Whoa, technical overload. Explain towing, capacity, gross weight, tongue weight, etc., like I am fiv

Discussion in 'First Time & New Camper Owners' started by Jeff Oakes, Aug 12, 2017.

  1. Jeff Oakes

    Jeff Oakes New Member

    Aug 3, 2017
    Explain it like I am five:
    I have rarely towed anything. I don't currently own a vehicle with to tow a pop up, yet I am in the market for both a PUP and a TV. What do I need to know? Explain it like I am five.
  2. 94-D2

    94-D2 Happy Campin'

    May 21, 2010
    Sutter Creek CA
    Do not put rocks, the puppy, billy and joey in your big wheel and try to peddle up the hill Johnny. It will break and cost your daddy lots of money.

    Click here if this was helpful:
  3. speckhunter80

    speckhunter80 Active Member

    From a FB group: CAN I TOW IT?
    Good question to ask before you purchase or tow any camper or trailer. For the purposes of this document we are going to assume that you want to be able to tow safely and not cause damage to your tow vehicle or create an unsafe condition for you, your passengers or fellow travelers on the road.
    What you need to know about your tow vehicle are several weight limits set by the manufacturer of your vehicle.
    1. Maximum Tow Rating=this is the limit set by the manufacturer for the maximum weight you can tow and normally includes the hitch weight for a trailer
    2. Gross Axle Weight Rating(GAWR)=total allowable weight on each axle. You will have two numbers, one for the front axle and one for the rear axle. The weight includes the tires, brakes, wheels and the axle itself.
    3. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating(GVWR)=the total allowable weight for the vehicle including occupants, cargo, fluids, hitch hardware and trailer hitch weight
    4. Gross Combined Weight Rating(GCWR)=total allowable weight of the vehicle(curb weight), the trailer, the cargo in each, hitch hardware, fluids and occupants
    The GVWR and GAWR are found on the data plate in each vehicle normally located on the driver's side door frame or in the glove box or end of dash board.
    What you need to know about your camper
    1. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
    2. Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW) *
    3. Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC)
    * The UVW does not include the 52lb. battery or the 38lb. propane tank or the 2 Dutch Ovens, cast iron frying pan, griddle, microwave, toaster oven etc. The real world weight of your camper can be estimated to be app. 10% of the GVWR added to the dry weight(UVW).
    All of these should be located on the weight sticker located on the left front side wall and in an interior cabinet.
    OK, now that we know these figures we can make a reasonable decision if you can tow but remember the only sure fire guaranteed way to determine the weight of your trailer and tow vehicle is to load them up like you would for use and weigh them on a scale. Given that we can't always do this especially if we are thinking about buying we have to make some assumptions.
    Here is a simplified example of how to calculate the realistic towing capacity of a vehicle. Consider my tow vehicle. It has a 6800lb max tow rating. A GCWR of 9400 and a curb weight of 4900. As such I have 4500 lbs for a camper, cargo in the tow vehicle, passengers etc. The UVW of my camper is app 2750lbs with a GVWR of app. 3500 so I am assuming my camper when in use weighs approximately 3150-3200lbs allowing me to carry passengers and cargo of 1300lbs. Now I am as fat as a well fed breeder hog but I can assure you I don't weigh that much. Note, that even though my tow rating is 6800 pounds becasue of my GCWR and curb weight I can really only tow less then 4500lbs. So the moral is don't just go by the tow rating of your tow vehicle because in most cases you actually can not tow that much because of the GCWR.
    Now this discussion about tow ratings etc. does not take into account the need for electric brakes on your camper, WDH, increased suspension, transmission coolers etc.
    Hockeybjj likes this.
  4. 94-D2

    94-D2 Happy Campin'

    May 21, 2010
    Sutter Creek CA
    Great write up on weights but He said explain it like he is 5.

