We tow our Jayco Jay Feather Micro 171BH with a Ram 1500, but that wasn’t always the case. Here’s how we got there and why we chose this tow vehicle for the Jay Feather Micro.
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Towing with a Midsize Truck
Our first tow vehicle was a 2011 Dodge Dakota. The Dakota is considered a midsize truck, not a half-ton. The maximum tow rating of the Dakota was 4,900 pounds. Since the dry weight (meaning there is no gear or water) of the 171bh is 4,025 pounds and the maximum weight is 4,995 pounds we knew it would be close.
Since the dry weight is under the max towing capacity of the truck we figured we’d be okay as long as we didn’t put water in the tanks or over-pack. We didn’t want to get too close to our max tow rating.
The dealership was about 100 miles away from our house. The truck towed great the whole way home. Now, that drive was very flat, we didn’t have to go over any hills.
After we got home, our next plan was to tow it to my in-laws. There were a lot more hills going that direction. It was only about 40 miles away from home when we started to run into issues.
The check engine light came on. The truck stopped shifting gears. The transmission was struggling.
We went slow and got it to our destination. Instead of towing it again, we were able to leave it there for a few weeks while we could figure out what was going on with the truck.
The good news is that the mechanic said nothing was wrong with the truck. But, if we tow the trailer with that truck there will be problems. They told us we would end of ruining the transmission.
We weren’t ready to give up on the Dakota quite yet. We decided to use an OBD-II sensor to try and monitor the truck better. We thought since it did fine until we went over a hill maybe if we could monitor the temperatures we could pull over and hang out in the trailer until the truck cooled down and was able to continue.
We were able to see some information, but it didn’t give us the temperature readings we needed to feel comfortable with that plan.
We decided it was time to look for a new tow vehicle. We wanted to keep everyone safe and we didn’t want to destroy our truck.
Why we Tow with a Ram 1500
After months of research we went with a 2021 Ram 1500 Limited, which is a half-ton truck. And here’s why we choose that for our tow vehicle.
The first reason why we went with the Ram 1500 was comfort. There is so much space in the back seat for the kids and the dog. There is lots of room for the kids to grow and the entire dog bed can fit on the floor between the kids.
This truck is also comfortable to drive. Whether towing or not this is a great truck to ride in and drive. It feel like a tall luxury sedan. Since we use the truck as our daily driver it was important that it was comfortable enough to use every day.
The next thing we love about this truck is the camera system. It makes it so easy to hitch up that my husband can do it completely on his own. It not only has a backup camera, but it can also zoom in so you can get a better view of the hitch. You can also click the backup camera while driving and it will display for 8 seconds. This is a nice way to just confirm everything looks good with the connection.
Blind Spot Indicator
This truck not only has a blind spot indicator that lets you know when there’s a vehicle in the truck’s blind spot, it can also sense the trailer. When a trailer is attached it automatically can sense that there’s a trailer behind. It accounts for the trailer length in the blind spot indicator. It senses the trailer in ten-foot increments. So, sometimes it thinks the trailer is 20-feet long, other times 30-feet. Either way, it’s helpful to have that additional signal when on a busy freeway.
This truck has a ton of data. And it’s available to view easily right on the dashboard. You can easily monitor all of the different temperatures. This gives us some peace of mind that we aren’t being too rough on the truck.
When looking for a tow vehicle, a brake controller was a must for us. This one is in a nice easy to reach location.
33 Gallon Gas Tank
We really like the extra large 33 gallon gas tank. When towing the mileage isn’t great, and stopping for gas isn’t always easy, so this has been really nice. If we have a full gas tank when we start we never have to fill up for weekend trips.
The mirrors can rotate upright for towing. This gives great visibility and makes it easy to keep an eye on those low tree branches. Also, in older models you couldn’t have the side cameras and tow mirrors. With the 2021 this isn’t a problem.
One of the big reasons we went with the Limited instead of a lower trim, is the air suspension. When you add the air suspension and surround cameras onto a lower trim it’s just about the price of a Limited. The air suspension comes standard on the Limited Ram 1500. And with the air suspension we have zero squat. The truck is always level, even while towing. Now, that doesn’t change the fact that there is still a lot of weight at the back so we still use a weight distribution hitch.
3.92 Rear Axle Ratio
Even though the standard tow capacity (around 9,000 pounds) would have been enough, we wanted to be over prepared. So, we made sure the truck had the 3.92 rear axle ratio which gave us about 2,000 more pounds of towing capacity. The truck has a max tow rating of 11,331 pounds.
Another thing we like about this truck is we got just what we needed, nothing more. There is no sunroof because it would take away from the payload. Every extra feature adds weight and that takes away from the payload. And on a 1500 it’s already pretty tight. Especially when you travel with a family of four and a dog because all of that weight needs to be considered in the payload as well. With our options we have a payload of 1,431 and a tow capacity of 11,331.
So, in summary, this truck certainly made getting a trailer more expensive, but it was worth it. Even if the Dakota had worked, our original expectations weren’t realistic. We want to dry camp in California. With the drought, many campgrounds no longer allow you to fill up with spigots at camp. Being able to fill up the tanks before we leave has been extremely convenient for how we camp.
We love this truck, it tows beautifully, and is a safer choice for towing with our family.