'Comfortable' towing capacity

Submitted: Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 12:23
ThreadID: 106376 Views:3965 Replies:5 FollowUps:17
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Hi all

I tow a 1200kg small Jayco with a Subaru Forester 2.5L petrol vehicle (= 85% of rated towing capacity of 1400kg braked). Forester does a pretty good job though 'wheezes' up steep hills or into headwinds. Car has done 75000km and thinking of upgrading to a vehicle with higher towing capacity.

I don't need recommendations about this vehicle v. that, but are there any 'towing rules of thumb' about what is comfortable ratio of actual towload to max towload? For example, is current 85% too high? Would 67% i.e. rated capacity 1800kg, towload 1200kg, be noticeably better? I can't find any info about this.

Comments appreciated

Hugo of Canberra

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Reply By: Member - evaredy - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 13:17

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 13:17
For what it's worth, this is my take on it, right or wrong :)

It will also depend on the load you have in your vehicle as well as the weight of the van/CT you are towing.

We have a 3L diesel Dmax dual cab, tow limit 3,000kg, we tow a camper trailer 1,500kg max so 50% the rated limit.
It can also carry 1,015kg in the vehicle and the GCM is 5,950kg.

We usually have say 500kg in the ute, so we have a total of 2,000kg. I don't even feel it on the level stuff, going up steep hills or overtaking, is very easy going as well and fuel wise, we usually average 8L per 100k's.

If I were to tow something that was 2800kg and had 700kg in the ute, I suspect, I would find the vehicle starting to struggle. If I were to increase it closer to it's limit, then it would certainly struggle up hills etc.

So after all that, it will always be easier and more fuel efficient when towing between 30% - 60% of the rated limit than it would be towing 70% - 80%. Also the lighter the vehicle load the better. If you NEED to tow at the maximum GCM, I would be looking at a big motor.

AnswerID: 527059

Follow Up By: Ross M - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 14:31

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 14:31
Is that 8km per Litre or 8 litres per 100km.

Most Dmax vehicles don't get 8L/100km even when empty and not towing.

The auto trans model according to the factory uses 8.1/100km and is just the vehicle, no load and no towing.

Amazing figures as most report around 11 or more for similar use.
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Follow Up By: Hugo C - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 16:54

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 16:54
Thanks Evaredy Graeme

No, don't need to or want to tow at the limit. It's a 950kg van with 250 kg on board, and I was trying to work out what was a 'comfortable' towing rate. My first thoughts were about 60% of rated capacity which means my new vehicle would need to have a rated capacity of 2t. Your comments support that idea.

FollowupID: 809445

Follow Up By: Member - evaredy - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 17:21

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 17:21
Sorry I just re read my post, it is 8 k's per litre,
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Follow Up By: Ross M - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 21:26

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 21:26
Just checking, as I thought it sounded frack to bunt for that style of operation.
No drama.
FollowupID: 809482

Reply By: The Bantam - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 13:26

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 13:26
Firstly, congratulations on having a sensible thaught on this matter......keep thinking there is lots to think about.

All too often people, both owners and salesmen are bent on dragging the biggest lump of stuff on wheels behind a given vehicle as possible.

Thus we have a lot of people who have rigs they are neither capable, confident in or safe with driving at reasonable speeds on the highway......I define that as within 5Kmh of the posted speed limit on flat open road in good conditions.

If more people would tow well within the vehicles capacity, everybody would have a better time on the road.

Now my view of the specifics.

EVEN with the towing capacities specified, many rigs are over the limit because they take the towing capacity at face value and have not worked the matter out in detail even if they know the actuall weights of their rig as it travels.

I dare say an enforcement campaign on the popular caravan routes and times would have a the police and transport inspectors writing tickets till they ran out of forms to write on....for one reason or the other.

The official line on what is a reasonable towing capacity has chaged several times in the last decade or so.

We now have a crop of vehicles that have frankly unreasonable towing capacities.

