Ford 2006 Explorer,
SUV's and Trailers
Flying into Lake Placid New York reminds
me of home, where there is no tower, no radar, just taking turns landing
on an air strip hoping deer are somewhere else. But the scenery there
was a great place to drive the new 2006 Ford Explorer. It's always
amazed me how many #1's Ford has. The Explorer was born in 1991 and has
been the #1 selling SUV ever since. That makes 15 years straight, even
through some bumpy years, nobody has taken the title. Explorer is also a
popular tow vehicle with trailer capacity increased 10% to 7300#'s
for 2006. The nose is different with some resemblance to it's cousin
Range Rover. A new 6-speed automatic transmission and a variable cam
3-valve 4.6L V-8 adds 53 horse power and improves fuel economy by 10%.
new boxed frame is 55% stiffer, which allows more suspension
tuning options as well as strength.
Ford has done a better job of a clean undercarriage, with nothing
hanging below the frame. Two receiver hitches are offered, a
class II and Class III/VI, both welded to the frame. With the
stiffer, stronger boxed frame, more squeaks and rattles are
eliminated, contributing to the quietest Explorer ever. The new
mirrors look better, are larger and deflect noise better. Better
insulation and air flow management in and out the engine all
Ford sponsored the Ironman Triathlon in
Lake Placid in July. We saw some of the cyclist practicing on the
winding roads in the Adirondack mountain range. A lot like driving to
Estes Park CO on the weekend, weaving around the bikes on the two lane
winding road. The new 06 Explorer has a better ride, quieter, more
powerful and a cheaper sticker price than the 05 by $1750. The latest
strategy to wean us off rebates, is lowering the sticker price to get
you closer where you'd be by negotiating hard. Less markup, less profit
for dealers, I guess we're heading for "one price" again. The 4.0L V-6
base engine mated to a 5-speed auto, is a champion for low emissions.
74% lower emissions than last years V-6, equals the emissions rating of
the Ford Hybrid Escape.
The 4.6L V-8 3-valve has aluminum heads
and cast block producing 292 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. It
comes with the new 6-speed automatic transmission with double overdrives
and a wide range of gear ratios which the computer controls for performance
or fuel efficiency depending on the load it senses. The only axle ratio
offered is 3.55. As someone who tows trailers, I was happy to see the
3.73 and sometimes 4.10 axle ratios in the past, but with $2 gas it's
easy to see what compromises have to be made in this trend. Another
trend is sealed transmissions, once again I'm not a fan. I like
dipsticks and being able to check tranny oil level myself. But not with
the new Explorer, like many newer cars, you'll have to take it in for
service when your owners manual says it needs checked. Then your
mechanic will have to pull the plug on the tranny next to the catalytic
converter and stick his/her dipstick in while the engine is running. Oh
well, I suspect some consumers don't check the tranny oil anyway,
probably the ones in the Ford focus group.
Ford is ahead of the curve on safety.
Which is where buying Volvo is paying off. The "in accident" collapsible
steering wheel is from the Volvo SC90 which with seat sensors decides
your size, if your seat belt is on, crash severity and how to protect
you with the right amount of impact from the air bag. 10 standard
safety features includes Roll Stability Control from Volvo to prevent
accidents, just one of the long list of safety features making the
Explorer meet known Federal safety requirements through 2010. Ford has
designed the 06 Explorer to protect your whole body, what a concept.
There is a 4" thick foam in the door to protect your hips and side to
side railing under the floor as well as frame inside of frame to keep
you surrounded in a steel cage. Even the arm rest and door trim have a
targeted part of your body they protect.
The Explorer first had an independent
rear suspension in 2002. This is what allowed the room for a 3rd row
seat with the differential bolted to the frame and the half-shafts going
through the frame for a lower profile. Trailing arms control the rear
suspension, replacing the wishbone style of last year. Independent Rear
Suspension gives a softer ride and better traction but also allows more
movement with a trailer. Another good reason for using a weight
distributing hitch. I'll have more towing info this fall.
Somebody said "free Adirondack Root Beer
float" and all the Explorers magically stopped. My first time to New
York and it's all trees and lakes. Some of the interior such as the pole
shifter, are similar to the new F150 which introduced the 3-valve
variable cam timing engine.
views in Lake Placid, the Explores are taking it in.
