Towing with a 200-series Toyota Land Cruiser (6 Viewers)

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I posted this on my personal blog at Towing with a 200-series Toyota Land Cruiser but wanted to share it here directly so it would be indexed.

I've read a number of different thoughts and opinions about towing with the 200-series Toyota Land Cruiser. One popular opinion which seems to come mostly from owners of full size diesel pickups, is that due to the relatively short 112" wheelbase, the Land Cruiser is a poor towing vehicle. After a few trips and tweaks to my setup, I can confidently say that with the proper setup, the Land Cruiser is actually a great towing vehicle.

Keep in mind everyone's trailer and towing setup will be a bit different, so rather than take my setup as the bible I recommend you try out your setup and make small adjustments until you're happy with it.


The Vehicles
My basic setup is a US-spec 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser with the 3UR-FE 5.7L V-8 engine, rated to tow 8,500 lbs with an 850 lb maximum tongue weight, and a 2005 Forest River Surveyor 235RS trailer which weighs about 5,000 lbs and has a roughly 600 lb tongue weight when loaded with all of our gear (except fresh water). Prior to the Land Cruiser we towed with a 2008 Acura MDX with 5,000 lb rated tow capacity, which definitely pushed the limits of that vehicle. Aside from the trailer, when camping we have 2 adults, 3 kids, a 75lb dog, a cooler full of food and ice, as well as clothing and other miscellaneous items in the vehicle (easily 650-700lbs).



Weight Distribution
One of the keys to the proper towing setup is a good weight distributing hitch with anti-sway setup. When I purchased the trailer I brought it home using a basic hitch and standard 2 5/16" hitch ball. When I got home I immediately ordered a Pro Series Weight Distribution Hitch with Sway Control for about $250 from eTrailer.com. (Note: Because I never expected my tongue weight to exceed 500 lbs I purchased the basic PS49901 model, with a 550lb limit. While I've considered upgrading the bars to allow me to shift more weight and better level the vehicle, the heavier bars tend to make the ride stiff and bouncy). When engaged, the weight distribution (WD) hitch and trunnion bars transfer a portion of the tongue weight off the rear axle onto the front axle of the vehicle. I once weighed the Acura at a truck stop with and without WD and the setup did shift about 80-100 lbs to the front axle depending on how many links on the chain were pulled up.

When I moved the Pro Series WD setup to the Land Cruiser, I discovered that the trailer was not level (nose-up by several inches). While most trailer hitches are level at 21-24", the Surveyor frame sits about 6" lower to the ground. Thus even at the lowest setting, the hitch ball was at least 4" too high. When combined with less tongue weight (one empty 30# propane cylinder and no bicycles stored in front), the trailer felt squirrel-y on the highway whenever there was a gust of wind. To get the trailer level when towing, I ended up purchasing a taller weight distribution hitch bar (shank) from Amazon for $75, which allowed me to drop the height of the hitch ball several inches lower. For my setup, I purchased a Curt 17123 (which is actually 12.25" tall) with the WD hitch mounted at the lowest setting makes the trailer almost perfectly level after my last modification.

Helper Air Bags
While the WD hitch does a solid job, I carry varying loads at times depending on whether we bring all 5 bicycles, how much propane is in the tanks, etc. I considered using a heavier duty WD setup, but the stiffer bars have a lower limit of 550 lbs which could present handling issues when running a lower tongue weight. In addition, it's recommended that 8 to 15% of your trailer weight be located on the tongue, and with a 5,000 lb trailer I was concerned about shifting too much weight off the tongue and onto the front axle as trailer sway, especially as caused by tractor trailers at highway speed, can be a serious problem. Rather than change to stiffer WD bars, I realized I needed to do something to better support or strengthen the rear suspension. That left me with two options:

