How to Ensure I am Properly Equipped for Trailer Towing
If I plan on towing a trailer with my diesel truck what do I need to know to make sure I'm properly equipped?
Firstly, your truck will need to be able to handle the weight you'll be dropping on the bed or bumper. This is referred to as "pin weight". Secondly, your truck will require enough power to pull the weight of the trailer itself. This is referred to as "tow rating".
Half-ton trucks are suitable for lighter pin weights and lighter trailers. ¾ tons and one tons may be required for progressively heavier trailers. Although newer gasoline engines are towing more than they have been able to in the past, diesel engines and the torque they bring to the equation will often be the best choice for heavy loads. On trailers with the heaviest pin weights - you may even require a dual rear wheel truck to accommodate the extra load.
Your truck should have a "towing package". Although towing packages vary by manufacturer, they will allow your truck to maximize its ability to tow. A hitch receiver, electrical trailer brake receptacle, transmission cooler, among other possible features, will come with this package.
Your trailer will have an unloaded vehicle weight (UVW) or "dry weight". This is the weight of the trailer as it sits before loading it with your cargo (camping gear, snowmobile, ATV, horses, equipment, etc). You will need to add the weight of your cargo to the trailer's dry weight to determine which truck will meet your needs. For example: If your camper weighs 5400lbs dry and you will be placing 1000lbs of cargo inside - you'll need a truck with a 6400lbs towing capacity at the very minimum. It's always a good idea to allow yourself some room and get a truck that will do a little more than required. (Note: Make sure you do not place more cargo into your trailer than the trailer is allowed to carry. The GVWR, or gross vehicle weight rating will be stamped or sticker-ed onto the trailer. This figure tells you what the maximum weight limit of the trailer is WITH the cargo added).
There are many other factors that go into establishing your truck's towing capacity. Bed size, transmission, drive system (2wd/4wd), axle ratio, and even tires can alter the towing limit. Because of all of the combinations and possibilities, Trailer Life Magazine's 2013 Guide to Towing has over 700 listings to accommodate them all.
A properly matched truck and trailer is essential for safety, performance, and to ensure you are not overloading your truck by making it work harder than it was designed to. Knowing the details about what you will be hauling will help your truck salesperson determine the correct towing vehicle for you.