In order to tow a trailer efficiently, you must know your vehicle’s towing capacity. If you don’t know what towing capacity means, this guide can help.

How to Determine a Vehicle’s Towing Capacity

If you have a used truck, you may have to do research using the VIN number to determine its towing capacity. Without this number, you won’t get accurate results.

The Formula for Accurate Calculations

Typically, your truck’s maximum weight plus the weight of a trailer and cargo should never surpass its highest towing capacity. In terms of the VIN number, you’ll need it to gather key information that specifically relates to the towing capacity.

For example, with a VIN number, you can uncover the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, which is the weigh capacity for cargo, fuel, and passengers. If you want the most accurate calculations, you must consider the Gross Axle Weight Rating, Tongue Weight, Curb Weight, and more.

Understanding the towing capacity of your vehicle
How to Get the Most Out of a Vehicle’s Towing Capacity

If you’re patient, you’ll discover many ways to get the most out of your vehicle’s towing capacity. These tactics will help you maximize your efforts.

A Trailer’s Balance Matters

To maximize any automobile’s efficiency during a towing job, you must load cargo on a trailer in a particular way. According to many automotive manufacturers, a tow vehicle performs better when 60% of a load is positioned on the front portion of a trailer.

Heavy cargo can shift on a trailer, so you should always secure all equipment with straps. If you fail to use these accessories, the trailer will become unstable.

Drive Carefully With a Trailer

A fully loaded trailer can change a vehicle’s driving dynamics. Basically, you’ll have less time to react to situations on the road. This is why you should always drive slower when you’re moving cargo on a trailer in traffic.

When a trailer is extremely heavy, it has more mass, so there will be a delay whenever it makes a turn or stops. If you want to tow a trailer like a pro, you should always give yourself extra time to change lanes and stop.

Understanding the towing capacity of your vehicle
Safety Considerations

If you follow the rules of the road, you’ll stay safe while hauling cargo with a trailer. According to Kenda Americana Tire and Wheel, there are four smart ways to accomplish this.

Perform an Inspection

In order to tow heavy loads safely, you must perform a thorough inspection before every trip. First, ensure that all tires are properly inflated. You can get accurate results with a pressure gauge. Next, check the lugs and bolts on each tire; they should be tight. If any fasteners are loose, apply torque to tighten them.

Maintain Every Wheel

An automobile will only tow cargo efficiently if it has great tires. When a vehicle hauls something heavy, weight puts pressure on each wheel. This is why you should inspect all four wheels after every job.

During the inspection, search for any irregularities that could decrease your truck’s ability to reach its maximum towing capacity. If a tire has any cracks or signs of stress, you should replace it.

You must consider the load capacity for your tires. This is the best way to prevent a blowout when you’re hauling large cargo on a trailer. The cargo on a trailer should never exceed the unit’s maximum load capacity. If you don’t know the load capacity for the wheels on your trailer, check the placards or the owner’s manual.

Learn the Truck’s Stopping Distance

A truck’s stopping distance changes dramatically when it hauls a load. In order to learn the ropes, you must practice behind the wheel until you’re comfortable with your handling and timing on the road. Typically, if there is about a 325-foot gap between your truck and another vehicle, you’ll have a five-second window to stop.

Learn How to Manage Swaying

When a trailer is fully loaded, it could sway on the road. You must take action immediately whenever your cargo sways. Never press the accelerator or the brake when a trailer sways because you’ll lose control. Instead, keep the steering wheel straight until the trailer stops moving.

Understanding the towing capacity of your vehicle
Important Guidelines

Towing can be a complicated process if you don’t understand the basics. If you use these guidelines, you’ll tackle every job like a pro.

Aftermarket Suspension Parts

Although aftermarket suspension parts are helpful, they can’t increase a truck’s payload. However, you can use them to improve how your truck handles a heavy payload.

Acronyms and Terminology

Understanding your towing capacity comes with learning a variety of terms associated with your vehicle and your trailer. This guide will help you understand the reasons why each one matters.


This acronym stands for gross vehicle weight rating. The GVWR is set by the vehicle manufacturer, and it relates to the weight of a trailer or a vehicle plus the passengers and payload.


GCWR stands for gross combination weight rating. It refers to the maximum weight of a pickup truck and the trailer combined. You should never exceed this rating.


When you need to know how much weight a fully loaded trailer can support, you can check the GTW. It stands for gross trailer weight.


The GAWR is another rating that a manufacturer sets. It stands for gross axle weight rating, and it relates to an individual axle’s maximum weight capacity.


The gross vehicle weight represents the weight of a fully loaded truck. This includes all passengers and cargo.


This acronym stands for gross axle weight. If you need to know how much weight each axle can support, you must refer to the GAW.

Tongue Weight

The tongue weight covers downward pressure. It’s very important since it affects a tow vehicle’s hitch.

Curb Weight

A vehicle’s curb weight refers to its actual weight. If a vehicle has water tanks, gas bottles, and other fluids, these components are included as well.

Trailer Hitch Guidelines

If you upgrade a trailer hitch, it won’t boost your truck’s maximum towing capacity. However, this type of upgrade can enhance your vehicle’s overall towing capabilities. It can also help you bypass minor restrictions if your vehicle has factory hitch ratings.

Tongue Weight Guidelines

Before you use a trailer, never guess the tongue weight because this can lead to a hitch failure. You should always set aside time to measure a trailer’s tongue weight.

If you exceed the tongue weight, this will also lead to a failure. The weight of a load should be even across each axle. To ensure reliable results, use a proper weight distribution system.

To tow cargo efficiently and save gas, you must pick a towing vehicle that has a solid towing capacity. However, the towing capacity is just a baseline. Power and torque matter, too. If you want to tow hefty equipment without slowing down, you’ll need a truck with a strong engine.