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  1. Default chicago to oakland....low elevations


    I'll be driving my 4-cylinder small suv towing at maximum capacity a travel trailer (1500 lbs) for the first time from chicago to oakland ca. I need to stay on lowest elevation possible/avoid steep hills and mountains - so as not to wear out my car and stay safe. ALso would love to avoid as many toll charges as possible, but that is a secondary priority. Any advice on routes?

    many thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    The good news, once you're out of Chicago, you really won't have to worry about tolls.

    The bad news, there's really no realistic low elevation route between Chicago and Oakland. I-80 is the obvious choice, and while it avoids the heart of the Rockies through Colorado, you're still going to be dealing with elevations around 8,000 feet across most of Wyoming.

    All interstates are built to reduce the grades as much as possible, but any other route is going to add a huge amount of miles, and won't even do all that much to solve your elevation issues.

    Honestly, if I were you, I'd strongly recommend looking at options that don't involve towing, or towing less weight. Maximum Capacity Towing is just not a great idea when you've got to drive thousands of miles across the country. If you do move forward, make sure to talk with your mechanic to look at things you can do to help protect your car, like considering oil and/or transmission coolers, if your SUV doesn't have them.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    If this is a moving trip, consider renting a truck and car trailer, the kind that will get your car's 4-wheels off the pavement completely.

    A small SUV is usually not built for towing 1500 lbs. You are likely to destroy your tranny and/or suspension system. Check your manual and with your mechanic (don't ask U-Haul or a trailer dealer, as they'll all say "sure you can....").


  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Other Things to Consider

    As Michael has noted, there's no viable way to avoid 'elevation' or 'mountains'. The Rocky Mountains lie directly athwart your route. It is also true that Interstate Highways are designed to standards that limit grades (steepness of hills) but that is not your only, or even your major, problem.

    More important is your intent to operate "at maximum capacity a travel trailer (1500 lbs)". There are reasons why your vehicle has a maximum towing capacity. And it is NOT the case that anything, even a pound, less is safe, and anything over is unsafe. It simply gets more and more unsafe the more you overload your vehicle. Besides the strain on the engine, transmission, suspension, and brakes, there is also the fact that you will be changing the center of gravity of your rig as well as the aerodynamics, AND putting a flex point that you're not used to in the middle of the whole thing. All of that will make wind a bigger factor in your safety than grades or certainly elevation. You will be buffeted by every gust, and every truck that passes you will toss your rig around.

    At a bare minimum you need to do several things: Keep the weight of the trailer as low as you can and follow the guidelines about load distribution and tongue weight. If you don't immediately recognize those terms, learn about them. Put a fair amount of your load in the vehicle rather than the trailer to prevent a case of 'the tail wagging the dog'. Plan on slower speeds and frequent stops. The first is inevitable while the second will help keep your engine, oil, and brakes cool while also letting you relax and refresh. If you make 450 miles a day, you'll be doing well, don't count on making much more than that.

    You are setting yourself a difficult task, not impossible, but requiring a significant amount of forethought, effort, and time on your part. Far more than simply avoiding steep hills and elevation.


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