Let’s run some simple numbers. Let’s say the SUV has a payload of 1,250 pounds. Guess what! That 6,000 pound trailer has just used up half of your payload capacity because the weight of the trailer on your tow hitch is 600 pounds (6,000 x 10%). You now have 650 pounds left of payload capacity. Let’s say that you weigh in at 180 pounds and of course you will want to take your spouse / friend / crew, with you. So let’s see, the wife weighs in at 120 so between you and the wife you have just used up another 300 pounds of payload leaving 350 pounds. Fortunately it’s an SUV so the tires that wouldn’t fit in or on the trailer can be hauled in the back. Hmm! I have four mounted rain tires and four mounted spares at roughly 30 pounds per totaling 240 pounds and that tool box loaded with tools weighing in at 80 pounds, aluminum floor jack 30 pounds, Air tank 10 pounds, 10x20 Easy Up 50 pounds, baggage for two for the weekend weighing another 50 pounds… oops!

What we now have is an SUV that is seriously overloaded and we haven’t even loaded the four full 5 gallon gas cans needed for the race car, food, additional crew member, track box containing misc. items and all the things that you don’t know about yet that you really will need at the track on any given weekend.

At this point you have to ask yourself if you really want to be towing to the race track, sometimes long distances, with a truck that is full beyond capacity? The answer to this is a resounding “NO”! You don’t! It might work for a while but sooner or later you will be looking at some serious repair bills let alone the risk of being stranded late at night far from home.

The rule of thumb used to be never tow with a 1⁄2 ton truck / SUV. Always buy a 3⁄4 ton truck / SUV or greater. This rule of thumb is slowly beginning to change as 1⁄2 ton trucks are beginning to blur the line between 1⁄2 ton and 3⁄4 ton. The current generation (2007) Toyota Tundra is a good example of this with Chevy and Ford hot on its heels in this hotly contested and very profitable market segment. In any case do your research and do the math before you make your decision. A 3⁄4 ton truck is a costly item but the towing capacity and, more importantly, the payload is considerably higher. It may make more sense to buy a quality, low mileage, used 3⁄4 ton vehicle than a brand new 1⁄2 ton vehicle.

If you decide you can make do with a 1⁄2 ton vehicle make sure it has a factory installed towing package that includes an auxiliary oil cooler for the transmission. Also Diesel fuel is arguably still the fuel of choice for a tow vehicle for a couple of reasons. First, diesel engines produce considerably more torque than their gas burning counter parts (though this too is beginning to change). Let’s be clear about torque and towing. No matter what the question is…torque is the answer! Secondly, even though diesel is the more expensive fuel per gallon you will get considerably better gas mileage when towing with diesel. The difference is often enough to make diesel the less expensive of the two; sometimes by a large margin if there are long distances to be traveled.

Something else to consider is the size and weight of the tow vehicle itself in relation to the size and weight of the trailer. This is a case where size really does matter. Generally the trailer will weigh more. But if it weighs too much more it can start pushing the tow vehicle around; kind of like the tail wagging the dog. Not good!

There are products on the market that can aid with this problem. There are load leveling bars that will help transfer some of the trailer tongue weight up and forward on the tow vehicle. This is good as it will transfer back on to your front tires some of the weight that was lifted off of them when you hooked up your trailer. This makes for better tow vehicle stability as well as better steering and braking.

In addition to this there is a type of trailer sway bar that connects the trailer tongue and the vehicle tow hitch. This will help dampen any tendency the trailer might have to move back and forth behind the tow vehicle such as might be experienced with a heavy cross wind, rough roads, or under heavy braking. Though these items are optional many people consider them a necessity, myself included.

While you are at it, make sure that the trailer hitch you are using is actually rated for the amount of weight you are planning to tow. Most trailer hitches are rated for 5,000 pounds or less. If you are going to be towing more than this you will need a hitch that is rated for 10,000 pounds or more.

 

 

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