Mitsubishi Towing Guide

Are you planning to tow a trailer or caravan this holiday season? No matter how experienced you are in towing, it is important to understand the capabilities of your vehicle and towing equipment. So we’ve put together the below Towing Guide and FAQ’s to get you ready for the best time of the year – your holidays!

TOW VEHICLE MODIFICATIONS

Towbars

Mitsubishi Genuine towbars are designed by Mitsubishi Motors to meet stringent Australian Design Rules and minimise the stresses that can be placed on a vehicle when towing. It is important that you discuss your needs with a Mitsubishi Dealer to ensure that the correct towing equipment is installed.

TIP: Always check that the capacity of the towbar is equal to or greater than the weight of the laden trailer.

Electric Brake Controller

If you intend to tow a caravan, pop-top or camper trailer it is recommended to fit an Electric Brake Controller in the towing vehicle to automatically activate the trailer brakes. To prevent damaging the vehicle’s electrical system, this work must be carried out by a qualified auto electrician. To ensure smooth and reliable trailer braking, it is important that a ‘motion sensing’ or ‘pendulum’ type brake controller is used.

TIP: With the brake controller set correctly, the car and trailer can be slowed or stopped with the same force on the brake pedal as would be needed for the car by itself under similar conditions.

Towing Mirrors

Road traffic regulations require a driver to have clear, unobstructed rearward vision. When a trailer or its load obstructs normal rearward vision, it is necessary to fit additional towing mirrors. Towing mirrors should be selected on their ability to withstand wind pressure from passing vehicles. Generally, towing mirrors that attach to the vehicle’s standard external mirrors do not offer the required rearward vision. These are also likely to vibrate, offering blurred vision.

TIP: Mirrors can extend 150mm beyond the widest part of the trailer but must be removed when the trailer is disconnected.

TRAILER SELECTION

Towing Mass

When matching a trailer to the towing vehicle, it is necessary to know what the loaded mass of the trailer is likely to be. The maximum permissible trailer mass, referred to as the Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM), is stated on a Trailer Plate that is attached to the trailer chassis or body. The towing capacity of the vehicle must not be exceeded. In the case of a Pajero Sport this is 3,100kg. The towbar also has to be rated to tow 3,100kg.

TIP: Read additional towing advice in the Owner’s Manual.

Vertical Towball Mass

In addition to the total mass, it is equally important to ensure that the vertical load imposed on the towball by the trailer coupling is within the specification. This is often referred to as the ball load. For the Pajero Sport this is between 5 and 10 percent of the maximum towing capacity.

TIP: Read additional towing advice in the Owner’s Manual.

Relevant Regulations

Australia’s National Towing Regulations, which apply to any vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of less than 4.5 tonnes, limit the mass of any trailer to the vehicle manufacturer’s towing recommendations or the capacity of the towing equipment fitted to the vehicle, whichever is least. Additionally, any trailer with a mass greater than 750kg has to be fitted with an efficient braking system on both wheels of at least one axle. In some cases a manufacturer may impose a limit less than 750kg for a particular model. If the GTM exceeds 2 tonnes, braking on all wheels and a break-away system has to be fitted to the trailer. This automatically applies the trailer brakes when the trailer accidentally disconnects from the tow vehicle. Over-ride brakes are not acceptable on trailers that exceed 2 tonnes.

Please note this information is a guide only. Always refer to your current state vehicle standards light vehicle trailer towing regulations. Most state vehicle regulatory authorities have vehicle standard facts sheets available on line that relate to how trailers are to be loaded and towed by a vehicle.

TOWING EQUIPMENT

Selection Criteria

Selecting towing equipment is like buying insurance, you opt for the most appropriate rather than the cheapest. The aim should be to fit the equipment that provides maximum towing safety. A vehicle and trailer combination that has the right equipment adjusted correctly will appear approximately level. It’s deemed the driver’s responsibility to ensure that the outfit can be towed in a safe manner. Not using the correct equipment could make the vehicle unroadworthy, nullify insurance and affect the vehicle’s long-term reliability.

Towbars and Hitches

Generally, there are two types of towbars, weight carrying and weight distributing. The first is designed to pull small loads or perhaps support a bicycle carrier. A weight carrying towbar generally uses a flat ball mount or lug that is typically attached by two bolts. A weight distribution towbar, often referred to as a hitch receiver, is designed to accept additional equipment like a weight distributing hitch. Regulations require that a plate stating the capacity is fixed to the towbar or in a position that is visible to the vehicle owner.

