Dodge Dakotas, Rams Offer Full Range of Towing, Hauling Options

Article excerpt

Work trucks are like football linemen. They've got to be strong and tough, and have the ability to get heavy loads moving as efficiently as possible. When there's not enough power to handle the load, the pickup owner loses the game.

Pickup and load mismatches frequently occur because many factors have to be in sync to ensure optimum towing and payload-hauling efficiency, said Bart McLellan, chief of Dodge truck product planning.

The truck has to be right for the application, and Dodge offers the midsize Dakota and three classes of light-duty, full-size Ram pickups to serve the needs of those looking to saddle up a workhorse. This Ram line includes 1500 half-ton, 2500 three-quarter-ton and 3500 one-ton dual-rear-wheel models, which Mr. McLellan said will meet a wide range of heavy-duty challenges.

Reviewing data on pickup trailering and payload capabilities available at Dodge dealerships will help match a truck with its workload. Among the factors considered are truck size, engine size, transmission type, tongue weight and axle ratio.

In towing applications, an awareness of the weight needed to be towed can thwart bad marriages, like a monster 3500 bought to wag around a small aluminum boat or a 1500 purchased to engage in a tug of war with a giant travel trailer.

There are five basic trailer classes based on trailer weights: Class I, up to 2,000 pounds; Class II, 2,000-3,500 pounds; Class III, 3,500-5,000 pounds; Class IV, 5,000-10,000 pounds; and Class V, over 10,000 pounds.

"Generally speaking, our Club Cabs are the most popular trailer-towing vehicles in the Ram lineup," Mr. McLellan said. "About 57 percent of the buyers of frequently towed trailers opt for the Ram Club Cab."

A critical missing link between truck and trailer is the hitch. Basically, loads up to 5,000 pounds can be towed right off the bumper with a frame-mounted hitch commonly known as a hitch ball, he said. This type of lightweight trailer towing requires the appropriate Class I, II or III hitch.

When towing weights between 5,000 and 10,000 pounds a Class IV weight-equalizing hitch is required. Heavyweight trailers, (above 10,000 pounds) need a fifth-wheel setup.

It's common to see large travel, moving and horse trailers with the fifth-wheel or gooseneck configuration, distinguished by a tongue that attaches to a specially designed mount in a pickup's bed. This mount is a high platform with a coupling pin that's usually mounted over the rear axle.

Tongue weight or load is another factor that has to be taken into account when piecing together the towing jigsaw puzzle. This is the amount of weight on the hitch of a tow vehicle with a trailer attached. The goal in most situations is to achieve optimum handling by placing as much weight as possible on the trailer's tongue. A general rule is that tongue weight should fall between 10 to 15 percent of loaded trailer weight. Also, the tongue weight can cause the vehicle to exceed its gross vehicle weight rating.

When you're guzzling 30-weight coffee with the boys at the local truck stop, it's cooler to refer to gross vehicle weight rating as GVWR. This is the total weight of a truck with cargo, driver and passengers, fuel and water. Those glitzy, body-colored campers popularly used to dress up Rams also figure into GVWR. …