Vehicle Towing Terminology Explained


As with most things, towing trailers has its unique terminology, and if you are unfamiliar with these special terms, you might not fully understand, and this could lead to an accident, and with that in mind, here are many of the terms used and their meanings.

  • Dry Weight – This refers to the towing vehicle and is the weight of the vehicle without any liquids, passengers, or cargo. This would typically be present on the driver’s door inner frame and might be in sticker form or a metal plate that is riveted to the frame.
  • Gross Vehicle Weight – The GVW of a vehicle includes the dry weight, plus liquids, passengers, and cargo, and this is very relevant, especially when towing a trailer. One might require an adjustable tow bar, which can be easily sourced online, saving you both time and money, and any attachments or extras would be available from the same supplier.
  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – The GVWR is the maximum weight the vehicle can be driven, and this would include the weight of the trailer, plus the gross vehicle weight. This would also be present somewhere on the vehicle, usually on the inner door frame of the driver’s side.
  • Tongue Weight – This is the weight of the towing hitch when the trailer is coupled to the vehicle, and this should never exceed 15% of the gross vehicle weight. The right selection of tow bar is critical, and if you are looking to buy one online, and are unsure which tow bar to buy, simply tell the supplier the make and model of your vehicle and the trailer you will use and they will recommend the right tow bar.
  • Tow Rating – Actually, this is merely another term referring to the GVWR, and is the total weight that the vehicle and the trailer can weigh. This weight can never be exceeded when towing, as it would be very dangerous, and your insurance would likely be void should you exceed the manufacturer’s weight limits.
  • Gross Axle Weight Rating – This refers to the maximum weight a single axle can hold, and might also come with the term “FR” or “RR”, which refers to either the front or rear axle. In Europe and the USA, government restrictions (which are independent of manufacturer’s recommendations) come into force, as overweight vehicles can cause serious road damage, as well as presenting a danger to other road users.
  • Towing Equipment – There are many accessories and necessaries that accompany towing a vehicle, such as the wiring harness, which many vehicles will have as standard. If not, the tow bar supplier would have an extensive range of accessories to cover every aspect of towing, and with a simple online search, you can locate an established supplier. This type of company would be very knowledgeable regarding all aspects of towing a trailer.

As a driver, you should know the capabilities of your vehicle and always remember that when towing, slower speeds are advised, and avoid sharp turns, as this will cause serious instability, especially in wet conditions.

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