Towing capacity refers to how much weight you can safely pull behind your truck with a trailer. It will take a few minutes and some calculations to pin down your truck’s exact towing capacity. Start by getting some information from your door sticker:
GVWR – Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (the maximum amount your truck can safely weigh when loaded. It also includes tongue weight, which is not the weight of the trailer and payload itself, but the downward force it exerts on the trailer hitch ball)
GCWR – Gross Combined Weight Rating (the maximum combined amount your truck and trailer can safely weigh when loaded)
Payload Capacity – the maximum cargo weight that you can safely add to your truck’s curb weight (GVWR minus the truck’s curb weight)
Curb Weight – this is how much your truck weighs empty (without anyone in it or any cargo)
Tow Capacity Formula
Find out curb weight.
Add the weight of the payload (passengers, cargo, tongue weight) to the curb weight.
Subtract this number from your truck’s GCWR.
This is your max towing capacity.
Check to make sure your hitch and trailer can also handle this weight.
Pro Tip: Weigh your truck with all your normal, everyday gear and equipment (i.e. custom tool box, spare tire, etc) at a weigh station to determine accurate curb weight.
Here’s an example with numbers. Let’s say your truck has a GCWR of 15,000 lbs. It weighs 5,000 lbs empty and you just loaded 4,000 lbs of dirt in the truck bed. Your towing capacity would be no more than 6,000 lbs.
I think a lot of people do not take this into account. I think many people think that if it fits into the truck that they can pile as much weight on that they can but this is completely wrong. Just because your truck can technically hold it, does not mean that your truck is actually rated to tow it.