How Much Can My Truck Tow?

So you've never towed anything before, but you think it's time to test your truck's strength. But before you go out and do it, there are a couple of things that you need to consider.

Like how much can your truck tow? If you tow more than your truck can handle, it will stress the engine, your tires, brakes, and transmission.

That can ultimately put your safety at risk. Now you also don't need to go out and buy a new towing vehicle with way more towing capacity than you'll ever need.

This article will take you through everything you need to know, from what factors to consider when towing to safety tips.

Is My Truck Equipped For Towing?

Before you do anything, you'll need to know precisely how much weight your tuck will be able to carry and tow.

It's crucial for your safety as well as the safety of your truck that you understand precisely before you take on any load.

Let's look at two examples to give you a better understanding. When you look at various camper trailers, the weight listed doesn't include any cargo you might take.

Like a full water tank, luggage, or extra equipment you might want to take with or install, the total weight will now be heavier, influencing your towing.

Let's say you're looking to buy a powerboat. The weight listed by the manufacturer is only its dry weight—the weight with no added gear or fuel.

So when you haul it, to give you an idea, the fuel alone will add about 350 to 300 pounds to the overall weight.

We suggest going to a certified weight and scale station to determine how much your truck and trailer weigh. These stations are usually located near rural interstate highways across the country.

You pay $10, and they will weigh your truck and trailer together. Afterward, you can disconnect the trailer and only weigh the truck. It will cost you about $2 to get a complete picture.

This will assist you a great deal before going on any trips.

Towing Terms You Should Know

If you have ever spoken to someone who knows a thing or two about towing, there were probably terms you didn't understand. This is because towing comes with its own terminology, but don't let that scare you.

What these terms mean are simple measurements. It isn't something you need to know by heart. You can just come back to this article and look it up.

Towing Capacity

This is just the maximum amount of weight your truck can pull.

Payload

In contrast to towing capacity, payload capacity is the amount of weight the truck bed and cabin can carry.

GVWR

This is your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, meaning the amount of weight your tow vehicle can hold while it's standing still. The frame's strength, axles, suspension, and wheels are where your GVWR is measured.

Your truck and trailer will both have separate Gross Vehicle Weight Rates, which makes overloading both separately possible.

Don't confuse this with towing capacity. GVWR regards how much weight your truck can handle while something is pushing down on it.

While the towing capacity is the weight, it can withstand pulling the trailer.

GAWR

Gross Axle Weight Rating is when measuring the weight one axle can handle. The front and rear axles will almost always show a different amount. It is rare to see a vehicle with a perfect 50/50 balance mainly because the size and material of axles vary.

GCVWR

Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating is the same as GVWR, but this is the combined weight instead of the trailer and truck being separate. But not just that, the gross combined weight rating also accounts for the cargo you load into the truck and trailer.

Dry Weight

It is the weight measurement of your tow vehicle with no cargo. And also, with no fluids, like gasoline, wiper fluid, oil, or anything else it requires to function.

The majority of the time, when it comes to towing, you don't need to know your truck's dry weight.

Tongue Weight

It is the weight that pushes down on the hitch when the trailer is being hauled. It can, however, change as the weight distribution changes within the trailer.

GTW

We calculate the Gross Trailer Weight when your trailer is stocked with its cargo. Suppose the GTW exceeds your truck's towing capacity; it's best not to go forth and tow it. The reason for this is that you can damage your truck as well as the trailer.

Curb Weight

So dry weight is when no fluids or cargo are in your truck. Now curb weight is when you still have no load or people in the truck, but you have all the fluids it needs to function correctly. Don't confuse this with GVWR. That is the weight your truck can carry.

Braked vs. Unbraked Towing Capacity

Did you know you get trailers with their brake system? It connects electrically when the trailer is connected to your tow vehicle.

When you touch down on your truck's brake pedal, you also activate the trailer's brake system. It plays to your benefit, meaning you can tow a trailer that is a bit heavier than what you should pull.

So, in conclusion, your braked towing capacity, or in other words, the weight of the trailer you can pull, will be more if that trailer has its brake system.

That means the unbrake hauling capacity will be less if the trailer doesn't have its brake system.

Trailer Hitch Classes

Now you know the various weight capabilities of your truck and trailer, but that's not all you should know.

We will go into more detail regarding the hitch, the device that connects your truck and trailer. The two hitches operate with their own limits and are divided into five classes.

