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Hitching a Ride

boat trailerYou have a boat.  You are ready to take it to the nearest body of water and sail away.  But before any of this can occur, you had to purchase a hitch and a trailer.  Hopefully, before you purchased your boat you consulted with the manufacture of your vehicle for its towing capacity. A PWC will tow behind most any vehicle with any type of hitch. A small fishing boat, row boat, or boats 16’ or less can be towed by almost any vehicle capable of towing 2000 pounds on a Class II hitch.  Most minivans and larger, full size cars capable of carrying 3500 pounds are adequate for short towing runs on an 18’ and in many cases, up to 21’. Boats over 3500 pounds require a Class III hitch and probably a suburban or pickup truck for towing. The larger boats are usually docked year round.

Once you have your rig, you should practice towing your boat before venturing out.  An empty parking lot is a good location to practice. Practice turning and backing to get a feel for turning ratios. Never back up faster than walking pace.  This is a good way to jackknife the vehicle. Imagine the tow vehicle is following the trailer.  Steer it as if the tow vehicle is reacting to where the boat is heading.  Practice makes perfect.

When you know your vehicle’s towing capacity and your total trailer weight, you have the information you need to select a hitch. As you shop for a hitch, bear in mind that it’s good to have excess capacity. Sometimes your towing needs will increase – perhaps you will buy a larger boat or camper – and you don’t want to have to purchase a heavier hitch later on. You can always tow a lighter trailer with a heavier hitch, with the exception of a weight distribution hitch. Because a weight distribution hitch is essentially a spring, using a higher rated spring bar then necessary will create a stiff ride and could cause problems.

When you know what hitch class you need, talk to your trailer hitch dealer about the designs that are available. Your dealer may have some recommendations for your particular vehicle. Some hitches are made to be unobtrusive and hide under your vehicle’s bumper, while others are designed to be more prominently placed or cannot be hidden.  You have many options in hitch style, quality, finish and in some cases even color, so investigate and invest in the trailer hitch that best meets all your functional and aesthetic needs. Armed with the right basic tools, the manufacturer’s installation instructions, and a little patience, most hitches can be installed by car and truck owners with little mechanical expertise. When you have selected a hitch, you also need to select the correct ball mount. The right ball mount has a shaft sized to match the receiver tube, and raises or lowers the hitch ball to ensure that your tow vehicle and trailer each remain level as you travel.

When it comes to selecting the hitch components for your vehicle, however, you need to follow the same procedure you use for selecting any other hitch. Match the weight of the fully loaded trailer to the capabilities of the hitch design, and leave yourself some margin of safety in the capability of the hitch and your tow vehicle.

Sources: What Trailer Hitch Is Recommended For Towing A Boat With Toyota Sienna.” Trailer Hitch, Hitches and Bike Rack (800)298-8924. Web. 16 Jan. 2013. “How To Tow a Trailer.” Edmunds. Web. 16 Jan. 2013.

 

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