Towing capacity; a simple guide to keep you legal

Every day there are arguments, questions and lengthy discussions about what is legal when it comes to towing with a 4WD, and every guide I’ve ever read has not made things overly simple or clear.

There is a lot more to towing capacity than just the one rating, and lots of people don’t understand this.

There was an educational exercise done in the Eastern States some time ago, where a heap of vehicles towing caravans and other trailers were weighed in various ways by the transport authority and police. 

Majority of them were not legal. Only one fine was handed out with the intention of it being an educational exercise, but it proves the fact that people don’t understand what needs to be done to be compliant. 

Tow vehicle legalities
Is your towing setup legal? Are you sure?

So, they jump online, and are met with a barrage of acronyms like GTM, ATM, GVM, GCM, TBM etc etc and soon get lost.

Even those who have put a lot of effort into trying to understand it all still get confused; there’s a lot of poorly written (and sometimes wrong) information out there.

This applies to towing anything; from a boat, to a caravan, hybrid camper trailer, box trailer, camper trailer, horse float or anything in between.

Today, towing a caravan is the most common way to be overloaded, as they are incredibly popular.

If you want a real world example, we had our Isuzu Dmax with a GVM upgrade towing a 2.2 tonne camper trailer weighed, and we were extremely close to being illegal.

Isuzu Dmax and camper trailer
We’re right on the limits, and only towing 2300kg

You can read more about this here – Mobile weighing. It shows very clearly that the best towing vehicle needs to be well under a number of the weights, or you can easily get caught out.

Towing with a Pajero
Our simple towing guide is easy to follow and understand

Towing Capacity; the 7 items you need to comply with

For the purposes of making this article relevant to you, head over to Redbook, select your vehicle and write down the figures referred to in the below points.

Alternatively, use your owners manual to find the information or give your vehicle manufacturer a call with your VIN number handy. This gives you a starting point for your towing capacities.

There are 32 ways to make your 4WD illegal, and being over weight in any of the 7 below categories is enough to put you in dangerous territory.

It doesn’t matter whether you are in a Wagon or Ute, you have to comply with the below:

Be under the maximum total weight together

When your 4WD is attached to your trailer, the total weight of your setup moving down the road must not exceed the Gross Combination Mass (GCM).

Every vehicle has a GCM, which you can find in your owners manual, Redbook or by ringing the vehicle manufacturer.

As an example, our Isuzu Dmax has a GCM of 5950kg. As long as our trailer and vehicle do not weigh more than 5950kg we’ve passed the first test.

It’s simply the total weight of your trailer unhitched, and the total weight of your vehicle unhitched, added together.

Your tow ball weight is not considered in the GCM; its a separate concept and anyone who tells you otherwise is full of it. 4WD weights add up super fast, and if you haven’t had yours weighed, you should.

Tow vehicle weight
What does your trailer and vehicle weigh together?

Be under the vehicles maximum weight

Your vehicle has a maximum weight, which is called the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM). This is the maximum weight of your vehicle with everything in/on it and includes the tow ball weight.

If we take a 200 series Land Cruiser, you’ll see they have a GVM of 3350kg. The empty vehicle weighs 2740kg, which leaves you with 610kg of weight that can be added.

Trailer swaying
The 200 Series is a great vehicle, but they have a terrible payload from the factory

Your payload includes everything that weighs the vehicle down; passengers, drawer systems, bull bars, water, food and the weight your trailer applies on the tow ball.

This is the primary way in which people are overloaded. Normal 4WD’s don’t have the greatest payloads to begin with, and when you add a heap of accessories and gear on board along with a trailers tow ball weight, you’ll go over the GVM very quickly!

Add 2 passengers, a bull bar, winch,  tow bar, fridge and 250kg of tow ball weight (10% of a 2.5 tonne trailer) and a 600kg payload is pretty much gone already.

Dmax at Devils Hollow
Its incredibly easy to go over your GVM without major modifications

It is possible to get a GVM upgrade; if you want to know more, have a read of this – Dmax GVM Upgrade through ARB. Just know that GVM upgrades should be done with caution.

You should always start with the right vehicle in mind; if you have to modify a 4WD so much to make it do what you want it to, then you will end up with other problems that are just as frustrating. Read more here; GVM Upgrades; how much is too much?

ARB GVM Upgrade Dmax
What does your 4WD weigh individually?

Be under the rated axle capacities

Balancing the load on your 4WD is extremely important. If your vehicle has a payload of 800kg, its assumed that the load is evenly balanced throughout the vehicle.

If you put 800kg over the rear axles (or even behind!) you will exceed the maximum weight that your vehicle is rated to carry on the rear axle.

Every vehicle has a maximum weight rating for the front and rear axles. Don’t make the mistake of loading up the rear of your vehicle excessively as you risk chassis damage, insurance companies walking away from claims and a very unstable/unsafe vehicle to drive.

