Ford Mid-Size Cars 1971-1985 Repair Guide

General Recommendations


Because trailer towing puts extra strain on your car and is more demanding of you as a driver, the following precautions must be observed:

Do not overload your vehicle. Stay within the recommended load limits.
Prepare your vehicle carefully for towing. Use the proper equipment and make sure it is correctly installed.
Drive with extra care when towing. Your car will handle quite differently when towing a trailer. Take time to familiarize yourself with various driving maneuvers.
Your vehicle must be serviced more frequently when used for towing.


Your Ford vehicle could have been ordered with an optional trailer towing package. It will be much easier to tow with your car if it was ordered with this package, or if your car has been equipped with the individual upgrades that comprise the trailer towing package.

The actual trailer towing package equipment varies somewhat from model year to model year, but generally includes: heavy duty (72 amp hour) battery, trailer towing suspension and wiring harness, extra engine cooling capacity, auxiliary power steering and transmission oil coolers, heavy-duty flasher system, conventional spare tire, heavy-duty U-joints, dual exhaust system, lower (higher numerically) rear axle ratio with Traction-Lok differential carrier.

Trailer Hitches

The type of trailer hitch you use can be determined by the weight of the trailer you wish to tow. If the total trailer (loaded) weight is 2000 lbs. (3221 km) or less, you can use a Class I hitch. However, since this type of hitch places the tongue load of the trailer on the vehicle's rear wheels, the trailer load must be distributed so that only 10-15% of the total trailer weight is on the tongue.

Using a Class III hitch along with the optional trailer towing package equipment will allow you to tow a trailer weighing up to 5000 lbs. (2250 kg) with a 6 cylinder engine, 6000 lbs. (2700 kg) with a V8 engine. With this type of hitch, the tongue load of the trailer is evenly distributed between the front and rear wheels of the tow vehicle and the trailer wheels.

If your car is equipped with a rear air suspension system, proceed as follows when hooking up a trailer using a load equalizing hitch:

  1. Park the unloaded vehicle on level ground. Turn the ignition ON and leave all doors closed. Allow 1-2 minutes for the vehicle to level automatically.
  3. Turn the air suspension switch, located on the right side of the trunk OFF .
  5. Measure the height of a reference point on the front and rear bumpers at the center of the vehicle.
  7. Attach the trailer to the vehicle and adjust the hitch equalizer(s) so the front bumper height is 0- 1 / 2 in. below the unloaded height.
  9. After adjustment, the rear bumper should not be higher than that recorded in Step 3.

Regardless of the type of hitch used, be sure to follow the hitch and trailer manufacturers instructions for installation and use.

Always connect safety chains between the trailer and your car. The chains should be crossed under the trailer tongue and attached to your car's frame or hook retainers. Never attach the safety chains to the bumper. Always make sure there is enough slack in the chains to allow corners to be turned.


Wiring the car for towing is fairly easy. There are a number of good wiring kits available and these should be used, rather than trying to design your own. All trailers will need brake lights and turn signals as well as tail lights and side marker lights. Most states require extra marker lights for oversized trailers. Also, most states have recently required back-up lights for trailers.

Additionally, some Class I, most Class II and just about all Class III trailers will have electric brakes.

Add to this number an accessories wire, to operate trailer internal equipment or to charge the trailer's battery, and you can have as many as seven wires in the harness.

Determine the equipment on your trailer and buy the wiring kit necessary. The kit will contain all the wires needed, plus a plug adapter set which included the female plug, mounted on the bumper or hitch, and the male plug, wired into, or plugged into the trailer harness.

When installing the kit, follow the manufacturer's instructions. The color coding of the wires is standard throughout the industry.

One point to note: some domestic vehicles, and most imported vehicles, have separate turn signals. On most domestic vehicles, the brake lights and rear turn signals operate with the same bulb. For those vehicles with separate turn signals, you can purchase an isolation unit so that the brake lights won't blink whenever the turn signals are operated, or, you can go to your local electronics supply house and buy four diodes to wire in series with the brake and turn signal bulbs. Diodes will isolate the brake and turn signals. The choice is yours. The isolation units are simple and quick to install, but far more expensive than the diodes. The diodes, however, require more work to install properly, since they require the cutting of each bulb's wire and soldering in place of the diode.

One, final point, the best kits are those with a spring loaded cover on the vehicle mounted socket. This cover prevents dirt and moisture from corroding the terminals. Never let the vehicle socket hang loosely; always mount it securely to the bumper or hitch.


One of the most common, if not THE most common, problem associated with trailer towing is engine overheating.

If your car is equipped with the optional trailer towing package, it already has a heavy duty radiator and you shouldn't have any overheating problems. If your car is not equipped with the trailer towing package, check with your Ford or Lincoln-Mercury dealer, or a with a reputable radiator shop to see what can be done to increase your car's cooling system capacity.

Aftermarket engine oil coolers are helpful for prolonging engine oil life and reducing overall engine temperatures. Both of these factors increase engine life.While not absolutely necessary in towing Class I and some Class II trailers, they are recommended for heavier Class II and all Class III towing.

Engine oil cooler systems consist of an adapter, screwed on in place of the oil filter, a remote filter mounting and a multi-tube, finned heat exchanger, which is mounted in front of the radiator or air conditioning condenser.


The increased load of a trailer causes an increase in the temperature of the automatic transmission fluid. Heat is the worst enemy of an automatic transmission. As the temperature of the fluid increases, the life of the fluid decreases. It is essential, therefore, that you install an automatic transmission cooler.

The cooler, which consists of a multi-tube, finned heat exchanger, is usually installed in front of the radiator or air conditioning condenser, and installed inline with the transmission cooler tank inlet line. Follow the cooler manufacturer's installation instructions.

Select a cooler of at least adequate capacity, based upon the combined gross weights of the car and trailer.

Cooler manufacturers recommend that you use an aftermarket cooler in addition to, and not instead of, the present cooling tank in your car's radiator. If you do want to use a cooler in place of the radiator cooling tank, get a cooler at least two sizes larger than normally necessary.

One note: the transmission cooler can sometimes cause slow or harsh shifting in the transmission during cold weather, until the fluid has a chance to come up to normal operating temperature. Some coolers can be purchased with or retrofitted with a temperature bypass valve which will allow fluid flow through the cooler only when the fluid has reached operating temperature, or above.