Ford Explorer Towing Problems: Are Explorers Good For Towing?

It seems that U-haul has had to defend itself against many lawsuits when they rented a trailer to an Explorer owner. It got so bad that U-haul has stopped renting trailers to owners of specific Explorer models. Some of these vehicles are just not meant to tow heavy weights.

The towing capacity for Explorers made between 2011 and 2017 is 2000 to 5000 pounds. The 2020 & 2021 models can tow up to 5600 pounds but that may not be all models in the Ford Explorer series. Check your owner’s manual for your specific vehicle for towing capacity.

To learn more about towing with a Ford Explorer, any model year, just continue to read our article. It has the information you want to know about before you rent a trailer and cause damage to your vehicle. It is not always U-Haul’s fault.

Are Ford Explorers Good For Towing?


Yes, they can be good for towing, but there are some very important conditions to meet before they are. These conditions rely on you as the owner to follow so you do not damage the vehicle and create a hefty repair bill for yourselves.

The first condition is the towing capacity. While your specific Ford Explorer can tow between 2000 and 5600 pounds, that is not the maximum trailer weight then you get to add cargo.

In other words, if your Explorer’s manual says it can tow up to 5000 pounds, the trailer has to weigh less than that capacity. You need to leave room for the cargo weight, passenger weight, and so on.

This capacity is not saying you can tow a trailer weighing 5000 pounds, plus passenger weight plus cargo weight. It is saying the total weight of all categories cannot exceed 5000 pounds.

What this does when you own an Explorer that can only tow 2000 pounds is highly restrict the trailer you can tow. The trailer needs to weigh no more than 1000 pounds so you have room to add cargo, passengers, your pets, and any toys you want to bring along.

What this does not mean is that you can only tow an empty flat, open trailer and pile your cargo inside of its rails. There are smaller regular trailers you can hitch up and have a good time. You just have to watch those weight limits.

Ford Explorer Towing Problems


The first problem that you will encounter will be the towing weight capacity. It is the ultimate limit and there are no fudge points with that limit. If your Explorer can only tow 3000 pounds that means the combined weight of the trailer, cargo, etc., cannot exceed 3000 pounds.

Meeting that weight restriction is going to be your first big problem. The second big problem will be the tongue weight. It cannot exceed 10 to 15% of the total weight of the trailer, cargo, and passengers.

Get a tongue weight scale to help you meet this restriction. Next, to help prevent towing problems, your Ford Explorer should come with or have installed the towing package for your make, year, and model of Explorer.

The towing package will help prevent but not fully avoid the upcoming problems. It will help if you are careful where and how you drive.

1. Transmission failure- this can happen if you tow too much weight, go up and down steep inclines, or drive some very rough roads. One of the solutions to this problem would be to install a transmission cooler.

The fluid inside the transmission should not exceed approx 230 degrees F. Any higher than that and your transmission can fail. If you own a 2002 to 2006 Explorer, these are known for transmission failures under normal driving.

The tow package should have a transmission cooler in it to help avoid this problem. If not, then get one.

2. Engine overheating- going up steep inclines will do this to most vehicles if they are not properly prepared. You would need to have an extra cooling fan installed or a larger radiator to help avoid this problem.

3. Rear suspension problems- this comes with the normal trailer hitch. When you attach the trailer, extra weight is placed on the rear suspension and that can cause a driving problem for you.

A good weight distribution hitch should help solve this problem. The weight distribution hitch helps spread the trailer weight around so the rear suspension does not handle all the extra weight.

4. Body problems- if you go over the weight limit Ford has set for your specific Explorer, then you can tear parts of your car away when the hitch separates from the SUV. This usually happens when you overload the trailer.

To avoid this problem make sure to not to put too much cargo in your trailer or try to tow a heavy model. Keep everything nice and light.

5. Steering problems- sway and other towing issues will arise if you do not have the right hitch or other equipment attached to the hitch. Good anti-sway bars will help smooth out your steering as will axle enhancements.

6.ECU issues- if the ECU detects a problem with the engine or transmission it can send the car into limp mode. This is never a fun moment as it restricts your SUV’s performance until it is fixed. An overloaded trailer can cause this to happen.

Keep the weight well belong the capacity to avoid this situation.

Some Tips To Avoid The Towing Problems Above


1. Drive under the posted speed- this will help keep problems from arising

2. Make sure you know the weight of the cargo and passengers before renting or buying a trailer- then pick a trailer that is light enough to hold that weight and still be well under your towing capacity

3. Watch the type of roads you drive- rougher roads create more problems than good well-paved highways. Plan your route well to avoid bumps and pot holes, etc., in the roads

4. Accelerate and brake slowly- sharp acceleration or braking can cause a lot of damage to both the trailer and the tow vehicle.

5. Make sure to have the proper hitch attached to your vehicle- the hitch type plays a large role in how your trailer will be towed. The wrong hitch will create a lot of driving issues that can damage your vehicle.

Why Does U-Haul Prohibit Towing Behind a Ford Explorer?


We will let U-Haul answer this question:

U-Haul has chosen not to rent behind this tow vehicle based on our history of excessive costs in defending lawsuits involving Ford Explorer towing combinations. This policy is not related to safety issues. This is an unusual circumstance for U-Haul — we have built our success for over 60 years by saying ‘yes’ to our customers. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and are committed to working with our customers to find alternative options to help with their move.” (source)

This message is usually seen after you input the make, model, and year of Explorer you will use for towing their trailer. This does not mean that every Explorer owner will receive this message.

This message only pops up for those make, model, and year of Explorer that fall into that category listed in the notice. Make sure to use their website when you are planning a move and want to use your Explorer to do it. Or talk to the company’s office near you before you go to rent a trailer so you do not have any surprises when you want to rent.

Trailers The Ford Explorer Can Tow


This list is not for every make and model of this vehicle series. It is designed to give you an idea of the type of trailer you can tow. The exact model will depend on the weight of the trailer and the towing capacity of your Explorer:

1. Teardrop trailers- these are small but they are lightweight. A model can weigh between 500 and 2000 pounds making them an excellent towing choice

2. Pop-up campers- not for the 2000-pound towing capacities these trailers can weigh between 1500 to 3000 pounds easily. Other models can weigh more than 3000 pounds and those are the ones to avoid.

3. Travel trailers- you would need to keep them at least to 4000 pounds or less. There are some models that will meet that requirement so be picky and be flexible.

Some Additional Words

Ford Explorers were not made for towing. While they have a tow-weight capacity, they are not the best vehicles you could use when you want to go camping. But if you have no other alternative, then make sure to watch the size and weight of the trailer you want to tow.

Then make sure your Explorer has the tow package, and towing light setup as well as use a weight-distribution hitch so you minimize your chances of problems arising during your trip. Safe towing depends on a lot of factors.

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