If you already have a tow vehicle, look up
its tow rating—size, maximum loaded weight, and maximum tongue
weight of a trailer that the tow vehicle is capable of towing.
The vehicle owner’s manual contains these specifications.
Most automotive manufacturers and dealerships have towing
specification guides with tow ratings and detailed information
if extra equipment is needed to tow a trailer. While your
vehicle may have certain tow ratings, remember you must have
a matching hitch system that can handle the same specifications.
To ensure safety, you may have to install extra towing equipment.
Manufacturers’ Tow Vehicle
Manufacturers’ tow vehicle ratings address
tongue weight, as well as the individual, combined, and fully
loaded weights at which a tow vehicle can safely tow a trailer.
They also can be used to guide the selection of brake and
hitching systems, as well as tow vehicle tires. Together with
the hitch system specifications, these weight considerations
will help you purchase a safe tow vehicle. In general, manufacturers
provide tow ratings for the maximum
- Amount the tow vehicle may weigh when fully
loaded, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).
- Weight a vehicle can tow. This figure may
vary depending on the vehicle’s equipment, such as a manual
or automatic transmission and whether it is equipped with
- Permissible combined weight of the tow
vehicle, trailer, passengers, equipment, fuel, etc., that
the vehicle can handle, or Gross Combination Weight
- Weight a single axle can carry, or
Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR).
Measuring the Weight of a
Some manufacturers provide a “dry” or empty
weight for trailers; however, to select a proper tow vehicle
and hitching system, you must know how much your trailer weighs
fully loaded. For example, if you are towing an open trailer
that carries a boat or motorcycle, the fully loaded weight
includes the weight of the trailer with the boat or motorcycle
and any additional items being towed, such as fuel tanks,
motors, and safety equipment.
Develop a realistic estimate of the total
weight of your trailer. The time you spend doing this and
getting properly equipped will save you time and money in
preventing unexpected repairs to your tow vehicle and unanticipated
breakdowns while on the road. In addition to speaking with
dealers and other individuals who sell and use trailers, the
best way to know the actual weight of your trailer is to weigh
it at a public scale.
Manufacturers consider the loaded weight of
a trailer when specifying tongue
weight—the amount of the trailer’s weight that
presses down on the trailer hitch. Too little tongue weight
can cause the trailer to sway. Too much tongue weight can
cause many problems, including not enough weight on the front
wheels of the tow vehicle. When this occurs, the tow vehicle
will be less responsive to steering. A weight-distributing
hitch can remedy this problem by transferring weight to the
front axle of the tow vehicle.
Manufacturers also establish the gross axle
weight and provide a rating that denotes the maximum weight
a single axle can carry. Knowing these weights will help you
when it is time to load your trailer. Remember that the gross
axle weight rating listed on the tow vehicle’s certification
label must not be exceeded.
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