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If you’re ready to buy a travel trailer, there’s something you need to do first – find the towing capacity of your vehicle.
This is a critically important step because if you get a trailer that exceeds the towing capacity of your vehicle, you run the risk of causing damage to the engine, drivetrain, and suspension of your vehicle, not to mention the hazard of trying to pull (and stop) a trailer that’s too big for your rig.
The good news is that there’s a simple way to determine the towing capacity of your specific vehicle – by using its VIN number.
Can’t I Find the Towing Capacity on Google?
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Yes, you can. But what you might find is that the information provided to you might be inaccurate or conflicting.
Instead of taking up your time doing online search after online search, you can find the towing capacity of your specific vehicle by using its VIN number. This way you know precisely what your vehicle can tow because you’re using the specific information for your vehicle to determine its capacity.
So, how do you do that?
How to Find the Towing Capacity Using the VIN
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The VIN number of your vehicle can be found in a variety of places:
- The driver’s side dashboard
- The driver’s side doorjamb
- On the vehicle’s title
- On your insurance card
- On the vehicle’s registration
The easiest method to find the towing capacity is to use the VIN sticker on the driver’s side doorjamb, as it lists some of the information we need right on the sticker.
When you find the VIN number, you’ll notice that it doesn’t list the specific tow rating. We’ll have to calculate it using other information provided by the VIN.
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First, look for the curb weight of your vehicle. Then add the weight of the cargo, fuel, and passengers you’ll be carrying in your vehicle.
Next, subtract this combined number from the vehicle’s Gross Combined Weight Rating, or GCWR. This number should be on the VIN sticker.
The resulting number is the maximum towing capacity of your vehicle.
So, let’s use my 2016 RAM 2500 4×4 Cummins as an example:
- Curb weight: 6,749 lbs.
- Passengers (estimated), fuel (a full tank), and cargo (maximum rating): 2,681 lbs.
Now, we add these two numbers together to get 9,430 lbs.
Next, we subtract this number from the truck’s GCWR, which is 24,300 lbs. The result is 14,870 lbs. This is the maximum towing capacity of my truck.
What Factors Affect Towing Capacity?
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There’s a variety of things that affect a vehicle’s towing capacity…
The engine size and type will play a large role in how much you can tow. Obviously the 6.7 Cummins diesel in my truck can muster a lot more power to pull my camper than the 2.5L 4-cylinder gas engine in my Subaru WRX.
Other things to consider are the vehicle’s chassis and suspension, the axle ratios, the load ratings, and tires.
But just because my truck ticks all the right boxes when it comes to these factors, it doesn’t mean that I can max out the towing capacity at 14,870 lbs. Other factors are at play, primarily the hitch type and class you have on your vehicle.
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For example, you can tow more weight when using a fifth-wheel hitch than you can when using a standard receiver hitch mounted to the frame under the rear bumper.
Likewise, if you use a standard receiver hitch, its class will determine how much weight you can tow. For example, a Class I receiver hitch is rated up to 2,000 lbs. A Class IV receiver hitch, which is what I have on my truck, is rated up to 10,000 lbs.
So now you can see the caveat with my truck’s towing capacity – the truck’s capacity is 14,870 lbs., but since the hitch receiver is limited to 10,000 lbs., that is the maximum weight I can safely tow (unless I use the fifth-wheel hitch in the bed).
The moral of the story is that you can’t just Google “what is my vehicle’s towing capacity” and blindly use whatever number pops up. You need to think about these different variables and how they impact your vehicle’s ability to tow a trailer.
So, before you dive in and buy a new camper, be sure you thoroughly research what your specific vehicle can tow. It’s much easier using the VIN method – and more accurate too. When safety is at stake, being accurate matters!