Posted by: Mark Polk | 8:13 am

RV101 – How much can my Tow Vehicle Safely Tow?

truck towing travel trailerThere are lots of concerns and confusion when you try to determine how much your tow vehicle can safely tow. There are weight ratings, terms, formulas and calculations that make it difficult for RV consumers to determine how much their tow vehicle can safely tow. My goal with this post is to take some of the confusion out of the equation.
Of course the first step is to verify the published Maximum Loaded Trailer Weight Rating (MLTWR) or tow rating for your tow vehicle. When you verify this information it is important that you know the year, make, model, cab and bed configuration, engine size, transmission and if the tow vehicle is 2WD or 4WD. Additionally and perhaps most importantly you need to know the rear axle ratio of the tow vehicle.

After you collect all of this information you can do a search on the Internet for towing guides. These guides are designed to provide correct tow ratings and information, or at least what the vehicle manufacturer claims is correct information. Try to use a towing guide published by the vehicle manufacturer for the type of vehicle you are searching for. Note: Pay close attention to any footnotes concerning your specific vehicle.

When you verify or locate the MLTWR for your tow vehicle there are two major concerns to safely match trailer weights with your published tow rating.

1)      Try to find a trailer with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) that is equal to or less than the tow vehicle’s MLTWR (tow rating). The trailer’s GVWR is the maximum weight the trailer can weigh when it is fully loaded for travel. By doing so, the tow vehicle is capable of towing the trailer even if the trailer is loaded to its maximum capacity. Most trailers have a significant difference between the dry or unloaded weight and the GVWR, and in most cases are not loaded to the GVWR.  This gives you a safer margin between the vehicle tow rating and the trailer’s Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) or how much the trailer actually weighs.

2)      After you find a trailer that meets the criteria in #1 add the weight of the fully loaded tow vehicle and the fully loaded trailer together and make sure it is less than the tow vehicle’s Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR). The GCWR is the maximum amount of weight the tow vehicle and the trailer can weigh when they are combined. You can take the tow vehicle to a set of scales and have it weighed, and you can look at the trailer’s dry or unloaded weight and then add a safe amount to cover the weight of any cargo and personal belongings you plan to take in the tow vehicle and in the trailer when you go camping.

There are other important concerns like proper hitch components, brakes, and trailer tongue weight or pin weight for a 5th wheel trailer, but if the tow vehicle and trailer pass these two requirements you are working towards a safe trailer towing combination.

Of course lighter is always better where trailer weights are concerned.

To learn more about your RV take a minute to visit RV Education 101.

Happy Camping,

Mark Polk

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