A Beginner's Guide To Towing

A Beginner's Guide To Towing

Photography by Jerry Heasley

There comes a time in the evolution of every high performance car when driving it on the street isn't the best idea or even feasible. When you run all out at the track things can break. Then how do you get home?

The start of a restoration or project car seldom involves road worthy vehicles. The very definition of a restoration/project car is something far less than perfect. When these situations arise, it is trailer time. A car trailer isn't something you use on a daily basis, but they're sure great to have when needed.

If you've never bought a car trailer or towed before, this article is designed to get you headed down that road as effortlessly and safely as possible.

Your Truck Or Time To Shop?

If you already own a pickup truck, it may be sufficient for towing a basic flatbed open car trailer. Consult your owner's manual for your truck's tow ratings. Half-ton pickups are fine for basic towing, but compact pickups aren't generally recommended. Three-quarter ton and 1-ton trucks are best.

Trucks with factory tow packages are ideal. You can add aftermarket parts, but the factory tow packages are optimized for specific trucks. A frame-mounted receiver style trailer hitch is a must. People use bumper style hitches, but the receiver hitches are superior.

If you're purposely seeking a truck to tow a car trailer, bigger is better. While you shouldn't buy a trailer before you buy the truck it's good to know what size trailer you're most likely to get. It helps to trailer shop and take notes. Then you'll be able to match the truck's capabilities to the trailer.

Buying a new Ford truck for towing is as easy as it gets. Shop at a dealership known for high volume truck sales. They'll have staff that's well versed in helping you order a perfect truck.

Used Ford pickups are excellent values. Since the F-Series trucks are the most popular trucks in the world, the supply of used ones is immense. When buying a used truck, you can save big on accessories and options. The price differential (dollars and percentage of the total cost) between a used base model F-series and a totally loaded XLT Lariat is less than the percentage difference of those two trucks when they were new. You can get a lot more truck for your money used compared to buying that truck new.

2WD or 4WD, 4 Wheels or 6?

Two-wheel drive trucks are fine for towing. The biggest advantage (towing wise) for four-wheel drive trucks is if you tow other types of trailers, such as boat and snowmobile. When launching a boat on a wet, slippery ramp or trudging through snowdrifts to get to a snowmobile park, the extra driving axle is a most welcome addition.

On the multiple rear wheels question we're strongly in favor of dual rear wheels. For the same reason that car trailers have tandem axles (and four tires) having four tires on the truck's driving axle is a great safety feature.

Everything about a 1-ton dually pickup is bigger and stronger than a 1/2-ton pickup. Towing (especially long distances at highway speeds) puts added stress on a truck. The bigger and stronger the truck is, the easier it can handle the demands of towing.

A blown tire on either the tow vehicle or trailer is potentially very dangerous. Having the extra set of tires will give valuable piece of mind even if you never have a blowout. Don't skimp on tires. Also, make sure that both truck and trailer brakes are in top shape.

Some great news about used F-350 dually pickups is that they're often priced at or below comparable (year, mileage, options)

Published Dec 7th, 2015
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