Saturday, April 2, 2011

How to Calculate your REAL Towing Capacity

This is probably the most common question we get...."How heavy of a camper can I pull with my vehicle?"  Most dealers want you to think that you can pull anything on their yard, even if it is not safe for you to do so.  They are only interested in making a sale, they do not care if towing too heavy of a trailer will cause damage to your vehicle or be a safety hazard to you and your family, not to mention other people on the road.

The vehicle picture above is towing a camper that is both too long AND too heavy for their tow vehicle.  It would only take mere seconds for the trailer to quickly overpower the vehicle and the resulting accident could be devastating.

The vehicle above was towing a camper that was too heavy for his vehicle to safely tow.  As a result he was unable to control his camper resulting in the accident seen above.  I bet he wishes he had seen this blog before he bought that camper!

If you are pulling a camper that is too heavy for your vehicle you are slowly causing damage to your tow vehicle. But, more importantly, you are running the risk of getting into a towing situation where you are simply unable to control your camper because your vehicle is not rated for the load it is pulling.  Most towing accidents could be avoided by simply pulling within your SAFE towing capacity.

So, if someone tries to tell you that the weight of the camper is "close enough" to your towing capacity...think again.  The MAXIMUM Tow Capacity is NOT the same as the Maximum Allowable Trailer Weight...that must be determined using the formula below.

Below is a guide to calculating your true towing capacity.

STEP 1 -- Determine the TOWING CAPACITY of your vehicle...this is usually stated in your owner's manual or you can find it here:  1999-2008 Vehicles  2009 2010 2011
(Example: 2009 Ford F-150 Supercab....7800 pounds MAX Tow Rating)

STEP 2 -- Subtract 10% as a safety margin.  Most vehicle tow ratings have been embellished and were also calculated without passengers, fuel and recommends subtracting 10% from the maximum tow rating to compensate for this. (Example: Subract 780 pounds)

STEP 3 -- Subtract any gear or camping equipment that you plan to take with you..this includes any water, food, chairs, etc.  This also includes your weight distribution hitch if you have one.
(Example: 80 pounds Weight Distribution hitch + 60 pounds Propane + 250 pounds Fresh Water + 500 pounds Average weight of food & gear for weekend camp trip for family of four = 890 pounds)

STEP 4 -- The number that you are left with is the MAXIMUM trailer weight that is recommended for your vehicle to safely tow. (Example: 7800-780-890= 6130 pounds)

So, in this example...a 2009 Ford F-150 Supercab with a Maximum Tow Rating of 7800 pounds has a Maximum Allowable Trailer Weight of 6130 pounds (trailer DRY weight or UVW).

Now...ask your camper too heavy for your tow vehicle?  Remember...bigger isn't always better, especially when it comes to towing.  Staying within your Maximum Allowable Trailer Weight  is the only SAFE way to tow.


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  2. There is another calculation that needs to be made before you you can determine what is safe to tow. The Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) needs to be recognized as well. This is the total weight of BOTH the tow vehicle AND the trailer loaded as you would when you tow including all gear, passengers, cargo, fuel, etc. If you have a tow vehicle that has a GCWR of 14000# and you are towing a trailer of 7120# loaded (using example above, that leaves 6880# left for the tow vehicle. If your tow vehicle has a curb weight of 5200#, that leaves 1680# for passengers, cargo, etc. What you must include is any aftermarket products added to the tow vehicle such as a truck cap, running boards, bedslide, tool boxes, etc. Let's say you have a truck cap and a loaded mounted tool or cargo box and that weight comes to 800#, that would leave a balance of 880#. Now add fire wood, 4 passengers at avg weight of 150# each, chairs, grill, etc. That weight now adds 900#. Even though you are under the tow capacity, you have exceeded the GCWR by 20#. Not a big deal but certainly a factor to consider. Remember too, tongue weight is added cargo weight to factor into the payload but does not affect the total weight. You have an already loaded truck and now you just added 600# of tongue weight, you very well may exceed not only the payload capacity but have gone over the gross axle weight rating (GAWR).

    There are many variables to consider when calculating before towing, most of which the RV dealers never consider. They look at the GVWR of the trailer and NEVER take into account these other factors.

  3. I've got a 2005 Ford Sport Trac with a max tow rating of 5000 lbs. I bought a TT (many over the years) with a UVW of approx. 4100 lbs. On our maiden voyage I stopped at a certified scale and weighed the TT. It is 4630 loaded with normal gear, fuels, etc. What are you thoughts about being so close to the 5000? I don't want to buy a new vehicle!!!!

