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Old 23-04-2010, 08:26   #1
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Towing Capacity

We are potentially on the market for a new car so that we can tow our boat around. Our boat displaces about 2200 lbs so I am thinking a 3000 lb towing capacity would cut it. But when I look around vehicles that have a 3000lb towing capacity are pretty hefty, heftier than the vehicle that the PO delivered the boat with.

My question is this: does towing capacity directly correlate with the weight of the thing that you are towing behind you or is it a function of the weight of that object being pulled up and incline? Does tong weight have anything to do with how people rate the towing capacity of their vehicles?
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Old 23-04-2010, 09:03   #2
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towing weight is the weight of the boat PLUS the weight of the trailer.
tongue weight is merely the downward force on the hitch. On a balanced trailer, this will seldom be more than a couple hundred pounds.

I recommend strongly against exceeding a vehicle's towing capacity. Just because an undersize vehicle is able to get the rig moving, doesn't mean that it will be able to stop the rig on time.
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Old 23-04-2010, 09:08   #3
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If you are looking for a smaller car with good towing capacity, check out the Hyundai Elantra. Mine is rated to just over 3000# towing capacity and I use it regularly to tow large loads. From what I can tell, it is one of the few small cars out there that is actually rated for this kind of towing.

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Old 23-04-2010, 09:09   #4
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I've towed many things with a toyota tacoma that were within the 5000lb towing capacity that I'd never want to move more than a few miles with it. When the trailer is heavier than the already lightweight tow vehicle just plain old straight line driving on the highway becomes a huge chore. (not saying I wouldn't do it, just be aware that it's not a relaxing drive)
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Old 23-04-2010, 09:30   #5
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Towing capacity has two aspects -- total mass, and tongue weight. Usually there are separate ratings for trailers with and without brakes. It's not just a function of weight, although the relative mass of the towing vehicle and trailer have a lot to do with handling.

Don't buy a car which barely has the towing rating to match your boat. The bigger the margin between capacity and mass of the trailer, the better and safer the rig will handle.

The best thing for towing 3000 pounds of boat and trailer around is going to be a decent size SUV. Our old Land Rover Disco (diesel) was rated for 7700 pounds (braked). Something like that would not be overkill for a 3000 pound trailer. The permanent four wheel drive of something like that is also very useful getting up slippery boat ramps, and the ground clearance allows you to drive partially into the water if you need to.

Something like that will handle vastly better and much safer, than a regular light car which barely rates 3,000 pounds of towing. And although weight doesn't directly translate into towing capacity, it does directly affect how the vehicle will handle while towing.

A larger pickup truck would also be a good choice. A light car would not be a good choice, even if the trailer is theoretically within the car's capacity.
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Old 23-04-2010, 09:30   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fmooy View Post
If you are looking for a smaller car with good towing capacity, check out the Hyundai Elantra. Mine is rated to just over 3000# towing capacity and I use it regularly to tow large loads. From what I can tell, it is one of the few small cars out there that is actually rated for this kind of towing.

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Where the hell do you get that figure from? That would be too awesome. I have a hard time believing it though.

Oh wait I just found it, that is crazy! But we would need to install surge brakes.
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Old 23-04-2010, 09:39   #7
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Trailer Life Magazine publishes an on line towing ratings guide. See http://www.trailerlife.com/Images/Di...wGuide2010.pdf
Be aware that it is a big, almost 8 MB pdf file. The only Hyundai model listed with a towing rating is the Veracruz at 3,500 lbs.

David
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Old 23-04-2010, 09:50   #8
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Originally Posted by unbusted67 View Post
Where the hell do you get that figure from? That would be too awesome. I have a hard time believing it though.

Oh wait I just found it, that is crazy! But we would need to install surge brakes.
It is in my owner's manual, rated to 3000# towing and ~ 200# tongue weight. You are, of course, right that if you are right up against the rated limits you will want some form of trailer breaks. You could either install an electronic trailer brake or (my personal setup) just get a trailer with mechanical surge brakes. I personally use my Elantra to tow my Catalina 22 pretty regularly which I figure is somewhere between 2500# and 3000# including the boat, gear, and the trailer itself.

There seem to be a number of naysayers on the board and I am not going to dispute what they have said. I agree that it would be nice to have an F-350 (or landrover, or what-have-you) with a class V hitch to tow my boat with, but sometimes you have to work with what you've got. It is true that I don't drive much over 50 mph when towing my boat and I have to give myself plenty of stopping room and take the corners somewhat slower than I would without the trailer. I probably wouldn't have to handle things so gently if I had a big truck but, personally, I don't have the money to buy an SUV and if I did, I'd probably spend it on boat toys anyway . Anyway, best of luck to you.

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Old 23-04-2010, 10:05   #9
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I'd want to know the actual (not just published specs) weight of the boat and all the stuff in it, plus the trailer's weight. In addition to having adequate published towing capacity, the tow vehicle should be able to handle a tongue weight of 8-10% of that total, without sagging much on the rear springs.

The tow vehicle's real capability depends on vehicle length, weight, and suspension, more importantly than power. It's more of a challenge to keep the rig under control in a difficult situation, and to be able to stop safely, than it is to get it moving. The longer and heavier the tow vehicle the more control.

I'd also consider how much towing you're planning to do, and how flat or mountainous. More distance and more hills means more difficult situations you're likely to encounter.

