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I'm getting some mixed advice about towing with a Forester. We are considering buying a small popup camper, and also maybe a small utility trailer. The camper would be for there-and-back trips, not road trips. The utility trailer would be for very occasional moving of furniture, lumber or garden type stuff. We would try to stay well below the prescribed towing capacity of 2,400 lbs., and hopefully get trailers with brakes. We would also install a transmission cooler.

The main comment against is that it would be hard on the transmission over time. We got that from both a mechanic we really respect, and an RV sales person who we don't know at all. Online BBs have tons of discussions of people saying they do it with no problem.

The car is a very base package, but has the standard 2.5 L 4 Cylinder engine.

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    Brake a bit early and smoothly to reduce strain on the structure of the car, accelerate a bit gently to reduce strain on the drivetrain, and minimize backing up to reduce strain on your composure. – Ed Plunkett Jul 12 '16 at 14:13
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    Anecdotally my 2011 Forester tows appropriately sized trailers just fine. a 5x8 utility for instance is no problem. We also tow a popup. The popup is around the upper limit but it has brakes and so I find it is no problem. As for wear & tear, we are not towing 1000s of miles per year, but at 100K the car is fine. – DaveInCaz Apr 19 at 0:39
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The fact of the matter is any additional load is harder on a transmission. Stuffing 5 of me in four car is 1000 lbs, add say camping gear and you're looking at 1200-1500 lbs of cargo. If my wife were driving alone that'd be less than 120 lbs of carve weight. Over time the difference of just my wife vs 5 of me could be huge, but we're talking over the life of the vehicle.

Simply, I'd say of the manufacturer has rated the vehicle as being able to haul 2400 lbs, then it can without any major risks (obviously excluding operator error). Reason being that they can't say "you can use a vehicle for this" and warranty it when you actually can't do that.

I would recommend a trailer with brakes, cause why not? Less work for your vehicle to do alone. And keeping the load light is always good. If the vehicle is built to haul, don't worry much. If you can also get a trailer with 2 axles (to take leverage off the hitch) that could be good too.

Anyway, that's what I'd say. Mind you I don't have any particular experiencing hauling from a vehicle as small as a Forester, but I think what I've said this far is sound.

Oh! Last thing, if there are specific manufacturer instructions for how to drive and use the transmission while hauling, follow them exactly! That will also ensure lowest risk of damage.

Anyway, if I can find any good references of studies or statistics, I'll put them here.

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Subaru states that the Forester is primarily a passenger car, and not built for continual towing. But you should be fine with occasional use.

Here's the owners manual section related to towing. Look at page 8-19 (http://techinfo.subaru.com/proxy/69506/pdf/ownerManual/069506_2008_Forester/MSA5M0803A_14.pdf). Several tips in there about towing in general, also.

In summary; If you have trailer brakes, you can pull up to 2,400lbs. If you do NOT have trailer brakes, you can pull 1,000lbs. That includes the weight of the trailer.

Will it be hard on the transmission? No. The limits set are those prescribed by Subaru. Check your transmission fluid occasionally to make sure it's not burnt (having a transmission cooler will help prevent that), and you'll be good.

For info, you have a standard automatic transmission. The newer Subarus have the CVT transmission, which has a much lower towing rating, and is not recommended as a workhorse.

For the towbar installation, talk to a large uHaul dealer near you - they're cheaper than a dealer for the parts and installation, and they know a LOT about towing.

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The towing capacity of a 2008 Subaru forester with the 2.5l engine is apparently ~1374Kg at worst (or ~2700lb).

As long as the trailer you are towing clocks under this (which I assume it will with quite significant margins) you will be fine.

reference here

If you don't trust that source, if you still have the operators manual or can get hold of one that should tell you both the braked and un-braked towing weight of your vehicle.

  • What do you think the basis is for the skeptics who think it will hurt the tranny? – abalter Jul 12 '16 at 14:05
  • @abalter honestly, I have no idea. It could be misinformation from people attributing a failure to that item they towed 2 weeks ago, it could be people with failing transmissions that when towed has caused them to fail and they have blamed it entirely on the towing, or it could be based in reality. I cannot imagine a company publishing their towing capacity if the car was going to totally trash itself the second you tow something; it just wouldn't make sense to me. – Trotski94 Jul 12 '16 at 14:10

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