Pulling a camper with an older pickup - should I be concerned about horsepower loss?

I have a 10 year old Chevy Silverado extended cab pickup (V6) and I’m considering getting a camper to pull around. The owner’s manual tells me the gross vehicle weight that I can pull. I assume that this is based on the horsepower/torque of the pickup when it was new. From watching Top Gear, I’ve learned that vehicles can lose power as they age. Should I be concerned that my truck doesn’t have what she used to and avoid choosing a trailer close to the max weight of her original ability? Since she’s a V6, she couldn’t pull a whole lot to begin with and if I back off of that, I’m looking at pretty small trailers.

I’ve seen an add for a “Performance shop” that will allow you to test your HP. Would that make sense or are they just for race cars?

As I recall, usually on Top Gear they test how many “ponies have escaped” on usually wayyyyyy worn out old sports cars and such. On a 10 year old truck, unless it’s got tons of mileage or abuse, it’s probably still pretty close to what it was from the factory.

Also, the engine is a relatively minor consideration on the tow rating compared to the brakes, suspension, transmission, etc. Towing a heavy load with a small engine might not be loads of fun, but it’s generally not a safety issue. Also consider that the V6 in your truck is probably more powerful than, say, a 350 V8 from the 70’s which is considered a perfectly reasonable tow engine.

One other suggestion if you really do want to try to measure your HP. If you have a smartphone, you can buy an adapter that goes from your car’s OBD port to bluetooth (here’s one although there’s many that use the same ELM327 chipset). One of the things the app I use (Torque, although I think there’s others out there) can do is if you punch in a bunch of parameters like the engine size, weight of the vehicle, etc it can try to infer how much horsepower your engine is producing. It’s not as good as a real dynometer, but for the cost of the cheap adapter (which is useful for all sorts of other stuff) it might be worth a try.

Why not simply borrow or rent campers of various sizes to see how the towing goes. A very big consideration is the terrain–flat vs mountains…

What GreasyJack said. The GVWR/GCWR are based on the power of the engine, the ability of the cooling system, the transmission and its ability to be cooled, the capability of the brakes, etc, etc. Unless you’ve got problems with the cooling system or transmission, or degradation of other things, it can probably tow just as much as it could when new.

besides, your V6 has about 200 hp. It wasn’t all that long ago when F-350s had about 200 hp.

If your truck has an automatic tranny, you shouldn’t have a problem towing close to max weight. Wear and tear on the transmission can be a major concern, so make sure your transmission fluid has been changed per recommendations, and that you don’t have excessive wear on the rear end.

10 years? I thought this was gonna be about old trucks!

If your trunk didn’t come with a trailer towing package, you might want to have an auxiliary transmission cooler installed. I’d worry more about your transmission than the engine.

You should bear in mind that it is generally considered (and law in the UK) that the trailer should not weigh more than the towing vehicle.

Obviously I am talking about small cars/trucks here - not about articulated trucks where some of the trailer weight is imposed on the towing unit.

This probably won’t be an issue if towing is done in relatively flat areas of the country. at highway speeds, the transmission should be in “lockup” mode, dissipating relatively little power in to the tranny’s hydraulic fluid. During hill climbs when the tranny shifts to a lower gear, it typically transmits power through the torque converter, which dissipates a significant portion of the power into the hydraulic fluid, heating it up. During short/shallow hill climbs, you reach the summit before the tranny gets too hot, and everything is fine. During longer climbs (e.g. grinding up Tioga Pass, Loveland Pass, or any of the other dozens of long, steep climbs one encounters when driving through the western US), the tranny can get smoking hot by the time you reach the top. Under these circumstances it’s advisable to have an aux cooler AND an in-cabin tranny temp gauge so you can see trouble coming.

Another quick heads up, if your truck is an automatic and has an overdrive option, don’t use it while towing. You’ll mess up a tranny but good if you do.

This is probably a case of RTFM, as it may differ from vehicle to vehicle. Just about every year in the 80’s and early 90’s, my dad towed a pop-up trailer from the midwest out to the western states (as far as CA/OR/WA) using a station wagon. Overdrive wasn’t a problem on flat terrain, but of course the car wanted to downshift as soon as we came to any kind of hill - and then it was advisable to hold the tranny in that lower gear to prevent it from shifting back and forth repeatedly. He never had any tranny problems with those vehicles, but of course that may not be the case with others; the owner’s manual should be the final authority on this.