What do payload and towing ratings mean in the real world?
Cooley On Cars
Towing and payload trucks compete on those two like crazy.
You see it in every advertisement for any pickup or heavy SUV.
And if you notice that they're all best in class.
How's that possible?
Let's find out how towing and payload are actually determined through a little something you should know about called J 2807.
Payload and towing are so important that Ford has recently rolled out a whole new technology option that measures and shows you what you got going on.
There are some scales built into the bat or the body of the latest f 150 as an option, and it'll show you your weight and your loading level.
On either the center screen dash, or on the fordpass app on your phone, or interestingly on a set of I think four blinking segment indicators, some led bargraph stuff going on in the taillights while you're back there watching someone load your truck full of manure with a skip loader.
So a whole bunch of ways to see what that trucks carrying and make it easy to figure out graphically.
Am I at the top of my range or not?
You can even tear the truck zero without like a scale and use it as a big scale to actually see approximate number of how much stuff you put in it kind of the ultimate bathroom scale on wheels.
But who says those numbers are accurate on any of this stuff?
That's where the Society of Automotive Engineers come in, they're pretty much the technical congress for the auto industry, and SAE has a spec called J2807.
What this does, and it's fairly recent by the way, is layout guard rails so that whenever a truck manufacturer says they can tow or carry this, They got there by a common set of testing specs.
So it's apples to apples when you compare those ratings out in the marketplace, not GM doing their test and Gods doing theirs and Ford having a whole nother one that doesn't tell you much but now the numbers do
Among the things j 2807 specifies is GCWR gross combined weight rating that is a truck, its own weight.
occupants, a driver and a passenger and 150 pounds each, a full load in the bed.
And carrying a trailer that is fully loaded to its specification.
That total package is gross combined weight rating, that's why the word combined is in there.
Now since the J 2807 spec was written, the CDC has come along and found that we weigh more than the SAE thinks we do.
Latest figures are that an American male average is about 200 pounds, not 150 average female 170 not 150.
So, maybe the SAE needs to take a closer look at how many Pringle's and sodas we've been eating and up the numbers of it, but anyway, it's still apples to apples.
Then there are propulsion tests.
Once you've got the vehicle loaded up, how well does it go zero to 60.
That's a common one or 40 to 60 on a level road, pulling its full weight.
Then you've also got some grade tests.
How well can this thing do five starts in five minutes.
Fully Loaded pulling a trailer of either 1000, 2000 maybe 3500 pounds.
They have set trailers, scenarios, if you will.
And of course the goal there is doing that up a 12% grade five times in five minutes and not cranking out, Percents pretty stout.
I know a lot of you think you've been running up 30% grades people don't understand grades very well, you probably crawl up a 30% grade, but driving up 12% grade for the load.
It's a pretty good test.
And of course there are specs for how well the vehicle can brake to a stop how well the parking brake holds no sense in having a load if your parking brake can't hold it.
With a comfort factor beyond that, and also how sway is dealt with and how that can be controlled by the truck, and that's covered in another SAE spec.
But the most interesting part of J 2807 is the Davis dam grade test.
That's an actual road in Arizona on State Route 60.
As you can see, by the contour it's a pretty tough one to drive.
And that grade is driven by a truck loaded up to the specifications that the manufacturer wants to say they can do and advertise has to be done on a day that is 100 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter.
Not too hard to do in Arizona much of the year, and with the AC running full blast, no kidding.
You can also simulate that per the SAE spec in a wind tunnel in a lab that's going to simulate the grade and such at different times.
But some automakers love to go out there because it's a great photo op and they even turn it into a promotional thing.
Now, one thing that this is spec and really no spec Can really portray is what it feels like to pull a certain load up a certain grade or to accelerate a certain distance.
That's subjective stuff is tricky.
Did the truck have to be all the way to the floor or was it two thirds throttle?
Did it feel like it was laboring?
Was it making all kinds of noises or was it still very quiet under load?
You still have to drive a truck to figure that out.
However, this gives you some pretty good guard rails to say when one manufacturer says they can pull or tow this, and another one says they can do something more, you do have a real difference between those two.
Okay, so much for the engineering in J2807 specifications.
There's a lot more I didn't cover as you can imagine.
But let's get down to the real world factors and no one can tell us that better than my roadshow colleague Emmy Hall, who has spent more time, In trucks on and off road, and I think right side up and upside down the truck I rolled a buggy but I've never rolled a truck.
Okay, important distinction, okay, what's these rolled in what she hasn't so and when you take a look at towing and payload capacity, how much should someone who's buying a truck or a heavy SUV really get down to the last 100 pounds Or is it more of a general number?
I mean, in a sense, it is a general number.
You know, I would feel comfortable telling maybe 100, 150 pounds over that, but you really do need to pay careful attention to that weight, because what those engineers have done is they've told the manufacturers Okay, in order to tow safely you need to have X amount of frame strength you need to have X amount of cooling you need to have X amount of breaks.
And if you overload your truck, something bad is probably going to happen.
Either you're gonna overheat super bad, you're gonna cook your brakes and not stop, or you're just gonna bust out the entire frame of your truck.
So they're not doing that to entice you into driving into Purchasing a bigger truck like there really is a reason behind there.
So a couple of 100 pounds maybe that's okay but if you need to tow like 1000 pounds or more, you got to go up another notch in the in the duty system.
