Can I tow a small trailer behind my Honda Civic from Texas to Las Vegas?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1997

Dear Tom and Ray:

Later this spring, I am moving from my student digs in College Station,
Texas, to Las Vegas. I have already determined that my furnishings aren't
worth the $800 or so that it would cost me rent a U-Haul truck and drive
them across the desert, so I've decided to give them away. But I still have
a bunch of stuff that has personal value to me that I can either a) ship or
b) put in one of those rental trailer-things and drag it across the desert
behind my car.

I drive a 1991 Honda DX Civic with about 45,000 miles on it. My manual
indicates how much weight I can tow safely without hurting the car, but am
I better off not even making the attempt? I don't want to ruin a car that
needs to last quite a few more years in the interest of trying to save a
few bucks on shipping. -- Carolyn

RAY: Carolyn, you are wise beyond your years. Your instincts are absolutely
right that pulling a trailer with this car is not worth the risk. It's a
lot like carrying around a back pack full of bricks. You may be able to do
it, but the extra strain is somehow going to take its toll.

TOM: There are several things that are increasingly likely to happen to a
small car like this if you use it to tow a trailer -- even if you stay
within the manufacturer's weight limitations. The extra weight could cause
the engine to overheat in the desert, perhaps resulting in a blown head
gasket ($400 plus) or a warped head ($1,500 plus). If it's a stick shift
car, you could burn out the clutch ($500 plus). Or, you could just overwork
the engine and damage the rings, so that 40,000 miles from now, you're
burning oil to beat the band and need a new engine ($2,000 plus).

RAY: So unless you plan to do extraordinarily well at the slots upon
arrival in Las Vegas, I wouldn't risk it. I'd ship your personal
belongings. Use the good old U.S. Postal Service, Carolyn. They're quite
reasonably priced for mailing boxes of stuff. And with all the e-mail
that's going around (like your letter to us from, I'm sure
they could use the business!

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