How to Choose the Right Vehicle for Towing Your RV

Selecting the right tow vehicle to tow your RV, especially one that is that is agreeable as a daily driver, can be a very difficult decision. And even if you begged, most dealers would not allow you to actually hook up your RV and test the combination out. Much of what you have to go by has to depend on the vehicle's specifications, its towing capacity, and your driving impressions.

Vehicle type: For comfortable, no-nonsense hauling, heavy duty trucks with towing packages and big diesel engines cannot be beat for towing the big 5th wheel. But for towing a smaller travel trailer or a pop-up camping trailer on the weekends, you don't necessarily need a truck. You might be able to get by with a passenger vehicle, like an SUV or large car

If the vehicle you choose is available with a towing package be sure to see what it includes The towing package should include an oil cooler, transmission fluid cooler, heavy-duty alternator and battery, higher-capacity rear springs, and possibly a stabilizer bar (or larger one than standard).
Some vehicles have an electronic trailer brake option which is incorporated into the vehicles braking system. This feature controls the brakes on the RV in relation to how much you are braking the vehicle. If the vehicle you are looking at has this option, get it!
An automatic transmission is usually the best choice for towing. A manual is OK only for experienced, careful shifters. With an automatic, just remember a few precautions: make sure your vehicle has a transmission cooler, and remember to always disable overdrive to prevent excessive wear. Think torque rather than horsepower for towing. If the terrain permits, see how confident the vehicle can accelerate from a stop up a steep hill. Torque is what gets the load moving so in general, the more you have the better.

Modern turbo-diesels really excel in towing, and they're a great choice when available due to their better mileage and long-term durability. They also maintain their power at higher altitudes where gas engines tend to lose power, as much as 3% power per 1000 feet of altitude. This assumes the gas engine is not turbo or supercharged.

Be aware that if you choose a smaller engine for economy, it might be so strained that it actually uses more fuel than the larger engine, not to mention all the extra engine wear.

And last but not least: Consider the weight to be carried in your vehicle. Every vehicle has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). This is the maximum permissible weight of everything on board your vehicle, including the vehicle itself plus passengers, cargo, and fuel. Estimate the weight of all your camping gear, passengers, and luggage that is going to be in the vehicle, then add up the weights. You must also include the tongue or pin weight of your RV. This can add substantially to the vehicle's total weight and put many vehicles over the permissible GVWR.

If you'll be carrying close to the maximum GVWR while towing near the maximum towing weight, you should forget about that particular vehicle and go to something with more load and towing capacity. Trucks might also get a lower final drive ratio (a higher number means lower gearing which is desirable for towing), and heavy-duty differential. Don't get a stripped-down version of the vehicle you want thinking to add all of these things as needed. It will be cost-prohibitive and likely void your warranty.

For more tips about RV maintenance and service, contact Mike at mikeb@rvglass.com

or call (800) 551-9149 ext. 2030