Class 1

We start with the small and midsize vehicles as well as crossovers. A class 1 hitch will be able to pull about 2000 pounds with a tongue weight of 200 pounds. These hitches are generally used to tow a personal watercraft or small camper.

Class 2

Class 2 hitches are used for bigger cars like a minivan. It can pull 3500 pounds with a tongue weight of 350 pounds. It is typically used to tow small boats.

Class 3

Class 3 is used in SUVs, trucks, and full-size vans, which can pull up to 5,000 pounds with a tongue weight of 800 pounds. With this hitch, you can tow a medium size boat or camper.

Class 4

This hitch is also used for SUVs, trucks, and full-size vans. The only difference is that it can tow up to 10,000 pounds with a tongue weight of 1,200. You will use this hitch to tow a larger camper, boat, or utility trailer for lawn equipment. It is the smallest hitch you can use for large loads requiring weight distribution.

Class 5

These are the biggest hitches you can get and are used for full-size trucks and SUVs configured for towing loads of up to 20,000 pounds. The tongue weight for these hitches is 2,000 pounds. You can use this trailer to haul a multi-car or horse trailer.

What Factors Will Affect My Towing Capacity

Yes, the vehicle size does influence the towing capacity, but that's not the only aspect you need to consider.

It's a combination of various factors like horsepower, weight, engine size, specific tires, and equipment used, to name a few.

Let's take a look at each of the mentioned factors in more detail:

  • Weight: Your tow vehicle needs to be heavy if you want to tow a heavy load. Your rear axle will become the focal point, so if it does not counterbalance the front end, the front of your truck will start to lift.
  • Engine: If you are using a larger tow vehicle like your truck, it's best to go for a diesel engine. The difference between this and gas engines is that diesel engines put out more torque, providing a better tow.
  • Tires: The bigger your tow vehicle, the bigger your wheels have to be. Because with the larger wheelbase, you will have more stability and traction, which increases performance.
  • Equipment: The equipment you use, like pulleys, wheel lifts, cranes, winches, etc., will be determined by which category you decide to tow, whether light, medium, or heavy duty. It all falls under the category of towing capacity your truck can handle.
  • Horsepower: The higher the horsepower, the better your specific vehicle can handle additional weight from a boat, another vehicle, or travel trailer.

What Is The Maximum Towing Capacity For My Truck?

Every vehicle has a different towing capacity. It is difficult to say what each vehicle's towing capacity can be.

As mentioned above, various aspects need to be taken into consideration to determine the weight that can be pulled.

Many truck manufacturers will be able to provide you with a package especially for towing. They can change the axle ratio, types of tires, and factory-installed hitches.

They will also provide you with a sticker displaying all the necessary towing information like GVWR and GAWR.

If you're still stuck, all the information will also be available in the owner's manual.

Luckily, many manufacturers will provide the information on their website based on your truck's VIN.

We've compiled a list of some different vehicles and their weight class which they can tow.

Subcompact SUV/Crossover

  • 2021 Jeep Compass: 2,000 lbs.
  • 2021 Honda HR-V: 1,100 lbs.

Small SUV/Crossover

  • 2021 Ford Escape: 3,500 lbs.
  • 2021 Toyota RAV4: 1,500 lbs.

Midsize SUV/ Crossover

  • 2021 Chevy Traverse: 5,000 lbs.
  • 2021 Kia Telluride: 5,000 lbs.

Large SUV/Crossover

  • 2021 Ford Expedition: 9,300 lbs.
  • 2021 GMC Yukon: 8,400 lbs.

Midsize Pickup

  • 2021 Chevy Colorado: 7,000 lbs.
  • 2021 Nissan Frontier: 6,720 lbs.

Full-Size Pickup

  • 2021 Chevy Silverado: 13,300 lbs.
  • 2021 Toyota Tundra: 10,200 lbs.

Heavy-Duty Pickup

  • 2021 Ford F-350 Super Duty: 37,000 lbs.
  • 2021 Ram 3500 HD: 37,100 lbs.

Full-Size Van

  • 2021 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter: 7,500 lbs.
  • 2021 Ford Transit: 7,500 lbs.

Dual Wheel Vs. Single Rear Wheel Towing

If you've heard one of these two phrases before but don't know what they mean, don't worry, we'll take you through everything. It will ultimately depend on you as a driver.

