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When Sea-Doo first pitched the Spark in late 2013, the company offered up the expected features and benefits – low cost, easy to maintain, old-school fun factor. It also suggested another advantage that might have been easily overlooked. That, with the lowest weight of any PWC in years, the craft didn’t require a big tow vehicle. In fact, you could tow one with a surprising array of vehicles, no SUV of four-wheel-drive required.
All this came back to me recently when an acquaintance asked me about towing his PWC, and I realized once again it’s the one subject all too often left out at the dealership. In fact, in the excitement of getting a PWC, many buyers never even consider how they’re going to get it to the water, and if the vehicle they currently have is up for the challenge.
What should you know about towing a PWC? For starters, consider the following…
Your Current Vehicle’s Towing Capacity
It’s no secret. Most manufacturers put a vehicle’s towing capacity right there in the owner’s manual. Choose your vehicle and specific engine package, and the manual will clearly spell out the maximum trailer weight.
How To Choose The Right PWC Tow Hitch For Your Vehicle
You may be surprised to discover that most vehicles in the U.S. are rated lower than you might expect. In fact, the limit on many smaller vehicles can be as low as 1,000 pounds; some may be deemed inappropriate to tow at all. Even if you have a beefy SUV, read the fine print. My former Jeep Grand Cherokee called for a heavy-duty transmission cooler and an upgraded tow package. Ignore the manufacturer’s suggestions and you may have a debate on your hands should you need warranty work.
Your PWC’s Real Weight
Once you know how much your vehicle can tow, take a second look at your PWC. Sure, the manufacturer may list its weight as a certain number, but that’s the weight of the craft dry. Add gas and you’re adding about 6 more pounds for every gallon in the tank. You also likely have oil in the oil reservoir, and maybe tools and other items in a storage compartment.
To your PWC’s real weight, add the weight of any gear within like life jackets, wetsuits, even that small cooler you may bring along for the day. It all adds up.
Your Trailer and Tow Hitch Capacities
And not only your vehicle, but also your trailer needs to be rated to carry it. Check the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, which is the trailer’s carrying capacity plus the trailer’s actual weight. Hopefully a dealer will sell you a trailer that fits the bill, but if you’re buying the trailer separately make sure you do your homework.
How To Keep Your PWC Trailer from Breaking Down
Your vehicle’s trailer hitch also needs to be matched to the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. Err on the heavier side, meaning that even if you can get by with a Class 1 hitch (rated for 2,000 pounds), a Class II (up to 3,500 pounds) or even Class III (5,000 pounds) may be a better choice. A heavier-duty hitch can also help down the road should you add another PWC, or maybe even a boat.
Don’t forget the hitch ball. It, too, should be matched to the trailer, meaning if your trailer is set up for a 2” ball, don’t try and get by with an 1 7/8”. The fit will be sloppy, and the trailer could even become uncoupled.
Safe Trailering for Personal Watercraft
Stick with stainless steel, and look for the ball’s weight-carrying capacity, typically stamped on the top.
Keep it Legal…and Safe
Once you’ve got everything set, don’t forget to check the trailer once in a while to make sure it’s safe…and legal. Verify that the running lights and, especially, the brake lights are working. If not, fix them immediately. Also, don’t forget to attach the safety chains or cables for every single ride, no matter how short, and to lock the trailer hitch coupler or at minimum insert the cotter pin to ensure the latch doesn’t open unexpectedly.
If your trailer features surge brakes, don’t forget to attach the cable that activates them should the trailer get loose. If you have electric brakes, make sure your trailer wiring is correct and working properly so that they can be activated.
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