  1. Upgrade the rear springs from standard to heavy duty (340lbf/in) or more. While this would limit compression (and thus the rear end sag) when towing, the stiffer springs would almost certainly make the rear end quite bouncy when unloaded. As the majority of our non-towing driving is on city streets loaded with potholes, I was afraid any upgrade would completely ruin the ride of the vehicle.
  2. Install a set of helper air bags inside the springs and inflate them when towing. This has the benefit of allowing adjusting the stiffness depending on the situation by adding or removing air from the bags.
I ended up opting for the helper air bags and purchased a Firestone 4164 air bag kit and a standard duty Air Lift 25804 air compressor from Amazon for under $250 and documented the installation here. I'll summarize that article with the following quote:

With 35psi in the bags, the Land Cruiser towed like a friggin’ champ. The ride was very smooth, and with the anti-sway bar installed I had no trouble running 70+mph on the highway. All in all I’m very pleased with the setup.

Sway Control
The Pro Series Weight Distribution Hitch I ordered comes with a friction anti-sway device (available separately for $40). It basically sandwiches a piece of metal between two other pieces which you compress by tightening a bolt on the device. If you're towing anything more than a pop-up at 45mph or higher, you really want one of these. The device takes less than 60 seconds to install or remove, but does a great job of limiting swaying in crosswinds or when passing tractor trailers on the highway.

Braking
The Land Cruiser comes with a trailer brake controller port, but if you're towing a trailer with a GVWR > 3,000lbs, you'll need to order and install a controller and wiring adapter. I purchased a Tekonsha Primus IQ a few years back for the Acura, so I just needed to order the Tekonsha Toyota Wiring Harness. Installation took about 30 minutes by following the Trailer Brake Controller Connector discussion over at iH8mud. I mounted mine at the bottom of the dash on the left side - out of the way, but requires me to lean forward to adjust it. My biggest complaint with the Primus IQ is that I feel like I'm always fiddling with it to get the braking proportion just right, which sometimes leaves me locking up the rear tires at low speeds.


Gauges

The last upgrade I made (and highly recommend) was to purchase an ELM327-compatible Wi-Fi OBDII reader ($15-20) and the EngineLink App for iOS ($6). When towing I insert the reader into the OBDII port and connect my iPhone to the CLKDevices WiFi name, then fire up EngineLink. Based on a number of other threads I read, I added two additional gauges in order to be able to monitor the automatic transmission pan and torque converter temperatures while towing:

  • Toyota A/T Pan Temp. PID 2182. Formula ((((A*256+B)*(7/100)-400)/10). Range -40 to 300. Units are F.
  • Toyota A/T TC Temp. PID 2182. Formula ((((C*256+D)*(7/100)-400)/10). Range -40 to 300. Units are F.


IMG_0766-300x169.png


Transmission
Because the Land Cruiser is over-built, there's no need to add a separate auxiliary transmission cooler. However, when towing you should always put the vehicle into "Sport" mode by pushing the shift lever to the left. The "Sport" (or manual shift) mode limits the vehicle to no higher than 4th gear unless you manually select 5 or 6. This is Toyota's recommendation as well.

Based on my own monitoring of transmission temperatures, 4th gear (which is 1.000:1) minimized torque converter spin and significantly reduces heat. I wrote about my experience in this posting at iH8mud:

Limiting the vehicle to 4th gear I was cruising at 65-70 in mostly flat Illinois/Wisconsin (I-94) and ran around 2800RPMs +/-. I got ~10.5MPG at that speed (the instantaneous MPG reading from OBD2 was pretty steady between 10.2 and 10.8MPG). I tried running in 5th for a while but I found I had to lay into the gas pedal more to keep it at 65, so my gas mileage actually went down. Unless I was driving 55, using OD provided no MPG benefit.