These capacities my be Ok for the short trtip from the builders yard to the job site or from home to the dump or to the local boat ramp.....but no way are they reasonable on the highway.....certainly not off road.

Then there are some other little traps.

There are one or two vehicles specified with very high towing capacities.....

AHH BUT......

they may have ball down weights in the 5% of towing capacity, this effectivly reduces their towing capacity to half that apparant on the surface.

some also to achieve the maximum towing capacity, have to have the vehicle nearly unladen......one example I have seen worked, ends up at maximum towing capacity, all that can be in this 1 tonne ute is two average blokes and a lunch box.

The place to start is understanding towing capacity in detail.

There was thread on another forum where the OP ( a well educated man) was in the market for a new ute.
So he tabulated all the specifications of the choices available...in a nice colour spread sheet.
curb weight, GVM, payload, towing capacity, ball weight and GCM.

Let me tell you it was an eye opener.

Some of the vehicles with more modest advertised towing capacity ended up beeing far more capable tow vehicle than those with very high specified capacities.

SO start from knowing the detail.

AnswerID: 527060

Follow Up By: Member - evaredy - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 14:12

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 14:12
I am always amazed that ANYONE can hook up a van of any size to any vehicle and drive around the country, without a clue.

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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 15:36

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 15:36
yeh but plenty do it.

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Follow Up By: Hugo C - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 16:56

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 16:56
Thanks Bantam

I should have been a bit more specific. It's a 950kg van with 250 kg on board, and I was trying to work out what was a 'comfortable' towing rate. My first thoughts were about 60% of rated capacity which means my new vehicle would need to have a rated capacity of 2t.

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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 19:25

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 19:25
As I was trying to say...that depends on how realistic that published towing capacity is....and some other details.

lets take an extreem case.

If you have a 1 tonne ATM trailer that has a 20% ball weight of 200Kg.....that is hooked up to a 6 cylinder 4wd station waggon with a 3 tonne towing capacity and a permissable ball weight of 300Kg.

So you'd thing that would be comfortable.

Well if that 6 cylinder waggon has a payload of 650Kg and it has 4 large adults in it...ya busted.

The 200Kg ball weight is deducted from the payload leaving 450Kg.
The curb weight is not taken with full tanks...so add another 50Kg with the tank brimmed, that leaves 400Kg.

NOW, I am 5 foot 8 and while technically over weight I am fairly average at 93.3Kg ( this morning)

My mate Hugo is 6 foot 4 and 130Kg..he is a big boy but he does not look fat

My sister and her husband both weigh in well over 100Kg, and both their kids where over 80Kg in high school

so ya 4 average adults, or two modestly large parents and a pair of not so fat kids....and ya easily overloaded.

But on the face it looks like you are fine at 60% of the towing capacity.

This is all without doing any serious math, fitting accessories to the tow vehicle like bullbars, roof racks wheel carriers and winches and before you go anywhere near a weigh bridge.

That same 4wd that people tow 3 tonne rolling ginpalaces arround with could in fact be illegal with an unfortunate combination and a 1 tonne trailer.

its all in the detail.

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Follow Up By: KevinE - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 21:44

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 21:44
Are you serious?

Sorry, but 5'8" @ 93.3kg is obese mate!

I'm 6' & I'd be way over weight at 93kg! Probably more than 10KG over weight - I played league as a prop at around 83KG & I felt over weight!

You seem to be assuming that the OP & his passengers are obese?

Sorry, but I think your sums are flawed!
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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 23:21

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 23:21
I thank you for your personal insult.

Facts are facts, by the current definition 2/3 of the Australian population are obeese.

Look in the clothing stores..the first sizes to go in trousers for men are 92 and 97...always plenty of sizes smaller and larger.....and 5 foot 8 is average height for the Australian population....so that makes a hell of a lot of people around my height and weight.

