We have towed for 7 years with a small tow vehicle, towing 3 different trailers. We are conservative in our towing habits. Since we are about to move to a larger tow vehicle, here's some of our approaches to towing with a small tow vehicle. Some were learned over the years via experience, others from web sites like ours and others, some from excellent sources like Can-Am.
Drag is the primary load on a tow vehicle at all practical towing speeds, increasing rapidly with velocity. For a given tow vehicle/trailer the best one can do to improve economy is to drive slower, for us typically from 55 to 62. We achieve excellent economy. We have never recorded less than 20 mpg for our extended trips towing 3 different small trailers.
In addition to driving at moderate speeds we do little things to minimize fuel usage, like free wheeling to traffic lights
and down some hills (manual transmission). We keep the trailer and tow vehicle lines as clean as possible. We do not have roof mounted air, awning
or large roof vents. Our solar
panels are only a 1/4 inch high and virtually invisible.
distribution within the trailer is as important as absolute weight
. We try to locate all heavy items over or near the axle
. The one exception is that we carry a half tank of water. Our gray and black tanks are usually empty when towing. We work to keep the tongue weight
low, one propane
tank and one battery
We consider weight distribution within the tow vehicle as well. We keep heavy items between the tow vehicle's axles like our case of water and volcano grill.
We have towed with and without an anti-sway bar and have not experienced sway except on our very first trailer trip when we put a generator
on the rear bumper.
We now use a sway bar all the time looking upon it as insurance. Every morning when we begin driving I reach over to the brake controller and activate the trailer brakes
, checking the brakes
and practicing trailer brake activation should we experience sway.
As to emergency weather conditions we avoid high winds, storms, snow, ice and even strong rain. We are fortunate that we are retired and safety is not compromised for expediency.
On hills weight is more important load than drag. Hills have not been an issue. Generally we know where the long down grades are, we carry both the Eastern and Western Mountain directories that list all severe slopes and Ginny is religious about knowing our routes. For designated steep downhill runs we down shift, minimizing our use of brakes
and avoid getting up to speeds beyond our normal towing speeds.
On long up slopes air flow through the radiator typically decreases, I have added the ability to turn on the radiator fan before beginning an up hill run. (Once when we had a fan failure I added the ability to spray water from the windshield washer on the front of the radiator.)
To minimize stress we purchase vehicles that easily handle the load, we have over 225,000 miles on our tow vehicle with no signs of stress. Our vehicle does not burn oil and seems to be fully intact, even the original clutch. Those miles include many 1,000s of miles of really rough roads, including severe gravel up hill sections.
Of course we learned a lot over the years, some from outright mistakes. We torque our lug nuts, checking them regularly. We have pressure/temperature sensors on our trailer and tow vehicle. We regularly check our Curt hitch bolts. We have strengthened our hitch at it's weakest point after a non-critical failure.
We keep our trailer tires
at maximum pressure. We significantly increase our tow vehicle tire pressures on the tow vehicle to increase sidewall stiffness.
We lock our hitch closed and lock our ball mount in it's receiver, we avoid spring clips having seen them fail. We added a hole to the ball mount allowing it to be moved closer to the axle
reducing the effect of tongue weight on the tow vehicle. The ball mount has a bracket to stiffen it in the hitch receiver.
We no longer use extended mirrors and now have a camera mounted in the rear of the trailer. Our tow vehicles standard side mirrors have wide angle corner mirrors.
Another important aspect of our travels is Ginny. She is truly a princess. She never sleeps while I drive and is always checking the passenger side before we change lanes.
I'm sure there's more that escapes me now but I hope this can help others because most of it can apply to any towing situation.
We our about to purchase a Honda Odyssey. Interestingly it is the same width as our Scamp
16 and taller than our CRV. It will be interesting to see what we get for fuel economy from the Odyssey. We are definitely expecting lower numbers with the Odyssey's large V-6 and six speed automatic transmission.
Ginny suggested that the Odysseys so big we could sleep in it.
Safe and many travels,