Stupid Towing Tricks – What’s Wrong With People?

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In my opinion, anyone towing a trailer of any kind (from a nifty little U-Haul hauler to a couple jet skis to a 38′ RV) ought to attend some training classes. That way, we wouldn’t have to see stupid stuff like this:

Crown Vic towing a boat

Can a car pull a sail boat? Sure. Should it? Not on your life. Click for a larger view.

That’s right. A Crown Vic pulling a sail boat. I took this picture myself, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen some obviously stupid towing decision making.

Common Stupid Towing Tricks

1. Towing with a car. Unless you’re pulling something light and small – like a tiny 8′ U-Haul trailer – towing with a car is asking for trouble. Cars aren’t suitable for towing because:

  • The almost never have heavy-duty braking systems, which are needed to stop a trailer in an emergency
  • They almost never have over-built transmissions, which are designed to accommodate the strain of towing thousands of pounds of additional weight
  • Their suspension isn’t designed to attenuate the movement of a trailer

Trucks and large SUVs have all of the above characteristics, but most cars do not…which is why putting this cute little teardrop trailer behind a Prius is a bad idea (but kuddos to the person who built this thing by hand, and yes I know it’s “just” 900 lbs).

Prius pulling trailer.

A Prius just isn’t designed to pull a trailer. Not even a cool lightweight trailer like this (which you can learn more about by clicking on the picture).

Here’s another angle on the Crown Vic pulling the sailboat. Check out the suspension sag:

Crown Vic pulls sail boat

Check it out – A former police cruiser can pull an ocean-going sail boat. No problem! Click for a larger view.

2. Towing too fast. Everyone with a trailer needs to grab their owner’s manual and check to see what the manufacturer’s towing speed limit is. Odds are, your truck or SUV manual suggests you drive no faster than 65mph while towing. This is because a trailer’s energy increases with the square of the velocity…a trailer going 60mph is four times as hard to stop as a trailer going 30mph (not twice). At 55-65mph, a large trailer becomes very hard to control. Any speed higher than that and you’re asking for real trouble should an emergency arise.

3. Towing too much. Most vehicles are more than capable of pulling a load much larger than rated. After all, the Tundra pulled the damn space shuttle.

Tundra tow space shuttle

A bone-stock Toyota Tundra was used to tow the 150k pound space shuttle Endeavour across LA’s highway 405.

But that’s because tow ratings are about stopping, not going. A Ford Escort can probably pull a 10,000lbs RV down the highway and 55mph, but it’s going to have a hell of a time stopping that trailer…even if the trailer has it’s own brake system. This is because trailers move up and down when they stop, and a 10,000lbs trailer can put a 2,500-4,000┬álbs load on the tongue of whatever vehicle is pulling it in an emergency stop, as 25-40% of the weight transfers to the tongue during a hard stop.

A Ford Escort might not weigh 2,500lbs, which means it absolutely can not handle a 4,000lbs tongue weight (however momentary).

Yet I see trailers on all sorts of vehicles – from cars to F-450s – that are clearly too heavy. Is it a big deal? I don’t know – I don’t have any data on accident frequency or severity involving over-loaded trailers – but I know it isn’t good.

4. Towing like you drive. I see is vehicle’s pulling trailers that are being driven as if they’re empty all the time. Literally daily. The drivers are just oblivious to the trailer (or at least it seems that way).

Tailgating while driving your unladen pickup is one thing, but doing so when you’re pulling a 5,000lbs car hauler? That’s just dumb. Cutting in front of someone to make your exit while pulling a trailer full of equipment? That’s a shenanigan you can get away with in your wife’s sedan, but it won’t fly pulling a big trailer.

5. Towing without paying attention. We’re all guilty of driving without giving the road our full attention, but the risks are higher when you’re pulling a trailer:

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End rant.

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  1. ricqik says:

    I still believe there should be a towing endorsement requirement.

  2. Alex says:

    You are very misinformed. The Crown Vic is rated for 3500 lbs with a 300 lb tongue weight on the Class-II hitch. It’s also a Body on frame design like most trucks. That Crown Victoria pulling that sailboat is the police version. Which has upgraded brakes over the standard civilian version. A Heavy Duty (larger/stiffer coil springs) and larger geared differential (3:55). That suspension sag is barely dipping from the stock height. Just because something is shaped like a truck doesn’t mean it’s not capable of towing. It’s on the inside what counts. However ignorance is bliss.

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