What is Towing Capacity?

What is Towing Capacity : Answers from an Industry Insider.

You may need a towing service without any warnings from your vehicle. Whether your car breaks down on the side of a highway or gets into an accident, your only saving grace will be a towing company. However, most customers need help understanding the concept of vehicle towing capacities. That is why we are here to lend you valuable insight and answer the question, ‘what is towing capacity?’

What is Towing Capacity?

Typically, the towing capacity of a vehicle is a measure of the maximum weight the vehicle can safely tow. However, it is more complex than it sounds since the capacity of a vehicle dynamically changes with the load inside the car. Minor factors like the distribution of interior load can play a huge role in measuring the capacity of a vehicle.

Since most vehicle manufacturers will showcase a single number when it comes to towing capacity, it can be an easy answer when you are wondering what is the capacity of towing for your vehicle. However, this number does not just represent the weight of the trailer. Instead, it assumes the entire weight your vehicle can pull while carrying nothing but a 150-pound driver. This means that if you add a passenger of 150 pounds, your towing capacity gets reduced by the same amount. Similarly, if you add a whole family to your vehicle and add other equipment, it can go down significantly.

However, you can rely on tongue weight to determine the maximum load you can tow. The tongue weight of a vehicle is the force of weight that the trailer hitch can withstand. This tongue weight is also a dynamic figure as it can highly depend on the weight distribution and sudden changes and shifting of weight. You can find the maximum capacity of a vehicle on its owner’s manual.

What Happens if You Exceed the Maximum Towing Capacity?

Towing more load than your vehicle is rated for by the manufacturer can spell disaster. It can lead to a myriad of issues that can be hazardous to your safety and the vehicle’s working condition. Some common problems can arise from towing more than the maximum capacity are:

  • Faulty Brakes – Your brakes can overheat, or the extra load can lead to significantly extended braking distance and poor braking performance.
  • U-Turns – With a hitched trailer heavier than your load capacity, making tight turns, especially U-turns, can be tricky.
  • Poor Acceleration – With the extra weight hitched to your vehicle, you can experience poor acceleration and engine performance as your vehicle fails to get up to highway speeds.
  • Chances of Accidents – From compromised visibility to poor braking performance, towing over your capacity can lead to a higher probability of being in an accident.
  • Damaged Drivetrain – A vehicle’s drivetrain is one of the most expensive repairs and replacement jobs. You can incur significant damage to your vehicle’s drivetrain by towing additional weight.
  • Voided Warranties – If your vehicle develops an issue while towing a load higher than the maximum capacity, your manufacturer can nullify your warranty.
  • Massive Fines – Since towing more than your vehicle’s capacity is illegal, you can run into trouble with local law enforcement, leading to huge fines.

How do I Measure the Capacity of My Vehicle?

One of the most important things you must note is that the capacity of towing mentioned in your owner’s manual only applies under perfect towing conditions, which are not practical in our daily commutes. Therefore, it is vital to calculate or measure your vehicle’s capacity to tow.

In order to find your vehicle’s towing capacity, you must know your vehicle’s Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR). GCVWR is the total weight of your tow vehicle and everything in it, added to the total weight of your trailer with everything on it. From the GCVWR, you will need to subtract your vehicle’s curb weight to find the actual capacity of your vehicle. However, it is always better to be safe by leaving a wide margin for error and towing less than the calculated capacity of your vehicle.

The Bottom Line

When towing a trailer or a car, it is vital that you have a good understanding of your towing capacity. Using our calculation method, you will never have to ask yourself, “what is the towing capacity of my vehicle?” Since not every vehicle can tow heavy loads, it is vital to understand the limits of your vehicle and stay under it for smooth operations and to avoid any mishaps.