NISSAN ALTIMA 2015 L33 / 5.G Towing Guide
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SWAY CONTROL DEVICE
Sudden maneuvers, wind gusts, and buffeting caused by other vehicles can affect trailer
handling. Sway control devices may be used to help control these effects. If you choose to
use one, contact a reputable trailer hitch supplier to make sure the sway control device will
work with the vehicle, hitch, trailer and the trailer’s brake system.
GENUINE NISSAN PARTS AND ACCESSORIES
Whether you will be towing occasionally or on a regular basis, NISSAN offers a full range of
Genuine NISSAN Parts and Accessories to help you tow with confidence.
Every Genuine NISSAN Parts and Accessory is thoroughly tested and inspected for fit and
workmanship. Therefore, you can be certain that every item is designed to be compatible with
the standard features of your vehicle and designed to assist you with your towing needs.
Contact your NISSAN dealer for more information on accessories or towing-related parts
for your NISSAN vehicle.
BREAK-IN AND MAINTENANCE SCHEDULE
CAUTION- NISSAN recommends that you allow a sufficient “break-in” (500 miles) of both
the engine and drivetrain before towing with your new NISSAN vehicle. Do not tow a trailer or
haul a heavy load for the first 500 miles. For the first 500 miles that you tow a trailer, do not
drive over 50 mph and do not make starts at full throttle. This helps the engine and other
parts of your vehicle wear in at heavier loads.
Keep in mind, too, that towing places higher demands and added loads on vehicle
components, so more frequent maintenance is called for. Your NISSAN Service &
Maintenance Guide provides the accelerated maintenance schedule for towing purposes.
Engine oil, filter, transmission fluid, and possibly other fluids should be changed more
frequently when towing.
MEASURING VEHICLE WEIGHT
The key to safer, efficient towing has to do with weight. Your vehicle — SUV, crossover, truck
or passenger car — is capable of carrying and towing only a certain amount of weight. You
must compare your vehicle’s tow weight ratings with the combined weight of the vehicle,
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trailer, and their contents. This will help ensure that the total weight does not exceed any of
your vehicle’s tow weight ratings.
There are four weights to consider when towing:
Gross Vehicle Weight
Gross Axle Weight (Front and Rear)
Gross Combined Weight
Trailer Tongue/King Pin Load
These ratings are based upon normal highway driving and may be reduced if operating in
reduced-traction situations, (for example, slippery boat ramps).
WARNING – Attempting to tow loads greater than the GVWR, GAWR, GCWR,
overloading and/or improperly loading the trailer tongue/king pin load specified could
adversely affect vehicle handling, braking, and performance. This may cause unsafe vehicle
handling and longer braking distance which could result in a serious accident and personal
injury. Failures to your vehicle caused by overloading are not covered by your vehicle’s
GROSS VEHICLE WEIGHT (GVW)
The Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is the actual weight of the fully loaded vehicle or trailer,
including passengers, cargo, fuel, hitch, trailer tongue/king pin load, and any optional
The best way to determine the GVW is by having the vehicle — loaded and ready to
tow — weighed at a public scale. That figure must include the combined weight of all
passengers and cargo that are normally in the vehicle when towing a trailer.
The GVW you come up with must not exceed the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
for your vehicle.
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On all NISSAN vehicles, the GVWR is shown on the
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (F.M.V.S.S.)
certification label located in the driver’s-side door area.
Weigh your vehicle on the scale with all of the
passengers and cargo that are normally in the vehicle
when pulling a trailer. Subtract the actual vehicle
weight from the GVWR. The remaining amount is the
available maximum tongue/king pin load.
To avoid overloading the vehicle, be sure
to include the trailer tongue/king pin load as a
part of the cargo when determining how much weight
can be safely carried inside the vehicle.
GROSS AXLE WEIGHT (GAW)
The Gross Axle Weight (GAW) is the maximum weight placed on a single axle (front and rear)
that it is designed to safely carry.
To determine the GAW, load the vehicle as you would for towing and attach the loaded
trailer. At a public scale, with the loaded trailer attached, place only the tow vehicle's front
wheels on the scale to determine the actual front axle GAW. To obtain the rear axle GAW,
place all four tow vehicle's wheels on the scale. From that figure, subtract the front GAW and
you will have the rear GAW amount. The cargo in the trailer and the vehicle may have to be
distributed, or some removed to meet the specified rating.
