What size engine to pull a boat?
November 25, 2011 7:34 AM   Subscribe

What size of truck engine is ideal to pull a twin axle boat trailer (we have a Supra wakesurfing boat)...does Toyota make a viable option?

does Toyota make a viable option?
posted by AegeanBlue to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total)
You need to provide more information. The answer to "I pull my boat to the cottage and back, 10 miles each way", once a year, is different than the answer to "I'll be putting 2,000 miles a year on my truck pulling my boat, mostly through the mountains,"
posted by tomswift at 7:56 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

A friend used a Toyota to pull a 23 foot sailboat halfway across the country and had no complaints. I forget what model Toyota truck it was - something newer and four-wheel-drive.
posted by exogenous at 8:02 AM on November 25, 2011

You should be able to find the tow specs for the Tacoma or Tundra (or Toyota SUVs) online. I think it's going to depend on the weight of the boat and trailer.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:03 AM on November 25, 2011

Be aware that the engine size is not your only concern. Look for trucks with a "tow package". These will have beefier transmissions, or at the very least additional cooling capacity in the transmission. Also, check if the truck has an "overdrive cancel" button. These are useful when towing in hilly terrain, as it forces the transmission not to go into overdrive. That way, your transmission isn't constantly shifting due to speed changes from towing the trailer in hills.
posted by cosmicbandito at 8:11 AM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

According to this page, a 2012 Tundra with a tow package has a capacity of 8100 lbs.

How much does your boat and trailer weigh?
posted by box at 8:16 AM on November 25, 2011

Echoing that most any truck engine can handle it, it's the transmission you need to worry about.
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:21 AM on November 25, 2011

I guess I would not know how big a wake surfing boat is. I do know that a 2006 Toyota 4Runner with an 8 cylinder engine can pull a 19 foot sports boat without issue.
posted by graxe at 8:39 AM on November 25, 2011

You need to know the total GCWR (gross combined weight rating) of your vehicle (including passengers, onboard cargo, fuel etc plus trailer and load). All light trucks have a GCWR and it can usually be found on the drivers side door jamb information plate. As others have mentioned, there's more to consider than just engine size. In additon to transmission capacity, braking and suspension capabilities are also very important.

And, NO, not just any truck engine is up to the task. When considering a suitable engine, the amount of torque produced is more improtant than engine size or horsepower output.
posted by buggzzee23 at 8:42 AM on November 25, 2011

The V6 (1GR-FE) Tacoma with towing package can tow around 6000 lbs with a GCWR of ~11,000 lbs. Without the tow package the capacity is roughly half that.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:44 AM on November 25, 2011

Towing isn't just about power - it's also about having enough mass in the towing vehicle to safely resist the load's side-forces in braking, cornering, and such. You might be able to get your boat moving with an '83 Escort, but you wouldn't be able to stop it safely, and the boat might shove you off the road on a high-speed corner.

There's also trailer sway, where an oscillation develops in the trailer's motion and (under some conditions) gets amplified until the load pulls the tow vehicle off the road.

The Tundra comes with a Trailer Sway Control system that detects such unsafe situations and uses the ABS system to selectively brake individual wheels and cancel out the swaying forces (I think). Toyota is not unique in having such tech - I would suspect that nearly all new truck models that have available towing packages will have some variant on this system.

But yeah, the manufacturer spec pages on any vehicle should include safe towing weights.
posted by richyoung at 8:46 AM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

My dad has been pulling a big heavy boat 500 km each way to our cottage for the past 8 years with a Toyota Tundra. He has never had any problems.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:51 AM on November 25, 2011

Based off of stated weights here, the heaviest boat is 4500 lbs. Add 1000 for trailer and fuel and another 1000 for people and gear, and a Tacoma will be right at the limit. A Tundra, 4runner, or Sequoia would do better.

The lightest boat is 3100 lbs. The Tacoma/FJ Cruiser can handle that.

So, it really depends on the boat you choose.

Make sure you get a good brake controller.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:17 AM on November 25, 2011

nth'ng the thoughts of Pogo_Fuzzybutt & buggzzee23.
It is NOT just about engine size. you need to be able to stop the vehicle safely as much as you need to be able to pull/maneuver. Additionally, pulling a boat is way different from pulling a travel trailer. (Even if they are the same weight). A brake controller, correct axle gear, engine size, and transmission cooler are just some of the points to take into consideration.
posted by GurnB at 10:05 AM on November 25, 2011

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