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Towing Tips From Ford


Pumpkin Pilot
Staff member
Elite Explorer
February 8, 1999
Reaction score
City, State
Wayoutin, Aridzona
Year, Model & Trim Level
'93 XL Pumpkin Edition
Harry Rawlins knows towing. As 4x4 & Trailer Tow Engineer, Super Duty Trucks, Rawlins has used his towing expertise in the implementation of such technologies as the TorqShift® transmission with tow-haul mode, launched on the 2003 Ford Super Duty pickup and TowCommand, the industry’s only integrated trailer brake control system which debuted on the 2005 F-Series Super Duty.

When he’s not towing on the job, Rawlins can often be found behind the wheel of his own Ford F-250 Super Duty towing his 1973 Ford Bronco to one of many national off-roading events. Rawlins spends a lot of time chatting with other off-road enthusiasts about their towing vehicles and habits and is always offering tips to help them improve their towing.

As Ford’s tow-master general, Rawlins has seen just about everything when it comes to improper towing. He offers up his list of the top five mistakes that people make when towing.

1. Choosing the wrong vehicle

Rawlins says the biggest mistakes people make is picking the wrong vehicle to tow their load with and in turn they end up overloading it. “That’s usually because they tow with what they have,” says Rawlins. “And sometimes they try to haul too large of a load for their specific vehicle.”

Ford offers a range of vehicles that cover a wide spectrum of towing capabilities from Ranger up through the F-Series Super Duties.

2. Improperly loading or overloading the trailer

An improperly loaded trailer or an overloaded trailer can cause problems. Rawlins says people often load most of the cargo on the front or rear of the trailer instead of balancing the load. Putting too much weight on the trailer will exceed the weight limit of the axles, resulting in broken axles, damaged bearings and excessive tire wear.

Rawlins recommends 10 to 15 percent tongue load for a conventional trailer, and 15 to 25 percent tongue load for a gooseneck or fifth-wheel trailer. “That gives you plenty of weight on the rear axle to off-load some of the weight of the trailer,” says Rawlins, “but not enough that you start unloading the front axle and losing your handling capability.” Rawlins also stresses the proper use of Weight Distributing Hitches to help properly transfer the trailer's tongue load to the tow vehicle. Customers should always refer to their owner’s manual for their vehicles towing capacity rating.

3. Towing without brakes

Rawlins says that people often hook up to a friend's trailer without having their tow vehicle properly equipped with the right brake controller needed to engage the trailer’s brakes.

“While they can still hook up and the lights work, when they load up, they’re just creating excessive wear to the tow vehicle’s brakes,” says Rawlins. “Not to mention the potential for disaster if they need to make an emergency stop.”

The 2007 Ford Super Duty offers TowCommand, an integrated Trailer Brake Control (TBC) system that is designed specifically for the vehicle. The TBC seamlessly works with the truck to calculate vehicle speed and the amount of braking applied by the driver to determine the appropriate amount of braking to apply to the trailer for smooth stopping. The TowCommand package also includes power Trailer Tow mirrors, TorqueShift transmission and receiver hitch.

4. Forgetting that the trailer is there

Amazingly, Rawlins says this is one of the five top towing mistakes. Drivers who don’t tow regularly may forget that they’re towing a trailer and not execute proper turns, drive over curbs, sideswipe a utility pole or another vehicle.

“Drivers need to be aware of their surroundings,” says Rawlins, “and make sure they remember that the trailer’s back there.

5. Failing to practice proper trailer maintenance

Rawlins says that the most important towing tip is to practice proper trailer maintenance.

“Most people leave their trailer parked in a lot or in a field, hook up to it and take off down the highway,” Rawlins says. “They need to make sure that they check tire pressure, grease the axle bearings and suspensions joints when needed – just normal, general maintenance.”

Rawlins adds that people often ask him if they can tow in overdrive.

“Vehicles built in the ‘80s and ‘90s included an “overdrive off” switch, and consumers were told to take the vehicle out of overdrive when towing,” says Rawlins. “For some reason, everyone remembers that.”

Today’s Ford vehicles are capable of towing in overdrive. Rawlins says that if the truck is on a flat roadway and shifts into overdrive while towing, then let it. The benefits will come in better fuel economy and less engine wear.

Ford’s TorqShift® transmission with tow-haul mode does more than just turn off overdrive. Tow-haul mode changes shift points under acceleration, keeping the truck at a higher rpm and further up in the power range. Tow-haul also prevents the transmission from upshifting, when the vehicle crests a hill.

“The big benefit with tow-haul is the downhill braking,” says Rawlins, “where the system allows the transmission to downshift, letting the engine compression braking slow the vehicle and maintain a steady speed while going downhill.