Hauling Watercraft – Tips and Tricks You Need to Know before Hitting the Road
SUVs offer a lot of benefits, from more seating capacity to the ability to load them up with pretty much any type of cargo you might want. Of course, they’re also very popular for towing watercraft. If you’ll be heading to the lake, river or beach, having an SUV will help ensure that you can get there with your boat or jet-ski. Of course, there are a few things you need to know before you hook up your trailer to your SUV. Not knowing a few facts can cause serious problems on the road, and can even damage your vehicle, so it pays to be informed before hitching up that trailer.
Your first consideration is going to be the towing capacity of your SUV. Before you hitch that boat to your vehicle, you’re going to need to make sure that it can handle the load. You need to understand that there’s no such thing as an “average” SUV towing capacity. Some have boatloads (pun intended) and some have none.
For instance, the Acura MDX can tow 5,000 pounds, while the RDX can only tow 1,500. The Chevrolet Avalanche 2WD can pull 8,100 pounds, but the 4WD version can only pull about 7,900. The Chevy Tahoe is a similar category, with 8,500 pounds for the 2WD version and 8,200 for the 4WD version. Things get even stranger with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. The Sport 4WD version can tow just 1,000 pounds, but the Sport 4WD with the 3.73:1 axle can pull 3,500 pounds.
As a general rule, 4WD vehicles tend to have a lower towing capacity, while smaller, compact SUVs might have next to no capacity at all. If you’re unsure about what your vehicle can pull, you have two resources available to you. Check your owner’s manual and see if it lists a towing capacity specific to your vehicle, or contact a dealership. Of course, there are some handy websites online that can help you figure out what you can pull, including authority sites like Edmunds.com and Car and Driver.
You also need to make sure that your SUV has a towing package installed. Contrary to popular belief, a lot of SUVs and trucks do not come with a tow hitch installed. You will also find that a full OEM towing package includes more than just a hitch – transmission coolers are also important parts of the system to ensure that your vehicle stays in good shape. If you don’t have a tow package, contact your dealer or head to your local mechanic’s shop. As a note, some SUVs only have OEM packages available, while others only have aftermarket solutions. Work with an expert and find out what your options are.
Your Trailer Makes a Difference
Towing watercraft requires more than just “any old trailer”. Your trailer is going to be a very real investment, and you need to ensure that it stands the test of time and hard use. Make sure it’s certified by the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association. This ensures that the trailer is constructed to withstand the harsh environments near water sources, whether that’s a river, pond, lake or the ocean.
Offloading Your Watercraft
When you offload your watercraft, it’s best to do so from a boat ramp. This ensures that your boat (or other craft) has enough water beneath it to float fully and easily come clear of your trailer. It can also help avoid damaging underwater obstructions like rocks, tree trunks and the like. Always make sure that the area in which you offload is clear of obstructions and that there are no other boaters or swimmers in the vicinity before hitting the water.
Don Elfrink is the owner and operator of AutoMatStore, an auto flooring company based out Columbia, Missouri. Before AutoMatStore, Elfrink was the operator of an automotive production site. AutoMatStore focuses on all-weather, logo, carpeted and molded car mats. Thanks again, Don, for some good information regarding towing a boat. There’s lots more to it than just hooking up! pb