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Matthew Wright

Too Tiny to Tow?

By July 16, 2007

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Summertime means lots of things to lots of people. To a guy who spends most of his time on the road or staring at car problems, one thing it means is a surge in the number of trailers going down the road. Whether you're towing a Ski-Doo to the lake or dragging a load of manure home to the garden, you'll need to get things straight before you do. A recent email reminded me that not everybody has a Toyota Tundra that was built ready to tow anything right out of the box.
I have a 2001 Mazda Protege and I am intending on towing a trailer (5 x8) that will rarely have more than 500 pounds in it. I have attached the "correct" hitch according to the hitch company. As I went to set up the wiring, the converter instructions suggested checking any wiring instructions from the car manual. I did that and found that the manual says in no uncertain terms: Do not tow a trailer with your Mazda.

Why? What kind of problems could occur if I go ahead and tow the trailer? I have asked many of the trailer hitch vendors in this city and no one can imagine a reason why a trailer cannot be towed with the Protege and think that if it were truly strictly forbidden, a reputable hitch company like DRAWTITE wouldn't make the hitch for the Protege and the Mazda itself wouldn't have ready holes in the frame to receive the hitch.

Please let me know if I am about to embark in disastrous territory.
Thank you, Jill

Jill, I have good news and I have bad news. Actually it's the same news but will vary in impact depending on how you decide to see it. Sound a little obtuse? Well, it is. The fact is that Mazda tells you not to use your Protege for towing. Towing is harder on a vehicle than normal driving. Your transmission works harder, and it takes more braking power to stop the increased load and the momentum created by having that load behind the car pushing you. That's the official answer.

I can't tell you to go ahead and tow with your Mazda -- that's your call. I can tell you that I have towed an 8x10 trailer carrying two motorcycles with (drumroll, please) a Toyota Camry. The car had the same correctly installed hitch you mentioned, and there were never any problems.

If you decide to set your car up to tow, be sure you have your package correctly wired for a trailer. It's very important to have tail lights, brake lights and turn signals on your trailer. If you haven't done a lot of automotive wiring, now's a good time to brush up on some wiring basics. Safety first!

Photo CC licensed by Elsie Esq

July 31, 2007 at 2:47 pm
(1) Robert says:

I think the car company is just trying to cover their tails in a society that sues over a hang nail. I wouldn’t think that a trailer with a properly balanced small load would cause much more problem than extra brake wear. But, balancing the load is important to assure that your car grips the road correctly and the trailer doesn’t start wandering a highway speeds. That can be extremely unnerving.

July 31, 2007 at 10:14 pm
(2) Nancy says:

I got into a confrontation about doing a diognostic check on my air conditioner before being recharged. I understood him to say he would do an electrical check, but not an extensive one. He said he wouldn’t be able to tell if the hoses were bad or if there were any major leaks until 30 days later when I am to bring the car back in and have it rechecked. Some of his comments were lost on me but I remember the basics. He thought I was questioning his integrity as a manager. I paid my bill and left. To me he made it sound so complicated.
Any comment?

March 19, 2013 at 5:43 pm
(3) kendra says:

Is the car an automatic or manual transmission?
My old roommate had a mazda miata that he had a tow hitch installed on and he used that (manual transmission) to tow a small live-in (not pop-up) trailer around the country. It is definitely possible. It is better with a manual than an automatic transmission, especially if you are pretty knowledgeable about how they work, make sure you leave plenty of time/room for braking, etc.

January 13, 2014 at 7:39 am
(4) Adam says:

The reason Mazda says not to pull a trailer has nothing to do with being sued. The person saying that obviously does not have any automotive mechanical understanding. The car is not designed to tow. The transmission may do it do it for awhile but, the bands in the transmission will wear out quicker. So it’s up to you if you want to damage your car.

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