Nobody’s perfect, and we all make mistakes. However, some errors while towing can create a dangerous situation for you and others on the road.
There are several common towing capacity mistakes we see RVers making. Because we want you to be safe while traveling, we’re sharing these towing mistakes so you can avoid making them too.
Let’s get started.
Towing Capacity Is Important to Get Right
Getting your towing capacity wrong is a major mistake. You can cause damage and premature wear and tear to the suspension on both your RV and your tow vehicle. Manufacturers can void warranties if they find evidence that you’ve exceeded your towing capacity.
You may experience handling issues and potentially even mechanical failure when you push the limits. So make sure you keep your towing numbers in check and have a capable vehicle to get the job done.
7 Towing Capacity Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid
You can easily avoid many towing capacity mistakes. If you want to get the best towing experience, stay safe, and keep your RV and tow vehicle out of the shop, avoid these issues. Here are seven of the most common ones.
Uneven Weight Distribution
When packing up your RV, it’s essential to consider where you place the weight. An ideal towing situation would mean evenly distributing the weight throughout your RV. Having too much weight on one side of your RV can cause uneven wear on your tires.
Many RVers experience trailer sway due to uneven weight distribution. Those with toy haulers or bumper-mounted cargo-carrying racks often push weight distribution limits.
You can also overdo it by putting too much on the rear axle of your tow vehicle. This can cause you to lose traction on your front tires and have steering issues.
Wrong Tire Pressure for Your Load
Your RV’s tires will have a maximum PSI printed on their sidewall. This rating tells you the maximum carrying capacity. Ensure you have the correct tire pressure for your weight and check an inflation chart from your tire manufacturer. These charts tell you how much pressure your tires should have before driving.
You don’t want your tires to have too much or too little pressure. Both situations can cause premature wear and tear and lead to a complete tire failure.
If you’ve never seen the damage a tire blowout can cause, trust us, it isn’t a pretty sight. A single blown tire can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your RV. Additionally, it can be dangerous for you and others on the road.
Getting the Tongue Weight Wrong
Don’t put too much or not enough weight on your tow vehicle. You don’t want to risk going over the GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating). Putting too much on the rear axle will take more off the front axle of your truck used for steering. This can make it difficult to maneuver.
On the other hand, not enough weight on your tongue means the trailer axles could carry too much of the load. This can cause sway, even during normal driving conditions. Don’t overload the rear of your RV or take too much weight off the tongue.
Not Knowing the Weight Limit of Your Tow Vehicle
You must know the weight limit of your tow vehicle. Verify these numbers before hitching up and ensure that your truck can handle the load. Don’t take a salesperson’s word for it. You want to check these numbers for yourself.
Just because your vehicle can pull the weight doesn’t mean it’s capable. Tow vehicles can often pull more than their ratings, but not safely.
You also have to consider whether your truck can stop the weight behind it. This could mean the difference between rear-ending someone or stopping a safe distance behind them.
Ignoring Your Weight Ratings Altogether
We’ve seen our fair share of RVers who choose to ignore weight ratings altogether, almost as if they’re optional or just recommendations. By doing so, you risk your and others’ safety.
If you choose to ignore your weight ratings and get in an accident, you could have a lawsuit on your hands. Insurance companies can deny an insurance claim due to you exceeding your capacities.
So who will pay for the repairs and medical bills? You! You’ll likely find yourself in a courtroom pleading your case. A judge may not show forgiveness or understanding to someone choosing to ignore their weight ratings.
Using the Wrong Ball Hitch
You want to use the appropriately-sized hitch ball for your trailer. This helps ensure you have a secure connection between the tow vehicle and trailer. Using the wrong ball hitch can cause serious issues as you bounce along the highway.
If your trailer unhitches from the ball, the safety chains will prevent it from getting away. That is if you connected them correctly. A trailer rolling away at high speeds after getting unattached from your vehicle can cause a severe accident.
Towing as Much as Your Highest Weighted Component
The saying, “You’re only as strong as the weakest link,” also applies to towing RVs. Having a massive dually truck but an underrated hitching system will cause issues. Look at the weakest towing component’s rating and stay under this number.
Many drivers forget the payload capacity — the total amount of weight you can place on the tow vehicle at one time. Some three-quarter-ton truck owners get a surprise when they discover that they can’t tow as much as they thought.
This is especially true for a diesel engine because it weighs almost 900 lbs more than a gas one. After you add all of your passengers and the hitch weight of your RV, you may not have room for all the gear you need to bring.
How to Check Your Towing Capacity
Towing capacity will vary from vehicle to vehicle. Two identical-looking cars can have very different towing capabilities.
You must know your specific towing capacity and capabilities. You’ll likely need to do a bit of research to get the most accurate information. But you should find it pretty easily.
If you drive a 2020 or newer Chevrolet, you can find all the information you need on the stick located on the driver-side door jam. It’ll have the max payload, gross vehicle weight rating, max tongue weight, and more. Chevrolet makes it easy for drivers to know the trailering information.
If you drive other vehicles, you’ll find the payload capacity on the tire. Look for the loading information sticker inside the driver-side door jam.
However, you’ll need to consult your vehicle manufacturer’s website for other important information. You’ll need to use their charts to find your setup’s specific trim level and options. It’ll give you the towing capacity and any limitations.
How Strict Are Towing Capacity Limits?
Very few RVers run into legal troubles and towing capacity limits. If you watch in a campground, many people exceed the limits of their vehicle. You’ll have slim odds of getting pulled over if you slightly exceed your towing capacity. However, you can get a citation.
Just because you don’t get caught doesn’t make something right or a good idea. It’s incredibly unsafe to exceed your towing capacity. We recommend staying under 80% of your towing capacity limits to avoid issues.
Don’t Play Games with Safety
If you play a game of how close you can get to the towing capacity, you’ll likely lose eventually. You or someone else on the road could get hurt. It may cause a lot of damage to your RV, tow vehicle, the road, and others. Tow responsibly and safely at all times.
By being mindful of your towing capacity, you improve the chances that you and your RV will have adventures for years to come. What’s a towing capacity mistake you often see amongst RVers?
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