Is it nuts to consider buying a hitch and attaching a small trailer to my 2006 Honda Civic EX 2-door?
March 26, 2007 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Is it nuts to consider buying a hitch and attaching a small trailer to my 2006 Honda Civic EX 2-door?

Basically, it would be used to pull gear to music gigs every couple of weeks (not say, many days a week or constantly on the road). Let's say 2 to 3 times a month, maybe within 40 miles. And if that sounds ok, what kind of options does anyone know about that might be good especially for my kind of car? I know there's tons of trailer doodads out there, some d.i.y.... but I'm not really looking to spend my spare time experimenting with screwing up my car. So I would like something that is proven to have worked at least on a car similar to mine in size/weight/power.
posted by bitterkitten to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You're probably looking at a Class I hitch, which can tow up to 2000 lbs with a tounge weight of 200 lbs. Not sure what exactly is available for your vehicle, nor do I know what your vehicle is capable of pulling behind it. Here's a good resource.
posted by ganzhimself at 1:11 PM on March 26, 2007

Looking a the specs I found online for the 06 Civic, towing isn't recommended by Honda. You're going to put a lot of strain on everything mechanical, including the engine, transmission, brakes, and power steering. Any damage you do to your drivetrain will most likely not be covered by any manufacturer warranty or extended warranty. You'd be better off finding a mid size SUV, mini van, or pickup truck to do this with. Proceed at your own risk!
posted by ganzhimself at 1:26 PM on March 26, 2007

Check your manual. The cars this size that I've owned have said, "Do not tow a trailer with this car." If this is the case here, you will void your warranty by putting on a hitch.
posted by winston at 1:30 PM on March 26, 2007

Response by poster: these do look pretty cool, here (yet pricey)....though they look like big rubbermaid boxes

posted by bitterkitten at 1:31 PM on March 26, 2007

Here are hitches that fit your car. I used to own a trailer rental store. They are fairly easy to install, there are holes in your frame that it will attach on to. For your car it says you need to lower the exhaust for installation, which shouldn't be too hard also.
I think you will be fine towing a couple hundred pounds every other week. It's like having a couple of fat guys in the back seat.
posted by lee at 1:44 PM on March 26, 2007

A big factor in drivetrain strain is whether or not you have an automatic tranny. The torque converter absorbs a lot of shock and might make your idea practical, but if you try it with a manual you may find yourself buying new clutches frequently.
posted by TedW at 1:47 PM on March 26, 2007

My sister pulled one of those little UHaul enclosed trailers from St. Louis to San Diego, and she took the mountain route. She reported her clutch slipping a little bit, on one hill, but other than that had no problem. Three years later, the car still has the same clutch, so at least the trailer didn't *kill* the car. How much loot are you going to be hauling?
posted by notsnot at 3:43 PM on March 26, 2007

A Honda Civic is far from an optimal tow vehicle, as you've gathered by now. Not enough gross vehicle weight, not enough engine, not enough brakes, not enough suspension to be a safe tow vehicle, for even small trailers, at highway speeds (45 mph). But, if you're going ahead, anyway:

There are several kinds of trailer hitches, and many kinds of trailers. Single axle trailers with leaf spring suspension and electric brakes are probably your best bet, for what you describe. These trailers are sensitive to loading configuration, and you have to test the tongue weight in comparision to the total loaded trailer weight, after they are loaded, to be sure that you have a reasonable tongue load to put on your hitch. Failing to correctly load a single axle trailer for tongue weight is the #1 reason for trailer accidents at speed, in my experience.

Next, for a vehicle as light as a Honda Civic, which is front wheel drive, a good hitch is a must. Because this car is a unibody, installing a load equalizing hitch isn't really an option, so most of your tongue weight is going to be applied well behind the rear wheels for the typical light duty under bumper hitch. This is most assuredly NOT the same as a "having a couple of fat guys in the back seat." Tongue weight from the trailer unloads your front wheels (those are the ones that do all of the pulling and 70% of the braking, remember?), with this type of hitch, whereas fat guys in the back seat, ahead of your rear axle, would always add weight to the front axle, although they might add more to the back axle. So, in any scenario where you go over bumps, your car's handling and braking is apt to get very, very squirrelly as your trailer bobs and weaves behind you, alternately compressing your rear suspension and unloading your front suspension. And the coupling frequency for oscillations of that nature will change with speed, as well. Meeting a semi-truck doing 65 mph, while you are pulling your trailer at 45 mph, will always be exciting, just due to aerodynamic waves shaking your rig side to side noticeably. If you hit a bump just then, too, it will get a lot more than "exciting."

You'd be far better off buying a small truck for this kind of thing, and installing a load equalizing hitch. I occasionally pull small single axle, leaf spring suspension trailers with my 2001 Chevy S10, equipped with a 5 speed manual transmission, and a load equalizing hitch, and it's no big deal, although I'm usually limited to 4th gear.
posted by paulsc at 6:22 PM on March 26, 2007

Best answer: Don't listen to the naysayers. I put a hitch on my 1987 Honda CRX and pulled a trailer and my motorcycle for years. On bumpy, dirt roads deep into the desert, nearly every weekend for years. I pulled my dirt and street bike from San Diego to Idaho. And back. I had it safely up to 80 mph, although I wouldn't suggest those speeds with the cheap little trailers with tiny wheels. Those wheel bearing won't hold up to high speeds. My car's handing was never squirrely, and there was no bobbing and weaving.

Is it an optimal tow vehicle? No. Will it work just fine - you bet. It is a Honda, it's relatively new, and it's virtually indestructible. Make sure to have a reputable place weld on the hitch. You'll be fine. All of the other crap you are reading above must have been written by people without any experience with this at all. I never had any problems with this car and sold it after it had 130,000 miles on it. Do it! You'll be fine.
posted by SciGuy at 6:47 PM on March 26, 2007

Best answer: Unless the owner's manual forbids towing, you should be fine. Some small cars have this condition attached, which is nothing to do with brakes or engine power, simply that the car's body doesn't have the strength and will get pulled out of shape if used for towing, so doors won't open/close properly etc. If there is a commercially available hitch, this will give you confidence that the car can handle it, as long as it is installed as per the (hitch) manufacturer's specs, because it will be designed to attach to and spread the weight over appropriate areas.

Go to someone who specialises in fitting towbars to cars (not the dealer) and listen to their advice.

Don't exceed the rated weight or you may find that your car is suddenly two inches longer and that isn't as good a thing as it sounds. Make sure that you keep more weight on the front of the trailer than the back, so that there is weight on the drawbar at all times, or you will find yourself in all sorts of grief the first time you try to stop or hit the highway. Make sure that there is not too much weight on the drawbar, or you will unweight the front wheels too much. If it feels unstable when you are driving, it is probably loaded wrong in terms of weight balance. Make sure you stay well back from other cars, because your stopping distance will increase (anything that you can tow behind a Civic shouldn't need brakes). If you are carrying the same gear all the time, once you figure out a good balance, load it the same way all the time so you are familiar with the way your car handles when it is attached. Tie everything down securely - ratchet straps are better and faster than ropes.
posted by dg at 8:35 PM on March 26, 2007

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