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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently purchased a KZ Escape 231BH (based on a recommendation that someone made on one of these discussions) and towed it 1300 miles (from NY to FL). It was mostly empty, so the total weight was just over 4000 pounds, and the tongue weight was initially 400 pounds (due to having water in the tanks which are unfortunately behind the axles). I initially felt sway above 50 mph and found by moving my tools and hoses from the car to the front of the trailer, it greatly reduced the sway, but I still felt it. The tongue weight increased to 450 (11% of total weight) by this movement of supplies. I have been towing a 45-ft fifth wheel for 4 years, so towing a TT is new to me, and I am trying to learn what to expect and what is just not right. My knuckles were white for a good portion of my drive with the cruise control set at about 62 mph, and would like to find a more enjoyable driving experience. Note that I found the same amount of sway whether I drove at 55 mph or 62 mph. Compared to watching one driver almost lose his trailer with sway, mine was nothing close to this, but I did feel it constantly pulling a little left, right, left, etc. Over 65 was getting a bit too hairy, thus 62 seemed like the sweet spot.

I've read on the various discussions that WD hitches should not be used, and I am fine with this. I don't see anywhere in the owners manual that a sway control shouldn't be used. I've read many people mention that it shouldn't be used, but it seems more grouped with the WD/Sway hitch, vs only a sway bar. Some people have said that they can tow a 4500 pound trailer with no sway, with no sway bars, etc. So I'm trying to figure out what I am doing wrong; and whether I should try with a sway bar to see if it is any better, as we plan to travel for 6-weeks this summer, or is there something else that I'm missing?

Has anyone experienced what I am describing, and is this just normal for a 27-ft trailer with dual axle and small wheels; or am I doing something wrong? Has anyone tried a sway bar without WD hitch and experienced either positive or negative results?

Thanks.
 

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How are you measuring your trailer and tongue weight? The first guess to solve sway is probably going to be a properly balanced trailer. It sounds like you had a decent amount of weight behind the trailers axle.

Towing with the Ascent is going to be a completely different experience than towing with anything with a fifth wheel. As much sway as you’re describing isn’t normal but a sway hitch isn’t going to be the answer either.

Others here have towed a lot more than me. I’ve only towed >4K a couple times but felt completely safe above 65mph. My biggest concern at that speed was gas mileage! I’m confident you’ll get some good answers on here but I’d start with ensuring the trailer is loaded properly.
 

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2019 Ascent Touring (CWP)
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My gut is that your tongue weight is still not what you think it is for that trailer setup if you're getting excessive sway. xyd' is spot on in his comments, too.
 

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I am so sorry that nothing I am going to write is going to be what you want to hear...

Alas, in my opinion, that trailer is too long and has too heavy of a tongue weight. You're exceeding the recommended max trailer lengths based on the Ascent's size and wheelbase, and I am very sure you're over tongue weight (or very tail heavy to compensate, which is a different kind of bad that can introduce uncontrollable sway).

Sadly, there was one person considering the Escape E231BH, but no one recommended it. The smaller and lighter Escapes were the ones actually recommended.

Trying to accommodate overloading the tongue weight with an anti-sway device (beside being illegal to be overweight) or trying to accommodate excess sway caused by overloading the tail, is even more likely to damage the Ascent than those people who erroneously use a WDH/sway setup on a suitable weight travel trailer.

EDIT: yep, sadly, what everyone else said above.
 

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I eventually came to the conclusion that my Ascent is not an acceptable tow vehicle other than for all but the very lightest travel trailers. In this case, the dry hitch weight of 450 lbs and the length of 27 feet for the E231BH should have ruled it out for the Ascent. The length is most likely simply too long to handle given the weight of the Ascent. The maximum trailer length for the Ascent should be no longer than 21 feet in my opinion. This is probably what is causing the sway and without the possibility of using a WDH with sway control, it may be very difficult or impossible to mitigate.

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You also should not be using the cruise control when towing with an Ascent as per the owner's manual.

Please do yourself a huge favor and reevaluate your towing setup. I know you may not want to hear this but your practical choice is to purchase a lighter travel trailer or a better tow vehicle. I know this sounds daunting, it did to me when I finally came to that conclusion. But I accepted it and purchased a truck for towing which ended up being the best decision I could have made and allowed me to finally purchase and safely tow the larger-sized travel trailer I wanted. Most full-sized trucks can easily and comfortably handle the E231BH.

Not being able to use a WDH on an Ascent is a considerable disadvantage for safe towing many trailers. When properly used, a WDH can mitigate a lot of towing issues such as payload problems and sway. Without one, it's much harder to pull a travel trailer at or near a vehicle's towing limits. This is true for most towing setups. It's almost unheard of not using a WDH for towing anything but ultra, ultra-lightweight trailers under 21 feet. The E231BH is not in this category and is most likely simply too much trailer for the Ascent to safely handle, especially without being able to use a WDH.