This is especially important for those of you who own dual cab Utes. Due to the design, a huge amount of the weight you add ends up over the rear axles, and tow ball weights apply a lot more force than just their weight to the rear axle.

Triton overhang
Dual cab 4WD’s are often the worst for huge leverage figures when it comes to tow ball weight

Have a read of this – Is your dual cab’s chassis likely to bend?

If you want a real life scenario, we saw a Dual Cab Ute bend from a floodway in Cape York.

A bent BT50 chassis
This vehicle suffered a badly bent chassis from a rough floodway
Rear axle weight
Do you know what your individual axle weights are?

Be under the vehicles rated towing capacity

Every vehicle comes with a maximum towing capacity. If its 3000kg, you cannot tow a trailer that weighs more than 3000kg. Simple.

However, there is a minor point to mention; you can tow a trailer that is rated heavier than the the tow capacity, so long as you don’t load it up beyond your tow capacity.

In other words, the ATM of your van has zero bearing on your towing capacity. You most certainly can tow a trailer with a higher ATM figure (the figure only) than your towing capacity, providing you keep the trailer’s actual weight under the towing capacity. 

For example, if you had a 3500kg towing capacity, you could legally tow a caravan with an ATM figure of 4000kg, providing you kept the actual trailer weight under 3500kg.

Towing capacity refers to the maximum you can tow, and ATM refers to the maximum weight your trailer can be. The two are not linked in any way.

Make sure you get your vehicle’s model and age correct. For example, the Prado Towing Capacity today is 3000kg, but it has changed over the years, and you need to make sure the figure you are looking at is for your specific model.

Toyota Tow hitch ratings
What is the towing capacity of your 4WD?

If you aren’t sure of what that is, head to the Red Book link at the top of this post and enter the details in to find out.

Another thing I will mention is to make sure that the tow bar and tow tongue is also rated to the same (or higher) rating and is suited and attached correctly as per the vehicle manufacturers recommendations.

If they have a lower towing capacity than that of your vehicle, that is your limit.

In general, towing capacities are generally not able to be fully used under normal circumstances, due to other limitations.

For example, just because you have a 3500kg towing capacity doesn’t mean you can actually legally tow 3500kg; it all depends on the rest of the setup.

Ford ranger towing capacity
Most 4WD’s are not able to tow their maximum towing capacity under normal circumstances

Be under the maximum tow ball weight

Your vehicle will also come with a maximum tow ball weight. This can vary based on the model of the vehicle and the tow bar that you are using, but you cannot exceed the maximum tow ball weight.

This is a very important number when considering safe towing as it ultimately determines how stable and safe your tow setup is. If you want to know more, read What is Tow Ball Weight, and why does it matter?

In Australia, the guide or general rule of thumb is to have 6 – 10% of the trailers loaded mass on the tow ball; if you have a 3000kg trailer you should have 180 – 300kg on the tow ball.

However, make sure your vehicle is rated to take 300kg of down force on the tow ball.

Triton Tow Bar
What is the maximum tow ball weight your vehicle will accept?

For example, the Mitsubishi Pajero tow ball weight is only rated for 180kg if you are towing over 2.5 tonnes (up to 310kg depending on what model you have; look it up!).

Many trailers have obscenely heavy tow ball weights, especially forward and rear fold camper trailers. Despite the Pajero towing capacity being decent, you have other limitations that come into play.

If you want to know how to increase tow ball weight capacity, you need to check with the manufacturer, to see if it can be done with a different tow bar.

In some cases, there are aftermarket products that will do this too; suspension/chassis/tow bar upgrades. Hayman Reece is a good place to start here, or in the case of the 180kg Pajero tow ball weight you can get an increase through places like Climax suspension.

It’s important that you consider the direction or orientation of your tow hitch as well, as this hugely changes the tow ball weight and your stability. For more information, check out can you flip your tow hitch?

If you’re not sure about the different tow hitch types, we have a post covering that too.

Tow hitch ratings
Our Isuzu Dmax tow hitch data sticker

Be under the trailers maximum weight

Just like your vehicle, your trailer can only weigh a certain amount when fully loaded. The Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) is the maximum amount your trailer can weigh when not hooked up to your 4WD.

This, and other figures can be found on the nameplate, usually on the draw bar of your trailer.

Remove the weight of the empty trailer and you have the amount of weight you can add. For example, our Soft Floor Camper Trailer has an empty weight of 540kg and an ATM of 1200kg, giving it a ‘payload’ of 660kg.

However, don’t just go off the nameplate on your trailer, as there’s a pretty high chance it won’t be accurate. Some nameplates can be out by a huge amount when the trailer is empty, and people get caught out all the time.

Independent airbag suspension
What is the trailer rated to carry at its maximum?

This happens because manufacturers aren’t always honest, and because of different accessories fitted to each trailer.

A lot of big caravans have terrible payloads too (like 2.5 tonne empty, and 2.9 tonne full) giving you a measly 400kg payload for such a big trailer.

