Understanding Towing Capacity

Thinking of reaching your next vacation destination with a boat in tow? Do you need assistance in vehicle towing for your camper, RV or travel trailer? Or maybe you’re just wondering how the towing of cars work?

Towing means pulling along another car, boat or another piece of equipment with a chain, rope, bar, hitch or drawbar. The most familiar type of towing you may have seen is a tow truck carrying along a disabled vehicle from the streets. However, there are other uses for towing. There are also many reasons why you’d want to rent towing equipment and trailers.  But first, you need to understand how towing works.

Understanding Towing Capacity

What is Towing Capacity?

Towing capacity, or maximum towing capacity, is defined as the maximum allowable weight that can be towed by a vehicle. It’s usually specified already by the vehicle manufacturer and outlined in the owner’s manual. Manufacturers also indicate the maximum towing capacity on the exterior of trucks and buses, close to the coupling device. It’s best to follow these limits to prevent damage.

There are two kinds of towing capacity to think about: braked towing capacity and unbraked towing capacity.

Braked towing capacity is the towing capacity of a vehicle if the trailer that’s being towed has its own braking system. This means that the braked trailer has what are known as “overrun brakes”. Unbraked towing capacity is the towing capacity of a vehicle when the trailer does not have its own braking system. Vehicles with the unbraked towing capacity often have a lower maximum capacity than those with the braked towing capacity. This is because in an unbraked towing system the car towing does all of the braking.

Calculating Maximum Towing Capacity

To understand it more, you can look at how the maximum towing capacity is calculated. Firstly, every vehicle model, make and year has its own towing capacity. So, it’s important to not generalize just because you know the towing capacity of one car. A regular sedan can take about 1500 lbs in maximum towing capacity, while a bigger 4×4 can take up to 9000 lbs.

Secondly, because towing systems are usually assembled using a hitch, it’s important to know more about the hitch you are using. The hitch assembly may have its own limits. Some towing hitches have a towing capacity that exceeds that of other cars and trucks. This is because most hitches can fit on many different types of tow vehicles. Basically, it’s important to look at the towing capacity of both the vehicle and the hitch you are using.

Lastly, make sure to calculate for other weights. Towing capacity calculations should consider passenger weight exceeding 150 lbs, optional equipment, and additional cargo.

Written by the staff of Tiger Towing in Columbia, MO.

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