Gina needs some beads!
March 5, 2012 10:02 AM   Subscribe

We need to get Gina to the Big Easy. Can we tow her with a 4-cylinder crossover SUV? If so, can you explain the hitch set-up to me?

We have two Vespas, total weight together is 609 lbs. We are buying a lightweight trailer to tow them to various locations of several hundred miles away. We are also buying a lightly used crossover SUV. The trailer will be something like this. Trailer and two scooters together will weigh somewhere around 900 lbs. Can we pull this with a 4-cylinder crossover SUV such as a Honda CRV, Nissan Rogue, or a Volkswagon Tiguan? Can we use any of the above models? Is one better than another? What kind of hitch mechanism should we install? Have you ever done this? We could use advice on every aspect of this situation.
posted by raisingsand to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total)
Best answer: No problem the CRV can tow 2000lbs easily. I tow a 13 ft camper with my 4cyl Hyundai. You should install a class 2 hitch match the ball to the trailer. You'll also need at least a 4-wire trailer lighting hookup. For fast and easy go to the local U-Haul and have them do everything.
posted by Gungho at 10:10 AM on March 5, 2012

Best answer: One other thing. If you are staying overnight on the way to anywhere I would suggest a number of security precautions. Locking hitch pins and ball locks. All available at u-Haul Wal-Mart or the local RV center.
posted by Gungho at 10:13 AM on March 5, 2012

Short answer: yes. Longer answer: make sure to check the details for each vehicle in the owner's manual before buying to confirm tow ratings. Adding a hitch is cheap and easy, an hour diy or a quick job at any shop.
posted by Forktine at 10:18 AM on March 5, 2012

I'd say yes, with the correct hitch/trailer setup.

One thing that I experienced when researching the hitch specs for my 2007 Toyota Yaris hatchback was that, depending on the country, the ratings for the what was 'safe' changed. IIRC, the countries the, pretty significant, deviations were between the US, Canada, and Japan. I'm no traffic law expert, I'm just saying that if the ratings for a given application are borderline for your intended use case that there might be a bit of give in the numbers.

As always, common sense and perhaps the opinion of a good mechanic are indispensable when it comes to thousands of pounds of material barreling down the highway. It's not fun for an improperly weighted trailer or overloaded truck bed to remove some of the weight off the front tires of your vehicle and all of a sudden you're not turning the vehicle anymore when you turn the wheels.

Again, not trying to scare/mislead, just saying it's complicated.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:21 AM on March 5, 2012

Seconding Forktine, I installed the hitch I bought for my Yaris myself. It involved the hitch, 4 bolts (included) and a borrowed torque wrench. Smaller hands would have been nice, but I got it on there.

Cost me a little over a hundred bucks (IIRC) for the hitch and delivery, about an hour on the ground, a few curse words, and a close call where I almost dropped the hitch onto my face from point blank range.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:24 AM on March 5, 2012

The vehicle can take it, with some provisos. It will increase the maintenance requirements. Especially for an automatic transmissions. To whatever your owners manaul says for extreme/rough service. I would just get the transmission flushed/filled every 40k or so if automatic and towing for anything more than a short trip to home depot on occasion. Also check your tire pressures on the vehicle and trailer and make sure they are inflated to maximum (it will state the maximum pressure on the sidewall) when towing. If you are not using the trailer often try to store it without weight on the wheels or at least moving it a few feet every couple of weeks to avoid getting a flat spot on the tires. and keep the tires covered from direct sun as that rots rubber pretty good. You will need to replace the tires way, way before the tread wears out just from age. Blow outs on a trailer are no fun at all when going at highway speeds.
posted by bartonlong at 10:42 AM on March 5, 2012

Shouldn't be too big of a problem but as bartonlong said it'll be much harder on your vehicle. Won't make much of a problem for the engine but could be for the transmission. You may want to keep the vehicle out of overdrive.
posted by no bueno at 2:26 PM on March 5, 2012

Any of those vehicles will tow a trailer that small easily and, unless you are doing this every weekend, won't have any noticeable long-term impact on the vehicle or service requirements. Given the distances you are planning to travel, make sure you either have a spare for the trailer or get the trailer made so it will take the spare from your car.

