Towing a trailer with a 4 cyl Camry

A friend has modified a boat trailer so I can carry canoes and kayaks. Supposedly a Camry can tow 1000 lbs and this trailer loaded is less than that.

I have a hard time imagining how the transmission and the brakes can handle it.

Anyone got any experience?

If Toyota says it can pull 1000 pounds they should know what they’re talking about. I don’t know if I’d want to pull it cross country but short distances shouldn’t be a problem. Just take it easy and tow in 3rd gear instead of overdrive.


It will probably work
But not comfortably. I would get an add-on transmission cooler to reduce possible damage to the transmission. Expect to have to deal with trailer sway in winds. I tried pulling a small pop-up trailer with a 4 cylinder Subaru. Wind was problematic, even with a sway bar and you cannot travel at full highway speeds.

Nissan Sentra
I used to pull a 15’ aluminum fishing boat with a 25 horse OB with my '93 nissan sentra with NO PROBLEMS. It was a 5 speed which might make a difference but the 4 cyl in that car was much smaller than the one in your camry. I actually got better mileage towing because I would keep it at 60-65 instead of my usual 75+. I put many miles on it pulling that boat and the car died of an accident not a mechanical problem at like 145K

OH, and trailer sway has more to do with improper tongue weight I think. I never had any problems with sway either. YMMV


I suppose it depends on …

– Last Updated: Oct-07-10 10:24 AM EST –

...... what (4 cyl.) engine your Camry has .

The earliest 4 cyl.'s had give or take 80-90 hp. ... where as the more recent models are putting out 160-170 hp. w/high torqre ratings to match .

A small boat trailer with a couple/few paddle craft on it isn't a great load for an auto to pull ... I mean nothing like a heavy power boat that weighs 3000-4000 lbs. .

Not that an 70-80 hp. 4 banger couldn't pull a light trailer w/o over stressing it , but trying to "push it" up steeper hills with any speed and quick accelerations wouldn't work too well ... on the other hand , the later generation 4 cyl.'s w/higher hp. - more advanced trans. and gearing should breeze right on through (feeling something like a V8 SUV pulling a power boat) .

Once a trailer is up to speed , inertia kicks in and greatly aids an auto's engine in pulling ability ... the weight is still there but it's mass has it's own rolling energy .

It might be a bit of a slug with four 170 lb. occupants and the trailer w/3 paddle craft ... but just a driver and the loaded trailer shouldn't be any more work on the auto than 4 170 lb. occupants w/o the trailer .

A Camry with 5 adults

– Last Updated: Oct-07-10 10:15 AM EST –

carries easily as much weight as a small trailer and a driver only -;)

Should not be a problem -;)

The engine on Camrys already operates at what I consider the upper temperature range (for emissions, I gather). So too much extra load may stress it - use fully synthetic oil -;)

A $40 tranny cooler is also a good idea if there are many long uphills, but otherwise, on the flats, it should not be a big deal without it.

The rear drum brakes on pre-'03 Camry 4 cylinder may make some noises at high speed braking (they do even without a trailer). The same model year cars have exceedingly soft rear suspension, so if your trailer is front heavy, you might want to go slow over bumps to avoid bottoming-out the rear suspension -;)

'97-01 make about 140 HP, then they go up from there to 190+ on the current year 4 cylinders (the SE model especially). All should be more than adequate for 1,000 lb trailer, just don't expect "racing" -;)

Plus, as you mentioned, a small trailer is likely considerably less than 1,000 lb with a couple of kayaks/canoes on it...

I did…
I used to tow my utility trailer and one to two kayaks with my 4 cylinder '97 Camry manual trans. This trailer is most similar to mine:

However, my rig was probably 250 lbs at most. IIRC,in those days Toyota would rate the Camry for towing some modest amount (?1000lbs). Nowadays, car companies are shying away from allowing towing in anything other than an SUV. Sometimes the same vehicle in Europe has a modest towing capacity, but in North America the manual says “towing not recommended”. Draw your own conclusions.

Regardless, if your trailer and cargo are approaching 1000 lbs, you best be careful not to exceed the cargo capacity of your vehicle, whether towing is allowed or not.


