The number one priority for any RVer should always be safety. A large part of maintaining safety on the road will come down to the different components of towing capacity. When towing a trailer behind you, there’s a lot of factors at play: the type of trailer you own, your towing vehicle, the towing capacity of the two units combined.
These are basic RVing factors that every road tripper needs to know before hitting the road. Let’s look at the different areas of towing capacity and how to make sure you stay within your limits on every trip you take.
What is Towing Capacity?
Towing capacity is the maximum amount of weight your vehicle can tow safely. Many types of vehicles can tow as long as you meet their specific guidelines.
There are a few different components as part of towing capacity. A good way of knowing your towing limit is to find out what your vehicle’s Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) is. The GCWR is the maximum amount of weight that you can put on a vehicle safely. The GCWR is both the weight of the trailer or Gross Trailer Weight (GTR) and the gross weight of the vehicle you will be using to tow.
The GCWR can be found in your vehicle’s driver’s manual if you can’t find it call the manufacturer to get specifics. Never assume that a vehicle can handle a certain load without knowing the facts or you could risk overloading. When calculating the GCWR, make sure you factor in all weight, including personal cargo, full fuel or water tanks, and vehicle occupants. Only when you have the entirety of the load will you know if you meet your tow vehicle’s standards.
The GCWR is not the only numbers you need to know if you want to make sure everything is in place. To maintain a properly balanced load, you should also ensure that you have a proper tongue weight.
The tongue weight is the weight of the trailer that is directly pressing down on the towing vehicle. The tongue weight is usually nine to 14 percent of the gross trailer weight. It is important to look at the specs of your towing vehicle to find out what kind of tongue weight it can handle or you risk putting extra stress on your vehicle and causing trailer sway.
Finding the Tongue Weight of Your Trailer
There are several ways to find the tongue weight of your trailer. Check both your driver’s manual and the trailer’s manual to find the perfect tongue weight. It’s important to stay on spec with the manufacturer’s guidelines when towing a trailer. Make sure you have the right vehicle to tow, don’t attempt to tow a trailer if your vehicle can’t handle pulling the weight safely on the road
Does Your Trailer Hitch Matter?
Having the right kind of hitch is also important for towing. It won’t matter if you are towing the correct amount of weight if it exceeds the towing capacity of your hitch or if you aren’t securing your hitch properly. Again, refer to your manufacturer’s guidelines for the proper hitch for your towing vehicle and trailer setup.
The Dangers of Improper Towing Capacity
Failure to meet the proper standards for your vehicle can result in a myriad of problems. Overloading and under loading trailers are the leading cause of towing accidents. An overloaded trailer can put stress on a vehicle causing erratic steering, acceleration, and braking. Make sure to pack your trailer evenly and don’t exceed its weight guidelines.
Not having proper control of your vehicle makes for a dangerous drive. Not following standards can also lead to dangerous trailer sway, or the trailer running uncontrollably back and forth across the road. Sway can cause the trailer to clip other vehicles, run off the road, and cause loss of control. Practice towing your vehicle before your first trip on the road.
Remember: These guidelines are presented as a suggestion; the vehicle manufacturer has done many tests to determine what your vehicle can handle to ensure a safe ride. Follow these guidelines to have a safe and fun time on your next RVing adventure.