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Old 06-08-2020, 10:00 AM   #1
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Thumbs up New owner of a 96 Towlite 24ft!

Just picked up a 96 towlite from a small dealer nearby this weekend! $4000 cash. Tested it out by camping overnight in the inlaw's driveway before going home. Pretty much everything worked great. The only things I found is the top isn't level so I can't open the outdoor sprayer door, and the water heater pilot is building up crazy soot. Both of which I'll try to fix this week.

My kia niro doesn't do too bad towing it. I got about 2 inches of rear axle drop, but I'm getting airbags installed this week for that. The hitch mount manufacturer says the hitch isn't built for adding a balanced hitch, but it's not too bad. I still have to get to a scale to weigh the tongue weight. Braking with the Curt Echo wireless brake controller worked great, don't even feel the trailer there. Plus I have 40 horsepower of regenerative braking before the physical brakes even engage.

The engine is only under moderate load pulling it at 50-55mph in fifth gear (out of six) on level ground. When cruising though the hybrid battery drains and it's pulling entirely on engine power, but as soon as I slow down the engine fills it back up to give me me plenty of extra oomph to accelerate up any hill I encountered. My mpg dropped from 45 to 24-30, which makes sense since its running only on engine power. No temperature rise, and it's got an electrically actuated manual transmission, so I don't have to worry about that like if I had an automatic.

Overall everything is working as well as I was expecting. I'm planning on a good fraction of usage bieng boondocking and walmart camping, so I'll have to see how everything goes when running using my car's 2kW inverter.
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Old 06-08-2020, 10:41 AM   #2
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Congrats on your purchase, but I really don't like your idea of airbags to correct the downforce of the trailer on your rear axle. The way things are right now, your rear axle is carrying ALL the tongue weight of the trailer and air bags will NOT change that.

You should take your Kia and trailer to a CAT scale and weigh the load on ALL the axles. It's simple, you just drive up on the scale and wait until the scale operator says to move off and then you get a printout of the load on your Kia's front axle, its rear axle and the trailer axles. The cost is minimal - I think it cost me $15 to do this.

Now you know what your total combined weight is and the load on each axle. Your Kia should show you the the axle, wheel and tire limits for that vehicle on a sticker inside the driver's door. I am certain you are overloaded due to the tongue weight. You could also be over the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) for the Kia, but that's usually not a factor.

You say you can't add a "balanced" hitch, and I don't know what that is. You need a Weight Distributing Hitch (WDH), which will equalize the tongue weight between BOTH of the Kia's axles and actually put some of it back on the trailer's axles. Even then, you MAY be over limits, but you'll be a whole lot safer than the air bag solution!

Edit: I just looked up the specs on a 2019 Kia Niro and it says towing is "Not Recommended". I think you should be looking for a different tow vehicle before you take that trailer on many trips, and you probably need a SuperDuty class truck.

- Jack
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Old 06-08-2020, 07:53 PM   #3
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Congrats on your new to you HiLo. Jack has given you good advice. He is an engineer. You tube must have a video on how to service your water heater. Perhaps it just needs a good vaccuming out. Just a guess on my part as to why you are unable to open the exterior shower door. Perhaps the cables need to be adjusted. Watch the operational videos on the HiLo. Our members are very good at answering your questions.
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Old 06-09-2020, 09:31 AM   #4
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The only towing spec I could find for the Nero is for the 2020, and it’s limited to 2800 lbs.

I think this camper is too much for your tow vehicle - the brochure shows it’s *unloaded* weight as 3180 (and we know thats rarely correct), with a GVWR surely at least 500lbs more than that.
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Old 06-09-2020, 10:19 AM   #5
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I am also an engineer in the automotive industry. I ordered a WDH for it. Not using one was based on someone who used their niro for a similar weight racecar trailer, but I was originally planning on getting one.

Keep in mind that the same car is rated for 1500kg tow in france with tow ratings elsewhere in europe too, with the caveat that damage caused by towing isn't covered by warranty, which is in line with the american dealerships stance. They said that you can tow with it, but any damage due to towing won't be covered. Not giving it a tow rating in america has more to do with greater usage of freeway speeds, and more liability exposure than in europe. Also, the severe usage maintenance schedules include categories for towing, as well as extended use above 90mph (autobahn), which requires even more horsepower than I was using.

