Van Versus the Ramp

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OK, picked up my new (new to me anyways) boat on the weekend, and its tow vehicle will be our 2003 Grand Caravan with 3.8L and tow package. Towing my new baby, 2003 Sportster 4Tec, to home and around ... not a problem.

Where there was an issue the one day was the ramp. Left a little burning rubber on the ramp to get back out -- ramp was a little slick later in the afternoon it appears. So, now I am thinking of ideas to minimize that happening again -- more aggressively treaded front tires, weight distribution system, etc. Any ideas or input appreciated.

Unfortunately, a different tow vehicle at this time is not an option -- I had to convince the project manager at home to pickup the boat already :)Not going to get a boat and new tow vehicle approved :willy_nilly:

I say you need better tires. Try something with a softer compound so it will have better traction. My FWD Ford Edge has Hankook DynaPro's tires and they are great. I have yet to lose traction out of a ramp. Actually last time I was pulling the boat out the tide was low, I had to back it in a lot, and my front tires end up on top of the green slippery stuff on the ramp. Wile i had my foot on the break pedal i stared accelerating and slowly relishing the break pedal and the truck just eased out of the ramp with my C1800 in tow.
I'm assuming this is a FWD vehicle?
You shouldn't usually have a problem with fwd and that size boat. I tow with my SAAB 9-3 and as long as the front wheels have some traction, I can pull out of any slope - but its only a GTX 3seater.
Keep a carpet in your van and maybe a 2x4 to place behind the wheels if you find yourself in the same situation. Or try another ramp with less of a slope.
The only time I've had a problem is with a RWD only truck, where the wheels are wet and the weight distribution is poor.
Maybe let a little air out of the tires so the contact patch on the pavement is bigger. I know it helps in snow.
Sorry Moof, should have clarified -- Grand Caravan is a FWD, although hindsight say may should have got the AWD. AWD on a minivan just sounded strange at the time.

RFoster130 - had wondered about depressurizing. The van has no issue once it gets going so just need something to get that initial traction. Concern there is hauling afterwards as would need to bring them back to pressure for hauling.

Looked at "Tow Truck in a box" type stuff, but tough to find this time of year.
Might take the simple approach suggested and see if I can get strips of carpet for each side. Cheap and easy. Doesn't work, then we go after the tires. That doesn't work then I work on the new tow vehicle -- couple times stuck on the ramp with me and the household project manager may cave. :reddevil:

Bottom-line -- don't want to be the guy we helped last weekend that had buried his rear truck tires in water, sand and silt and took 7 of us close to 15 minutes to push him back out.

worked with my deep v when my transfer case went out

theres nothing wrong with spinning a little but if you get in the situation where you cant get out, fire up the ski, give it some gas and let it help you get some momentum to get up the ramp, it may require two ppl but it will get you out in a bind just remember to shut the ski off once its out of the water. also you shouldnt have as much trouble without the ski bc of less weight to hail up
1st Year Survival

Well, the van made it through the first year.
Appears that my issue of burning rubber just applies to the one lake launch I was at -- most times needed to get someone to drive while I pushed the van a bit to get it to grab and begin to pull itself out. Might be related to water level dropping and them not dredging things out at the launch so I kept having to go back further on the ramp to launch and load.

Worked fine at another local lake though with no issues at all -- in fact my van fared much better than some rear wheel drive trucks that I helped push back out over the summer after they loaded. :rofl: One took close to 15 minutes for us to get back out again. Just happy it wasn't me.

So for those wondering and reading -- yes, minivans can tow your seadoo boat and can launch and load with minimal problems. That said I stayed on nice concrete ramps this year so take it for what it is worth if you have to combat natural boat launches.

you can get a square stock of .120 wall metal, and when at ramp or even at the house, install it in the reciever, drill hole in it, mount the ball, then now, you got an extra foot or so length, keep'n van on dryer surface..?
Absolutely I would take any FWD vehicle, including my SAAB, over a RWD truck to get off a ramp, even w/ an empty trailer. What a PITA I had over the past couple of years when my SAAB wasn't hitch-ready.. Turbo's are great for towing !!

All the ramp inclines I have been on, the boat floats way before I'm even near the tailpipe. Once I was on a flat beach, and I just bounced the SeaDoo off into the water - I suppose thats the beauty of a SeaDoo is the ease of launching.
I had a ford van, RWD and was able to pull my jet ski and the boat. I got stuck once with the jet ski but cause the slope was very steep! I have a truck now and no problems at all!
When I was a kid, my dad had a 76 Dodge van with 440, headers, etc. Only had the one-wheel peel open differential.

So when it was time to pull out, we all got on the back bumper and jumped up and down. Usually 3 or 4 people (including my 50 lb butt!) and each time we all went down on the bumper on the bounce, it would pull a little more out until it was on dry ground.

Be sure your buds aren't too drunk or you could lose a couple of them when you hit dry ground.

And in your case, you may have to have them jump on the FRONT bumper :rofl:
I was just going to ask almost the same thing!

So I was very glad to see this thread!

I just got these old skis and trailer that had be left to neglect for the last few years, got them running, now trying to get titles (no easy task).

I am getting close, so now I need to figure out how I am going to tow them, as I have no vehicle with a trailer hitch.