Add a bit of dishonesty in and you can be in trouble really quickly. You can get caravans, camper trailers and hybrids with good capacities. Our new Lifestyle Reconn R2 Hybrid Caravan has over 1000kg of payload!

If you are looking for caravan weights explained, you should be starting to feel confident!

Nameplate weights for a camper trailer
Have you ever looked at your trailers name plate?

Have the right brakes

Every trailer that weighs over 750kg should have brakes fitted. This is generally why vehicles have a braked towing capacity, and an unbraked towing capacity.

Some trailer brakes are mechanical and operate with the trailer hitch moving in and out. Some are hydraulic, and most camper trailers and caravan brakes these days are electric.

If the brakes are electric, you need an electric brake controller operating them. Most are fitted to the vehicle, like the Redarc Towpro, but there are trailer mounted options now too.

Trailer brakes
Most trailer brakes are electric drum, but there are some different options out there too

You cannot legally tow a trailer over 750kg with electric brakes if you do not have a working module installed and operational.

Dmax tow controller
A Redarc Tow Pro Elite in our Dmax

Go and visit a weighbridge

If you don’t know what your setup weighs, head to the local weighbridge and check it out. Be prepared for a shock; I guarantee you’ll be surprised at the result.

These things have a way of being made more complex than they really are. Take your time to understand them, see a weighbridge and you’ll sleep tight knowing you aren’t going to have issues with the law and insurance.

On the weighrbridge
Checking our Dmax and camper on a local weighbridge

Why does any of this matter?

If you’ve gotten to the bottom of this post, and you still have no idea why its important to be aware of these things, I’ll make it short and sweet.

Firstly, its a legal requirement to meet the above criteria. If you don’t meet it, you are breaking the law. Beyond that, if your insurance company deems an accident you have was contributed to by being over weight, they can legally walk away or reduce your claim. Not good.

In fact, seriously not good. Rear end a nice Ferrari or sports car and you could be in a world of financial pain for the rest of your life.

Lastly, ratings are given from an engineering perspective as that is what they are designed to do, and if you push beyond that limit the chances of something going drastically wrong increase substantially.

Legal towing setup
There’s lots of risk driving a setup that is not legal

What if you are over weight?

If you do visit a weighbridge, and find out that you have broken one of the 7 things above, there’s a few things that you can do.

The first, and most obvious is to ditch as much weight as possible. This may be from your trailer, or from your 4WD.

Start with emptying your setup, and re-packing the things that you really need. Remember that a huge amount of weight usually comes from accessories – second tyres, rear bars, bull bars, winches, extra fuel tanks etc all add up, very fast.

If your tow ball weight is excessive, shifting weight around can help dramatically, just do it sensibly.

Reconn R2 storage
You can move items around to adjust the weights, but do it carefully

If you are still over weight, and there is nothing you can do about it, you can look at getting an engineering certificate to carry more weight.

This applies to trailers (see your trailer manufacturer first) and 4WD’s. A number of shops sell off the shelf kits for vehicle GVM (and sometimes GCM) upgrades.

Independent engineers can certify a myriad of different things too, and are worth consulting.

We found our Dmax was going to be over weight at the end of the build, and approached ARB who fitted an Old man emu GVM upgrade.

Old man Emu Suspension
We had ARB do a minor GVM upgrade with new Old Man Emu Suspension

If you want to know more about what it weighs, check this out – Dmax weight summary

Do you know what you weigh, and that you are legal?

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  1. Hey Dean,

    To get all of the weight figures you need, you have to weigh them separately anyway. That said, its important to get the GVM, ball weight and axle weights when hitched up, and not just the GCM.

    I don’t know about the GCM for the GU Patrol, but looking online some have placards for 6250kg, so I guess it depends on what you get

    All the best

  2. Dean Jones says:

    The Nissan Payrol Y61 does not have a GCM!
    Which means the vehicle and trailer need to be weighed separately. As long as both don’t exceed GVM and ATM you are legal.

  3. Hey Josh,

    Sorry for the late reply mate; we’ve been off grid for a while and I’m just getting through the comments now!

    Your conclusion is exactly how it is; towing a heavy van with most dual cab Ute’s and staying legal is almost impossible, without huge GVM/GCM upgrades (and then you risk other issues).

    Ultimately, this is why people end up with 200 series Land Cruisers, 79 Series Utes, Y62 Patrols, American Utes or even trucks.

    When we had our mobile weighing done we were told 60 – 80% of vehicles weighed were over weight, and many of them are dual cabs.

    You have a difficult decision to make, and it will involve a compromise in one way or another

    All the best!

  4. Hi Aaron,
    Very interesting read. I’m currently looking at upgrading to a caravan. Currently towing with a 2021 hilux sr5. I have some basic accessories ( toyota steel bullbar, basic canopy, towball and minor extras. I took it over a weigh bridge today. Now if I add passengers, 200/250kg on average for a family van, bit of camping gear in the rear I would be close to full gvm. But it seems as though most would be. The van I am looking at, I would be under gcm.
    If under gcm but borderline gvm is that a safe way to be traveling. It seems unavoidable to be at full gvm without a gvm upgrade on most If not all dualcabs.