My understanding is that by “towing” they mean the total weight of everything, passengers, cargo in the car etc.If so, once you deduct the contents of the car theres not much you can pull… I could be wrong but I’d read the manual carefully.

then again string …
… your post says “so I can carry” , so I assume it’s your auto that would do the towing .

You haven’t said anything about your Camry other than it’s a 4 cyl. … you would know best about your own vehical .

I’d say if it’s one of the later models w/higher hp. and torque in good strong running condition not having any problems , the brakes , tranny and engine will hold up fine … but if it’s a weak feeling run out auto that’s not in good order , you might end up breaking it with too much trailer pulling .

My Experience

– Last Updated: Oct-07-10 10:50 AM EST –

I used to tow a basic 14-foot motor boat with my 1980 Subaru and had no trouble at all. I think the whole thing weighed between 600 and 800 pounds (the boat and motor alone probably contributed 400 pounds, so there's no way a kayak trailer can come even close to the overall weight I was towing). My Subaru had less than 60 horsepower and when driving in a sensible manner I could hardly tell the trailer was there.

Look at it this way. If you put four average-sized American men inside the Camry it will be lugging about 900 pounds. Putting that amount of weight behind the car instead of inside it won't change the picture by very much.

The car is a 2000 with AT.
Runs great , burns no oil , never runs hot, and will haul butt when needed.I would rather pull it with a truck.

Mine’s a 2000 with AT too
And now has … a new AT. The original failed at 120K for no apparent reason (was not really abused)… Something to think about -:wink:

If yours is the LE model (or XLE) it comes with the larger V6 sized front brakes. And mine is a very rare one with rear disk brakes too, no more “ggrrrr” noises when stopping downhill from highway speeds, he-he…

My experience is that
most 4 cylinders just aren’t geared for hauling at highway speeds. It’s a matter of how much torque you have at 50 to 70 mph and while it doesn’t take a lot of power once you are up to speed, it does matter when you go to accelerate or try to climb a long hill.

Some of the newer 4 cylinders have some decent horsepower, but still not sure they will really give you enough torque to accelerate up a hill like most 6 cylinders will.


But once again, how much load?

– Last Updated: Oct-07-10 6:32 PM EST –

All of these small cars are designed to work just fine when carrying a payload of around 1,000 pounds, and as far as hill-climbing, acceleration and braking go, putting that weight behind the car instead of inside it really doesn't make much difference. How bad can it be to pull a trailer with a few kayaks when the total weight will usually be less than 400 pounds? Also, no one seems to worry about the effect of putting three kayaks on the roof of one of these cars, yet the wind resistance of transporting those boats will be quite a bit less if they are on a trailer. I think the word "trailer" makes a lot of people immediately think of "straining the car", and in those cases it makes more sense to think in terms of loads and air resiatance than in terms of "trailers".

When pulling 800 pounds with my old Subaru, yes, it took everything the car had to go 55 miles per hour up a steep hill (steeper than the hills you will usually see on interstate highways, by the way), so I slowed down to 48 or 50 and used 3rd gear (it had a manual 4-speed). There's no law that says you MUST maintain speed while climbing hills, though a lot of people drive as if there is. Anyway, nowadays only the most specialized super-subcompacts have less than twice as much power as my old Subaru, so pulling a kayak trailer isn't going to slow them down at all on hills (actually, a typical kayak trailer wouldn't have even slowed down my wimpy old Subaru).

I had a 1980 GMC S15 pickup …

– Last Updated: Oct-07-10 11:16 PM EST –

...... purchased new , it was a 4 speed standard shift (clutch) .

This truck's engine was one of the earlier 90 degree V6 motors , rated at 115 hp. and 175 lb.ft. torque .

Now looking at that V6's hp. and torque ratings from an earlier model auto , and comparing them to similar (and even higher rating numbers) for a modern 4 cyl. engine ... I can't see why the V6 should be considered stronger or more capable in any way .

The rear end gearing for my truck may have been a little lower than the Camry's passenger service gearing , but that I don't know for certain (just a guess truck vs, car) .

