Selecting a Tow Vehicle


Selecting the right tow vehicle to tow your RV might seem like a daunting task. What you have to base your decision on is primarily the vehicle’s specifications, its towing capacity and your feel for the vehicle. There are still many choices to be made about the engine, transmission, suspension, brakes, features and whether you want two or four-wheel drive.

Here are some important items to consider buying a vehicle to tow your RV.

• The tow vehicle must have sufficient power. A ratio of about 50 pounds of gross combined vehicle weight per every one horsepower (11,000 pounds combined wt. divided by 50 equal 220 h.p.) will deliver the best performance.

• When computing your weight allowance, don’t forget to add for water, propane, food, personal items, spare tire, people and anything else that may add weight.

• Most engines need to turn about 2,600 to 3,000 RPM while towing to develop sufficient horsepower. Axle gearing must be selected to permit the engine to turn comfortably within these limits. Also, remember that tire size is an important part of the equation and can significantly affect overall performance.

• Ideally, the tow vehicle will weigh more than the trailer for good towing control. With larger trailers this is not possible and makes the careful selection of a towing system very important.

• Remember, tow vehicles with a long wheelbase give a good ride and superior towing control, but require a larger turning radius. Tow vehicles with a short wheelbase turn more sharply, but may have a choppier ride and give less control of the longer trailers.

• Do not sacrifice horsepower for fuel economy. The fuel saved will not compensate for the loss of towing performance. Towing requires large engines. There is no such thing as too much power when you’re towing. Farlow’s First Law: “The amount of power you don’t buy will be exactly what’s required to get over the next mountain.”

• Tow vehicles require a large mirror mounted on each front door for safe driving. In addition, a three-inch convex mirror should be used to eliminate blind spots.

• A good brake controller is needed to coordinate braking between the tow vehicle and the trailer. Be sure the controller is large enough for the trailer. Also, a braking system may be a good investment on even the smaller trailers.

• Tow vehicles with automatic transmissions require an auxiliary transmission cooler. It is strongly suggested that the auxiliary cooler be 50% larger than what the actual specifications call for. Standard equipped factory transmission coolers, not rated for towing, are not large enough for towing any trailer over 3,000 lbs.

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