What is Towing Capacity of Car or Truck? Definition, How to Calculate, Measure & Increase?

Towing capacity is indeed a complicated issue. Many popular automobiles can tow a caravan, but how do you figure out how much of a caravan and trailer they can pull?

Evaluating the towing capacity of a car or truck is crucial.

What is Towing Capacity of Car or Truck? Definition

Definition of towing capacity

Towing capacity can be defined as how much you can pull your car or truck without damaging the suspension with your car or truck. To put it another way, it means ripping off a piece of your frame, revoking your warranty, or being a viral hit for all the opposite reasons.

towing capacity definition how calculate measure increase car truck basics
Towing capacity definition how to calculate measure increase car truck basics

A car’s towing capacity is the maximum weight it can legally tow. However, especially with a caravan or trailer with a huge box-like appearance, it may not be comfortable and safe to do so.

Introduction to towing capacity

The car manufacturer specifies the towing capacity, normally found in the owner’s manual. The vehicle’s towing capability may be listed in the owner’s manual. The VIN plate can also be determined, wherein line number one represents the maximum permissible mass, and line number two represents the maximum train weight. To find the vehicle towing limit, subtract line number one from line number two.

Many towing experts recommend that a newbie should limit the caravan’s fully laden weight to no more than 85 percent of the tow car’s curb weight for safe towing. It is called the 85% of tow. Please remember that it is only a suggestion and not a legal requirement.

Also Read: Types of Cars

Working Philosophy of Towing Capacity

Towing capacity is vital for truck owners since it might make a big difference between getting that sailboat or racecar home and unintentionally wheeling in front of the world’s smartphones.

Too much weight on your truck’s hitch can cause premature suspension strut and spring failure, buckling frame points, ripped off paneling or driveline parts, or powertrain failure owing to the sheer weight it must drag down the road. Towing capacity is particularly significant since additional weight might lift the front part of your truck, lowering your steering & braking capabilities, which can be unsafe.

Imagine Timothée Chalamet on rollerblades trying to pull two Chicago Bears linebackers along a basketball court to further explain the disparity in towing capacity ratings between the Ford Ranger and Ford F-250. The linebackers would remain motionless as his back snapped. Imagine Dwayne Johnson doing the same thing while wearing his iconic Under Armor sneakers instead of rollerblades; he’d get those two to the other side in no time.

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Some Tips for Working out the Towing Capacity

Here are a few pointers to help you figure out your towing capacity. Towing with improper equipment, without the requisite understanding, or using the incorrect truck for towing can result in broken components and perilous scenarios similar to Italy’s historic Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Common sense must be used, and happily, The Drive’s crew is ready to assist and offer our expert advice on towing your truck. Some important tips are the following:

  • Take it slowly at first. Towing is a learned technique that requires years of practice to master. It’s safer to start slowly with smaller trailers than it is to buy a Ford F-650 Super Duty and a 28-foot trailer, load up with 41,000 pounds of equipment, and head out into the highway without ever driving a yard trailer with your truck. Recognize your limitations.
  • Be aware of what you’re loading into the truck’s bed or how much it carries. As previously stated, adding weight decreases the amount you can tow safely.
  • Before you try towing, read The Drive’s How And where to Tow. It will also not hurt if you have a family member with experts who can assist you.
  • Make sure your side-view mirrors are properly adjusted. The trailer you’re hauling should allow you to see behind it.
  • When towing trailers, keep in mind that when the vehicle accelerates, decelerates, and turns, the trailer can change direction, forward, and side-to-side. Sharper pedal or brake inputs and strong directional shifts will amplify these effects, making them potentially dangerous. Active sway control is available on several current trucks. Consult your owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website to see if your vehicle is equipped.
  • Double-check that your trailer’s hitch, safety chains, and brake and signal light plugs are all firmly fastened and set.
  • Before buying a camper, sailboat, or trailer, look up your truck’s towing capacity in the owner’s manual or on the manufacturer’s website. It might save you hundreds of dollars in fixes and possibly prevent accidents.

Also Read: What is Governer

Factors Affecting Towing Capacity

It’s crucial to remember that not all trucks have the same towing capacity. A variety of things influence towing capacity. Some factors affecting towing capacity are the following:

  • Engine
  • Body
  • Manufacturer
  • Internal Organization

Knowing your truck’s towing capability is vital because exceeding these restrictions can damage the truck and cause serious safety problems.

Though many factors influence a particular truck’s towing capability, it also relies on individual circumstances.

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How to Calculate Towing Capacity?

Measuring towing capacity can be done when the gross combined weight rating is abbreviated as GCWR. It’s a number issued by the manufacturer that specifies the combined maximum weight of the vehicle and trailer.

