Mark Hellwig offers Tow & Haul Advice

Tow Vehicle Selection in three words: Safety, Hardware, Comfort
by Mark Hellwig

If you have been holding off buying a heavy duty pick-up or SUV waiting for the price to fall, now may be the time purchase. A recovering economy will only cause prices to increase. In spite of all the negative press tow and haul vehicles receive, the big three are still manufacturing these vehicle types for those of us who want a heavy duty truck or SUV. If new is not in your budget maybe a used truck or SUV is in your future. Either way you’ll want to look for certain features in a vehicle that gives you confidence to handle the loads you want to tow.

That being said, the big three can’t supply all the equipment you will need to do the job. Only aftermarket parts suppliers and manufacturers can help you build the “complete” tow vehicle. I like to consider three factors when selecting my tow vehicles. Maybe these will help you too.

Safety – Above all else, get to your destination and back home safely. Consider vehicle Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings, GVWR and Gross Combined Weight Ratings, GCWR when looking for the right vehicle. Many people are towing illegally the minute they hook up their trailer. A long list of factors is considered when rating a tow vehicle. Tires, wheels, single or dual, brakes, suspension, axles and engines all contribute to the rating. Also, gear ratios and transmission type are important factors. If you can get the tow package from the factory do so. It will have heavier engine cooling, electrical distribution, mirrors and drive train components over standard built vehicles. Usually the trucks operating manual can give you the formulas for correct loading of the trailer and truck. The manual can also give you helpful driving tips for towing a trailer.

Hardware – In my humble opinion the perfect tow vehicle does not exist. Before purchasing a vehicle for towing, make sure there is equipment available for your vehicle. It is important to know for instance if the correct fifth wheel hitch is available for your truck. Can you get the proper mirrors to safely observe behind and around you? Can you upgrade the electrical charging system if the electrical system is not capable of handling the additional lighting and battery charging duties? Do you want or need additional transmission or engine cooling? Who makes components like that and can you get them installed? What about handling upgrades? What is available to control sway in winds and driving winding roads? Will you need heavy duty sway bars or some additional load leveling springs? These may seem like unnecessary inquiries, however if you have made the financial commitment of a vehicle purchase the last thing you want to hear is that an important tow component or accessory is not available for your vehicle.

Comfort – Chances are you will be behind the wheel many hours as you travel to your favorite destinations. When your tow vehicle is properly set up, it will not wear you out to drive it. Consider factors such as seat styles, leg room, rear view mirror size and position, window tint, the sound system, and cabin noise and climate control when planning to buy your tow vehicle. If your back hurts from a bad sitting position, if you are irritated because the noise in the cab is excessive, if your legs are cramped up and your mirrors are out of position causing you to strain to see anything you are probably not traveling in comfort. If you’re having trouble controlling the vehicle, having to steer and drive it constantly, if you worry about being able to properly stop in a safe distance or visibility is a problem or it’s too hot or too cold you’ll probably be tired out in a short time. Some of these factors can be simply distracting, other factors down right dangerous. If you have a co-driver make sure they are happy too. Conversations about the scenery and trips activities will far out weigh complaining about noise or cabin temperatures.

I hope you can use some of this information to raise your awareness of basic equipment, gear and amenities for safe and comfortable travel. Motor vehicle manufacturers offer you a platform for towing but can’t provide all the equipment needed to make your vehicle the great tow rig it can be. Virtually every item you will ever need to tow your trailer is available from aftermarket parts suppliers, your local R.V. dealer or truck accessory store. Look to them for the tools and advice you will need to develop a complete and safe tow vehicle.

Build your ideal tow vehicle and enjoy the drive!

Posted on Thursday, August 27th, 2009 in Uncategorized.
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