How much can I tow?

One of the questions trailer owners ask is about what they need in a tow vehicle for their trailer. This has been a very subjective matter with a lot of sales hype and FUD mongering thrown in. The SAE has put together a committee to provide a standard against which towing issues can be compared. Automobile Magazine says

There are five engineering characteristics that strongly influence any tow vehicle’s performance:

* The engine’s power and torque characteristics.
* The powertrain’s cooling capacity.
* The durability of the powertrain and chassis.
* Handling characteristics during cornering and braking
* maneuvers. The structural characteristics of the vehicle’s hitch attachment area.

Standard J2807 spells out test procedures and performance requirements that must be meant for a manufacturer to assign a maximum tow rating to a particular vehicle.

Most of the issues, concerns, and questions that have come up over the years in the ‘what can I tow?’ question have been addressed in the standard. For instance, a tow vehicle must be able to go forward and backward 16 feet on a 12% grade five times in five minutes as well as meet acceleration times over a set of defined speed ranges commonly encountered in driving. The Davis Dam run on 68 and 163 in Arizona is used as a criterion where the rig has to keep up a minimum cruising speed when temperatures are over 100F and the AC is on full. Handling is also considered. Turns up to .3g or so must not exhibit oversteer and panic stops need to stay in lane and be accomplished in specified distances at various speeds.

These criteria will not only help choosing a tow vehicle but can also be used to understand what the ‘experts’ think is necessary for proper and safe towing. Starting with 2013 models, you may see the claim that the vehicle meets J2807 SAE standards and that will provide some assurance about the claims for what the vehicle will tow.

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