The SAE J2807 tow rating standard testing sets a rating based on extreme conditions inculding an 11 mile 3,500 foot mountain climb at 100 degrees with full air conditioner without dropping below 40mph. A situation that I will never see here in Michigan. The fellow who is towing his 3200lb racecar has a youtube channel and plans on attempting these SAE trials himself, and I am eager to see the results.

The trailer brakes are very strong and work well with my brake controller so that the brake pedal "effort" for a given rate of deceleration is the same or nearly the same with the trailer as it is without the trailer. So the brakes aren't under excessive wear.

The frame and suspension will be under greater stress, a WDH can alleviate a good bit of that. This means things like shocks requiring replacement earlier than normal, which is an acceptable tradeoff. The greatest stress is during braking, and since the trailer is doing the vast majority of its own braking, this is not as big of a deal as it would be with an unbraked trailer.

The third main concern when towing is the engine and transmission. The transmission is a DCT manual gearbox that is electrically shifted. Since there's no torque converter, the heat load on the transmission is not the main concern. Manual transmission towing articles say that the main wear source is on the clutch due to slower acceleration form stopping. Since the hybrid electric motor accelerates the car from stop into first gear territory before the engine kicks in, increased clutch wear is not a concern in this instance.

The engine is a 1.6L four cylinder direct injected atkinson cycle engine making ~100hp. I would guess I was producing 30-40hp when pulling the trailer on level road based on pedal position and gear selection. There are plenty of cars on the road today with similar sized engines producing similar outputs for extended periods on the freeway and autobahn with no long term issues. The maintenance schedule for extended high speed usage reflects this, with the main changes bieng a transmission fluid change at 80k, and electric motor drive belt replacement at 40k. Overall, I expect that I'll see increased wear on the engine, but no early catastrophic failures.

One big advantage with using this car is that it is a hybrid with a 1.8kW liquid cooled 12v power supply. I have used it during power outages to power most of my house with an inverter, and it's perfect for that. The engine quietly kicks on to recharge the hybrid battery a couple times an hour, and the fuel consumption is negligible.

Since I don't plan on going faster than 55 with it, I plan on borrowing a truck when traveling more than a couple hours away. I have no intentions of towing it extended long distances with the niro. In any case, it's my car, and since towing it felt very safe as far as slowing down and swaying goes, it's all on me.

In other news, the dealer I got it from used to be a hi-lo dealer until they went bankrupt, so he knows a lot about them. Also, during the shutdown, he had his otherwise out of work mechanic do a bunch of labor to it without charging the hours to the campers pricetag. So that's a nice bonus. The previous owner kept all the manuals to everything with hand written notes in the margins of tips, reminders, and anything he changed from stock. Apparently the previous owner was an older gentleman who had it for years until his wife passed.
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Old 06-09-2020, 10:19 AM   #6
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I have recently purchased a 19T Towlite. Do they need a distribution hitch (WDH)? With 500 tongue weight rating on my SUV, adding an extra 100 pounds to the hitch to distribute weight seems to defeat its purpose?
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Old 06-09-2020, 10:44 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Jeffminsk View Post
I have recently purchased a 19T Towlite. Do they need a distribution hitch (WDH)? With 500 tongue weight rating on my SUV, adding an extra 100 pounds to the hitch to distribute weight seems to defeat its purpose?
There are much lighter weight WDH setups for smaller things like the towlite. The one I just ordered weighs under 20 pounds. Remember you don't need a 15,000lb WDH, get one that matches the weight of your trailer.
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Old 06-09-2020, 11:12 AM   #8
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What Europe does is irrelevant. I could explain in detail why they do what they do, but in the end it just doesn’t matter, you’re not towing in Europe.

Your vehicle is insufficient to tow this load - the fact that your rear suspension is already compressed is testament to that. I think it’s interesting you’re quoting specifications, while completely disregarding manufacturer specs, and never once mentioned altitude compensation.

If you want to tow overweight, I’d say thats your concern, but it’s everyone else’s concern too when you’re putting our lives at risk by doing this.


I’ve towed 5k in a similar vehicle that was specified to be capable of 5k. It’s no fun, and you can really feel the limitations when at such limits (and thats a vehicle with an additional foot of wheelbase over the Nero).