    Get a 3/4 ton Dodge and no more than a 4,000 lb pup. That should cover you all around.........
    NMroamer and Antipodes like this.
  5. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

    Oct 10, 2013
    Northern Virginia
    First line up all the campers/ pop-ups you like and get their GVWR number. (Not the dry weight). Then line up all the cars/SUV/trucks you like and has a tow rating more then the camper you are looking at. Unfortunately this is where it gets really tricky. Like mentioned above you can't always rely on the tow rating of the vehicle and if your going to tow in the mountains you need to leave more leeway in your calculations. Some manufacturers tow rating may only count a 250 driver and not passengers and cargo. If that is the case you need to add the weight of your family and gear and subtract it from the tow rating. To get actual tow rating. Now take out the cars that no longer have the rating for the list of pups you like. Your not done yet so you can't go and play yet. You need to find the gross tongue weight on all the camper in the line up and get the tongue weight restriction on all the cars in the line. Then take out the cars that has the lower number from the campers you like. Get the gross cargo weight restriction on all the cars you have left in your line get your calculator as you need to subtract the weight of the family and gear and subtract the GVWR from the campers in your line up to figure what you have left. Take out the cars from your list that have a negative number. If your towing in the mountains be sure to only look at the cars that have the highest number. Now with remaining line of cars find the one you and the family like better and look at the list of pop-ups you liked and get the one you like better and now you and the family can play.
  6. Jeff Oakes

    Jeff Oakes New Member

    Aug 3, 2017
    Okay, my eyes crossed and my fingers got a little numb, but I think it is sinking in. Some clarification on the GCWR; is this plainly stated anywhere or is this a calculated number? (where or how)?
    Suppose a TV had a curb weight of 4500 and a GVWR of 6000 and a tow rating of 4000. If I am pulling a trailer with a tongue weight of 200, I have 6000-4500-200=1300 for fuel, coolers, gadget chargers, gadget users, coolers, camping gear and hopefully some space for sedatives and beer? Does this mean I must calculate towing like this: CCWR-4500-200-1300=Towing Capacity?
    Thanks for the replies, it really does help!
  7. 1380ken

    1380ken Well-Known Member

    Nov 7, 2013
    First you need to decide what you need the TV for besides towing. If all you are going to use the TV for is towing then it is easy. Any large pickup or SUV will tow virtually any pop up camper with no issues.
  8. bols2Dawall

    bols2Dawall S.W. Ontario

    May 19, 2010
    How many people would be travelling with you , staying in the PUP , do you camp with a lot of stuff or minimal ? Do you expect to be driving long distances , through the mountains etc. ?
  9. Halford

    Halford Well-Known Member

    ok 5 year old boy,

    #1. you just need to know if your tow vehicle (TV) (maybe like the Tonka pick up truck) has a tow package, and can tow over 5,000 lbs like my Explorer with tow package can. If you want a popup, consider your TV first. Usually without tow package, most vehicles can only tow up to 2,000 Lbs while most popups are at or over 3,000 lbs heavy.

    If your TV can tow over 5,000 Lbs, go to #2.

    #2. just ignore all other weight except for GVWR. That is the only thing you need to know. Dry weight is worthless information so are other weight information. Some of these information are for manufacturers and trailer shop sellers. Oh well, also the tongue weight which is rarely a problem except if you add, add, add up too much weight on tongue (front of trailer).

    You can always go to weight scale at truck stops and see how much the popup weights with all the camp junk loaded inside. And the junk you load in your TV as well. Weight the popup separated from TV and then together. That is the most accurate weight information you need.

    That's simple for you?

    There are ultra-light popups out there that may weight under 2,000 lbs but you have to consider passengers, food, water and the junk.

    Just 2 things you need to know.
    YoursAndMine likes this.
  10. rabird

    rabird Howdy!

    Mar 3, 2006
    take the hitch weight carry rating like 3500/350.

    divide the 350 (weight carry tongue weight limit) by .13 (assume 13% TW).

    350 / .13 ~ 2700 lb trailer limit.

    the dry weight of such a trailer would be 2000-2300 lbs, its spec TW maybe less than 200 lb but will be near 300-350 lb loaded for camping.
  11. McFlyfi

    McFlyfi Member

    Aug 1, 2014
    Tow capacity comes up here often. It can be a math nightmare for people. The manufacturer says the vehicle is “rated” to tow a certain amount, right? So I can tow that amount, right?

    Not so fast. The manufacturer will state a maximum tow rating, “when properly equipped”. Note also that your vehicle has a “cargo capacity”.

    “Properly equipped” means different things to different manufacturers. It could be as little as having a Class III/IV hitch, or as much as having trans coolers, oil coolers, bigger radiators, bigger alternator, different axle ratios, engine combinations, etc.

