Know Your Tow

Towing capability sets a truck apart. If you can back a trailer or heavy load into a tight space – if you can launch a boat with ease – you’re already an expert. But if you want to talk the talk while you’re maneuvering down the road, here’s a handy guide to towing lingo:

Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW) is the total combined weight of a fully loaded vehicle, including passengers, payload and everything in tow.

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is the total weight of a fully loaded vehicle, including passengers and payload – but excluding all towing.

Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) is the total weight of the trailer plus all the cargo in it.

Curb Weight is the weight of a vehicle without any passengers or cargo, but including all necessary fuel, fluids and standard equipment.

Axle Ratio is the ratio between the revolutions per minute of the driveshaft and the rear axle. In general, a higher number offers more towing power; a lower number offers better engine efficiency.

Trailer Tongue Weight is the downward force exerted on the hitch ball by the trailer coupler. In most cases, it should fall between 10 to 25 percent of GTW.

The Hitch Assembly is mounted to the tow vehicle (most often to the vehicle frame) and includes a hitch receiver, ball mount adapter, hitch ball and wiring harness.

Goose Neck Hitch, a Class V hitch mounted in the bed of a pickup truck, over the rear axle. The trailer connects to a ball socket with a pivoted coupling arm.

Fifth Wheel Hitch, a heavy-duty trailer hitch that mounts inside the bed of a pickup truck. Instead of using a ball hitch, the trailer attaches via a coupling king pin that locks into a large horseshoe-shaped plate.

A Locking Differential restricts the rotational speed of both wheels on an axle. Compared to open differentials, locking differentials are designed to offer increased traction on uneven surfaces.

For a complete guide, towing specs, and common weight estimates on trailers, boats, cars, RVs, construction equipment, upfits, and building materials, visit