Although last week’s blog contained a lot of valuable towing information with a comedic twist, we want to continue our exploration of tow-weight capacities and vehicle requirements this week.  There are many other factors that must be considered when attaching a trailer to your vehicle besides a vehicle’s maximum towing capacity.

Before you even think about towing, have your ball and hitch inspected by a qualified hitch installation company.  They will determine your maximum tongue weight which is typically 10% of the hitch’s rated capacity.  If you are unsure of the loaded weight of your horse trailer, toy hauler or RV, Phoenix Coach Works recommends being safe rather than sorry in regard your hitch and ball setup until you can get your rig to a weigh station.

Your trailer should sit level when attached to the towing vehicle with little or no sag in its rear.  Once you know the total weight of your trailer, be sure to place your load as follows:

Single Axle 10% minimum/15% maximum
Tandem Axle 9% to 15%
Travel Trailer 11% to 12%
5th Wheel 15% to 25%


Inspect your safety chain for broken or damaged links and attach them in a crisscross fashion to provide a saddle in the incident that your hitch or tongue should fail.

Another important factor is the wheelbase of the towing vehicle and the length of the unit being towed.  People who tow small utility trailers with relatively short wheelbase SUVs may not be affected but when you haul a 4, 6 or 9 horse trailer weighing 15-20 thousand pounds and measuring between 15 and 30 feet, you need a much longer wheelbase to handle the extended load.

A general rule of thumb is that the bridge length (length from the pivot point of the tongue to the center of the trailer’s axle) should be 1.25 times the towing vehicle’s wheelbase.  Most ½, ¾ and 1 ton pickups with an extended cab and 8ft beds work well for long trailers as long as you comply with the vehicle’s maximum towing capacity.

There are many more details that must be considered depending on your specific setup [vehicle, vessel and items being towed, and distance and roadways traveled].

If you have any questions or to arrange a consultation for a custom built trailer, trailer accessory installation or general trailer repair and maintenance, please contact Phoenix Coach Works directly.  With over 60 years of combined experience in the hauling and towing industry, our expert will be able to steer you and your rig in the right direction.

Feel free to join us next week as we discuss trailer operating techniques including backing and braking.  From safety to proper hauling practices, we know the importance of keeping a vehicle on the road and we do what do to make that possible.

*Tongue weight chart courtesy of Sherline trailer loading and towing guide.

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