Heavier control arms
05 mirror on left, 06 right.
it look a little like a range rover?
SUVís and Trailers
SUV's aren't my first choice as a tow vehicle, but I do
understand the economics. Not everyone can afford a truck and a car. And the
size, weight and height of a SUV gives you the feeling of safety in traffic.
You want that same safety towing a horse trailer by making the right choice
matching your trailer and SUV. SUVís
are becoming more popular each year. Recently the smallest Hummer. 2006 H3
Hummer (size similar to GM Trail Blazer) was unveiled at California Auto
show in Oct. Who do you think this
is targeted at ladies?
SUV's have such variety and
now more diesels are coming. The reason I have a soft spot for diesel SUV's
for a tow vehicle, is the torque that translates to towing power, more so
than from a gas engine. That's why all over the road semi trucks are
diesels. And the diesel engine itself weights 600 to 800#'s more than a gas
engine, giving a SUV, already hampered by a shorter wheelbase, some
leverage. Pickup truck configurations generally have a longer wheelbase than
SUV's, a longer wheelbase can leverage your SUV for better controlling your
trailer. For example a Ford Excursion has a wheelbase of 137 inches. and a
Ford F250 crew cab long bed has a wheelbase of 172 inches.
Get the biggest and longest
SUV is the short answer. The full-size SUVís have similar frames to trucks
and a lot of them are boxed frames instead of C-frame, so they are strong.
But you've got to get as much wheelbase as you can find. So to pull a
trailer similar to a Ĺ ton truck, (GM, 1500, Dodge 1500, Ford F150, Toyota
Tundra,) you need a SUV with a similar weight to a Ĺ ton truck. This would
include Dodge Durango, Ford Expedition, Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Toyota
Sequoia and others. These SUVís have a ďBody on FrameĒ construction like
Always look at the vehicles trailer towing limits from
the manufacture. Most factory brochures and manufacture web sites will give
you the brake down of weight limits and hitch weight limits according to
engine size, transmission, and rear axle ratio. For the highest
trailer capacity, usually a weight-distributing hitch is required with a
receiver hitch, at least class 3 or higher. This is different from a weight
carrying hitch, which is just a drawbar inserted into the receiver hitch.
The weight-distributing hitch attaches to the trailer tongue with
adjustments usually with chain links to transfer weight forward to the SUV,
putting weight on all the axles. In cases where the weight
distributing hitch adjustment doesnít take all the sway away when pulling
the trailer, a sway bar can be added to the weight-distributing hitch. All
this will help you pull level, with weight on all of the axles of the SUV
and trailer and less swaying from a bumper pull trailer.
1/2 ton SUVís have rear
coil springs designed to give you a better ride, but this also gives you
more rear movement. You donít want extra movement when pulling a trailer. So
itís even more important to have a weight-distributing hitch on SUVís with
rear coil springs and especially SUVís with independent rear axles.
Independent rear axles are similar to front axle of a front wheel drive car.
Each side can move independently of the other. And once again this is to
improve the ride and traction with more movement, not necessarily a good thing when
pulling a trailer. These independent rear axles need the weight-distributing
hitch. Some of the SUVís with independent rear axle are Mercedes, ML320 and
bigger, 2002 plus Ford Explorer, 2003 plus Ford Expedition and more. Always get the
factory tow package with your SUV, which should include a class 3 or higher
receiver hitch, an external automatic transmission cooler, anti-roll bars or
anti-sway bars and a wiring harness. Also make sure both of your trailer
axles have brakes and have a good trailer brake controller added to your
The largest SUVís are the longest ones that are
available in 3/4 tons, which are the Chevy Suburban, GMC Yukon XL and Ford
Excursion. These newer models all have leaf springs on the rear axle, which
makes them, more stable than smaller SUV's with rear coil springs. These
larger SUVís will pull similarly to ĺ ton trucks, (Dodge 2500, Ford F250, GM
2500,) they generally donít have as long a wheelbase as a truck. So once
again depending on the total weight of your loaded trailer, a
weight-distributing hitch might be necessary. One advantage of the Ford
Excursion is the diesel engine option, which will add another 800#ís on the
front for stability and balance when pulling a trailer.
Hummers make a
surprisingly good tow vehicle, more.
