Safe Trailer Towing Capacity


Pulling a trailer is not as simple as hooking the trailer up to the towing vehicle. Not only must you keep towing capacity in mind, but you must pay careful attention to every other detail as well, or the results could be harmful to your vehicle and your safety. When pulling trailers with your truck or SUV, there are several things that you need to take into consideration. These things include the following:


  • Make sure the trailer is mechanically sound with proper lighting and good tires
  • Make sure that you do not exceed trailer tongue or towing weight
  • Make sure you do not exceed the vehicle's rated capacity for towing


The towing capacity for a truck or SUV is the maximum weight that you can pull with that vehicle. The capacity takes into consideration several factors, including the gross vehicle weight and the design of the vehicle in question. If you try to exceed recommended capacities, you put yourself in danger because the load you are towing affects braking and handling. You can also cause serious damage to the vehicle's drive train if you exceed the limits that the vehicle is capable of towing.


When you hear the term gross vehicle weight, this is the weight of a truck or SUV when it is fully loaded. "Fully loaded" means with all fluids topped off, any optional equipment installed on the vehicle and the combined weight of passengers and cargo in the vehicle at the limit as found on the vehicle's tire and loading information label. It is important that customers should never exceed the tire load limits by having a combined weight of passengers and cargo that exceeds the limit found on their vehicle's tire and loading information label.


With trailer towing capacity, you must consider the gross combination weight rating. This figure includes the gross vehicle weight plus the gross vehicle weight of the trailer. When added together, you should never exceed this figure for any reason.


The tongue weight of the trailer is the force applied to the trailer hitch when you are pulling a trailer. To determine the tongue weight of a trailer, you must first determine the gross trailer weight. This is usually visible on an information plate on the trailer, or you will have to figure it out by weighing your vehicle on a truck scale. Review GMC's Towing Capacity Guide to understand how much weight you can confidently and safely trailer with different GMC model lines.


Pulling a trailer that is too light or not loaded properly can be as dangerous as pulling one that is too heavy but for different reasons. For instance, the tongue weight ensures that the trailer has enough weight to help it stay secure on the hitch, along with the ball-locking device. On the other hand, pulling a trailer that is too heavy for the tow rating on a vehicle can make it more difficult to steer and brake.


The tongue weight should be between 10% -15% of the gross trailer weight. The actual figure will depend on the trailer classification (Light Duty (I), Medium Duty (II), Heavy Duty (III), Extra Heavy Duty (IV) or Maximum Heavy Duty (V)), weight range of the trailer and hitch type.