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Keeping within manufacturer-assigned tow ratings is critical in making the appropriate model and option choices
BY DUNCAN O'NEAL
So, you want to tow a trailer? There are many variables to consider when selecting the proper tow vehicle for your application - including budget, brand and towing capacity - and it's important to examine them all carefully before making a purchase. Going through the effort to better understand each variable and to account for all of them up front will lead to a more pleasant trailering experience.
The tow-ratings guide in this section lists the maximum tow ratings for vehicles with specific equipment, but many buyers interpret the maximum vehicles' tow ratings with far too much optimism. Always check the manufacturer's figures before making a purchase. The following is an explanation of the terms you need to know which, when combined with readings from a public scale and from your own calculator, should help you determine the correct tow rating for the tow vehicle you plan to buy.
Gross Combination Weight Rating
(gcwr): The total allowable weight of the tow vehicle, the trailer, the cargo in each, fluids and occupants.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (gvwr): The total allowable weight for the vehicle, including occupants, fluids, options, hitch hardware, cargo and trailer-hitch weight.
Gross Axle Weight Rating (gawr): The total allowable weight on an individual axle. This includes the weight of the tires, wheels, brakes and the axle itself.
Maximum Tow Rating: The manufacturer's weight limit for towed loads. For conventional trailers, this normally includes a hitch-weight limit as well; for fifth-wheels, the pin weight is applied to the truck's gvwr and its rear-axle gawr.
Matching up the Tow Vehicle and Trailer
The gvwr and gawr for all motor vehicles are listed on the data plate, typically affixed to the driver's door frame, fuel door, glove box, end of the dashboard or other easy-to-access location. Brochures and window stickers may be inaccurate; always look for the data plate. All trailers should have a weight sticker on the left front side wall. There should also be a sticker in an interior cabinet that lists the trailer's unloaded vehicle weight (uvw), gvwr, weight added by freshwater and LP-gas and the resulting cargo carrying capacity (ccc). In many cases, especially on older trailers, optional equipment - such as air-conditioning units and AC-generators - sneaks onboard after weighing, and may not be reflected on the sticker. (And don't forget the fuel-fill tanks that some SURVs offer for campsite
refueling of motorcycles and ATVs.)
Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) weight label requirements are more inclusive of dealer-added options and make it much easier for buyers to have access to more accurate weight figures. The gvwr figures are neither guidelines nor estimates; they are limits, and there are numerous valid reasons the manufacturer arrived at these figures. If you think the figures are "close enough" or have a fudge-factor percentage built in, think again. Your warranty coverage, and your safety, may be at risk. The only surefire way to find out what your trailer weighs is to load it as usual for a trip and weigh it at a public scale. There you can get the hitch weight, axle weight and total weight. Assuming that the axle weight is lower than the gawr, the total is within the gvwr and the hitch weight is lower than the maximum given for your tow vehicle, you can then move on to tow-vehicle selection.When purchasing a trailer, consult the weight sticker on the unit of your choice on a dealer's lot and refer to the uvw and ccc. Estimate how much cargo you will add, being mindful of the gvwr, and use that number while selecting a tow vehicle. To a lesser extent, tow-vehicle weight is variable as well. Brochures and tow guides frequently list how much a tow vehicle weighs, but this number generally applies to the most basic model in that configuration, without any options. In some cases, distinctions are made by engine, transmission, drive system (2WD or 4WD/AWD) and, in other cases, by cab or bed styles. If the dealer does not have a vehicle equipped as you want that is available to weigh, or cannot provide option weights, you can form rough estimates - but exact figures are the only way to be certain.
Article continues within the 2011 Tow Guide, including how to calculate the realistic towing capacity of a vehicle.
Arizona State Trailer Sales, Inc. dba Little Dealer Little Prices RV (LDLP) is a full service RV Dealer with facilities in Mesa, Phoenix and Prescott Valley, Arizona. LDLP makes every effort to provide accurate and complete information, however errors still happen. LDLP provides NO assurance or warranty, expressed or implied, as to the accuracy, fitness for use, reliability or completeness of the data contained herein. It is up to the buyer to verify all information before purchasing. All unit prices listed may be subject to government fees and taxes, finance charges, added options,documentation fee, preparation charge, shipping or other added cost. Unauthorized attempts to upload or change information on this website are strictly prohibited and may be punishable under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 and the National Information Infrastructure Protection Act. Information may also be used for authorized law enforcement investigations. This site uses a tool which collects your requests for pages and passes elements of them to search engines to assist them in indexing this site. We control the configuration of the tool and are responsible for any information sent to the search engines.