Cross country with trailer

Hello all,
Seeking advice here. I'm considering taking my automatic 2001 Focus sedan for a cross country adventure, including rocky mtns, dirt roads, etc..
I want to tow my motorcycle (about 390lbs wet) on a trailer with a combined weight of no more than probably 650lbs. (don't have trailer yet).
I know the manual describes 1000 lbs. towing and all, but I don't have any practical experience with towing. Can anyone tell me if I'm asking for trouble by doing this? It would be just me and lot's of camping stuff in the car with me. I'm thinking it would work fine, but I don't want to kill my car, or anyone else's for that matter. I want the trip to be fun.
Thanks a lot for any info. or advice.
-NS
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Strange, mine says, 620 kg without trailer brakes and 1200 kg with brakes.

Having trailered my motor-bike a few times, you normally don't really mention the trailer while driving unless your car has a rather small engine. However, driving backwards with a trailer is a little tricky. A little training on an empty large parking lot could save you some pain in case you really need to do it.
On bad/unpaved streets, you want to keep an eye on the trailer and perhaps reduce your speed, those small trailer mostly don't have a good suspension an tend to leap under those conditions.
Good luck
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I have a 2001 automatic Focus wagon. And I have experience towing, but not with the Focus.

The weak points are generally transmission, cooling, and braking. I added a transmission cooler to my tow vehicle (1991 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, a full size station wagon) and replaced the radiator. The brakes were serviced as well, and it works fine. On a vehicle your age, the radiator should be just fine but you might want to have it flushed. Have the brakes checked. Those rocky mountain descents are going to strain the braking system.
I don't know if you really need a trans cooler, but it's lots cheaper than a new transmission. At a minimum, have the trans fluid changed if you haven't had it done recently. As I said, I went on the side of caution and shelled out for the trans cooler.

You have to consider the total weight of everything. That 1000 pound tow capacity is probably assuming a vehicle with a 150-pound driver. If you have 300 pounds of stuff in the car, you have a 700 pound tow capacity. YOu didn't mention if anyone else is coming along, but if so, you'll have to take his (or her) weight into account.

It will probably be fine, but you are talking about some demanding conditions, with mountains and dirt roads. Your driving habits will enter into it. One bit of practical advice -- Leave yourself twice as much room to stop when pulling the trailer.

Good luck! Let us know what you do and how it turns out. Every now and then, I think about adding a hitch to my Focus. But my pop-up is too heavy.
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combined
Since this is well under the recommended 1000lb max, there should be no problem. Hopefully your brakes are fairly new. Heat is the big killer as far as automatic transmissions are concerned, so you might want to ask your dealer if they recommend an additional tranny cooler. At the very least clean any debris out of the radiator, and check it during the trip.
On long downhills, be aware that you have a front-wheel drive car. Using engine braking alone can present stability problems when a trailer is pushing you from behind on loose surfaces.
Read your owner's manual about driving techniques. You might want to lock out your overdrive under some conditions. Leave lots of extra stopping distance on wet roads especially.
Enjoy your vacation.
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I went over to fordvehicles.com and browsed their interactive trailer towing guide. Here are some tid-bits:
---- Maximum Loaded Trailer Weight (lbs.) 1000
Maximum Loaded Trailer Weight assumes a towing vehicle with any mandatory options, no cargo, tongue load of 10-15% (conventional trailer) [...], and driver only (150 pounds).
Weight of additional options, passengers, cargo and hitch must be deducted from this weight.
Auxiliary transmission oil cooler recommended for automatic transmission during long-distance hauling (greater than 50 miles); ----
That's 1000 pounds maximum, assuming NO cargo and with driver only.

I see that Ford recommends one.
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Strange, you seem to have a different Focus over there, mine is listed with 620kg (1366.87 lbs) using a trailer without brakes or 1200 kg (2645.55 lbs) using a trailer with brakes. In addition there's no mention of a reduced cargo.
Took the freedom to convert: http://web-wren.com/zugvogel/usa_gewicht.htm
Presuming from the 650 lbs (294 kg) the OP mentioned including trailer, guess it's some off-road bike, can't imagine you'd need any special extra "Auxiliary transmission oil cooler".
Looks like the US Focus is made different/cheaper?
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Or is it just Ford trying to cover their legal ass so they can't be sued ??? Just a thought ... Linda
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[..]
[..]
Might be another reason, but it remains kind of strange that the "same" car has that different numbers for trailer usage, even if I miss if those US numbers are for trailers with/without brakes?
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No mention. On a 1000 pound trailer, it would be unusual to find brakes.
Regarding the different numbers, I went to www.honda.co.uk and looked up the towing capacity of a Honda Accord. It's 1500 kilograms [1]. I went to the US site. No numbers for the Accord. Hmmmm.
Let's try the CR-V. In the US, that has a towing capacity of 1500 pounds. [2]
In the UK, it's 1500 *kilograms* for the CR-V, with trailer brakes and manual trans. [3]
[1] http://www.honda.co.uk/cars/newcars/specification.jsp?yearId 04&modelId410&bodyId730&bodyDescription=Saloon&optionType=spec
[2] http://www.hondacars.com/models/specifications.asp?ModelName=CR-V&Category=exterior_measurements
[3] http://www.honda.co.uk/cars/newcars/specification.jsp?yearId 04&modelId409&bodyId729&bodyDescription=5%20door&optionType=spec
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suggested:


[...]

Not necessarily so. Towing capacity ratings for the same vehicle are higher in Europe. Here's a couple explanations I've read.
From http://groups.google.com/groups?selm 0r9u%24t6t%241%40nnrp1.deja.com

Nope. Don't worry about the Subaru, it'll actually tow 3500 lb. The US paperwork to rate over 2000 is very costly to do ($800k) and Subaru hasn't done it because they figure it won't sell them enough extra cars to make a million dollars extra profit on. However, if you look at the UK/EU specs on the Outback or Forester (same cars - they're made here in Indiana and exported to Europe) they're rated at 1800kg.
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Here's another, rather different viewpoint, from
http://groups.google.com/groups?selm=lZRtc.14204%24Tn6.3663%40newsread1.news.pas.earthlink.net
In the US, the towing capacity is the measure of the vehicle to safely operate while towing a trailer of X lbs. According to Chevy "Maximum trailer weight ratings are calculated assuming a base vehicle, except for any options(s) necessary to achieve the rating, plus driver."
In Europe, towing capacity is defined as "the ability of the car, with two occupants of 75kg each, to restart on a 12% gradient at sea level." That's it, nothing else.
If all you were asking it to do was start moving a trailer up a 12% grade at sea level (with no mention of how far up, or stopping it when it was moving, or having anything else in the vehicle, etc.), then I guess that a Ford F250 could tow 20,000lbs.
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Now, I'm not stating that either is correct. I'm just an interested observer who happens to own a Focus Wagon and a trailer. I think I'll keep pulling the trailer with the big Olds wagon for now.
Over-capacity can be nice.
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