  • It means that the GCWR cannot be exceeded by the vehicle’s entire weight, passengers, luggage, and trailer.
  • For measuring a truck’s towing capacity, minus the truck weight, passengers weight, and cargo weight from the GCWR.
  • The cargo weight refers to the total weight of everything in the bed of the truck or cabin.
  • The curb weight of a truck is its stock value weight. It gives you a manufacturer’s weight rating, which tells you how much more the truck weighs in its most basic form with a tank of gas.
  • This weight must be changed if the truck has been modified in any manner (lift kits, suspensions, rooftop racks, toppers, covers, lights, etc.) to calculate the most accurate towing capacity. It is difficult to find the exact changes when replacing parts, but a few pounds variation is usually not a problem. However, any large alteration that varies the weight by more than 10 pounds should be compensated for in the customizing weight.
  • GCWR – Passenger Load – Cargo Load – Curb Load – Customization Weight” = Amount a Truck Can Tow
  • However, many individuals overlook that there is one additional calculation that must be completed to ensure safe transportation. It is the relationship between towing and payload capacity.
  • Whereas payload capacity represents the amount of load that a vehicle can carry rather than tow, towing capacity represents the weight that a truck can pull. It’s the max load that a truck can carry. The weight that is safe to carry, you will only tow enough.

Also Read: What is Engine

Important Towing Terms

Determine how much weight your car can tow before attempting to haul a hefty load. You’ll need a few specifications numbers from your vehicle’s manufacturer to determine your towing capacity. The majority of this information can be found inside the driver’s door or in the owner’s handbook. Use this calculator to determine your towing capacity in a variety of scenarios.

Some important towing terms need to be understood.

Tongue weight (TW)

Tongue weight (TW) is the downward force applied to the back of a towed load or vehicle. It is crucial to understand since it can help you maintain greater vehicle control.

Curb Weight

If there are no people, baggage, or trailer loads, the curb load of a vehicle will tell you how much it weighs. It will consider the weight of gasoline and the number of other fluids required for the vehicle’s operation.

Dry Weight

Dry weight is comparable to curb weight in that it refers to a load of your vehicle before passengers and pieces of baggage are added. It differs in that it also reduces the load of the liquids that must be present in the car to function effectively.

Traditional Towing

Conventional towing uses the vehicle’s tow ball while staying within the tow vehicle’s weight constraints.

Tongue weight

The tongue weight of a trailer refers to the amount of stress it exerts on the towing ball. This weight is usually nine to fifteen percent of the overall weight of the trailer.

Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR)

The maximum weight of a towed trailer filled, including fluids and cargo, is determined by the Gross Trailer Weight Rating (GTWR). Note that the trailer weight should be 10 to 15% of the GTWR at the time of hookup. The GTWR also defines the trailer’s class.

Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)

The greatest dispersed weight that may be supported on a single axle is the Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR).

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)

The maximum allowable weight of a tow vehicle, its load, and its trailer with towed cargo are depicted by the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR).

Also Read: Fuel Pump

Braked and unBraked Towing Capacity

The towing capacity of a car is divided into two categories: braked and unbraked towing capacity. A car manufacturer will provide maximum towing capacity data for each vehicle it produces in most circumstances. The towing capacity is measured in kilograms (kg), and these figures refer to the maximum weight that the vehicle can safely tow.

However, this is also a legal limit; it should never be exceeded. Your vehicle’s towing capacity is commonly indicated as braked towing capacity. If your vehicle has brakes, this is the maximum it can tow. If your vehicle has no brakes, its unbraked towing capability is the most it can haul.

Braked towing capacity

The braked towing capability of a vehicle is normally substantially higher and relates to towing anything with its brakes. While pressing the brake pedal in your automobile, the trailer or caravan will apply its brakes, assisting deceleration and allowing you to haul considerably larger and heavier goods.

The quoted limit for braked towing capacity, like the unbraked towing capacity limit, is set for both safety and legality; thus, exceeding it should be avoided.

The most typical recommendation for all but the most experienced tow car drivers is to keep the weight of what’s being towed below 85 percent of the car’s curb weight – this is another statistic that should be supplied by the manufacturer and refers to how much your car weighs when you’re driving it.

Unbraked towing capacity

Because it refers to hauling something that does not have its brakes – usually a tiny trailer – the unbraked towing capacity will nearly always be the lower of the two figures. As a result, the only way to slow down the car and the trailer is to utilize the car’s brakes, which must be carefully controlled due to the added weight linked to the automobile.

