Tow vehicle - truck newbie needs insight

Yes, another tow/trailer question. Yes, I have searched. Yes, I have read Neva and Tom’s book (which is great). All the info is making me a little cross eyed though.

I am just nervous to make a big purchase that is so extremely important to be safe. Please humor my non technical/automotive mind. :slight_smile:

Found a 2010 F250 XL with a GCWR of 16,000lbs, a curb weight of 6267lbs and a tow rating of 9,500lbs.

I would be hauling my WB and usually a friend’s horse. Haven’t bought the trailer yet, but basically know what I want. It will be a x-tall and x-wide BP, so I am assuming around 3500lbs.

Is finding the tow vehicle as “easy” as the below math?

16,000 gcwr - 6267 curb weight = 9733lbs left to tow/haul.

1400 (horse)+1200 (horse)+3500(trailer)+500(tack, hay, water, etc.)+300(two more people)+100(truck’s gas, fluids)+200(other people stuff in truck)=7200lbs

9733-7200= That should give me around a positive 2500lb variance window. Am I missing something?

Also - Is a 3.73 axle ratio ok for this situation? I haven’t read much about that.


I’m not sure where to find the GCVWR of my vehicle; maybe that’s because my truck is older (a '94), but the only number it lists on the door sticker is the GVWR, which is 8,600lbs. So TONGUE weight figures into that, not necessarily the weight I’m pulling.

I could be wrong, but I believe two different, identical-weighing trailers could theoretically have different tongue weights, depending on how they’re balanced and loaded.

Anyway, what I did was this: I filled up my truck with a full tank of gas and hitched up my GN trailer, loaded as if I was heading out, with all my tack, full water totes, etc.-- basically everything minus the horse(s)-- and went to my local quarry. I unhitched the truck and weighed it by itself. Rehitched trailer, weighed it with ONLY the truck on the scale (to get the tongue weight amount), then drove fully onto the scale to get the total weight of truck + trailer. Ideally I’d have done it with the horse, too, but the barn is quite a ways from the quarry and it would have been really inconvenient to do a full-scale trial. :slight_smile: But in any case, it gave me good numbers to go with.

As for that axle ratio figure, I’m sure someone else will chime in with better info on that!

Sorry, double post

Pretty much. Curb weight includes truck fluids so you don’t need to double count them.

You could hit other limits first, for example if you had a 5000lb capacity tow bar installed but properly set up your math is right…

Thanks cnvh and tangledweb! I’ll ask about the tow bar’s capacity.

I haven’t re-run your numbers to check the math but the rig seems quite sensible.


As for your question about the 3.73 rear- it should be fine. It is considered a “highway” rear and does not have as much pulling power as a 4.10 but it will give you slightly better fuel economy. I have a 3.73 in my F350 and I just did two long trips with a fully loaded 4 horse LQ trailer. I had plenty of power, even through the mountains. Enjoy your new rig and may you have many safe travels!

Make sure the vehicle has a tow package.

That said, I have a 2003 Ford F250, 2h BP steel trailer with dressing room. I only haul my one little horse and I don’t feel the trailer behind me when I drive. As long as you have the tow package I think you would be fine.

DA’s advise about the truck having “a tow package” is referring to factory installed towing. This is desirable because an aftermarket hitch receiver doesn’t generally provide you with the full towing capacity from a manufacturer’s specifications standpoint. The factory tow option includes not just the receiver, but usually fits better engine and transmission cooling, upgraded suspension, etc., which are all desirable for towing and essential to get the highest capacities.

Thanks DHCarrotfeeder!

Cutter99 - thanks for the axle info. Good to know you had enough power with the 4h. I don’t think I’ll be doing really long trips, but my area is def not flat! Haven’t bought it yet, but going in this weekend.

DA and Jim - yes it has a tow package. The dealership gave me a copy of the original sales/factory sticker and it says trailer tow package. It has the integrated brake controller.

It also says 12.5k trailer tow hitch. Is it normal to have a higher hitch rating than what the truck can actually tow?

I recently took my truck and trailer in for routine maintenance and asked why the fan and indoor lights that had worked when I was pulling with my old truck stopped working with my new used truck. The brakes worked. It turned out that even though the truck had the tow package it had never been fully connected …the first people who bought the car did not tow or else did not know. The people at the garage said this is not unusual but I had never heard of it…so make sure the towing stuff is all connected.

Good to know, thanks Trafalgar!

I have a 2h BP DR Hawk trailer, empty weight about 3300 lbs. I had an F250, 7.3L diesel with a 4.10 rear axle. That truck never worked a day in it’s life towing that trailer, even with two horses. For a host of reasons that I won’t go into (because people will think I’m crazy), I recently traded that truck on an F150, 5.0L gas with 3.73 rear axle. It does fine with the trailer, certainly not as bottomless as the diesel was, but very adequate. The diesel was a 5-speed (which, with the 4.10, got abysmal mileage for a diesel); the newer truck has the 6-speed automatic, which is a great combo with the 5.0L engine (Ford did a really good job with this one), and gets the job done very adequately. Both trucks have factory towing packages, but neither had integrated brake controllers. The aftermarket ones in both do/did very well. Because I live where most of my driving is non-city, and use the truck for jobs that don’t involve towing, my overall mileage with the gas truck is better than the mileage with the diesel was.

