By Lori Straus
When I was a kid, my only genuine memory of camping is constantly looking out the back window to make sure our camper was still attached to the car. If I’m ever driving along in a vehicle that’s towing something, I still get heart palpitations. If only I’d written this blog post 35+ years ago, I’d have known there was nothing to fear (so long as the trailer is packed properly and the load distributed). We’ll cover a few towing basics for Ontario and then go into some towing accessories for your truck to help make your ride smoother and safer.
Towing in Ontario
No matter the size of your vehicle, your manufacturer will state the maximum weight that it can tow. In Ontario, though, your driver’s license will also stipulate how much you can tow. If you have a G1, G2, or G license, the maximum you can tow behind your car or truck is 4,600 kg. If you plan to tow more than that, you may require a higher class license or special permit.
Tongue Weight and Load
A critical factor in towing is the tongue weight, which is the force that the tongue exerts on the hitch. Tongue weight is another critical number you need to know alongside your vehicle’s towing capacity, because it affects how the towing vehicle drives. In Ontario, the recommendation is that 5 to 10% of the weight of your trailer be placed at the front, i.e., the side that attaches to the towing vehicle. However, other recommendations say between 9 and 15%.
Improperly balancing the weight of your load can dangerously affect your ability to steer your car and can lead to fishtailing, jackknifing, or even a rollover. This video demonstrates what can happen if you load your trailer improperly.
Load Levelers for Trucks
Not levelling the load on your truck can squat your truck, i.e., cause the back to drop. Over time, this will damage your tires, suspension, and axle. To help minimize the wear from towing cargo heavy enough to pull your car’s backend down, you’ll need something to level the load and ideally distribute it, too.
Three main types of load levelers for trucks exist in the market: springs, airbags, and weight distribution hitches. Before we briefly describe each one, please remember this: these accessories are meant to level the load on your vehicle to make driving easier and safer. They are not meant to increase the amount of weight you can tow.
- Springs, both add-a-leaf kits and helper springs, are added to your vehicle’s leaf springs to help it support heavier loads.
- Airbags can be inserted into your leaf springs and inflated as needed to level your truck.
- Weight distribution hitches transfer some weight from the tongue load to the front of your truck.
Many online discussions focus on the differences between airbags and weight distribution hitches. In fact, the two serve different purposes: air bags support the weight over the rear axle whereas weight distribution hitches transfer some of that load to the front of the truck. What works best for your situation is outside the scope of this article, but do not automatically select the cheapest option. When looking at load levelers, prioritize safety.
Some towing mirrors are universal, i.e., they’ll fit on any vehicle, whereas others are specific to a selection of makes and models. Some clamp on while others require more hands-on installation but may include features like syncing with your turn signals, power adjustability, vibration stabilization, and built-in defrosting.
If you’re only going to tow occasionally, universal towing mirrors you can clamp on to your car’s mirrors are likely the way to go. However, if you plan to tow frequently, then consider towing mirrors with more features to make the job easier for you. In addition, consider a towing backup camera to help you see behind you.
Remember that towing is not like regular driving. The moment you begin towing, you’ll feel it. But you’ll need to be more mindful of vehicles around you, big trucks passing you, and even the weather so that you can drive safely while towing your trailer. Buy whatever accessories you need so that towing feels and is safe for you.