Physics is physics, no amount of wishful thinking is going to change that. The tow vehicle and the trailer must be properly matched.
 

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I'm guessing that you purchased from a dealer. Some are very knowledgeable and offer conservative towing advice. Others just ask your max towing weight and want to sell you anything with a dry weight under that limit. I recently had one try to push a Solaire 185X (info page) on me which is 25'-9" long and starting to push the weight and TW limits. I lost count of how many times I told him "too long, too heavy."
 

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The Ascent just isn't made for towing like Subaru pushed out to everyone. They show it pulling a big Airstream in their promo which we all know would make this car struggle and be way over limit. I've towed a hair over 5k lb for more than 2,500 miles combined and the car would do fine, sway was very minimal but had issues with the Ascent was it couldn't cool itself off quick enough, even in 70* weather. Rear diff over heating and transmission was steadily climbing even with constant cool air. I tow a Apex Nano 208BHS, and I can't imagine what the car would do on those 110* days. I did myself a favor and got rid of the car, luckily not a hit since used car prices are insane, and got a nice used Tahoe which can pull it with ease.

Why you are having so much sway I am unsure, but I can tell you now that this forum will only bash you for getting that TT. I will also point out, your dry hitch weight is about the same as mine, and loading up a full fresh would always put too much pressure on the car. Try to go out with your fresh tank empty, or at least like 10 gallons for road side stops. If you plan on long term dry camping with this vehicle, it isn't made for it unless you get a tiny trailer.

Beautiful trailer though and good luck in whatever you do!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
We bought this trailer last week because we wanted the lightest trailer that I could find with dual axles, queen size bed, and double bunks for the kids. I knew of the 5000 pound towing capacity, and 500 pound tongue weight capacity. I hadn't seen anything regarding limitations with the wheel base, and at this point, the Ascent is our only towing option, so I am now trying to figure out the safest option for towing.

I have a tongue weight scale, rated for 1000 pounds. I am weighing on level ground with the hitch at the same height that it is connected to the car (roughly 21 inches above the ground). I am using an Andersen adjustable hitch, so I can get the trailer as level as possible. I have the option of having the tongue half-inch above level or 1.5 inches below level. The dealer suggested that I am better off with the tongue lower, thus I have gone with the 1/2 inch lower. Am curious if others agree with this.

Assuming that we will stay with this trailer and tow vehicle, is my best option to try getting the tongue weight to the maximum 500 pounds, while minimizing the total weight? Others that have successfully towed >4000 pounds, I am curious if it was a higher tongue weight than I have, or if the trailer was just shorter. My mpg was 9-10, at 62mph. I did read in the manual yesterday about not using cruise, so I'll plan to test driving without that on our trip next week.

Someone mentioned that it may sway less if it was a taller trailer since more air would flow under the trailer. I don't know if there is any truth to this statement, but wondered if having larger wheels could help.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The Ascent just isn't made for towing like Subaru pushed out to everyone. They show it pulling a big Airstream in their promo which we all know would make this car struggle and be way over limit. I've towed a hair over 5k lb for more than 2,500 miles combined and the car would do fine, sway was very minimal but had issues with the Ascent was it couldn't cool itself off quick enough, even in 70* weather. Rear diff over heating and transmission was steadily climbing even with constant cool air. I tow a Apex Nano 208BHS, and I can't imagine what the car would do on those 110* days. I did myself a favor and got rid of the car, luckily not a hit since used car prices are insane, and got a nice used Tahoe which can pull it with ease.

Why you are having so much sway I am unsure, but I can tell you now that this forum will only bash you for getting that TT. I will also point out, your dry hitch weight is about the same as mine, and loading up a full fresh would always put too much pressure on the car. Try to go out with your fresh tank empty, or at least like 10 gallons for road side stops. If you plan on long term dry camping with this vehicle, it isn't made for it unless you get a tiny trailer.

Beautiful trailer though and good luck in whatever you do!
Unfortunately this is the wife's car, and isn't open to changing for a more capable tow vehicle. I may look into getting an older F150 for purely towing purposes.
 

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Unfortunately this is the wife's car, and isn't open to changing for a more capable tow vehicle. I may look into getting an older F150 for purely towing purposes.
At least getting a truck is an option for you! We needed 7-8 seats for our TV, which severely limits choices. Would have been much easier to go for a truck, but I guess people frown again throwing kids in the trailer to make room in the cab. :ROFLMAO:
 

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The Ascent just isn't made for towing like Subaru pushed out to everyone. They show it pulling a big Airstream in their promo which we all know would make this car struggle and be way over limit.
Alas, I disagree with both statements. That "big Airstream" isn't big, and is perfect for the Ascent's upper limit. It's also no longer made, and the replacement is sufficiently and sadly heavier making it not suitable for the Ascent.

