12 Tips on How to Maximize Efficiency Towing a RV
As someone who has owned a few different travel trailers and trucks, the question I often get asked or see out there the most is, “What can I safely tow with my truck or SUV?” Or, “I want to buy X trailer, can I haul this with my vehicle safely?”
Today, I’ll explain everything you need about travel trailer towing in the simplest language. It’s a crash course on tow capacity, payload, hitch ratings, sway control, and everything else.
Before we get started, there’re some terminologies we first need to go through;
1) Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
The GCVWR is the maximum amount your vehicle is supposed to weigh when fully loaded. It’s usually a manufacturer-specified rating and includes the maximum weight of the truck, fully loaded with fuel, and the hitch weight of your trailer.
Usually, the GVWR is specified in your driver’s side door jam.
2) Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)
GCWR is how much total your trailer and vehicle can weigh with all your cargo and everything loaded. It also includes the passenger’s weight.
In short, it’s the maximum weight your tow vehicle can haul, including the vehicle, travel trailer, and all associated gear and people.
Or, instead of the GCWR, you can find the towing capacity of your vehicle. It’s one and the same.
But here’s how to find the towing capacity: (GCWR- GVWR). It makes sense because the GVWR +Tow capacity= GCWR.
You also need to know your vehicle payload. It’s the maximum amount of weight a vehicle can safely carry. In typical car or SUV, it includes all the weight in the cabin and trunk. Whereas a truck, it consists of all the weight in the cabin and bed.
The payload is usually different across the board, even on the same brand and type of vehicle. It usually depends on your vehicle’s options and the different ways it’s configured. For example, on my F150, Ford advertises it with a 3k+ payload, but my truck is only 1,400 pounds- half of what they’re advertising.
This is because vehicles have different options installed, which makes them heavier, thus reducing the payload. There are also different configurations- think about the axle ratios, transmissions, engine choices, etc.
To prove my point, you’ll find that some half-ton trucks have a higher payload capacity than three-quarter-ton trucks.
For example, an F250 may have a payload capacity of 1,700 lbs. On the other hand, a properly configured F150 may have a payload of 2,000+ lbs.
Another important element you need to know for payload capacity is the estimated weight of all your passengers and cargo. You’ll need to add this to the hitch weight of your trailer to know if you’re over payload or not.
4) Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of your Travel Trailer
The GVWR of your TT is the same thing I mentioned earlier. The GVWR of your truck is how much it weighs loaded-same for your travel trailer (including propane, batteries, food, etc.).
A travel trailer will have a dry weight, the unloaded “dry” weight of the trailer. It’s also known as the “tare weight” if you get your TT weighed on a truck scale.
It’s the weight of your trailer without anything. It’s a useless number, but the problem is most salesmen will use this number and trick you into thinking your truck can handle it.
You want to look at the GVWR of your TT, which is how much your travel trailer can weigh legally if you load it up with everything you need. Dry weight isn’t realistic, and you should never base anything on it.
Therefore, when shopping for a truck (TV) to tow to TT, always ensure the GCVWR (TV)> GVWR (TV) + GVWR (TT).
5) Hitch weight/tongue weight
The hitch weight of your trailer is another data point you need to know. It’s also known as the pin weight or hitch weight.
It’s the weight that is pressing down on the hitch onto your vehicle. It’s available in your trailer’s specification.
But be aware that most manufacturers’ hitch weight is the “dry” weight and doesn’t include batteries, propane tanks, food, water, etc. The extras add a lot of weight to the hitch.
However, you can safely determine the hitch weight by multiplying your trailer GCWR by 0.15. The tongue weight is approximately 10-15% of the trailer’s total weight.
Trailer Hitch Ratings
Trailer hitches can get slightly confusing because it’s a multi-faceted component. It consists of three main parts:
- The receiver-the part of your truck which the hitch goes into
- The hitch itself
- The hitch ball
Now, without getting caught up in all of these, you need to look at all three components separately and see that they make sense for your truck setup and match each other.
For instance, all three hitch components in my trailer have a weight rating of 8,000 lbs., perfectly matching my trailer. However, depending on your trailer, it might be different.
The problem is in case one of the components in the equation is less than everything else, it will be a limiting factor.
For example, if your hitch is rated for 10,000 lbs., your hitch receiver is 12,000 lbs., and you have an 8,000 lbs hitch ball, the hitch ball will be your limiting factor. It’s the lowest point in your truck hitch setup. So, from the above setup, you shouldn’t exceed 8,000 lbs. unless you change the ball.
Trailer hitch receivers are classified from class I to class V depending on the weight ratings.
Class I: Perfect for small cars and midsized crossovers. Tow capacity of up to 2,000 lbs.
Class II: Ideal for large cars, crossovers, and minivans. Tow capacity of 3,500 lbs.
Class III: Most popular and ideal for full-size vans, trucks, and SUVs. It can pull up to 5,000 lbs.
Class IV: Ideal for full-size vans, large boats, campers, and trucks. Tow capacity of 10,000 lbs.
Class V: Can accommodate up to 20,000 lbs. and are great for full-size trucks or SUVs configured for towing heavy loads.
Understand that manufacturers are in competition and always trying to claim the highest towing capacity for their products.
