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Old 10-21-2020, 07:39 AM   #1
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Are They Meaningless? Tow Limits, Payload and Axle Load

It is common in the towing community to hear that towing and hauling load limits from the manufacturers are all over the place with little or no relevance to vehicle ability to pull a trailer down the road. You often hear the numbers are meaningless and you hear this from novices, those who are seasoned and experienced and some who are considered experts in the field of towing.

One group notably absent from this group are the engineers and technicians employed by vehicle manufacturers who directly determine, test and establish tow and haul ratings.

How can this be that there is so much disagreement outside of the pool of those who establish these limits?

The claims seem to get started by the large group of people who don't understand how the limits are established nor how to interpret the limits. Many who do have some understanding seem to prefer to perpetuate the rumors and myths for some reason or another. The rare Engineering expert (Collyn for example) comes along from time to time and tries to shed some light on the topic.

So this thread will once again attempt to discuss and explain the meaning of these numbers and why they seem to be all over the place with no obvious basis used to establish or apply them.
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Old 10-21-2020, 08:18 AM   #2
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Yes.
Nothing good happens when someone else's misunderstood numbers replace common sense.🤓

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Old 10-21-2020, 08:33 AM   #3
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It would be interesting to hear from vehicle designers, engineers, etc. The automotive industry has to deal with government regulations that undoubtedly come into play here, there are most certainly safety margins and limits that are imposed on designers by the manufacturer, and I would expect that there are other factors that influence the published ratings. I'm not saying that I think the published numbers are too low, or shouldn't be heeded, I'm just making an observation.
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Old 10-21-2020, 09:05 AM   #4
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Subscribing as this is of great interest to me, especially after reading this article by Andy Thompson in which he dispels everything I thought I knew about Payload. (scroll down to Payload) https://rvlifemag.com/towing-half-to...e-quarter-ton/
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Old 10-21-2020, 09:24 AM   #5
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We should also keep in mind that manufactures' limits are in-part determined by the weakest link in the chain.

I recall a conversation I had with a few automotive engineers back in 1999 or so. I took a long weekend and rode my motorcycle from Santa Fe to Denver, taking the long and twisty back way. After crossing a particular pass, I stopped at a gas station / convenience store to fuel up and stretch my legs. While walking around, I spied a funny-looking dually truck that I couldn't quite identify so I walked up and started talking to the "owner".

It turns out that this was a 2003(?) future GMC Sierra 3500HD with Duramax and a team of GM engineers was measuring performance data at extreme conditions. The body panels were somewhat fake, since the body design was still in progress. The interior was gutted, with 3 or 4 laptop computers bolted to console and dashboard. The team had been in Death Valley the previous week, and now they were pulling a heavy trailer through 12k passes. IIRC, they were specifically working on engine cooling and HVAC (but I don't really remember all the details 20 years later). I do recall those young engineers were having the time of their lives and were not looking forward to heading back to Rochester when they wrapped up the data collection.

Since most of us do not tow at maximum trailer limits in these extreme conditions, it could be easy to fall into the "I can exceed TV limits--I do it all the time" mindset; we don't ever run into the engineering failure break points with our usage patterns. Maybe this is a false sense of security, or maybe it's legitimate since we're not really pushing overall design limits.

In summary, there is likely additional towing bandwidth available as long as you're not at the extreme operating conditions. But I would like to hear from real automotive design engineers on this topic.
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Old 10-21-2020, 09:32 AM   #6
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Thanks Brian. This makes sense. Years ago I worked for a truck equipment business and we sold trailers and about everything we could hang on a truck..certifying trucks etc.. This piece covers all the concerns...axels, brakes, engine, properly set up hitches etc...dont forget the trailer breaks and properly loading the trailer..and some trucks have systems that sense trailer sway and correct.
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Old 10-21-2020, 09:40 AM   #7
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I doubt if the new tow limits tested by the J standards are meaningless.
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Old 10-21-2020, 10:31 AM   #8
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Looking at manufactures web sites, one looks at their suggested tow ratings and wonders if the profit motive for upselling drives the number. As an example, my 2012 Ram has a GVW of 9,600 pounds. After adding just one leaf spring on the rear it suddenly has a 11,000 pound tow rating. No other parts are changed.