My best choice from what I own is my 2002 Grand Caravan, so I was glad to see this thread. As long as it looks like it ought to be able to get the rig out of the water and up the ramp, I think I'll go ahead and order a hitch for it so I can be ready to go when I get the titles.
You shouldn't have too much problem -- my van was towing out one of the Seadoo Sportsters ... your van shouldn't have much issue with two skis. Probably close to the same weight as my Sportster.

Depending on how far you need to haul them, check your tow rating for the van. I think the Grand Caravans of that generation are 2500 without a tow package and 3500 with one.

Good luck and try to keep those front wheels dry and always have a buddy there to push you out.
where are you loading at?

I'm in Edmonton too, and I've never had a problem at the lake pulling my 15' Peterborough out of the water and its a heavy old pig. I drive a RWD Safari and even the steep launch at Dickson dam was an easy pull.

I used to fish Coal lake a lot, but since the water dropped, i don't even bother to launch there anymore. Apparently, a lot of guys are having trouble there nowdays, usually because they drive off the end of the ramp.
Place I had issues with was at Thunder Lake by Barrhead.
Their lake level dropped a lot this year too.

Other place I have been going is Gull Lake as based on the size there is always room for playing around there -- launch gets really busy sometimes though. Their launches were in great shape and water level was no issue there.

Seems the trend here -- dropping water levels -- I know of at least two lakes that closed their launches because of the levels. Sad, but true.
I tried to get into Thunder a few years ago, and it was packed.
I was at Glennifer lake (Dickson dam) over the summer and the boat traffic was nutz
Last time I was at Gull was a few years ago. I hit bottom going flat out in the middle of the lake. I tend to avoid the provincial park lakes as they are usually pretty busy.

I've seen quite a few lakes with really low water levels. Last time I was at Lac La Nonne it was very shallow too.

Do you know of a website anywhere that posts current lake conditions?

Have you ever tried Driedmeat lake , south of Camrose?
Wizard is too crowded, Wabamun is too rough usually as is Pigeon.

I pretty much always head west to find water.
We have towed with our 2003 Grand Caravan...

...pulling our 2001 C2K. Fully loaded the boat on the trailer weighs about 3000 pounds, which is the rated limit for the Grand Caravan (3.8L engine).

Front wheel drive can be a problem because as you add tongue weight you're unweighting the drive wheels. That problem is made worse by being headed uphill (i.e. on a boat ramp) because the weight shifts rearward.

That said, we never had a problem retrieving the boat. I did ride the brake pedal a little on occasion to prevent differential slippage until we had momentum, but usually things worked fine.

The one mod we did put on the Grand Caravan was supplemental rear axle springs. Most tire shops can install them. It cost less than $200 and really improved handling when pulling the trailer. It tightens up the rear end, which is otherwise kind of squishy so that passengers feel comfy at the expense of handling. We've left the springs on even though we don't tow the boat with the minivan anymore.
One more thing...

If you end up deciding that the minivan just isn't the right tool for the job, consider buying a "beater truck" as a dedicated towing vehicle. You can probably pick up an old 2WD (or, better, 4WD) truck that doesn't look like much but has a decent drivetrain for a surprisingly small amount of money. Who cares what it looks like as long as it gets you there and back... and then you'll have no doubts at the ramp.

well guys ive def been there before i live in north alabama and we do sometimes get a good bit of ice well i do a good bit of duck hunting as well well it was this past season i was home from iraq and was not use to ice at all by the way i didnt lock her in and my truck slid down the ramp w a an empty 12ft flatbottom duck boat trailer i had water over the tail gate but no biggy i locked her in 4 w low and i run 285 mudders in the winter and she pulled right on out after i broke throught the slippy ice spinning out got a lil worried at first it was a cold day boots were dog wet
Old trick we use up here in Canada in the winter and I use it at the slimmy green
launch at Port Colborne in the summer. A bag of kitty litter pour some under whichever wheels are spinning instant Traction.
When your on an incline with front wheel drive all the weight is shifted to the rear axle. Less weight on front axle means less traction. If you remove what weight you can from the boat as well as the back of the van you will have better traction. Kitty-litter works well on ice but when you add water it will soften up and lose its ridge properities, Sand will work the best. Also like RFoster130 said taking a little air out of the front tires will help a great deal.
Guess I should update the thread since I started the discussion -- I took the advice and upgraded the tow vehicle. It was time for my commuter car to get returned to it transformed into a Ford Explorer V8. Not even a really tough sell at home to get that done -- makes me wonder what plans the wife has to let me away with this.

Don't think that there shall be much issue at the ramp now ... just wish the water levels would quit dropping in Alberta.

Duck ... if you are still out there ... spent time between Thunder and Gull. Your right Pigeon, Sylvan, Wabauman all too busy. Buddy of mine did Skeleton and Long lake.
Don't know of a website that gives conditions for the lakes, but it would be great if there was one -- almost went to a couple of places last year that apparently had closed up their launches.

Now that it is spring -- time to start planning, prepping, and getting back out again -- damn it was a long winter.

my rear wheel drive Dodge magnum hauls like a champ. At the ramp it will pull out with no problem (traction contorl) Its just a v6 but I have fairly wide tires that are almost brand new. But in terms of trailering rwd is definatley the way to go if you can get a car with it. The trailer weight plus the gear in the back and sometimes a full gas tank give me all the weight i need to pull my speedster out with no problems.:)
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