  4. Truck towing are usually operated by private businesses, except for major highways and toll roads, where the road authority may operate the tow trucks for that stretch of road. Businesses who operate a large fleet of vehicles, such as school bus companies or package delivery services, often own one or several tow trucks for the purposes of towing their own vehicles. Government departments with large fleets (such as the police departments, fire departments, transportation authorities and departments of public works of major cities) may similarly own tow truck(s). Police department tow trucks may also be used to impound other vehicles.

  5. I'm towing a 16,200#, 41ft, 5th wheel rig with a 3500 crw cab dually. Short of going into commercial grade trucks theres nothing out there any bigger. But all the towing specs available are ambiguos at best. All the different sites have there own set of numbers. On a 2012 Ram 3500 6.7 Cummins the best numbers I could find was 13500 max towing capacity, what a wimp. Everyone says that Dodge would pull my rig with no problem BUT if I smoke a trans who's gonna pay for it. Dodge would stand by what the manual says as well as the RAM website. Ive got a 2009 Duramax 3500 dually now and still can't find a solid set ofnumbers that aren't CONTRADICTED SOMEWHERE ELSE. Does anyone really know???????

  6. After reading some nice stuff in your article I really feel speechless, because it is quit pretty article On A.R.E TW Truck Cap. Beside this it is also a long lasting article. Thanks for giving me such type of useful information..

  7. Wish I would have read this before I bought…..

  8. of course, tow ratings can vary between years, without a single thing changing between the tow vehicle.. example 2012 vs 2013 Ram 2500.. went from under 10,000 lbs to over 17,000.. the only change was 25% better cooling and hp went from 350 to 370.. that's NOT enough to justify the tow rating increase so much.

  9. Here's a towing calculator that I built that takes into account axle weight ratings.

  10. I use a much more conservative safety margin than the 10% mentioned here. In my experience, a 40% buffer is closer to reality if you don't want to hold up traffic and strain your engine going up a hill or on those windy days along a prairie highway.

  11. This is very, very useful information. I've always wondered what it would cost to tow our camper. I know that I get much worse mileage when I'm pulling it. I'm sure that towing companies take that into account when they do their work and write up their bills.

  12. Great post, Towing services is need of traveling in the case of any unexpected situation, A1towing Inc. is also providing very good towing services in Calgary.

  13. The vehicle picture above is towing a camper that is both too long AND too heavy ...

  14. I am going to buy an RV around summer time. As I have studied up on the different ones to choose from, I know each has differences. That being said, the most important thing to me is how :tow-able" it is. My aim is to take this thing across the country and I can't just break down in random places.

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  16. There is only one simplified towing calculator that provides realistic tow capacity based on 12.5% tongue weight and 20% pin weight. And that is

    The RV Tow Check calculator computes tow capacity based on the available payload of the vehicle to avoid exceeding the GCWR and the GVWR. All vehicle manufacturers emphatically state that GCWR, GVWR and GAWRs should never be exceeded. Available payload formula: GVWR - GVW - cargo and passenger weight = Available payload

    Example: (2010 Ram Mega Cab, 2500 HD, 6.7L Cummins, Laramie, 4WD, GCWR: 20,000, GVWR: 9,600, GVW: 7,980 (with hitch) and passenger weight: 420.) This truck's available payload is 1,200 pounds. Calculating towing capacity with 20% pin weight comes out to be 6,000 pounds. Calculating towing capacity with 12.5% tongue weight comes out to be 9,600 pounds.

    The typical dealer's formula

    When towing capacity is calculated with the standard method that has been used for years, most dealers would tell you that the truck could tow 11,600 pounds (GCWR - GVW = Towing Capacity). The potential PW @20% for a fifth wheel weighing 11,600 pounds would be 2,320 pounds. Add the potential PW to the scaled rear axle weight, then your rear GAW adds up to 5,750 pounds.

    Here is the problem with the typical formula.

    (rear GAW) 5,750 + (front GAW) 4,550 = 10,300 pounds GVW. That exceeds the GVWR by 700 pounds. This is one small reason towing guides and the standard formula gets buyers into a mismatched RV combinations that exceed the tow vehicle's certification ratings.

  17. The vehicle picture above is towing a camper that is both too long AND too ...

  18. My friend is a tow truck driver for a local company. He has told me countless stories about towing drivers that had exceeded the capacity for their vehicle. He told me about the formula most people use to determine whether or not they would be able to successfully tow another car. What other factors go into this kind of a decision? I do not wish to blow my engine or cause accidents when I go camping in a few weeks.