Towing with a small car

I need to get a trailer hitch for pulling a 4’x8’ utility trailer. I use this to pick up soil, bark, etc. for my yard. Sometimes I hall grass clippings with it, etc. It can hold about 1,500 to 2,000 lbs max., but usually I haul much less weight than that. My question is this… My car is a 2010 Ford Fusion with a pretty small 4 cylinder engine. The only hitches I can get for this car are the lightest rated ones too. Am I asking for trouble using this car occasionally for this application? I could put the hitch on my wife’s 2007 Buick Lucerne with a larger engine, BUT this hitch would look rather conspicuous on that model while the hitch for the Fusion is hidden quite well and will not look bad at all.

IF you are only towing some stuff in town and not loading the trailer too heavily, either car will do. I have a friend with a Buick who does just that.

However resist the temptation to lend this car out to a relative who wants to pull a fully loaded trailer several hundred miles.

Your owner’s manual will tell you how much total trailer weight the car is rated for. The size of the engine is really irrelevant since you can gear down for the short trip to the garden center or lumber yard. It’s the transmission that’s the weak point.

I would use the Buick; here a hitch is sort of a status symbol; it shows you either bike, ski, have a mountain cottage or a camper.

If you are contemplating longer hauls, carefully look at the rating and install an auxiliary transmission cooler for about $150 or so. And stay out of overdrive.

I would like to add a few more details. The Buick hitch costs 2x $$$ to install. roughly $150 vs. $300. I won’t be taxing the engine or lending it out ever. The longest trip would be maybe 10 miles. My transmission is a 6-speed manual. I would however use it for a bike rack and maybe 2-3 bikes once a year.

The reason you can only buy little hitches for the Fusion is because it shouldn’t be used to tow anything more. Check your owners manual to see if the manufacturer even rates this car to tow anything. Check the Lucerne, too.

A quick Google search shows a 1000 lbs total trailer weight with the 2.5 liter non-Ecoboost engine. 2000lbs with the 2.0 liter Ecoboost engine.

Decide based on the rating, not the appearance. Remember, more important than the engine size are the brakes to stop the combined weight you are moving and the weight of the car to control it (think – tail wagging the dog).

Both the Fusion and Lucerne say “1,000lbs. towing capacity”. Seems rather conservative to me.

How much does the trailer weigh empty? Slow speed towing of light loads with no hills PROBABLY won’t be a problem, but know that you’re putting your transmission (the key player in all of this under these conditions) at some risk. For higher speeds, longer distances, and/or heavier loads the brakes are also an issue.

I can’t say how much the trailer weighs due to it’s age…I no longer can read the rating sticker. It is steel-framed trailer with wood panel sides originally designed to pull 1 snowmobile. It is a basic model.

Let’s say it weighs 400 lbs. you would still be safe with the loads you discribe. If you keep the total weight under 750lbs, the car will barely know it’s there. You can easily do the full 1000 lbs but only for occasional use. Towing restrictions are not a function of weight alone, it’s a function of frequency and distance towed and hills encountered as well. The less you tow, the safer you can do it more frequently. The higher the weight close to it’s maximum, the less I would feel comfortable doing it. Your situation and only a single short trip on weekends…no problem.

I’m assuming the Fusion is past the warranty period. Is a hitch a good idea? Probably not, and the manual shift doesn’t help. Can you do it and get away with it? Yes, if you keep the loads light, speeds low, distances short, and have only small hills to contend with. I’d go for it.

One of the biggest caveats when towing anything is…

Adjust your mindset to pulling is the easy part. Acceleration will just be slow and gradual, top speed will be less, take the corners to allow for the trailer too, and maybe adjust tire pressure depending on load…all easy-peasy.

But brake fade will bite your butt as a complete surprise as just the wrong time…I speak form experience.
This is where lower top speed when towing is so important…you must plan that far ahead for the impending stopping.
and …most of the time you’ll have no problems, but get used to slowing early and gradually…noticing the traffic and traffic light cycles ahead and slowing with down shift as well.
but after lot of stopping , time after time, the brakes start to get too hot, and there will come a time that the peddal seems to do nothing.

The class I hitch I believe is rated for a tongue weight of 100# and trailer weight of something like 1500-2000. That would fit your circumstance but the vehicle is something else.

Another reason not to exceed the rated weight is that the Fusion is FWD. The weight of the trailer will push down the rear and therefore lift the front end. This will make steering more difficult and the max weight is exceeded. When in doubt, make 2 trips to the dump. Don’t underestimate the weight of grass clippings. Green grass has water in it and water weighs 8.5 pounds per gallon.

Good comments here. I will just add that there are no small vehicles out there that are good tow vehicles. Sure…the vehicle may pull the load but at what cost? Towing and pulling are 2 completely different animals.

Like I said before I have towed everywhere with a FWD and never had a problem. Towed a camper through hill and dale and on dry, snow, and ice with a Park Ave and Riviera FWD and no problems. I now use my G6 for similar 4x8 towing. You’ve got to remember that the tongue weight is less than 100 pounds so that is all the weight that is pushing down on the back. Stopping has never been a problem either with four wheel disc brakes. A little 4x8 is really nothing. Now a car hauler or something is different.

A little trailer like this should be no problem for the Fusion although from past experience i’d rather tow with an automatic. My dad has had a similar trailer behind his '07 CRV for mainly in town with the trailer carrying no more than 500lbs of weight (Payload for ours is 900lbs). Keep in mind he has also been towing a small ski boat for years. Used to have a FWD minivan which always carried a light tongue weight so no traction issues even on the steep launch ramps around here.

I wouldn’t recommend to tow anything w/a Ford Fusion. This type of car really isn’t designed to tow stuff. There’s just too much chance of damaging the car or it being unsafe. You know what I’d do in this case is just rent a truck for the day. I expect you could rent a small truck for $50 and have it the entire day to use. $50 too much? Consider how much it would cost to fix a Fusion’s damaged transmission.

I would be tempted to put the hitch on the older Buick. But regardless…

Think of it ;-(, You would think nothing of putting four two hundred pound heavy weight lardos in a Fusion and going to the bar once a week. It’s easier on the car to tow that 800 lbs then carry it inside on most components other the the drive train as you now only have the drag of the weight accelerating and braking assuming you keep the speed down. Heck, it’s even easier on the suspension and tires and wheels when cornering and specially hitting a bump. Nearly all vehicles are rated to tow more then they can carry inside for that exact reason. Now, if you travel at higher speeds, the drag then becomes a big factor.

Don’t be afraid of towing reasonable light weights under the recomend amount. It’s no big deal.

I certainly am getting contradictory feedback here guys. Anyone have something definitive? I don’t feel a utility trailer with yard waste, cedar bark, a Christmas tree and a old dresser here and there is that big of deal.

“Don’t be afraid of towing reasonable light weights under the recomend amount. It’s no big deal.”

I concur, its not a big deal and what I do. Don’t expect to get 100% approval or disapproval here usually. Some folks here just don’t think anything should be towed with less than a deuce and a half.

Here’s something definitive. Do not exceed your car’s towing rating. Anything else is opinion. Could be good opinion, but it’s opinion.

And if you want a guaranteed way not to damage your car with towing, don’t tow.