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  Piedmont lakes trailering

at Lake Norman Chrysler Jeep Dodge

by Joyce Deaton

Looking for a sturdy vehicle to tow your prized boat to the lake? You're probably shopping for a truck or SUV, since most of today's cars are not built for towing. Only a handful of automobiles can tow more than 2,000 pounds.

In recent years, however, trucks and SUVs have become popular even among landlubbers, so there's a wide range of models and features to choose from. Trucks have grown roomy and comfortable, with four-door extended cabs, strong construction and suspension systems and robust engine power. And SUVs combine stylish, adventure-ready good looks with plenty of power for towing.

At Lake Norman Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Cornelius, you'll find a wide variety of trucks and SUVs that can make trailering your boat to the Piedmont lakes a joy. The dealership recently combined its two previous locations and moved into a new showroom at 20700 Torrence Chapel Rd. , across from the Southlake Shopping Center just off I-77 at exit 28. In the giant new facility, which includes 50 service bays and a car wash, you'll find plenty of tow-friendly models. Here are a few of the most popular choices:

. Dodge Dakota Club Cab - This nimble pickup offers towing capacities from 2,000 to 7,000 pounds, depending on the engine options you choose. For towingthe Jet-Ski crowd, the 3.7 liter Magnum® V6 engine will do nicely. For mid-size boats you'll want the 4.7 liter Magnum® V6. Transmission options include a six-speed manual or four- or five-speed automatic. Front-disc and rear anti-lock brakes are standard, but the four-wheel ABS is a valuable option for towing.

. Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab - A little heftier, this pickup offers towing capacities from 7,200 to 8,750 pounds with three engine choices - the 3.7 liter Magnum® V6, 4.7 liter Magnum® V8 or 5.7 liter HEMI® V8. With the HEMI, you add 100 horsepower and 10 percent more fuel efficiency over last year's model. Choose from a six-speed manual or a five-speed or multi-speed automatic transmission. The Ram 1500 features the largest brakes of any model in its class, with front-disc and rear anti-lock brakes or four-wheel ABS as options.

towing . Dodge Durango - This lean, muscular SUV will tow from 3,650 to 8,850 pounds with either four-wheel or two-wheel options. Engine choices include the 3.7 liter Magnum® V6, 4.7 liter Magnum® V8 or 5.7 liter HEMI® V8, and brakes can be either front-disc and rear anti-lock or ABS.

. Jeep Grand Cherokee - This popular SUV offers three different towing capacities, depending on your engine choice. The 3.7 liter Power Tech V6 tows 3,500 pounds, the 4.7 liter Power Tech V8 tows 6,500 pounds and the 5.7 liter HEMI V8 tows 7,200 pounds. With four-wheel brake traction control, the Grand Cherokee can brake up to three wheels and direct all the remaining power to the fourth wheel - a valuable feature on a mucky boat ramp. It also features independent front suspension and multi-link rear suspension to accommodate heavier cargo inside the vehicle.

. Jeep Wrangler - The standard adventure vehicle for decades, the one-of-a-kind Wrangler is geared lower for off-roading. The four-cylinder 140-hp engine can tow 1,700 pounds, while the beefier inline 6-cylinder 190-hp model can tow 3,500 pounds. Four-wheel drive makes the Wrangler a good launching machine.

"All these models are good for towing," says Patrick Chambers, sales associate at Lake Norman Chrysler Jeep Dodge. "The best choice depends on what you do with the rest of your time - when they're not using their boats. If you want something fun and practical, the Wrangler is hard to beat. You can take it off-road and have fun with it. If you're a business person and you need to drive something nice-looking, the Grand Cherokee or the Durango fits the bill, and on the weekends you can hook up your boat and take it to the lake."

"Don't forget to include the weight of your trailer when you consider the vehicle's towing capacity," says Jeff Junker, general manager of Wher-Rena Boatland in Cornelius and Lake Wylie . And although furnished weights for boats and trailers usually are accurate, they should only be used as guidelines. A boat's furnished weight may only account for the hull - not the engine, accessories and supplies you will actually carry. To calculate your boat's "wet weight," add all these plus 6.5 pounds for every gallon of gasoline and 8.3 pounds for every gallon of water on board.

To be sure you have an accurate figure for your boat and trailer, weigh everything at a public scale. But don't worry if your outfit comes in right at the top of your desired vehicle's capacity. "Towing capacities are figured very conservatively, with plenty of room for safety added in," says Junker. "If you're right at capacity, you'll be OK."

Many trucks and SUVs are available with an optional tow package that includes an oversized radiator, wiring to the rear end and special transmission and oil coolers designed to protect vehicles pulling a heavy load.

Four-wheel drive helps, but it's not really necessary, says Junker. When you're slithering up a slippery boat ramp it's a nice feature, but because four-wheel-drive vehicles are heavier, towing capacity is reduced, usually by about 500 pounds.

Two-wheel drive usually means rear-wheel drive, and if your rear wheels are underwater when you're pulling your baby out of the lake, they can spin. A good choice can be a two-wheel drive (with greater towing capacity) with a locking differential that eliminates the spin.

Braking capacity is probably the most important factor in proper towing, and this figure goes into the vehicle's calculated towing capacity. If they're available on the truck or SUV you like, ABS brakes are the most reliable, says Chambers of Lake Norman Chrysler Jeep Dodge.

Remember your braking distance increases dramatically when you're towing a heavy load, so allow plenty of room. Slow down before descending a steep grade and shift to a lower gear to control your speed and save wear on your brakes. And of course you'll need more time when accelerating to merge with traffic or pass.

If you'll be towing a heavy boat, you may want a braking system on your trailer as well, adds Junker. "They're not always necessary, but a trailer with brakes is safer and better for your vehicle." Most trailer brakes are the surge-type, a mechanical system that engages when the trailer slides forward as the vehicle stops.

Whether you're headed for the lake with a floating behemoth or a compact 16-footer, you're likely to find the tow vehicle you need at the new central location of Lake Norman Chrysler Jeep Dodge. For more information, call 704 896-3800 or visit the web site at www.lakenormanchrysler.com.


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