How to Calculate Towing Capacity (and Increase It)

A pickup truck towing a large trailer and small vehicle on a country road.

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To experience outdoor adventures of great magnitude, sometimes equipment of the bulkier variety is required. Hauling hefty loads to complete giant jobs will also take the power of some tremendous tools. Whether you’re a farmer heaving piles of hay or a landscaper lugging equipment for a job, the ability to tow bulky gear will become a necessity at some point. There are a wide variety of situations that call for towing. These include various types of labor, recovery from automobile accidents, or recreation. With the proper towing equipment, you can tow heavy loads like power boats, personal watercrafts, and RV trailers to your travel destinations. Every vehicle has a maximum weight that it can carry via a trailer, called towing capacity. If you’re new to traveling with a trailer, you may be wondering how to calculate towing capacity.

What is My Towing Capacity?

Inside your vehicle, usually on the interior door, you might find your estimated towing capacity as measured by its manufacturers. If it’s not there, it could be in your vehicle’s manual or online towing guide on the manufacturer’s website. Many owners of older vehicles may not have this luxury. Even if you find this estimated calculation, you still might have to do some of your own math. Some calculations only take into account the weight of the driver and exclude that of any passengers and accompanying gear. Knowing how to calculate your towing capacity comes in handy nevertheless.


How to Calculate Towing Capacity

To calculate your towing capacity, there are a few terms you’ll need to become familiarized with:

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

The first number you’ll want to identify is your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. Gross Vehicle Weight Rating is the maximum weight your vehicle can carry while idle. This weight includes all original vehicle parts, including your axles, suspensions, frame, and wheels. Find this number on your vehicle’s Safety Compliance Certification Label, usually located on a placard in the doorjamb of the driver’s side. You’ll need this whether or not you’re using a towing capacity calculator.

Gross Trailer Weight (GTW)

Next, you’ll want to find the Gross Trailer Weight, which is the weight of your trailer and additional cargo combined. This number can never surpass your vehicle’s towing capacity. If it did, it would be unsafe to drive, and could add unnecessary wear and tear to your vehicle.

Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR)

The Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating is the greatest weight of your tow vehicle and trailer combined, fully loaded with cargo. This number is the result of adding both GVWRs of your trailer and vehicle together. If you can’t find your towing capacity by VIN, these figures will help.

Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)

Your Gross Axle Weight Rating is a number that indicates how much weight one axle can support. This is important when it comes to balancing out the load, as front and rear axles often have different limits.

Tongue Weight (TW)

Tongue weight (TW) is the force that weighs down the trailer hitch by the cargo being carried. This number can change depending on how much weight is distributed in the trailer.

Curb Weight

Curb Weight is the total weight of a vehicle including all necessary fluids, such as gas, brake fluid, coolant, and more. This number does not include weight from passengers and cargo.

Dry Weight

Your vehicle’s dry weight is a measurement of how much it weighs with no cargo, no passengers, and no required fluids. It is unlikely that you will need to input this number into a towing capacity calculator or formula. However, it could come in handy to be familiar with the terminology.


Payload is the maximum amount of weight that a towing vehicle’s cabin and bed can hold.

Towing Capacity Formula

To make sense of all of these figures, subtract your curb weight from your Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating. This ensures that all cargo, passengers, and essential vehicle fluids are accounted for in the final weight. Be sure to count your truck’s tongue weight as part of the load. This will result in the most accurate measurement of how much can your truck tow.

Other Ways to Find Your Towing Capacity

If you’re having trouble locating certain figures or getting accurate calculations, you can always do research online on the specific make and model of your vehicle. Finding your towing capacity by VIN is certainly a sound option for many vehicles. Additionally, you can use a free towing capacity calculator to give you a solid estimate of your vehicle’s towing capacity or to double-check your calculations.

How To Increase Towing Capacity

A pickup truck with a hitch for towing.

Now that you’ve done the work to find out how to calculate the towing capacity of your vehicle, you know how much you can load up your trailer for the next big adventure. If your vehicle’s towing capacity is not enough to accommodate your gear, you may be questioning if you can alter your vehicle’s towing capacity. Believe it or not, it’s possible to increase a trailer’s towing capacity, without any kind of sorcery. As long as you don’t exceed the manufacturer’s recommended weight, you can make modifications to increase what your vehicle can hold. Here’s how to increase the towing capacity of your vehicle.

Make Upgrades to Improve Overall Performance

By replacing old or average vehicle components with enhanced, high-performance versions, your vehicle will carry loads more efficiently. There are countless ways to modify your vehicle for the better, especially by replacing exhaust filters, incorporating cold air intake, improving engine capacity, and more. Plus, you’ll enjoy optimized performance throughout your travels as an included perk!


Another area that would significantly improve towing capacity if altered is your vehicle’s braking system. A great deal of added strain is put on a vehicle’s brake system when accompanied by a bulky load. By enhancing your brake system, you can help alleviate some of this added burden and improve hydraulics to slow down and stop more safely and efficiently.


A vehicle’s axles are where the bulk of the vehicle’s weight is distributed. To help them carry the load better, upgrade to heavy-duty performance-enhancing axles. Optimize your axles, and the next time you ask ‘what is my towing capacity?’ you will be delighted with the results!


The hitch is what makes towing all possible, serving as the connecting link between the vehicle’s chassis and the trailer. Every hitch has a designated weight amount, so a high-quality, higher-capacity hitch is key to increasing your vehicle’s tow weight.


A vehicle’s radiator exists to regulate the temperature of its engine and to prevent overheating. With a heavy load to tow, the engine generates more heat and becomes more prone to overheating. When it comes to the matter of how to increase towing capacity, a bigger, high-performing radiator is a must-have!

Know Before You Tow

After this newfound information, you’re probably asking yourself ‘At the end of the day, how much can my truck tow?’ This number will be unique to your vehicle. Depending on the modifications you make, it should be able to increase by a hundred to a thousand pounds or so. Since discovering more about how to calculate towing capacity and how to increase it, there are plenty of sound solutions. As long as you don’t get carried away with a case of towing capacity overachievement, you can maximize towing abilities and remain safe. Whether it’s a dozen kayaks, giant inflatables, sporting equipment, or power tools, you can find a way to bring your gear on trips and outings.

Level Up Your Vehicle!

At Omni Garage, we make it our mission to level up your vehicle to its highest potential, at the lowest price. Whether it’s traveling to a job or traversing terrain, we’re all about getting you where you need to go.