  5. Hey Stuart,

    Thanks for your kind words.

    In theory it should do the maximum tow capacity, but it might work hard to do so. Are these an automatic gearbox, or a CVT? I’d find real life experiences from anyone with the same vehicle.

    The Patriot is an interesting choice if you aren’t intending on leaving the sealed roads; do you already have one?

    All the best

  6. Hey, found your articles really useful so appreciate the knowledge.

    I’ve got a Subaru Outback 2021 with a max tow of 2,000kg/ball weight of up to 200kg.

    My question is, if I do meet all the other criteria for towing (tow ball weight, GMV, GCM etc.) *should* I go up to my towing limit? Or is this just asking for trouble?

    Background: Looking to tow a camper trailer (probably a Patriot X1 (ATM: 1,600kg / 120kg drawbar) on mostly sealed roads, nothing too crazy.

  7. Hey Sharronne,

    Thanks for your kind words. I haven’t had a whole lot of experience with motorhomes, but the same principles will apply.

    If you aren’t towing, you are only really concerned about the GVM and axle weights, which should be easy to stay within given these are designed to carry loads.

    It doesn’t hurt to understand what they weigh empty, and what weight has been added when you load them up though.

    All the best

  8. Sharronne says:

    Hi Aron
    Thanks for all your info.
    I’m in early stages of purchasing a motorhome or Campervan( Sprinter) or similar. Do most of your above info apply to these vehicles as well. I won’t be towing anything,
    Still learning heaps about travelling in general. Your posts are my bedside reading these days. Thanks again

  9. Hey Susan,

    Yep, I was wondering the other day how much bigger and heavier vans are going to get. A weigh bridge is certainly worth while doing, and I share your sentiments about sales people! So many don’t even understand the weights and they are giving out advice!

    Take care

  10. Susan dickeson says:

    With the increase of travellers (I call them covid travellers), and all these new beut big “off road” caravans on the road, I have been concerned with the way they have been set up. All the bells and whistles, mud tyres (on a caravan!), 2 spares, stone guards, 100 L or more water tanks, jerry cans, half tonne of fire wood, genny, 2 x 9 kg gas bottles, air con, etc. Many caravan payloads are only 500kg or less. Many look either overweight or not packed properly, ( ^ or V shape at the tow point.) There are not many 4wd’s that will tow 3700 kg or over. ALERT – Police is all states are targeting rigs and found 9 out of 10 are overweight! Before leaving, find a weigh bridge and weigh the car , with and without the tow ball weight, and the caravan hitched. Add and subtract tow ball weight as needed. Also, take with a grain of salt any advise given by caravan dealers, they want to sell vans (You have a Prado for this 3000kg van, no problems.) Which Prado are they referring to!

  11. Hey Doug,

    I’m glad you found it useful. Your scenario is super common; dual cab Utes are so easy to overload on the rear.

    GVM upgrades generally come in two types; a small increase without changing the axle loads, and then a much larger increase with re-rating the axles. In essence the GVM upgrade supplier takes on the warranty for broken differentials and anything that might fail due to exceeding the manufacturers recommendations.

    In my mind, the lighter you go the better for everything, and we specifically avoided going for a massive GVM upgrade to limit what we took, and to stay within the OEM limitations. Our maximum front axle weight plus maximum rear axle weight is our new GVM (with a minor upgrade through ARB).

    At the end of the day though, if you need the new rated axles you probably don’t have much choice, but just be aware of the weight distribution and drive it accordingly. I have seen a couple of 79’s with bent chassis, and you don’t want to go down that path!

    All the best

  12. Doug Charles says:

    Hi Aaron.
    Very interesting article we have just had our 79 series landcruiser with a 3700 kg gvm(lovells upgrade) and van cruiser (fury rd) weigh by a mobile weighing company and we were under gvm and gcm and atm, gtm and towbar was 10.4% so thought we where doing well till we looked at the axle loadings and found our rear axle was significantly over loaded so yes it certainly pays to look at everything very closely. My question is what do you think of axle re ratings on the tow vehicle and are they worthwhile?
    Cheers Doug

  13. Hi Brett,

    Interesting conclusion, and one I don’t agree with at all. If they were capable of towing 5000kg, they would be rated to do so

    All the best

  14. It proves they are all way under rated as all the vehicle that tested over weight, had zero issues and zero accidents.. if the legal rating is 3500kgs it will tow 5ton… we need less compliance not more red tape and woke rules

  15. Hi Carlos,

    Looks positive, and reasonably well balanced too. The only thing I would check is the axle weights of your vehicle; you could be close to the front or rear maximum depending on what they are, and how the car is loaded.

    I assume your van is also good for 2700kg?

