Trailer Towing Vehicles: Torque

Horse Trailer Towing Vehicles – You don’t have to learn a mind-boggling list of truck terms and specifications in order to choose the right towing vehicle. In fact, when you get right down to it, it’s pretty simple.

We looked through 2014 trucks to see what could pull a loaded two-horse trailer. Armed with our figures, your communication with the dealership staff will go much more smoothly. 

The first step is calculating how much weight it will need to handle. This includes the empty weight of the trailer, plus the total weight of horses that will be hauled, and an average of any floor mats, feed, hay, tack, water, and gear that will come along for the ride. Every single thing that’s put into the trailer adds to the total. And since vehicles are rated on how much weight they can safely handle, this is an important equation to use.

We figured 2,400 pounds for an empty two-horse, although some, like the Featherlite 9405 straightload, are only about 1,800 pounds. Move up to something like a two-horse slant load with a dressing room and the empty weight can be closer to 3,300 pounds. 

Most trailers will have a sticker or plate that shows the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) that specifies the weight rating that the trailer axles are capable of handling. You want to know this anyway so that you never overload your trailer. 

But this is not the only magic number that you need to shop for a towing vehicle. The other is the Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), which is the total of your trailer, horses and gear. In other words, what the fully loaded ready-to-go-down-the-road trailer weight will be.

Even if you only haul one horse in your two-horse trailer, figure a weight with two horses. You want a maximum possible total, because you never know when you might have an extra horse. 

Be aware that it’s just as dangerous to overload a trailer as it is to use a vehicle that is underequipped to handle the load. There is a maximum weight in each towing vehicle class of what it can safely handle, so knowing the numbers counts, and rest assured that number is truly the absolute maximum. 

One of the best ways to learn the GVW is to find a scale. If you don’t have your own towing vehicle yet, perhaps you can beg or barter and get a friend to help you load everything up and head to a public weigh station, such as a commercial truck stop. If that particular scale also factors in the weight of the vehicle, it will be necessary to come back with the vehicle only, to subtract that weight from the total number. Yes, it’s worth the effort.

Armed with the numbers for GVW and GVWR, head to the dealership and seek out a sales person who has experience in towing, especially in towing horse trailers, if possible. This might require some research.

A horseperson who can help you make a wise decision in a towing vehicle is worth seeking out. Hauling horses is different from pulling a boat or a recreational vehicle. Boats don’t move or scramble in a trailer. Your vehicle must stay stable on the road, even if the horses move a lot. A knowledgeable sales person can steer you in the right direction. 

Looking for the smallest vehicle capable of doing the job might not be the best decision. If money is the problem, sacrifice bells and whistles, not towing capacity.

The sales person will ask you how often you plan to tow. Let’s look a little on the heavy side. Say your loaded trailer is in the 7,000- to 10,000-pound range. While a half-ton truck might handle it, if you’re running that vehicle at maximum capability all the time, such as towing three or four times a week, you’re putting a lot of stress on that vehicle. You might want to move up to a three-quarter ton, which may handle the stress better. 

Vehicle specifications can be researched online on the manufacturers’ websites, and that includes horsepower and torque. Horsepower is a term most people probably understand. It’s just that—power—and that’s what speed is all about. But torque is different. It could be considered muscle—that extra oomph that the towing vehicle has to have, to get the load moving in the first place—and that extra muscle that keeps that trailer moving up hills and overpasses. Torque is extremely important when pulling horse trailers, especially out of a boggy field after a local horse show.

Many horse owners will tell you that they feel more torque from their diesel vehicles, compared to gas. Often, these are people pulling larger rigs and using one-ton diesel trucks, because they need the extra “muscle.” But, how about the horse owner who will pull a two-horse trailer? Is that big diesel truck truly necessary? 

Not anymore. For 2014, Dodge will produce the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel V-6, a full-size half-ton pickup that consumers have requested for years. Though official fuel economy hasn’t yet been announced, it is expected to be 26 mpg or higher highway (not towing, of course).

It is believed it will have more torque than the Hemi V8 (gasoline engine). While diesel engines have characteristically been somewhat noisy, one review of this new vehicle said, “You have to stand next to it to hear the traditional, yet muted, diesel chatter.” 

Before you attempt to make the gas or diesel decision, consider some pros and cons. “If I were going to tow constantly,” said our local Ford salesperson, “such as making a trip two or three times a week, I’d probably get a diesel. They have more horsepower and torque (than gas vehicles) and are made for towing. But maintenance costs are more on a diesel. You’re looking at a significant difference, maintenance-wise. And obviously, there’s a big price difference with the purchase.”

Many drivers feel that the long life and fuel economy of a diesel engine makes it worth the extra purchase price and maintenance costs. With the new Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, an Edmunds review stated that it “adds $2,850 to the price of a Ram 1500 with the Hemi V8.” 

Trucks these days last longer than in days gone by. Our Chevy salesman commented that through the 1970s and early 1980s, getting 100,000 miles on a truck was lucky. But nowadays, it’s not rare to see trucks with 250,000 miles on them.

Horse owners in Oregon told us, “We drive our trucks old.” They went with a Dodge diesel for towing their horse trailer because of “the cost and long life. The Dodge was just better for us. I really like my dad’s Duramax GMC. We hauled his fifth wheel down to Arizona from Oregon and the truck pulled it like it was nothing.” She went on about the creature comforts of the vehicle and what a pleasure it was to drive. But, she added, “The downside for us is you cannot rebuild a Duramax diesel engine, but you can a (Dodge) Cummins Diesel.” Like many people, they would love to keep their towing vehicle on the road for years and years.

Do the math. Have your needed GVW and GVWR numbers so you can match the specifications of the vehicles. Decide how often you’ll tow your horses and if you’ll drive the truck itself every day or not. 
We found 2014 trucks we believe are capable of towing a loaded two-horse trailer. There are options you may prefer, of course, but these choices will help you with general towing capacity.

Article by Contributing Writer Lynda Layne.

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