Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Gross Weight

I upgraded my truck very recently. In my world, trucks are for hauling and towing, and the new truck expands my ability to do just that. How much hauling you can do is determined by your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or GVWR, while your towing limits are declared as your Maximum Trailer Weight, sometimes referred to simply as "towing capacity." GVWR will be located on a sticker on the driver's door frame, while max towing is usually listed on the rear bumper near the hitch. Both are also listed in your vehicle owner's manual.

GVWR is a measure of how much weight your vehicle can safely maneuver or stop within a particular distance at normal speeds.Without getting deep into engineering or math, it is based on your suspension and brakes and other components. It is the maximum that your vehicle can weigh, including passengers and cargo. If it rides on your vehicle's wheels and tires, it is included in that number.

Maximum tow rating is based on a lot of the same factors as GVWR, with a few others added in. In addition to the GVWR considerations, it is also limited by your hitch type, size, and hardware. You'll often notice two numbers listed as a max tow rating: the lower number is when a trailer is hitched only to a traditional ball on your vehicle, and the second, larger number is when a weight-distributing type hitch is used. These hitches use some variety of mechanical linkage to hold the the truck and trailer on a plane, so that the weight of the trailer is distributed forward on the truck.

For comparison, lets look at my two trucks side by side. My outgoing truck is a 2005 Ford F150 with a GVWR of 7600 pounds and tow ratings of 5000 and 9900 pounds. Its replacement is a 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD diesel with a GVWR of 9200 pounds and the tow ratings are 5000 and 12000 pounds.

While the GVWR on the Chevy is 1600 pounds higher than the Ford, it is also a much stouter truck. I will probably only get an additional 800-1000 pounds of cargo once the added weight of the truck itself is accounted for. The lower max tow rating is the same for both trucks, because the limitation there is the hitch hardware itself. The weight-distributing rating went up 2100 pounds because the suspension and other components of the truck are far stronger.

The maximum weight of any trailer I'm likely to pull regularly is about 6800 pounds. When we were shopping for our camper, I was looking at trailers that maxed out at 7500 pounds or less. While the Ford is rated for more, I like to maintain a buffer between actual weight and max rating to give me a little bit of added safety. As the cost for failure when towing can be catastrophic, I recommend taking any bits of added safety you can get. Also, I live and drive in steep, mountainous terrain, and being under weight rating helps out both climbing and descending hills.

If the load you want to move is over the rating of your rig, don't risk it; instead consider making multiple trips. If that isn't an option, places like Home Depot and U-haul rent trucks that are properly set up and maintained to tow moderate trailers, and they'll rent you one for a very reasonable price.

Now you know what to look for when you're considering towing a load. Know your weights and ratings, and don't exceed them, and give yourself as much room as you reasonably can, both on the road and the load.


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