Living in Utah, for many people, means boating, camping, fishing, 3-wheeling, or some other outdoor pastime. If you plan to do any of these, the chances are that you will need to do some towing.
If you’ve never done it before, towing in Utah’s recreational lands might seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.
Towing an average-sized trailer is easier than it looks, but it does require some basic know-how, a little practice, and the common sense to adjust your driving to suit road conditions. When you’re towing, everything you do while driving has to be done differently from how you would drive if you were not pulling a trailer.
If you’re braking, allow yourself twice the distance you would usually allow for stopping. The same thing applies to changing lanes; allow room for both your vehicle and the trailer before shifting over. Accelerate and slow down smoothly and gradually – no “rabbit” stops or starts!
Be sure to obey Utah’s laws regarding towing. At a minimum, all trailers need to have working taillights and brake lights and that all towing trailers must be registered with the Utah Department of Motor Vehicles.
Most people in Utah wind up towing a boat or camper trailer, or a vehicle trailer for a 3-wheeler or similar vehicle. Whether you’re towing any of these, the same basic towing information applies to any towing application. This is because what you are towing and what you are towing it with, no matter where in Utah you are towing, mainly depends on weights and capabilities.
The tow vehicle is as important as the load you are pulling. For example, if you are towing a boat to the lake, you can usually do so easily with most pickup trucks. However, if you plan on towing to one of Utah’s high mountain lakes, you may need the power of a heavy-duty engine to get you through some of our mountain passes.
For towing a load of 2,000 pounds or more through Utah you will definitely need a tow-friendly vehicle, such as an SUV. In fact, even a small SUV is a good choice for the average-sized boat or camper. For heavier loads, such as a large camper of loaded horse trailer, you’re best off with a solid half-ton pickup with lots of horsepower and torque.
Consider, too, whether your vehicle’s transmission, brakes, and rear axle can cope with the added weight and demands on them. If you’re planning on towing in the Utah mountains regularly, a three-quarter ton pickup should be in your future plans.
After the vehicle, the most critical element of your towing setup is your trailer towing hitch.
Trailer hitches are rated according to capacity of the load weight and tongue weight, so you should know the planned weight of your load, and select accordingly. Remember to calculate the added weight of supplies, etc. which you plan to load and carry in your camper or boat.
“Load weight” refers to the expected Gross Trailer Weight. “Tongue weight” refers to the downward force exerted on the hitch ball (usually calculated at 10-15 percent of the maximum rated GTW). The tongue is the hitching mechanism at the front of the trailer. The coupler of the trailer is what accepts the hitch ball. Be sure your hitch ball is the correct dimension for the coupler.
Once you have determined how much weight you'll be towing, that your towing vehicle can handle Utah’s outdoors, and that the total weight won’t exceed the maximum towing capacity of your towing vehicle, you're ready to choose the proper hitch.
Most hitches can be bolted to the vehicle, and a bolt-on installation is the preferred method to attach your hitch. Many pickups and SUVs, especially in Utah, come ready for towing with a factory-equipped Class III hitch; the most popular class of hitch.
A Class III hitch can handle up to 5,000 pounds for hauling any load (car, boat, camper, or whatever). For heavier boats or campers, a Class IV hitch (up to 7,500 pounds) is preferred (if you don’t already own one, you should probably also consider a three-quarter-ton truck for towing these loads). In most cases, though, a Class III hitch will handle most campers, car trailers and small- to medium-sized boats if you’re towing in Utah.