    All the best, and well done for looking into it all

  16. Carlos Wallis says:

    Hi there
    Have a 2021Ranger. GVM currently 2850 and Van total loaded weight 2700 with ball weight 250kg
    My take is that this is ok and under 6000 GCM and GVM limits on vehicle of 3200.
    It’s confusing to say the least
    Thanks hopefully

  17. Graham Besant says:

    Thanks Aaron for your advice I shall pursue the numbers on the van a lot closer.

  18. Hi Graham,

    When you say the ball weight is 145kg, have you actually seen this, or is it their quoted figure? I would ask to have the van loaded up (at least with full gas bottles and water tanks), and physically see the weights for yourself.

    My parents are in the same boat, towing a 2750kg van and they are often moving jerry cans around to maintain under the 180kg tow ball weight.

    Yes, you can adjust weights to keep the tow ball weight down, but ultimately the bulk of the weight will come from how the van is designed. You may find depending on where the water tanks are located that it is impossible to keep the weight under 180kg when its loaded, and it could even get worse when the water tanks start to empty.

    To answer the rest of your question, I believe Mitsubishi recommend 6% tow ball weight, so a 2930kg van would be around the 180kg mark. Heavier isn’t a bad thing, and can give you more stability depending on how the weight is distributed on and in the van. My folks have no issues with sway, but the 180kg limit is certainly a bit annoying at the very least.

    Without knowing your sales person, I’d be very loathe to believe anything they say; make sure you see it with your own eyes, and you could even put it into the contract; fully loaded as a normal person would it must be under 180kg tow ball weight. That way, you have an out as needed

    All the best

  19. Graham Besant says:

    HI Aaron
    I have a 2020 Pajero and fully aware of the towing capacities and loads but we were considering purchasing a van with a ATM of 2930 kg. The ball weight empty is 145 kg. to keep the ball weight to 180 kg or less the sales people are saying just load the van so that the dose not exceed the 180 kg.
    To my thinking this may cause the tail to wag. Good idea or not.

  20. Anne Reader says:

    Thanks Aaron
    I will take that all into account

  21. Hi Anne,

    It’s actually simpler than you might realise:

    Your horse float should weigh 1950kg empty. What will it weigh when you add one/two horses and gear?

    If its over 2500kg, you cannot have the tow ball weight at more than 180kg. The tow ball weight is a product of how you load the trailer up. If you put lots of weight far forward, the tow ball weight goes up. If you put lots of weight further back, it will go down. It could be as low as 150kg, or it could be up around the 300kg +. I’m not familiar with horse float tow ball weights.

    If the trailer is over 2500kg and over 180kg tow ball weight it will be illegal behind the Pajero. If its over 3000kg it will also be illegal.

    If you are upgrading vehicles, you need something that will take the extra tow ball weight, which is where the Pajero falls short. Also, make sure its towing capacity is higher than the maximum weight you will load the float to. 200 Series Land Cruisers, Y62 Patrols, American trucks (Silverado, F250, Dodge Ram) or an actual truck are your best options. You may get away with a normal dual cab ute, or MUX too. It’s just about finding something that ticks the 7 items we talk about in this very post

    All the best

  22. Anne Reader says:

    I am looking to upgrade my horse float and am wondering if I will be illegal if towing the one I am looking at. I own a 2018 Pajero with towing capacity of 3000kg with max tow bar download 180kg (optional download of 2500kg with 250 kg two bar download capacity). The perspective horse float tare is 1950kgs and GVM is 3500. It is all so confusing but I don’t want to be illegal. If the Pajero is not suitable, what vehicle would be? Also what defines the donwload capicity?

  23. Hi Howard,

    Yep, makes it hard to do the right thing

    All the best

  24. howard marsland says:

    Thanks for your reply there is so much conflicting information out there ,

  25. Hey Howard,

    The tow ball weight comes off your GVM and has nothing to do with GCM. If your vehicle weighs 2600, then you add the tow ball weight to that to get your GVM.

    Your GCM is just the total weight of your van (3100kg?) and the car (2600kg)? and you get 5700kg.

    All the best

  26. howard marsland says:

    I have a Ford Ranger with outback amour susp up grade and total off road upgrade weighing 2600kg ,a highline caravan weight 2800 empty loaded about 3100kg if weighed a part total 5700kg does the towball weight added to the ranger make me over GCM or am I still under?

  27. Hi Robert,

    Correct, but an electric brake controller is still a requirement

    All the best

  28. Hi – Great article – however an electic brake controller in the vehicle is not a must cost anymore. A friend of ours bought an elecbrake unit and it works great – no car installation costs – sell your car and you don’t lose the money you have spent.

  29. Hey Debbie,

    Thanks for the comment. You are in the same situation as my folks, who are also capped at 180kg with their Pajero. Their van weighs in at 2750kg (Kokoda Digger) and Dad carries a portable tow ball weight scale around and checks it regularly, moving jerry cans and bits and pieces around to ensure they are compliant. It does make it awkward, and I would agree that towing anything much higher than 2500kg is pushing the friendship, but lots of people do.