I also watched the temps closely during the trip. Outside it was ~65F out. Intake temp was reading about ~90F (typical). My trailer was at the shop getting the bearings repacked so I drove about an hour to pick it up and then about an hour after I hitched up, thus I got some great comparison #'s:

  • Without a trailer running in top gear (6th) the transmission pan temp reached 195F (+/- 1F degree), and the torque converter was anywhere from 195F (when fully locked) to about 208F (for instance when accelerating from 60-70). The higher TC temp didn't affect the pan temp much. Once the TC locked up again at ~70MPH the temps would both stablilze around 195F again.
  • With the trailer running in 4th gear the pan temp stayed around 196F (+/-1F). Both the TC and the pan temp would read the same when cruising at 65MPH. About 2/3 of the way through the trip I tried running in 5th gear (first OD). The TC temp would climb (at one point it hit 213F) and the pan slowly climbed up to about 202F over the span of about 5 minutes before I put it back in 4th. At that point the temps slowly dropped down to 195F again. Also, I definitely noticed the weight of the trailer a LOT more when towing in 5th than in 4th.
In short, don't tow in overdrive - the gas mileage difference is small and OD generates heat in the transmission, especially if the ambient temps are warmer and/or you're pulling through hilly terrain. Yes if you're pulling a 2000# 4x5x8 uhaul trailer you can probably run in 5th or 6th without any damage, but if you're pulling a smaller trailer running in your 1:1 gear (6th in your case) will have less impact on your MPG than it does for me, so the $ savings is minimal.

I had a second opportunity to confirm my temps this weekend when the outside ambient temperature was 86F and got nearly identical results. At 70mph on the highway the engine temp read 194F and both the pan and torque converter on the automatic transmission read 198.5F.

I understand the "A/T Temp" warning light will come on at 302F, though I hope to never confirm that.

Last Thoughts
With the proper setup (weight distribution, anti-sway, and upgraded rear springs or helper air bags), the 200-series Land Cruiser has no trouble towing a 24' travel trailer weighing 5,000 lbs. We don't intend to upgrade our trailer, but if we did I wouldn't hesitate to go up to ~26' and 6,000 lbs. While you should always follow manufacturer recommendations, I felt very comfortable cruising at 70mph and am looking forward to taking a much longer trip to Mt. Rushmore later this summer. As I said in the air bag installation posting, the Land Cruiser towed like a friggin’ champ.

 
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This was posted on my blog as well, but again I wanted to include the details here so it would be indexed for future users.

We towed our 5000 lb travel trailer with about 600 lbs of tongue weight for the first time with our 2013 Toyota Land Cruiser earlier this month, and with almost 4" of sagging at the hitch I decided I needed to do something to level the vehicle. While I considered stiffer springs, I didn't want a jarring ride for the majority of the time we drive unloaded in the city. After reading a number of posts, I decided to install a set of helper air bags in the rear. For a non-lifted (standard height) 200-series Land Cruiser, I purchased the Firestone 4164 air bag kit and a standard duty Air Lift 25804 air compressor from Amazon. For posterity, I thought I'd document the process here and on the iH8Mud forums.

Materials ($200-250):

Installation:

Installation was pretty straightforward, as I generally followed the instructions posted at LandCruiser 200 - Firestone Coil-rite airbag install. Installation of the air bags took about 2 hours, though admittedly I had access to a lift and a phenomenal mechanic to help me wrench. We did find ourselves straining to get the shock absorbers reattached and ended up using a ~5' steel bar for added leverage to compress the rear springs better. About the only other modifications were that we didn't bother to disconnect any breather hoses (there was plenty of slack), we didn't tighten the KDSS valves back down until the vehicle was on the ground and had settled a bit, and I slathered the KDSS screws with marine grease before re-tightening them.