When you are loading the trailer, make sure you have plenty of weight on the towball, as having the front of the trailer too light will lead to dangerous situations at highway speed. Have fun.
posted by dg at 3:38 PM on March 5, 2012

Seconding the spare tire idea. If you get a flat on the road, in the middle of nowhere, you seriously want to be able to put on the spare and continue your trip. For a trailer like that, a spare tire + wheel should be cheap. You can tie it down on the trailer or just throw it in the car.
posted by exphysicist345 at 4:56 PM on March 5, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, yall. Not every weekend, by a long shot, maybe four times a year or so. We already figured out the spare tire, but thanks for helping me think through the process. I'll slurp an oyster in your names in the Big Easy!
posted by raisingsand at 6:58 PM on March 5, 2012

Best answer: Now that I'm not on my phone, and can easily link, I want to add a bit more information.

Tow ratings: check the small print in the manual. Sometimes you need to have a transmission cooler to have the full tow rating, for example. It's also dependent on your tire pressure (go with the owners manual, not the suggestion above of inflating them to the maximum on the tire sidewalls -- that's just the maximum the tire can take, not what your car needs to handle safely), knowing when to take the engine out of overdrive (in an automatic transmission) on the hills, etc.

Hitches are easy-peasy. Just look up your car's year and model and order it online, or have a local place install it. For example, here are hitches for a 2009 CRV. You'll notice that hitches are sold as Class I, Class II, etc, which is just a standardized way to to express their capacity for both tongue weight (the downward pressure from the trailer tongue) and the tow weight. (Don't bother buying a hitch rated for way more than your car can tow, obviously.) One person with a minimal tool kit can install the hitch in the driveway in an hour or so, but because a lot of shops will install the hitch for free or cheap if you buy it from them, there may not be much savings in doing it yourself.

You'll also need trailer wiring (and possibly an adaptor if your trailer uses a different kind of connector), a ball mount (sized to the class of hitch you bought, and with the right drop/raise to keep the trailer more or less level), and a hitch ball (sized for your trailer). This is all way simpler than it maybe sounds; if you were to buy your trailer locally, any decent trailer shop will sell you all the right bits and pieces to make it work; you can also buy this stuff at Home Depot, Tractor Supply, or even Walmart. (A locking hitch pin might help you keep your trailer around, too.)

Regarding the trailer: There is a huge range in quality in trailers, from ones that are meant to be used a few times to ones that can be towed all year long; it can be a lot more expensive to buy cheap, you know? Don't forget to plan for routine trailer maintenance, like repacking the wheel bearings every year or as required. Lighter is better when you are using such a small tow vehicle; make sure you check out the all-aluminum models, as well as more minimal two rail motorcycle trailers. And spend some money on high-quality tie downs; if the trailer doesn't come with them, consider adding wheel chocks and extra tie-down points, both of which will make carrying your scooters easier and safer. Buy a carrier for the spare tire; it's both more convenient and safer than having the spare tire bounce around in the back of your car.

Lastly, trailers are a huge pain in the ass -- they need maintenance and registration, they bounce around back there and lower your mpg, they get flat tires, they are a huge pain to back up, you need to store them... Make sure you consider the options of buying, borrowing, or renting a truck or van for the few times a year you will actually be doing this.
posted by Forktine at 7:34 PM on March 5, 2012

Forktine: " they are a huge pain to back up,"

Just a pointer if you are buying a trailer - the shorter a trailer (from the hitch to the trailer wheels) is relative to the wheelbase of your car, the harder they are to reverse. Any trailer where that distance is shorter than the wheelbase of your car will be a bitch to reverse. I have a 7' x 4' box trailer and a boat on a trailer that is 8'4" wide and about 25' long in total and I can back the boat into any spot you care to point out first time every time, but the box trailer is next to impossible to reverse accurately. This is partly because the box trailer is narrow and low enough that I can't see it when it's directly behind the car, so by the time I can see it, it's often already too far out of line to get it back straight again.
posted by dg at 8:08 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older Two lesbians eating out (in restaurants) – how to...   |   Oxygen in food?? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.