Dear Ole Mechanic;
I've been seeing TV ads for a foreign-made ½ ton pickup where they are pulling a trailer with a 10,000 pound load. Now I may be a little slow, but five tons and a ½ ton pickup just don’t go together. Even Ford says that their ‘F’ Series pickup can tow a 23,000 pound trailer. I know that too many TV ads are as full of it as a Christmas turkey, but what gives? Shouldn’t there be at least be a little truth in advertising?
Yeah, it sure looks like they're pulling numbers out of the air. Of course Ford has had their “F” Series filled out for several years. By filled out, I'm talking about the F-450 and F-550. There has been an F-1, F-100 or F-150 that has a designation of a half-ton pickup. However, since the late 1940’s or early 50’s, a half-ton truck could carry a lot more load than a half-ton or 1,000 pounds. They could carry closer to 2,000 pounds or one-ton of cargo and still pull a trailer. You just had to be very careful, because the brakes were designed for a ‘half-ton truck’. The F-2, F-200 or F-250 was the next size up or a ¾ ton, but if fact it could carry more. Depending upon the axle, brake, tire and frame size, they might be able to carry anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 pounds. While carrying a load in the bed, they could also tow a trailer carrying even more weight--especially if the trailer had brakes. The F-3 or F-350, called a one ton, could carry anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 pounds. As you look at those numbers above, you can see some overlap in payload capacity. For a few years there was an F-4, but it sort of disappeared and the jump in load carrying was up to the F-600 and F-700. Those medium-duty trucks were called either 2 or 2 ½ ton trucks. They were very Spartan and had very few driver-comfort items. In the mid 1990’s, Ford saw the need for upscale heavy-hauling trucks for pulling show-horse trailers, RV trailers and heavy boat trailers. Ford brought back the F-4 as a F-450 and also a bigger F-550. When they brought them back they included options like bucket seats, crew cabs, high-dollar stereo’s and back seat VCR’s or DVD’s. They didn’t forget carpeting, heated seats and multiple-zone air conditioning, either. They also had progressive springing and a towing capacity of the 23,000 pounds that you mentioned.
The ‘foreign’ truck you mentioned, which is assembled in San Antonio, would seem to have stretched the half-ton rating to the limit, except for one thing. The ads never mention a half-ton truck. The company has also chosen not to use the one, two or three designations for the sizes of their trucks. They use different names likeTacoma, Frontier, Titan, Rodeo and so on to indicate different sizes of trucks. If you'd look closely at the tires and suspension on the truck that the company is using to drag around the trailer with a 10,000 pound load, you'd realize that it's not a half-ton truck! But how do they pull a 10,000 pound load with single rear wheels? With a properly equipped trailer. I can’t tell if the trailer has an equalizer-hitch or not, but I bet that it does and that it also has at least one trailer axle with brakes, too.
How long has this stretching the limits of advertising been going on? Longer than you might think. There was a very popular “Heavy-Half Truck” back in the 1970’s. I know of an early 1980’s ‘2500’ or ¾ ton truck that was specified properly and had a load and towing capacity of 12,500 pounds, so stretching-the-load-limit claims aren't anything new. The manufacturers have found that they can throw big numbers around to impress people and then put a disclaimer in the fine print at the bottom.
Does this make buying a truck more complicated? Oh Brother, and how! You must carefully check exactly how a truck is equipped or at least make your needs very clear to an honest sales person about what you are going to haul or tow. Remember, figures don’t lie, but liar’s figure.
Herr Professor Nuzanbolts