Are you ready to tow?
After realizing that I may have unknowingly overloaded my tow vehicle and trailer in the past, I didn’t want to make the same mistakes with my new-to-me used trailer.
I first needed to know my boat’s gross combined weight rating, the maximum allowable loaded weight of the tow vehicle and trailer, which includes all passengers, equipment and fuel carried in both. Don’t confuse the GCWR with the GVWR, the gross vehicle weight rating, the maximum weight of the fully loaded vehicle without the trailer.
While researching my tow vehicle and boat, I learned that vehicle manufacturers generally calculate maximum tow ratings for a base model with only the driver aboard. Depending on the model, you could easily have another 1,100 pounds or more in options, passengers and gear loaded in the boat.
I also learned that the weight of most outboard boats is calculated for the hull only; you’ll need to add the weight of the motor, accessories, gear, water and fuel carried aboard.
When calculating fuel or water loads, figure about 8.3 pounds for each gallon of water, 6.1 for gasoline, 7.1 for diesel and 4.2 for propane.
When it comes to the tow vehicle, trailer weight allowance is important. Commonly stated as maximum trailer rating, TWA is the maximum weight a vehicle can tow. Each vehicle differs, depending on whether it has manual or automatic transmission and two- or four-wheel drive.
Other important factors include your tow vehicle’s engine cooling system and transmission cooler. Engine oil temperatures can rise significantly if your cooling capacity is inadequate. Automatic transmissions are designed to operate at approximately 170 degrees Fahrenheit; once the temperature exceeds 200 degrees, the fluid begins to break down, increasing heat and creating excessive wear.
If you are unsure of your vehicle’s tow rating, check with the manufacturer or search online; howstuffworks.com has a Towing Capacity Chart sorted by vehicle make.
The best way to ensure you don’t exceed your tow rating is to take the fully equipped and loaded vehicle and trailer to a public scale for an accurate weight.
Check to make sure you have the right frame hitch and hitch ball for your vehicle class. Conventional hitches come in five basic classifications, from class 1 (up to 2,000 pounds) to Class 5 (10,000–15,000 pounds).
IBefore you head out, check your wiring and harness, wheel bearings, wheels, and tires for obvious defects or excessive wear. Understand how your trailer brakes and brake releases work, and check your wheel lug nuts.
The preventive measures you take at the beginning of the season will help ensure that you have a safe, enjoyable boating year. –Ken Swain
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