The GAW you come up with must not exceed the Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)
for your vehicle. On NISSAN vehicles, the GAWR for both axles is listed on the F.M.V.S.S.
MFD BY NISSAN MOTOR CO., LTD
THIS VEHICLE CONFORMS TO
ALL APPLICABLE FEDERAL
MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY
STANDARDS IN EFFECT ON
THE DATE OF MANUFACTURE
SEE OWNERS MANUAL FOR
COLOR TRIM TRANS
RIMS AT PSI
COLD SINGLERIMS AT PSI
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GROSS COMBINED WEIGHT (GCW)
The Gross Combined Weight (GCW) is the total weight of the tow vehicle with all
passengers, cargo, and fuel, plus the total weight of the trailer and all its cargo.
To determine the GCW, simply weigh your vehicle when fully loaded and ready to tow, and
add in the weight of the loaded trailer.
The GCW you come up with must not exceed the Gross Combined Weight Rating
(GCWR) for your vehicle. Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual to view the maximum
GCWR specification listed for your vehicle.
TRAILER TONGUE/KING PIN LOAD
The amount of trailer’s weight pressing down on the tow vehicle hitch ball is called trailer
tongue load (conventional trailer) or king pin load (5th wheel and gooseneck trailers).
To measure trailer tongue/king pin load, place the tongue of the trailer on a scale when the
trailer is not attached to the
vehicle. A separate vehicle
jack — not the trailer jack —
should be used, as the
location of the trailer jack is
rearward of the trailer tongue
and will not give you an
accurate measurement of the
true tongue/king pin load.
Make sure the vehicle jack is
placed directly under the
trailer tongue coupler, and the tongue is set at the height/level of the tow vehicle hitch.
For proper handling, you must keep conventional trailer tongue load between 10-15% of
the actual trailer weight, within the limits of the maximum trailer tongue load allowable.
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For example, to determine the proper trailer tongue load for a 1,500-lb. trailer, multiply the
weight of 1,500 lbs. by 10% to arrive at a figure of 150 lbs. 5th wheel and gooseneck trailer
king pin load must be kept between 15-25% of the actual trailer weight, within the limits of
the king pin load allowable.
Some trailer types may require different trailer tongue loads for safe towing. Always follow
the trailer manufacturer’s recommendations for proper trailer set-up and trailer tongue load.
Keep the trailer tongue load within the maximum trailer tongue load allowable. Additionally,
make sure the vehicle has the payload capacity available for the trailer tongue load.
Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual to view the maximum conventional trailer tongue load
listed for your vehicle.
WARNING – DO NOT exceed any of the individual vehicle weight ratings (GVWR,
GAWR, GCWR, etc.), regardless of trailer or hitch type. Overloading or improper
loading of a trailer can cause unsafe vehicle handling, braking and performance and may
lead to a serious accident and personal injury.
HITCH & TRAILER HEIGHT
It is important that your trailer floor and tongue ride as level as possible. This will help prevent
over-angling, bottoming-out, and improper tongue load and load transfer. Therefore, the hitch
or trailer tongue must be adjusted during the initial vehicle/trailer fit-up to ensure a level ride.
Ball mounts are available in different configurations to adjust the hitch ball height.
When towing a trailer, ensure that the tow vehicle’s tire pressures are inflated to the
recommended cold tire specification. You will find these figures in the vehicle owner’s manual
and on the tire pressure chart located in the vehicle. Trailer tire condition, size, load rating, and
inflation pressure must be in accordance with the trailer and tire manufacturer’s specifications.
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Towing can significantly have an effect in altering the handling and performance
characteristics of your vehicle. Moreover, it puts increased strain on the engine and drivetrain.
Therefore, it is always a good idea to approach towing from the standpoint of safety —
whether you are purchasing equipment or actually pulling the trailer. Buy or lease only quality
equipment. You should follow a more frequent maintenance schedule and check fluid levels,
proper tire pressures, tire condition, etc., more often when on the road to protect your vehicle.
WARNING - Always make sure your vehicle’s towing capacity is adequate for the trailer
you intend to tow. Be certain that you have all of the proper equipment needed for safe
towing, such as safety chains/cables, electric trailer brakes, electric trailer brake controller,
breakaway switch, and extended rear view mirrors to help ensure against the possibility of a
serious accident and personal injury.
LOADING YOUR TRAILER
WARNING- Taking the time to load and balance your trailer properly, will improve overall
handling and minimize the strain on your tow vehicle. Incorrectly, loaded trailers tend to sway
or swing from side to side, upsetting vehicle handling which could result in a serious accident
and personal injury. Careful loading and balancing can help eliminate these problems.