    All the best with your new JB

  30. Great clarification on weights. We have a 2021 Pajero and the ball weight is still only 180kg for a van 2500 to 3000kg. Pajero Sports has the tow ball weight to 310kg. We have found it a bit of a challenge to find the right van in particular a tandem which we wanted. We originally had a Jayco Journey Poptop tandem which was perfect for towing but I wanted a full roof so thus the constant search for right van. I have read a few forums where a few say not to anything higher than 2500kg with a Pajero. Anyway we have settled on a JB single axle semi off-road Tare 2075-2125 AGM 2500 Tow Ball 120-140.

  31. Hey Mark,

    You aren’t wrong mate. Its so easy to be over on one or another. Easiest thing to do is to have a well and truly suitable setup, in every way

    All the best

  32. Mark Holloway says:

    you are right, easier to understand than it is to get seven out of seven.

  33. Steve Ball says:

    Thanks for the reply. It sounds like the car manufacturer has to authorise the upgrade, which is unlikely to happen. I haven’t checked if the assisted load kit is still listed in the Hyundai parts catalogue. Perhaps it is, but it limits you to also getting the tow bar from Hyundai, which is expensive.

    Thanks again,
    Steve = : ^ )

  34. Hey Steve,

    Your maximum allowable tow ball weight will come from the nameplate on the tow bar, or the value stipulated by Hyundai (the lesser of the two). If Hyundai upgraded it to 150kg, they’d have an engineering package that has been approved. I haven’t heard of third parties doing this on anything except the tow bar, so I doubt your chances.

    You could ring around, but not sure who’d be the right people to start with.

    All the best

  35. Steve Ball says:

    Excellent article, thanks. The previous (pre-2021) generation Hyundai Santa Fe has a maximum tow ball download of 100 kg. However, Hyundai marketed a “Load Assist Kit” that upgraded this to 150 kg. As I understand it, the kit is basically stiffer springs and a sticker to place over the plate on the vehicle. I assume this makes it legal to then put up to 150 kg on the tow ball.

    My question is: can I third party do this? i,e, if a third party supplier mounts similarly rated springs as the OEM kit, does this make it *legal* to put 150 kg on the tow ball? Does someone have to sing off on it?

    Thanks again,
    Steve = : ^ )

  36. Hey Shaun,

    All good mate. It still catches me out from time to time too!

    All the best

  37. Never mind that last comment, had a seniors moment when I saw it written out a different way, feel free to not put the comment up lmao. Not sure what I was thinking.

  38. Hi Mick,

    You can get the figures applicable to your own 4WD off Redbook, as per the post. If it makes it easier, ignore any reference to any specific vehicles, and just think about the figures.

    I intentionally used different vehicles to showcase how they are all different and why the individual weights need to be considered

    All the best

  39. Your article started out really well using easy an understand .
    The explanation for GCM went quite well, especially where you used the Dmax as the real world example but then you went and made the whole thing confusing by switching from the Dmax to another vehicle for the next weight and then changed the vehicle again with the next weight.

  40. Hi Elizabeth,

    You are very welcome. It can be a confusing topic with the wrong information!

    Take care

  41. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Aaron
    Thank your for your detailed easy to read article we have been told so may different versions of weights thank goodness I found yours and now we fully understand there is know way a Santa Fe will tow a caravan with ensuite. The Santa Fe weighs around 1700.
    Thank you again

  42. Hi Brian,

    There’s lots of variables here. I would just go to a weighbridge and see where it sits. Your towball weight comes off GVM, but thw water in your camper will only affect your GCM and trailer weight (and probably make your tow ball weight go up or down too)

    If your vehicle is kept light you’ll probably be OK but a weigh bridge is the only way to tell

    All the best

  43. Great article, been reading and reading so much to take in. What I’d like to ask; just bought a 13ft hybrid hard top, the TB 200kg, atm 2600, tare 2000, I have a prado 150 2013. Doing calculations and worried I might be over, defo on the atm providing I’m not loaded to the full atm. MY Gcm is 5990, gvm 2990, Tb 250… if I load my water tanks up 200kg. Would that be my full weight. excuse not dumb but so many different sites saying so many different things. Many thanks

  44. Hey Trevor,

    It varies from state to state; some specifically say you can, and others say you can’t. If you plan on keeping the vehicle for a while you can get a Redarc controller installed along with an anderson plug for charging your van for about $550.

    I know the WITI systems are a popular option for wireless, and I’ve heard of a few other options, but can’t comment on the specific legalities for each state. My advice would be to contact your local road authority, and go from there.

    All the best

  45. Aaron,
    Brake controllers ? Are they required to be fitted to the tow vehicle, there are ones that Bluetooth to the phone or can be mounted to drawbar, are these devices allowed ?
    Great article

  46. Hi David,

    There is no law broken by towing a trailer that has a higher ATM than the tow rating on your vehicle, providing the actual trailer weight is under the requirements. Many vehicles can tow a car trailer empty, but not with a car on it, but the ATM is still the same.

