Trailer Hitch Class

Questions about towing your boat or boats that can be towed.

Trailer Hitch Class

Postby mbeutler » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:50 pm

So I am a bit confused on trailering requirements. I have a 2004 Buick Rainier V8 AWD with a towing capacity of 6700 lbs. I know the boat (2011 2100) has a dry weight of 3,600 lbs, add fuel and gear and I estimate the weight at 4150lbs. Not sure the model trailer yet but let's estimate that at 1,300lbs and my total weight would be 5,450 lbs.

I am a bit confused because at times I see people say they have a 4,000lb dry weight boat and they end up stating their towing weight is 6,800 to 7,000lbs seems like a lot for fuel, water, gear, etc...

Also, I know hitches have classes based on weight requirements. Is there a guide to determine based on weight what hitch class is required? Also how do I determine what class my hitch is currently rated for?

Thanks,

Mike
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Re: Trailer Hitch Class

Postby clm2112 » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:21 pm

Hi Mike,

First, if you already have a hitch on the vehicle, then it's capacity will be marked on it. Take a look, it is usually on the main beam that connects the hitch to the left & right sides of the vehicle's frame/body. That's what the hitch is rated for, not what GM says the vehicle can tow. Hitch makers offer hitches in classes...often you can get a class of reciever for your vehicle that exceeds the towing capacity of the actual vehicle it is attached to. Class I is up to 2000lbs, Class II is up to 3500lbs, Class III is up to 5000lbs, Class IV is up to 10,000lbs, and Class V exceeds 10,000lbs. I've seen variations from different manufactures as to what classes IV and V ratings are. But what it comes down to is what the hitch you have is rated at.

What the vehicle is rated for is on the door jamb sticker, and should be in the owner's manual in the glovebox. It's not uncommon for the hitch rating to not match what the vehicle manufacturer states. So the safe number is the smaller of the two. If GM says you shouldn't tow more than 4000lbs with the vehicle, but you have a 5000lb class III hitch, you should stick to the 4000lb limit (or at least use caution if you go over that 4000lb limit.)

The gross weight numbers on the door jamb are just the limits of what the vehicle's suspension can handle. It doesn't include the weight of the trailer, since it is sitting on it's own tires. The tongue weight of the trailer on the hitch IS included in the weight, since the vehicle's tires are supporting that load. (so if you have 300lbs of tongue weight on the hitch, then add it to the total weight of all the other gear in your SUV.)

As far as fuel, you can estimate it's weight at 6lbs per gallon for gas, 7lbs per gallon for oil. So 55 gallons of gas is 330lbs of fuel.

Hope that helps,
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Re: Trailer Hitch Class

Postby Chris_in_Texas » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:50 pm

Mike,

In looking up the Buick, it looks like the 4WD version comes with two options for towing, the I6 or V8. The 6 Cyl with 4.10 rear end is rated for 6100 and the 8 Cyl with 3.73 rear end is rated for 6500 lbs. That is when it's properly equipped. There could be a towing package that is required to get to those ratings or not.

If you have the receiver on the truck today, it will be printed on the receiver as to the max weight supported. Be careful, as those weights are normally for a stripped out truck. You have to go by GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) number is much more important. This is the max weight including the truck, people, fuel, stuff and trailer that the vehicle can tow, the total weight. This will be on the driver's door somewhere. Then you also have the max Axle ratings (GAWR) as well as the GVWR which is the max just the truck can weigh with no trailer. The normal limiting factor is the GCWR. You have to add up all the stuff in the truck and people as well. As an example I did an article a number of years ago on a particular Dodge truck that when loaded to the max trailer limits, couldn't have but about 5 gallons of fuel and only a small driver under 100 lbs to remain legal, because the truck itself weighed so much with all the options there wasn't room in the GCWR left.

All that stuff being said, most people won't pay any attention to that and just haul anything, 99% of the time never have a problem. The way to know is by the hitch that is installed. It will normally show two weight ratings on it, one for dead load, like a boat, and another for weight distributing hitch used on campers with higher tongue weight.