As I walk arround there are a hell of a lot of people bigger than me. and very few visibly smaller

Face facts...look around your local 4wd, fishing or caravan club......how many adults do you recon are under 90Kg.....most of the skinny ones are doing something else......like riding mountain bikes

Being over weight is average these days.

Even if we take the ideal human used in loading calculations of 75KG (that is a clothed 70KG person BTW) and the standard 15Kg of personal bagage we still end up at 90 Kg and the vehicle in my example is still over loaded.

The truth of the matter is most of the station waggon 4wds are loaded to capacity with 5 seats filled with 75Kg adults 15Kg each of bagage, full petrol tank and a full esky.

I keep comming back to the point that there is a lot more to it than the advertised towing capacity.

FollowupID: 809493

Follow Up By: gbc - Monday, Feb 24, 2014 at 06:28

Monday, Feb 24, 2014 at 06:28
I'm 6'1, 110 k.g.

I pedal a couple of hundred Kay's a week, paddle, run and compete in adventure races.

Based on the body mass index, I too am morbidly obese - apparently.

On the other end of the scale my 9 year old is 26 k.g, a competitive gymnast, and does not exist according to the BMI, such is its brilliance.

An 85 k.g. Prop? That wouldn't get you picked as a winger on a rugby team theses days. I played flanker because the 'big boys' played in the tight 5 and I was just a toy compared to them.
The second rower I packed on was 6'10 and 145 k.g. He is now my brother in law. Dare you to call him fat.......
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Follow Up By: gbc - Monday, Feb 24, 2014 at 09:28

Monday, Feb 24, 2014 at 09:28
P.S., the better tow vehicles are the ones with a nice flat torque curve which comes on early in the piece. Try to get hold of the power and torque curves for the vehicles you are looking for and learn to read them. They will tell you a lot about how the vehicle is going to behave. Most journalistic reviews these days seem to be pay for comment and don't offer anything much of meaningful value. So too are the 0-100 figures which are published, and lap times..... these figures have zero relevance to what peole buying most cars are looking for.
There are any number of 4 cylinder diesel vehicles which would suit your purposes better than a v8 commodore if you get my drift - don't discount a torquey petrol engine though.
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Reply By: mikehzz - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 14:27

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 14:27
I would be looking at a 2-2.5 litre diesel with a 2000kg capacity in your situation. The new diesels are super economical, go like scalded cats and tow better than petrol in my opinion. The 60% ratio of a 2000kg capacity means the car is going to do it much more comfortably with less strain on the gearbox etc.
AnswerID: 527067

Follow Up By: Hugo C - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 16:58

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 16:58
Thanks Mikehzz

As I said to Bantam, I should have been a bit more specific. I tow a 950kg van with 250 kg on board, and I was trying to work out what was a 'comfortable' towing rate. I thought 85% as with my current Forester was a bit high. My first thoughts were about 60-70% of rated capacity which means my new vehicle would need to have a rated capacity of 1.8t-2t. Your comments support that idea.

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Follow Up By: Member - Bookleaf - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 20:43

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 20:43
I concur. Based on nothing more than personal feeling. I just feel more comfortable with driving something with more head room. To me about 50%
I also have a 1100KG gm trailer, towed by a Forster 2.4l. It tows just as described - fine. I also am looking at a replacement vehicle at around 2000KG+ towing capacity due to my feelings above.
But there is more than just this figure to think of. As others have alluded to, the total payload of the vehicle has to be considered, along with any max ball weight specs. The Forester has a specified a ball weight max of 80Kg, so I am totally over her, irrespective if the total payload is less than its max.
Again, the bigger head room that can be worked with - the better.
Just choose your vehicle with this in mind
(and let us know your choice - and why) - please?
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Follow Up By: SDG - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 23:56

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 23:56
My old turbo diesel patrol had the 2.5t towing I think it was, and towing the same size Jayco, while good on the flat, required a fair few gear changes going up a hill.
My current Pajero, 3.2 diesel, Surprised me by accelerating up a hill, overtaking a truck on my first trip out. Not use to seeing 150 on the speedo while towing, especially up a hill. Got to use to planning well in advance anything that required acceleration.
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Follow Up By: Sigmund - Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 16:09

Friday, Mar 07, 2014 at 16:09
There were two towbars made for some Foresters: a 40 mm and a 50 mm. The 50 mm on ours is rated to 140 kg.

