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Trailer Towing 101

So how do you figure out how much weight you can safely tow?  This information is intended to cover the basics for you!

Different tires, wheels, lift kits and engine mods will all affect your towing capacity.

If you have any questions, just ask in our trailer forums!

You can find the latest tow ratings here.

Acronyms Explained:

BCW (Base Curb Weight)

Weight of the vehicle including any standard equipment, fluids etc.  It does NOT include passengers or aftermarket equipment.  

This number would come from the scales if you took your truck there straight from the showroom. Not a huge issue.

Payload

Combined maximum allowable weight of cargo, passengers and optional equipment. The payload equals the gross vehicle weight rating minus base curb weight.

This number is a calculation of how much weight you can add to the BCW.  Do we need to worry about this?  Not just yet, but it could be a factor later on.

GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight)

BCW plus payload weight.

This number would come from the scales.  This is what your truck would weigh completely loaded.  This will be a factor for sure. Get your loaded truck to the scales and see what you get!  It cannot exceed the GVWR.

GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)

The maximum total weight of the base vehicle, passengers, optional equipment and cargo.  The GVWR is specific to each vehicle and is listed on the safety compliance label on the drivers door pillar.

This is a specification!   You cannot exceed this number.  The closer you get to it, the less capacity you have for towing!


GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating)

Carrying capacity for each axle system.  The GAWR is specific to each vehicle and is listed on the Safety Compliance Label on the drivers door pillar.

This is a specification!  Not a huge issue for pull trailers, but you 5th wheel guys need to be very aware of this.  Have your rear axle weighed with the trailer in place.  This is another number you can not exceed!


GCW (Gross Combined Weight)

The combined weight of the towing vehicle (including passengers and cargo) and the trailer.

This number would come from the scales.  Not a spec.  But this is measurement you need to know!

GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating)

The maximum combined weight of towing vehicle (including passengers and cargo) and the trailer.

This is a specification!   This the probably the most important factor.  You cannot exceed this number.  With your truck fully loaded and gassed up and your trailer fully loaded as well, this is what you need to check for at the scales.  Do not go over this rating!!!

Maximum Trailer Weight

Maximum weight of the trailer that the loaded vehicle is permitted to tow.  It is determined by subtracting the weight of the loaded vehicle from the GCWR for the the towing vehicle.

This number would come from the scales.  This is a balancing act.  The more weight you have in your truck, the less capacity you have for towing a trailer.  This is something to consider carefully.  You cannot exceed this rating.

So what does all this really mean?

1st: Get your loaded truck to the scales.  Find out what it weighs fully loaded.

2nd: Subtract your loaded truck weight from your gross combined weight rating.  The result is the maximum weight your truck can tow.

3rd: Weigh your trailer and make sure it does not exceed the result from *your* weight ratings.

Keep in mind every truck is different!  Your buddies 3/4 ton truck my have different gears than your 3/4 ton truck, so the GCWR may not be the same.  Make sure to use the label on your truck!

Towing Capacity Guide
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