Hummers make a
surprisingly good tow vehicle. The H2 with the 4.10 axle ratio, 6.0L High
Output gas engine and it's rear axle so close to the rear bumper, makes a
stable towing machine. I've towed 7000# trailers with an H2 through high
country snowy passes and was impressed. The H1 Hummer called Alpha for
2005.5 now has the GM Duramax diesel and the Allison automatic. This could
make a nice expensive SUV towing vehicle.
On shorter wheel based tow vehicles, having some
steering weight on the SUVís front axle, transferred from the trailer with a
weight distributing hitch will give you better control and less work on your
part. The newer SUVís have
4-wheel disc brakes, which can be an advantage slowing down a trailer. And
of course you need brakes on the trailer and a brake control in your SUV.
Folks have been pulling horse trailers successfully for decades with the
oldest SUV, the Suburban.
If you have to pull with a smaller SUV than mentioned
above, in my opinion the Chevy Trail Blazer, Dodge Durango, Toyota 4Runner
and Ford Explorer and so on are better choices for a tow vehicle with a
lighter trailers properly equipped, like 4000#ís and smaller. These SUVís
are also ďBody on FrameĒ design similar to trucks. The Durango and Explorer
2001 and older have leaf springs also. These SUVís are heavier than the Jeep
Grand Cherokee, Toyota Highlander, and smaller SUVís like Suzuki and Kia.
I get asked my opinion about the Jeep Cherokee pulling
trailers quite often. I do see them pulling trailers and it has with the V-8
option the power to pull trailers that out weigh it, but itsí chassis is
like a car with a "Unibody" undercarriage. With framed chassis vehicles,
ďBody on Frame,Ē the receiver hitch bolts directly to the frame, as do the
front and rear axles. The frame takes the stress from the trailer directly
and gives you more weight at the bottom of your SUV, a good place to have
weight on a SUV. And a weight-distributing hitch can easier transfer some of
weight forward to your front axle thru leverage on the frame. On the Jeep
ďUnibodyĒ, it has sub frames at each axle, which bolt to the floor pan,
which is just corrugated sheet metal, so the axles are not tied together
with a frame but separated by the floor pan.
The last series of Jeep Cherokee does have some square
formed sheet metal welded to the floor pan for added strength but itís still
not a framed chassis with a body bolted to it, as is the ďBody on FrameĒ
design. If you notice on the Cherokee you step over the threshold to get in
and your feet go down in a hole instead of a flat floor. The floor has to be
corrugated, wavy like a barn roof to make it strong since the floor is not
bolted to a full frame. Car companies do this ď UnibodyĒ construction to lighten
up the vehicles for gas mileage and save money. To add a receiver hitch to
the Cherokee, the hitch, bolts to the rear axle sub frame, which in turn
bolts to the floor pan sheet metal. So the stress from the trailer goes just
to the rear axle sub-frame and the bolts and rubber bushings that connect
the axle to sheet metal floor instead of a frame. So as far as I can figure
using a weight distribution hitch, (which I strongly recommend,) to
distribute weight, (which is what they do) to the front axle, has to
leverage the floor pan between the axles.
This is also how the
new Honda Ridgeline crossover truck, is built very similar to the frame
Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The smallest class of SUVís, such as Ford Escape,
Toyota RAV4, and so on, are ďFront Wheel DriveĒ SUVís. These fall into the
same towing category as ďFront Wheel DriveĒ mini- vans. Special receiver
hitches are required with any FWD to transfer weight as far forward as
possible to the driving axles for traction.
A Unique SUV for towing,
which will take another article, is the Suburban 2500 and Yukon XL
Quadrasteer. This system changes the pivot point from the rear axle to the
middle of the vehicle to dramatically reduce the sway that can come from a
trailer. It's like having a steering axle on your trailer.
The bottom line is you can safely
tow the right horse trailer
with a properly equipped SUV when itís matched properly with a receiver
hitch, weight distributing hitch, engine, transmission and rear axle ratio,
within the weight limit capacity set my the manufacture.
SUVís fun function and even a safe towing machine when
equipped right. Excursion diesel, Hemi Grand Cherokee, Touareg diesel, and
the GM Quadrasteers are all bringing excitement to the SUV towing world.
is an Equalizer weight distributing hitch. Some horse trailer manufactures
come with a place for the wdh in the tongue .