When towing an unbraked trailer, it’s critical to remember that braking efficiency is diminished, and you should always adjust your driving appropriately, slowing down and allowing for a significantly longer braking distance in traffic and at intersections.

The legal maximum weight limit for an unbraked trailer is 750kg. However, smaller automobiles will be limited to a lesser weight restriction, specified by the manufacturer and generally found in the vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Also Read: Gear Box

How to Increase Your Towing Capacity?

Increasing your vehicle’s towing capability also implies improving its overall performance. Simply updating your hitch may be enough to boost your towing capacity, but reprogramming your vehicle or replacing your radiator, suspension, brake system, axles, or exhaust are all viable options for a major upgrade.

A vehicle must be modified to increase the towing capability to allow for better weight distribution. The only snag is figuring out what modifications to make and staying within the manufacturer’s recommended weight limit, which would harm several different elements of the car. Towing capacity can be increased in a variety of methods.

Improving overall vehicle performance

To draw a heavier load, you’ll need to improve your vehicle’s overall performance. Adding or replacing current parts with better ones will be the major focus.

Improving the exhaust system

Start by replacing the exhaust system’s air filters, which will increase the vehicle’s towing capacity. You could also install dual exhausts, which would improve the engine’s breathing and hence its performance. It increases the overall engine capacity, allowing it to tow greater weight. An engine that performs better “breathes” better. You may get the extra horsepower and torque you need by upgrading your exhaust system and replacing your air filters. Dual exhausts are recommended for the greatest effects.

Adding a bigger radiator

The radiator in a car is a heat exchanger that is the heart of the cooling system. Its primary job is to keep the engine temperature under control and prevent it from overheating. It ensures the engine’s correct operation and so avoids failure.

As the vehicle’s weight increases, the components generate more heat, necessitating the installation of a much larger radiator to improve cooling system efficiency. To offer a speedier cooling process, most tow-capable vehicles have two radiators, one for the engine and one for the transmission.

Also Read: Diesel Engine

Improving the brake system

Stopping greater loads is important for boosting towing capacity. The longer it takes to halt completely, the heavier the weight. Brake pads and rotors have been upgraded to bear the extra weight’s tension and friction heat.

It may also be advantageous to install an electronic braking system. These systems easily detect which brakes require more pressure and enhance stopping power as required. The outcome is that the brakes will perform more efficiently and last longer.

Vehicle programmer

A car programmer modifies the computer settings to enhance and increase horsepower and torque. It attains this by altering the order in which your transmission shifts, air-to-fuel ratio, and other parameters. Vehicles are initially programmed to provide better fuel efficiency. You may improve horsepower but lose fuel efficiency by altering these parameters.

Suspension system upgrade

By upgrading your suspension system, you may distribute weight more evenly over all of the vehicle’s axles rather than just the back end. A smoother ride and better steering control is the outcome if you replace your suspension with heavy-duty parts. By distributing the weight, more weight on your vehicle’s front end can be kept.

While driving, the suspension will be able to absorb the bumps in the road, giving a comfortable ride and performing its function of absorbing the bumps. One thing is to swipe your existing suspension system with an air suspension system. The system’s air bladders take the weight and absorb the road’s stress hence ensuring better control and performance.

Replace your springs with heavier-duty springs as an alternative option. leaf springs of heavy-duty add more leaves to the spring to carry a higher weight is also a good idea. Spring coils can be replaced with thicker springs. A coil-over-shock absorber can also aid in stabilizing your rear suspension while also reducing the strain on your springs.

Axle replacement

Overloading your axles is unsafe. You can enhance your towing capability by replacing them with heavy-duty equivalents. Ensure that the differential is replaced with the necessary heavy-duty parts as well. One alternative is to utilize RV parts to replace your truck parts.

RV parts are specially made for heavy-duty vehicles and are installable on many trucks but make sure it’s done appropriately. it can be dangerous if done without the correct training and instruments.

Vehicle frame and chassis

Your vehicle’s frame and chassis are the skeletons. When calculating the GVWR, your manufacturer takes these factors into account. Your vehicle’s frame can flex or break if you put too much weight on it. A body-on-frame construction is generally preferable over a unibody when purchasing a vehicle for towing.

While a unibody provides a more pleasant ride, it does not allow you to alter it unless it is designed for towing. Trucks and SUVs with body-on-frame construction have better stiffness and can bear heavier loads. On body-on-frame cars, upgrading your vehicle’s towing capacity is recommended.

Unibody frames are pre-programmed to perform what they can and can’t. You must ensure that your frame and chassis can support the additional weight. There may also be ways to replace or fortify some of these components to offer you an edge.