The trailer I tow is very similar specs to that Airstream, and the Ascent handles it easily. It absolutely does not struggle with that Airstream or the trailer I tow.

This Airstream in the video is
GVWR:
4,300 pounds


The Ascent easily moves it

This is the heavier Heartland Edge M18 I tow.
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The Ascent easily moves it, including in this test where we were very close to its full 4,395 pound GVWR (all three tanks were full, and it was loaded with gear)
 

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Yes, it isn't bashing. There's also nothing to be unsure of. It's massively long, and unless a LOT of weight can be balanced exactly on the axle, the tongue weight will either exceed the Ascent's capabilities, or the rear will be overloaded (which creates bad sway).

It's physics, not bashing.
 

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I have a tongue weight scale, rated for 1000 pounds.
Which scale are you using? Most, like the WeighSafe, are not accurate enough for the Ascent's needs, and may be off 50-100 pounds (not exaggeration, 5-10%). It is the proper weight rating to achieve a higher accuracy, so, that much is great.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I am using the Sherline LM1000 scale, which seemed to have really good reviews. Hopefully it is accurate enough. Multiple people said to ensure that I balance the trailer properly. But what is "properly"? I know that I should have at least 60% of the weight in front of the axles, and that the tongue weight should be between 8-11% of the total weight, which is what I think is what Subaru says. We are considering mounting the generator on the rear bumper, and then all other supplies (including the spare tire) would be in the front. Again, I will ensure that the tongue weight is close to 500 pounds, but not over. We will travel with minimal water in the tanks -- just enough to use the toilet during our Walmart overnights.
 

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That's all good, but, remember that loading the rear to lighten the front, can cause sway. Loading over the axle is the only thing that minimizes that.

Sadly, the problem remaining that you can't fix, is the length. A simple way to explain one of the length related problems is to consider the trailer a lever. When you make the "lever" so long, the tow vehicle has to be longer to accommodate the forces, otherwise, it gets dragged around.

An anti-sway device/WDH may alleviate that for smaller sway incidents, but, in the case of something that would otherwise cause a large amount of sway (eg: a big wind gust), it may instead yank the trailer and the stiff-connected car over on its side. A sway/WDH solution is not designed to alleviate the problems related to having too long of a trailer (or too short of a tow vehicle, if you want to look at it that way).
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Thanks. I understand the car length issue. I also recognize that loading the rear to lighten the tongue is a bad idea, but I am curious about balancing. For example, if I add 100 pounds to the rear, but also add 200 pounds (just an example) to the front, will that alleviate the extra weight in the rear, or are you saying that adding any weight in the rear could have dire consequences regardless of weight added elsewhere? My plan was always to ensure the tongue weight was satisfactory compared to the total weight, before going on any long trips. I can also try packing so that the majority of the weight is over the axles (after making sure we have adequate tongue weight), if that is a suggestion.
 

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If you add weight to the rear, you can't counterbalance it away. Adding weight at the ends of the trailer will increase rotational inertia ability that induces/translates into sway. It's like balancing a flywheel or a tire. The weights may balance things, rotationally, but, at the same time, the added weight affects the inertia. In the case of both of those, though, that weight is a fraction of a percent of the total weight. For instance, my worst wheel setup has probably 12 wheel weights that each weigh 1/4 of an ounce. Total weights are 3 ounces. My wheel/tire setup weighs 58 pounds. The weights are 3/10th of a percent of the total wheel/tire weight. In the event of trying to fix tongue weight, moving 100 pounds to an end is 20% of the tongue weight total, and 2.5% total weight of the trailer.

Also, I am not suggesting you pack over the axles. I am suggesting that while a good practice, I think your trailer's length makes it moot, because the Ascent shouldn't be towing it. Sorry for any confusion.
 

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Sadly, the problem remaining that you can't fix, is the length. A simple way to explain one of the length related problems is to consider the trailer a lever. When you make the "lever" so long, the tow vehicle has to be longer to accommodate the forces, otherwise, it gets dragged around.
I was going to go here as well. I'm sure the physics are far more involved, but I imagine the trailer wants to sway and rotate about its center of inertia or, roughly, its axles. If the back of the trailer gets pushed to the right, the front of the trailer will want to rotate to the left, etc. A longer lever arm increases the mechanical advantage the system has, right? And then, compounding that, adding weight at the ends increases the inertia. It should theoretically make it harder to start swaying, but also will make it harder to stop swaying. And with so many forces involved (such as wind, movement from travel and steering, etc.), you're never going to be able to completely avoid trailer sway -- you can only choose equipment (such as hitch equipment, which is not allowed on the Ascent, or a more optimal tow vehicle), that will help to control its effects. Or, tow in an environment where sway is minimal (such as extremely slow speeds).

I presume you don't have an interest in traveling at 25 mph. It also sounds like the trailer is the smallest available that will fit your family. I think your best option is a different tow vehicle, and it sounds like you're open to buying a used truck for that.
 
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