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Three pickup tow ratings

Bruce Smith January 4, 2012

TOWING BASICS: Max Trailer Capacity


by Bruce W. Smith


Three numbers dictate a pickup’s maximum towing capacity not one: weight-carrying; conventional towing; and 5th wheel/gooseneck


Despite what the advertisements and sales associates pitch related to a pickup’s maximum towing capacity, every pickup  actually has three different towing capacities — not one.

This is important to understand if you 1) tow heavier loads, and 2) want to keep out of potential liability and insurance issues.

Read the owner’s manuals and manufacturer’s online towing guides carefully and two maximum towing capacities are listed, conventional and 5th wheel/gooseneck. Manufacturer’s 2012 Towing Guides online: FordGMDodge/Ram.

A third maximum tow rating, weight-carrying, is hidden in the fine print or noted at the bottom of the guides. Most of us know this type of trailering method as towing- on-the-ball.

(Conventional “weight-carrying,” as touted by the vehicle manufacturers in their advertised tow ratings, requires the use of the factory hitch with  a weight-distributing, or some call it weight-carrying hitch assembly. A W-D hitch is NOT a factory or dealer-installed option.)

Towing on the ball

The lowest towing capacity for a pickup is pulling a trailer using the factory receiver hitch and ball/shank. It’s called “conventional weight-carrying” mode.

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