  1. Jack up the vehicle. Support with jack stands or use a lift if you're lucky enough to have access.
  2. Loosen the screws on the KDSS system (located under the rear door on the driver's side bolted inside the frame rail) 3 turns (no more!)
  3. Remove the rear tires
  4. Mark the spring, bump stop, and frame with chalk or a marker (optional but helpful)
  5. Remove the nuts from the bottom of the shock absorbers and remove the shocks from the lower mounts
  6. Remove the two bolts from each sway bar mount (left and right)
  7. Apply leverage to the rear end and remove the springs
  8. Remove the bump stops from the top of the spring. For stock suspension, cut off 4 stops with a sawzall (leaving just the base)
  9. Put the air bag inside the spring, connector facing upwards and put the remaining flat disc part of the bump stop back on top of the spring, aligned with your marking
  10. Fish the air line through the top of the bump stop and push it firmly into the air bag. Don't worry, the bag's internal compression fitting will secure it
  11. Fish the air line up through the spring mount and re-install the spring/air-bag/bump stop assembly.
  12. Push the air bag up to the top of the spring and run the air lines along the frame into the trunk compartment, ziptie-ing every 1-2'. You'll need to poke a small hole in the rubber grommet in the right rear in order to fish the lines into the jack storage area. I chose to run both lines individually into the compartment and T them together there because I felt it was more easily accessible in case they leak and require replacement in the future, but you could also T the lines together underneath the vehicle and run a single line up to the compartment.
  13. Reinstall the sway bar, shocks, and tires
  14. Lower vehicle to the ground, bounce on the running boards to settle the suspension, then re-tighten the KDSS screwsThe compressor took about twice as long, though 2/3 of that time was spent trying to figure out how to mount the compressor and easily get power to it. I wanted the compressor hidden but also safe from the elements, so we ended up removing the jack and mounting the compressor at a 30-45 degree angle in the jack compartment. (At the moment the jack is now sitting in my trunk, though I will likely mount it under the hood in the near future as there's lots of extra unused space).
  15. Remove the jack and retaining bracket.
  16. Determine how you will mount the compressor. We mounted it to 2" wide x 10.5" long steel bar, and we drilled and bolted that to the mounting holes for the jack retaining bracket. If I had to do this in the future I might buy and cut a piece of sheet metal and mount the compressor to that ahead of time.
  17. Mount the gauge to the body. We used the shortest self-tapping screws we could find, since the gas filler neck is on the other side of the metal.
  18. Following the air compressor installation instructions, and using the additional union T fitting you purchased, attach all the air lines
  19. Attach the negative (black) wire to a solid ground screw
  20. Run the positive (red) wire to the engine bay. We ran the line underneath the vehicle, though at some point in the future I will probably re-run a bundle of wire from the front to the rear through the door sills. Either way, make sure you put the 15 Amp inline fuse inline just before you tie the compressor into the battery!
  21. Flip the switch and pressure test.
I kept any extra tubing and fittings in a quart size ziplock bag in the storage compartment, just in case.



Experience:

Firestone recommends keeping a minimum of 5 psi in the air bags at all times in order to avoid pinching and damaging the air bag. They also state the maximum pressure of the bag is 35 psi, though it's unclear to me if that's 35psi when unloaded or 35psi when fully loaded.

  • Driving around town and on the highway with ~5 psi in the bags the ride was smooth and there was no discernible difference from stock.
  • With 5 psi in the bags and a full 1400 lb payload (2nd row folded and 35 bags of mulch completely filling the 2nd row and trunk) the rear squatted a bit but the ride was unbelievably smooth. Keep in mind with the air bags inflated you're basically resting on the bump stops at all times. The air bags are much more flexible than the bump stops, so it's a smooth transition, but if you're under load you really should have more than 5psi in the bags to avoid over-compressing the rear end and damaging the shocks or fenders.
  • With 8-9 psi in the bags the truck feels stiffer when unloaded. When hitting bumps on the highway that cross the entire lane, I noticed a more pronounced hop from the rear (and actually a bit from the front too, which I'm thinking is due to the KDSS). While I've not driven in a Land Cruiser with upgraded (heavy duty) rear springs, I imagine the feeling is similar to a 1/2 ton vs 3/4 ton pickup.
  • I ended up running 35psi in the bags when towing.
    • With 5psi in the bags and about 200lbs of gear (and dog) in the trunk, the top of the rear end wheel well sits 21.5" above the center of the axle.
    • Adding about 600lbs of tongue weight on the trailer, the rear end sinks to about 19.5".
    • Setting up the weight distribution bars on the 4th link bumped it up to 20".
    • Increasing the bags to 35psi, the rear sits at just under 21".
One other note is that the bags gave me about 1/2" of lift in the rear. Since there was already about 1" of rake front-to-rear, I may end up adding a set of 1" front coil spacers up front in the future to better level the vehicle. Then again, when fully loaded the vehicle is pretty level now, so I may not mess with it.

