Front-Wheel Drive for Boat Towing?

It's not ideal, but in this case, doing the numbers indicates that the front-wheel drive Ford Explorer should handle the job fine.

It’s not ideal, but in this case, doing the numbers indicates that the front-wheel drive Ford Explorer should handle the job fine.

People tend to ask me a lot of questions. I guess I have them fooled into believing I know a thing or two about boats. Trucks, too, probably. So a buddy of mine was wondering if his 2013 front-wheel drive Ford Explorer would pull a used 1989 Wellcraft he was looking at.

As I told him, the best way to look at this is by the numbers. The Ford Explorer is rated to pull 5,000 pounds. The boat he is considering should weigh around 2,750 pounds, and maybe a bit more because of the four-stroke engine, which was not available when Wellcraft published the boat’s specs in 1989. Add in a dual-axle trailer and, depending on what it’s made of, you are probably towing at least 3,750 to 4,000 pounds.

As a rule of thumb, I always suggest having about 1,500 pounds of towing capacity in excess, so that you are not asking everything of your vehicle each time you tow with it, but a thousand pounds is still a decent buffer. However, his concern was with front-wheel drive and whether it can pull the boat up a ramp. The short answer is it likely won’t have much trouble doing so, even with the tongue weight unloading the drive wheels, which typically will be on the dry portion of the launch ramp rather than on the exposed slippery sections that come with tidal changes.

However, it’s generally better to have a longitudinal engine mounting and rear-wheel drive instead of a transverse-mounted front-wheel drive V6.

If he wanted to replace his Explorer with something comparable, he might consider other vehicles, such as Jeep’s all-new Grand Cherokee, the new Toyota 4Runner, or VW’s Touareg, all of which feature longitudinal engines and available four- or all-wheel drive. The 4Runner has a towing capacity comparable to the Explorer, and the Touareg and Grand Cherokee have more. For more on this, read Tow-Vehicles: How Big is Big Enough?

However, I think he wants to keep the  Explorer, which is more fuel-efficient than the Jeep and gasoline-powered Toaureg, and largely equivalent to the 4Runner. It’s not what I would have chosen, but it wasn’t my choice to make. Regardless, he has enough capacity to pull the trigger on that used Wellcraft.

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