Okay, so, so you mentioned some of the things that person should be aware of if they overload a truck Whether they're towing or payload, have you had any issues where you've been out and had an overloaded vehicle, what's it like?
Well, I personally have not although we move some tile the other day for for this new house that I bought and we had to separate it into two separate vehicles
So I put like 1200 pounds of it into my friends to coma and I put 800 pounds of it into a Mazda CX 30 and both were squatting in the rear.
So for that, it was just like, Alright, we're just gonna, like pray we can get it home and our brakes are okay, you know, and that again, we were overloaded a little bit but nothing too bad.
One of the biggest problems that I have seen is people driving too fast when they're trying to tow something An SUV towing a little trailer and it was raining and that guy passed me doing like 85 miles an hour and I'm like that is not very smart sir.
And I started up this past came around the corner and there that truck was with rolled over And it was just a yard sale of all their stuff and it had just happened.
So you know, I got out made sure everyone was okay and I really just wanted to say Don't drive so fast next time, but I was like, I think he got the idea.
Like, you don't have to tell him I told you so.
But that's a really big thing is you when you're telling you want to make sure that you keep your speeds down.
You keep your speeds to the speed limit and you drive in that right hand lane.
Okay, so this is interesting because trailers, I'll be honest, there's still a bit of a black art and a mystery to me.
I think I know which way to turn to get it the right direction, but I haven't I haven't told a lot of stuff, right.
What are the key things are there to know about towing stuff just for the average person?
Yeah, well, the first thing you want to be able to do is you want to make sure that you balance your trailer correctly, you load your trailer correctly.
You know, you don't want to put anything That's heavy on the end of the trailer, you wanna make sure that it's all of your weight is towards the front of the trailer because what happens is is you can start fishtailing like this and then it gets super scary.
When you make your turns, you wanna make sure that you give yourself a wide turning radius because you're no longer a vehicle with this wheelbase, your vehicle with this wheelbase, you gotta make sure you go out and then make your turns.
And if you have to back up, first of all,just don't panic.
What I like to do is I put my hand on the bottom of the steering wheel and then if I wanna move the cart if I wanted with the trailer to the right I go up to the right, which might be backwards on zoom here, but I don't know, if I want to move my trailer to the left, I'm in my hand to the left.
So that kind of takes away that backwards thinking in your mind.
But then also like the Ford F 150.
And I believe the Ranger also has that pro trailer backup assist, which takes out that backwardness.
So that's a really good functionality to have if you're new to towing.
So, those systems then can help you get away from that translation.
That physical translation you have to do.
I always thought of them as just being a way to make sure you're lining up right when you're going somewhere but they also flip that around so it feels right.
Yeah, they help you with the steering.
So instead of actually manipulating the steering wheel, you're manipulating a little dial on the dash.
And so in that it's to turn the trailer right you go to the right side of the trailer left to go to the left where sometimes depending on where your hands are on the steering wheel Will you have to make this backwards translation in your mind.
So the thing that I do when I'm backing up a trailer all the time is I always put in too much steering input.
You don't need a lot of steering input to back it up, just a little tiny movement will get that trailer to go in the direction you want it to go.
And don't be ashamed of asking somebody for help, ask somebody to spot you or if you see somebody that's got like a really Long trailer and you see them back it up like a boss and you're nervous like, just ask them to help you.
They will help you people are really friendly in general and they just want to help and they don't want you to like, block the parking lot because you've messed up backing it up.
So don't be afraid to ask for help.
So, if you were to tell someone who's about to buy their first let's say pickup truck This is all new to them what to focus on in terms of the things we're talking about.
There's a lot of things of course but in terms of its ability to carry payload or to tow is one of the other more important I mean, I assume payload because it's always in the bed, but is towing something that a person should look at even if they don't plan the toe and may start doing it later.
Yeah, I mean it's tough to say right?Cuz it's definitely a lifestyle choice.
You know, like I know how much I need to tow my race trailer weighs about 7000 pounds so I know that I can tow it with a mid size but it's kind of better with the full size.
It's a little bit easier with the full size truck.
So it really just depends on your lifestyle.
If you think That you're going to tell.
Just think about what you and your family need, like are you a family of eight people and you're gonna need to get it like a giant fifth wheel well, then you're going to want to get a heavy duty truck.
If you think that in the future, you might just get like a tiny little lightweight Airstream trailer, you can probably do that with a mid size or a full size truck.
So it's just, you just kind of have to predict what you want to do in the future and think about what's right for your lifestyle.
Okay, and that's what brings us back to everyone's concerned about what is the towing and the payload rating so they know what they've got headroom for future interest if you will.
Last thing I want to ask you is, if you buy a truck that's got a certain rating in terms of telling or payload and you find you need more later is this.
Are these mods that you can do to a truck reasonably to upgrade its capacity or do you need to buy what you need from the factory?
You could upgrade in terms of cooling right, you could upgrade a radiator, you could upgrade a transmission cooling fan, you can upgrade an oil cooler fan, all of those things can happen.
You can upgrade your brakes, but at the end of the day, it also comes down to the trucks frame and that is not necessary.
Necessarily going to be able to be modified at your house.
Yeah, no kidding.
Well, you might be able to but I don't think barber mechanic.
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