Just bought a camper or boat? Maybe a utility trailer to haul stuff from the hardware store? Whatever the reason, if you’ve got a receiver hitch and plan to do some towing, you should do a bit of homework first.

The good news is, trailering and towing isn’t that tough, as long as you’ve got a good handle on the basics.

Understanding terms like Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR), tongue weight, and tire load rating will help you confidently manage your trailer and avoid trouble.

Our pal Tommy took his “Spongebob Squaretrailer” along on Hot Rod Drag Week. You can read more about his adventure here. (Image/Jim Greenleaf)

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

This is the maximum total safe weight of your vehicle, counting the curb weight (the weight of the vehicle when empty), plus the weight of your passengers, fuel, cargo, and trailer tongue weight.


Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)

This is the maximum safe weight of the vehicle, passengers, gear, and trailer.


Tongue Weight

Most campers and boat trailers are manufactured to maintain the proper tongue weight (the downward weight on the trailer ball; typically, 10-15% of the total trailer weight). Improperly placed cargo can affect this, especially in campers. It’s best to load gear evenly throughout the camper. When loading an empty trailer, achieving the correct tongue weight will help prevent trailer sway or an overloaded rear axle on your tow vehicle.


Tire Load Rating

Tires have a load rating listed on the sidewall in the form of an index that ranges from 0-150 (99 lbs. to 7,385 lbs.) to indicate the maximum weight a tire can carry. (You can learn a lot more on tire load index here.) When replacing tires, this index should meet or exceed the vehicle GVWR. Running tires rated below your vehicle’s GVWR will reduce its overall weight capacity and may cause instability and tire failure. Information on your vehicle’s towing specifications can be found in the owner’s manual or door sticker.


Understanding things like GVWR and tire load index is vitally important, regardless of what you’re towing—or how you’re towing it.. Click here to see more of the roof-mounted hitch on this incredible 1972 Caprice. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

These terms are just the start. Summit Racing made a quick video specifically for vehicle trailering that goes into a bit more detail. Give it a watch below:

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