One final issue: if you have an accident, insurance companies will happily disclaim liability, since you’re over capacity.
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Old 06-09-2020, 11:33 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by zimirken View Post
There are much lighter weight WDH setups for smaller things like the towlite. The one I just ordered weighs under 20 pounds. Remember you don't need a 15,000lb WDH, get one that matches the weight of your trailer.
What brand is this? I like Amazon post which erroneously says EZ Lift is 5 pounds
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Old 06-09-2020, 11:48 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Jeffminsk View Post
I have recently purchased a 19T Towlite. Do they need a distribution hitch (WDH)? With 500 tongue weight rating on my SUV, adding an extra 100 pounds to the hitch to distribute weight seems to defeat its purpose?
Hi Jeff, and welcome! If your trailer's tongue weight is 500#, you need a WDH that will carry that weight. One rated 600 - 800# would be ideal. But you DON'T want one that is rated to carry LESS!

Now, my 17T has a tongue weight that is just under 500# (I've measured it with a tongue weight scale), even though it's supposed to be about 380#. And that's with an empty fresh water tank. If I fill that tank, it adds 300# to the trailer weight and about half that weight goes to the hitch, since the tank is at the front. This puts me very close to what my WDH is rated at - 600#. Your trailer weighs more than mine, so I would really recommend you get a WDH rated at 800#.

My WDH weighs 70#, and yes, this adds to the load carried by the tow vehicle. If I don't use the WDH, virtually ALL of the nearly 500# of tongue weight is borne by the rear axle of my truck. But if I use the WDH, the nearly 570# added pounds are distributed to the truck's front axle AND the trailer's axle. The WDH lifts the tongue and the rear of the tow vehicle to do this, so since some of the tongue weight is put back to the trailer's axle, it actually REDUCES the total load that has been put onto the tow vehicle's axles. And, it does this while leveling the tow vehicle and trailer, which restores steering handling and braking which are reduced if no WDH is used.

With the WDH set up properly, I don't even know I'm pulling a trailer, except for the somewhat reduced acceleration. Braking is about the same, since my trailer brakes are set up to control the trailer's added load. The WDH also adds sway control and I've NEVER experienced trailer sway. In the past, I have had trailer sway pulling something without a WDH and trust me, you do NOT want to have that happen while rolling down the highway!

I would not pull anything weighing more than 2000# without a WDH!

- Jack
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Old 06-09-2020, 01:18 PM   #11
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Hi Jeff, and welcome! If your trailer's tongue weight is 500#, you need a WDH that will carry that weight. One rated 600 - 800# would be ideal. But you DON'T want one that is rated to carry LESS!

Now, my 17T has a tongue weight that is just under 500# (I've measured it with a tongue weight scale), even though it's supposed to be about 380#. And that's with an empty fresh water tank. If I fill that tank, it adds 300# to the trailer weight and about half that weight goes to the hitch, since the tank is at the front. This puts me very close to what my WDH is rated at - 600#. Your trailer weighs more than mine, so I would really recommend you get a WDH rated at 800#.

My WDH weighs 70#, and yes, this adds to the load carried by the tow vehicle. If I don't use the WDH, virtually ALL of the nearly 500# of tongue weight is borne by the rear axle of my truck. But if I use the WDH, the nearly 570# added pounds are distributed to the truck's front axle AND the trailer's axle. The WDH lifts the tongue and the rear of the tow vehicle to do this, so since some of the tongue weight is put back to the trailer's axle, it actually REDUCES the total load that has been put onto the tow vehicle's axles. And, it does this while leveling the tow vehicle and trailer, which restores steering handling and braking which are reduced if no WDH is used.

With the WDH set up properly, I don't even know I'm pulling a trailer, except for the somewhat reduced acceleration. Braking is about the same, since my trailer brakes are set up to control the trailer's added load. The WDH also adds sway control and I've NEVER experienced trailer sway. In the past, I have had trailer sway pulling something without a WDH and trust me, you do NOT want to have that happen while rolling down the highway!

I would not pull anything weighing more than 2000# without a WDH!

- Jack


Is there a 20 pound WDH? THE Trunnion bar weight distribution hitch shows a shipping weight of 50 pounds but is pricy compared to the Ez Lift at 75 pounds for 100 plus less
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Old 06-09-2020, 01:22 PM   #12
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Is there a 20 pound WDH? THE Trunnion bar weight distribution hitch shows a shipping weight of 50 pounds but is pricy compared to the Ez Lift at 75 pounds for 100 plus less
I don't see how there could ever be a 20# WDH. I think 50-80# is more reasonable. But, I'd carefully study the specs of one with a 50# shipping weight. My hitch has a towing limit of 10,000# and a tongue limit of 600#. I don't think anything less than this will work for most HiLos.

