By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Reader Mike Connolly writes in with this question:
I have a question maybe you can help me with. I just bought a 2017 Dodge Ram 1500 crew cab, 5.7 liter hemi v-8 395 horsepower 8 spd tranny with a Class 4 receiver. It has a tow assist inside the cab, and I’m looking at a 26-foot RV, approximately 6,500 pounds. What can I add to this vehicle – air bags, trailer brake assists, etc. – for safer towing? Any help or advice you can give would be greatly appreciated, thanks.
I don’t know the rated tow capacity of your rig, but it would seem a given that you are well within weight range for the rig as you describe it. 6,500 pounds as a pull-behind is pretty light, compared to what many are yanking around these days. It scales in right about where my personal rig comes in – 26-foot older wood-frame travel trailer.
First off, sway control. At the minimum, a friction control sway kit is an inexpensive but useful device – should run less than $60. In windy conditions, and when being passed by big rigs, it can “dampen” the effect of that sick-to-your-gut feeling when the combination feels like it’s getting out of hand. But even before you worry about plunking down your money, make sure you have good weight distribution in your rig. At least 10 percent of your total trailer weight (including cargo and wet goods) needs to be out over that tow ball. Anything less, you’re begging for a lack of stability and the curse of the wagging rear-end. Take your new rig, load it up, and haul it down to a public scale!
Anyway, many travel trailer enthusiasts would recommend you go a step above a friction sway control and invest a few more bucks (say up to $300 or so) and invest in a weight distribution system. It’s a bit more complex, but once you get the hang of it, it will not only help dampen sway, it will make a better distribution of weight between your tow vehicle and the trailer. With our rig, we’ve never really had the need for such an animal; in fact, we don’t even pump up the air bags in the truck, which is an older one-ton dually. Do ensure, however, that you adjust your hitch height so that the trailer runs level – neither high nor low at the hitch.
I assume with your truck the “tow package” includes a brake controller. If not, that’s on the obvious “must have” list.
Other than that, anything else is whistles and bells – and a drain on the wallet.
Keep your safety chains crossed, your breakaway cable hooked up, and fair winds to you!