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A towing primer: GCWR, GVWR, tongue weight explained

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Towing properly can be a nightmare for new truck buyers, and even seasoned truck buyers can get confused on the terminology. So we prepped a towing primer with an explanation of terms and using our long-term 2022 Toyota Tundra as a real-world example.

When buying a new truck and towing with it, there are many key terms you really need to know to do it safely. Let’s start the towing primer with some key terms.

Curb Weight: the actual weight of the truck unloaded.

Payload: the amount of weight you can add to the truck including passengers and cargo. This number includes a full tank of gas.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): the total amount of weight the truck can handle when you add curb weight with payload.

Max towing weight: the maximum weight you can tow.

Tongue weight: the weight of the tongue of the trailer or camper you are pulling which is subtracted from the total payload

Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR): the combined weight of the truck, payload and trailer or camper.

Setting up for towing

As you prepare to tow with your new truck, you’ll want to look at the door jamb sticker on the driver’s side door. This will give you the exact payload number for your specific truck as well as the GVWR for that truck. The key to remember is what you see advertised online isn’t always the real-world number for every truck produced, and this door jamb sticker is the information you need to follow.

Secondly, you’ll want to look at the trailer you are towing. There should be a listed weight on the maximum GVWR for that trailer. This is the number you need to determine the GCWR of the truck and trailer.

Third, you’ll want to take into account all the payload you are going to add to the truck in the form of cargo and passengers.

Example of towing a camper

Let’s put this into a real-world and relatable example. This year, I bought a 2022 Toyota Tundra Limited for this outlet for long-term testing. I’ve been doing a series of towing videos using a 21-foot camper. Here is how the math works out.

2022 Toyota Tundra towing

The payload on Tim Esterdahl’s 2022 Toyota Tundra is 1,400 pounds.

 

2022 Toyota Tundra towing

The GVWR on Tim Esterdahl’s 2022 Toyota Tundra is 7,230 pounds.

 

2022 Toyota Tundra towing

The GVWR of the trailer Tim Esterdahl is using to tow with his 2022 Toyota Tundra is 6,395 pounds.

Looking at the first door jamb sticker, I have 1,400 pounds of payload, and the second white sticker shows the GVWR is 7,230 pounds. The camper, denoted in the last white sticker, has a GVWR of 6,395 pounds. Now, since the camper doesn’t have a listed tongue weight, I’ll go with the standard 10% of the GVWR. To satisfy Captain Obvious, that makes the tongue weight in this situation 639.5 pounds. (Note: When in doubt, always calculate tongue weight as 10% of the total gross weight of the trailer to be safe. It’ll never be more than that.) Now, the tongue weight is subtracted from the truck’s payload since you are essentially putting that weight on the truck. This means, I have 760.5 pounds of payload leftover (1,400 – 639.5 from the camper). The end result: I can only have 761 pounds of cargo or people in the truck when towing this camper. In other words, I could have around four adults in the truck (4 x 190 pounds) and no cargo (that includes beverages, snacks, backpacks, etc., because that all adds into the payload number). The cargo, I would stow in the camper.

Why stow the cargo in the camper? Simply to distribute the weight better and keep the truck from being overloaded. With the camper having payload capacity, I’d use up that weight.

What about max towing and GCWR? Since the truck can tow upwards of 11,200 pounds, I’m fine with the 6,395 pounds weight of the camper. Also, with a 17,250 GCWR, I’m well within my limits with the GVWR of the truck (7,230 pounds) and camper (6,395 pounds) equaling 13,625 pounds. As long as I don’t overload the truck or camper with massive amounts of heavy cargo, I’m well within the specs.

Here are some charts to help you understand what the maximum limits of your truck will be when getting ready to tow.