The particular class of the hitch is really not relevant, as much as the rating on the hitch itself. There is the Class 1 - Class 5.

Class 1 are normally 1.25" x 1.25" receivers rated for about 2000 lbs
Class 2 are normally 1.25" x 1.25" receivers rated for about 3500 lbs
Class 3 are normally 2" x 2" receivers rated for about 6000 lbs
Class 4 are normally 2" x 2" receivers rated for about 12000 lbs
Class 5 are normally 2.5" x 2.5" receivers rated up to 20000 lbs

Most SUV's have Class 3 but can have higher ratings than above. That’s why you have to look at the specific hitch, and then do your math. You need to make sure that the hitch mount and ball are rated for what your going to tow as well. Take it to a truck stop to find out the real number, it will be good to know one way or another where your at.

You might be surprised at the amount of weight you can add to the boat. Steel trailers are heavy and extra axles and brakes add weight as well. Aluminum trailers are much lighter but cost more. My 23' bowrider had a published dry weight of 4200 lbs but sitting on the tandem axle steel trailer came out to about 6800 lbs according to the certified scale, and that was without a bunch of stuff loaded into it. ;)
Thanks, Chris
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Re: Trailer Hitch Class

Postby mbeutler » Tue Feb 07, 2012 8:02 pm

Ok, I took a look at both the hitch, door jamb sticker and the owners manual and unfortunately a bit more confused. So the hitch shows a rating of "V-5 Budd" which I am going to take as a Class V. However it shows 4,000 lbs and 7,500 lbs. The 4,000 would be too low for a 2011 Regal 2100 however the 7,500 is the weight distributing style trailer which would work. So how do I determine if the trailer is a weight distributing trailer?

Now if you look at the door jamb sticker it shows three weights none of which align with the internet searches for the 2004 Buick Rainier CXL AWD V-8.

So can anyone please clarify for me? Big thanks! Pictures below...

Image
By mbeutler1203 at 2012-02-07

Image
By mbeutler1203 at 2012-02-07
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Re: Trailer Hitch Class

Postby Chris_in_Texas » Tue Feb 07, 2012 8:50 pm

No worries. Here is what it all means:

V5 is the testing specification established by the Trailer Hitch Manufacturers Association. Nothing to do with the Class rating, just the testing on how it's built. Just about everything now days will be stamped with the V5, hitches, balls, receivers, etc.

So basically the hitch can support 7500 lbs with a max of 400 lbs of dead weight on the tongue. If you use a WD hitch then you can go to 912 lbs of tongue weight. The reason for this is the % of trailer weight vs. tongue weight. Campers are normally somewhere between 10-15% and boats are normally somewhere between 5-10%. Some people prefer heavier and others like the lighter side. This will prevent too much weight being applied to the rear axle and lifting the front wheels up making steering not as effective. I can't remember where my bow rider was on the tongue weight, I know it was around 8%'ish I think. It hauled good and never had any problems. Remember that value will vary all over the place depending on what you put where. If you load down the bow of the boat, the tongue weight will go up quickly, and if you load weight behind the trailer axles the weight would be reduced.

Also most boat trailers use surge brakes and normally don't use WD hitches, as they can interfere with the surge actuator.

As for the GCWR you might be able to find it in your manual somewhere in the towing or specifications section. Whatever that number is take the GVWR away from it and that is the max you can tow. You can determine where you are in relation to the GVWR by going to a scale at a truck stop, and simply weight your truck. My guess is based on the number of 1163lbs payload in your sticker your car should weigh about 4800 lbs.

My truck has a rating of 5000 lbs and 500 lbs of tongue weight with no weight distib hitch and 12,500 and 1250 with a WD hitch on the factory installed hitch. With my new hitch its 18,000 lbs and 2000 lbs of tongue weight and with WD its 18,000 lbs and 2500 lbs tongue weight. So as you can see the numbers are greatly different between the factory and aftermarket. However the number I have to take into account is the GCWR, because if I had an 18K trailer, I would need to remove the bed and cab to get the weight down! :mrgreen:

Its all a math thing on the numbers and what you can and can't haul. When you approach your max limits of the truck you will really know the load is back there. I hauled my bow rider originally with Toyota Sequoia, which was overweight by quite a bit. I really knew the thing was back there, and was nervous about doing long trips, however didn't have any issues. When I got my truck I really didn't know the boat was back there, it was night and day difference from a towing perspective. Running from the house to the boat ramp, I wouldn't think twice about using the Sequoia, however on the long runs cross country it was very exhausting as I had to fight the thing the whole time on the highway. Two lane roads were the worst especially when a semi passed going the other way. That was the reason to get rid of it and get the truck.

