SUVís and Trailers
SUV's aren't my first
choice as a tow vehicle, but I do understand the economics. Not everyone can
afford a truck and a car. SUVís are becoming more popular each year. Get the
biggest and longest is the short answer. The full-size SUVís have similar
frames to trucks and a lot of them are boxed frames instead of C-frame, so
they are strong. But you've got to get as much wheelbase as you can find. So
to pull a trailer similar to a Ĺ ton truck, (GM, 1500, Dodge 1500, Ford
F150, Toyota Tundra,) you need a SUV with a similar weight to a Ĺ ton truck.
This would include Dodge Durango, Ford Expedition, Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon,
Toyota Sequoia and others. These SUVís have a ďBody on FrameĒ construction
like trucks. Always look at the vehicles trailer towing limits from the
manufacture. Most factory brochures and manufacture web sites will give you
the brake down of weight limits and hitch weight limits according to engine
size, transmission, and rear axle ratio.
For the highest trailer
capacity, usually a weight distribution hitch is required with a receiver
hitch, at least class 3 or higher. This is different from a weight carrying
hitch, which is just a drawbar inserted into the receiver hitch. The
weight-distributing hitch attaches to the trailer tongue with adjustments
usually with chain links to transfer weight forward to the SUV. Yes I have
pictures of these hitches, at
http://www.mrtruck.net/trailers.htm In cases where the weight
distributing hitch adjustment doesnít take all the sway away when pulling
the trailer, a sway bar can be added to the weight-distributing hitch. All
this will help you pull level, with weight on all of the axles of the SUV
and trailer and less swaying from the bumper pull trailer.
All of the SUVís listed
above have rear coil springs with the exception of the Dodge Durango which
has rear leaf springs. Rear coil springs are designed to give you a better
ride, but this also gives you more rear movement. You donít want extra
movement when pulling a trailer. So itís even more important to have a
weight-distributing hitch on SUVís with rear coil springs and especially
SUVís with independent rear axles. Independent rear axles are similar to
front axle of a front wheel drive car. Each side can move independently of
each other. And once again this is to improve the ride with more movement,
not necessarily a good thing when pulling a trailer. These independent rear
axles need the weight distribution hitch. Some of the SUVís with independent
rear axle are Mercedes, ML320 and bigger, 2002 Ford Explorer, 2003 Ford
Expedition and more. Always get the factory tow package with your SUV, which
should include a class 3 or higher receiver hitch, an external automatic
transmission cooler, anti-roll bars or anti-sway bars and a wiring harness.
Also make sure both of your trailer axles have brakes and have a good
trailer brake control added to your SUV.
The largest SUVís are the
longest ones that are available in 3/4 tons, which are the Chevy Suburban,
GMC Yukon XL and Ford Excursion. These all have leaf springs on the rear
axle, which makes them, more stable than smaller SUV's with rear coil
springs. These larger SUVís will pull similarly to ĺ ton trucks, (Dodge
2500, Ford F250, GM 2500,) they generally donít have as long as a wheelbase
as a truck. So once again depending on the total weight of your loaded
trailer, a weight-distributing hitch might be necessary. One advantage of
the Ford Excursion is the diesel engine option, which will add another
800#ís on the front for stability when pulling a trailer. On shorter wheel
based tow vehicles, having some steering weight on the SUVís front axle,
transferred from the trailer will give you better control. Look for factory
towing packages with external auto transmission coolers, class 3 or higher
receiver hitch, wiring harness and anti-sway stabilizer bars on the axles of
the SUV itself. The newer SUVís have 4-wheel disc brakes, which can be an advantage
slowing down a trailer. And of course you need brakes on the trailer and a
brake control in your SUV. Folks have been pulling horse trailers
successfully for decades with the oldest SUV, the Suburban.
If you have to pull with
a smaller SUV than mentioned above, in my opinion the Chevy TrailBlazer,
Dodge Durango, Toyota 4Runner and Ford Explorer and so on are better choices
for a tow vehicle with a lighter trailers properly equipped, like 4000#ís
and smaller. These SUVís are also ďBody on FrameĒ design similar to trucks.
