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Author Topic:   Trailering [was "Towing"]
Novice Dave posted 03-28-2001 12:21 PM ET (US)   Profile for Novice Dave  
I have heard much folklore on towing vehicles and boat size...but can we determine any quantitative numbers? It seems to me that the primary factors in towing are horsepower and weight. There are many other factors that are important but secondary.

I wanted to get a feeling for the effect of hooking a boat and trailer to the back of my Honda Odyssey. The Odyssey weighs 4600 lbs. with 2 people and fuel on board. It will do 0-60 in about 10 seconds and 60-0 in about 141 feet.

If I hook up a 13' Sport, motor, trailer and gear, what will it do to acceleration and braking? Since the weight changes by 1380 lbs. (580+200+500+100), the combined weight being accelerated by the same engine should change the 0-60 time to approximately 10 sec*(4600+1380)/4600=13 sec. The stopping distance would be about 1.3*141 feet = 183 feet. This is all based on acceleration=force/mass, velocity change=acceleration*time and distance=0.5*acceleration*time^2. That is they are inversely proportional to mass.

Roughly there is a 30% reduction in performance with the Odyssey and boat to the Odyssey by itself.

If I hook up a 16' Dauntless, how will it affect performance? The Dauntless package will be about 2700 lbs. (1300+400+800+200). 0-60 times would be 10*(7300/4600)=16 sec and stopping distance becomes 224 feet or a 60% reduction in performance.

The class II maximum is 3500 lbs. The 0-60 time is 10*(8100+4600)/4600=17.6 seconds and 1.76*141=248 feet is the stopping distance, a 76% reduction in performance. Clearly, trailer brakes would be desirable here.

If you tow a boat very far, what level of driving performance degradation makes the trip not worth the effort? Each individual has a different level. What do you think?

Regards, Dave

P.S., and then there is gas mileage.

SuburbanBoy posted 03-28-2001 12:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
Try using trailer brakes. They will limit the braking degradation you will experience. Also, look at Trailer Boats -- Message Board:

Message Board is near the top.

andygere posted 03-28-2001 12:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
If you have an automatic transmission, consider adding a cooler. Heat damage to the trans is a common problem when towing a trailer at or near the vehicle's capacity.
george nagy posted 03-28-2001 01:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for george nagy  Send Email to george nagy     
If you are only towing a 13' I wouldn't think the odysy would have any trouble. The odysy is the same as the rodeo right. anyway I think that most of the baby sport utilities are good for at leats 2,000 lbs. The 13 and all its gear can't way more than 1,500 lbs. Good luck.
george nagy posted 03-28-2001 01:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for george nagy  Send Email to george nagy     
Sorry I was in a hurry and spelled odyssey wrong! the dauntless is pretty heavy for it's size. A montauk would be better in my opinion.
russellbailey posted 03-28-2001 03:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for russellbailey  Send Email to russellbailey     
I think you're likely overestimating the 13' trailer weight by 100-200 lbs. Our 15' Striper on trailer weighs in around 1600 lbs per a weigh station scale.

Behind a 1991 Accord 4-cylinder manual, it is fine pulling, but would benefit from trailer brakes. I would not want to go much heavier. With trailer brakes though, you could use this combo anywhere.

Behind my Chevy 1/2 ton (4.3 L V6, 5 spd, 165 hp) it is noticeable in acceleration, but only modestly in braking. I think your mini-van probably has a similar size engine to this, maybe smaller.

Behind the same pickup, pulling a 5000 lb utility trailer (max rating for engine) is a strain - I only do it around town.

As to what is ok for you, it depends on your comfort level and how cautiously and quickly you drive. To my dad, even the boat trailer is a hassle he likes to avoid. To me, over 2000 lbs causes me to significantly change my driving style, over 4000 lbs is a hard pull for the comparitively small V6 in the truck and makes me not want to drive it far that way.

I suggest you try some trailers out to compare. You could do a daily rental on a U-Haul auto transporter (2000 lbs - very solid trailer) or a 6x12 box trailer (similar weight range). They are cheap to rent for a one-day rental, and you could add more weight with some cargo. Drive it around town, take it up some hills, back it into your driveway, merge onto the interstate - see what you think you can live with. If it is a hassle you won't end up using it as much.

