How to Haul Without a Truck
Sometimes people need to tow things behind their vehicles, whether it’s to move, take the boat out for a spin or bring along a pop-up camper. This is often easiest to do with a truck or large SUV, but what if you drive a smaller sedan? Can you still haul things without a truck?
According to Automobile Magazine, several smaller vehicles can tow effectively. All types of cars are given a tow rating capacity, says the magazine, and while a sedan may have a low one, it still may work for small or medium loads. The tow rating for a vehicle can be found in the owner’s manual, notes Popular Mechanics, and is based on how much weight the car can pull and carry.
In addition to the vehicle tow capacity and the size of the load, the hitch used is a very important factor in hauling capabilities, says Edmunds. Much like the vehicle, trailer hitches are also given capacity ratings, adds Edmunds, which are based on the gross trailer weight (GTW) and tongue weight:
- Gross Trailer Weight: The maximum load weight the trailer can carry.
- Tongue Weight: The weight pushing down on the ball of the hitch, which is generally 10 to 15 percent of the GTW.
After determining these figures, you can choose the right hitch for your vehicle. According to Popular Mechanics, there are five classes of hitches for up to 10,000 pounds:
- Class 1: Pulls 2,000 pounds of gross trailer weight/200 pounds of tongue weight
- Class 2: Pulls 3,500 pounds of gross trailer weight/350 pounds of tongue weight
- Class 3: Pulls 5,000 pounds of gross trailer weight/500 pounds of tongue weight
- Class 4: Pulls 7,500 pounds of gross trailer weight/750 pounds of tongue weight
- Class 5: Pulls 10,000 pounds of gross trailer weight/1,000 pounds of tongue weight
Installing a Hitch on a Car
Once you know if you are capable of towing with a car and have a hitch designed to carry that weight, you have to properly attach it to your vehicle. According to Edmunds, most hitches bolt onto the car, which an auto shop may be able to help you do. If you have the proper tools, you may also be able to attach the hitch yourself, says The Car Connection, but you should carefully follow the kit’s instructions.
Popular Mechanics offers a few additional tips for trailer hitch installation, including:
- Use the exact right size of hitch ball for your particular trailer.
- Lock the trailer latch with a pin to hold it in place after ensuring it engages smoothly.
- When attaching a load to haul, wrap safety chains in an X shape around the hitch for an extra layer of hold in case of detachment.
- Drop or raise the hitch to a level that is even with the vehicle when attached.
Along with properly installing a hitch on a car, make sure you know the towing laws before you head out with a trailer. Laws typically require trailers to have tail and brake lights, and many states make you register your trailer with the DMV, says Edmunds.
Whether adding a hitch to your sedan or purchasing a new car with a towing package included, it’s important to be extra careful when hauling a load. Edmunds says to cut your speed in half, take slow turns, leave more room between yours and the car in front of you, and accelerate slowly from a stop. This may help keep you safer and your rig last longer.