Towing a camper trailer

I have a 2003 GMC Sonoma Crew cab 4x4 with 190 hp V-6 and rated towing capacity of 5200 lbs. I recently purchased a small towable trailer that weighs under 3000 lbs empty and no more than 4000 lbs loaded. Although well within the towing capacity, the truck seemed to struggle while pulling the trailer and I am looking at the possibility of buying a more powerful truck. I am looking at a new Honda Ridgeline which has 5000 lbs towing capacity but 247 hp. Should a truck that has no additional towing capacity but 30% more horsepower be able to tow my trailer noticeably easier?

Both have torque ratings around 245 lb-ft.

You didn’t mention if yor had automatic trans or stick shift. Automatics will not pull a trailer in overdrive on most engines. Best to lock it in drive. As for the engine power I pulled a 32 foot Airstream for several thousand mile with a half ton 2 wheel drive Ford with a 6 cylinder 240 ci engine. It was ample power for me. LEE

Sounds like you need a new rear axle with pulling gears more than a new truck. I would investigate what axles are available for that vehicle. You camper is not excessively heavy.

auto—I’ve noticed it does seem to do better to keep it in D3 as opposed to D4 (overdrive). Thanks.

The owner’s manual for my 2000 Blazer 4x4 (same drivetrain as your Sonoma, but with a 3.42 rear) with a 5600 tow capacity recommends using 3rd gear to tow a trailer to “minimize heat buildup and extend the life of your transmission.”

Ed B.

In that case I would keep the Sonoma and disable the overdrive while towing, as you should always do…unless you still feel the truck is underpowered for this application. Yes, the additional horsepower should make it better. Keep in mind that towing capacity is mostly a function of frame strength and suspension durability. So you will probably appreciate additional horsepower.

You truck is underpowered for your GCVR. (Gross combined weight) Oh, it will pull but will struggle and wear out faster than you’d like.

The truck also has the standard GM (Max Mileage getter) 3.42 rear end ratio. (unless you ordered it new with a 3.73) You need the 3.73 for better pulling power and the Ridgeline has the hp. Naturally you won’t get the same mileage due to the larger engine.

If you opt to stick with your truck, make certain you have an tranny cooler on it.

What trailer are we talking about?

You should also have a brake controller for that weight. The trailer has electric brakes right?

You may find this site interesting for rving.

To give you an idea what I was saying: I have (and use only for towing) an ‘02 Tahoe 5.3L (285hp) with a 3.73 rear end.
My tt is a 21’ Trail Lite. With a combined weight of of 9640lbs (TV and TT; tow vehicle and travel trailer)(loaded) and the GCVR allowed is 13k lbs, that gives me a safety margin of 3400lbs.
FWIW, the book says the Tahoe is rated to tow 8K lbs. (I’m a bit pessimistic about that though)

Just a friendly word of advice pertaining to safety: when loading truck and trailer load the trailer as to have no more than 10 to 12% of the trailer gross weight on the tongue hitch. Load 60% weight front of center axle(s) and 40% behind to avoid ‘fish-tailing’.

Be careful not to overload the trucks’ rear axle capacity.
Be safe and Happy Camping.

thanks for the info. Trailer is an 18 1/2’ Eco (one of many Dutchmen brands)supposedly weighing 2950 empty. I have a weight distribution hitch, electric brakes and a controller. According to original sticker the truck did come with the 3.73 rear end and heavy duty suspension when I bought it but no indication of tran cooler or hd radiator. I am planning on doing some long distance trailering starting next month and I want to reduce chances of trouble as much as possible. Presently I get between 16-20 mpg w/o trailer. When I was towing it got cut to 11 or 12 mpg. Even though Ridgeline has 30% more hp, the torque rating is the same and I wonder what effect that has.

The terrain and altitude will have effects on your ability to tow.

You want your torque peak to be fairly low in the RPM range, so the power curve is more important than the extra HP the Ridgeline has.

My biggest problem with the Ridgeline -aside from the styling- is that they put the spare tire in that compartment in the bed. If I have a bed full of cargo, I’m not going to be a happy camper (pun?) if I have to unload it all in order to change the tire.

Move the tire to the back of the bed when you load it. You don’t load the bed that often do you?

You can find out if the truck has a tranny cooler and hd rad by emailing GMs’ website. Click on ‘Contact Us’ and give them what you want and the VIN.

Good to see it has the 3.73 rear end. Another rear end ratio option that can be used (from GM) is the 4.10 ratio.
Most 5th wheel rv haulers I’ve spoken with at campgrounds prefer the 4.10 to any of the others.

The trick is to get the tow vehicle set up with the correct combinations for the weight you’re towing.

The mileage you’re getting while towing is about right. Most rvers will agree on one thing for sure: when buying a tow vehicle , bigger is better.

Towing any travel trailer will severely cut the mileage due to the wind drag of the trailer front. I’m getting 13.5 mpg with my Tahoe so long as there’s not a lot of head wind.

NYBo, here’s the dope on these two trucks:

2003 Sonoma 190hp V6 Crew cab 4x4

190 hp @ 4400 rpm

250 ftlbs torque @2800 rpm

2008 Honda Ridgeline 247hp V6 4x4 Crew cab

247 hp @ 5750 rpm

245 ftlbs torque @ 4500 rpm

Here’s where this truck shines, but only off the line: it has a 4.53 rear end.
This translates into 4.53 turns of the driveshaft per one complete wheel revolution.

After all is said and done, these two trucks get the same EPA mileage (15/20mpg). I believe the rear end ratio and the heavier Ridgeline make the difference.

Don’t load it often? That’s why you buy a pickup.

You might want to get a V-8. I just don’t believe the Honda is going to pull the trailer to your satisfaction. The horsepower seems a lot better. Check the weight of the truck, if it is much heavier than yours, it might not do any better. I hope a Ridgeline owner can help. I know your present truck looks to be underpowered.

Is that so.

Truthfully now, how many pick ups do you see in a day running around loaded?

He’s using the truck for pulling a travel trailer and I’ll bet that isn’t more than 1/2 dozen times a year.

He never mentioned anything about using the truck as a work truck.

I don’t imagine he’ll have to move the spare tire very often.

Although there are downsides to having a full size spare mounted under the rear of the truck, it is nice to have it out of the way and reasonably easy to access.