Tow Vehicle Mistake

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Jun 26, 2006
By what I have read here, I have made a huge mistake.  I just bought a 2006 Coachman Spirit of America with a weight of 4550.  I will be towing with a 2003 Ford F150, 4.2L, V6 with a tow capacity of 5500 lbs.  I can't ever imagine taking more that 300-500 lbs of stuff in the camper.  While trying to make up my mind whether or not I could tow this thing and friends who have them said that if I stayed about 1000 lbs under the truck's capacity I would be fine.  What a goof I am.  I don't think this truck is going to be able to tow it.  Feel free to comment or laugh.

Maybe you are just pushing it  a bit or mabe you indeed made a  mistake. I checked the Coachman web site and couldn't find a Sprit witha 4550 weight (I assume it is dry weight you are talking about) but there were several LT models. What exact model did you buy?  Is it a travel trailer? The fifth wheels are all larger and heavier, as far as I can see...

The Dry Weight of a trailer is usually a fiction - most models have optional equipment and feaures that are not included in the dry weight. Awnings, for example, are often not included.  And then there is the probability of some water onboard (water is 8.4 lbs/gallon!), some propane in the tank (about 4.5 lbs/gallon), etc.  So chances are your actual trailer weighs somewhat more than 4550 even before you put any gear in it.  And you wil be surprised at how quickly the weight adds up - everybody is!

You have probably also learned that your actual tow capacity is almost always less than the rated maximum. Anything you carry in the truck, including passengers, must be subtracted form the tow capacity. Even the weight of the tow hitch is subtracted frm the max tow capacity. The  2003 Ford Tow Guide shows a 10,000 lb GCWR for a 4.2L V F150. The  max tow is 5400 lbs in the Supercab with 3.55 axle and only 4400 with the 3.31 axle, so I hope you have the 3.55. Please check that immediately if you are not absolutely sure!

So you are certainly close to the limits, if not beyond, so a trip to a weigh station is a must.  Weigh the truck alone (but with the expected amount of gear and people on board) and then weigh the truck and trailer, axle by axle and total.  The total weight will be one critical factor - it cannot exceed the 10,000 lb GCWR.  The weight on the truck's rearaxle is also crcial when you are near the max.  You can find public scales a many moving van companies, grain elevators, field mills, stone & gravel yards and truck stops. Prices are usually very reasonable, especially if you don't want an official weigh ticket. Should be around $10 or maybe $20, since you want two sets of weights (truck and truck + trailer).
The TT I  bought is the Coachman 24RBQ listed here  My truck as the 3.55 rearend.  The owners manual and the local Ford dealer lists the tow capacity at 5800 lbs, which really doesn't help much.  The weight listed for the trailer is 4456 (dry).  The weight on the camper sticker is 4550.  According to my local Ford dealer and the RV dealer I'll have no problem pulling it, however, using the math that everyone at RV Forum uses, there is no way. 

Since coming to the RV community a few years ago I have found everyone much like yourself, honest and always willing to lend a hand, which is greatly appreciated.  My mistake was assuming that the RV dealer would be the same.  I believe I have 3 business days to cancel the deal and I probably will.  I spoke to them yesterday and they suggested I take it for a test pull and If I weren't satisified, they would find me something smaller. 

Thanks for your help!

1. Trailer Life lists your truck at 5700 lbs, so everyone is more or less in agreement.? That translates into a trailer weighing 5130 lbs if you tow in the east -- 4560 lbs if you tow in the mountain or Pacific coast west.? ?That puts you marginal but apperantly do-able in the east, and in trouble in the west.? However, there are still problems even in the east.

2  The trailer weight is a calculated not a scaled weight.? If you were to run it up on a scale it will weigh somewhere in the vicinity of 4550 lbs, no doubt.? Where in that vicinity is a problem.? ?Things are tight and actual weight would be important.

3. The Coachman brochure lists the tongue weight at 430 lbs for a 4550 lb unladen weight or 9.5% of trailer weight.? That is too light.? It should be something between 11% and 15% with the lower end criticial for trailer stability. 

That is three strikes in my book.

I have a 23 ft., 4600 lb trailer, as scaled.  I pull it with a 1995 Bronco, a bob-tailed F150 with 4WD, a 5.0L V8, and a 3.73 rear end.  Ford rated that bad boy at 6600 lbs..  I tow in the west.  Therefore, that 6600 lbs translates into 5280 lbs.  Ten years of hauling that trailer around with that truck has convinced me that I would not haul it with anything less rated. 

If the floor space is an issue as well as weight, take a look at the hybrids.

You can pull the trailer, with the trailer empty and only you in the truck.  It begins to get dicey when you put more stuff in both truck and trailer. You can probably still pull it (and more importantly, stop it), but when operating at the limits of anything's capability, there is little margin for error. There will be significant wear and tear on the truck's drive train and brakes when operated at the max.  You will labor up hills and really heat the brakes going downhill, even in a lower gear. And if you should have to swerve to avoid an accident at even moderate speeds, the handling could become unpredictable without notice.  That is why we recommend staying under the max limits, especially on a light duty truck like a F150. Half ton trucks are used more like pasengers cars and are expected to carry heavy payloads only briefly and occasionally, like towing a boat to the lake or bringling a new washing machine home from the store. Their suspension and other mechanics are designed accordingly. Towing a good sized trailer for hundreds of miles at a time is expecting them to do more than they are desined and equipped to do.

There is a difference between what you can do and what is smart to do, but only you can make the decision.
OK, here's the story now.  The trailer actually weighed 4625 on the scale.  I bought a 2001 F150, Supercrew, 4WD, 5.4L V8 with 3.55 rear end.  Tow rating on this one is 7200lbs.  Thanks for the advice.
The trailer actually weighed 4625 on the scale.
Less than 200 lbs over the brochure dry weight you listed initially - that's fairly close. The new truck should handle it nicely.

Don't forget, though, that the 7200 lb max tow is also a fictitious number, since it assumes a completely empty truck and you always some some additional weight (if only the trailer hitch itself).

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