How to check the towing capacity of your pickup truck

truck towing trailer

This excellent, short video (a little longer than 3 minutes) does a great job explaining and illustrating the many weight terms associated with a vehicle and anything it’s towing. Knowing all these terms is essential for operating a vehicle safely.

The video was made by Chevrolet to explain the weight terms associated with a Chevy truck and a trailer it might be towing. But it applies almost equally to every other truck and nearly all automobiles that would be used to tow a travel trailer or any other vehicle attached with a trailer hitch.

If the terms GVWR, GCWR, tongue weight, curb weight or payload are confusing to you, this will quickly bring you up to speed on what they mean. There are other terms as well, all covered here.

GVWR, for example, the first term above, stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. It’s the maximum allowable weight of your vehicle including its parts, passengers and cargo.

Unless you’re familiar with all the weight terms associated with towing something behind your vehicle, watching this video would be a valuable use of your time.



  1. In Dave’s answer he said to limit towing capacity by 10%, when it applies to lighter vehicles such as the GMC Canyon I like to use a 15% number. In an emergency stop situation that extra 5% can be the difference in stopping safely or abruptly against another object. With the gentleman’s truck weighing 4400+ lbs the difference between his truck and a standard 1/2T weighing in excess of 6000 lbs when the 10% standard was written can be significant. I used the 15% standard when setting up my truck/trailer combo, actually it’s 18%, and I only had a problem one time when my load equalizer bars needed one more chain link adjustment. But I did find that the antilock brakes work on the front wheels when I heard chirp, chirp, chirp and still had steering control. An adjustment of one more link solved the problem.

  2. The video doesn’t pay enough attention to the Payload rating which is usually the limiting factor for one-ton trucks. It includes the weight of: after-market accessories, passengers, pets, cargo both in-cab and in-bed, tongue weight, the weight of the hitch, ice chests, etc.

    That’s the first number to check when matching a vehicle and a trailer. If Payload capacity is OK, then check the others but they’ll likely be good.


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