ESP NISSAN ALTIMA COUPE 2009 D32 / 4.G Towing Guide
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2009 Nissan Towing Guide 1
SAFETY IS PRIORITY ONE
Obviously, your first concern should be safety. Your vehicle was designed to be used primarily
to carry passengers and cargo. Always remember that towing a trailer places additional loads
on your vehicle’s engine, drivetrain, suspension, steering, braking, and other systems.
Therefore, be certain that your vehicle can meet the demands of the towing application you
have in mind.
Rent or purchase only the highest-quality towing and safety equipment you can find.
Reinforced tow hitches designed especially for certain Nissan vehicles are available from your
Nissan dealer. Hitches for other Nissan models should be bought from and installed by a
professional supplier of towing equipment.
Finally, it is important to follow the towing capacity limit set for your specific vehicle, and to
ensure that your vehicle is in top mechanical condition, especially the tires, brakes,
suspension, and engine cooling system. See your vehicle owner’s manual for details.
NEVER EXCEED THE ESTABLISHED TOWING CAPACITY
Towing capacities vary from vehicle to vehicle. See the SPECIFICATIONS section of this
guide for the towing capacities of 2009 Nissan vehicles produced at the time of Towing
Guide publication. Use this data to help select the proper Nissan vehicle to meet your
anticipated towing needs, and refer to it when renting a trailer or other piece of towing
EQUIP YOUR NISSAN FOR TOWING
The frequency and type of towing should influence the manner in which you equip your
vehicle. If you plan to tow often, either for recreation or work, select the engine size,
transmission type, suspension, and towing capacity that are best suited to your requirements.
This guide can help you select that equipment.
If, on the other hand, your towing will be infrequent, choose the Nissan vehicle and
equipment that best meets your day-to-day needs. Be careful not to exceed the towing
capacity on those few occasions when you do tow.
READ THIS GUIDE BEFORE YOU TOW
This guide was designed to provide an overview of safe towing practices. Here, you will find
information on towing equipment, safety, proper loading and driving techniques, towing tips,
and much more.
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2009 Nissan Towing Guide 15
Towing can dramatically alter the handling and performance characteristics of your vehicle.
Plus, 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.
Always make sure your vehicle’s towing capacity is adequate for the trailer you intend to
tow. Buy or lease only quality equipment, and have it installed only by professionals. In
addition, be certain that you have all of the equipment needed for safe towing, including safety
chains/cables, electric trailer brakes, electric trailer brake controller, breakaway switch,
extended rear view mirrors, and so on. All of these items have been discussed in a previous
section of this guide.
With regard to vehicle maintenance, you should follow a more frequent schedule and
check fluid levels, pressures, tire condition, etc., more often when on the road. See your
vehicle owner’s manual for details.
LOADING YOUR TRAILER
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. Careful loading and balancing can help eliminate
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.
Excessive tongue/king pin load can actually
push down the vehicle in back, lifting the front
wheels to a point where traction, steering
response, and braking are severely reduced.
Insufficient tongue/king pin load can cause
instability, which may lead to “tail wagging” or
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, the load should be adjusted until the proper tongue/king pin load ratio is achieved.
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2009 Nissan Towing Guide 16 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
Finally, do not carry flammable materials, such
as gasoline, in your trailer. In the event of an accident, an explosion or fire could occur.
ENSURING VEHICLE/TRAILER STABILITY
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.
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 swaying occurs because of high winds or poor weather conditions, wait until
these conditions improve before resuming your trip.
If the swaying continues and you feel 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 problem. Most important, do not tow until the problem is
Some states have specific regulations and speed limits for vehicles that are towing trailers.
Always obey these ordinances.
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 emergency situations.
Never allow passengers to ride inside a trailer while it is being towed. Not only is this
unlawful in most areas, passengers could be seriously injured 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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2009 Nissan Towing Guide 18 Š Abrupt maneuvering can unbalance the load and reduce the handling stability of your tow
vehicle. Plan ahead and 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 stadium or shopping center parking lot. Become especially familiar with backing up
a trailer — the maneuver many people find most difficult.
Drive your vehicle at a moderate speed, and remember to reduce your speed in unsafe or
less-than-ideal road conditions or weather. The tendency for a trailer to sway increases with
speed, and such swaying can result in a loss of control.
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.
Applying the brakes abruptly or with too much force 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. If equipped with an electric trailer brake controller, follow the recommended
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. Obviously, never attempt
passing on hills or when going around curves.
CORNER MORE SLOWLY
Know your vehicle and trailer capabilities. Entering a sharp corner too quickly or abruptly can
“crack the whip,” whereby the trailer can actually pull the tow vehicle off the road. 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.
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
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2009 Nissan Towing Guide 22
BRAKES When the brakes on a tow vehicle are applied, an electric current is sent to
an actuator which applies the trailer’s brakes.
BRAKE CONTROLLER A device that controls the electric trailer brakes.
GOOSENECK HITCH Located just forward of the rear axle centerline, this hitch uses a ball to
serve as the pivot point for the trailer.
WEIGHT RATING (GAWR)
The maximum amount of weight each vehicle axle (front and rear) is
designed to safely carry.
WEIGHT RATING (GCWR) The maximum allowable combined weight of the vehicle and trailer,
including passengers and all cargo.
WEIGHT RATING (GVWR) The maximum allowable weight of the vehicle, including passengers, cargo,
fuel, hitch, trailer tongue load, and any optional equipment.
LOAD The amount of trailer (5th wheel or gooseneck) weight pressing down on
the tow vehicle hitch.
A ball that connects the trailer to the tow vehicle hitch and provides the
means by which the trailer pivots during cornering. Available in a number
of sizes and weight capacities, it must correspond to the trailer coupler
size, and have a sufficient capacity rating for the trailer being pulled.
RECEIVER HITCH A frame- or structure-mounted hitch with a receiver that allows removal of
the ball mount.
SAFETY CHAINS/CABLES Provides an emergency connection between the tow vehicle and the trailer,
should the trailer become disengaged for any reason.
Hydraulic-type braking system activated by inertia. As the tow vehicle
begins to brake, the trailer pushes against the hitch ball, consequently
activating the trailer brakes.
TRAILER TONGUE/COUPLER The part of the trailer that extends forward to meet the tow vehicle, and also
carries the coupler assembly.
LOAD The amount of trailer (conventional) weight pressing down on the tow
HITCH SYSTEM Type of hitch system that helps shift the trailer tongue weight to all trailer
tires and the tow vehicle front tires. Strongly recommended when towing
trailers with a Maximum Trailer Weight greater than 5,000 lbs.
Provides an electrical connection linking the tow vehicle’s electrical system
to the trailer’s system.