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Trailer Towing, Trailer Brakes & Hybrid Towing - Limited Articulation

Posted in Features on July 1, 2009
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We're heading into the summer season, and that means a lot of you will be on the road, be it for family vacations, 4x4 club runs, or local events and competitions. Given the state of the economy right now, we imagine some of you will be staying closer to home this summer--but sooner or later, we're willing to bet that the call of the wild will get the better of you, and you'll be hitching up your fifth wheel, gooseneck, or even a plain ol' towbar to haul your favorite play toys to your favorite wheeling spots for a little summer recess. So we've dedicated this month's issue to (hopefully) increasing your Towing IQ, and helping to make your towing and trailering experiences safer, simpler, and more stress-free.

We might also add, "legal." It might surprise a lot of you to know that many of us routinely break state and local laws every time we hitch up our fully loaded trailers and hit the road. The reasons? Well, for starters, your combined truck and trailer weight, fully loaded, may be in excess of what the law in your area allows. Your trailer's length and width might be legal in your home state, but illegal in the state next door. Components as seemingly inconsequential as ring and pinion gears can make a difference of hundreds of pounds in rated towing capacity. And while that sticker on your doorjamb might say your fullsize truck can tow 10,000 pounds, try stuffing a thousand pounds of junk in the bed, right on top of your rear axle; then put four adults inside your extended-cab pickup truck, and guess what? You're not gonna be able to tow a full ten grand safely anymore, and possibly not legally either, depending on what and how you're towing. We've got some smart tips this month on how to make sure you're within the letter of the law every time you tow starting on page 60. Forewarned is forearmed, after all.

Another frequent question we hear involves trailer brake controllers. Some new fullsize rigs come with them installed straight from the factory, but what if your truck doesn't have one? If you do any amount of trailering, a brake controller should be considered mandatory equipment for your rig, and we'll show you how they work, and how to install them. Frequent towing also takes a toll on your vehicle's suspension as well, so we plumbed the aftermarket for some of the latest products available to give some assist to your often-overworked springs; you can see what we found starting on page 66. And best of all, some of these upgrades are surprisingly affordable, too.

We'll also try to answer a question that's popped up recently: can you really tow with one of those two-mode gas-electric hybrid trucks that are only using electric power at super-low revs? One of our intrepid contributors, Howard Elmer, got ahold of a Chevy Tahoe hybrid recently, and gave it shakedown run with a 6,300-pound toy hauler in tow. His findings may surprise you, and they appear starting on page 18.

And now, it's summer! So get out and enjoy your favorite trails--and trailers, too.
--Douglas McColloch

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