As mentioned earlier, conventional trailer tongue load must fall between 10-15% of the
total trailer weight, or within the limits of the maximum trailer tongue load specified by the
trailer manufacturer. King pin load — if using a 5th wheel or gooseneck trailer — must be
between 15-25% of the total trailer weight.
WARNING - Excessive tongue/king pin load
can actually push down the tow vehicle in back,
lifting the front wheels to a point where traction,
steering response, and braking may be severely
reduced. Too little tongue/king pin load can
cause instability, which may lead to swaying, “tail
wagging” or jackknifing which could result in a
serious accident or personal injury .
With this in mind, proper loading is extremely
important. When loading a trailer, 60% of the
total cargo weight should be positioned in the front portion of the trailer and 40% in the back.
Then, adjust the load until the proper tongue/king pin load ratio is achieved.
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WARNING -The trailer load should be
balanced equally from side-to-side. Unequal side-
to-side loading can negatively affect handling and
braking. Once in place, all cargo should be firmly
secured to prevent shifting. If the load should shift
abruptly during braking or cornering, it could
quickly affect the handling of your vehicle and
cause a very unsafe situation, loss of control or
● Do not carry flammable materials, such as
gasoline, in your trailer. In the event of an accident,
an explosion or fire could occur.
PROVIDING FOR VEHICLE/TRAILER STABILITY
WARNING - Improper loading, excessive or insufficient trailer tongue/king pin load,
overloading, excessive trailer weight, poorly designed trailer suspensions, crosswinds, and
poor maintenance are all things that can affect the stability of your vehicle and trailer
combination. Vehicle instability may result in loss of vehicle control and cause an accident,
personal injury or death.
If swaying does occur, check the cargo load for proper balance and distribution to ensure
proper trailer tongue/king pin load. In addition, check the condition of the suspension and
shocks, as well as the tires, tire pressures, and wheel bearings on both the tow vehicle and
the trailer. If the swaying continues and your trailer is suitably balanced and within the towing
capacity limits of your vehicle, discontinue towing and consult your NISSAN dealer or trailer
manufacturer to determine the cause.
Please note that some states have specific regulations and speed limits for vehicles that are
towing trailers. Remember to reduce your speed in unsafe or less-than-ideal road conditions
or weather. When towing a trailer, braking distances increase while handling agility decreases.
Always leave yourself an extra margin of distance to respond to emergencies.
WARNING- Never allow passengers to ride inside a trailer while it is being towed
are not any passenger restraints in a trailer. Not only is this unlawful in
most areas, passengers could be seriously injured or killed during sudden trailer movement or
in an accident. In addition, trailers may allow fumes from the tow vehicle to leak inside. This
could result in carbon monoxide poisoning from the engine exhaust.
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CAUTION - DO NOT modify your vehicle beyond those required for proper hitch
installation, wiring hook-up, or adding extended mirrors on any NISSAN vehicle being used
for towing purposes. Changes to the drivetrain, suspension, exhaust systems, frame
structure/unibody, or other vehicle components are not necessary for towing within the limits
described in this guide. These changes may diminish the reliability and longevity of your
vehicle, void warranty coverage or possibly result in loss of vehicle control and cause an
accident, personal injury or death.
When towing, bring tools including, flares, a flashlight, emergency reflectors, jumper cables,
extra fuses, extra radiator coolant, oil, and easily replaced spare parts such as taillight bulbs.
You should also carry spare tires for your tow vehicle and trailer, as well as a jack suitable for
use on the trailer. A trailer jack is an important part of safe towing. Choose a jack that can
raise and lower the trailer so that you can connect the coupler to and disconnect it from the
ball of your hitch. Choose one with a weight capacity that matches or surpasses your trailer
WARNING - Be aware that your automotive jack is designed for lifting only your vehicle
during a tire change. Using an automobile jack to lift a trailer bearing load, may be unstable
possibly causing it to fall off the jack stand which may result in property damage or serious
BEFORE STARTING OUT
Before starting out on a trip, make one last inspection of the tow vehicle and the trailer. Are
the tire pressures correct? Are the safety chains/cables securely in place? Has the cargo
been tied down securely? Do all the lights work? Is the coupler properly attached over the
hitch ball and secured using a locking pin? Is the breakaway switch hooked up and
functioning properly? Are vehicle and electric trailer brakes working properly?
