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Old November 12th, 2015, 09:36 AM   #1
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Default Tow rigs on the smaller (and older) side

Lets have some serious discussion and real world testimony here on smaller tow rigs and what to look for in them. Although many of us would love to have the latest model crew cab diesel dually, the reality is that the daily driver/soccer mom SUV can be adequate. And in the old days it wasn't uncommon to tow with a straight six and/or the family sedan/wagon.

I myself have had a variety of bigger tow rigs, but have had some success with some smaller ones. Two that come to mind are a 2004 Dodge Hemi Durango (towed a 40 foot boat 600 miles) and a 1996 Lexus LX450 (towed several FJ60's a few thousand miles). Both rigs had good trailer brakes and were loaded to have maybe 500 pounds on the hitch. The Lexus was coil spring rear and was a little squirrely if I pushed it much past 55-60 mph. Plus is was kinda gutless, but slow and steady was fine by me. The rig I had no luck with towing with was my 97 XJ Cherokee (stock 3.07 gears manual trans), it was unable to pull a light trailer without swaying, and when I tried loading a bare 55 Chevy body (about 2000 pounds) on a light trailer it couldn't even pull it past the end of my road.

I have seen a few people tow with "antique" rigs such as 70's Ford trucks and such as well, and am seriously considering towing with an antique vehicle with some brake upgrades.

Are load levelers a huge benefit with smaller rigs?

So, what have you had success with? What do you like? I am in the market for my next tow rig (maybe) and would like to see some real world examples.

Last edited by kkodet; November 12th, 2015 at 09:46 AM.
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Old November 12th, 2015, 09:58 AM   #2
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I once towed an exmark commercial rider behind my lifted TJ that didn't have a rear sway bar, 45-50mph was about max on that endeaver.

I towed a reg cab 1500 94 dodge 4x4 on a 18ish foot trailer (2x2 and 2x4 construction) tandem axle behind a 2wd 4.3 1990 chevy 1500.

I think the average half ton regardless of year tows just fine with in reason.

I've seen some WJ's tow some pretty hefty loads, never driven one myself.

In comparison to my 09 1/2 ton my 08 tahoe tows "about" the same, it doesn't carry tongue weight as well and sways a bit more. I think with air bags and a WD hitch if needed it would be fine.

I am not sure how much weight I've put behind it, but if I was regularly using it to tow a jeep or something I'd invest in bags.
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Old November 12th, 2015, 10:53 AM   #3
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I'm currently towing a 25' enclosed trailer with an '11 Silverado with a 5.3 and 6l80 trans. I use leveling bars and an anti-sway system and it pulls like a dream.
Some would say that I should be running a much lager tow rig, but with good electric brakes on the trailer, it shouldn't be an issue. I wouldn't pull it with anything smaller though...
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Old November 12th, 2015, 11:38 AM   #4
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I wouldn't be towing my Jeep and trailer with anything shorter than an extended cab half ton truck which is what I use now.

I now have a crew cab duramax 6.5 ft bed but have yet to use it yet, I expect it to be much better.

I plan on selling one of them.
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Old November 12th, 2015, 11:46 AM   #5
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I hauled my XJ to the badlands last spring behind our 2004 yukon XL 1500. I put Z71 coils and shocks in the back. The trailer had no brakes and it didn't do to bad. Didn't like the hills at all but as long as I kept it at 65 it didn't do to bad. It was fairly comparable to my 97 powerstroke.

But after hauling stuff with some buddies newer duramaxes and powerstrokes I'm going to be buying a 6.7 in this spring. I like hooking up to 7k pounds and barely knowing it's there.
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Old November 12th, 2015, 11:48 AM   #6
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I wouldn't want to have much less than 300hp (stock 5.3)
My half ton with weight distribution hitch toes my jeep on a 16ft trailer great
It is a great dd/tow rig I used to get like 16mpg
That being said I don't dd it anymore so I'm looking for a 3/4 ton as a dedicated tow rig but mainly for piece of mind and durability
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Old November 12th, 2015, 11:52 AM   #7
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I have towed my jeep on trailer with a 2004 Durango, 2004 Ram quad cab 1500 4x4, and dodge Dakota quad cab 4x4 w/4.7L

Each worked. Least was Dakota w/4.7L. It did good but shift points became an issue with large hills and wind. All had appropriate brake controller and brakes on trailers. All used with and without weight distribution hitch.

1500, Dakota, Durango all towed fine. Better with weight distribution hitch. One emergency braking action in the 1500 on I-75 and it was clear that safe towing distance for stopping was the most important thing. Less important than the ability to pull was the ability to stop.

Just picked up a 2500 and will tow soon. Cannot wait to see the difference.

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Old November 12th, 2015, 12:14 PM   #8
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I tow with my 2001 Range Rover and it Willemstad great. When it had the air suspension it was perfect for towing. Now that it's on regular coils I use a weight distribution hitch for heavy loads. I tow a 18' car hauler with various vehicles on it and a 4,000 pound camper most often.

