Can a 1991 Toyota 3.0 Xtra Cab Handle a Camper?

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1991 Toyota

YotaTech member wants to live out of his beloved 1991 Toyota pickup, but is the truck tough enough?

When you buy a truck, it’s typically because you, well, need to haul stuff. Or tow it. Either way, the extra utility sure comes in handy when you need it. The limiting factor, of course, is payload capacity. That manufacturer-tested figure is a magical number you generally don’t want to exceed. Unless you like placing extra strain on your driveline, that is.

That’s exactly why YotaTech member aeveringham decided to pose an inquiry to the forums before loading a camper in the back of his 1991 Toyota 3.0 Xtra Cab. With a job that requires him to travel a good bit, it made a lot of sense to go with a simple pop-up camper he could live out of while on the road. The rub, of course, is whether or not his truck could handle the load.

“I bought my 1991 Toyota V6 3.0 Xtra cab a couple of months ago for work, and have recently been considering trying to build a simple pop top camper in the back that I can live out of. I realize this may be a bit of a stretch, as my pickup can only carry 1,000 pounds in the bed and the lightest pop top campers on the market weigh about 1,000 pounds dry.

What I’m trying to figure out is should I sell my pickup to buy a 3/4 or 1 ton truck for this, or is there something I can do to the suspension/engine/transmission to handle the weight of the camper? I’ve also considered removing my bed and building on the frame. I’m just really attached to my pickup (it’s in great shape all around and no rust on the frame) and would love to make something work with it. I see pictures of people building campers on them online. I’d really appreciate any thoughts you guys have!”

1991 Toyota

The sentiment hit home with us, as we tend to fall in love with our trucks as well. And aeveringham soon received some reassurance that he might be OK sticking with his beloved 1991 Toyota.

“I congratulate you on taking the weight into consideration,” said dropzone. “Having been driving these trucks for 30+ years I think you could safely carry the camper plus your gear as long as your don’t go nuts adding another thousand pounds of beer and sleeping bags. A set of air bags or add a leafs would do the trick.”

Another solution, of course, is to locate some beefier components and swap them over, as skeeter0288 suggests.

“There were models built with the 1-ton suspension, but I think they had a longer frame. You may be able to find a complete rear axle with springs and swap it over.”

1991 Toyota

As far as upgrading the engine, irab88 doesn’t really think that it’s necessary. At least in this case. But he also has a bonus tip for towing to add.

“The 3.4 swap is common, and fairly easy with the 3.0 already in there. But if there’s nothing wrong with your 3.0, I’d keep that well-maintained and putt along just fine. My 22R-E could handle my pop-up camper just fine, so I’m sure your 3.0 will be plenty.

Pro-tip: With our lighter trucks and a lighter trailer, look into installing a sway bar. It’s not that expensive, and nearly eliminates highway sway (think: passing trucks or quick lane changes). I used mine all the time, works great. I also welded the plate to the trailer frame, so no holes. Etrailer has a few good ones.”

So it looks like our Yota fan will get to keep his beloved truck after all, albeit with a couple of upgrades, perhaps. Do you have any quality advice to add to the list? Head on over here and chime in to help a fellow Toyota lover out!




Brett Foote has been covering the automotive industry for over five years and is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ Auto Group sites, including Chevrolet Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other popular sites.

He has been an automotive enthusiast since the day he came into this world and rode home from the hospital in a first-gen Mustang, and he's been wrenching on them nearly as long.

In addition to his expertise writing about cars, trucks, motorcycles, and every other type of automobile, Brett had spent several years running parts for local auto dealerships.

You can follow along with his builds and various automotive shenanigans on Instagram: @bfoote.

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