B Bear posted 03-28-2001 04:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for B Bear  Send Email to B Bear     
Novice Dave,
When figuring out your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating(GVWR), by your estimate 4600+people+gear+fluids you also need to add in the tongue load of your trailer. After you have determined the GVWR check it, against your manual or there is a data plate that has your tire sizes and pressures that would have it, to make sure your vehicle is not overloaded.

I believe your Honda is a front wheel drive and will not have the towing capcity of a rear wheel drive.

Also when towing you should use 3rd gear if you have a automatic with overdrive, and the next highest gear on a manual transmission. This as you will understand will lower your gas mileage.

Once again check you owner's manual or contact a Honda dealer or service rep. If you have a catalog for you Honda or MSRP sticker you may find the max trailer weight that your Honda can pull and hitch classifaction.

My guess is that a 16 Dauntless might be too much for your Honda, though I could be wrong.

Novice Dave posted 03-28-2001 04:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for Novice Dave    
I think that my performance % calculation is wrong. If you tow a boat as heavy as your tow vehicle, you would expect a 50% reduction in performance not 100%. The revised formula is (weight of vehicle/ weight of combined vehicle and boat).

My Odyssey has a V6 and the towing package that includes a transmission oil cooler. The towing limit is 3500 lbs. but I am sure that I don't want to pull that much weight very far. I can imagine grinding up the Grapevine in the slow lane with the temperature outside at 100 degrees as not so much fun. Rolling along on flat highways would be fine with a heavier boat but Lake Tahoe is a wonderful destination at 6229 ft. elevation.

I think the 13' Sport with a 40hp/4 stroke is my compromise for Santa Barbara and Tahoe. I won't go after salmon 30 miles offshore but maybe a few miles offshore for some rockfish will be fun.


Novice Dave posted 03-28-2001 04:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for Novice Dave    
The Montauk at about 2100 lbs. trailered is also not a bad compromise. Then I could go after the salmon and not mind the tow too much.

No wonder the Montauk has been such a great boat all these years...still is.


triblet posted 03-28-2001 05:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
Get out your owners manual and see what
Honda rates it at. There are lots of
variables. For example, the automatic
'95 PF is rated for a 5000 pound trailer,
the manual trans for only 3500 because
Nissan doesn't have a bad-boy stick shift.
In other cases, the automatics are rated
lower for cooling reasons.

Treat the rated towing capacity as a max.
I've towed 3500 pounds, maybe even a bit,
with a stick PF, but it wasn't terribly
happy about it. But my Montauk (I figure
about 2300) is fine, even with two divers
and dive gear in the truck.


Shadowcatcher posted 03-28-2001 06:52 PM ET (US)     Profile for Shadowcatcher  Send Email to Shadowcatcher     
My main concern has always been the relative mass of the tow vehicle to the trailer. When traveling 70 mph I like the idea a tow vehicle with twice the mass of the trailer. I figure I am less likely to be a victim of a blowout or other event on the trailing mass.


triblet posted 03-29-2001 09:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for triblet  Send Email to triblet     
A quick trip to Honda's web site specs the
Odessey at 3500 pounds towing capacicity
with trailer brakes, load distributing hitch,
and transmission oil cooler.


gf posted 03-29-2001 11:08 AM ET (US)     Profile for gf  Send Email to gf     

The Odyssey will easily tow any of the smaller Whalers up to the 3500 pound limit. If your total towed weight is much over 2000 pounds I would consider a trailer with brakes.

My wife drives a '99 Dodge Grand Caravan and her sister-in-law drives a '99 Honda Odyssey. While I think the Dodge has a better interior layout, the Honda has considerably more power (50 HP more or something like that). That said, however, front wheel drive vehicles of any size don't make really great tow vehicles.

Before I sold it, I towed my 17' Sunbird center console (towed weight was around 2300 pounds) with my 1990 Volvo 740 Turbo wagon. My old Volvo makes 162 HP and 195 foot pounds of torque which is more important than HP for towing. Take it easy and you will do fine.

jimh posted 03-29-2001 09:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
For choosing a suitable vehicle for towing a boat trailer there are two things where the rule "more is better" applies: wheelbase and engine displacement.

In the Honda example: A weight distributing hitch is expensive and often interferes with the use of surge-activated trailer brakes. It seems like a lot of fuss for only 3500# rating.


jimh posted 03-29-2001 09:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Just a thought:

Maybe the Honda requirement for W.D. hitch at only 3500# is predicated on some major tongue weight.