Weight Distribution Equipment

Weight distribution equipment is required whenever the attitude of the towing vehicle is affected, that is, the front comes up and the back goes down, when a trailer is hitched on. For stable towing most towing experts recommend between 5 and 10 percent of the trailer’s total laden mass needs to be supported by the towball. This is usually referred to as ‘ball load’. It is this ball load that causes the back of the car to go down when a trailer coupling is lowered on to the towball. What is not always appreciated is that at the same time weight is taken off the front wheels, reducing the contact between the front tyres and the road. To restore or maintain the desired steering and braking control, a weight distribution hitch with the ability to transfer excess weight from the rear to the front wheels is required. Consult a towing equipment specialist to make sure that the equipment purchased can handle the ball load that is present.

TIP: Most caravan dealers and towing equipment specialists have scales to determine the ball load.

Towball and Coupling

The equipment used to tow a trailer has to meet the relevant Australian Standards. This includes the towball and trailer coupling. The towball must be of one piece construction and have stamped on it ‘50mm’, the manufacturer’s name and the capacity in kilograms or tonnes. For example 3000kg or 3 tonnes. Couplings fitted to the trailer’s towbar are designed to handle the trailer’s Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM). The capacity of this is usually stamped on the body of the coupling.

Anti-Sway Equipment

Trailer instability can be caused by poor trailer design, uneven loading or not using the correct weight distribution equipment. In these cases the cause of the instability should be diagnosed and remedied. Anti-sway equipment is normally only necessary on large caravans which, although usually towing in a stable manner, are at times affected by strong or gusty winds.

LOADING THE CAR AND TRAILER

Loading the Car

When towing a trailer, the tow vehicle must be loaded carefully. Heavier items should be placed as far forward as possible to reduce the amount that the back of the vehicle will drop. To ensure occupant safety, a cargo barrier is highly recommended. This is available through your Mitsubishi Dealer. Be careful not to exceed the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) as well as the axle capacity. Check your owner’s manual for the payload of your particular model.

Loading the Trailer

Trailers are generally designed to be able to be towed in a safe manner. To maintain this stability, care must be taken when loading a trailer. For safe towing, the trailer must be balanced so that between 5 and 10 percent of the total trailer mass is supported by the towball. This is equally important for small and large trailers. Heavy items should be placed low down and over the wheels. Lighter items can be placed either end. Heavy items must never be carried in the area behind the wheels as this could make the trailer unstable. Equipment like fuel and water containers, toolboxes and additional spare wheels should not be located at either end of a trailer. Boats with outboard motors can affect stability if the vessel is not positioned correctly, so load the trailer correctly at all times to maintain proper balance. Correct balance can be determined by placing the trailer on a weighbridge and weighing it on and off the vehicle. The difference between the two readings is the vertical ball load. This should be between 5 and 10 percent of the highest reading or total load.

PRECAUTIONS: Incorrectly loading the trailer or adding additional equipment that the trailer is not designed to carry can make the trailer unsafe.The aggregate trailer mass as stated on the Trailer Plate must not be exceeded. And the tow vehicle’s specifications must also be adhered to. Overloading can place undue stress on the trailer’s components, the towing equipment and the structural and mechanical components of the towing vehicle.

HITCHING UP

Reversing

Although reversing requires a little practice, and your mirrors are the primary aid, it can be made easier by using accessories designed for this task. The ‘Couple-Mate’ guides the coupling over the towball while at the same time preventing damage to the rear of the vehicle.

TIP:  Many newer vehicles are equipped with reversing cameras which can be an additional useful aid for monitoring the towball and coupling when reversing. 

Towball and Coupling Height

To enable the car and trailer to be set up in a level manner, both the trailer coupling and the towball should be the same height from the ground. If the variation is greater than about 30mm, it may be necessary to either alter the height of the ball mount or install a spacer between the coupling and the trailer’s towbar.

TIP: When an adjustable ball mount is used it is easy to get the height correct.

Safety Chains

Trailers with a mass greater than 2000kg require two chains, while either one or two chains are permissible on trailers with a mass less than 2000kg. The safety chains must be securely attached to a permanent part of the towbar, i.e. not the ball mount, tongue or lug. Unless the length of the chain(s) is less than the distance from the ground to the bottom of the towbar, crossing the chains will not assist in providing a secure connection.

TIP: Check that the chains are long enough to not prevent tight turns.

TOWING TIPS

Electrical Connections

An approved 7 or 12 pin electrical connector must be fitted for the correct operation of lights and other 12 volt electrical equipment on the trailer. All electrical work should be carried out by a qualified auto electrician.

TIP: Check that all lights are functioning correctly each time that the trailer is hitched on to the towing vehicle.

Starting Off

When towing a trailer, particularly a heavy one, more power is needed to get the car–trailer combination moving. This requires the driver to push the accelerator down further than normal to enable the engine to produce the additional power. If your vehicle has a manual transmission it is advisable to allow the engine to reach higher speeds before changing to a higher gear.

TIP: Check towing mirrors if moving away from kerb.

