Q: What is Towing Capacity?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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Towing capacity refers to the maximum weight your vehicle is able to pull while towing -- i.e. the weight of a trailer, a boat, or another vehicle that you plan to tow. Although towing typically involves pulling weight in a trailer behind a vehicle on the road, towing can involve tractors and waterborne vessels. Towing capacity can also involve either braked or unbraked towing capacity. Towing capacity can be particularly important when purchasing certain types of vehicles, including a truck.

Braked towing capacity refers to the maximum amount a vehicle is able to tow when the trailer that is in tow possesses its own individual braking system. In this instance, the trailer will usually be connected to the braking system of the vehicle through a trailer cable. Unbraked towing capacity refers to the capacity of a vehicle that is towing a trailer without its own individual braking system. Unbraked towing capacity is usually less than braked towing capacity.

For a vehicle to tow another vehicle or trailer, a tow bar, recovery point or tow hitch is needed. This device is attached to the vehicle's chassis. A tow pin and jaw is frequently used for agricultural or large vehicles when slack is needed in the pivot pin to allow simultaneous movements. There are several different types of trailers that can be used for towing purposes. An open trailer or flatbed trailer uses a platform that possesses no sides. This type of trailer is a good option when hauling objects that are large or unconventional in shape. An enclosed trailer will be fully covered by a roof and four sides. This type of trailer is often used when hauling livestock because the cover will provide the animals with protection from poor weather. This type of trailer might also be used for hauling furniture, expensive cars and other items. Other types of trailers include those that can be used for hauling boats and recreational vehicles.

In 1998, the federal government passed a law that limits the mass of a vehicle that can be towed. Along with a vehicle's stated towing capacity, there are other factors that must be considered in regard to towing, including ball weight. Ball weight refers to the weight that resides on the ball hitch. The towing capacity of a truck, jeep, or other vehicle can usually be found in the owner's manual. You must also account for the combined weight of the vehicle you are driving, the weight of everything packed in the vehicle being towed, passengers, and fuel. When towing another vehicle or trailer, it is important to keep in mind that the brakes and suspension are carrying the extra load. If the vehicle that is being towed does not have its own independent braking system, the brakes in the towing vehicle must be sufficient and designed specifically for the type of towing you will be conducting. This is why it is important to be aware of the towing capacity of a vehicle before you attempt to use it for any type of towing.

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