The Durango and Explorer 2001 and older have leaf springs also. These SUVís
are heavier than the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Toyota Highlander, and smaller
SUVís like Suzuki and Kia. The Jeep Cherokee has with the V-8 option the
power to pull trailers that out weigh it, but itsí chassis is like a car
with a "Unibody" undercarriage. With framed chassis vehicles, ďBody on
Frame,Ē the receiver hitch bolts directly to the frame, as do the front and
rear axles. The frame takes the stress from the trailer directly and gives
you more weight at the bottom of your SUV, a good place to have weight on a
SUV. And a weight-distributing hitch can easier transfer some of weight
forward to your front axle thru leverage on the frame. On the Jeep
ďUnibodyĒ, it has sub frames at each axle which bolt to the reinforced floor pan which
is just sheet metal, so the axles are not tied together the same as with a
"body on frame chassis," but
separated by sheet metal called a floor pan. The last series of Jeep
Cherokee does have some square sheet metal tubing welded to the floor pan
for added strength but itís still not a framed chassis with a body bolted to
it, as is the ďBody on FrameĒ design. If you notice on the Cherokee you step
over the threshold to get in and your feet go down in a hole instead of a
flat floor. The floor has to be corrugated, wavy like a barn roof to make it
strong since the floor is not bolted to a frame. Car companies do this ď
UnibodyĒ construction to lighten up the vehicles for gas mileage and save
money. To add a receiver hitch to the Cherokee, the hitch, bolts to the rear
axle sub frame, which in turn bolts to the floor pan sheet metal. So the
stress from the trailer goes just to the rear axle and the bolts and rubber
bushings that connect the axle to sheet metal floor instead of a frame. So
as far as I can figure using a weight distribution hitch, (which I strongly
recommend,) to distribute weight, (which is what they do) to the front axle,
has to apply leverage to the floor pan between the axles. The first ĒUnibodyĒ I
remember was the VW beetle. I remember the floor pan rusting out and looking
down and seeing the road between my feet. I also like "body on frame"
construction for it's ability to resist collision forces. The frame can
absorb a lot of the force of impact. A "Unibody" construction has crush
zones that collapse like an accordion. I've looked at both after accidents
and I'd prefer my grandchildren to ride on frames!
The smallest class of
SUVís, such as Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, and so on, are ďFront Wheel DriveĒ
SUVís. These fall into the same towing category as ďFront Wheel DriveĒ mini-
vans. Special receiver hitches are required with any FWD to transfer weight
forward as much as possible to the driving axles.
The Longer the Better and get the trailer package.
4-door, 107 inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly equipped, with
automatic transmission, 4x2 5500#'s, 4x4 5100#'s, maximum tongue
weight 350#'s. GM requires a weight distributing hitch for maximum trailer
TrailBlazer-Envoy, 113 inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly
equipped, 4x2 6400#'s with 4.10 rear axle ratio, 4x4 6200#'s with 4.10 rear
axle ratio, maximum tongue weight 400#'s. GM requires a weight distributing
hitch for maximum trailer weights.
116 inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly equipped with 5.3L V-8,
4x2 7700#'s with 3.73 rear axle ratio, 4x4 8100#'s with 4.10 rear axle
ratio, maximum tongue weight 1000#'s properly equipped, not to exceed
RGAWR, (Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating,) or GVWR.
Suburban-Yukon XL, 130 inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly
equipped with, 1/2 ton 4x2 with 5.3L V-8, 8400#'s, 4x4 8100#"s; 3/4 ton 4x2
with 6.0L V-8, 9800#'s, 4x4 9500#'s; 3/4 ton with 8.1L V-8 all 12,000#'s.
Cherokee, 105.9 inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly equipped,
6500#'s with 5-speed auto transmission and 4.7L V-8, maximum tongue weight,
inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly equipped with 5.9L V-8 and
3.92 rear axle ratio, 4x2 7550#'s, 4x4 7300#"s.
Explorer-Mountaineer, 113.8 inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly
equipped with 4.6L V-8 and 5-speed auto, 4x2 7300#'s, 4x4 7000#'s.
Expedition-Navigator, 119 inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly
equipped with 5.4L V-8 and 3.73 rear axle ratio, 4x2 8200#'s, 4x4 7900#'s.
137 inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly equipped with 7.3L diesel,
4x2 10,500#"s, 4x4 11,000#'s.
106.3 inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly equipped, 5k #'s with
auto, 3.5K #'s manual tranny, maximum tongue weight, 500#'s auto, 350#'s
105.3 inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly equipped with Class III
receiver hitch and sway device, 5000#'s.
Cruiser, 112.2 inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly equipped with
Class III or IV receiver hitch and sway device, 6500#'s.
118.1 inch wheelbase, maximum tow capacity properly equipped with Class III
or IV receiver hitch and sway device, 4x2 6500#'s, 4x4 6200#'s.
If you SUV
isn't on the list above, I don't recommend it for pulling. Some 1500#
camping trailers or similar weight boats can be pulled with the smaller
SUV's but use your own judgment. I recommend an external transmission cooler
for automatics, class 3 receiver hitch or higher matched to the tongue
weight of the trailer, factory trailer wiring harness, trailer brakes and
brake controller. A weight distributing hitch may increase tongue and
trailer weight capacity and usually helps controlling sway from a trailer by
transferring weight forward to the tow vehicle.
The bottom line is you
can safely pull a horse trailer with a properly equipped SUV when itís
matched properly with the trailer, and receiver hitch, weight distributing
hitch, engine, transmission and rear axle ratio, within the weight limit
capacity set my the manufacture. Good Pullín, MrTruck.