If you look around when you’re on the road, you’ll see many people towing things with their vehicles. While it may not be true for all of them, you can bet most of the drivers have figured their towing capacity to ensure a safe trip. If you plan to haul something, there are five essential things to know about the towing capacity of your car.

What It Is

The towing capacity of your car is the maximum weight it can haul without causing unsafe conditions or harming the vehicle. Going beyond the manufacturer’s listed capacity can damage the engine, transmission, wheel bearings and axle, and void any warranty you may have.

Where to Look

Your car’s manual is the first place you should look to determine the towing capacity. You can also check the label that is visible on the driver’s door when you open it. If neither of those options are available, there are many websites that provide information about towing capacity.

Gross Vehicle Weight

You will also need to determine the gross vehicle weight rating of your car, which includes the weight of the vehicle plus the passengers and luggage. In the case of towing, you will also need to factor in the tongue weight of the trailer that you will be using. The total weight the car, tongue, passengers and luggage cannot exceed the gross vehicle weight rating, which is also found on the driver’s door sticker.

Trailer Weight

The weight of the trailer you plan to tow is another important part of determining the towing capacity of your car. Keep in mind that the weight of the trailer and the contents of it will all need to be considered to make sure you stay within the capacity for your vehicle. You will also need to make sure that the hitch on your vehicle is rated for the weight of the loaded trailer. If not, you will need to purchase one that is suitable.

Use Caution

Generally, most people who choose to tow something try to keep the total weight at around 80 percent of their vehicle’s maximum towing capacity. This is the best way to make sure you don’t cause damage to your vehicle, or increase the potential for accidents or difficulty hauling the trailer.

Once you know the towing capacity of your car, you’re almost ready to hit the road. Before you do, contact YourMechanic to check your brakes and make sure the other components of your vehicle are in good working order to increase your safety.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as 5 Essential Things to Know About the Towing Capacity of Your Car and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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