How much torque do you need to tow a caravan? (7 other factors to consider)

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: How much torque do you need to tow a caravan? We talk about the most important characteristics that a towing car should have and help you decide what is best for you.

How much torque do you need to tow a caravan?

The strength of a vehicle, and therefore its towing capacity, is determined by its engine torque, not by power. It is generally accepted that a car with 80lb ft of torque for every tonne of car and caravan is the best. You may be able to tow even with less, but when dropping to 60lb ft per tonne the acceleration will be quite sluggish. 

The market offers us an extensive catalogue of cars with a multitude of features and an increasing number of technologies, many of them very relevant when pulling a trailer. Although we think that any car can tow any caravan or trailer, the reality is quite different: if we want to drive a balanced set, we must choose a suitable towing vehicle.

If you are thinking of changing cars and are looking for one with the ability to tow your trailer with dignity and safety, continue reading to find that:

  • Some objective parameters that are key to correctly choosing a good towing vehicle.
  • And learn to validate if the car is enough to pull the trailer safely.

It is very difficult to choose a car based solely on objective parameters such as power, weight, engine torque, etc. We all know that if what we want is an excellent tug, nothing like a huge off-road with a stable under the hood.

However, most of us also seek sensations, aesthetic balance, comfort … After all, we will use the vehicle not only for towing but also for our daily lives. A bad choice in this regard will become a drag, even for our finances.

Essential characteristics for  a towing car

Weight, power, displacement, engine torque, traction, transmission or consumption are some of the most important parameters to choose a good car to tow a trailer. 

Next, we will see each of them without going into too many technical details, it is difficult to synthesize some concepts to make them understandable as well as rigorous.

Weight

The weight of the towing vehicle is much more important than many of us believe. On the road, we seek poise, especially when we drive heavy caravans whose resistance “pulls” the towing vehicle.

As we know, all trailers experience oscillatory movements on the road, and even more so in the presence of winds. We need a car with the ability to absorb these movements without being “dragged” or pushed by the caravan, and we are not going to obtain this stability due to power or torque, the difference in weight between car and trailer is the key.

The weight must be looked at in the car’s specifications or the technical sheet and is expressed in the following ways:

Tare: is the mass (weight) of the unloaded vehicle, with its fuel tanks, lubricant, fluids, tools, spare wheels … everything in its place.

Maximum authorized mass (MAM): corresponds to the maximum total mass that the car can carry, so that we understand each other: the total weight with passengers, luggage, bicycles … everything. The higher the MMA of our towing vehicle, the better, the more cargo and luggage we can take out of the caravan to put in the car and the more poise our set will have.

However, the law must be kept in mind; At the moment, drivers who tow a trailer have certain limitations that affect us. In general, terms, if we buy a very heavy car, with a high MAM to pull a heavy caravan, we will be obliged to obtain a driving license that allows us to carry our set. 

There is a recommendation circulating on the networks that recommend that the “towing vehicle must weigh at least 20% more empty (Tare) than the caravan with all its load”. It is a good recommendation.

For example, for a 1000 kg caravan, the car should weigh 20% more, that is, 1200 kg when empty; that later on with occupants, luggage, etc. it can exceed 1600 kg, not bad.

Obviously, the greater the mass of the towing vehicle the better, but remember the limitations of your driving license and that you must move, if you are overweight you will need more pushing force to move, especially on climbs.

Minivans, SUVs and SUVs, pick-ups and vans are the ones that tend to have the greatest MAM and, therefore, they offer us more poise when pulling trailers.

Power

Exaggerated importance is given to horsepower of the towing vehicle. It is obvious that the more power a car develops, the better it will manage the whole, but there are much more important variables. Do not forget that there are speed limitations when we carry trailers.

Power offers us speed and acceleration at a certain time. In our case, it will help us especially to start from a standstill and reach cruising speed, also to face the slopes. So the higher the weight of your set, the more power the car will require.

Currently, it is common to find cars from 115 hp, perfect for light trailers (less than 750 kg) and medium weight, but for heavy sets, it would be convenient to go to higher powers.

Other questions you may be interested in

Do you need towing mirrors on a van?

How much does a 16 ft caravan weigh?

How much payload do I need in a caravan?

Displacement

Displacement is the sum of the volume of all cylinders in an engine. To tow, what we must know is that the more volume in the cylinders, the greater the air that each one can hold, the greater the fuel burn and the greater the delivery of torque.

There is a correlation between displacement and torque that we will see below, therefore, the more displacement, the better to pull trailers.

On the other hand, the greater the displacement, the more comfortable the vehicle will go. Let’s take an example: a 1600 cc car and another 2000 cc, both go at 100 km / h, the first reach that speed reaching 3000 rpm (revolutions per minute) and the second at 1500 rpm. There is no doubt that the engine running at lower rpm will suffer much less wear, therefore the higher the displacement the better.

As you can imagine, there are many technical variables in the relationship between power, displacement and torque, but we will leave them aside in this article. 

Torque

Engine torque is the great unknown, it is the concept that generates the most doubts and yet it is one of the most relevant parameters when it comes to driving a caravan.

It is about the force that our car is capable of exerting about a distance. Engine torque (also called torque) is expressed in Nm (Newtons per meter).