But a 3500 model sells for more $$$
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Old 10-21-2020, 10:34 AM   #9
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Watching with interest. Thanks Brian!
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Old 10-21-2020, 10:38 AM   #10
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Toyota is the only manufacture who files their J standards as I understand.
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Old 10-21-2020, 10:40 AM   #11
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I want to know more

Personally, I wish I understood the process to determine tow ratings. Specifically I would really like to buy a restored 1954 Chevrolet Panel van or Suburban, and would like to tow my AS with it. But how do I know if it is safe?
With a modern engine and replacement front end and brakes it might tow just fine, but how could I be sure?
If I mis-judge or run on faith I could be out a tonne of money and cause serious injuries. Not a risk I am willing to take.
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Old 10-21-2020, 10:44 AM   #12
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Old 10-21-2020, 10:55 AM   #13
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Tow ratings are meaningless until one of two things happen.

1. Stop by police with a set of scales.
2. Have an accident and the attorney of the family you killed looks at the numbers.

Enjoy,
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Old 10-21-2020, 10:56 AM   #14
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I can say they do and for the obvious safety reasons we read so much about. But I can share a personal experience with my 2019 F150. I usually run pretty close or at payload capacity pulling my 2019 Globetrotter. On one of my longer trips I made plans to pull over and sleep for a couple of nights at Gander, Walmart, etc. As a result I my grey, black and fresh water tanks were pretty full. Then I fueled up my 36 gallon gas tank. After 5 miles on I95 in SC every sensor in the truck malfunctioned; Pre-Collision, Hill Start Assist, Parking Aid, etc. No cruise control and no Tow mode either. Coincidentally, I went to Cat Scales for first time and was 600 pounds over payload! Lots of water weight. The next day all was OK. Mmmm. Tanks are now empty. Ford dealer was useless. Actually more than useless. 7K miles of towing have passed, I now manage my payload much more carefully, the Cat Scales are my good friend, and have never had this problem with the truck again. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not.
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Old 10-21-2020, 10:58 AM   #15
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This is a post I want to pay attention to.

The problem I have\had was not being able to access the proper data pertaining to my specific TV model, a jeep grand Cherokee v6 diesel. the job of marketing is to sell, one has to keep that in mind. so when manufacturer tells you the tow capacity is 6200lbs in the literature, but then you learn about tongue weight and pull up a chart that shows Jeep v6 with a TW capacity 350lbs, you have to ask yourself, what is going on here? How could anyone expect to tow a trailer that is close to 6000lbs with a jeep that only has a 350LBs TW capacity? the TW has to be somewhere around 600 to 1k lbs for a trailer this size right? So would a WD kit really solve this problem? I guess the CAT scale is the only answer.. I got some good advice on this forum that I would need a WD hitch despite the electronic system already installed w my tow package. But there is plenty of room to learn more about this for sure.
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Old 10-21-2020, 10:58 AM   #16
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A combination of the following in no particular order. No manufacturer has to explain to the consumer why or how they made a determination for a specific weight limit.

1. To meet FMVSS
2. SAE Towing standard
3. Manufacturers internal durability requirements
4. To target a specific vehicle class limit.
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Old 10-21-2020, 11:01 AM   #17
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This may be a too simple minded approach, but I checked the specs on 1/2 trucks to see if they were sufficient for my trailer, they were; so I got a 3/4 ton and forgot about it and I haven't regretted it, especially in mountain driving.
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Old 10-21-2020, 11:03 AM   #18
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ITSNO60 - thank you so much for sharing the link. I feel so much better about towing with my F-150 now.
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Old 10-21-2020, 11:11 AM   #19
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This is a post I want to pay attention to.

The problem I have\had was not being able to access the proper data pertaining to my specific TV model, a jeep grand Cherokee v6 diesel. the job of marketing is to sell, one has to keep that in mind. so when manufacturer tells you the tow capacity is 6200lbs in the literature, but then you learn about tongue weight and pull up a chart that shows Jeep v6 with a TW capacity 350lbs, you have to ask yourself, what is going on here? How could anyone expect to tow a trailer that is close to 6000lbs with a jeep that only has a 350LBs TW capacity? the TW has to be somewhere around 600 to 1k lbs for a trailer this size right? So would a WD kit really solve this problem? I guess the CAT scale is the only answer.. I got some good advice on this forum that I would need a WD hitch despite the electronic system already installed w my tow package. But there is plenty of room to learn more about this for sure.
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Old 10-21-2020, 12:43 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis C View Post
It would be interesting to hear from vehicle designers, engineers, etc. The automotive industry has to deal with government regulations that undoubtedly come into play here, there are most certainly safety margins and limits that are imposed on designers by the manufacturer, and I would expect that there are other factors that influence the published ratings. I'm not saying that I think the published numbers are too low, or shouldn't be heeded, I'm just making an observation.
There is at least one current participant who acknowledges having worked in the industry directly performing tests of towing stability and that is Collyn. He has also published several books on this topic. perhaps he will chime in with his thoughts.
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