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Master Towing with Our Ultimate Guide | Mullinax Ford FL Blog

Master Towing with Our Ultimate Guide | Mullinax Ford FL Blog

Posted at Mon, Jan 22, 2024 1:00 PM

The Ultimate Towing Guide

Whether that trailer you’re hitching to your vehicle is loaded with work equipment or personal watercraft for a weekend at the lake, you have to know how to hook things up correctly, safely and efficiently.

Towing is a serious task and a safety-first attitude is paramount. Even if you have experience and excellent driving skills, things happen on the road – vehicles can cut you off or phone-zombie pedestrians might walk out in front of you. Your safety – your life and the safety and lives of others – depends on your knowledge, your skills, and the way you configure and maintain the trailer or other vehicle you are towing.

So let’s start with some basic terms:

  • Hitch: This is a structural component that’s bolted to your vehicle. It serves as the primary connector between your vehicle and the thing you’re towing.
  • Hitch classes: Hitches are generally divided into five classes depending on the materials and design of the hitch and the strength and size of the vehicle for which it is intended.
  • Class I: light duty, up to 2,000 pounds – that’s enough for a trailer loaded with a canoe, a couple of jet skis or a teardrop camper. Cars and many small crossover SUVs are in this category.
  • Class II: up to 3,500 pounds. This category includes some larger cars, midsize crossovers and some minivans.
  • Class III: up to 8,000 pounds. Here’s where you find your pickup trucks, larger crossover SUVs and the occasional minivan.
  • Class IV: rated up to 10,000 pounds. This category consists mainly of full-size trucks and SUVs.
  • Class V: got 20,000 pounds or so to haul? This is your category, one filled with super-duty.
  • Fifth-wheel towing: a heavy-duty form of towing explicitly designed for large (and often luxurious) campers, which are often called fifth-wheels as well. This requires a heavy-duty dual pickup truck as well as a specialized connector called kingpin jaws that must be mounted in the truck bed. Towing capacity can range from 15,000 to 30,000 pounds.
  • Gooseneck: like fifth-wheel towing, gooseneck also requires a dual truck and a bed-mounted connector – this time, a hitch ball. Capacity is similar to the fifth wheel, though gooseneck is also used with flatbed and livestock trailers.
    Ball and ball mount: the part on the trailer that connects to the hitch on your vehicle.
  • Configuration: this refers to how your trailer is loaded. Experts advise putting the bulk of the weight – about 60 percent – in the front half of the trailer. The heaviest items should go in front as well and weight should also be equally distributed left to right.

Campers - -them too. Heavy stuff toward the front. Doing so will ensure that you have equal pressure on the tires for an easier towing experience.

Successful towing is a result of configuration, drivetrain, wheelbase, engine, hitch and gear ratios working together.

Here are other parts of the equation that play important roles:

Know your vehicle’s GCWR.

Those letters stand for gross combined weight rating and refer to the combined weight of the vehicle, passengers and cargo plus the trailer and its load. It’s the maximum safe weight the vehicle can handle. Manufacturers determine the GCWR and smart drivers know not to exceed the guideline.

How do you find your GCWR? Look on the vehicle ID sticker on the inside of the driver’s door jamb.

Know the tongue weight capacity. Tongue weight is the amount of weight the trailer and its load will put on the hitch. Make sure the trailer does not exceed your vehicle’s hitch capacity.

In general, tongue weight should be 10 to 15 percent of gross trailer weight.

How do you find the hitch rating and tongue weight capacity (TWC)?

If your vehicle has a factory-installed hitch, check your owner’s manual. Factory installations always specify max weight and TWC for both the vehicle and the hitch, which are generally the same. You can also check the label on your hitch.

If you can’t find it, contact your local Mullinax dealership. We’re here to help you find the information you need and to answer your questions about towing, hitches, trailers, and other details.

You can also calculate your gross towing capacity yourself. This article from explains how, and also does some quick math.

Here’s a brief look at what you can expect from your vehicle’s manufacturer. For additional info, contact your Mullinax dealership.

You want towing capacity? You can’t go wrong with a Ford. On the low end, a Mustang with an after-market hitch can pull about 1,500 pounds – think a motorcycle in the summer or a snowmobile for a winter getaway.

The largest trucks, like the F-350 Super Duty, not only tow the heaviest loads, but they also offer such technology as blind spot coverage, sway control, trailer brake control, trailer backup assist, and a 360-degree camera package as standard features or available options.

Need more of a reason to buy a Ford for your towing needs? Check out the comprehensive towing guide on the company website.

Ready to put everything together? Here’s how to hook up:

  • Ask a friend to help. Once you have some experience you might be able to do the hook-up alone, but having someone outside the vehicle giving you hand signals can make the process easier.
  • Line up the vehicle so it's directly in front of the trailer coupler.
  • When you’re about a foot away from the trailer tongue, stop and adjust the trailer coupler height to ensure that the coupler will clear the trailer ball.
  • V-e-e-e-e-e-r-r-r-r-y-y-y-y slowly, back your vehicle up the rest of the way to the coupler. Your friend can be indispensable in making sure you are lined up correctly. If you miss it a bit, just pull forward and try again. Hey, we’ve all been there. No judgment.
  • When you are perfectly aligned, put the vehicle in park, engage the parking brake and lower the coupler until it is resting on the ball. The coupler latch should be in the upright, unlocked position. You also should have greased the trailer ball beforehand to ensure a smooth connection.
  • Lower the coupler onto the ball, engage the latch and secure it with the cotter pin or coupler lock. Then jack up the trailer tongue slightly to test the connection. If it comes off the ball, it means the coupler was not properly seated. Take a breath (remember, we’ve all been there), unlatch it and try again.
  • When everything is correctly seated, attach the tow chains in a crisscross pattern underneath the coupler. The chains are intended to catch the coupler, just in case it disconnects from the ball.
  • Retract the trailer jack.
  • Plug in the trailer wiring.
  • Check the trailer lights.

If everything is working properly, you’re ready to go! Get out there and enjoy yourself. Or tow your trailer to the job site. Whatever you need to do.

Any questions? Our staff at your nearby dealership is ready to help with any issues you may have.

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