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The Truth About Towing

How Heavy Is Too Heavy?

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Due to a bumper-tow or tag-along-style trailer's nature, you'll know when you're attempting to haul too much weight. The rear of the truck will appear hunkered down and the front end will feel light. Although feeling comfortable and being in control are the most important aspects of towing, when bumper-towing heavy loads (and on stock suspension), we wouldn't exceed 15,000 pounds with any truck.

Gooseneck Towing
By distributing a trailer's weight over the rear axle, gooseneck towing allows us to haul heavier loads than traditional bumper-towing can. We've seen gooseneck balls rated to as much as 40,000 pounds and have also seen an '071/2 Dodge Ram 3500 dualie tip the scales at more than 42,000 pounds GCWR hauling a load of scrap metal with a tandem-axle, gooseneck dump trailer in tow. Another benefit comes from the hitch location, which makes the trailer much more maneuverable and allows you to make sharper turns. Its one drawback is that hooking the truck up to the trailer can be a pain.

Fifth-Wheel Towing
The most stable, durable, and safest method for heavy towing is the fifth-wheel hitch. Often confused with the gooseneck, fifth-wheel hitches consist of a large, flat plate and metal rails that run beneath the hitch and attach to the frame of the truck for utmost strength. The design of the fifth-wheel hitch provides the best load distribution as well, alleviating stress in one specific area. Its two drawbacks are that it can be expensive, and it's not well suited for towing on uneven surfaces.

The Truths Of Towing
Before you attach an enormous load to your truck, keep in mind that, until the SAE's J2807 towing standard is applied (which puts all manufacturers on a level playing field as far as testing is concerned), manufacturers' tow ratings will be developed by the vehicle's marketing department-and validated by the vehicle's engineering department. Also know that the heavier your truck is, the less you can actually tow, technically speaking. This is because a heavier truck is already using up some of its gross combined weight (GCW).

No doubt, towing anything is a lesson in common sense. If you have any, you'll be fine towing even the heaviest of loads. Simply allow more time and distance to stop, and make sure your equipment, trailer brakes, and brake controller are in good working order. Be sure to keep an eye on your mirrors (it is recommended that commercial truck drivers glance at their mirrors every 5 to 10 seconds). Also take your time when changing lanes, try to know exactly where your final destination is and precisely how to get there (even which lane to be in), accelerate slowly, and attempt to drive as close to the posted speed limit as possible. By using your best judgment and the correct equipment, you should be fine towing any type of load.

Inertia-activated brake controllers have a pendulum that senses inertia of the vehicle's deceleration and stops the trailer proportionally, and at the same rate as the tow vehicle. However, once the tow rig's brake pedal is floored, the trailer brakes are completely engaged, too-as is the case in this photo. Keeping up with trailer brake maintenance is also key to towing heavy and safely on a regular basis.

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Kelsey Higgins
Kelsey Higgins

Thank you for the great information, Mike! My husband has been thinking about getting a new truck because he is worried that his current one will not be able to sufficiently handle towing all of his fun tows. He has been looking at getting a 3/4 ton or 1 ton diesel, but after reading this, I think that is a bit excessive. I will have to show this article to him so that we don't spend a bunch of money on a truck we don't need! 

Corey Smith321
Corey Smith321

Mike, it's always been a question for me about how much stuff my car can tow. Especially doing heavy vehicle towing that was quite challenging for me to. Fun part was having to find the right tool and driving around deep hills.