With 35psi in the bags, the Land Cruiser towed like a friggin' champ. The ride was very smooth, and with the anti-sway bar installed I had no trouble running 70+mph on the highway. All in all I'm very pleased with the setup.

 
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With 5psi in the bags and about 200lbs of gear (and dog) in the trunk, the top of the rear end wheel well sits 21.5" above the center of the axle:

IMG_0761.JPG


Adding about 600lbs of tongue weight on the trailer, the rear end sinks to about 19.5":

IMG_0760.JPG


Setting up the weight distribution bars on the 4th link bumped it up to 20":
IMG_0759.JPG


Increasing the bags to 35psi, the rear sits at just under 21":
IMG_0758.JPG
 
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Excellent post!

I would say comparing the LC to my HD diesel truck, yea the truck handles about any load better, but If I know I am going to need to maneuver in tight areas with the trailer, I still grab one of my LCs for the job.

I towed quite a few miles with my LCs over the years, multiple different trailers and weights. By comparison with other 1/2 ton class body on frame SUVs that I have owned, the LC is without a doubt one of, if not the best at towing. Remarkably so since it does it, even with it's short wheelbase, yet it feels more stable then any of the Tahoe's, Expedition EL's, and at least on par with the long wheelbase Suburban's I have owned. I feel it is at least on par for stability compared to a 1/2 ton suburban, but trumps the power of the 5.3L engine found in Suburban's (by a lot) . So that's why I would rank my LCs as the best tow rig I have owned in that class. I have always been more then impressed with the LC200s towing capability.

On a side note from another towing thread, sorry I never got around to logging in and posting to on that one, I tow with cruise control all the time. Until I read that thread, I never knew it was even a concern. I have been towing with the use of cruise control for nearly 30 years in many many different vehicles including the LC200s with many different trailers and loads and weights , I have no plans to change even if the manual does say not to. LOL
 
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Excellent post!

I would say comparing the LC to my HD diesel truck, yea the truck handles about any load better, but If I know I am going to need to maneuver in tight areas with the trailer, I still grab one of my LCs for the job.

On a side note from another towing thread, sorry I never got around to logging in and posting to on that one, I tow with cruise control all the time. Until I read that thread, I never knew it was even a concern. I have been towing with the use of cruise control for nearly 30 years in many many different vehicles including the LC200s with many different trailers and loads and weights , I have no plans to change even if the manual does say not to. LOL

If only I could've gotten the US-spec LC in a diesel ;)

I thought about the Towing with Cruise Control thread for a while, and I don't see how normal cruise control would be a big deal on relatively flat lands in 4th gear. I could see how it could get you into trouble in the mountains since it wouldn't decelerate on a steep grade, which could leave you accelerating quickly downhill if you're not paying attention. I could also see how the radar cruise control could cause handling problems if it attempts to quickly apply your brakes if someone cuts you off because it's not accounting for how the trailer brake controller operates.
 
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I may be looking at swapping out the LX to an LC primarily to get away from the LX's AHC during towing, so I will be interested in hearing how this install is doing.
 
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I posted this on my personal blog at Towing with a 200-series Toyota Land Cruiser but wanted to share it here directly so it would be indexed.

Last Thoughts
I felt very comfortable cruising at 70mph


@linuxgod - Just an FYI, I recently had to change out my trailer tires because I did not realize that THEIR maximum speed was rated for 65mph and I compromised them by going up to 70 which ended in a blow out. You may want to look at yours if you are indeed going above 65 when towing.

Great write up!
 
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@linuxgod - Just an FYI, I recently had to change out my trailer tires because I did not realize that THEIR maximum speed was rated for 65mph and I compromised them by going up to 70 which ended in a blow out. You may want to look at yours if you are indeed going above 65 when towing.

Great write up!

