Payload Towing Capacity Measurement Guide

All About Towing Capacity

To effectively tow equipment and cargo, using your vehicle, you will need to understand the capacity it can carry. The towing capacity is the maximum weight your vehicle can pull safely and legally. Not doing so prior can result in damaging your vehicle and even causing injury to yourself and others.

Towing Capacity Label Glossary

Understanding your vehicle’s towing capacity is important to applying safe towing practices. Here’s a list of common terms:

  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) – the maximum amount of weight a vehicle can hold while still
  • Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) – the maximum weight of both the tow vehicle and trailer combined, fully loaded
  • Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) – the maximum amount of weight an axle can support
  • Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) – the total weight of your trailer and cargo
  • Tongue Weight (TW) – the pressure pushing down on the trailer hitch from the load
  • Curb Weight – the total weight of a vehicle and all the fluids it requires to function (including a full tank of gas), but without passengers or cargo
  • Dry Weight – measurement of how much a vehicle weighs with no cargo and no fluids
  • Payload – maximum amount of weight a vehicle can carry in its cabin and/or bed

How Can I Find My Vehicle’s GVWR?

Your vehicle’s GVWR can be found in one of two places – the vehicle’s owner manual OR the sticker inside the driver’s side door (door jamb).

Determining Towing Capacity

To determine vehicle’s towing capacity, use the vehicle’s manufacturer’s weight rating (GVWR) and compare it to the gross weight of trailer or payload. This would include passengers, fuel, cargo, etc.

If the GVWR is greater than the payload or trailer, it is safe to tow. If not, it is unsafe.

How to Use Weight Ratings and Measurements

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) – to calculate, you must determine the tare weight (weight of vehicle when it is empty) plus the rated payload (amount of weight the vehicle has onboard).

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) – to calculate, you will add the GVWR and the GTW

Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) – to calculate, you will weigh the front end and rear end of the vehicle separately once it is fully loaded with passengers, fuel, and cargo.

Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) – this isn’t a rating, but is measured by placing a fully loaded trailer on a vehicle scale or using a trailer weight scale

Tongue Weight (TW) – to calculate, you will need to add the weight of the tow vehicle plus the weight of the vehicle with the trailer attached

Curb Weight – to calculate, you will take the GVWR and subtract the vehicle’s payload

Dry Weight – while not needed in most towing calculations, this weight is when the vehicle is completely empty – no fuel, oil, fluid, etc.

Payload – to calculate, subtract the curb weight from the GVWR

Towing Capacity FAQs

Where can I find the weight of my vehicle?

It can be found printed on the vehicle’s compliance label.

What is the difference between payload and towing capacity?

Payload is the maximum amount of weight that can be added to a vehicle’s cargo area and curb weight. The owing capacity is the maximum weight that can be towed after the weight of the vehicle and cargo are measured.

What happens if payload capacity exceeds GVWR?

This can add pressure to the vehicle’s suspension and parts which can damage the frame, axles, and cause additional issues (blowouts, breaks).

Does curb weight include driver?

No, it doesn’t include the weight of passengers, cargo, or equipment.

Does GVWR include trailer weight?

Yes, it includes the weight of the trailer and cargo being towed.

Is curb weight the same as empty weight?

Yes, it doesn’t include passengers except for the standard equipment in the vehicle.

What’s Next?

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