Towing With A Taurus - What You Need to Know

Since the introduction of the Ford Taurus in 1986, it has been used for many things - family car, commuting, racing, etc. But what about towing? Can it be done?

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Ford Taurus 2-14 blk sedan

The answer is yes - absolutely. You can tow a small utility trailer, a jet ski, etc. with a Taurus (especially a newer Taurus), but you need to know your vehicle's limits to do it right. Here's a rundown on the basics, along with some specific tips for towing based on your specific year.

Towing Tips for First-Timers

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Taurus driver or not, here are some tips on towing for newbies to get you started:

Inspect your braking system. Before you begin to tow, know that you’ll be putting extra stress on your Taurus’ brakes (even when you use trailer brakes, your vehicle brake system is subjected to additional loads). Inspect the pads and rotors, and make sure there’s enough fluid in the system.

Carry a spare trailer tire. You’ve already got a spare for your vehicle (hopefully), but don’t forget to grab spare for your trailer as well! Trailer tires seem to incur damage more easily, and you’re more likely to get a flat on your trailer.

Watch your speed. In many states, the legal speed limit for towing is 55 mph. Not to mention, most auto manufacturers (including Ford) suggest you tow at 55mph or less to protect your transmission. While this particular speed limit rule is rarely followed, it's a good idea.

Don't tow in overdrive if possible. Your Taurus has an overdrive gear (typically the very last gear), and it's not a good idea to tow in that gear. To keep your Taurus out of overdrive, you can check your owner's manual to see about either a) switching overdrive off or b) selecting gears with the gearshift.

To be fair, sometimes it's not possible to de-select overdrive. If that's the case with your vehicle, don't worry about it. But if you can keep from towing in overdrive, you'll keep transmission temperatures down and decrease the odds of damage.

Leave plenty of room in front of your vehicle. You’re going to need much more space to stop when you’re pulling a trailer. Make sure to give yourself a few additional car lengths - even at lower speeds - to make sure you have enough room to stop safely. If you try to stop too quickly, your trailer could very well flip your vehicle around and cause a serious accident.

Finally, remember this: whatever vehicle you're towing with, the heavier your trailer, the more control it can exert over your car. If you're pulling a 3,500lb trailer with a 3,500lb car, you've basically doubled the weight of your vehicle AND given half of that weight considerable leverage. Caution is the mantra of anyone towing.

What You Need to Know About Towing With A Taurus

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First, remember to check your Taurus owner’s manual for exact information. What we've laid out here is just a guide.

Generally speaking:

  • Almost all Ford Taurus models have a towing capacity of around 1,000 pounds. This capacity is not braked, meaning it can be a simple utility trailer, jet ski trailer, etc.
  • The tongue weight of the trailer should be no more than 100 pounds. That means that your 1,000lbs (or less) trailer should be balanced on it's axle...if there's too much weight forward of the axle, it will exceed the tongue weight.
  • There's something called "frontal area" that impacts tow ratings, as a larger sized trailer exerts a lot of aerodynamic drag at highway speeds. On a late model Taurus, the maximum frontal area is 12 square feet. You calculate the frontal area of a trailer by multiplying the trailer's width (in feet) with it's height (also in feet). If it's over 12 square feet, the trailer will create too much air resistance at highway speeds and potentially cause damage to your transmission.

Here are some examples to help you decide if your Taurus can pull a trailer or if you need something else.

Example #1: You want to rent a simple 4x8 U-Haul cargo trailer, load it up with some of your child's boxes and personal belongings, and tow it to their college dorm. The problem here is that the frontal area of a 4' by 8' foot trailer is about 16 square feet (they're four feet wide and about as many tall). So, even if you put less than 1,000lbs of "stuff" in this little U-Haul trailer, it's too big for your Taurus.

Example #2: Let's say you have a utility trailer that weighs 300lbs empty. Let's say you add 1,000lbs of stuff to this trailer. The total weight of the cargo plus the trailer is 1,300lbs, which means it's too big for your Taurus.

Example #3: Let's say that you have a small single axle utility trailer, and that the trailer's weight (with cargo) is only 800lbs. Let's also assume the frontal area is less than 12 square feet. So far, so good.

But let's say that you trailer isn't loaded evenly, and that more than half the weight is forward of the axle, increasing the tongue weight to 150 lbs. This is too much weight on the tongue of the trailer (100lbs is the max), which can result in damage to the rear suspension system. The trailer is too heavy.

As you can see from all of these examples, towing with a car like the Taurus is something that you have to be very careful with. If the trailer is too large, it will exceed the frontal area rating. If it isn't balanced, it will exceed the tongue load rating. If you're not accounting for the weight of the trailer and your cargo, it's easy to exceed the max limit. Etc.

Some other notes about towing with your Taurus:

  • You should never tow anything for the first 500 miles of vehicle ownership (eg, never put a trailer on a brand new car)
  • Towing in mountains or at very high speeds (over 55mph) can cause transmission damage. If you have to tow in these conditions, make frequent stops and allow your transmission to cool.
  • Please note that the newer Taurus SHO is not rated to tow a trailer. Most other Taurus models are rated for towing, but it's essential that you check your owners manual.

Last But Not Least, Special Equipment You Need When Towing

There is no factory installed tow package available for the Taurus, which means you'll need to mount an after-market hitch. Be sure to work with a competent tow shop (or your local Ford dealer) to install the right hitch. You'll also want to have the tow shop or dealership add a wiring harness so your trailer's lights can be hooked up to your vehicle lights (only you may be able to skip this depending on where you live and intend to tow).

Other gear you'll need:

  • Safety chains, which should be attached to your trailer
  • As mentioned previously, be sure to carry a spare tire for your trailer
  • Wheel chocks are always a good idea, as they take a tremendous burden off your vehicle's brake system if you have to park your vehicle on a grade with the trailer attached
  • Most small trailers don't have their own braking systems, but if your trailer comes equipped with a brake system, you'll want to consider installing a brake controller in your Taurus

Summing up, towing a trailer with a Taurus is possible, but to borrow a phrase, "the stars must be in alignment." Make sure your trailer meets the weight and frontal area requirements, make sure your vehicle is in shape to tow, and plan to take your time.

Alternatively, you can rent or borrow a truck and tow a small trailer very, very easily...something to consider.