Determining towing capacity | Living the Country Life

Determining towing capacity

Make sure your vehicle can handle the load

Years ago we bought a pop-up camper. Even though it’s not considered a heavy trailer to tow when it comes to campers, we were still careful to make sure it fell within the towing weight guidelines of our vehicle.  

Travis Mai is known online as "The Hitch Guy" and works for Curt Manufacturing, a towing products company in Wisconsin. He says overloading can seriously damage the vehicle's transmission and drive train. The brakes and suspension can give out under the added strain, and overloaded tires can blow out.   

Towing capacity information is found in your owner's manual, or you can call the manufacturer or search the Internet to find out what it is. Mai says there are a couple of acronyms you should understand: GVW and GVWR.

"GVW, which is gross vehicle weight, is the total weight of the vehicle when fully loaded," says Mai. "And that's all its contents, and passengers, fluids, everything. And then GVWR, is gross vehicle weight rating. That's the total weight of the vehicle specified by the manufacturer as recommended weight when fully loaded including passengers, cargos and fluids."

So how do you know exactly what your total weight is? Mai says the easiest way is to load everything up and drive onto a truck scale at a grain elevator or truck stop.

Another number to pay attention to is the tongue weight of the trailer you're towing.

"Tongue weight is downward weight applied to the towable equipment on the actual hitch ball itself. Typically, it's 10% of the gross trailer weight, depending on where the axles are located on the trailer,"says Mai. "Just because a vehicle's rated to tow something doesn't necessarily mean that the trailer hitch itself is rated to tow as much as the vehicle."

There should be a sticker on your trailer hitch that will list the weight information you need to avoid exceeding the hitch capacity.

Learn more about towing, hitches, and other related topics

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