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Old 01-26-2021, 09:16 AM   #1
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When you needed a towing safety margin

The advertisement below explains why so many people learned that you needed a 20%-50% tow rating safety margin.

Towing back in the day.jpg

Today, a good portion of those vehicle would not be rated to tow anything. Those that do have tow ratings it would be for far less than the loads shown. That's despite improvements like antilock disk brakes and better cooling systems.
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Old 01-26-2021, 09:26 AM   #2
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The most egregious are the El Camino pulling a 2-horse trailer, and the Caprice Estate Wagon pulling what appears to be a 32' TT.

Holy hell are those optimistic.


Edit.....and the Monte Carlo towing a Corvette on a flatbed. And look at the size of that trawler two down. Amazing.


You know none of those cars had receivers, right? Just drop your 8000 lb cabin cruiser on the bumper ball and hit the road, I guess.
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Old 01-26-2021, 10:15 AM   #3
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I don't get your logic here. Those aren't rated to tow as shown now so what does that have to do with today's tow ratings? Are you suggesting that in 44 more years they'll be much lower than they are now?
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Old 01-26-2021, 10:30 AM   #4
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I don't get your logic here. Those aren't rated to tow as shown now so what does that have to do with today's tow ratings? Are you suggesting that in 44 more years they'll be much lower than they are now?
I agree. The thing is that it is not a safety margin should someone wish to do the 20% less thing, but instead a performance margin. Vehicles tow ratings these days are fine for safety reasons if you set everything up proper, but closing in on that rating can definitely result in poor performance in some conditions.

I towed my 2009 19 mostly with a 2009 Honda Pilot rated for 4,500 lbs. In most cases it was just great and we used it a lot. Steep climbs and strong headwinds were the two factors that had a lot of effect on performance. On regular travel with modest hills it performed very well. The biggest bonus is that it was a great vehicle to use when not towing. I did always have Ford F250s or F350s with diesel engines for work during this time. I did use them for mountain towing to and back from a destination, like the Osoyoos rally, but though they towed like it was no effort, not near as nice of a vehicle to be in.
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Old 01-26-2021, 10:59 AM   #5
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I don't get your logic here. Those aren't rated to tow as shown now so what does that have to do with today's tow ratings? Are you suggesting that in 44 more years they'll be much lower than they are now?
No I have no idea what will happen in 44 years.

What I do know is 44 years ago you needed to take manufacturer tow ratings with a grain of salt. You needed to add in a 20%-50% safety margin,

IMO, today's tow ratings are not only realistic, but, also on the conservative side.

Today's tow ratings take into account things like wheelbase, braking ability, cooling capacity. Things that weren't factored in 44 years ago.

IMO, the extra safety margin is already reflected in today's tow ratings.

Adding an extra safety margin to today's tow ratings, is like my having somewhere important to be at 7 a.m.. It's an hours drive so I get in my head that I need to leave at 5:45 a.m.. I have 5:45 a.m. in my head, and it's an hours drive. So the day of the appointment, I leave at 4:30 a.m. to be sure I get there by 5:45 with time to spare. Yes, I really have done this. D'oh!!!
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Old 01-26-2021, 11:24 AM   #6
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Okay, I totally agree with you. While I'm not in favor of going over the rating as some people argue you can (my Forester was rated twice as high in Australia, for example) I think you can safely follow the manufacturer's tested rating.

That assumes you also follow speed limits and yellow warning speeds. If you want to drive more recklessly, then by all means, build in a big safety margin.
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Old 01-26-2021, 12:04 PM   #7
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First off, we don't know here at least if that posted image was from GM or just from a dealer or something. But I agree with the OP that this approach was kind of the ethos 44 years ago.

I know that modern vehicles that come with a tow rating were indeed tested in extreme environments with realistic trailers loaded to those tow limits. You absolutely can tow up to the limits so long as you actually understand what all the limits mean (tow ratings, GCVWR, and GVWR) and don't exceed them.

The rig might not be 100% comfortable for you towing in mountains at the absolute limits, but it won't blow up right away and it should not be unsafe.

I just liked the OP's image, because things were quite a bit more wild, wild west back then. Modern tow ratings are relatively conservative compared to what people used to run, probably because the manufacturers are really testing their vehicles against what they publish.
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Old 01-26-2021, 12:40 PM   #8
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Wonder what Kenny Price would have to say about it?

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Old 01-26-2021, 02:34 PM   #9
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That assumes you also follow speed limits and yellow warning speeds.
And warnings for semitrucks that normally wouldn't apply to a car, too.
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Old 01-26-2021, 02:45 PM   #10
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Wonder what Kenny Price would have to say about it?
Just hope you don't end up in the Tilamook County Jail.

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Old 01-26-2021, 04:12 PM   #11
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Okay, I totally agree with you. While I'm not in favor of going over the rating as some people argue you can (my Forester was rated twice as high in Australia, for example) I think you can safely follow the manufacturer's tested rating.

That assumes you also follow speed limits and yellow warning speeds. If you want to drive more recklessly, then by all means, build in a big safety margin.