My parents just finished a 3 month cross country trip to the Rockies with their 2004 Discovery 2. It was excellent with a 2500 pound ultra light, all their gear and 2 90 pound golden retrievers. They only use a cheap sway control system.

Both vehicles have old man emu coils and shocks.
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Old November 12th, 2015, 12:24 PM   #9
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Good replies! Thanks!

I currently have a 1969 FJ55 Iron Pig in route getting shipped from Oregon. It already has a 350 swap. If the truck proves to be in the shape I think it is, I'm hoping to try towing with it after a brake upgrade. It should weigh 6-7k.

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Old November 12th, 2015, 01:40 PM   #10
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good topic.

smallest I will tow with is my daily driver 2001 Z71 extended cab. I have no issues with most anything that I need to tow. up to my dads 97 1500 4x4. Dont tow to much BIG stuff. I have a flat bed deck over tires that I will put my pop up on and 4-5 ATV's and go up north at 80-85 MPH.

My wifes 2002 tahoe (that she wrecked) did ok. Squated more, and would wiggle under heavier toungue weight and just didnt seem to have the same pep as my truck. but it would do it without to many issues.

She now has an AWD acadia, and in my opinion that thing is lucky to pull itself down the road so I would never pull anything with it. I see people pulling campers with those types of rigs at 55-65 mph and giggle.

My wife had a 96 suburban 454 that I traded a member on here. it pulled well. good rig. yes new diesels will pull more and do it more efficiently, but I never ran into anything that thing wouldn't pull down the road safely.

I had a 87 K30 reg cab long bed with 36" military OZ's. I had about 400hp out of it, and it had the 465 in it. Loved that truck. would pull anything. wouldnt do it fast or get good gas mileage, but I had about 4k into it total. you will pay more in DEF for your new diesel than I had invested into the truck.

My grandpa has a 2014 6.7 f350 long bed crew cab bla bla bla. Yup even has heated and cooled seats. The truck is amazing. pulls his 36' camper and another trailer behind it like its unloaded. and gets 12-14 mpg doing it. I would love to have one, but cant have a 60+k payment. Plus once warranty expires its going to be costly to maintain. dont want that either.

I will stick to my half ton for now. Once it dies I will probably move up to a 6.0 chevy 3/4 ton.

my xj couldnt pull crap. Nor could my little sonoma 4x4. loved that thing, but I couldnt stop when pulling a 12' trailer with a mower on it. I never did pull to much with my ZJ so I cant really comment on that.

Last edited by Mudking; November 12th, 2015 at 01:43 PM.
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Old November 12th, 2015, 06:48 PM   #11
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I pull a bunch of boats in and out, short distance stuff with my lj.
A couple have easily been double the lj tow rating.
I dont run down the roads with them. Mostly just through the campground.
mabey to the gas station once in a while.
Alot of my neighbors drive their wifes grocery getters up for the weekend, to save gas.
So I launch their boats. It actually pulls them pretty well, but im geared deep.
For the big ones I use low range in the ramp area.

I also pull my enclosed snowmobile trailer/camper with it in the summer.
Its not all that heavy, but its pretty big behind an lj. Pulls it really well.
Gears are everything when towing!

A quality weight distribution hitch helps alot!

Last edited by joe_jeep; December 30th, 2015 at 05:33 PM.
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Old November 12th, 2015, 07:58 PM   #12
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I don't pull near the loads that most of you do but I'll throw in my 2 cents anyhow. My 98 ZJ with the 4.0 would barely move itself. It could handle our 14ft aluminum hunting boat ok. My 2000# pop up camper was a chore beyond 55-60 mph, swayed a good bit and struggled to find the appropriate gear. The most I ever had behind it was ~4k# of gravel and I never broke 30 mph but only had to get it a mile or two down the road.

My current truck is a '10 Nissan Frontier ccsb with the 4.0 v6. It tows the same camper at 75 mph like it's not there, even out here at 7500 ft elevation and get 15-16 mpg doing it. I haven't towed any more than that with it even though it is rated to 6100#.
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Old November 13th, 2015, 08:38 AM   #13
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Power and/or proper gearing make a world of difference. How much does wheelbase effect things? I realize longer is better but what is everyone's opinion as to the break even point? How long is long enough?

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Old November 13th, 2015, 08:59 AM   #14
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I owned a 2005 F150 with a 5.4L that most people would now consider "small" or underpowered. It towed ~7500lbs without an issue, no sway, never a control or stopping concern (with trailer breaks). It out-towed any of my previous 7.3L OBS trucks in terms of "controlling the weight". It sucked the fuel compared to my 7.3L OBS trucks, but I never had an issue with it, and would tow with one again in a heartbeat. Too many people think they need a diesel dually to pull a car trailer nowdays...
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Old November 13th, 2015, 09:12 AM   #15
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I think the wheelbase of a regular cab short bed half ton is enough for most loads. Reg cab long bed is enough for the heaviest of loads in a one ton truck. I don't think I would go much shorter than a WJ or the pictured Toyota. But it all depends on how much weight you are talking about pulling also, and how long the trailer is as well. It's all relative.

