Many Australian and Imported carmakers fall short when it comes to providing full and frank information on what their vehicles can do when towing.
Sometimes this is a sin of omission. Sometimes we think their "information" is a possible breach of duty of care. Sometimes, as is the case with Ford, the information is excellent.
So with the help of two caravanning icons, towing gear makers Hayman Reese and caravan builder Jayco, we put numbers to whether a towing Weight Distribution Hitch makes a difference.
We did the whole job from the fitting of the Hayman Reese complete towing kit to the Captiva to setting up the towing system to match the towing need. With the expertise of a Hayman Reesedistributor handling the towbar fit-out on site the towbar and its electrics went into place in an hour. It was the first time that the distributor had fitted a towbar to a Captiva and he expects to be even quicker on future fit-outs.
We also added at $166.50 the pair ORA Rossa towing mirrors.
We load Hayman Reese kit packs to get weight up
We now can say the answer to whether a Weight Distribution Hitch makes a towing difference is a resounding yes!
Using Hayman Reese computer weighing equipment we found we could tune our new company Captiva diesel like a violin to a Jayco Destiny Outback on the multi-adjustable Hayman Reese drawbar towing kit.
The safety difference showed up in ourcareful measurements of the differences our set-up tuning made.
Measuring from the bottom of the Captiva's left hand front tyre tread to the inside of the mudguard trim we found a difference againststandard Captiva profileof 13mm with the Weight Distribution Hitch on. Measuring at the left rear tyre the difference against thestandard Captiva profile was 30mm.
Editor's Note: While the Hayman Reese scales are not available to everyone the same results can be achieved by careful measurement of the towvehicle and caravan as we discuss in this feature
After extended trial-and-error over the day of evaluation the tape showed Captiva and Jayco Outback Destiny in close to perfect height from the road harmony, level and ready to roll with full steering and brakingcontrol.
We tried a series of towing weight and height configurations with the Captiva and the Jayco Destiny Outback. The weight variations on the front and back wheels of the Captiva were significant. As we moved the weight of many Hayman Reese TowingPackages into the Destiny Outback the weight distribution read-outs on the Hayman Reese equipment instantly told the story.
It was a real insight.
So we saw 410kg on the Captiva's left hand front wheel at the start of the exercise. As we tuned the Hayman Reese Weight Distribution Hitch package that went up to 499kg. The ability of the Hayman Reese equipment to allow fine tuning of the towing combination to achieve optimum steering and braking control from the Captiva and the Jayco Destiny Outback is obvious.
We also measured the exact trim heights of the Destiny at front and back above the groundas we adjust the Hayman Reese WDH towing head. This is critical if perfect towing trim is to be reached. It certainly helps to have a flat surface and we struggled as the test site had a camber.
Second link on and tensioned
But as the Hayman Reese total towing package comes with 11 link tensioning chains we were able to work around that. They are a response to the specific needs of the current run of Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) now increasingly popular with Australians.
Which is why we chose the latest SUV model Captiva diesel which was released in May in Australia for the towing set-up testing and not one of our two company diesel Toyota Sahara towing trucks.
By using an insert bolt in the Hayman Reese towing kit the chains links can become half links and the tuning of caravan, tow vehicle, handling, steering and braking gets right down to spot on.
We have some numbers which should interest Holden. We now know that 1700kg is the maximum weight we would put behind the diesel automatic Captiva.
We know that there must be at least 140kg on the towball. We took this out to 170kg as we tuned the Jayco and the Captiva over a full day on the Hayman Reese computer weighing scales.
The Jayco Outback Destiny 1448kg unladen
This is a contradictionof advice we received as a new buyer from Holden's call centre when we asked them for towing weight information.
We have emailed advice that the Captiva can tow a ridiculous 3000kg while loaded with four people and their luggage.
At the time we were unable to get a Captiva Owners Manual from Holden. It has since arrived and it is certainly more informative with specific statistics which are accurate and rule out the illusion of 3000kg towing ability.
So two things should happen. New owners should read their vehicle Owners Manuals and the Holden team need to consider re-training their call centre staff on the specifics of towing weight as it relates to the Captiva models.