Stopping

With a trailer in tow, a bigger gap should be maintained behind the vehicle in front to allow for increased stopping distances as a result of the increased weight. This is particularly important when a trailer is fitted with an over-ride type braking system.

TIP: Check for correct brake operation after initial hook-up of trailer.

Going Uphill

Although your vehicle might have a powerful engine, road speeds tend to reduce more quickly when going uphill with a trailer in tow. When using a manual transmission it is a good idea to change down sooner to maintain both engine and vehicle speed.

With an automatic it can be advantageous to manually select a lower gear.

TIP: Consult vehicle specifications for the engine speed where maximum torque or pulling power is developed.

Going Downhill

To maintain proper vehicle control when going downhill, road speeds should be considerably slower than normal. With both a manual and automatic transmission a lower gear is recommended to provide additional engine braking. Excessive or continuous braking should be avoided. Never pass slower moving vehicles while travelling downhill with a trailer in tow.

TIP: The slower the speed, the safer the journey.

Passing Other Vehicles

As the rate of acceleration is reduced due to the extra mass of the trailer and its load, passing slower vehicles should be undertaken with extreme caution. Only overtake on long, flat and straight stretches of road or in designated passing lanes.

TIP: Don’t drive close behind the slower vehicle.

Being Passed by Large Vehicles

If the car and trailer are compatible, the trailer is loaded so that there is up to 10% ball load and the recommended towing equipment is used, being passed by large trucks and buses should not create a concern. However, when being passed, it is most important that the driver does not release the accelerator or apply the brakes.

TIP: When another vehicle is about to overtake, move to the left as far as possible.

Cruising

Open road cruising speeds should be reduced so as to maintain good vehicle control and achieve optimum fuel economy while preventing undue stresses on the vehicle’s mechanical components. Cruise control can be used but this must be switched off when encountering strong winds or hilly terrain. Refer section on regulations for permissible towing speeds.

TIP: When there is only one lane in each direction, long vehicles are required to leave at least a 60 metre gap behind the vehicle in front. A long vehicle is any vehicle or a combination of car and trailer that exceeds 7.5 metres in length.

Maximising Fuel Economy

When towing caravans or other trailers that create an increase in wind resistance, speeds of 80-90km/h are recommended. Higher speeds will significantly increase fuel usage and also engine operating temperature.

TIP: Reduce speed further if there are strong head winds.

ADDITIONAL VEHICLE MAINTENANCE

Additional Vehicle Maintenance

When towing a trailer, additional maintenance may be required at regular intervals. Your Mitsubishi Dealer will be able to advise you what is required. Prior to going on an extended holiday, the vehicle should be fully serviced by your Mitsubishi Dealer. When towing larger caravans, particularly during adverse conditions like high ambient temperatures, it is recommended that service intervals be reduced.

While on your journey, daily checks should include lubricant and coolant levels as well as tyre pressures. With a trailer in tow, vehicle tyre pressures should be inflated to the maximum pressure stated in the Owner’s Manual or on the vehicle’s tyre placard.

TIP: Check tyre pressures in the morning when the tyres are cool.

TOWING FAQ’s

What are the maximum towing capacities of current Mitsubishi vehicles?

Triton

Triton 4x4 Double Cab models have a braked towing capacity of 3,100kg
Triton 4x2 Double Cab models have a braked towing capacity of 3,000kg
Triton 4x2 Single Cab diesel models have a braked towing capacity of 2,500kg
Triton 4x4 Club Cab diesel models have a braked towing capacity of 3,000kg

Pajero
All model variants have a braked towing capacity of 3,000kg.

Pajero Sport
All model variants have a braked towing capacity of 3,100kg.

Outlander
Diesel models have a braked towing capacity of 2,000kg.
Petrol models have a braked towing capacity of 1,600kg.
Outlander PHEV has a braked towing capacity of 1,500kg.

ASX
4WD models have a braked towing capacity of a 1,400kg.
2WD models have a braked towing capacity of a 1,300kg.

Lancer
All model variants have a braked towing capacity of 1,000kg.

Should I buy a manual or an automatic for towing?

Modern automatics are ideal for towing. They allow the driver to concentrate on road conditions and not be concerned about changing gears. Reversing or manoeuvring at slow speed is much easier with an automatic.

How do I know how much my vehicle can tow?

This information is available in the Owner’s Manual.

Are some trailers easier to tow than others?

The ease of towing is related to the laden mass of the trailer and any additional wind resistance that may be created.

I have been told that large trailers like caravans can be very unstable. How can I overcome this?

Instability has very little to do with the size of the trailer. As long as the Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) is within the vehicle’s rated towing capacity, the load in the trailer is distributed appropriately and the combination is set up correctly, stability of a reputable product should not be a concern.

