Episode 166: Towing Safety 101

On this weeks show I am walking you through the basics of matching your tow vehicle to your RV. I am breaking down and defining the terms associated with towing safety.  I’m also laying out the formula used to determine what size RV can be safely towed by what sized tow vehicle.

Some terms we hear discussed at RV dealerships and on social media groups dedicated to RVing are below. It’s a good idea for those new to towing to familiarize themselves with these terms.

GVWR – Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This number indicates the maximum amount of weight that can be carried in that RV. This would be fully loaded. It is what the industry has determined through federal guidelines that the frame, and axle, and wheels can accommodate. It is a federal law that each RV or travel trailer that leaves a factory must have this number in the left front corner of the outside of the trailer on a non removable plate. 

UVW – Unloaded Vehicle Weight. This is sometimes referred to as the dry weight. When a travel trailer leaves the factory it is individually weighed. The weight for that trailer is connected to its vin number and is specific to that individual trailer. You can have two trailers made the same day at the same plant that will have two different UVW ratings. It depends on the options that are put on them. An awning on a trailer can weigh a lot. An added 30 # propane tank can add another 25 pounds empty –  54#’s when it’s full. Also keep in mind that if you bring that trailer home and do modifications to it before you put one thing in it, every modification you make adds to your UVW.

CCC- Cargo Carrying Capacity. This number is also on the label in the left front corner of your RV. It can also sometimes be found on the inside of the door. This number tells you how much weight you can add to your RV when you’re packing it. The CCC on my Liberty Outdoors Max is 660 pounds. The axle and the tires are not rated to carry more than this amount of added weight. 

GVWR – UVW = CCC

The GVWR on my Max trailer is 3800 pounds. When I deduct the 3,140 pound UVW (or the dry weight as some people like to say), I arrive at the number 660 which is my Cargo Carrying Capacity. This simply means I cannot put more than 660 pounds of stuff in my trailer.

Tongue weight – the downward force that the tongue of the trailer exerts on the hitch that is connected to the vehicle. … Experts agree that an acceptable tongue weight for any trailer is somewhere between 9 to 15 percent of the gross trailer weight. 

Your tow vehicle also has ratings that you need to be aware of. 

There are three numbers to concern yourself with in your tow vehicle. 

Your tow vehicle also has a GVWR which can be found on the door jam or the door itself on your tow vehicle. This number reflects the maximum amount of weight that vehicle can have in total. It’s made up of the weight of the vehicle itself, what’s in it and the tongue weight of anything it’s pulling. 

The Cargo Carrying Capacity number is also listed on the door. That’s how much stuff you put in your tow vehicle. 

The UVR or dry weight, is what it weighs empty but with a small amount added for gas. This number is a little trickier to find. You can find it in your owners manual. You can also get that number by taking your gross vehicle weight rating and deducting your cargo carrying capacity. That will give you a number close to what your vehicle weighs dry.

There is one last number to concern yourself with and it’s called the GCWR. This number reflects the total of the GVWR for your tow vehicle and the RV together. It is the maximum allowable combination of your tow vehicle, its passengers and cargo combined with the weight of the RV and its cargo. This rating is set by the vehicle manufacturer. I got this number from my owners manual but you can also get it from a website. At this website you put in your Vin number and all the details about your vehicle will come up including the gross combined weight rating. 

It’s important to understand these terms and adhere to these guidelines. If you don’t have the power needed to get up to speed quickly or you’re overloaded on pin weight and start swaying, serious things can happen.

I hope this gave you a good general overview of these terms and the importance of towing below the maximum ratings. On next weeks show I am going to be talking about SUVs with the towing capacity of 5000 pounds. These vehicles come in well below most trucks but a step above the 3500 pounds that have so many people towing right on the edge.

A good resource for more detailed information on this subject is the RV Safety and Education Foundation.