Choosing a Tow Vehicle – Part II

Last month, we covered the basics of choosing a tow vehicle based on your RV’s weight. Now that summer is getting closer, it’s time to start talking about other factors that influence the tow vehicle you’ll need: specifically, things like transmission, axle ratio, towing package, bed length and style and single vs. dual rear wheels. So without further ado, let’s get to it!

Transmission – for most vehicles, automatic transmissions offer higher tow ratings. On heavy-duty models, the difference might be 1,000lbs or less. On lighter vehicles, however, manual transmission could rate lower by 2,000lbs or more! Exceptions include things like high-output engines that are only available with manual gearboxes, vehicles where the manual transmission weighs more than the automatic transmission and transmissions in vehicles designed for performance, not towing.

Axle Ratio – greater torque multiplication allows lower gearing to produce greater tow ratings. The axle ratio’s effect on tow rating has a wide variance: some diesel-powered pickups vary by only a few hundred pounds while on others, changing from 3.13:1 to a 4.30:1 can increase the tow rating by 3,500lbs. In some cases, ratings have increased by a factor greater than three simply by using a different axle ratio!

Lower gearing will reduce your fuel economy, but it’s usually not proportional to the gain in towing ability. Under the best circumstances, the difference between the highest and lowest gear ratios results in a 1.5-mpg decrease in mileage.

Drive System–all other things being equal, vehicles with two wheel drive tend to have higher tow ratings. The reason here is that 4WD and AWD systems add weight—sometimes up to 400lbs—and that extra weight frequently drops the tow rating.

Towing Package–if you can, order a towing package for your vehicle. Not only will it help you maximize your vehicle’s tow rating, but it will also add resale value!

Bed Length/Style – long bed trucks may have slightly lower towing capacities, but it will only be about 150 – 250lbs, if anything—a longer bed adds more weight. In most cases, however, there is no change because the longer wheel base balances out the extra weight.

Single or dual rear wheels – many people assume a dual wheel pickup will have a higher tow rating than a single wheel, but this is not always the case. GCWR is often limited by other factors, meaning the rear wheels don’t always have much of an effect.

Tires – with larger tires becoming ever more popular, some tow vehicles now offer 20-inch wheels as factory options. However, these larger wheels and lower profile tires mean a smaller air cushion and lower tire sidewall, which potentially decreases not only tow ratings but also ride comfort.

Don’t forget to click on the 2012 Towing Guide for even more information! For now, stop by Beckley’s for more information about how to select a tow vehicle!

Click here to view the 2012 Towing Guide:

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