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Everything You Need To Know About Towing  

There could be many reasons why you might be asking the question, what is tow capacity? You may be asked to tow someone's vehicle that's in a bad situation. You might want to purchase a trailer or an off-road vehicle that you'll need to know whether or not your current vehicle can handle. Perhaps you're looking to buy a boat or a motorcycle that you want to be able to tow when necessary. Or you may be wanting to know about it because you're buying a new vehicle, and plan to tow your RV or trailer with it when you travel. Whatever the case may be, it's good to know what a vehicle's towing capacity is, and how to use the information in case you need it. In this article, we will answer this question and many others on this topic, so that you can learn all you ever wanted to know about towing. 

Tow Capacity Explained  
Simply put, your tow capacity is how much weight your vehicle can pull when towing. In other words, how heavy can that RV be that you want to pull? That boat? Or how about that trailer you want to buy - how much weight can you put on it and still tow safely? This is what your tow capacity tells you. There are two kinds of tow capacity: braked and unbraked. Braked refers to the maximum amount of weight you can tow if the vehicle you're towing has its own independent braking system that hooks into the vehicle driving it. For this reason, it is a larger amount than unbraked, which is obviously, then, a vehicle that does not have independent brakes. You can find the towing capacity in your vehicle's owner's manual or inside the door jamb on the driver's side of the vehicle itself. If all else fails, you can find it on the company's website. However, it doesn't end there. Now, you have to figure out how much everything else weighs, and to determine that, we need to become familiar with some acronyms that are used by the vehicle manufacturers. Determining the weight of everything accurately is of key importance. It doesn't have to be exact, but it should be as close as possible. 

Acronyms And Terms To Know 
When figuring out the weight of everything you'll need to add up to determine if your vehicle can safely tow another, there are several terms, and the acronyms that abbreviate them, that you'll need to know:

TW = Tongue Weight - this represents the amount of downward force that can be pressed onto the back of the vehicle being towed. The reason this is important is because it can help you to keep control of your vehicle better. 

Curb Weight - this is very important to know because it tells you the weight of your vehicle with no passengers, cargo or anything else. It does account for the weight of the gas and other fluids necessary to operate the vehicle. You will add your own weight to this number as well as the weight of any other passengers or cargo you may be carrying in the vehicle or trunk. Be sure to include the weight of the spare tire and any tools you may be carrying, as well. 

Dry Weight - this is the same as the curb weight, but without accounting for any fluids necessary for operating the vehicle. 

GVWR = Gross Vehicle Weight Rating - this represents the total weight that has been determined to be safe for your vehicle to handle by itself. It will include the weight of the vehicle, passengers and any cargo. 

GCWR = Gross Combined Weight Rating - this is the safe amount your vehicle can handle including everything from the GVWR above, plus the weight of any attached trailer.

GAWR = Gross Axle Weight Rating- this is the maximum amount of weight that the front axles (FR) and the rear axles (RR) can withstand on your vehicle. 

GTW = Gross Trailer Weight - this number includes the weight of any trailer and its cargo you're towing.

You will find all or most of these terms in your owner's manual, but as you can see, it's more extensive than you may have originally thought! 

Towing Tips 
In order to tow anything, you are going to need a tow bar, a tow hitch and a recovery point. If you're attempting to tow another vehicle, you'll attach the towing device to the chassis of that vehicle. If you're towing a large vehicle or farm equipment, be sure to use a tow pin and jaw, which allows for the necessary slack between your vehicles. When towing a trailer, be sure to use a hitch and hitch ball. The hitch ball attaches to the vehicle being towed on the receiver hitch, which is typically attached to the frame. In this way, the ball itself handles some of the trailer's weight, and couples the trailer with the other vehicle. Be sure to note the TW (tongue weight), the amount of weight on the hitch. If your TW is less than 10% of the weight of the trailer when fully loaded, you will most likely start to sway. But more than 15% is too much, so be careful! Your vehicle can quickly become difficult to control in either of these cases. 

Tow Safety 
Always use safety chains as an extra measure of protection in case of a catastrophe where your vehicle and trailer were to separate. This would entail attaching strong, heavy chains to the ball and tongue, between the hitch and the trailer. A great tip is to cross the chains as you go between and underneath the trailer  tongue. Make sure you leave enough slack for turns, but do not allow the chains to drag on the pavement. Be sure when towing a trailer, you distribute the load as evenly as possible, and with approximately 60% of the load in the front half of the trailer. Once balanced correctly, use tie-down straps to secure it. Remember that whenever towing, allow more time for turning and stopping, and estimate twice the distance to slow down than when driving unencumbered. Hopefully the question, what is tow capacity, has been answered satisfactorily. Good luck out there, and remember, if you ever need a tow, LV Quik Tow is the professional you want to call!
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12.09.20 - Rochelle Harris

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