If you’ve got a Jeep Wrangler, you most likely like to spend time outdoors. Your Jeep Wrangler has a rugged design that makes it ideal for off-road fun. And the Wrangler was designed with limited towing capabilities.
If you need to tow heavy campers and large trailers, then a Jeep Wrangler probably isn’t the best choice for you. But, your Jeep Wrangler will help you get your smaller outdoor toys from point A to point B.
What Kind of a Camper Can Your Jeep Tow?
The answer is in the type of Jeep Wrangler you have. Most Jeep Wranglers have a towing capacity of 2,000 to 3,500 pounds. The newer Jeep models, from 2012 to 2020 have the highest capacity, but those are based on different trims.
Keep in mind that these measurements are based on dry weight or camper that is completely empty. Once you begin to add your luggage and furniture to the camper, the weight increases dramatically.
If you are relying on a Jeep Wrangler to tow a camper, then you have limited options on size and shape. Pop-up campers, small Airstreams, teardrop, and small Hybrid campers are your only choices.
If you plan on towing a larger camper, then you will need a vehicle that can handle it. You could damage your Jeep if you go over the towing capacity.
But, before you attach a camper to your Jeep Wrangler, you should be sure that your Jeep is prepared to handle the camper. Just because your Jeep has a towing hitch doesn’t mean your Jeep is completely ready to manage the extra weight.
What Upgrades Does Your Jeep Need?
Before you tow a heavy camper, you will want to add a few upgrades to your Jeep Wrangler.
Towing can be dangerous in any vehicle, especially if the camper starts to sway or if it doesn’t stop effectively.
Some drivers also report that their Jeeps overheat when towing heavy items.
To avoid potential issues while towing, you will want to add a few upgrades, like sway control, a weight distributing hitch, and a brake controller.
Using a sway-control hitch will give you more security when towing a camper behind any vehicle. It is common for gusts of wind to move trailers, especially if they are taller than the Jeep or have a large surface area – like an Airstream.
You should also use a weight-distribution feature on your hitch, too. This will keep the camper level and make your driver easier than if the camper was dipping at the hitch.
It is also important to have a wiring harness that connects your Jeep’s lights to the camper. One of those is a brake controller that signals that it is time to stop.
Your camper should have brakes on it, so your Jeep doesn’t do all of the stopping work itself. Physics is a beast, especially when you have a 3,000 pound camper that can’t stop attached to the back of your Jeep Wranger.
To prevent your Jeep from overheating, you can have a transmission cooler install. This will keep the fluids in the normal range, preventing troublesome issues that come from transmissions that work too hard.
Can You Tow Campers with a Manual Transmission?
Rumors abound about not towing a camper with a manual transmission. But, if you have experience with a manual transmission, nothing should stop you from using it to tow a lightweight camper.
With a manual transmission, you have control over the RPMs. Yes, people who drive automatics can do some shifting, but not to the same degree as people with manual transmissions can.
If you have to tow through various elevations, you are better off using a manual transmission. Pay attention to the RPMs and be sure your Jeep is fully prepared before you begin towing.
What Campers Styles Can You Tow?
There are two considerations to make when buying a camper to tow behind your Jeep.
The first is the shape and the second is the weight. You should choose a camper that is aerodynamic in design, not a rectangular box that only has right angles. And, the camper should be small.
One of the best choices is a teardrop camper. These earned this name because of their shape. They are small. Some weigh as little as 800 pounds dry.
They often have sleeping space for two to four people, and some have pull-outs that add extra space. But, if all you need is a place to sleep, a small kitchen, and a few outlets, then a small teardrop does the job.
They rarely have bathrooms, so these are usually good choices for towing behind a Jeep Wrangler. However, there are a few with bathrooms, and some fall within the towing range, but only with dry weight.
Teardrop campers do not provide the same amount of space as a typical RV. They have a retro style that looks great behind a Jeep Wrangler. Because they are so small, they are ideal for camping in off-road areas.
Several of the best RV brands make mini trailers that could easily be handled by a Jeep Wrangler. These are smaller versions of the big trailers that you often see behind large trucks.
Many start around 1,500 pounds and around 11 feet in length. Some of the lightweight models can reach 18 feet, and still weigh within the towing capacity of a Jeep Wrangler.
Even though these are small RVs, they still have all of the amenities of the larger models.
They might not have as many cabinets, king beds, or seats, but there is usually room for up to four adults. Some also have bump-outs for more room upon arrival at your destination.
Nearly every pop-up trailer model is towable by a Jeep Wrangler.
There are a few different options with pop-up trailers: hard-side, tent-style, and extreme-sport. The hard-sides weigh between 1,100 and 2,700 pounds.
The tent styles begin at 1,300 pounds, but the big ones can weigh close to 4,000 pounds. Extreme sport style pop-up campers start a bit heavier, at 1,700 and the largest are around 3,500 pounds.
Since the most dry weight a Jeep can handle is 4,000 pounds, you will want to stay on the smaller end of the pop-up camper size.
Many sleep four and have room for eating and relaxing. Pop-up campers rarely have bathrooms, so you will need to park it at a site with restroom facilities.
How Do You Attach a Camper to Your Jeep Wrangler?
If you are going to tow a camper, you will need a friend to help you hook your Jeep to the camper. You will need to drive your Jeep in reverse to get the hitch ball to the housing.
Your friend can help you get your Jeep as close as safely possible, especially if your Jeep does not have a backup camera.
After you attach the hitch ball to the housing, you will want to connect the wires and safety chains. The camper and chains can be heavy, which is another reason to have a friend help you.
How Do You Safely Drive with a Camper Behind Your Jeep Wrangler?
Having an additional 1,100 to 4,000 pounds behind your Jeep will change the way it feels under your feet and fingers. You have to drive differently when towing a heavy object.
Your Jeep will need more room to brake, and your will also need more time to accelerate to speed. In fact, you might find that the safest speed on the highway is below the posted rate.
When you drive your Jeep Wrangler with a trailer, you will want to stay a safe distance away from any vehicle in front of you. Your braking ability will decrease significantly, so you do not want to put yourself in a position where you have to stop quickly.
If you drive slower to begin with, then you will not have to slow as much to come to a complete stop.
Your Jeep will take longer to reach highway speed. With the extra weight behind it, your ability to merge onto the highway will be affected.
If you have to enter the highway, don’t forget how much you have behind you, and how you might affect traffic.
If you have to drive uphill in mountainous areas, don’t block traffic. Let the faster vehicle safely go around you.
Jeeps aren’t known for being especially agile, when compared to other vehicles on the road. When they are towing, that limited agility decreases even more.
Passing cars, sharp turns, and driving in reverse will be affected. You will need to be aware of how you turn, as you need to get the camper around corners without hitting other objects.
If you have to backup, you should have a friend help you because your view will be limited by the camper. Safety has to be the number one thought in your mind when you are towing anything behind your Jeep.
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