Due to the wide variety of travel trailers, it can be hard to find the right size for your towing needs that also suit your everyday lifestyle.
Trailers come in a wide range of styles and sizes, including enclosed cargo trailers, open utility trailers, flatbeds, livestock haulers, vending trailers, and more.
If you are about to take your truck out for a trip and you are wondering what size trailer do I need to haul a truck? Generally, you need a gooseneck or fifth wheel trailer if you’ll be hauling a truck with 25,000-30,000 weight, and flat travel trailers for anything less than that, such as RVs and regular campers, weighing between 2500-10,000 pounds.
Different Vehicle Weights And Configuration
Before you can safely tow a truck, you need to know your towing terms. This will enable you to really understand the size of trailer needed to haul a truck.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
This is the weight of the vehicle plus the maximum carryon weight for passengers and cargo that can be placed inside the vehicle. You can find The GVWR on the vehicle’s certification label on the driver’s doorjamb.
You should keep in mind that the trailer weight is not added against the GVWR, but only the tongue weight of the trailer.
Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)
This is the maximum weight of the vehicle and loaded trailer that can be towed safely. This also includes the weight of cargo and passengers.
You may not be able to find GCWR for your truck on the label on the truck’s doorjamb, but it can be found in the towing section of each truck manufacturer’s website.
This is the combined maximum weight of cargo and passengers that the vehicle is designed to carry. The payload is the GVWR minus the base curb weight of the truck, the trailer’s tongue weight is also included here.
Trailer Tongue Weight
This is Also known as tongue load, which is a very important number to consider. It is the amount of the trailer’s weight on the hitch ball ( the side that slides into the receiver attached to the truck and holds up the trailer as you drive).
Having Too much tongue weight can cause the truck to sit too low in the rear; which can be damaging to the front wheels’ ability to provide steering, traction, and braking, and it also poses a risk of suspension damage.
On the other hand, having too little tongue weight also affects the trailer and how it handles the pickup behind, it can cause the trailer to sway side-to-side, this is known as fishtailing.
The height of the hitch also has an effect on the tongue weight as well as the truck’s braking ability. It is very important that the trailer sits level when attached to the tow vehicle. If you have different trailers that you tow, getting a hitch that its height can be adjusted is very helpful.
The Tongue load should only be 10 to 15 per cent of the trailer’s total weight so if you’re towing 5,000 pounds, then the tongue weight should be around 500 to 750 pounds.
Typically, if you have a truck that is rated high enough to handle the trailer being hauled, it should also be rated high enough to handle the weight that is placed on the hitch by the trailer.
However, you should keep in mind that the trailer’s tongue weight needs to be added to the truck’s payload, so in the example above, the 500 to 750 pounds needs to be added to the truck’s GVW.
Out of all the towing guidelines, the most important of them all is the GCWR. This number is determined by the truck manufacturer and it is the maximum safe weight that a vehicle can tow including its own weight and carryons, but it is important that all of this guidelines are not exceeded.
Aside from weight guidelines, the configuration, with drivetrain, wheelbase, engine, hitch and gear ratios all have an impact on the towing ability of a vehicle.
Here are some keynotes:
If you opt for Four-wheel-drive trucks and SUVs, you should note that they are heavier, and this can reduce their towing capacity. If a four-wheel-drive doesn’t pose any other importance, it is best to stick to a rear-wheel-drive for maximum towing ability.
Longer-wheelbase trucks and SUVs are able to tow more than their shorter counterparts, so they offer better control when a trailer is hooked up.
When it comes to tow power, it’s all about torque. That’s why diesel-powered trucks are known to have higher tow ratings compared to their gasoline counterparts.
Many trucks and SUVs offer different axle ratios. A high ratio means the vehicle has great pulling power, but sometimes this comes at the expense of fuel economy.
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What Size Trailer Do I Need To Haul A Truck?
There are basically different types of trailers you can use to haul a truck. So, the size of the trailer will depend on the trailer type and type of truck you intend to haul.
1. Flat trailers
When you intend to haul cars, all-terrain vehicles or general cargo, a flat-floor trailer is the perfect option. For light loads, not more than 2500 pounds single-axle trailers are better, while double-axle trailers are best for heavier items.
For hauling general cargo, enclosed trailers are better but they tend to be heavier than open trailers.
2. Travel Trailers
To tow a regular travel trailer or camper, you would need a capable vehicle as they can weigh up to 2,500 pounds and can get up to 10,000 pounds or more.
They need to be attached to a standard hitch or you may also make use of a fifth-wheel or gooseneck trailer which is more substantial, but its unique hitch setup means it’s a bit easier to tow.
Hitches And Balls
There are five different classes of conventional hitches, and they are able to tow different levels of weight:
- Class 1: Up to 2,000 pounds
- Class 2: Up to 3,500 pounds
- Class 3: Up to 8,000 pounds
- Class 4: Up to 10,000 pounds
- Class 5: Up to 12,000 pounds
Most cars and crossovers come with Class 1, 2 or 3 hitches, while larger trucks and SUVs tend to come with Class 3, 4 or 5 hitches. Each conventional hitch also has a different sized receiver tube, which is where the ball and ball mount go.
