Increasing versatility


#1

It is very doubtful that I am the only one seeking to make cars more versatile - particularly with the arbitrary inflation of fuel prices.



Specifically, I need to add occasional towing capacity to a small, very fuel efficient vehicle, and I need more detailed information than the terse ?not recommended? found in manufacturers? advertising.



If, for example, I wanted to add 500 or 1000 pounds towing capacity to a Prius (and a hitch is available on the aftermarket), what would I lose? And to what extent?



I can handle loss of a certain amount of control just by towing only when traffic is light and roads are dry, but if towing would damage the car directly, and I certainly would need to know this, what could I do to beef it up? Where can I get actual vehicle test data?



Also, if not a Prius, what? I have not yet bought the car.



Similarly top-mounted luggage carriers.

Best,

Milt


#2

Look at it this way:

Every vehicle manufacturer tries to gain every bit of marketing advantage possible in order to sell their vehicles. So, if it really is practical and/or safe to do towing with a particular vehicle, the manufacturer has no advantage in denying that the vehicle has towing ability, and in fact, would lose potential sales with that denial.

As a result, I think that you should believe and should abide by statements such as “not recommended”. It is possible that testing has shown that the transmission cannot stand the extra strain of towing. Or, perhaps acceleration would be compromised too much by the extra weight–and with a fuel-efficient vehicle, this is a very real probability. Even the vehicle’s handling, particularly under emergency avoidance conditions, may be dangerously compromised by a trailer. Brakes also take a beating from the added weight of towing, and the manufacturer may have ruled out towing as a result of that issue.

Whatever the reason may be (and it is unlikely that it is possible to find out the exact reason), if a vehicle manufacturer says that the vehicle is not suited for towing, I think that you should believe them.

I have no doubt that you can have some charlatan install a tow hitch on your vehicle, even if the manufacturer doesn’t recommend it. However, that charlatan doesn’t have to bear the consequences of the damage that you might do to your vehicle. And, if you have a warranty claim, it is possible that a very astute technician (a few are!) may notice the presence of a tow hitch, thus voiding the warranty on your vehicle that was not recommended for towing.

Since you say that your towing needs are occasional, I would suggest that you rent a truck when these occasional needs arise. That is what I would do, but ultimately it is your decision.


#3

For a light load, look at a 4 cylinder pickup truck, such as a Ford Ranger, Mazda B-Series, Toyota Tacoma, Chevy Canyon/Colorado or even small SUVs like the Chevy HHR, Ford Escape, Toyota Rav4, or Honda CR-V. All of these vehicles are fairly efficient, and are able to tow trailers without a problem. They also all have useable cargo capacity (especially the pickups with a bed cover or cap.) They’re also available for less than a Prius - most of the above mentioned vehicles retail for under $20,000 new (except the Asian SUVs, I believe.)

But, except in rare circumstances, when a manufacturer says it’s not recommended to tow with a vehicle, it means the vehicle will be damaged and/or suffer major handling and control issues. One exception is the Ford Crown Victoria - Ford reduced the car’s towing capacity to sell more SUVs (the car is built with the same drivetrain as the F-150.) But aside from that, if a manufacturer says don’t do it, then don’t do it. A small 4 cylinder truck or SUV would make the perfect vehicle for you.


#4

I was hoping for a more technical reply - ideally even access to test data.

My experience is that auto makers are more concerned with idiot-proofing their products than promoting them to the broadest practical use.

In fact, most car advertising is geared toward a single type of use, so that the prospect will not have to decide because decision requires that the prospect understand.

I am a trained engineer with over 40 years driving experience and HAVE modified several cars successfully over those years. Often modification CAN be done.

Example: Years ago Toyota was sued over a miniature stake bed truck, and for good reason. Too often that truck could not be stopped. Yet a careful owner with some mechanical savvy could work around that problem. It was not easy. Better brakes could be had on the after-market, but that was not quite enough. The driver also had to be careful of weight distribution. Yes this was a hassle, but someone who really needed such a vehicle for his work could have lived with this.


#5

Right now I’m looking toward a Ford Focus, which will tow 1000 pounds, but I am scared of dealing, even indirectly, with a manufacturer in financial trouble.


#6

And what’s this "anonymous? I duly logged in as “madmilt”.


#7

This reminds me of what i seen in the parking lot at the local grocery store yesterday. I seen a mid 90s Olds Achieva(4cyl FWD) with a decent sized boat(top of boat was barely above the car’s roof line) attached to it.

You want to tow something? How often? How far?
If this is gonna be a once a season/year, then rent a truck and buy your Prius. If you’re planing on towing often, then you’ll want to get a small truck like the Ranger.


#8

Be aware that by using a vehicle for towing when the owner’s manual specifically says not to tow, or by towing a greater load than the owner’s manual recommends, is often grounds for voiding the car’s warranty.

Considering that the towing packages offered on some other vehicles involves adding a transmission cooler, besides brake/turn signal light wiring and the tow bar, I would assume that those are areas that you would have to watch.

There are owners that have towed very light loads for short distances with their Prius, if you are so inclined on checking in on them and their personal vehicle data tests:
http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/priustrailers/