Latest posts by Bob Ward (see all)
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- 046 Plan to Backpack Yellow River Again and Doing So with Jack and Joe - August 19, 2015
- 045 Truck Toppers and Panel Vans - July 18, 2015
A lot of people have the mistaken notion that cars shouldn’t be used to tow.
Here’s the basic idea…
|Image via SouthBayRiders.com||
This is a Smart car towing a KTM XCR-W. This guy claimed to get 33 mpg while towing at an average speed of 65-70. The trailer looks to be an inexpensive, garden variety flatbed, such as those you can buy almost anywhere.
This picture illustrates (rather effectively) that a car can tow a motorcycle and trailer.
To be sure, the total weight here is less than 1000 lbs.
I called and asked the following question to a local Toyota dealer, a hitch installation company, and a trailer sales company:
Can I safely trailer two lightweight motorcycles behind a Toyota Camry?
In all three cases, the vagueness of their answers frustrated me. I got the impression they wanted minimal responsibility in determining what I should or shouldn’t tow. They basically said, “As long as you don’t exceed the tow rating on the vehicle or the hitch, you should be fine…in theory.” (In fact, the Toyota dealer I contacted neither sells nor installs aftermarket hitches.)
After considerable research online (where confusion and contradiction reigned supreme), I dragged out my vehicle’s owners manual, flipped to the index, and located the page on Trailer Towing.
Here’s what I figured out for my Camry:
(Disclaimer–read your own manual, and do your own math, before you tow.)
1) For your safety and the safety of others, you must not overload your vehicle or trailer.
2) Before towing, make sure the total trailer weight, gross vehicle weight, and trailer tongue load are all within the limits.
PART A – THE TRAILER
Total Trailer Weight (trailer weight plus its cargo load) must not exceed 2,000 lbs.
- So this means my Camry’s towing capacity (aka tow rating) is 2,000 lbs.
- I can tow 2,000 lbs of Total Trailer Weight behind the car
- The trailer has its own separate axle and weight limits, which have nothing to do with how much the car can pull. Trailers have their own certification label and specs. This is the least of my concerns since I know the trailer won’t collapse under the weight of my 2 dirt bikes.
- For motorcycle hauling, calculating gross trailer weight is simple because you’re dealing with known weights:
- Weight of the Trailer
- Weight of the Bikes
|Lightweight motorcycle trailer
|Total Trailer Weight||1,013 (well under Camry’s Tow Rating)|
- My GVWR from certification label on the doorjamb: 4,180 lbs.
- The total weight of the loaded car has to stay under this.
- Has nothing to do with the weight of the trailer.
- 4,180 minus 3,120 (Camry’s curb weight) leaves 1,060 lbs available for people, luggage, fuel, hitch, tongue weight.
- Safe towing and stopping requires GVW stays below GVWR.
|2 adult men (180 x2)||360|
|All luggage and gear (est)||400 <–stay below|
|18.5 Gallons Gas @ 8 lbs each||148|
|Hitch – Draw-Tite Class 1||32|
|Trailer tongue load (see below)||101|
|Added Vehicle Weight||1,041|
|GVW||4,161 (leaving 19 lbs to spare)|
- The hitch will be rated for this load
- Distribute bikes on trailer so that 9-11% of total trailer weight is loaded onto the hitch via the trailer’s tonue. (I’ll use the bathroom scale technique)
- Never load more weight behind the trailer’s axles than in front. 40% in rear; 60% in front.
- Main tongue weight issues: too little downward pressure on the hitch can lead to trailer sway; too much can lead to steering problems.
|Bob’s Total Trailer Weight||1,013|
|Approximately 10% on Tongue||101|
|Load distribution (bikes only=664 lbs)||398 front (60%); 266 back (40%)|
Side note: A transmission cooler may be a smart idea, but since it doesn’t seem to be a safety issue (just an out of pocket expense if the transmission burns up), it’s the least of my concerns, especially considering my total trailer weight will only be about half of the Camry’s maximum tow limit of 2,000 lbs. Keeping well under the limits is how I prefer to roll.
I had considered adding several other links I found on the internet, but since they generally just added a bunch of extra complication and vernacular, I decided to leave that out. In the end, I found my owner’s manual explained everything I needed to know.
I will add this though…
My plan is to have U-Haul install the hitch on my car, because instead of buying a trailer (which I’ll then just have to store at home), I’ll simply rent a lightweight trailer whenever I need to, which, in reality, will be infrequently. Even at $20 per day rental fees, I can rent a trailer once a month for several years before matching the price of buying my own.
Men tend to buy things they don’t really need, such as chain saws, lawn tillers, trailers, etc.
Last note, I spent way too long on this post, and blew a weeks worth of other topics to make sure I understood everything correctly. I nearly said to hell with it, but I’m glad I didn’t. I needed to get a solid handle on the math of towing motorcycles with a car. If I discover anything else important, I’ll come back and update.