It’s my understanding that even though the factory hitch receiver has a high weight capacity, you’re still limited by the tongue weight of the trailer, unless you use a weight distributing hitch. Many horse trailers are just on the edge with tongue weight, though if they’re well balanced, it should not change much with load (horses stand over the axles). Still, you don’t often see anyone with a 2h trailer using a weight distributing hitch.

It’s my understanding that even though the factory hitch receiver has a high weight capacity, you’re still limited by the tongue weight of the trailer, unless you use a weight distributing hitch. Many horse trailers are just on the edge with tongue weight, though if they’re well balanced, it should not change much with load (horses stand over the axles). Still, you don’t often see anyone with a 2h trailer using a weight distributing hitch.[/QUOTE]

For some reason, WDH just haven’t caught on well with the horsie crowd, despite being pretty much standard equipment for many other types of hauling…with the same tow vehicles. That’s kinda a shame. Using WDH isn’t about “inadequate tow vehicle”; rather, it’s about improving balance. Even with a “beefy” truck, WDH can improve towing performance with a bumper pull trailer in so many cases, but folks just don’t willingly accept that it seems.

tongue weight

monstrpony - I am looking into the same trailer. A used 150 with all the right components and the right price has been tough to find. The 250 I am looking at is gas, 5 speed-auto, 5.4L, so it is good to hear your 150 is doing the job.

Tongue weight
- Just so I get this right…

I know this should not be more than 15% of the empty trailer weight and I can get a # from the trailer dealer but ideally it is best to go weigh the tongue on a scale, but is there something I should be asking the truck dealer?

The information I have in the Hitch Receiver Weight Capacity section says if the Weight-Carrying Max. Trailer Capacity is 6k then the Max tongue load is 600lbs and if the Weight-Carrying Max. Trailer Capacity is 12.5k, the max tongue load is 1,250k. So, if this particular truck has a 12.5k hitch, as long as the unloaded trailer tongue weight is under 1,250k, it is correct to conclude this is good to go?

I feel like I am asking such simple questions, but since I have never done this (and everyone seems to says not to fully trust the truck dealers with towing horses), I am being very cautious of my own assumptions/answers.

Thanks again to everyone who is helping!

Jim - I am pretty sure some people at my barn have WDHs. They are sometimes referred to (incorrectly?) as sway bars, right?

If you’re interested, I can send an Excel spreadsheet that does a bunch of this math for you. It’s not been verified by anyone important, but it checks a wide range of things and turns red when a number is over a limit. At a minimum, it would help you collect all relevant information and know where you stand with things.

You have to realize that the tongue weight goes against the carrying payload of your truck. So even if your hitch receiver can pull 12.5K, that doesn’t mean you want to put 1.25K of tongue weight on the rear end of your truck. Of course, that’s a lot more than you’d have with a 2h trailer (I’ve been told by a Very Reliable Source* that the tongue weight on my trailer is 490 lbs). I’d suggest that the F250 should be able to handle the tongue weight of a 2h DR trailer, unless it’s some really novel setup.

*For trailer questions like this, I’d suggest you contact grinanride on this board, you could send her a PM. She is a Hawk dealer, very down to earth and very honest about these things. And probably a lot more in the know about trailer details that the typical car salesman.

WDH may include additional anti-sway, but what WDH does is actually shift some of the tongue weight to the front axel of the tow vehicle which effectively reduces what’s “on the ball”. It’s hard to explain exactly how that happens–it’s a physics thing, but the chains or bars that run from the bottom of the hitch back to the trailer frame are under tension which essentially “pushes the ball up and forward”. With the correct WDH adjustment, tongue weight is reduced which puts the tow vehicle back into balance so it no longer is “light in the nose”. While having a long, long wheel base certainly helps with this too because of similar leverage, using WDH shouldn’t be automatically discounted.

Some WDH systems have some integral anti-sway…the Anderson is an example. Others use an add-on anti-sway bar if someone feels they need that. The downside to the add-on anti-sway bars is that you usually have to disconnect them to back the trailer up. That said, a properly setup WDH may impart some “anti-sway” merely by bringing everything back into balance.

This is good info! I towed for a long time using what I thought were “anti-sway bars”, but the google machine tells me it was a weight distributing hitch. I had the kind with pins on the hitch end and then chains on the trailer end. I thought it was a feature of the trailer, though, because it had places to sort of ratchet up those chains to secure them, and I haven’t seen that hardware on the noses of many other bumper pulls. So, is this something that needs to be factored into the trailer shopping part, and maybe that is why the horse crowd doesn’t always use a weight distributing hitch?

And excuse my ignorance but the WDH kind with rods on the hitch end rather than pins… it looks like from pictures the bars don’t come off? Would that mean you have to back up the truck to the trailer and then put on the hitch?