    All the best

  47. David Jones says:

    Aaron, great article. Just one point – are you sure that you can legally tow a trailer with a higher ATM than your car’s limit if it does not weigh more than the limit? I thought it was the case that you cannot tow a trailer of higher ATM than the vehicles limit, regardless of what it actually weighs.

  48. Hey James,

    Interesting, and not something I’ve come across before. I would speak to Hayman Reece, and any vehicle engineers you can find locally, but you have quite the conundrum.

    Hopefully one of them can give you a better figure

  49. Hi James,

    That’s a difficult one. I’d be speaking to the distributor in Australia (what vehicle is it?), or a vehicle engineer.

    All the best

  50. Hi Aaron,

    Both of my cars are European, which means they list a 5% downball weight of max 100kg in the car specs. The towbar itself is rated to 250kg, and since the car is rated to tow 2,000kg then in “theory” it should actually have a 10% max ball weight of 200kg. The larger model is also only 100kg in Europe but they seem to have re-rated it in Australia and allow almost 300kg ball weight for it, but it seems they can’t be bothered releasing an Australian rating for my car(s). How do I work out what I can actually tow legally?

  51. Hey Keiron,

    The Prado rating is the maximum the vehicle can take. The van rating is the maximum the van can take. You will have to go off the lower of the two in this instance, but I would ring the caravan manufacturer if possible and ask them about it. I don’t actually know whether this is policed or not, but you may be able to get it upgraded quite easily (especially if the manufacturer is still around).

    All the best

  52. Keiron Parsons says:

    I have a 150 Prado with a 250kgs ball weight. My caravan shows two weights on the plate for the ball loading 1. Empty all mass = 138kgs and 2. Max ball loading = 186kgs.
    I have used a ball weight spring that is in the region of 220kgs. How would this be dealt with by a transport inspector? Would the Prado rating take priority over the van plate?

  53. Hi Yvonne,

    Its not a law, but it is good advice. Towing a much heavier trailer allows the tail to wag the dog, and not the other way around.

    All the best

  54. I have heard the the tow vehicle should be heavier than the caravan
    Is this correct

  55. Allan Whitbourne says:

    Hello again Aaron, to answer your question my actual van weight loaded is 2440kg but if I add the tow ball weight 230kg it is over 2500kg (illegal).
    If the tow ball weight is considered in the GVM of the vehicle and also in the ATM weight of the caravan doesn’t that mean the tow ball weight is in the calculation twice???

  56. Hey Allan,

    The tow ball weight comes off your payload, and is considered in your GVM. It is not considered in your GCM. What is your actual van weight when loaded? If its over 2500kg you won’t be legal. Your ATM is the total van’s maximum weight (including the tow ball weight) and your GTM is the maximum weight you can apply to the axles (as in tow ball weight not considered).

    All the best

  57. Allan Whitbourne says:

    Hi Aaron, interesting read, thank you. Owner of 2012 Prado with manufacture GVM = 2990kg and towing capacity 2500kg & tow ball 250kg and a 19’6″ 2017 Crusader caravan. Fully loaded the weighbridge weights are all under the manufacturers weights including the GCM:-
    Prado, GVM – 2620kg and tow ball – 230kg = 2850kg unhitched. Crusader, GTM – 2440kg unhitched. To work out the legal weights, is the tow ball weight added to the vehicle as you have indicated or is it added to the caravan to get the ATM figure??? Also, are the above figures legal for towing??? Thanks

  58. Hey Allen,

    Thanks for the comment. Technically they should be correct, but only when the trailer rolls off the factory floor in its original condition. The problem arises when people add extra accessories into their package, or they add them after the fact (or secondary owners do it and so forth). The best caravan manufacturers in the business will guarantee a weight, and just prior to pickup will take it to a weighbridge, and get the data plate done based off the results.

    Really the only way of determening whether it is correct or not is to take it to a weigh bridge. I wouldn’t touch a second hand trailer without confirming the weight is correct. You can do this by finding people with the same van that has been weighed, and ensuring there is nothing significantly different, or just tow it to the local weigh bridge.

    All the best

  59. Allen Wheatley says:

    We are looking at buying both a tow vehicle and off road camper trailer. I have read a myriad of information about weights, most if which is completly confusing. This article is quite clear, well writen and informative with a true sense if authoritive knowledge.
    Can you tell me though, are data plates ( nname plkates) on trailers legal documents or just general information?
    If they can be incorrect, what is the best wasy to find out a trailers weight data, particularity if it is second hand?

  60. Thanks Aaron. On the first pass as described above, after getting the combined car and van weight, would moving the vehicle off the WB still attached, enable the calculation of the necessary figures.
    Thanks for your help.

  61. Hi Dave,

    To do it correctly, you have no choice but to do it slowly and with multiple passes. Alternatively, find a different weigh bridge, or see your local Pedders branch that can weigh it all for you (or a mobile weighing company).