People who tow these big travel trailers tend to load them much heavier (percentage-wise) on the tongue than boats may need.

Those travel trailers tend to have much greater wind area and higher center of gravity than a boat/trailer load.

I am towing my dual axle trailer with only about 240# tongue weight although the overall weight is close to 5000#. So far we have towed over 1,000 highway miles with no sign of sway or instability.


AZdave posted 04-01-2001 04:10 AM ET (US)     Profile for AZdave  Send Email to AZdave     
I stongly agree with Jimh. Longer wheelbase and displacement (which usually means torque) are much more important than horsepower. In newer vehicles there has been a strong move to cut weight in the clutch and manual transmission. This has reduced towing capacities for the manual trans. I hope you have an automatic. I tow a 13' over some large hills or small mountain passes with a Ford Explorer and a Windstar van. Both have V-6 engines and antilock brakes. The Explorer is rear wheel drive, and seems to do better in terms of stability and stopping distance. The van has lots of power, but seems to be pushed around by its load. I always seem to underestimate stopping distances slightly with the van.
The loss of acceleration when towing is unlikely to be a safety issue because you can plan for it. If I had a larger boat, I think I would look at trailer brakes. You can't plan ahead for emergency braking.
Landlocked posted 04-03-2001 11:15 PM ET (US)     Profile for Landlocked  Send Email to Landlocked     
To me, wheel base is much more important than h.p.

Used to tow a 22 outrage work boat behind a full size cargo van with a v-6. It was a little slow up hills but all and all performed well and was very comfortable to drive.

When the company closed, I bought the boat and a full size bronco with a 351 v-8 to tow it with. I could accellerate like crazy going straight up hills but couldn't control the boat, First trip out I about killed myself and the people on both sides of me.

With a short wheel-base, every little move of the steering wheel is amplified at the hitch. Its great for tight turns and backing in the gate or whatever, but dangerous at highway speeds.

Longer is definately better.

lhg posted 04-03-2001 11:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
You're absolutely right, Landlocked. Those short wheelbase 2 door full sized Blazers and Broncos were not all that safe with a big boat. You could end up in a ditch real quick! Four wheel drive made them even worse because of the additional height. That's why the Suburban/Excursion and long wheelbase pick-ups rule the towing world! In towing you want long and low.
Novice Dave posted 04-04-2001 02:46 AM ET (US)     Profile for Novice Dave    
Thanks for the info about wheelbase. My Odyssey has about the same wheelbase (118") as the Ford Expedition (119") but has a little less horsepower (210 vs. 232) so I expect it to tow my Whaler pretty well.

I will pick it up this Friday and tow it several hundred miles home.


jimh posted 04-04-2001 08:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Another factor is the distance between the rear axle of the towing vehicle and the hitch: shorter is better.

In this regard vans tend to do well. They usually have the rear axle well to the rear to maximize cabin space.


hauptjm posted 04-04-2001 12:13 PM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    
I'm curious if the wheelbase length to track width ratio has an effect. My 4-door '99 Blazer (S-10) has a 107" wheelbase and a 68" track width. That ratio comes out to 1.574% of length/track. The reason I ask is, my Blazer feels fine at highway speeds towing an 18OR. The older 2-door Broncos probably have at least that much wheelbase, but a much wider track. I usually cruise a 60-65 m.p.h. without any stablilty problems. Of course, a rough stretch of road will communicate that back to me, but nothing that feels dangerous in the least. Please offer comments.
hauptjm posted 04-04-2001 12:14 PM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    
p.s. to the above:

My factory towing package has me listed at 5,500 lbs. of gvw.

hauptjm posted 04-04-2001 12:21 PM ET (US)     Profile for hauptjm    
that's 9500 lbs. Max gcwr and 5500 lbs. Max Trailer weight.
Landlocked posted 04-05-2001 11:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for Landlocked  Send Email to Landlocked     

The width of track is definately wider on my Bronco - but don't know what this means.
Only imput I can provide is my experience. Had a jeep for years and towing the big boat with the bronco was similar to towing with the jeep... White knuckles all the way. Wasn't trailer set-up because it towed fine behind my old long bed silverado and behind the work van I described.

The bronco pulls my montauk great, don't even know its back there. Don't want to pull anything bigger though.


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