Having the right hitch is critical. There are various types of hitches. Each one is capable of handling varying weights. Make sure your hitch receiver is securely fastened to your vehicle’s chassis. The chassis is the part of the vehicle that supports the vehicle’s weight. Rear tow hitches can’t hold as much weight as fifth wheel hitches.

If you wish to tow a trailer longer than 40 feet, ensure you have a fifth-wheel hitch and enough area in your truck bed. You might even want to consider getting a longer bed for your truck. It provides for a more even distribution of weight. It also provides your hitch with more room to slide without hurting the bed.

Advantages of Towing Capacity

Every vehicle that is used to tow has its towing capacity calculated. What is the point of towing, one could wonder? In case of any emergency or an accident, towing comes in useful. A few companies provide towing services. They use vehicles or trucks capable of towing the impacted vehicle’s weight. The towing capability of a vehicle is matched to the weight of another vehicle to discover a suitable vehicle to tow. Therefore, One of the most important advantages or benefits of towing capacity is this one.

Vehicle recovery towing is required to remove standard vehicles such as sedans and minivans from the accident scene. For an effective operation, rescuing a car that has gone off-road into a ditch, is stuck in the mud, or has slid into a ravine or mountain route requires sufficient expertise and specialized instruments.

Any hazardous material or object found at the accident scene can be handled and removed by recovery towing professionals. whenever you are dealing with the following situations, you may require light vehicle towing:

  • A blowout tire or a flat tire.
  • Engine failure or a dead battery might cause a car to break down.
  • Off-road mishaps.
  • A automobile can spin or slide off the road due to terrain obstacles or unsafe roadways.

The primary difference between heavy-duty and light-duty recovery is the vehicle’s weight that needs to be recovered.

On the road, large trucks can sometimes gather a lot of speed. The driver finally loses control of the vehicle, causing it to swerve. It causes the vehicle or trailer to roll over or slide completely off the road. Due to their huge mass, hauling them from the accident site becomes incredibly challenging, necessitating the use of specialist towing skills to get them back to safety.

A conventional tow truck cannot recover heavier vehicles such as highly loaded buses, wagons, RVs, or tractors. Special tools, sufficient training, and experience are required to properly retrieve heavy-duty vehicles, especially if they are off the main route or have overturned.

Heavy-duty recovery is difficult since it entails meticulously performing numerous things, such as assuring everyone’s safety and the vehicle’s successful retrieval. Heavy-duty recovery requires the necessary equipment and competence, which only a reputable towing firm can provide. Typical heavy-duty recovery services include:

  • Recovering machinery
  • Recovery of semi-trucks
  • Recovery of tractors and trailers

Traditional or normal towing is insufficient in some incident recovery situations to safely recover a car. If your car needs to be retrieved from a ditch or recovered from an off-road site, you’ll require an accident recovery service that uses specialist equipment. Heavy-duty or enormous vehicles, such as trucks, trailers, and buses, sometimes require recovery towing services because their tremendous momentum causes them to flip or slip off the road if the driver loses control.

Standard passenger automobiles may also require vehicle recovery towing services. These vehicles can swerve off-road or become stuck in a ditch, especially when the roads are wet and slick. When driving on mountain paths, gravel roads, or ravines, you may encounter a similar predicament. In such cases, the motorist should seek car recovery from off-road recovery services to get their vehicle back on track.

Disadvantages of Towing Capacity

It should be considered that maximum towing capacity should not be underestimated. Exceeding the towing capacity of your vehicle can put a strain on your engine and gearbox, accelerate brake wear, deteriorate your tires, and even cause your chassis to distort. It could lead to a catastrophic collapse while driving, resulting in property damage or serious injury.

Towing is also a source of temptation. The towing capacity of your vehicle is specified in the owner’s manual. Unfortunately, someone didn’t think about his towing capacity when he got that new boat. He’s having a hard time resisting the desire to take his boat to the lake now that it’s put on a trailer and his truck’s ball hitch is just inches away from being connected.

That’s not a good idea to do it! There could be a lot of difficulty in store for you. Let’s imagine you’re traveling at a safe speed whenever a pedestrian next to your truck steps off the curb.

You’ll have a hard time stopping because of your excessive weight. The momentum caused by your rear-heavy trailer and boat could outstrip the braking strength of your brakes, sending you crashing into the unfortunate pedestrian. It may also dislodge your trailer hitch coupling, causing the boat to crash onto your back seat.

Even if you get it to the lake, the boat launch will be a nightmare. The weight of the trailer and boat could drag your truck into the water or force the front of your pickup to leave the ground as you back down the incline — not a good start to a day at the lake.