    I prefer to look at my total capacity- Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating, or GCVWR, and work backwards, since the vehicle-trailer combo works as a single unit. This will give you your real world towing capacity- without a lot of calculations to clutter it.

    Your vehicle has a GCVWR. It is the total maximum weight your vehicle plus your trailer can weigh. It means that everything into the vehicle, in the trailer, the tongue weight, and the trailer is counted towards this rating.

    Lets look at a hypothetical situation:

    You have a mid sized SUV who’s “tow rating” per the manufacturer is 5,000lbs. Your GCVWR (per the manufacturer) is 10,000lbs. The curb weight of the vehicle is 5,000lbs. The curb weight is typically the weight of the vehicle ready to go, a tank of gas, and the 150lb driver.

    It’s easy to see here how the manufacturer came up with its tow rating- 10,000lbs (GCVWR) – 5,000lbs (Curb Wt) = 5000lbs= maximum tow rating. I can tow 5,000lbs, right?

    Of course, this simple number is not easy to hit. You’ve got a spouse, dogs, kids, coolers full of beer, you get the idea.

    Let’s now say that you’ve loaded your spouse, your stuff, your kids, and your beer into your SUV to go camping, and all of that “stuff” now weighs 1,000lbs.

    10,000lbs GCVWR - 1,000lbs “Stuff”- 5,000lbs Curb Wt = 4,000lbs trailer weight. Wait a minute! I lost a thousand pounds! My 5,000lb tow rating can only tow a 4,000 lb trailer?

    But wait! It gets worse! You stored some “stuff” in the trailer- bedding, pots, pans, towels, flashlights, water, propane, a battery, etc. Let’s say this “stuff” weighs 300 lbs.

    10,000lbs GCVWR - 5,000lbs Curb Wt - 1,000lbs Stuff - 300lbs stuff = 3,700 lbs trailer wt. Holy cow! It’s the incredible shrinking tow rating!

    More bad news. Your trailer has a “tongue weight”. This is how much the hitch resting on the hitch ball at the back of your SUV weighs. It is typically 10-15% of the trailer weight. A 2000lb trailer should have roughly 12% of the trailer weight as tongue weight, this would be 240 lbs.

    Guess what? This is weight on your vehicle, it is actually carrying the 240lbs as cargo.

    So here we go again:

    10,000lbs GCVWR – 5,000lbs Curb Wt – 1,000lbs Stuff – 300lbs Stuff – 240lbs Tongue Wt = 3,460 lbs trailer weight. Damn! Any more bad news?

    Fortunately, no. You’ve accounted for all of your weight, and as long as you don’t exceed that GCVWR, you are good. I this case, with the variables I’ve penciled out, in this instance, the mythical 5,000lb tow rating can actually tow an empty trailer of 3,460lbs (not actually true, as a 3,460lb trailer would have a tongue weight of approximately 415 lbs, throwing the calculation off as to the total cargo).

    There are other considerations too. You have a gross axle weight rating, so you can’t just throw all of that cargo directly over your rear axle, and some manufacturers of some mini vans don’t include the cargo capacity as part of the calculation. There are a lot of other etc, etc, etc’s to consider, and you won’t know the actual weight of all of this unless you actually weigh your rig. But working backwards from the GCVWR can give you a real world, theoretical maximum weight that you can tow with your vehicle, unlike the mythical, in-a-vacuum Tow Capacity touted by the manufacturer.

    Simply put, subtract the curb weight of the vehicle and everything you put into your vehicle and trailer from the GCVWR. There it is- that’s the amount you can tow in the real world.
    (Ducks and covers...)
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2017 at 12:20 PM
    YoursAndMine and Snow like this.
  12. Halford

    Halford Well-Known Member

    Forget the dry weight. that is important.
  13. speckhunter80

    speckhunter80 Active Member

    If you would tell us your year and model of your TV we might could tell you your GCWR
  14. bols2Dawall

    bols2Dawall S.W. Ontario

    May 19, 2010
    he doesn't have one yet
  15. CamperMike

    CamperMike Member

    Sep 27, 2012
    A simple but important thing to remember as well is to make sure the particular tv you want had the tow rating you think. On many mid size SUVs and minivans, the tow rating is very low unless it was purchased with the tow package. Those impressive tow ratings advertised might not apply to the vehicle you are looking at.

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