WEIGHTS AND CAPACITIES (LBS.)4x2 Double Cab4x2 CrewMax4x4 Double Cab4x4 CrewMax
Curb Weight
i-FORCE Powertrain
6.5: 5095-5215
8.1: 5290
5.5: 5160-5245
6.5: 5355-5465
6.5: 5380-5490
8.1: 5565
5.5: 5390-5490
6.5: 5620-5720
i-FORCE MAX PowertrainN/A5.5: 5710-5800
6.5: 5785-5865
N/A5.5: 6010-6095
6.5: 6095-6185
Maximum Towing Capacity (LBS.)4x2 Double Cab4x2 CrewMax4x4 Double Cab4x4 CrewMax
3.5-liter TT V6
(8.1-ft. long bed)

3.5-liter TT V6
(6.5-ft. std. bed)


3.5-liter TT V6 i-FORCE MAX
(6.5-ft. std. bed)
8,300 (SR)
11,370 (SR5)

8,300 (SR) 12,000 (SR5)
11,400 (Limited)
NA


11,270 (SR5)
11,230 (Limited)


11,180 (Platinum)
11,350 (Limited)
11,290 (Platinum)
8,300 (SR)
11,090 (SR5)

8,300 (SR)
11,200 (SR5)
11,110 (Limited)

N/A
NA


11,010 (SR5)
11,110 (Limited)
10,890 (Platinum)

11,040 (Limited)
10,960 (Platinum, 1794)
3.5-liter TT V6
(5.5-ft. short bed)




3.5-liter TT V6 i-FORCE MAX
(5.5-ft. short bed)
N/A





N/A
8,300 (SR)
11,400 (SR5)
11,350 (Limited)
11,310 (Platinum, 1794)

11,450 (Limited)
11,380 (Platinum)
N/A





N/A
8300 (SR)
11,160 (SR5)
11,120 (LTD), 11,050 (Platinum, 1794)


11,170 (Limited)
11,020 (Platinum, 1794)
11,175 (TRD Pro)
10,340 (Cap.)
GVWR7,035 - 7,3756,990 - 7,2107,265 – 7,3757,230 - 7,780
Maximum Payload
(i-FORCE)
(6.5 ft./8.1 ft.)
SR: 1940/1875
SR5: 1940/1875
Lim: 1860/NA
(5.5 ft./6.5 ft.)
SR: 1830
SR5: 1830/1810
Lim: 1755/1700
Plat: 1720/1630
1794: 1720/1630
(6.5 ft./8.1 ft.)
SR: 1885/1810
SR5: 1885/1875
Lim: 1820/NA
(5.5 ft./6.5 ft.)
SR: 1820/NA
SR5: 1820/1720
Lim: 1740/1645
Plat: 1665/1575
1794: 1665/1575
Maximum Payload
(i-FORCE MAX)
N/A(5.5 ft./6.5 ft.)
Limited: 1665/1680
Plat.: 1640/1655
1794: 1640/1655
N/A(5.5 ft./6.5 ft.)
Lim.: 1605/1665
Plat. 1565/1595
1794: 1565/1595
Pro: 1600/NA
Cap: 1485/NA
Maximum Towing Capacity (per SAE J2807 Methodology)12,000 lbs.11,450 lbs.11,200 lbs.11,170 lbs.
Maximum Tongue Weight1,200 lbs.1,145 lbs.1,120 lbs.1,117 lbs.
Gross Combined Weight Tow Rating (lbs.) (4x2 & 4x4 with Package)
SR
i-FORCE
15,204-15,520
SR5
i-FORCE
17,250-17,700
Limited
i-FORCE
17,250
i-FORCE MAX
17,600-17,700
Platinum
i-FORCE
17,250
i-FORCE MAX
17,600-17,700
1794 Edition
i-FORCE
17,250
i-FORCE MAX
17,600-17,700
TRD Pro/Cap.
i-FORCE MAX
17,600 (Pro)
i-FORCE MAX
16,525 (Cap)

The bottom line on the towing primer

Hopefully this towing primer will give you more confidence and understanding when you’re ready to tow. Nobody wants to be that guy who overloads his truck to the point it becomes an internet joke. Also, it really isn’t safe either since your front end will lift off the ground. This means the tires have less contact with the pavement causing steering concerns, making the rear brakes working harder, stressing the driveline components and adding additional trailer sway if the load isn’t distributed correctly.

Basically, don’t do it. Do the right thing and check your numbers before you tow.

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Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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