2009-2010 Truck Maximum Tow Rating Guide – Part Two
Last week, we listed off all the maximum tow ratings for 2009 and 2010 half-ton trucks. The ratings ranged everywhere from 6,000 lbs to 11,300…and most manufacturers ratings are inconsistent. Ford’s 5.4L F150, for example, is rated anywhere from 7,700 lbs to 11,300 lbs depending on the presence of a tow package. That’s a difference of 46% for the same engine – how can this be?
There are a lot of factors that go into determining a truck’s tow rating, but generally speaking we can boil all the factors that determine maximum trailer tow ratings down to five categories:
- Power. How much can the truck pull safely with reasonable power? Can the truck move the maximum load up a steep grade? Can the truck pass safely while pulling the max?
- Cooling. While pulling the max, can the truck adequately cool the engine and transmission in all conditions?
- Braking. There are federal stopping standards to meet, not to mention the fact that most truck owners expect to be able to stop when pulling a trailer (even without trailer brakes to assist).
- Control. Is the truck going to pull the trailer, or is the trailer going to pull the truck?
- Liability. If the end user follows all the manufacturer’s guidelines, what is the likelihood they’ll get in an accident that will result in liability for the automaker?
Amazingly, despite the fact that all of these considerations are fairly straightforward, there are no standard testing procedures to determine a vehicle’s maximum trailer tow rating. Each manufacturer is allowed to determine their own tests.
We all know that the “highest in class” tow rating is a bragging right that truck owners cherish. Who can pull more is a standard that truck owners like to compare…but what if a truck manufacturer wanted to over-rate one of their vehicles to grab bragging rights? What would be the risk? Consumers that tried to pull the max would either:
- Not have enough power, slow down traffic, and get a bigger truck next time.
- Overheat and destroy an engine or a transmission (or both).
- Lose control and get in an accident.
- All of the above.
In scenario #1, the manufacturer has little risk. The consumer isn’t happy and might not buy another truck from them in the future, but that’s not a huge problem…not many consumers pull the maximum.
In scenario #2, the manufacturer might have to replace an engine or transmission prematurely. This is likely the biggest disincentive to over-rating a vehicle because it results in more warranty replacements (and therefore lower profits).
In scenario #3, the manufacturer might have to endure a lawsuit. Considering that most individual consumers don’t have the resources or wherewithal to drag a major automaker into court, this is the lowest risk scenario of all.
Knowing that these are the risks, let’s take one more look at some manufacturers maximum trailer tow ratings:
- Dodge’s tow ratings seem low, but perhaps that’s a result of Dodge’s lifetime powertrain warranty. If Dodge owners follow their scheduled maintenance, they’re entitled to a new engine or transmission in the event of a failure for as long as they own the truck. Dodge is probably very concerned about over-rating their trucks because they would have to buy a whole bunch of replacement engines and/or transmissions. Of all the manufacturer ratings, Dodge’s seem to be the most realistic. Ditto for Nissan.
- GM’s products seem to have a very reasonable range of tow ratings as well. From as little as 6k pounds towing capacity for a 5.3 to the 10,700 lbs rating of their 6.2L, tow ratings seem to be rational.
- The Tundra’s max tow rating seems a little high when you compare the performance of the truck to the Ram and the GM 6.2L, but perhaps Toyota feels their larger braking system and 6-speed automatic overcome the power, cooling, and braking concerns.
- Ford’s 11,300 lbs tow rating for the 5.4L seems completely and totally ridiculous…bordering on irresponsible. Ford says that their truck (when properly equipped) manages to out-pull the much more powerful trucks from Dodge, GM, Nissan, and Toyota – how?
It might be worth noting here that a bare-bones 2010 Ford 4×2 F150 Regular Cab Long Box 5.4L (3.55 rear) has an MSRP of $24,580 and is rated to pull 9,800 pounds (high, but possible). The “maximum towing” version of this same truck can pull 11,300 pounds…with an MSRP of $26,360.
In other words, adding 1,500 pounds of towing capacity costs $1,800 more. All Ford adds on is a different axle ratio (3.73), different steering gear ratio (20:1 instead of 18:1), bigger front bushings, bigger rear leafs, and 7-lug wheels (instead of 6). All those extras can’t possibly cost Ford $1800.
Anyone want to guess that some of that money is used to offset higher warranty claim rates and to protect against possible future liability claims? Keep in mind it only costs $380 to go from a 5,000 lbs tow rating to a 9,800 lbs tow rating for the same model.
Bottom Line: Maximum trailer tow ratings should be treated with a high degree of skepticism, and a good rule of thumb is to tow no more than 80% of your truck’s rated max. As many have said, if you’re looking to pull 8-10k pounds, you might want to seriously consider a 3/4 or 1 ton truck.
By the way, there is some good news about maximum trailer tow ratings. TruckTrend.com did a nice story recently about a new SAE tow rating standard that’s worth a read. Hopefully, when all the manufacturers adopt this standard, we’ll see some reality in the numbers from everyone (Toyota included).
Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com