had hit about 4,500 rpms a couple more times than last on the way up. I cannot really account the reasoning for this other than maybe I was being more consistent with our speeds of between 55 and 65 mph - and I was "backing off less" on the pedal. I also feel that the grades were slightly different on the main portion of the ascent, perhaps offering an explanation for hitting the higher rpms a few more times. On this last trip, I also did notice that the Atlas was working noticeably (slightly) more at the higher elevation to maintain our cruising speeds of between 55-65mph. I can account for this last point though easier. It's because we were towing for 30 more minutes at that elevation than last time - once reaching the higher elevation on our way to our final destination - although it was relatively consistent terrain - without extreme ascents or descents. We invariably would have had a similar experience if we would have towed longer last time - however, once reaching the final elevation of 7,500 ft on our previous trip - our destination is just 5 minutes down the highway.

So in going back to the manual, I would say that it's accurate to say you have to deduct a percentage of towing capacity for every 3K in elevation you ascend. Overall though, the Atlas performed well and I didn't feel as if it was overly taxing the engine or transmission anymore than the longer leg of the trip - dealing with more grades and ascents as we plateaued. The difference was subtle but noticeable if you are sensitive to it.

Regarding MPGs on this trip - I was a bit more diligent in monitoring both our ascending MPGs and descending MPGs on this last trip. We averaged an impressive 11.2 mpg while ascending to our destination, and 11.8 descending back to our home. These readings are since from our last refuel in the very beginning of each trip, just a couple of miles from departing - starting the trip with a full tank of gas.

Keep in mind this is while towing approximately 4,700 to 4,800 lbs (still need to head to a CAT scale for accuracy) - with two adults, two smaller children and a dog in the back with seats down. Not much else in Atlas. As mentioned in my original post, camper dry weight is 4,100 lbs, and we are packing about 600 lbs to 700 lbs of total cargo (including generator). All camper tanks are empty with the exception of a couple of gallons in camper to use bathroom while on the road and two gallons of gas for generator.

On this last trip, I packed slightly different - which may have affected the towing experience slightly. Since I am being cognizant of the tongue weight, I pushed the generator all the way to the rear of the trailer. I have a floorplan that allows me to slide the generator pretty much right down the middle and to the back wall. What is typically recommended is having most of the weight distributed evenly around the trailer and larger (heavier items) over the axles - if not creeping closer to the tongue. The generator alone is about 100 lbs. (Predator 3500). Since I have the front end pass through storage pretty much filled with RV equipment - I was working to "lighten" the front end as much as I can to ease up on the tongue as much as possible - since I am maxed on my tongue - by pushing the generator back as much as possible. This may have affected some towing performance as I did notice that the trailer did buck a few more times than our last trip. By buck I mean sway - slightly or "halfway". Right at that moment - it immediately corrects and straightens out with the sway control in place and WDH. So in other words, you feel it move, but it doesn't "wag" in the other direction creating a true sway situation. At no point did I feel out of control of the trailer or felt any kind of danger. This was subtle, but enough for me to feel it. So, the system works as it should and is designed to work. To be fair, I felt as if the ride back downhill was more windy with a few more gusts here and there. So I cannot be certain if I can attribute the performance wholly to how I placed the generator and cargo - could have been more weather/wind related as well. Just trying to be as impartial as possible with my experiences towing with this rig.

Hope this helps.

A few more side notes:

  • The largest "buck" I felt was when a Class A motorhome flew past me going at least 75 mph. You will feel those as they are like a moving wall of wind and an oversized Dyson vacuum at the same time.
  • Incidentally, all the vehicles we saw towing at our campground were, a couple of Honda pilots, a few Ford Expeditions, and everyone else had a pick-up trucks or Motorhomes of all classes. There was one other Atlas, but from what I could tell, it was not towing - they were tent camping.
  • It was also nice to disconnect from the trailer, and on more than several occasions and several days of camping, raising the third row, packing two more kids, another adult, and my own family for a total of 7 people (we have the middle bench seat), a dog, and some fishing tackle - and heading to the lake - or the Grand Canyon - knowing we could all fit comfortably in one car. This is just not possible in a pick-up.
  • Lastly, on a hard to reach fishing location away from the "main" parking areas, it sure was a blast to engage the 4 Motion and switch the mode to "Off-Road" and crawl into a hard to reach off-highway fishing hole, and then climb out of it at steep incline with no issues for the Atlas.
Happy trailering & camping (if you are into camping) -
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Found a couple of pics I took, getting ready to depart on our last trip. These shots are when we are loaded, both trailer and passengers ready to go. Not sure if you can tell, but I've pretty much eliminated rear sag on the Atlas - the ride is just about as level as you can be towing with our rig.
 

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2018 Atlas Highline, towing 2019 Apex Nano 191
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Found a couple of pics I took, getting ready to depart on our last trip. These shots are when we are loaded, both trailer and passengers ready to go. Not sure if you can tell, but I've pretty much eliminated rear sag on the Atlas - the ride is just about as level as you can be towing with our rig.
@alramos I'm curious about the air bag system (definitely thinking about installing on my highline).
  • Do they change the ride of the Atlas when you are not towing the trailer (I've heard that airbags will make the suspension "stiffer" when unloaded, resulting in a harsher ride)
  • What air pressure are they when you are towing? do you soften them when not towing?
 

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2018 V6 SE with Tech. and 4MOTION®
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Discussion Starter #20
@alramos I'm curious about the air bag system (definitely thinking about installing on my highline).
  • Do they change the ride of the Atlas when you are not towing the trailer (I've heard that airbags will make the suspension "stiffer" when unloaded, resulting in a harsher ride)
  • What air pressure are they when you are towing? do you soften them when not towing?
So from what I can tell, the airbags do not make a noticeably difference when driving - when unloaded, and when deflated. You can tell a difference if they are inflated to 35 psi (recommended when loaded) - if you do not have a load on the hitch. It drives a bit more stiff - I would not say harsh. If anything, when driving mode is switched to "Sport" - with or without airbags installed it makes it more stiff by design - particularly in the front suspension and steering as you have probably noticed yourself.

The airbags installation and use instructions recommend for the airbags to be deflated completely, then (if I remember correctly) to re-inflate to 5 psi when not loaded. However - here is where some might think I'm a bit quirky: I like the "stance" the Atlas takes on when the airbags are inflated, but not loaded. It's subtle, but enough to notice - at least for me. When looking at the Atlas from the back and side, or even directly behind it - the rear is raised slightly - with the nose of the SUV slightly down a bit (regular height). It takes on a leaner and more aggressive stance. Again, not by much - but enough for me to notice it. The difference is probably less than 2 or so inches, but at least over an inch or so. I will have to measure. The reason why it does this is because of the outward pressure the airbags produce on the coils, keeping the Atlas's coils in place instead of letting them drop to "relax." When inflated and loaded, you can see the pressure bulge between each coil - keeping the coils rigid under load.

I can even feel it when seated in the vehicle in the driver's seat. The rear axle is slightly raised. From what I can tell, it doesn't affect driving performance or maneuverability. Whether or not it would cause ultimate damage to the coils or suspension driving while not loaded would remain to be seen - however, I truly don't think it will harm anything. If anything, I imagine that they would preserve the integrity of the elasticity of the coils since they would "flex" less during typical driving conditions. I usually deflate the airbags eventually after we tow - and give the coils "a break" to perform free from the pressure the airbags generate. However, I like to keep them inflated for reasons above for a period after actual use.
 
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