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Towing 101

Old 06-15-2015, 11:21 PM
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Default Towing 101

Hey guys, theres tons of great information here, but I see a lot of confusion with towing! I figured I would help clear some things up about it.

Alright one of the first things is the weight.

GVW = Gross vehicle weight, this is what your truck actually weighs.
GVWR= Gross vehicle weight rating, this is how much weight can be on the truck safely.
GVCW = Gross vehicle combined weight, the weight of your truck and trailer empty
GVCWR = Gross vehicle combined weight rating, the maximum weight of your truck and trailer designated by the manufacturer.

Your GVWR isn't determined by just power, its determined by gear ratio, transmission type, how many gears, if its a srw or a drw (single rear wheel or dually) cooling capabilities, suspension type, spring weight... it goes on and on.

So what kind of truck is the best to tow with? well that depends what your towing and where your bringing it. regular cab long bed dually will be able to turn a longer trailer easier, due to the shorter wheel base. a longer truck will ride smoother but takes more room to turn, a longer truck is also heavier, meaning you have less weight capacity for beer and motorcycles. A dually will always have a heavier towing capacity than a single.

Now heres the tricky part, towing capacity. its not black and white. your truck has whats called an axle weight. usually in an owners manual or available online somewhere. when you buy a fifth wheel or gooseneck trailer, generally 33% of the general weight on the trailer and the load on it, sits on your truck. so now you have a truck with a GVW of 7000lbs, a GVWR of 14000, and a fifth wheel trailer with a GVW of 6000 and a GVWR of 12000. (for those without cdls) your GVCW is 13000, your GCVWR is 26000. that means you have 13000lbs of legal safe hauling capacity on your truck and trailer when evenly distributed. if you pulled your truck on the scales it would probably read something like...

Steer axle: 3600
Drive axle: 5400
Trailer axles : 4000

Next thing is DOT

Ohhh noooo watch out for DOT everybody, my cousins uncles nephew got pulled over once in 1998 and he got a ticket! DOT isn't half as bad as everyone things, if your legal don't even sweat it. if your not sure your legal, look up your nearest CAT scale and weigh in with all your stuff. it tells you all the axle weights.
A lot of people may ask, when do I need a DOT number, well in a perfect world, everyone over 10klbs GVWR OR GCVWR would have one. but they don't. If you plan on traveling the country, in your 12000lb pickup and 10000lb rv id get one. if your driving a 9900lb truck and pulling a 4klb trailer I wouldn't bother. theyre 300$. they take 10 business days to get. if DOT wants to bust your *****, they will. but its unlikely especially for a 3/4 ton pulling something tiny.

What about An MC?

most people don't know what this is. its a motor carrier number, only needed by people moving goods over state lines in commerce. (in other words your hauling someone elses crap for money, legally)

A med card?

I truly do not know if you need one for personal driving. Your supposed to have one if you drive anything over 10klbs. theyre 80$, id get one. DOT can fine you for not having one, and those are not cheap at all.

A cdl in all states except California is required AFTER your GVWR or GCVWR is at or above 26001lbs. this means if you buy a truck with a GVWR of 15000 lbs and a trailer with a GVWR of 11500lbs you will need a cdl regardless of it being loaded or not. so pay very close attention to those numbers.

Can I register a truck lighter than its GVWR?

You can, most do for dailys. for working, towing heavy, rving, going across state lines, I would register at the GVWR.


Well, because if you get pulled over by DOT or a state trooper, and they see your dually is plated for 9k, and your pulling a trailer, your gonna go through a level 2 inspection.

Do I have to pull into weigh stations?

If you see 6 DOT or staties there, I would, if your under 26k most of the time they'll let you pass with out a second glance. if you fly by in your f450 pulling a 42' 5th wheel, theyre gonna pull you over, bring you to the scales, make you weigh in, do an inspection, check all your papers, check everything on your truck, and then if your perfect, youll skate off. if not hell fine you for everything wrong, if your overweight its a 250$ fine with 2$ per pound over your GCVWR. and if you don't have a cdl, well guess what, now you gotta call me to haul your trailer home .

Onto hitches

There are three types of hitches, a fifth wheel, my personal favorite, its also what the big rigs use. theyre safe, but large and take up a lot of bed space, also very heavy.

A gooseneck, its a ball in the bed of your truck, like a ball at bumper, but positioned in the bed of your truck and over the rear axle, second safest, but nice because of the fact its easily hidden and takes up much less room.

And finally, a ball at bumper/ pintle hook. the ball at bumper is the cheapest, easiest, and the least safe way to tow. the pintle hook is a heavy duty bumper pull generally used by dump trucks and tri axles to tow heavy equipment.

Now onto brakes, you have air brakes, which require a truck with air, usually a class 6 or above (f650 750 etc). You have electric brakes and you have surge brakes. or no brakes for trailers under 3,000lbs.

Electric are definetly the most common, they last quite a while, and are pretty easy to replace pads, and at least in my case always been pretty reliable.

Surge brakes are activated by momentum of the trailer pressing against the truck. I have never used these, they also seem to be pretty uncommon.

Now you have axles, you have a ton of different variety axles, 4 lug 5 lug 6 lug, 8 lug, 6 lug duals, 8 lug duals, and 10 lug duals. in combinations varying from 1 axle to as many as you can fit!

I see tons of guys running three axles with single tires, I don't like them because they pivot on the middle axle, either ruining forward or rear tires. I have personally found that a dual tandem axle ( two axles, both duallys) is the most stable, stops the best, and turns the best.

Towing is a very grey area, theres no real guide book to it, every truck and trailer is different. If you have any questions please ask, im getting tired I will edit and work on this thread tomorrow.
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