One would think that it was a very light duty truck , but quite the opposite was the reality . Because it was the GMC S15 instead of the Chevy S10 , it's suspension and brakes were considerably heavier duty . The only thing I changed on it were the rims and tires , and that was before it left the dealer's lot ... upgraded to 15" .

But just how much load could that little V6 deal with ?? After all it was going to be used full time for construction purposes and on often occasion it would have to haul loads greater than it's conservative 1700 lb. suspension rating .

I often made that little truck work like a full size to earn it's keep . It's little engine had no problem what so ever hauling a cube plus of cynder block (3000 lbs.) ... it towed a boat (1-4 times per week) from early spring until winter that weighed 3000 lb. (plus the trailer weight) ... so there's not a doubt in my mind that a 115 hp./175 lb.ft. engine has all that's needed to do a good (if not excellent) job of dealing with those weights and never complaining about it .

For the towing-launch and retrieve part , the truck handled that w/o any concerns at all (and you know boat ramps can get steep sometimes) ... when I layed cubes of block in the 7' bed , that did made it squat a little more than was fair to it . Cornering needed to be approached conservatively , and the front end felt a bit too light on the steering with those 3000 lb. loads . The rear springs eventually lost probably about 20% of their original luster , but I expected that at the least .

So basically what I'm getting at here is a strong running 4 cyl. with 140 plus hp. and decent torque of perhaps 150 lb.ft. should not even show any signs of concern just pulling a light trailer load of 1000 lbs or less . The weight is not on the auto's suspension , but I agree with posters that mention the tongue weight needs to be considered , and if nessasary adjusted properly so it's ballanced with the vehicals (Camry's) rear suspension needs ... a small tranny cooler is always a good idea for an AT that will be used for towing too .

I know the Camry is not a truck , but since it's only being asked to pull around a very light trailer load of 1000 lbs. or less (probably much , much less) ... I personally wouldn't give it second thought , it should be up to the task w/o question ... unless as said earlier this particular Camry is for some reason feeling weak and run out which doesn't seem to be the case about how you feel about it's present strength .

But given the choice between a truck and the Camry ... well like you string , I'd go truck just because they are usually heavier in the suspension dept. , but I'd never worry about the drivetrain of the Camry pulling that light trailer around .

ps., ... the little S15 pulled it's weight every day for 9 years , and was then retired to light duty service , later sold off and the purchaser ran it for ??? more years .

Keep in mind that Subarus generally have more torque than most other four cylinder vehicles, especially at lower rpms. Gotta love those Subaru boxer engines

It’s no big deal
Towing with a 4 cylinder car is fine. My Hyundai Elantra (2.0 liter, 4 cylinder) easily hauls a utility trailer, sometimes loaded with over 1000# of firewood or building supplies, on hilly New England roads. For that matter, I pulled the same trailer with my old Excel, which only had a 1.6 liter engine, again without problems. As with any trailering, you just have to be conservative, keep your speed down and leave extra room for braking.

You can get a Draw-Tite Sportframe hitch (Class 1 hitch) which is all you need for hauling kayaks. They’re reasonably priced and generally easy to install. You’ll also need a wiring kit that will tap into your existing brake and tailight wiring. It will probably take a couple of hours to get everything installed.

GVWR is the most important thing to
consider here. The total weight that your vehicle is rated to tow/carry combined. If you’re towing a trailer and 4 boats, with 4 200 pound people, and 100 pounds of gear, you will probably be pushing that rating. If you are going to tow once in a while for local trips only, you will be fine, althought in addition to the excellent suggestions above about transmission cooler addition, I would swap out your standard brake pads with heavy duty pads. Braking is going to be a MUCH bigger concern than pulling. Make sure your tongue weight is correct. When hooked up, the rear of the car should not be squatting, and the trailer should be LEVEL.

you should be fine
1k with a modern 4 cylinder is nothing to worry about, 1k is a relatively light tow. People are reacting by thinking of the 4 cylinder of the past, the one in your camry should be perfectly fine unless you’re crossing the continental divide. In which case I might just get the transmission cooler.

I also had a nissan sentra, and a vw rabbit, towing a 1200# camper. It was a bit slow and required downshifts on the hills but other than that, no problems.

Thanks eveyrone!
I’ll get that hitch and give it a try.