ST tires suck. LTs are the way to go, but they're impossible to find in a 14" anymore. As of 2015, the DOT has required speed ratings on ST tires, and a *few* are now L or M speed rated for 75 or 81 MPH.

I set the cruise at 75-78MPH for 3000 miles on my trip to Yellowstone and back and the tires held up fine. I did recently have one blow while crusing at 65-70 with ambient air temps in the low 90s though - not sure if it's from wear due to excessive heat on the long trip or a flaw in the tire (I rolled over a retread on the highway days earlier) but the tread blew right off and literally rolled down the highway. The other tires show no signs of stress but I don't feel like changing another tire on the side of the highway if I can avoid it so consequently I just purchased a new set of Load D, M-rated ST tires. They're Chinese brand so we'll see how they hold up, but the Carlisle that blew was highly recommended by my RV guy and I'm pretty disappointed in it so I'm hopeful that a higher load and speed rating will provide more of a margin of safety.

Out with the old:
IMG_1032.JPG


and in with the new:
IMG_9430.JPG
 
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Yeah, Carlisle just came out in June with a new tire that has a 81mph rating. All of their others were rated for 65mph, which may have contributed to their demise. For me, I am pretty sure it was.

I too have 14s on my trailer and wish I could move to a 15, as there a a lot more options out there with better speed ratings. My wheel wells are too small to accommodate a larger wheel diameter, without losing some tire sidewall.
 
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I may be looking at swapping out the LX to an LC primarily to get away from the LX's AHC during towing, so I will be interested in hearing how this install is doing.

Anything specific you'd like to know? It's still working great for me and I'd highly recommend it. Stability is much improved with the helper air bags. Side-by-side comparison of hooked up with the air bags at 5psi (left) and at 35 psi (right).

IMG_0970.JPG
IMG_0971.JPG

I don't know what the LX suspension looks like but if AHC is outside the springs I would think you could still fit the air bags into the LX. They're basically just replacement bump stops that are taller (for lack of a better visual) and so I would think they would work fine with the AHC at normal ride height. I assume they would do nothing when AHC is high, and would end up giving you a bit of a rake when AHC is low.
 
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Well, I am considering trading my LX in along with possibly my 100 series to get a newer LC... your write up did a fantastic job on the build and I will be interested to see how the airbags hold up over the longer haul. This will be my main tow vehicle, so I was wondering if you upgraded springs, along with airbags or was just using the airbags with the OEM springs.

On my 100, I went with an OME heavy lift with no airbags and will not go that route this time on a 200, so I was thinking about the airbags and searched a bit, which brought me to this thread. Trying to make sure that I do not lose it, I needed to post something... ie my original comment.

I test drove a 14 yesterday and I really do like to the OEM ride on the 200 LC better than the LX. The LX is just too soft, which is why I think the ride while towing seems less stable that when I towed the same trailer with my 100. The trailer is approaching 6Klbs, which was pushing it with the 100. The LX power is fine, but the suspension makes the ride a bit "wishy-washy".
 
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BTW, our trailer is between 5500 and 6000 when fully loaded. Trailer and LC are new this year but during the couple of trips so far it is working out great - even here in Colorado. I am holding off on air bags for now but may look into that next year. Our hitch is a Hensley Cub - the smaller version of the Hensley - and we are just approaching the upper limit for that hitch. So the WD bars are not effective enough to "level" the LC 100%. Not bad, but not perfect. So I may do that in the Spring if I am 100% certain I won't impact the rest of the stock chassis/body/suspension.
 
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Well, I am considering trading my LX in along with possibly my 100 series to get a newer LC... your write up did a fantastic job on the build and I will be interested to see how the airbags hold up over the longer haul. This will be my main tow vehicle, so I was wondering if you upgraded springs, along with airbags or was just using the airbags with the OEM springs.

On my 100, I went with an OME heavy lift with no airbags and will not go that route this time on a 200, so I was thinking about the airbags and searched a bit, which brought me to this thread. Trying to make sure that I do not lose it, I needed to post something... ie my original comment.