Make a checklist of key items to inspect. Before towing, always check the tow vehicle’s
engine oil, transmission oil, and coolant before starting out. Finding a potential problem while
in your driveway is better than discovering it miles from home.
TOWING TIPS/ CAUTIONS & WARNINGS
If you have never towed a trailer before, be aware that it does take getting used to. To begin
with, towing noticeably affects your vehicle’s performance:
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It will not accelerate as quickly — an important point to keep in mind when merging onto a
It will not stop as quickly. Leave more room than usual between you and the traffic ahead,
and brake sooner when coming to a stop.
Abrupt maneuvering can unbalance the load and reduce the handling and stability of your
tow vehicle. Always be aware and plan ahead to make lane changes and turns smoothly.
If possible, before you actually hit the open road, practice towing in a large uncrowded area
such as a safe, open place with minimal traffic. Become especially familiar with backing up a
trailer — the maneuver many people find most difficult.
The combination of your tow vehicle and trailer obviously requires a greater distance to stop.
A good rule of thumb to remember is that for each 10 mph of speed, allow yourself one tow
vehicle and trailer length of distance between the front of your vehicle and the vehicle ahead.
When braking, use firm but gradual pressure on the pedal rather than panic braking.
WARNING- Applying the brakes abruptly or with too much force can cause a sudden shift
in weight which can cause the trailer to skid or jackknife at its point of attachment with the
vehicle. This, in turn, can throw the tow vehicle out of control resulting in an accident, property
damage or serious injury. If equipped with an electric trailer brake controller, follow the
recommended operational instructions.
As mentioned in the introduction to this section, because of the added weight of the trailer,
acceleration capability is reduced and you will require a longer distance to pass another
vehicle. Be certain you have sufficient time and space to pass safely.
WARNING - Never attempt to pass on hills or when going around curves. This could
possibly result in loss of vehicle control and cause an accident, personal injury or death.
CORNER MORE SLOWLY
Know your vehicle and trailer capabilities.
WARNING - Entering a sharp corner too quickly or abruptly can “crack the whip,”
whereby the trailer can actually pull the tow vehicle off the road. Doing so could cause a loss
of vehicle control and result in accident, property damage or personal injury.
Therefore, when approaching a relatively sharp corner, begin braking sooner than you would
when not towing. Do your braking in a straight line prior to the corner, and turn smoothly into
it. In addition, remember to make a wider turn than normal to ensure that the trailer safely
clears the inside of the turn.
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WARNING -When towing a 5th wheel or gooseneck trailer, do not make sharp turns while
driving or backing as the trailer may contact the vehicle and cause damage to both the trailer
and vehicle, or result in an accident leading to property damage or personal injury.
A special extended 5th wheel pin box or sliding hitch may be required to provide additional
trailer-to-truck clearance for tight maneuvering.
BACK UP WITH CAUTION
Backing up with a trailer is a difficult maneuver. The best way to steer is by placing one hand
at the bottom of the steering wheel to direct the trailer. The trailer will go in the same direction
your hand moves. If you want to turn the trailer to the left, you will turn the steering wheel to
the left. To turn the trailer to the right, move the wheel to the right. All movements of the wheel
should be done in small increments. Of course, backing up should be done only at very slow
speeds. For large trailers that obstruct your rearward vision, have someone outside the vehicle
act as a “spotter” to guide you along.
A tow vehicle and trailer can be an unwieldy combination in a small area, so always try to park
where you will have a relatively easy time maneuvering. Once parked, always block the wheels
on both the tow vehicle and the trailer.
Parking on a slope is not recommended. If, however, you must park on a slope and your
vehicle is equipped with an automatic transmission, there are some precautions you should
Have someone block the wheels once the tow vehicle and trailer are in position and are
being held by the vehicle’s brake.
Next, apply the parking brake and only then move the gear lever into PARK.
CAUTION - If you move the lever into PARK before blocking the wheels and applying the
parking brake, it may be difficult later to shift out of PARK. Transmission damage could also
An engine will lose about 4% of its performance for every 1,000 feet above sea level that you
travel. If you will be towing in high altitudes, it is a good idea to allow more time than usual due
to the engine’s reduced performance.
TOW MODE (IF EQUIPPED)
Tow Mode is recommended when towing a heavy trailer or hauling a heavy load, in stop-and-
go traffic, rolling terrain, or a busy parking lot. Driving the vehicle in Tow Mode may affect fuel