SUV Towing and Loading Basics in Minto 99758 AK

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If we start at the beginning, the first thing you need to know is how much the vehicle weighs, empty. There are two terms for this: kerb weight and tare weight, and they mean – almost – the same thing. And the exact definition depends on which manufacturer you ask. It’s like this:

‘Tare’ means really empty – but with water in the radiator, a token amount of fuel, and all the lubricants on board.

‘Kerb’ means all the fuel on board and – sometimes – 75kg added for the driver.

But manufacturers often write their own tickets on kerb weight (in particular) and adopt all kinds of weird policies and practices. Both terms (kerb and tare) mean – essentially – the vehicle is empty.

Gross Vehicle Mass is the total allowed weight of the vehicle – all the passengers, all the fluids, all the equipment: everything. But not the weight of any trailer. It’s specified by the manufacturer. The maximum, all-up weight allowed. GVM for short.

So, you get your GVM and you subtract your unladen weight (the kerb weight or the tare weight) and that gives you your payload capacity – which is the total weight of people and equipment you can carry without overloading the vehicle. And sometimes it’s not quite as much as you think.

It’s pretty easy to overload the vehicle – with a tribe in the back and all the gear for a weekend getaway inside and up on the roof rack. And the bullbar, driving lights, winch – all those accessories subtract from what you can carry. It’s a zero-sum game. Which is why so many people tow a trailer.

There are two tow capacities: a basic one for light trailers without brakes. Usually that’s limited to 750kg worth of trailer – all up, meaning the trailer plus the load it’s carrying. In other words, the GVM of the trailer. Trailers have tare weights (empty) and gross weights (loaded) – just like the vehicle itself. Tow capacity is the gross weight of the trailer.

The heavier of the two tow capacities is the gross weight of trailers with brakes: car trailers, caravans, horse floats, boats … things like that. Once again, that’s for the trailer plus whatever you put in the trailer – total, all-up weight of whatever you’re towing. The GVM. SUV-type vehicles are often rated in the two-tonne ballpark here. Hardcore off-roaders – at least some of them – like the Grand Cherokee, LandCruiser 200, and utes like the Colorado, BT-50 and Ranger – can stretch as high as three-and-a-half tonnes maximum tow capacity.

Of course, it might not be a good idea to load up your vehicle to its maximum payload, and then hook up a trailer that’s right at the upper limit of the tow capacity. You’re talking about driving off into the sunset weighing six-and-a-half tonnes. What’s the point in getting away from it all when you’re taking ‘it all’ with you? It’s also unsafe, potentially, which is why they invented a specification called Gross Combination Mass, or GCM.

Let’s look at a Mazda BT-50 4WD ute. It’s got a 3.5-tonne tow capacity and a 3.2-tonne gross vehicle mass. Add them together you get 6.7 tonnes. But the gross combination mass specified by Mazda is six tonnes neat – that’s the maximum weight (all up) of the vehicle, the payload (of people and equipment) and the total weight of the trailer.

If you’re hooking up a heavy trailer and packing the vehicle heavily as well, you’ll need to dial down the all-up weight by losing 700kg somewhere – from the trailer or the vehicle, or both.

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