It should also be noted that Holden and other makers state different towing capacity for the manual and automatic versions of their models.
The Captiva is a seven seater so the potential to take a ridiculous 3000kg towing abilityeven further into dangerous is obvious.
This is just one example of the misinformation on towing which is linked to some of Australia's car makers and importers.
There is also the matter of car makers who will not support their vehicle warranty if towing equipment, other than their own brand, is used.
Look for the branding
This seems to us to be at best counter-productive for the vehicle buyer's freedom of choice. At worst it could be seen as restraint of trade.
We are aware of major failures in vehicle design and towing equipment fitted by some vehicle makers and auto transmissions which just don't cut it in heavy towing situations.This is compounded by the unique towing conditions common in Australia.
Consider the solid Jayco Destiny Outback we used for our Hayman Reese towing kit set up.
We went to a lot of trouble to load the Outback Destiny to capacity. We know that most people add up to 300kg to their caravan before they hit the road. We used heavy boxes of the Hayman Reese towing kits to duplicate a fully loaded caravan.
We moved the weights to near the axle to balance the load. We added weight to replicate a spare tyre and weight on the drawbar to mimic the stuff (water/fuel) that usually finds its way there. Result 1700kg.
154kg on the towball
Hook it to a drawbar and the forces which come into play run fore and aft. Now add a Weight Distribution Hitch and tow north to Cairns or West to Perth. There is now an up and down force added to high speed long-distance towing.
Over time in some vehicle designs the vehicle structure has failed under the forces which were not part of the design planning. That planning for Australia is essential to safe towing here!
There is little benefit in towing statistics which appear for exampleon Nissans website for the novice. They are based on a sliding scale.
Technically fine. But taken without expert direction it is possible to think that a popular Nissan tow vehicle will pull 3000kg in every situation.
The technical reality is that if the weight of four people and their luggage is added to the tow vehicle the total towing capacity must fall significantly if the towing experience is to be within the safety magin built into the total weight of the tow vehicle and the caravan behind it.
Torsion bars on and ready for tensioning
This is common to all towing situations. Which leads to safety considerations and the question will my insurer cover this if things go wrong?
We think anybody who wants to tow should be able toconfident they can do that without techical complications.
They should be protected by information and expertise which guarantees that what they are about to do is safe for them and other road-users.
Today for the first time on any Australian website we release a complete towing weight guide with the help of professional data from Hayman Reese which until now has only been available to industry.
The service is available to GoSee TravelSmart members only.
In the Towing Compatibility Test the makes of vehicle are represented by icons.
To use it - Select the vehicle andmake.
State the (dry) weight of the caravan (ie: 1280kg).
State the Gross weight (difference between dry and loadedcaravan ie: 400kg).
State the caravans towball weight (ie: 117kg)and whether the towing combination is go or no is automaticaly calculated and afull Towing Compatibility Report isgenerated.
Tuning of the caravan, tow vehicle and the critical ball weight is possible by using the data built into the Compatability Report.
It is far more accurate than relying on 10 percent of the caravans weight as the prime ball weight figure.
The Towing Compatibility OnlineTowing Test allows caravan load and towball weight to be changed and tuned to get the best combination of caravan and towball weight for specific tow vehicles.
Itis geared for thecaravan set-up profiles which areused byestablished Australian builders like Jayco, Coromal, Roadstarand Windsor.
But the Towing Compatibilitydataalso handles the European set-up approach of Geist, Hymer and Adria too.
Advice on the correct equipment for the towing job also appears.
Captiva front 499kg
Disclaimer: Every care has been taken to provide the best available professional information but as vehicle and caravan specifications change frequently complete accuracy of towing data is beyond the control of ContACT Internet Solutions Pty Ltd, Cequent (Hayman Reese) and the GoSeeAustralia website.
Professional advice should always be sort before making a purchase or deciding on a particular product.
The full benefitsof professional caravan towing figures as used by the industry are now available to GoSee TravelSmart members. It is a free service. Please go to Good Stuff! to join in. It is the 11th option button down on the left hand side of the Home Page Menu.