We towed our C-Dory 22 Cruiser (2200 lb dry and empty, close to 4000 pounds on the trailer), all over the very mountainous western US and Canada. The tow vehicle was a 1989 Nissan Pathfinder 4wd, with the higher-grade suspension and manual transmission. It worked very well, even on major downhills. For the challenging towing we did, I doubt anything much smaller and less capable would have been safe.
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Old 23-04-2010, 10:33   #10
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The numbers that determine towing capacity of a vehicle are the GCWR, GVWR, GAWR and the actual weight of the vehicle. The GCWR (gross combined weight rating) is how much the car and trailer can weigh combined. Finding the dry weight of most cars is pretty easy and then you need to add the weight of the people and gear. The GVWR (gross vehicle rating) refers to how much weight the vehicle can actually have on its own tires. You can actually have so much tongue weight that you exceed this without exceeding GCWR. The GAWR (gross axle weight rating) tells you how much weight you can have on each axle. If you have too much tongue weight, you will typically exceed the rear axle rating.

Car makers usually publish towing specs and tongue weight specs to make it easy. Be warned that this number usually assumes only a driver in the vehicle and no passengers or cargo which will bring down the towing rating. In the case of pickup trucks, when you see ads for which truck can tow more, it is always a 2wd, regular cab truck since they are the lightest allowing for more trailer weight while still staying inside GCWR.

If the boat displaces 2200lbs, chance are that it will be rolling down the road with trailer at 3000lbs or a bit more if you like to keep lots of gear on board or have a heavy trailer.

Anything over 2000lbs, you need to put some form of brakes on. A lot of people skip this step since they corrode but brakes are the single most important safety factor. If you ever get into an accident, you want to be legal or you will be held liable since your load is considered dangerous. Also, when loading the boat, make sure that you have 10-15% tongue weight. Without this tongue weight, the trailer will start swaying and the only way to really stop that is to apply only the trailer brakes. On my families' motorboat, I actually have to move some of the equipment forward on the boat so that we have tongue weight.

Plenty of people are driving around overweight but it is very dangerous and illegal. Having towed several hundred thousand miles, I can assure you that the proper setup will pay off in the long run if you put on any mileage.
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Old 23-04-2010, 13:45   #11
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Our current trailer doesn't have breaks installed. How hard is it to put in your own breaks? We don't really have a trailer manufacturer in the area.
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Old 24-04-2010, 19:40   #12
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How hard it is to put brakes on depends on what axle you have and what type of brakes you want to put on. If you axle is built to accept disc brakes, you can add them in an afternoon. If you go with electric brakes, you end up doing a lot more wiring and if you go with hydraulic surge brakes, you have to change the tongue. Electric brakes handle much better but a lot of people like the simplicity of the surge brakes.
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Old 16-05-2010, 18:56   #13
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My dad towed his boat for years with a Ford Crown Vic (it had police suspension though, which might have helped). He told me to never try to tow with a front wheel drive vehicle. He towed his boat from Rhode Island to Florida once. I don't know what a Crown Vic is rated for, but his boat weighed about 2000 lbs. His trailer had brakes. I tow with a Dodge Ram pickup.

You might want to ask around at some local boat yards to see if any do trailer maintenance. They may be able to add brakes for you if you're not comfortable doing it yourself. We have someone near us that works on trailers, but we're kind of far from you.
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Old 24-05-2010, 15:07   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fmooy View Post
If you are looking for a smaller car with good towing capacity, check out the Hyundai Elantra. Mine is rated to just over 3000# towing capacity and I use it regularly to tow large loads. From what I can tell, it is one of the few small cars out there that is actually rated for this kind of towing.
You lucked out... there was a period around '01-'06 or so where Elantras had this ability. New ones can only handle 2000 lb. Mine's an '00 and I must say, it handles trailers much better than one would expect.
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We are potentially on the market for a new car so that we can tow our boat around. Our boat displaces about 2200 lbs so I am thinking a 3000 lb towing capacity would cut it. But when I look around vehicles that have a 3000lb towing capacity are pretty hefty, heftier than the vehicle that the PO delivered the boat with.
2200 lb of boat plus at least 600 lb of trailer plus whatever gear you leave in it plus fuel and water.... I think you should be looking at something rated to tow about 4000 lb or so, to leave a comfortable margin. If you don't want a pickup truck, perhaps a minivan cross such as a Ford Flex (tows 4500 lb with appropriate cooler and hitch package) might do the trick.

I absolutely refuse to tow anything over 2000 lb unless it has its own fully functional brakes. (I'd call it at 1000 to 1500 lb if the tow vehicle is a small to midsize car). It's just not worth the risk.
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My question is this: does towing capacity directly correlate with the weight of the thing that you are towing behind you or is it a function of the weight of that object being pulled up and incline? Does tong weight have anything to do with how people rate the towing capacity of their vehicles?
What you need to know as a driver was summarized nicely by Klem.

What the carmaker's engineers are thinking looks something like this:
- Tongue weight (figure about 10% of trailer weight) plus the tow vehicle's own payload must be supported without overloading the rear suspension or lifting the front end
- Tow vehicle's brakes have to be able to bring the trailer to a stop even if the trailer's own brakes fail
- Suspension must be able to keep the tow vehicle stable and controllable under large lateral loads from the hitch
- Engine has to operate at a higher percentage of max BMEP for a given RPM (ie, is more heavily loaded at a given speed); what the engine can put out in continuous duty is a limiting factor (trailer's air drag, and grade climbing, both factor into this)
- Transmission is much more heavily loaded and needs modified programing, stronger gears, and (esp. in automatics) extra cooling capacity
- Electrical system has to be able to handle the trailer's demands for brake and aux power as well as lights
- If everything fails, the back of the body shell has to be able to stop the trailer from riding up and into the vehicle

Needless to say, second-guessing the carmaker's engineers' judgment on such matters is not going to get us anywhere good. Best to just stick with what they say (and a few, like some Hondas, have been known to offer higher tow ratings for boats than for boxes because the streamlined bow reduces the continuous-duty load on the engine).
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