While I don't want to have you do anything illegal, you should weight both the truck and boat and find out the weights, as you can't plead you didn't know. You will have to make the decision as to do you haul it with the current truck or not. Like I mentioned the most critical will be the GCWR. I looked it up and here is the info from page 4-55 of your manual in the picture. So it will be close, at 11500 GCWR. You have to subtract your vehicle weight from this number and that will give you the real number you can use. If it was me, and it was short trips, I wouldn't worry, but on longer trips I might be concerned.

Look more in the section on hauling trailers starting on 4-54 and it gives you some info.

Here is a very good worksheet on weights and how to measure things if you're interested. I highly recommend it. If you go down and weigh to get your numbers, make sure you go in and talk with the people, as you don't want a busy scale, as well as you want to work out a price before you do all the measurements. If its really hopping at the truck stop they don't want to get tied down with someone doing multiple weighs. Go during a slow time and talk to the manager. If your out in the sticks a good place to go as well are grain elevators. Most of them are on all the time and you can read them at night, just talk with the people to ask to use it. It can be free there unlike the truck stop that will charge you.

http://www.your-rv-lifestyle.com/suppor ... ghform.pdf
Thanks, Chris
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Re: Trailer Hitch Class

Postby mikee » Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:56 pm

Chris done another good job in explaining things; however, I'm of the opinion that the maximum trailer weight is 4000 pounds unless a weight distrubtion hitch is used. Then the maximum trailer weight is increased to 7500 pounds. The label on the door does mention the front and rear axle weight ratings. You can pretty much forget about the front axle rating since you are towing a trailer from the rear. If the cargo area in the rear is empty, there should be no problem. Where you may run into a problem with the reat axle is with the maximum tounge weight plus a few extra hundred pounds of cargo or passengers. Adding tounge weight does not correlate to axle weight. Adding say 500 pounds of tounge weight may add 650 pounds of rear axle weight. This is due to the weight being added several feet behind the axle and not directly over top of the axle. The only way to know what the actual weights are, is to go to a truck scale. If you choose the weight distrubtion hitch, you should not have anything to worry about.
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Re: Trailer Hitch Class

Postby Chris_in_Texas » Wed Feb 08, 2012 2:39 pm

Mike,

You are correct in the amount of weight on the rear axle, and the only way to know is by scale, and see what it does to the rear axle. I guess you really could figure it out mathematically, but that wouldn’t be any fun. Good problem for the kid in Physics for extra credit.

The tongue weight really will dictate the max load in the respect of the pull weight. The charts are based off the 10% rule. The manufactures think that everyone will be at 10%, so the 4K = 400 lbs in there eyes. However if your tongue weight is lower than 10% and still within the 400 lbs but heavier trailer your ok without the weight distribution hitch, in the case of the boat, that may only have 5%. For instance if you had a 7000 lb trailer with only 5% on the tongue, that would only be 350lbs on weight on the hitch. My guess is that most people will have closer to 8-10% on a boat trailer as minimum, in which case your total trailer weight will drop.