I test drove a 14 yesterday and I really do like to the OEM ride on the 200 LC better than the LX. The LX is just too soft, which is why I think the ride while towing seems less stable that when I towed the same trailer with my 100. The trailer is approaching 6Klbs, which was pushing it with the 100. The LX power is fine, but the suspension makes the ride a bit "wishy-washy".

I did not use a lift or HD springs - my LC is currently stock suspension except for this mod (I will do a 2"-2.5" lift eventually but not until my wife has something else to DD). The air bags will work with the stock suspension, or with a lift. You can use HD springs or standard load. If you have a lift you need to order bags which are ~2" taller.

It's definitely worth reading the LandCruiser - Firestone coil-rite airbags - Project 200 website and watching the video if you're not sure how they work (they're pretty simple). IIRC they also mention what model bags to use if you have a lift (or I saw that somewhere else online... maybe Amazon? Ican't quite recall).

I'm curious how the bags hold up over time as well. I've had mine for close to 10k miles now. From what I've read, most people indicate they are very durable. Some people report very slow leaks in the tubing... mine seems to hold pressure just fine though (which I believe is because I was very careful with how I cut the ends since they use compression fittings similar to plumbing repair.

On the plus side they are cheap ($100 for the bags and tubes) and easy to replace. It's only ~2 hours of labor to install them, so if mine don't last forever at least the replacement cost is minimal. Also the only real modification is that you're cutting down the bump stops so if you ever want to remove them and go back to factory stock you just need to remove them and replace with a new set of bump stops.
 
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BTW, our trailer is between 5500 and 6000 when fully loaded. Trailer and LC are new this year but during the couple of trips so far it is working out great - even here in Colorado. I am holding off on air bags for now but may look into that next year. Our hitch is a Hensley Cub - the smaller version of the Hensley - and we are just approaching the upper limit for that hitch. So the WD bars are not effective enough to "level" the LC 100%. Not bad, but not perfect. So I may do that in the Spring if I am 100% certain I won't impact the rest of the stock chassis/body/suspension.

I have a Pro Series WD hitch, which was rated at 550#. With bikes and gear my tongue weight is closer to 625#. So the WD helps but I have the same issue as you (without the air bags filled).

I will say that I actually prefer to have more tongue weight and less WD if the vehicle can handle it. I could have upgraded the WD setup (which would've cost as much or more for a new hitch and stronger bars as the air bags). But the point of WD is to shift weight off the tongue and inner axles and move it to the outer ones. By doing so you decrease tongue weight, which means you may sacrifice a bit of stability (and increase sway). Typical recommendation is for 8-15% of trailer weight to rest on the tongue. So for instance, assume:

Stock trailer = 5000# with 600# tongue (12% of total weight).
If you shift 200# off the tongue to the outer axles, then you now have a 5000# trailer with 400# resting on the hitch (8% of total weight).
If you shift 300# off the tongue, you have a 5000# trailer with only 6% of the weight resting on the hitch, which is far too little.

IMO if your trailer is 5500-6000# you want to run your LC with right around 550# on the hitch. If you find the vehicle gets squirrely in crosswinds or when passing a tractor trailer then you need MORE tongue weight. I run my WD on the 4th link when we have bikes in the front storage area, or on the 3rd link when we leave the kids bikes at home.
 
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Bend, Oregon
Yep. Last year was our first year of towing and I didn't understand the importance of tongue weight and balance. This year I did a lot more research. A lot! ;). Our trailer is 4975# dry+full tanks. When loaded about 550#. I use a Sherline hitch weight scale to check the tongue weight on most trips and it is averaging about 700-725#. At best I am maybe lifting 100# off the tongue with the weight distribution. Our Hensley is a fascinating design and absolutely eliminates sway. But it is a PITA to hook up if you are not practiced at it or if you are at an odd angle relative to the trailer itself. It is also very expensive.

Anyway, I still like the idea of the air bags (having had an air suspension on my LR4) so I may look into that in the Spring. Thanks for posting such a helpful and informative post!

(Also, based on your handle, I expect you are part nerd. ;))
 

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