Realizing on the first trip out that you bought an underpowered truck to pull your large fifth wheel trailer will give you that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach real quick.
Thinking I was buying a huge powerhouse in a new 1994 Chevy Kodiak ton and a half truck, I made that very mistake.
As soon as we left Tucson and got out on the open highway, my glaring error came to light.
You Can Learn From My Mistake
As big as this truck was, under load it would barely do 60 mph. Stopping wasn’t an issue — it had great brakes — but getting anywhere fast was hopeless!
By the time we got to Las Cruces and headed up the hill toward White Sands, we were all the way down into first gear praying that we would have enough power to clear the summit.
That truck made one trip from Arizona to Minnesota, then it was traded off. Yep, even before it came due for its first oil change.
It was a costly error. The result of my inexperience in matching truck to trailer.
How To Match The Truck To The Trailer
Picking the right truck to become your tow vehicle is a critical part of towing trailers — RV or otherwise.
Physical size is only a very small part of the equation. If you’re underpowered or have the wrong gear ratios in your rear axle, you could find yourself running out of gears as you downshift to climb any hills.
Do you think the car dealership cared that the truck had too small an engine for what I wanted to do? No, they were only too glad to get it off their hands. It had been sitting on the lot for a year. I wonder why!
Today’s 1-ton dually pickups are strong enough to handle most RVs on the market. The dual rear wheels give you better stability — as well as adding a safety factor — since the weight is spread over more tires.
Choosing a diesel or a large gas engine to some degree is a personal choice issue. They’re both big enough to do the job, but the diesel will last a whole heck of a lot longer.
One thing’s for sure: you want the gear ratio in the rear axle to be 4:10 so you’ll have the pulling power to handle hills.
I’ve owned the Duramax, the Power Stroke, and the Chevy 8.1 gas. All will handle a big 5th wheel trailer very well.
Researching RV Tow Trucks
Current diesel pickup trucks have better than 300 hp and above 500 foot lbs of torque. That sorry truck I bought turned out to be only 180 hp, less than the 3-quarter ton I had traded in.
By the time I built the storage space and loaded it, the truck was about maxed-out for load. Then I added that big double slide trailer behind it!
Compare current RV tow truck specifications:
I’ve been involved in RVing for over 50 years — including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs and motorhomes. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller… you’ve got a good idea of who I am. To date, I've shared my RV knowledge in over 300 articles here at The Fun Times Guide!