An example that I can think of here, is that if you had a 4 wheel trailer like a hay cart. That, even when fully loaded has very little weight on the tongue, basically just the weight of the metal in the tongue, as there is a wheel in each corner. You can pull up to your GCWR totals. There wouldn't be any vertical stress component, only horizontal pulling. This horizontal component is the actual weight of the load, that is what your truck is rated for. What gets tricky is when you start adding vertical component. It starts to affect the safety quickly and will affect both the axles weight wise, increasing the rear and lowering the front potentially. That is when you need to start using a WD hitch to lower the applied weight on the rear and move it to the front axle. In his picture, the 912 lbs of tongue weight should be less than the 400 lbs to the rear axle with the WD hitch. Then your front axle will start to take the weight as well. :geek:
Thanks, Chris
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Re: Trailer Hitch Class

Postby mbeutler » Wed Feb 08, 2012 4:56 pm

May guys keep making me even more confused. The boat is 3600 lbs and the trailer is an EZ Loader M2-4400. My vehicle has rear air suspension so I know the vehicle won't be sagging. Why can't this just be easy :(. Maybe I need an iPhone app that would save me some stress.
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Re: Trailer Hitch Class

Postby Chris_in_Texas » Wed Feb 08, 2012 8:18 pm

Take it to a weigh station and see what it says... Pull both the truck and trailer on the scale and take a reading. If its all under 11,500 your good. Then if you can, unhook the boat and leave it alone on the scale and take a reading. This will show you the weight of the boat and trailer. Those two readings will give you the basic info that really matters. If your concerned about the tongue weight that can be measured as well with some blocks. Just position the trailer's hitch on the scale alone and place blocks under the coupler and put the trailer jack up so all the weight is on the blocks. Subtract out the weight of the blocks and there is the tongue weight.

Or the other option that 98% of the people do, just hook it up and go and don't worry about it. :mrgreen: I know you want to do the right thing, but really if its over and you want to be legal the only way would be to get a bigger truck. Otherwise hook it up and go boating! ;)

PS Make sure you have at least one spare tire for it as well. I have had one problem which was a broken valve stem, and had to run a spare. My friend on his trailer on a 200 mile trip lost two tires on a single trip about 100 miles apart from each other. Keep them aired up at the correct level for sure.
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Re: Trailer Hitch Class

Postby mbeutler » Wed Feb 08, 2012 8:46 pm

Chris_in_Texas wrote:Take it to a weigh station and see what it says... Pull both the truck and trailer on the scale and take a reading. If its all under 11,500 your good. Then if you can, unhook the boat and leave it alone on the scale and take a reading. This will show you the weight of the boat and trailer. Those two readings will give you the basic info that really matters. If your concerned about the tongue weight that can be measured as well with some blocks. Just position the trailer's hitch on the scale alone and place blocks under the coupler and put the trailer jack up so all the weight is on the blocks. Subtract out the weight of the blocks and there is the tongue weight.

Or the other option that 98% of the people do, just hook it up and go and don't worry about it. :mrgreen: I know you want to do the right thing, but really if its over and you want to be legal the only way would be to get a bigger truck. Otherwise hook it up and go boating! ;)

PS Make sure you have at least one spare tire for it as well. I have had one problem which was a broken valve stem, and had to run a spare. My friend on his trailer on a 200 mile trip lost two tires on a single trip about 100 miles apart from each other. Keep them aired up at the correct level for sure.


Ok, now I get it. Combined weight total must be 11,500 or less, tongue weight should be 400 or less or 900 or less depending on weight distribution hitch or regular. Combined I'll be fine...vehicle is 4800 plus 4 people, dog, luggage and full fuel leaves me with 6,030. Boat is 3,600 plus fuel, 250 lbs of gear and trailer takes me to 5,10. Obviously estimates but I was very conservative on gear/people/full fuel loads but I still have 930lbs remaining. I all comes down to toungue weight for me.

Any thoughts on transmission coolers?
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Re: Trailer Hitch Class

Postby On Holiday » Mon Feb 13, 2012 3:52 pm

I would use the manufactures weight data as only basic information. The dry weight is just the boat and nothing else. Add fuel, water, stuff, batteries, more stuff and then you can determine the actual weight. Also the dry weight is based on the smallest engine offered for the boat and not necessarily the engine that is in your boat. I plan to take my boat to the local scale so I can have a better idea of its weight.

Also the tow vehicle capacity is normally figured on one person weighing a certain weight. Put kids, spouse, stuff, mother-in-law. Add all these extra pounds up and then subtract them from your tow capacity. It doesn't take long before you are over weight.
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