You need to know trailer towing capacity before you can safely tow a trailer. Don't expect your boat towing insurance to pay for the damage if you try to pull too much weight with an undersized vehicle. Towing looks simple enough, but it puts a big strain on your vehicle and affects handling. Here's what you should know before you tow.
Check the Measurements
Tongue weight is a major component of the towing capacity equation. Too much tongue weight may cause suspension or drivetrain damage to your vehicle. Excess weight pushes your vehicle down in the back, causing the front wheels to lift. If you've got a front-wheel drive vehicle, that could leave you stuck at the side of the road. Even in a rear-wheel-drive vehicle, you'll notice changes in traction, braking and steering response.
Too little tongue weight may lift the back of the vehicle while you're towing. This reduces braking and rear wheel traction, causing an unstable situation that could result in jackknifing or tail wagging.
Your owner's manual should contain some information about towing, but it may be presented in terms that you don't quite understand. Here's what the most common terms mean:
Doing the Math
The maximum tongue load should not be more than 200 pounds for trailers with a gross loaded weight of up to 2,000 pounds gross loaded weight. For trailers over 2,000 pounds, the tongue weight should be 10% to 15% of the trailer weight.
You can measure the tongue load by disconnecting the trailer from the tow vehicle and placing the tongue onto a scale, with the coupler at the same height as the hitch ball on your vehicle. If the tongue load is higher than the weight limit, move things in the trailer toward the back weigh it again. If the tongue load is beneath the minimum limit, move items toward the front of the trailer.