How do I know what the maximum weight of a trailer is allowed to be?

Since 1989 every trailer built has been fitted with a Trailer Plate that shows the maximum permissible loaded mass known as the Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM).

What is nose or ball weight?

Vertical towball load is that part of the total trailer load that is supported by the towball. For safe, stable towing this generally needs to be about 10 percent of the total load. Please refer to the Owner’s Manual for information specific to your vehicle.

What controls the amount of towball load?

The amount of towball load present depends on the position of the axle relative to the length of the trailer body and how the load in the trailer is distributed.

If there is too much ball load can I move some of the load to the rear of the trailer?

Heavy items should be placed near the centre of the trailer, not at the rear as this could cause the trailer to become unstable.

What is the difference between electric brakes and over-ride brakes?

Over-ride braking systems are permitted on trailers with a Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) up to 2000kg. These systems are activated when the tow vehicle slows down and compression of the coupling by the inertia of the trailer activates the trailer braking system. When towing over 2000kg, braking on all wheels of the towed trailer and an automatic breakaway system is required. An electric brake system can fulfil these requirements. With electrically operated trailer brakes, the control unit in the car automatically applies the brakes on the trailer whenever the car brakes are used. Electric trailer brakes also typically allow for some adjustment and tuning of the braking force on the trailer via the electric brake controller to ensure smooth and balanced braking.

Which type of controller works best?

A ‘motion sensing’ or ‘pendulum’ type brake controller should be used. These provide proportional braking under all operating conditions.

Can I fit an electric brake controller myself?

No, an electric brake controller must be fitted by a qualified auto electrician to avoid damage to the vehicle’s sensitive electrical system by incorrect installation.

Are there different types of towbars?

Yes, basically there are two types of towbars – a standard weight carrying type and a weight distributing type. The latter is sometimes referred to as a hitch receiver. 

How can I tell how much my towbar is capable of pulling?

Since 1989 it has been an Australian Design Rule (ADR) requirement that all towbars be permanently marked or have a plate attached that states the rated towbar capacity and the maximum vertical download.

How can I keep my car level when I hitch on the trailer?

A weight distribution hitch will level out the car if its attitude is affected by the trailer’s ball load. It also helps to provide the proper steering and braking control by maintaining the necessary contact between the front tyres and the road surface.

How do I know that my weight distribution hitch is suitable for my car/trailer combination?

If the weight distribution hitch can be adjusted so that the front of the car is the same distance from the ground (measured with a tape or ruler) with the trailer on as without, the hitch is adequate for the job. A weight distribution hitch is typically needed when the total trailer mass is more than 1200kg or the ball load exceeds 100kg.

Are all towballs the same size?

Most towballs available today are 50mm in diameter. However, to comply with the Australian Standards, they must have the size, manufacturer’s name and the towing capacity in kilograms or tonnes stamped on the ball.

What is Gross Combination Mass (GCM)?

GCM is the maximum allowable combined mass of a towing road vehicle, taking into consideration the passengers and cargo in the tow vehicle, plus the mass of the trailer and cargo in the trailer. This GCM rating is set by the vehicle manufacturer. 

GCM varies between models. Always refer to your owner’s manual. In the case of a 16MY Pajero Sport the GCM is 5,400kg 

What is Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM)?

The Gross Vehicle Mass is the maximum operating weight / mass of a vehicle as specified by the vehicle manufacturer including the vehicles chassis, body, engine, engine fluids, fuel, accessories, driver, passenger and cargo and any trailer ball load. The trailer ball load is carried by the towing vehicle.

GVM also varies between models. In the case of a 16MY Pajero Sport the GVM is 2,710kg.

What is Kerb Weight?

Kerb weight is the total weight of a vehicle with standard equipment, all necessary operating consumables (e.g. motor oil and coolant), and a full tank of fuel, while not loaded with either passengers or cargo. Also, it is worth noting that any accessories affixed to the vehicle are also considered part of the kerb mass and will thus increase the kerb mass.

What is Axle Mass?

Axle mass is the maximum permissible loading of each of the vehicles axles and must not be exceeded. The axle masses are set by the manufacturer.

Where can I find the GVM, GCM, Axle Mass and Towing capacity of my Mitsubishi?

This information can be found in the specification section of your vehicle’s Owner’s Manual. It is also recommended you refer to the towing section of the Owner’s Manual.

How do I calculate the payload?

The following calculation assumes specifications of a 16MY Triton GLX 4WD Double Cab.

Assuming a towed trailer mass of 3,100kg, the following calculation gives you the remaining payload capacity including passengers, fuel and luggage. (Variance to the Kerb mass per factors above will change the resultant value in this calculation:

GVM (2,900kg) – Kerb mass (nominally 1,930kg) – Towball vertical load (310kg) = 660kg remaining payload capacity

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