The dual rear wheel towing offers a higher towing capacity than the single rear wheel does. The wider the base of the tow vehicle, the more it can pull, improving stability.

Just keep in mind that the broader your truck base, the more space it will take up on the road. It can take up an entire lane and not even mention parking.

Although some drivers can quickly get out of small spaces, putting that extra strain on yourself isn't necessary unless you genuinely need the towing capacity.

It's also worth noting that with DRWs, you'd have to get a new set of tires that needs to be maintained. The four back tires succumb to more wear and tire.

If that is not enough, it has to be rotated on a regular basis. So, it comes down to if you want DRW, you'll have to be sure you can not only afford it but also maintain it.

For example, if you take the Ford F-350 with its diesel engine and SRW, you can tow up to 18,000 lbs. That alone is impressive but put a pair of DRW on, and it increases to 21,000 lbs.

Now there are many benefits to DRW if you are going to tow a lot of heavy loads.

But if you decide you're going to use your truck for everyday use and maybe once in a while tow something. Then you're better off with SRW to give you the best of both worlds.

Here Are Some Tips For Towing Anything Safely

When setting up your trailer for a long drive, there are vital aspects to keep in mind. We will give you some tips to help safely tow anything that you need to. All while improving your fuel efficiency and maintaining wear and tear to a minimum.

Balance Is The Best For The Hitch Weight

The travel trailers' hitch weight significantly impacts the truck's suspension. So it's best to remember that when you put the gear in the trailer, it has to distribute throughout for weight balance.

Otherwise, it will put a strain on your truck's towing capacity. And in a worst-case scenario, you'll find that the front starts to lift while the back is dragging.

If you see something like this happen, it's best to stop and distribute the weight so the truck and trailer can balance out.

Otherwise, it can damage the front end of the trailer, the towbar, and the truck's suspension.

It won't be easy to drive your truck when it's unbalanced.

Cross Connect The Safety Chains

If you have ever hooked a trailer onto your truck, you'll notice they come with safety chains. It is integrated into the trailers' tongue assembly.

What you'll typically do is connect them parallel to each other. There is a better option, though.

You can cross-connect them in an X formation. This will help significantly with the risk of the S hook bouncing loose, especially when driving on bumpy terrain.

Test The Wiring Harness

Your truck and trailer's wiring components are prone to corrosion as well as other problems if you keep them outside.

Before you take any trip, check if the wiring harness components, like the brake lights and indicators, are working perfectly.

It's recommended that you check it a day or two before you leave for your trip. It will give you enough time to have it fixed if need be.

FAQs

Can I get the towing capacity from the VIN?

It's difficult to get the exact number from the VIN, but you can get the GCWR which you can then use to calculate the capacity.

What is meant by max towing capacity?

Your max towing capacity is the maximum weight your vehicle can safely tow.

How would I know if my F-150 has a Max tow capacity?

You can go onto the Ford ETIS website. Look up your VIN, and then you will see all the specifications for your tow vehicle.

How do I increase the towing capacity of my truck?

  1. You need the right hitch

  2. Use a vehicle programmer to improve the horsepower

  3. Upgrade to heavy-duty axles

  4. Upgrade your braking system

  5. Install a bigger radiator to keep things cool

  6. Upgrade to heavy-duty suspension

  7. Enhance your intake and exhaust

Why is the 80/20 rule important?

It is a safety rule. It states that you shouldn't tow more than 80% of the truck's maximum towing capacity. It gives you some wiggle room in case of human error when calculating the GCWR. It also helps your tow vehicle by not pushing it to its limits.

Conclusion

As you can see, adhering to the weight your truck can tow is crucial. It's one of the easiest ways to damage your frame, engine, transmission, suspension, and tires if you don't follow the guidelines.

Always consult the owner's manual before you decide to tow anything. Lastly, these proper hauling guidelines can also prevent any crashes.

Resources:

https://www.carsguide.com.au/towing-capacity

https://www.curtmfg.com/towing-capacity

https://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-parts/towing/towing-capacity/information/truck-towing-capacity.htm

https://bestride.com/research/tips-and-tricks/how-much-can-my-truck-tow

https://minuteman1.com/2021/08/02/how-much-can-my-truck-tow-understanding-towing-capacity/

https://www.consumerreports.org/pickup-trucks/how-much-truck-do-you-need-to-tow-that-trailer/

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