I towed my 24' boat with my TJ to the gas station like @joe_jeep described. My boat was light, but it was enough to push the lifted jeep around beyond 40 mph. It sure was nice to be manueverable with the jeep at the gas stations though. I never towed it long distances though.

I agree with Bones, far too many people think they need way more vehicle than they do. A half ton is more than enough for most situations. I'd only want or say you need more if you are talking about a lot of towing on long distance trips. Just to reduce driver fatigue and the chances of ever being even close to fully loaded.

You've got more miles towing a pretty good sized trailer than most of us, I assume your judgement is pretty good when it comes to towing.
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Old November 13th, 2015, 10:24 AM   #16
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I tow my TJ regularly on a 20' car hauler with my 2002 Tahoe. It has the 5.3.
I pulled to the badlands in Aug and averaged 11mpg. Using a weight distribution hitch set up made life better.

I also added tow mirrors to it, so that makes it pretty close to as capable as a diesel.
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Old November 13th, 2015, 11:08 AM   #17
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I tow with a '73 International 1/2-3/4-1 ton truck. 345/5spd/3.73 gears
Scout on a car hauler is somewhere around 7000 pounds.
It will take all the tongue weight you want to give it.
It's pretty happy at 60mph but will do more. About 8mpg towing, 10-11 empty.
139" wheelbase is on the short end I think, but it never sways. Just the steering is a little touchy.
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Old November 13th, 2015, 11:27 AM   #18
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Great topic. I've towed with a variety of gm v-8 trucks. Any of them will tow a jeep on a trailer. Yes I now have a 3/4 ton duramax but it's because I wanted to be able to tow 2 rigs weighing 14,000 pounds. Is it awesome pulling a single jeep? Yes but not necessary.

The question of "enough power" is relative. If you are looking to tow mostly in Michigan and don't mind being slowed down on the few big inclines, then less is ok. If you plan to tow down south or out west, it's a different story. Same with brakes. The best brakes on truck and trailer can still get scary if the trailer is bigger than the tow rig and prone to pushing it around on steep and curvy descents.

Biggest keys if your toe rig is marginal:
Well balanced trailer
Weight distributing hitch
Extremely good brakes on the trailer
And last.... A skilled driver. (I know you have lots of experience but if the gal is driving things can get out of control quickly)

As far as what is adequate, I think all of the discussion comments are more important than the declared gcvw from the manufacturer.
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Old November 13th, 2015, 11:39 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kickstand View Post
I think the wheelbase of a regular cab short bed half ton is enough for most loads. Reg cab long bed is enough for the heaviest of loads in a one ton truck. I don't think I would go much shorter than a WJ or the pictured Toyota. But it all depends on how much weight you are talking about pulling also, and how long the trailer is as well. It's all relative.

I towed my 24' boat with my TJ to the gas station like @joe_jeep described. My boat was light, but it was enough to push the lifted jeep around beyond 40 mph. It sure was nice to be manueverable with the jeep at the gas stations though. I never towed it long distances though.

I agree with Bones, far too many people think they need way more vehicle than they do. A half ton is more than enough for most situations. I'd only want or say you need more if you are talking about a lot of towing on long distance trips. Just to reduce driver fatigue and the chances of ever being even close to fully loaded.

You've got more miles towing a pretty good sized trailer than most of us, I assume your judgement is pretty good when it comes to towing.
I definitely wouldn't tow my rig to Alaska behind the Iron Pig. My old Dodge was about ideal for when/what I was hauling. These days about the heaviest I go is my 18 foot trailer with my wheeling rig on it. I'm with you there on the maneuverability, I really liked that aspect of my Lexus.

Around town I've hauled my trailer with my FJ60 loaded up with building supplies and have been pleased with it.

Lgottler often snags his parents Yukon (non XL) for towing and he likes that. I may even consider one myself if the Pig can't handle it (or if I don't keep it)

If I didn't have so many kids to tote around I would definitely be looking at a regular cab long bed. I'm into vintage stuff so I'd probably go 60-72 Chevy or 73-79 Ford as they were at the beginning of "full size" trucks.
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Old November 13th, 2015, 11:40 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by redhead_823 View Post
I tow with a '73 International 1/2-3/4-1 ton truck. 345/5spd/3.73 gears
Scout on a car hauler is somewhere around 7000 pounds.
It will take all the tongue weight you want to give it.
It's pretty happy at 60mph but will do more. About 8mpg towing, 10-11 empty.
139" wheelbase is on the short end I think, but it never sways. Just the steering is a little touchy.
I'd love to see some pics of that. Sounds cool!

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