Applications of Towing Capacity

There are a variety of cars with varied towing capacities. To get them to pull another weight, you’ll need to figure out how much they can tow. As a result, towing capacity is measured in the production of the following automobile engines or towing packages offered by the following car businesses.

Chevy Silverado Towing Engines

The towing capacity of the Chevy Silverado ranges from 9,100 to 13,300 pounds, while the payload capacity of the Silverado 1500 is up to 2,385 pounds, depending on the configuration. For the Madison roads, which engine option will you choose?

  • 2.7L Turbo Engine with 8-Speed Automatic Transmission: 310 horsepower and 348 lb-ft torque. Towing capability of up to 9,600 pounds
  • 335 horsepower and 383 lb-ft with an 8-speed automatic gearbox from the 5.3 EcoTec3 V8 with Dynamic Fuel Management and Auto Start/Stop.
  • 335 hp and 383 lb-ft of torque with improved 10-speed automatic transmission from the 5.3 EcoTec3 V8 with Dynamic Fuel Management.
  • 6.2L V8 Engine with Dynamic Fuel Management & Auto Start/Stop: 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque, towing up to 9,100 pounds with a 10-speed automatic transmission
  • 6.2L V8 Engine with Dynamic Fuel Management: 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, with a maximum towing capacity of 13,300 pounds
  • 3.0L I6 Turbo-Diesel: 277 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, capable of towing up to 9,300 pounds

Towing is included in the package. Tundra, Toyota. You can complete any project quickly with the Toyota Tundra tow package. Features like the TripleTech TM frame, which integrates the trailer hitch, Tundra tow mirrors, voltmeter liquid temp, engine oil, and fuel indicators, guarantee that you’re prepared for the road ahead.

The i-FORCE 5.7L V8 engine with a smooth 6-speed transmission allows for class-leading towing capabilities. The combination produces 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Let’s take a look at the amenities that come standard with the Toyota Tundra two packages:

4-/7-Pin Connector and TOW/HAUL Mode

The Tundra has a 4-/7-pin connector that allows you to easily tow huge loads since the system automatically stays in low gears for longer, giving you a better throttle response.

Integral Trailer Brake Controller/Trailer-Sway Adjust

With this trailer brake system, you may control how much braking power is applied to the trailer. As a result, if the trailer begins to sway, this system will automatically activate the trailer brakes.

Tundra Tow Mirrors

Tundra tow mirrors are available as extras and are essential for towing safety. These mirrors improve visibility, which is especially important while towing huge loads.

Nissan Frontier is a vehicle manufactured by Nissan.

The Nissan Frontier can tow between 6,250 and 6,720 pounds. The towing capability of the Nissan Frontier varies depending on the model. SV, S, and Pro-4X are some of the trims available. Long bed impacts maximum towing capacity, regardless of whether the type is a Crew Cab, King Cab, or Crew Cab. The towing capacity is also affected by whether the drivetrain is 4X4 or 4X2. All Nissan Frontier models come with a 9-speed automatic transmission, which helps to make it the most powerful Frontier ever.


What Is a Trailer’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)?

The maximum permitted weight of any vehicle is referred to as the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). A vehicle can be either an automobile or a trailer. The GVWR is the maximum weight a trailer can carry in total, as defined by the trailer manufacturer.

What does it mean to have a dry weight?

The overall weight of your vehicle without passengers, cargo, or fluids is known as the dry weight. The weight of automotive fluids required for operation is not included in dry weight, similar to curb weight.

Towing a car with a trailer is possible or not?

Many cars can tow a trailer if they have the proper towing equipment and towing capacity. The manufacturer rates towing capacity of automobiles. Compact and sub-compact automobiles are not often rated for towing, although full-size sedans and other bigger cars are.

What Can You Do to Increase Your Towing Capacity?

Various extras can be used to increase towing capability, but it’s crucial to stick to the lowest-rated towing component at all times. Towing accessories that match your vehicle’s existing ratings is the best approach to boost towing capacity. To put it another way, a low-rated hitch or ball mount will limit your potential. You can also think about using a weight-distribution hitch to increase capacity.

Where can I know my vehicle’s weight?

A vehicle scale can be used to determine the weight of your vehicle. A car scale will provide you with the weight of your vehicle in real-time. The data can usually be found on the driver’s side door sill, in the owner’s handbook, or on the manufacturer’s website for the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) issued by the manufacturer.

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To summarise, towing capacity is an important aspect that must be calculated for each vehicle. It enables readers to comprehend how much weight their vehicle can tow. Furthermore, towing capacity calculations were crucial in developing cars designed expressly for towing. The ability to determine towing capacity is useful in a variety of situations. It is also useful in the event of an emergency.

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