Most of us have deeply rooted in our brains the idea that the power of a car is its strength, but nothing could be further from the truth. The strength of a vehicle, and therefore its towing capacity, is determined by its engine torque, not by power.

The larger the car’s displacement (due to the larger size of its cylinders), so is its engine torque. The problem is that it is not a constant value but depends on the power generated in the cylinders and the number of revolutions at which the engine is turning at that specific moment.

In summary, power is the speed at which a certain effort will be made, while engine torque represents the ability to make that certain effort. So for pulling caravans or any type of trailer, the more torque the better.

Fuel

Which is better, diesel or gasoline?

The answer is complicated because each option offers us very different sensations, both have defenders and detractors in equal measure. However, based on the data and from the perspective that concerns us, looking for the best option for towing trailers, the answer is simple:

For towing, better diesel.

First, due to the higher compression ratio than gasoline, diesel engines develop more torque at lower revs, which contributes to lengthening the life of the engine with more comfortable use in driving.

Consumption, at the time of pulling a trailer, is going to skyrocket, it will perfectly reach a 50% increase or more, although it will depend on a multitude of variables such as weight, wind, speed, driving style…. 

Traction

Traction is another important aspect of pulling a trailer. It will provide us with solvency, adherence and as a consequence, greater security. Traction is the system of transmission of force from the engine to the wheels of the car.

In the market, we find several types of traction: AWD, FWD, RWD, 4WD, 4 × 4, what gibberish, right? We briefly explain them below:

FWD or front-wheel drive: the most classic and with the greatest presence in vehicles. In this case, the pushing force is exerted only on the two front wheels.

Its advantage is that it is cheap to maintain and it has good cornering behaviour by coinciding with the front direction of the vehicle.

RWD or rear-wheel drive: also called propulsion. The driving force is received by the wheels of the rear axle, it is more frequent in sports cars. The handling is agile and they have a good grip. For towing, the rear-wheel-drive offers better results than front-wheel drive as the expression of the driving force approaches the meeting point of the assembly, the hitch ball.

AWD or permanent all-wheel drive: when all four wheels are constantly being pushed by the engine. Ideal for low grip terrain and of course for pulling trailers because all the wheels contribute to the thrust. They have a centre differential that distributes, manages and distributes rotational forces to each axle. However, the cost of acquisition, maintenance and fuel consumption are higher.

4WD or non-permanent all-wheel drive: Unlike the previous one, the driver can disconnect all-wheel drive when it is not needed. The acquisition and maintenance cost is higher, but consumption is adapted to the pilot’s requirements.

4 × 4 or off-road: the traction force is distributed 50% between the two axles. They do not have a rear differential so the driver has to transfer the driving force by using a reduction lever to both axles or only to the rear, depending on the circumstances of the road.

If you are looking to maximize safety, any vehicle with all-wheel drive or 4 × 4, will be a plus in this regard compared to those with propulsion or front-wheel drive. The key when towing is that the tires will need less unit traction capacity since the engine power is distributed between four tires and not just two.

Tow transmission

It is important if the car has automatic, manual, sequential, CVT, etc. but it has the greatest impact on subjective aspects such as comfort when driving.

Objectively, today’s automatic transmissions improve efficiency when towing because they allow enough torque to be available to manage the whole in the most suitable gear. Although if you like manual transmission cars, it is not a determining factor in ruling out or selecting a good towing vehicle.

Size of the towing car

The total volume of the car is also important mainly for three reasons:

  • A larger size of the towing vehicle helps to minimize the effects of the wind on the trailer, especially in caravans.
  •  Less difference between typical fuel consumption without a trailer and consumption while towing.
  • Typically a larger size packs more weight, and we’ve already seen that it’s good for towing.

However, we must also think about the time that we do not pull our trailers. If you buy a huge car, you will need more engine to move it, it will consume more fuel, it will cost you more to park it, more wear due to its weight …

The bottom line

In this blog post, we answered the following question: How much torque do you need to tow a caravan? We talked about the most important characteristics that a towing car should have and help you decide what is best for you.

To remind you, we spoke about the following characteristics that you should pay attention to before buying a caravan or a trailer. Thus, your car’s: weight, power, displacement, torque, field, traction, tow transmission, and the size of the towing car.

Hopefully, we managed to help you decide what is the best car and the best type of caravan/trailer for you. If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!

FAQ on How much torque do you need to tow a caravan?

Is torque important for towing?

Torque is extremely important for towing a caravan/trailer. The strength of a vehicle, and therefore its towing capacity, is determined by its engine torque, not by power.

What size engine do you need to tow a caravan?

To tow a caravan, the recommended size of the engine is the 2.0-litre diesel engine with an average of 148bhp.

Which is more important: HP or torque?

Both HP and torque are important when towing a caravan. It is obvious that the more power a car develops, the better it will manage the whole, but there are much more important variables. The strength of a vehicle, and therefore its towing capacity, is determined by its engine torque, not by power.

What happens when you exceed your vehicle’s towing capacity?

When you exceed your vehicle’s towing capacity you bring a series of consequences for your card, such as engine overheating; tire failure, overloading the drivetrain, CO2 emissions increase among others. 

References

Towingandtrailers.com

Caravanchronicles.com

Practicalcaravan.com

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