As for total mass of the CT, we run ours at about 850 kg. The Foz is a 2.5 l manual and that's a pretty comfortable weight. On the flat we hardly know it's there.
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Reply By: Member - evaredy - Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 17:33

Sunday, Feb 23, 2014 at 17:33
Personally, I would b looking at the highest towing capacity, not the minimum you need. Based of course on your preference of vehicle and budget.

If you have a much higher capacity you have room to move and in the event you want to upgrade the van in the future, you can.
It also means that the motor and tranny are not working as hard and maybe better fuel economy, again depending on vehicle.
AnswerID: 527072

Reply By: Hugo C - Monday, Feb 24, 2014 at 11:46

Monday, Feb 24, 2014 at 11:46
Thanks to those who replied. I was aware of the other numbers I had to consider (e.g. vehicle payload) and the unrealistic claims sometimes made about towing capacities. I was just trying to get a feel for how much 'breathing space' I should go when comparing the towing capacity of a replacement vehicle with the towing job.

The replies have been helpful.

Happy trails
Hugo Canberra
AnswerID: 527120

Follow Up By: The Bantam - Monday, Feb 24, 2014 at 20:15

Monday, Feb 24, 2014 at 20:15
I again congradulate you on thinking about these matters and then to think some more.

God knows a lot of people towing do not even begin.

One indicator I consider of comfort of towing is the mass of the tow vehicle in comparison to the trailer.

In the past the widely accepted calculations for pasenger vehicles, and the basis for most published tow ratings of the time......where that the trailer could not be more than the unladen weight of the vehicle towing it....typical of vehicle prior to 95 98 ish.

That is still a pretty reasonable thaught......the more the trailer weighs in comparison to the vehicle towing the less control the tow vehicle can achieve over the trailer, both in ride and steering....PARticularly when that trailer being towed is a pig trailer running on a single axle group in it middle.

We went thru a phase where 120% of the Unladen mass was considered acceptable as a towing rating...that was in the pre 2005 era as far as I can establish.

Now we have vehicles with tow ratings that are more tha 1.5 times the unladen mass....yeh... not good.

Then you have the difference between different vehicles......some vehicles tow whatever mass, better than others.

The little toyota diesels have a reputation for towing...as some people believe " comfortably".....far more than their rated capacity.

Vans generally have very poor tow rating compared to the equavalent utility...(Compare hilux with hiace to see my point)

I know a bloke who used to tow 2.5 tonne trailers with a 2.4 liter diesel Hiace....not a good idea in my opinion, But I have seen him tow those masses up hill and dale with the poor thing.
Now the published towing capacity with brakes was arround 1 tonne.

To illustrate what happens when that goes bad...one of my brother's clients, uses to tow tandem car trailers loaded with, assembled cool rooms are stacks off cool room panel...with...an 1600 Mitsubishi L300.
They reconed it did it "comforatbly".

They persitsted with this for years ...and high speed highway towing too.

UNTILL, one night one of the boys was drivig the rig back unladen from a job, and hit a large pot hole.......one of the tyres blew, then one of the axles broke....probably long term fatigue from beeing overloaded.
Then it was on for young and old.

anyway the upshot was the trailer picked up the van and slamed it down in this side then that, till the whole rig came to rest, with 4 broken stub axles on the trailer, not a straight pannel on the van and a bloke very very lucky to walk away with a few brises and brown trousers.

Ya see comfort is a very vague thing.

Some vehicles tow better than others regardless of their ratings.

FollowupID: 809537

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