30 July 2021

What is Towing Capacity And How Is It Measured?

Mitsubishi on Slipway

If you’re planning to use your vehicle for towing, it’s important not to tow more weight than your vehicle can handle. Your towing capacity is the maximum weight that your vehicle can pull safely. However, while this sounds simple there’s a lot more that goes into determining your towing capacity than simply the number printed on your vehicle. In this guide, we’ll break down the different parts of towing capacity, so you can understand how much you can pull on the road.

This guide is not a substitute for taking a proper towing course with your own vehicle and trailer, but it will get you started. When determining towing capacity, you can visit your local weighbridge to make sure all your measurements are correct.

Why is measuring towing capacity important?

Utes such as the Mitsubishi Triton are made for robust performance, but even they have limits. Towing capacity is the most weight your car can pull both legally, and safely. Towing too much weight can lead to your trailer swinging, and pulling your vehicle out of control. It can also create difficulty stopping, and wear out your brakes quickly. It is against the law to tow more than the towing capacity of your vehicle, your towbar, or towball.

Key measurements in towing capacity

Measuring your towing capacity actually requires taking and comparing a variety of different measurements. We’ll break down the key measurements here, so you can start to understand how much your vehicle can tow.

Let’s start with the key measurements you’ll need to work out whether you can drive safely.

  • Kerb weight: The total weight of your vehicle with only the driver, and liquids such as oil and fuel.
  • Towball weight: The amount of weight exerted by the trailer on your vehicle’s towball. You can check this weight by using a towball scale.
  • Payload: The weight of anything additional you add to your vehicle, including gear, and all passengers. This also includes the weight exerted by the trailer on your vehicle’s towball. 
  • Tare mass: The weight of your trailer or caravan, including accessories but not any gear or cargo.
  • Trailer payload: The weight of anything additional you add to your trailer, including gear and cargo.
  • Gross Trailer Mass: This weight of your caravan or trailer, when attached to your vehicle. 

How do I measure the towing capacity of my vehicle?

To tow safely, you actually need to take into account a number of different measurements. So now we know the input measurements, let’s look at the limits you’ll need to stick to when towing. You’ll find these limits written on the door sticker of your vehicle or in the owner’s manual.

  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: This is the maximum allowable weight of your vehicle. Your kerb weight + payload cannot exceed this amount.
  • Aggregate Weight Rating: The maximum allowable weight of your caravan or trailer, including all gear and cargo. Your tare mass + trailer payload cannot exceed this amount.
  • Gross Combined Weight Rating: This is the maximum amount your vehicle and trailer can safely weigh when loaded. Your kerb weight + payload + tare mass + trailer payload cannot exceed this amount.
  • Towball Weight: For safe, stable towing this generally needs to be about 10% of the total load. However, this can vary so please refer to your owner’s manual for information specific to your vehicle.

In other words, your towing capacity is your gross combined weight rating – (your vehicle’s kerb weight + your payload). The towing capacity on your vehicle is usually the gross combined weight rating (your vehicle’s kerb rating), and does not take any passengers, gear, or cargo in your vehicle into account – so it’s crucial you do the calculation properly.

Braked vs Unbraked Towing Capacity

Towing capacity on your vehicle will usually be specified as braked towing capacity. This is the maximum your vehicle can tow if your trailer has its own brakes. Unbraked towing capacity is the maximum your vehicle can tow if your trailer has no brakes. This is much less than braked capacity, and in Australia is limited to a maximum of 750kg regardless of your vehicle.

We hope that gives you a good starting point to understand the towing capacity of your vehicle. Remember, there’s more to towing than just your towing capacity. For more about towing, see our Mitsubishi Towing Guide.

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