1075 × 400

My background was not cars. Never cars. Not even close to cars. After being whirled into the parts department, thrown into the service department and now deposited into the sales department – the towing terms and acronyms are second nature to me now. But I remember what it was like six years ago when I first gazed upon GVRW, GVW, GTW and so on. It was incredibly confusing and appeared more complex than it actually was. My recent towing experience has reminded me about the lack of knowledge and/or resources out there for basic towing terms. I’m going to go through the basic terms with you, step-by-step.

GCVW (Gross Combined Vehicle Weight)
This is the total weight after EVERYTHING. Once you’ve loaded, filled up, passengers are buckled, and trailer is attached (and full) – absolutely everything.

GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight)
This is the completely loaded weight of your vehicle (not including trailer/towing)

GTW (Gross Trailer Weight)
The total weight of your trailer – loaded with cargo.

Curb Weight
The weight of the vehicle without any passengers nor cargo. However, it includes necessary fluids, fuel and standard equipment.

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

How exactly does the ratio affect my towing and payload?
In general, a higher axle ratio offers more towing power and quicker acceleration, while a lower axle ratio offers better engine efficiency and quieter running.

The axle ratio describes the relationship between the driveshaft revolutions per minute and the rear axles revolutions per minute. For example, an axle ratio of 4.1:1 means the small pinion gear at the end of the driveshaft’ must rotate 4.1 times for every single rotation of the rear axle.

Finding your ideal axle ratio will be a compromise. You want a ratio that will give you good towing power without handicapping your non-towing performance too severely. By determining how much weight you’ll be towing and how often you’ll be towing it, you’ll be able to find a ratio that will maximize both power and engine efficiency.


Trailer Tongue Weight
The weight that presses down on your hitch/ball from the front of your trailer. In most cases, it typically falls between 10 to 25 percent of trailer’s GTW. Trailer tongue weight must be accounted for In total payload.


Payload refers to how much your truck can carry. Passengers, bed load, cargo or anything else that can weigh your vehicle down.


Towing Capacity
This is the number that you are looking for when you’re wanting to know ‘how much can my vehicle safely tow’. Typically, each vehicle’s towing capacity is on the VIN placard – located on the driver’s door.


That’s a few of the basics. Remember, to always follow your vehicle’s specified load, towing etc capacities. Overloading your vehicle’s powertrain and suspension can cause serious damage.