- Class 1 and 2: 1.25-inch receiver tube
- Class 3: 2-inch receiver tube
- Class 4 and 5: 2- or 2.5-inch receiver tubes, depending on the configuration
The most important thing to ensure is that your trailer sits level, front to back, and you can also purchase ball mounts that lower or raise the ball as needed.
The weight of the trailer is what determines the ball sizes and many manufacturers label the ball size right on the coupler.
The common ball sizes are 1 7/8, 2, or 2 5/16 inches. Ensure to make use of a ball with a weight capacity that exceeds that of your loaded trailer.
In the event where you need to tow more than 12,000 pounds, you may need a heavy-duty truck with a gooseneck or fifth-wheel hitch. The hitch and ball are positioned in the pickup bed, just over or in front of the rear axle.
This makes use of a ball-type setup and can handle up to 30,000 pounds.
4. Fifth Wheel
This makes use of a horseshoe-shaped mount, which is like a smaller version of what is usually found on a semi-truck and they can handle up to 25,000 pounds.
How To Safely Hook A Travel Trailer
If it’s your first time towing a truck, there’s a checklist you need to follow a couple of times before getting it right. Here are some steps you should follow for safe connection of a trailer to your tow vehicle.
- First secure the ball mount in the hitch’s receiver tube.
- Then Line up the vehicle so it is placed directly in front of the trailer coupler.
- Ensure the trailer coupler is higher than the ball on the hitch.
- Then slowly Back up so the ball is directly under the trailer coupler. You can make use your vehicle’s backup camera or have a friend check out for you.
- Place the tow vehicle in park and set the parking brake.
- You will find a twist handle On the trailer tongue, and you can use it to raise or lower the metal bar/pipe which the trailer rests on when not attached to a vehicle. This is called the jack. Then Twist the trailer jack to lower the coupler completely onto the ball.
- To secure the coupler to the ball, make use of the attached cotter pin.
- Then Lift up on the tongue to ensure everything is properly connected.
- Raise the trailer jack up and out until it Is completely out of the way.
- After attaching the trailer, you will need to safely secure the chains from the trailer to the vehicle in a criss-cross pattern, but make sure the chains don’t touch the ground. You also need to plug the trailer’s electrical connector into the vehicle. Before heading out into the road ensure to check the trailer’s brake lights as well as its turn signals.
How to Add Weight To Your Trailer
One major fact to keep in mind when loading up your trailer is weight distribution. Placing Too much weight at the rear end of a trailer can cause it to fishtail while placing Too much weight upfront can cause the vehicle to sag, this causes poor handling and reduced braking power.
In general, the tongue weight of the trailer which is the weight at the front of the trailer, should not be more than 15% of the vehicle’s total weight.
You can make use of a tongue-weight scale to determine this, even some ball mounts usually have a built-in scale that gives you the weight immediately so you can tell if the trailer is loaded up correctly.
A few loading tips include;
- You can make use of ratchet straps or tie-downs to secure your load. If you have a wide trailer you can try Adjusting your mirrors so you can see around it or you can consider adding telescoping tow mirrors to your vehicle.
- Ensure the trailer has actual trailer tires, not passenger car tires and make sure that they are properly inflated and in good shape. Also, check your vehicle’s tires while you’re at it, too
- Ensure to keep your trailer wheel bearings adequately greased so that’s there’s no risk of damaging the axles.
How To Tow a Truck On The Road
Although you might already be an experienced driver, towing a vehicle that’s both longer and heavier than before might not be as easy as you think, and you need to take extra precautions.
If your vehicle has a tow/haul mode, it needs to be engaged when towing heavy loads so that your engine and transmission can be put into its optimal setting.
Here are some great practices you should put into implication;
Ensure to carefully plan your route to avoid impediments that could be even hard to navigate with a trailer: Dense city traffic, construction and steep hills and mountains are all things to put into consideration.
Make sure to fill up your vehicle’s tank before hooking up the trailer and starting your towing, filling up your vehicle is way easier without having a trailer in tow.
Always have a roadside safety kit with things like flares or reflectors, first-aid supplies and so on hand at all times.
Try to drive as slowly as safely possible. Most trailers usually have a speed limit of 55 miles per hour. When you need to, brake early so that you have a lot more mass to stop.
Always Stick to the right lane, or slow lane and when you need to change lane, do so early and be patient and always make use of your turn signals.
When pulling into a parking lot, ensure to consider the length and maneuverability of your vehicle-and-trailer set up so as to avoid getting stuck.
When driving down a hill, make sure to downshift your transmission to slow speed, rather than riding the brakes as that can cause overheating. If you notice that your vehicle starts to fishtail, try to reduce throttle input a bit, but do not try to hit the brakes.
Backing up with a towed vehicle can be a bit difficult, but there’s an easy way to go about it. The best thing to do is to grip the steering wheel from the bottom. If you need the trailer to move to the left, your hand needs to be moved to the right and vis versa.
Keep in mind that a little effort goes a long way with steering. And thankfully, many modern trucks and SUVs come equipped with specific trailer-steering tech to help with this process.
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If you have been asking yourself what size trailer do I need to haul a truck? Hopefully, this article has answered your question.
However, before you choose a trailer, you need to know the maximum weight of cargo and passengers you can safely carry in the truck as well as the vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).