My hitch also has "built-in" sway control. It uses the friction of the bars against the L_brackets to do this, without any additional devices. There are some WDHs that have to have the equalizing bars disconnected before backing up too. Mine doesn't.

- Jack
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Old 06-10-2020, 07:49 AM   #13
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I don't see how there could ever be a 20# WDH. I think 50-80# is more reasonable. But, I'd carefully study the specs of one with a 50# shipping weight. My hitch has a towing limit of 10,000# and a tongue limit of 600#. I don't think anything less than this will work for most HiLos.

My hitch also has "built-in" sway control. It uses the friction of the bars against the L_brackets to do this, without any additional devices. There are some WDHs that have to have the equalizing bars disconnected before backing up too. Mine doesn't.

- Jack
I ordered the "EAZ LIFT 800 lbs Elite" and just checked the tracking info and the package weight is 77 pounds. I was hoping it would be lighter. The car is in the shop today for running heavy gauge power wires to the 7 pin, and the air bag install. I could do it myself but I really don't have the time or desire.

Also, I am planning on putting my car and trailer through the SAE J2807 tests to have hard evidence for myself that it's capable and not unsafe. Other than the Davis Dam thermal test which is done in Arizona of course. But that's not a safety test, it's a powertrain cooling test. All the other tests can basically be done with a smartphone and accelerometer datalogger apps. The hardest part is finding a quiet 12% grade hill to do the launch tests on. I'll be publishing my results on kia niro forums and youtube, and if I don't like what I find as far as safety goes, I'll start looking to trade my extra car for a cheap used truck or suv. My wife wants me to get a truck anyways because "it would suit me".
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Old 06-10-2020, 09:03 AM   #14
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You are wasting money by buying air bags if you have a WDH. They are not needed because the WDH will level both the tow vehicle and trailer if it is properly adjusted. And, if you level the tow vehicle with the air bags BEFORE you adjust the WDH, it will defeat the weight transferring effect of the WDH, making it useless and turning it into something that adds 70 extra pounds to your tow vehicle's rear axle.

You say you are an engineer. Use what you learned in the study of mechanics! The tow vehicle trailer combination is supported by three load bearing points - the two tow vehicle axles and the trailer axle(s). Without a WDH, the tongue weight is borne almost totally by the tow vehicle's rear axle. Lifting the frame with air bags does not remove that weight.

But, a WDH supplies a rigid "bridge" at the hitch. If you raise this bridge by adjusting it properly, it lifts the tongue and rear of the tow vehicle, which reduces the load on that rear axle. It transfers some of that load to the front axle of the tow vehicle and to the trailer axle(s).

A WDH prevents trailer nose dive when braking, and restores traction to your front wheels on the tow vehicle, improving your steering control and handling.

- Jack
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Old 06-10-2020, 09:46 AM   #15
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That's why I ordered one.
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Old 06-10-2020, 12:28 PM   #16
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That's why I ordered one.
Great! Sorry if I sound like a "know it all" and a "mother hen". I'll stick with my advice though - cancel the air bag install. It's really only good for a vehicle that hauls a heavy load in the back (like bags of concrete), that push the rear down and the front up. There's no other way to level the vehicle in this case.

- Jack
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Old 06-10-2020, 01:27 PM   #17
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Great! Sorry if I sound like a "know it all" and a "mother hen". I'll stick with my advice though - cancel the air bag install. It's really only good for a vehicle that hauls a heavy load in the back (like bags of concrete), that push the rear down and the front up. There's no other way to level the vehicle in this case.

- Jack
That's perfectly fine. I have no problem with good logical arguments.
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Old 06-18-2020, 05:17 PM   #18
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Congratulations! We had a 97 Hilo Tow light and we really loved it. We lived in ours alot of the summer while we were building our little home. Ours was a 18'. I cannot find a way to share the pic of it.
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Old 06-19-2020, 10:19 AM   #19
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Just don't have the camper flip itself and your car.
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Old 06-19-2020, 10:51 AM   #20
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Zimirken, the soot build up sounds like an insect has built a web or nest in the gas tube to the burner. This causes improper flow of propane to the burner. Thus causing the soot problem.

Bob
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