If you use your truck for towing or hauling, you’ve probably heard about GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating). If you’ve never owned a truck before, or you’re new to towing, the concept of a “Gross Vehicle Weight Rating” might be a bit of a head-scratcher.
If you’re using your truck for hauling large loads, then GVWR is incredibly important to understand. If you’re not familiar with GVWR, we’ve made this guide for you.
What is GVWR?
Your truck’s GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, is the heaviest your vehicle can weigh while still remaining safe to drive. Your truck also has a “curb weight”, which is your truck’s weight without any cargo or occupants.
For example, your truck may have an ’empty’ curb weight of 5,500 pounds and a GVWR of 7,000 pounds. Subtracting 7,000 lbs from 5,500 lbs gives you 1,500 lbs. That means you can safely add 1,500 pounds of extra “stuff” to your vehicle.
The difference between your truck’s curb weight and GVWR won’t always be an accurate representation of your truck’s payload. When trying to figure out the safest amount of cargo to put on your truck, you need to take into account more than just your curb weight and gross vehicle weight.
In addition to your cargo weight, you also need to pay attention to the weight of your passengers, the weight of the fuel in your tank, and the weight of the accessories attached to your truck –such as tonneau covers, toolboxes, and truck caps.
If you’re towing a trailer, you also need to take into account the trailer’s tongue weight. We’ll cover the concept of tongue weight shortly.
If you don’t know your truck’s curb weight, you can check it at any weigh station. When checking your curb weight, bring all the gear you normally carry with you for the most accurate estimate possible. Once you know your curb weight, you can find your GVWR rating on your truck.
You’ll find it either from a sticker on the driver’s side door frame or in your owner’s manual. Do some simple math and subtract your GVWR from the curb weight you measured. This will tell you exactly how much cargo you can carry, as well as how heavy your trailer’s tongue weight can be.
What About Your Truck’s GCWR?
In addition to GVWR, your truck also has a GCWR: Gross Combined Weight Rating. Your GCWR takes into account your vehicle weight and trailer weight and gives you the maximum combined weight that can be pulled safely.
We’ll give you an example. If you have a truck weighing 6,000 lbs, and your GCWR is 14,000 lbs, then your trailer must be 8,000 lbs or less.
The maximum weight of your trailer was gotten by subtracting your gross combined weight from your curb weight. (14,000 GCWR – 6,000 curb weight = 8,000 for the trailer).
Many vehicles are capable of pulling far more than their GCWR. GCWR isn’t how much weight your truck can pull, it’s how much weight it can pull safely. The heavier a trailer is, the harder it will be to control the trailer when you’re turning or breaking.
At some point, your trailer becomes too heavy to control –that point is represented by your GCWR.
Gross Vehicle Weight Vs. Curb Weight
What’s the difference between your gross vehicle and your curb weight? One weight takes into account your cargo, while the other does not. We’ve mentioned curb weight, which is the weight of your vehicle at rest.
Your curb weight represents your vehicle’s weight with all of the standard equipment and amenities, it doesn’t include any cargo or passengers. Gross vehicle weight, on the other hand, does include the additional weight of your passengers and cargo.
If you’re using your truck to haul lots of weight, then gross vehicle weight will be incredibly important for you to understand. When figuring out your vehicle’s weight limits, you need to compare your gross vehicle weight to your curb weight.
What’s Your “Tongue Weight”?
Your truck’s tongue weight represents how much force your trailer tongue can withstand. When you’re connected to a trailer, your vehicle is only carrying a certain percentage of the trailer’s weight, usually somewhere between 10% and 20%.
The percentage of trailer weight you can carry will depend on the trailer’s size and design. Single-axel trailers, for example, usually have a high percentage of tongue weight, while double and triple axle trailers have fairly low tongue weight percentages.
Your tongue weight works the same as your cargo weight. You can calculate your vehicle’s maximum capable tongue weight by comparing your gross vehicle weight to your vehicle’s weight when it’s fully loaded.
If you want to figure out how much weight your trailer tongue adds to your truck, take both your truck and your trailer to the local weight station. Weigh both the trailer and the truck together, then disconnect the trailer and weigh the truck by itself.
You can also get your GTW (Gross Trailer Weight) by just weighing your trailer. When you know your GTW, you should make sure your truck can handle a tongue weight that’s no higher than 20% of that GTW.
This 20% is on the high end of tongue weights, but this gives you a little bit of wiggle room. If your truck isn’t able to handle 20%, you can weigh your truck and trailer together to see if you’re under your vehicle’s GVWR.
If your tongue weight is too high, then redistributing the weight on the trailer might help. You won’t be able to dramatically change your tongue weight with this method but making sure the weight you’re carrying is balanced is important when you’re towing.
What Class of Trailer Hitch Do You Need?
There are five different classes of hitches, I through V. Each class represents the maximum trailer weight the hitch can handle:
- Class I – up to 2,000 lbs max trailer weight
- Class II – up to 3,500 lbs max trailer weight
- Class III – up to 8,000 lbs max trailer weight
- Class IV – up to 10,000 lbs max trailer weight
- Class V – up to 20,000 lbs max trailer weight
The hitch you’re using should be strong enough to handle the gross trailer weight of whatever you’re towing. If you try and tow more than your hitch can handle, you can damage your hitch or vehicle frame.
If you’re using a larger hitch class, like Class IV or Class V hitches, you’ll want a “weight distributing hitch.” A weight distributing hitch, as its name suggests, evenly distributes the stress on your hitch across your truck frame.
This will make your trailer easier to control. Most newer trucks rated to pull 10,000 lbs or more have weight distributing hitch designs.
Making Sure Your Truck’s Weight Is Balanced
Even if you’ve been careful and made sure your truck, trailer, and cargo’s combined weight are under your GVWR and GCWR, you’ll still want to make sure your cargo is evenly distributed. For example, if you load all your weight in your truck bed behind your rear axle, it’ll affect your truck’s steering feel tighter.
Piling all of your weight on the left or right side will also cause your trailer to move left or right when you brake.
In order to improve control of your trailer, you should lay out your cargo as evenly as possible. Keeping your cargo evenly spread over your axles makes riding more comfortable –and safer too.
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