So, there’re a few things to keep in mind. First, understanding the towing capacity is a marketing gimmick. Next, the truck you buy isn’t going to have anything near the stated towing capacity as they’re advertising in the commercials.
The trucks most brands advertise are specific packages; it might be a stripped-out model with extra towing gears that nobody orders, etc. Their rating is based on the J208 test.
In short, the truck you’ll get isn’t anywhere set up that way and therefore doesn’t have such a high tow rating.
Towing capacity is usually meaningless. Throw that right out. The reason is you will always max out your payload before getting to your tow cap or GCWR.
The basic rule of thumb is to stay at 80% or less of your overall truck rating. You need to leave some wiggle room because you might need to throw some random stuff into the two vehicles. Having some extra room for weight is also handy when it’s snowy. You’d be amazed by how much weight adds up faster than expected.
It’s also important when starting, but as you gain more experience and confidence, you can approach the max truck rating more if you like.
Why You Shouldn’t Go Over Your Payload Capacity
You should adhere to your truck’s rated payload capacity for several reasons, even if you think your truck can handle it.
Number one is that it’s illegal. You face penalties, revoked driving license, or even risk jail time if you’re found to excessively or dangerously load your truck.
Another issue is liability. If God forbid, you were to get involved in some sort of accident, someone was injured, or there was a sort of property damage, then good luck in any sort of lawsuit.
The final thing is general safety. Even if you don’t get into an accident, exceeding the towing capacity on your truck puts a strain on the engine, brakes, tire, suspension, and other components. It significantly damages your vehicle while putting you at a safety risk.
Do I Need A Weight Distribution Hitch?
Your dealer is probably going to mention a weight distribution hitch. Yes, it costs more and is an added expense, but necessary. I consider it a must-purchase.
A weight distribution hitch makes your life easier and allows effortless handling of your truck. Remember, things like wind, trucks, or other class-A trucks passing by can make your trailer skittish. A weight distribution hitch helps with this.
RV Towing Safety: Sway
Trailer sway is a common issue and dangerous: if you’ve ever been through trailer sway, you know it’s one of the scariest experiences.
A few things contribute to a swaying travel trailer, but the most common one is unbalanced weight. Towing stability depends on the weight distribution of the travel trailer. Your trailer is more stable when more of the trailer’s weight is at the front rather than at the back.
It’s extremely important and why trailers aren’t balanced and have more weight on the front than on the back. Of course, this contributes to the payload problem because you’ll have all that weight pushing down on the hitch. However, it creates a more stable towing experience and minimizes the sway.
Other factors contributing to the trailer sway are crosswinds, improperly loaded setup, improperly inflated tires, or simply having a long trailer with a lot of side area.
How to Increase Towing Capacity
You could implement
several mods on your existing truck to increase your towing capacity. Check them out:
Upgrade your hitch
As mentioned earlier, upgrading to one of the limiting hitch components can drastically improve your truck’s towing capacity.
Install a weight distribution hitch
A weight distribution hitch levels the trailer and reduces sway. It generally improves your vehicle’s performance and may help with the towing capacity.
Upgrade your brakes
Braking power is usually a limiting factor in the load your truck can handle. You can step up the towing capacity by upgrading to larger brake pads and rotors.
Replace the axle
This is a more expensive upgrade, but if you can get some beefier axle options, your truck might be able to withstand the more demanding towing tasks.
This video was inserted for its explanation of the subject matter. Thanks to:
Keep Your Daydream
That’s a wrap and everything you need to know about your truck’s towing capacity. It’s a seemingly complicated affair, but I’ve broken down everything for simpler digestion.
The most important thing is always to have some wiggle room on your truck’s towing capacity and never exceed this capacity.
Towing a recreational vehicle (RV) can be a challenging task, but by following some tips and guidelines, you can maximize your efficiency and make the journey safer and more comfortable. Here are some tips for maximizing efficiency while towing an RV:
- Choose the right tow vehicle: Make sure your tow vehicle is rated to tow your RV’s weight and that it has the appropriate tow hitch and towing package. The right tow vehicle will help you maximize fuel efficiency, handling, and safety.
- Load your RV properly: Distribute the weight evenly throughout the RV to ensure stability and reduce sway. Pack heavier items closer to the floor and near the axles.
- Check tire pressure: Properly inflated tires can help you maximize fuel efficiency and reduce wear and tear on your RV and tow vehicle.
- Use the right gear: When towing uphill or downhill, use the right gear to maintain your speed and prevent your brakes from overheating. Avoid sudden braking and use engine braking when necessary.
- Keep a safe distance: Give yourself plenty of space to brake and maneuver. It’s especially important to keep a safe distance when driving at high speeds or in windy conditions.
- Plan your route: Avoid steep hills, tight curves, and congested areas. Plan your route in advance and research low-traffic routes that are less stressful and more efficient.
- Maintain your RV and tow vehicle: Regularly check your RV and tow vehicle for maintenance issues such as worn tires, damaged suspension, or brake problems. Keep your RV and tow vehicle in good condition to ensure safety and efficiency.
By following these tips, you can maximize efficiency while towing your RV and make your journey safer and more enjoyable.