Trailer Towing with an Explorer



I own a 2005 Ford Explorer, 4.0 liter v6, 210 hp, 254 lbs torque, 4wd, AT, with a trailer towing package. It is rated at max towing capacity of 5380 lbs. I want to buy a travel trailer that has a dry weight of 4,800 lbs and a GVW of 5,400 lbs. Will my Exporer be really be able to tow something this heavy or will I regret doing this? Should I buy a F-150 with a 5.4 liter engine, rated at 11,300 lbs? I am trying to stay within a budget.


It really depends. If you only tow 1-2 times a year for at most 2-3 hours…it’s probably fine…But if you tow 5-10 times a year then I think you’re asking for trouble.


I towed a 28 ft Holiday Rambler with my Ford E350 all over the place for about 5 years. It was a nightmare until I got a Hensley Hitch.


Thanks, this makes sense. I was planning on towing pretty regularly all the way from sea level in California to the Rockies at 10,000 feet plus.


Thabnks for the information. Can you explain a Hensley Hitch to me? I would think that an E350 would be able to pull just about anything.


The base curb weight of your Explorer is around 4300 lbs. In the RV world there is a rule of thumb for towing trailers even if the manufacturers max towing weight is ridiculous (most are). The trailer being towed can be no more than 75% of the vehicle weight. This takes several factors into consideration including braking and safety. This means your “actual” towing ability in a Ford Explorer is only 3225 lbs. This is a far more realistic number.

Your Explorer can pull the weight even with a V6 (which is not recommended either) but your braking when it comes to 5400 lbs is another matter. You need to find a smaller trailer or a larger tow vehicle. In either case a 4-Way sway system will make your trips a lot easier and safer.


Some hitches class I,II, III essential put all the tongue weight of the trailer on the rear wheels of the tow vehicle. There are “weight distribution” hitches and I believe the Hensley referred to is one of those. They bolt onto the frame and therefore put more of the trailer weight on the front wheels as well as the back - more balanced. This makes the tow vehicle and the trailer more stable and easier to control.

Back to your Explorer, you will be at the very top end of your capacities. It is very easy to overload the trailer and then you might have passengers and gear in the tow vehicle too. This sounds pretty shakey unless towing is a couple of weekends a year over a few hundred miles. If you use the Explorer you must be sure to get electric brakes on the trailer and have a good brake controller installed on the Explorer. Then I’d keep the speeds to 60 mph tops.


Make CERTAIN the trailer has working brakes.

The truck being able to handle it,
and you being able to drive it,
can be two different animals.

My 79 chevy pickup can easily handle the tounge weight of the 27 foot travel trailer. It barely squashes the springs and it evens shifts smoother with the weight on.
But I use a Reese equalizing setup anyway. Because ?
Because of the suspension bounce. The truck has springs, the trailer has springs, and they argue over which bump is whose so the connection at the hitch bounces too !
The equalizer eliminates and completely controls the hitch bounce allowing wonderful vehicle control.


Again, thanks a lot. I was planning on getting one of this load leveler hitchs, but based on what I have heard from all of you I best not do something that I will regret.


Based on your stated towing plans, you need a Ford F-150 with a HD towing package at least. That would include a pulling axle, electrical , HD transmission, engine cooling, etc. The Explorer is not going to hack this and will make your vacation less than pleasant.

A buddy of mine has such a Ford F-150 and tows big 5th wheel with it, through the Rocky Mountains and everywhere else. GM (Chevrolet, GMC)also makes such a package and it’s available on a Suburban as well.


I like your describtion about how the truck and trailer argue about who’s bump it is.


An alternative to an F-150 would be an Expedition, 2wd with the heavy duty towing package, can handle up to 9200 lbs. Like the others have said, the v6 Explorer is too small for the towing you want to do, especially over the Rockies.


No, don’t do it.

The gross vehicle weight rating of the trailer exceeds the towing capacity of your Explorer. If GVRW > towing capacity, get another travel trailer that doesn’t exceed the Explorer’s towing capacity.


Remember that capacity goes down by about 2% for ever 1000 feet above sea level as well. Honestly I wouldn’t tow anything over 3000 pounds or so with a V6 Explorer. I think you’re going to need more truck/SUV to pull off this trip with a comfortable saftey margin.

As it stands right now you’re at the very edge of your current vehicles capacity, and well past them once you go up the mountain.



Most of the info given is correct but not thorough enough for what you really need to know.

Not only do you have to consider the weight towed, but also the weight (load) in your tow vehicle, proper loading, etc.

FYI, a Hensley hitch can cost up to $3k so think about it first. Do NOT rush into this.

Have a read at the following site :

Trailer sway is what MUST be under control at all times.

With the Hensley you won’t need a sway bar.

There are numerous hitches and weight distribution hitches.

The WDH is the one you’ll need no matter what you tow with in order to get the biggest safety factor.

You can also get first hand knowledge from long time RVers at parks or online at RV sites.

Aside from a sway bar you’ll have to take into consideration the wheelbase on the tow vehicle must be long enough to handle the trailer length. The RV towing sites give you that info.

Plus, something else no one here mentioned is you need a brake controller that hooks up in a convenient location in your tow vehicle and is wired to the trailer brakes.

I use a Prodigy in my rig and love it for it’s easy setting up and smooth braking.

I have a 2002 Chevy Tahoe 4x4 with a 5.3L V8, a Podigy brake controller, a Reese weight distribution hitch and sway bar and tow a 21ft travel trailer.

The 116" wheelbase limits me to towing a 23ft trailer. Weight is no bother for the 5.3L (285hp) and a 3.73 rear end.

What ever you tow with, it’s recommended to NOT use OD when towing to cut down on damaging tranny heat. Very wise to have a large tranny cooler equipped also.


Key Word: “V8”…


I am sure you can see a video on the internet that explains the Hensley. Other issues with towing a trailer; Long wheel base vehical makes for a more stable ride. I think the chevy pick ups are better in this regard. E350 is a terrible towing vehicle. Even with the towing package it ate up the tranny after 75K and the rear axle after 95k.


Another wonderful reality with towing is it eats up tires on the trailer and you don’t realize you’ve got a flat until passersby are waving at you and your trailers on fire… get a motor home. Most travel trailer tires are not built for a long haul.


IMVHO, I’ve towed lots and towing near the maximum tow capacity with little reserve is no fun. The motor is marginal for extended towing. I wouldn’t hesitate a boat trip the lake nearby, but long term travel and camping with this…nope. I wouldn’t feel safe with anything under 7500lbs minimum tow capacity for your job…that means a full size vehicle with v8 etc. You’ll thank us the first mountain you climb, and descend.


Another aspect of RVing I truly enjoyed was figuring out where to dump. After I while it felt more like a sewage trailer rather than an travel trailer.