While I don't know about the Forester, I have had Nissan and Toyotas in Canada and Australia and the specs are very different particularly the suspensions. A tacoma or frontier in australia comes with much harder suspensions and usually a turbo diesel. All in all very different vehicles.
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Old 01-26-2021, 06:19 PM   #12
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While I don't know about the Forester, I have had Nissan and Toyotas in Canada and Australia and the specs are very different particularly the suspensions. A tacoma or frontier in australia comes with much harder suspensions and usually a turbo diesel. All in all very different vehicles.
Engines vary by market, as do springs in some vehicles. Other than that, there is little if any physical difference... but those details do matter. The engines are especially different in smaller pickup trucks, which are mostly diesels worldwide but mostly gasoline in North America.

The Tacoma is not sold in Australia (and I don't think it ever has been); like almost everywhere except North America, that market gets the Hilux. While sharing some components, a Tacoma and a Hilux have substantial differences, to suit their different markets and applications. There is one engine (of the nine available in the current Hilux and the 2 available in the current Tacoma) which is available in both the Hilux and the Tacoma: the 2.7 L 2TR-FE inline-4 which no one would choose for towing in a pickup.
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Old 01-26-2021, 07:23 PM   #13
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The advertisement below explains why so many people learned that you needed a 20%-50% tow rating safety margin.

Attachment 53392

Today, a good portion of those vehicle would not be rated to tow anything. Those that do have tow ratings it would be for far less than the loads shown. That's despite improvements like antilock disk brakes and better cooling systems.
the bottom half of those cars on the left are RWD ladder framed V8's, far more suitable for towing than the bulk of today's 'crossover SUVs' real easy to beef up a leaf spring live axle rear end, just add an overload spring.
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Old 01-26-2021, 08:39 PM   #14
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When I was a teenager, my folks towed a house trailer (don't remember the length but it was not short) from NY State to Texas with a 1954 Ford, Fordomatic no less. I think transmission cooler was added and rear springs beefed up. I do not recall any handling problems at all, only going through Chattanooga we had to take a detour which took us up a steep grade in a residential section, at maybe 5MPH. This was in summer, so it is a wonder we had no overheating. That car was kept for years and had high mileage by then. Ford's new overhead valve engine in that year did not have the best reputation either, so the lack of problems is surprising. And by the way, there were five of us in the car, two adults and three teenagers.
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Old 01-29-2021, 12:38 PM   #15
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My old Burro manual has a photo of a Pinto-sized vehicle pulling it, and that was from 1982...Boler has similar pix from decades ago too. Yes, thing have changed.
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Old 01-29-2021, 12:43 PM   #16
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We just want people to be safe and tow safely on the roads. After all, you're sharing the roads with the rest of us. Where do you plan to tow is a very important question. I live surrounded by mountains. Others live in the flats.


Be well, be safe
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Old 01-29-2021, 12:49 PM   #17
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This is timely since I am really struggling to decide if towing an E19 behind my Ridgeline is a good idea. The build sheet shows 3481 lbs so I am guessing loaded up, it will be over 3700. My tow rating is 5K with tongue rating of 600 so well within limits. Payload should not be a big issue with just two people. I would prefer not to have to go with WDH but figure that is in my future. Are my concerns warranted? I live out west so will be going over some real mountains from time to time.
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Old 01-29-2021, 01:15 PM   #18
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The Ridgeline in particular is a vehicle where what it can tow is a lot more complicated than something as simple as "5000 lb towing limit". I consider the E-19 to be on the border for a Ridgeline, but as you have only two people you might be able to make it work just fine. The challenge in my mind is how to deal with the GCVWR which is quite low compared to competitive mid-size trucks, and which has an elevation sliding scale.

So here is the deal on what the Ridgeline can tow:

1) Tow rating. 5000 lbs is for two 150 lb occupants each bringing 17.5 lbs of stuff. Or to put it more plainly, it can tow 5000 lbs when it has up to 335 lbs in/on the vehicle. This drops to 4500 lbs when you have up to 837 lbs in the vehicle.

2) GCVWR is 9987 lbs at sea level (as a comparison the Chevy Colorado limit is 12,200 lbs). What is interesting with Honda is that they deduct 2% from the GCVWR for every 1000 ft above sea level you reach in elevation. This is worth a look if you will be towing in the mountains. The highest roads in North America that you are likely to visit are about 11,000 feet elevation. At that point the Ridgeline GCVWR is only 7790 pounds. The upshot is that a Ridgeline towing an Escape 19 over the Loveland Pass will be over the GCVWR. Normally I tell people to always stay within limits (tow, GVWR, GCVWR) but I don't know how seriously to take this limit if your time at high elevation will be very limited.

3)GVWR - Depending on configuration the Ridgeline cargo limit is around 1400 - 1500 lbs. That's right in line with most other mid-size pickups and should be attainable with an Escape 19 tongue weight unless you are really bringing along a ton of stuff in the bed.
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Old 01-29-2021, 01:40 PM   #19
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Thanks for detailed commentary. I have used a GCVWR calculator and it showed about 500 lbs available payload once i plug in reasonable weights for TT and other gear. Maybe that is just too little margin. We don't have 11K climbs in California but going over Donner Summit in Tahoe is over 7K so something to keep in mind.
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Old 01-29-2021, 02:28 PM   #20
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My old Burro manual has a photo of a Pinto-sized vehicle pulling it, and that was from 1982...Boler has similar pix from decades ago too. Yes, thing have changed.
Pintos had a ladder frame, and were live axle rear wheel drive with leaf springs. easy to beef up the rear suspension to handle tongue weight.
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