Trailers (not the movie kind)
December 10, 2006 12:43 AM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of getting a towbar and (camper) trailer, but I have two questions: How do I make sure that the trailer sits level when connected to my car, and why does the towing capacity of the car appear to have no reference to the total weight of the car and trailer and load in both?
posted by krisjohn to Travel & Transportation (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You should find out the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating for your car. That covers the car, it's payload, passengers, fuel, etc and the total weight of the loaded trailer.
posted by buggzzee23 at 1:16 AM on December 10, 2006

As for the issue of leveling the trailer, I think this page might help. I quote:
To find out weather your trailer is sitting properly, you can attach it to your vehicle, leave it empty and find a level piece of ground, then stand back and judge for yourself. Why I bring this up now is because the drop height of your receiver is what can fix or create this problem. All vehicles set a varying heights off the ground. Most pickup trucks will use either a 2"(straight) receiver to a 4" or even a 6" for some taller 4wds. One the other hand, we have found that most SUVs will use either a 2" (straight) or a 2" or 4" flipped over to be used as a rise instead of a drop. The point to be stressed here is that it is important for your trailer to be setting properly when being towed, if not stability can be adversely affected. Please check with your trailer manufacturer for their recommended tow heights and follow their suggestions.
Basically, the trailer will have a certain height that it expects the towing vehicle's ball to be at, in order to be level. If you have a big truck, then you'll need to drop the hitch down so that the trailer is level; if it's a small car, then you'll need to raise it up. This is done when selecting your hitch by measuring the height of your vehicle's hitch and the trailer's coupler when level, then taking the difference. That's the size ballmount you'd need to buy.

The person installing your hitch ought to be able to give you some guidance on selecting the proper rise or drop depending on the trailer you wish to tow. Two different trailers might require two different ballmounts in order to be towed by the same vehicle.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:20 AM on December 10, 2006

Most cars don't have a GCVW rating but the owner's manual or possibly the dealer will tell you the max tongue weight which will give you the max trailer weight. They often also have a max trailer weight rating. Then you have to check the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) which is on your door sticker to ensure your car weight + payload + tongue weight isn't exceeding your GVW. Don't forget the weight of the people.

Be aware that you essentially can't trust the dry weight ratings published by trailer manufacturers. They often don't include the weight of any optional equipment or even semi optional stuff like seat cushions. Take your trailer to a scale when it's empty so you know who much or little you can haul in it. Don't forget that water is 1kg/l (8.5 or 10 lbs per gallon depending on your gallon) if you've got water tanks on board.
posted by Mitheral at 9:25 AM on December 10, 2006

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