Towing a trailer or towing a boat isn’t exactly rocket science. You don’t need a PHD in physics or a Masters in geometry or even a high school education. (Although a GED would be nice!) But you do need to know what you’re doing and what components you need to have in order to get the job done safely and efficiently. So that’s what we’re all about this time; a little Towing 101 for you to cover the basics of towing and define some terms and give you the knowledge you need to make towing a pleasant experience. There is a whole range of components and parts involved in setting up a towing package and you need to know the proper names and uses of these various components before you hit the road.
We’ll begin with the tow vehicle itself. This can be a car, truck, or SUV, but whatever it is, it’s important that you know and understand what its specific towing capabilities and limits are. You can find much of this information in the owner’s manual that came with the vehicle. That’s that little book that you thumbed through when you bought the car or truck, figured out how to fire up the stereo, then tossed it in the glove box never to see the light of day again. There’s some useful information in there so go dig it out and see what it has to say.
To get you started, here are a few random examples of some popular vehicles and their towing capacities.
Type of Vehicle Example Models Max Towing Capacity
Small car Cobalt, Taurus, Avenger under 1,000 pounds
Full-size car Impala, Crown Victoria 1,000-2,000 pounds
Mid-size CUV Edge, Taurus X, Equinox 2,000-4,000 pounds
Mid-size truck-SUV Ranger, Trailblazer, Dakota 3,000-7,200 pounds
Full size 1/2 ton truck, SUV Expedition, F150, Tahoe, Durango hybrid 5,000-11,200 pounds
1-ton or 3/4 ton truck, SUV F250, Silverado HD, Ram 2500, F350, Ram 3500 10,000-16,000 pounds
Commercial Truck F450 16,000-24,600 w/5th wheel
Class C or A RV Marathon, Jamboree up to 10,000 pounds
Once again, consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual to be certain of your vehicle’s weight limits.
The next component to consider is the trailer itself. A trailer is defined as any wheeled object that is designed to be pulled by another vehicle. Pretty simple and straightforward isn’t it? Trailers range from those little box trailers you can rent up to huge cross country rigs. But what we’re concerned with mostly are travel trailers, boat trailers, race car haulers, flat bed trailers, 5th wheel or gooseneck trailers, utility trailers, livestock trailers, etc. If it can be pulled down the road by another vehicle, it’s a trailer!
Next on the list is lighting. All trailers are required by law to have the same lights as the tow vehicle, working at the same time as the tow vehicles lights. Taillights, brake and turn signals are a minimum. Large enclosed car haulers, livestock trailers, and RV should also have marker lights at the top rear and front and along both sides.
You can’t have working lights without wires. The wiring harness you need to connect the front of the trailer to the back of the tow vehicle is available in several standard formats and if your vehicle came from the factory ready to tow, there’s already a connection at the back for the trailer lights.
You can’t tow anything if you don’t have a hitch. Basically the hitch is the point where the trailer is attached to the tow vehicle. There are as many types of hitches as there are tow vehicles and trailers so the subject of selecting the proper hitch will take up an entire section of its own.
There are a few components on the hitch such as the ball mount. This is also sometimes called a draw bar or stinger. It’s the component that slides into the hitch receiver and has a mounting pad for the tow ball.
The hitch pin and clip hold the ball mount in the receiver hitch and also is a convenient place to attach any breakaway cables, if your trailer is so equipped. The pin itself is usually shaped a little like a hockey stick and the clip is a hairpin design like the hood pins on a race car.
So naturally the next component is the ball itself. This is half of the flexible joint between the tow vehicle and the trailer that enables it to operate over bumps and dips in the road and navigate around corners. Tow balls come in different sizes, usually 1-7/8”, 2”, and 2-5/16” diameters depending on the weight of the trailer you plan to pull.
The other half of that all important flexible joint is the coupler. The coupler fits over the ball and rotates around it as the tow vehicle moves around curves and over dips and bumps. The size of the coupler must match the size of the ball for safe operation. NEVER tow with mismatched coupler and ball sizes.
Nobody wants to think about the possibility of the trailer breaking free from the tow vehicle but it can happen. That’s what safety chains are for. These are your backup plan. They should be attached between the trailer and the tow vehicle so they cross under the hitch. That prevents the hitch from digging into the roadway at speed.
Now that you have some definitions you can get more information from the experts down at Chux Trux. Give them a call today if you’re ready to start towing and they will get you on the road quickly and safely.By: Chris Ripper