Many people think that as long as you just attach a tow ball hitch to any vehicle that you are all set and ready to haul anything and everything. Add in an assumption that driving with a trailer behind you is in any way easy and you have the recipe for disaster. All cars, SUVs, trucks and even minivans have vastly different tow ratings according to their manufacturers which mean they are not meant to tow anything that weighs more than that weight. Plus, if you own a pick-up truck you will also be dealing with a payload rating which means that weight is the maximum amount pound wise that you can dump into the pick-up bed.

As follows are some simple questions anyone from a novice to an expert might have regarding towing practices, some of the most modern technology that can help make your towing life easier and a few mistakes you definitely want to avoid. Besides, the point is to keep the roads safe with well-educated and fully comfortable drivers behind the wheel.

What does towing capacity mean and where can I find my vehicle’s capacity figure?

When your vehicle is properly equipped with a tow hitch, this is the weight of the trailer you can pull behind your vehicle without causing any undue damage to your transmission, engine, frame or cooling systems. Your vehicle’s tow capacity may depend on which engine it is equipped with and whether or not there if there was a heavy duty tow package purchased originally from the factory. But you can usually find these figures on the auto manufacturer’s website or in the owner’s manual.

What is a payload rating and what is a gross vehicle weight rating?

Simply put, your vehicle’s gross weight rating is how many pounds it weighs when equipped with all available options but empty of any cargo either human or otherwise. Or it tells you how fat it is, to put it crudely. A pick-up truck’s payload rating is how heavy the cargo you place in the pick-up bed before the back end starts to sag perilously close to your rear tires. You can increase your payload rating with aftermarket parts and may be a good idea if you plan to use your vehicle to haul really heavy loads in the cargo hold.

What does Trailer Signal Wiring do?

When you have a tow hitch attached to the back of your pick-up, SUV or car there should be electrical plugs attached that once plugged into the securely attached trailer will be able to show drivers behind you when you are signaling or braking via the lights attached to any legal trailer. Essentially they mimic what your regular tail lights are doing and having this properly set up is very important so be sure to double check they are working before embarking on any journey.

What is Anti-Sway Control for Trailers?

Trailer sway control is a function of the stability control systems in a vehicle and uses a number of electronic sensors to detect if a trailer is yawing (moving side to side behind you) and applies brake pressure on one wheel to bring it back in line.

How does an oil cooler system help me tow heavier loads?

Towing a heavy load is hard on any engine and transmission and often times automakers will offer packages that include oil cooling systems or even transmission fluid cooling systems to help increase towing capacity. The temperature of both of these fluids will naturally be higher when the engine is constantly working hard so if you tow a lot investing in one of these packages or a separate option is definitely a smart move if long term engine and transmission reliability are important to you. And they should be.

Where can I weigh my trailer?

Any retailer that sells trailers or RVs will definitely have its own scale that you can use to ensure you know exactly how heavy the cargo is that you will be towing. Some repair shops and car or truck dealers may also have scales but as always call ahead to ensure they have one, that it’s working and that they will let you use it. Do not try to use your home bathroom scale.

What is Integrated Trailer Brake Control?

This is one of the more advanced trailer systems and it simply means that when you hit the brake pedal in your vehicle it not only controls the brakes of the vehicle but also brakes on the trailer. This enhances control and stability.

What is Hill Descent Control and how does it help a driver maintain control on mountain roads?

This feature will use special gearing and braking to ensure that your vehicle maintains a nice, low and controlled speed on steep downhill inclines which can be especially helpful on wet or muddy surfaces.

What happens when you switch your transmission into either ‘tow’ or ‘haul’ mode?

If your vehicle is equipped with a tow or haul setting this feature will compensate for road steepness and payload changes by reducing gear hunting which improves fuel economy and power delivery. I this setting, engine braking will also help slow the vehicle when descending hills.

How can a larger, heavy duty rear differential help you when towing or hauling?

The larger and stronger the rear differential (otherwise known as ring gear) is can make or break how well a truck or SUV manages when towing really heavy loads. This rear differential, especially when attached to powerful motors, must be strong enough to withstand the power passing through the axle and the strain from its load. Also, remember that most rear differentials and ring gears last longer when maintained regularly but check your owner’s manual for any information on recommendations.

Why can vehicles with diesel engines so often manage to tow heavier vehicles as a general rule?

That is because diesel engines do not have high horsepower figures but rather specialize in offering astronomical torque figures which is the power ratio that tells you how well a vehicle can pull. In essence, when you accelerate you “feel” torque and not necessarily the horsepower reading of the vehicle. Diesels also make great tow engines as they offer most of their power low in the rev range.

If you routinely tow or haul heavy objects with your vehicle, are there going to be expensive extra service requirements needed?

If you do tow a lot, it doesn’t need to be outrageously expensive but you may want to follow the “heavy use” guidelines for service in your owner’s manual if there are any. Usually this just means getting fluids changed a little sooner than normal.

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