How to Calculate Your Towing Weights

When it comes to safe towing, whether hauling a trailer full of your friend’s furniture or towing your Jetski back to the dock for the summer, the most essential element to ensure is on point is your towing weight. Towing weight doesn’t just include the weight of the cargo you are pulling; it also includes how much weight your towing vehicle can pull. Specifically, you will need to always calculate three towing weights: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), Tongue Weight (TW), and Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR).

Continue below to learn what these weights and ratings mean, and how to do the math for your towing setup.

24 Hour Towing and Roadside Assistance 317-247-8484
24 Hour Towing and Roadside Assistance 317-247-8484

Towing Weight Calculations

You weren’t the best at arithmetic in school? That won’t pose a problem. Calculating your towing weights is easy as long as you have a calculator nearby; and if you are like most, you have a smart phone with a calculator application already on it. Again, you will be calculating your tongue weight, gross vehicle weight rating, and the gross combined weight rating.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is how much weight your make and model towing vehicle can safely haul. This includes the capacity of the weight of the trailer and the weight of the cargo. An F-150 will have a higher gross vehicle weight rating compared to a Mini Cooper. You can find your vehicle’s recommended gross vehicle weight rating in the owners’ manual, or online on your dealership’s website.

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)

The Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) is the total weight of everything involved in your intended towing job. This includes the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), as well as the weight of the trailer, cargo, passengers, and even fuel.

Tongue Weight (TW)

Tongue weight (TW) is the amount of force, or weight, being pushed down onto the hitch ball by the trailer coupler. You don’t ever want to put too much weight on this ball, or your car will lift off the ground in the front and your brakes will go into overdrive. This can all damage your car, as well as your towing gear.

How to Do the Math:

Add up everything you plan to haul to get your Gross Combined Weight Rating GCWR.
Take this number and compare it your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).
Your total should be less than your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).

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You Should Also Read:

Towing Acronyms for Vehicle Manufacturer Specifications
A Brief Explanation of Tongue Weight (TW)
A Review of Gross Vehicle Weight Ratings

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How Does Tongue Weight Affect My Car?

Tongue weight (TW) is incredibly important when it comes to towing and hauling cargo with your car. Improper tongue weight would make it very difficult to operate your vehicle, let alone do so safely. If you are not familiar with tongue weight calculations and recommendations, it is vital that you educate yourself before hitting the road with a trailer in tow.

Continue reading to learn how tongue weight effects a car’s ability to perform, and how to determine your make and model’s manufacturer’s instructions for tongue weights and towing capacity.

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24 Hour Towing and Roadside Assistance in Indiana 317-247-8484

What is Tongue Weight?

Tongue weight (TW) is the amount of fixed force the trailer applies on the hitch ball of your vehicle. Without adhering to your vehicle’s manufacturer’s guidelines for tongue weight and towing capacity, you are at a much higher risk of accidents and property damage occurring during the tow. Simply put, it is not safe to tow a trailer that is not putting enough weight or too much weight on the hitch ball.

Without enough weight, the trailer is prone to swaying side to side, which is a leading cause of serious motor vehicle accidents in the country. While starting off as a first time tower, be sure to review what you should do if your trailer starts to sway, just to be prepared in the case of an emergency. If there is too much weight on the hitch ball, then you can risk putting too much force on the back tire of your car, which can cause the rear of the vehicle to sway or lift off of the ground.

Can you picture driving a car with elliptical wheels rather than circular wheels? The ride would most certainly feel unsteady and uncontrollable. Driving a car with improper tongue weight would be much like this. Forget navigating turns, taking corners, backing up, or even braking, successfully. Although this is just a brief explanation of tongue weight, you can see just how dangerous incorrect tongue weight calculations can be for drivers, as well as other pedestrians and passengers on the road.

How to Calculate Your Car and Trailer Tongue Weight

To determine your vehicle and trailer tongue weight guidelines, simply refer to your owners’ manual. The general rule of thumb is that the tongue weight should be approximately 10 to 15 percent of the towing vehicle’s total weight. Take a standard 2,400 lb. sedan loaded with 1,000 lbs. of freight, for instance. The recommended tongue weight would be between 340 and 510 pounds, which is 10 to 15% of the total 3,400 pounds being towed.

Some make and model vehicles require a hitch upgrade for tongue weights higher than a 700 or 800 pounds. One example of this would be the Sierra 1500 pickup truck, which requires owners to switch from a weight-carrying hitch to a weight-distributing hitch. Also, some gooseneck and fifth wheel trailers are designed for heavier loads, so their recommended tongue weights are generally between 15 and 30 percent, rather than 10 to 15 percent.

Where to Get 24 HR Towing and Roadside Assistance in Central Indiana

Call Zore’s Towing at 317-247-8484 for 24 hour roadside assistance and towing services in Indianapolis and throughout Central Indiana. We are fully-equipped with the right fleets to assist cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, construction equipment, trailers, vans, semi-trucks, airplanes, and much more. Our friendly staff is waiting by the phones, ready to help you get back on the road, safe and sound. We operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year, so you can always count on us. Request a free estimate, today.

Indianapolis Towing & Recovery 317-247-8484

A Brief Explanation of Tongue Weight (TW)

When it comes to safe towing, the most important factor is knowledge. And part of this knowledge is knowing your tow weights. This includes the weight of your load, the capacity of your towing vehicle, and your towing trailer’s tongue weight. Most experienced towers are familiar with their load weight and capacities, but many tend to overlook tongue weight, which is equally important as the rest.

Continue reading for a brief explanation of these weights, with a primary focus on tongue weight.

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What is Tongue Weight?

Tongue weight is the downward force or pressure the trailer puts on the back of the towing vehicle (specifically on the ball by the trailer coupler). Why is this weight measurement important? Well, too much weight on the back of the vehicle can cause it to raise in the front, thus making the rear brakes work too hard. Too little weight can cause the trailer and vehicle to be unleveled, which is dangerous while taking turns or driving at high speeds.

Tongue weight should never be more than 15% of the total trailer weight, including the weight of its cargo. This weight calculation is referred to as “gross trailer weight”, which is the same as “gross vehicle mass”, or “GVM.” See our blog, “Towing Acronyms for Vehicle Manufacturer Specifications” to learn all the weight definitions for safe towing. For now, here are two additional towing weight definitions you need to know in order to tow a trailer safely:

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) – The acronym, “GVWR” stands for “Gross Vehicle Weight Rating”, which refers to the maximum recommended weight of the vehicle or trailer when it is fully loaded in adherence to the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) – The acronym, “GCVWR” stands for “Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating”, which refers to the combined weight of a trailer and the towing vehicle, including all passengers, as well as, fuel, equipment, and the cargo on the trailer.

Unsure of Your Towing Weight Capacities?

If you are not sure what your weight capacities are for your trailer and towing vehicle, refer to the owners’ manual for both. See our blog, “What is a Compliance Certification Label and Where is it on My Car?” to learn more about the importance of calculating these figures. If you need to replace a lost owners’ manuals for your trailer and/or vehicle, you can download them online, sometimes for free.

Need Professional Towing?

Zore's Towing Indianapolis 317-247-8484
Indianapolis Towing & Roadside Assistance 317-247-8484

Call Zore’s Inc. at 317-247-8484 for friendly 24 hour towing in Central Indiana. We open a family-owned and operated business for 90 years, so you can trust us for prompt and professional service. We are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year, so our certified tow truck operators can be there for you anytime, any day! Request free estimates, anytime.