With almost one million light trucks sold in Canada in 2013, needless to say there are a lot of pickup truck owners on the road. If you already happen to be a part of that statistic, or are thinking of purchasing a pickup truck in the near future, chances are you may be faced with the opportunity to tow something at some point. Whether it’s hitching up a U-Haul trailer in your Chevy Silverado or pulling a friend’s boat to the lake in the summer, there are a few things you should bear in mind before diving in.
Learn the terminology
GVWR — stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is the maximum weight a vehicle can carry, fully loaded with people and stuff.
GCWR — Gross Combined Weight Rating. The maximum weight of both the vehicle and the trailer it’s towing.
GTW — the Gross Trailer Weight is that of the trailer and the cargo inside, combined.
TW — Tongue Weight measures the amount of the trailer’s weight that is placed on the vehicle’s hitch ball by the attachment on the trailer.
Know your hitches
Depending on your application, there are different kinds of hitches you can use for the job.
Receiver-style hitches — One of the most common, they attach under the vehicle and are designed to carry the weight of the trailer through its tongue weight.
Weight-distributing hitch — used with a receiver hitch and some special parts that help distribute the tongue weight among the tow vehicle and trailer axles it is most useful for large loads.
Fifth wheel hitch — Allows for a higher towing capacity than other types, these are often found on commercial vehicles. The install point is in the truck bed.
When using a receiver hitch, you will also need some extra equipment such as a ball mount, hitch ball, safety chains, etc. that can often be purchased as a package through the parts department at a dealership, or at any number of aftermarket suppliers found in your area.
Always keep the GCWR in mind, and stay under that number when towing. Exceeding it can affect the safety and performance of your pickup truck.
Make sure you properly distribute the weight when loading the trailer and make sure it’s balanced for optimal handling. Try for 60 per cent of the cargo weight in the front with the balance at the back. Keep the centre of gravity low if possible.
Allow extra distance for stopping when you’re towing a trailer. Same goes for lane changes, making sure there’s ample room for you and your cargo to pull in front of someone else on the road.
When travelling down a hill, downshifting can provide additional braking assistance. Going down a gear can also provide additional power going up an incline.
Before you set off, one of the best things you can do is ask someone who has done this before to give your setup a quick look. The first time can be the trickiest!
This article has been contributed by Benjamin Yong. Benjamin is a freelance writer and journalist based in B.C. Canada. He writes and shoots photos for a number of local and national publications, often focusing on cars and the automotive industry, news, arts and culture and interesting people.
Photo Source: Flickr