    In regards to the weighbridge:

    Firstly, drive on with the van attached, but just with the front 2 wheels on on the weighbridge. Get that weight. Then, drive on with all 4 wheels. Get that weight. Then, drive on with the caravan and vehicle attached, and get that weight. Then, detach the van, and move the vehicle and get that weight. Lastly, get just the vehicle weight without the van attached.

    With this, you should be able to work out your Front axle weight, GVM, ATM, GCM, Tow Ball weight and rear axle weight

    If the tub liner is a normal plastic one on a dual cab ute it won’t weigh more than about 10 – 15kg

    All the best

  62. Please describe the most efficient method of weighbridging a vehicle/caravan combination. Our local WB is always busy and I doubt the operator would be happy with me doing multiple passes, including unhitching van on the WB.
    Also please advise the likely weight of my tub liner.
    Dave (2014 2.5 D40 Navara)

  63. Hi Aaron,
    Your articles are great, and its becoming a bible to me.

    Be safe,

  64. Fridge WA says:

    Thanks Aaron,

    Your article is great – the fog is beginning to lift a little (Payload, ATM,GTM, ATM, GVM, GCM, TBM) starting to mean something.

  65. Hey Mark,

    You are very welcome. Good to hear. It’s always interesting driving onto a weighbridge and seeing how close your estimates are!

    We also use a free one near us

    All the best

  66. Mark Howland says:

    Thank you for the article. Just about to head off for about 4 months on the road. So far, on our short trips, we are totally under weight. This trip, we will be carrying extra stuff, so keen to see what weight we will be. We live close to our local tip, which has a full weigh bridge. As long as you don’t want a print out, it is free to use! I will be keen to see what we weigh this time.

  67. Hey Phil,

    Which plate are you talking about? If its the one on the van, that is the unloaded weight and it will go up from that as you load gear in. As long as you are under the tow bar and vehicle’s tow ball weight you should be fine

    All the best

  68. My tow ball weight is greater than that identified on the plate but below the vehicle manufacturers specification – am I legal. The gross is ok

  69. Hi Wayne,

    In general, your empty weight is calculated with about 10 – 15 litres of fuel in the tanks, so filling them up will reduce your payload by anywhere from 50 – 150kg depending on how big the tanks are.


  70. Wayne Perry says:

    Hi Arron,
    When calculating the GVM, is fuel in the original tanks counted as part of the payload? This could throw things out by 100kg plus in some cases. I have always counted the unladen weight of the vehicle with a full tank. Thoughts?
    Cheers, Wayne

  71. Hey Rob,

    Thanks. This is why its so important that you look your own details up; it varies from year to year, and model to model, and sometimes affects your towing capacity at certain tow ball weights

    All the best

  72. Rob Anderson says:

    Hi there. Very interesting article, many thanks. However you quote that the Mitsubishi Pajero has a towball weight of 180kg. Mitsubishi tell me that models from 2017 on have a towball weight of 310kg but confirmed that the previous models (eg 2012) have just 180kg, might be an idea to update the article? Cheers Rob Anderson

  73. Brian Hoare says:

    Great article and very informative. Thanks for clarifying what seems to be so confusing.

  74. Hey Bernie,

    You are most welcome mate. Just check the GCM – you will find the GVM upgrade doesn’t change this, so you still can’t exceed the original GCM


  75. Great read , in particular re gcm . I have a MUX 2750 gvm , van 3000 with gcm 5750 leaving me on maximum however if I was to get gvm upgrade on MUX to 3200 I should be sweet allowing for 300 rated tow . Can’t thank you enough for simplifying the process

  76. Hey Helen,

    Yep – there’s all sorts of weird and wonderful additions that some manufacturers put in place. Good to hear you understand it all

    Safe travels

  77. Thanks for the info, very helpful. Just 1 thing as I have a Pajero & have crunched all the numbers. The ball weight is a little tricky, if your ball weight is 18o kg or less you can tow up to 3000 kg but if your ball weight is 181 to 250 kg you can only tow up to 2500 kg. Hope that helps someone.

  78. Hey Ricky,

    You are welcome mate. I think you will find the tow ball weight of 171kg on the nameplate is actually the unladen weight. As in, this is what the tow ball down force is going to be on your vehicle before any gear is added. It shouldn’t be a maximum. The general rule of thumb is somewhere between 6 and 10% for tow ball weight, and generally the tow ball weight will increase as you load it from when it rolls off the factory floor.

    If your trailer manufacturer is still around give them a call and ask.


  79. Ricky Jorgenson says:

    Great read thank you. I believe I am on top of the weights issue but one question please.
    Prado max tow ball weight of 250kg (plate on tow bar) ATM of trailer is 2371kg with max tow ball weight of 171 kg ( both on plate in van) Can I go to 200 kg ball weight as Long as all other weights are under ie ATM, GVM of Prado and GCM

    Thanks in advance