Detroit 3 Finally Adopt Common Tow Ratings Standard…Or Do They?

Have you ever wondered if 10,000 pounds of towing capacity means the same for trucks manufactured by GM, Ford, and Dodge? (Source: (Source:

You will soon know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

But, will you?

After a two-year delay, the Detroit 3 say they will use a common standard to rate the towing capacities of their light-duty pickups.

The standard will allow shoppers to compare accurately the towing capability of pickups. It also should reduce confusing claims from automakers, reports

The marketing confusion won’t end, though, because the standard applies only to light-duty pickups. For heavy-duty pickups, automakers will still rate their vehicles with their own standards.

Spokesmen for Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group confirmed last week that they will join Toyota in using a towing standard adopted by the industry in 2009 to rate 2015-model full-sized light-duty pickups. A spokesman for General Motors said it, too, will adopt the standard if its competitors do.

The standard establishes various tests for towing.

To tow safely, do what the pros do: Visit a certified scales to find out what your truck weighs loaded, what your trailer weighs with everything in it, and the two together weigh. With that, you can compare to the manufacturer’s published capacities and plan accordingly. (Credit:

Under the automakers’ 2009 agreement, the standard—which is likely to reduce rated towing capacities by several hundred pounds—was to be in place for the 2013 model year. But Ford decided not to publish lower tow ratings for its 2013 F-150, spurring other automakers to follow suit.

Toyota was the only pickup maker to adopt the standard, called SAE J2807, and it did so two years early for the 2011 model year when it dropped the tow ratings for its full-sized Tundra pickup by 400 pounds.

For an earlier story that details the SAE J2807 standard, SEE Tow Ratings Standardization: Comparing Apples to Apples.

Nissan says it adopts the standard on vehicles when they are redesigned, as it did for the 2013 Pathfinder. A redesigned Titan is due in 2015.

Ford surprised competitors in 2012 when it decided not to adopt the towing standard for the 2013 model year and said it would wait for the 2015 F-150 redesign. This caused GM— which was preparing to roll out its redesigned Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra light-duties— to pull back marketing materials and even reprint owners’ manuals.

Mike Levine, a spokesman for Ford, told that the 2015 F-150 will get a new towing rating to go with its new aluminum body.

“As a founding member of the SAE trailer towing committee, we will meet SAE trailer towing standards,” he stated.

Tom Wilkinson, a GM spokesman, said that “when the other two major manufacturers move, we will move at that time.”

Wilkinson said GM already knows how the standard will change the Silverado and Sierra’s stated towing capacities.

The maximum vehicle towing capacity is… (Source:

“We already validate the trucks to [the J2807 standard]. It’s just a matter of adjusting the numbers,” Wilkinson said.

A spokesman for Ram also said that it would list towing capabilities for its 2015-model pickups to comply with the standard.

In a written statement, a Toyota spokesman said the company is glad to have company in complying with the standard.

“This will be most beneficial for customers, as previous methodologies created by individual manufacturers made it difficult for customers to compare tow ratings on an apples-to-apples basis,” the statement said.

“Toyota was always a firm believer in an industry-wide standard, as evidenced by our adopting SAE J2807 back in 2011 and being the only manufacturer to adopt it until now.”

What is the bottom line for RVers in the market for a tow vehicle?

Since the adoption of a common standard to rate towing capacities only applies to light-duty (one-half ton) pickups, benefits will be limited. The majority of RVers towing a fifth-wheel trailer require a three-quarter ton or ton truck since the GVCR of a light-duty pickup is not adequate. However, it is a step in the right direction.

Worth Pondering…
The important thing is not to stop questioning.

—Albert Einstein

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Tow Ratings Standardization: Now You Will Never Know

Automakers often brag about the towing abilities of their pickups, encouraging shoppers to believe that their vehicles could safely pull almost anything.

Lost and Confused SignpostThe towing claims are effective, moving heavy metal in the single most profitable product segment in the auto industry. They are also dubious.

In an August 2011 post, I wrote: Have you ever wondered if 10,000 pounds of towing capacity means the same for trucks manufactured by GM, Ford, and Dodge? You will soon know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

One and a half years later, all but one pickup manufacturer refuses to follow standardized towing-capacity tests they all agreed four years ago to adopt for 2013 models—test procedures that would lower the towing capacity ratings they now claim, reports

Instead, automakers follow their own test regimens and advertise claims that could encourage customers to push their vehicles beyond safe limits in terms of stopping and control.

The years-long industry effort to develop a voluntary, verifiable, common towing standard is stuck—trapped by automakers afraid to disarm unilaterally in the middle of anelson_haha2 pitched pickup PR battle.

The SAE’s J2807 towing test standard, adopted by automakers in 2009 and scheduled to go into effect for all pickups in the 2013 model year, now is being followed only by Toyota.

What the standardized test procedures mean for a manufacturer is this: If you want to claim that your pickup tows a certain amount of weight, it must do so under the precise conditions spelled out in the standard.

Chrysler Group, General Motors, and segment leader Ford Motor Co. have backed away from their commitments to test their pickups in compliance with the standard. They cite a distrust that their competitors will reciprocate among the reasons to delay their agreement from four years ago.

“The customers are the ones that are the biggest losers here,” said Mark Williams, editor of, which has championed the common standard and railed against the failure to implement it.

“But this isn’t about bragging rights. This is about benefiting the people you supposedly serve and making sure they are using your product safely.”

Rollout of the new towing standard jumped out to an early start in 2010, when Toyota Motor Corp. introduced the 2011 Tundra with tow ratings determined under the new standard. Tundra tow ratings dropped by as much as 400 pounds between the 2010 and 2011 model years, or about 4 percent. Tundra sales dropped by 11 percent in 2011, but the Tundra remained the fifth-place full-sized pickup in the six-pickup segment.

GM was next up in the pickup product development cycle. Last year it prepared to adopt the new standard for its 2013 model Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, even though it had redesigned pickups planned for the 2014 model year. GM faced the prospect of seeing tow ratings drop on its 2013 models with no mechanical changes to the pickup. But GM was prepared to implement the change anyway, reports

Then, just as GM prepared to launch the 2013 pickups, Ford announced that it would implement the new standard only as it launched new or redesigned vehicles. That meant the tow ratings on the 2013 F-150 would remain unchanged—and unverified under the SAE J2807 standard—until a new F-150 arrived for the 2015 model year.

Mike Levine, a spokesman for Ford, said the J2807 tow ratings were applied to new 2013 vehicles such as the redesigned Escape and Fusion. He also said the standard was a guideline for manufacturers, “not a mandate.”

Caught flat-footed by Ford’s move, GM scrambled to pull back marketing materials and even reprint owners’ manuals to unadopt, temporarily, the standard it had adopted.

54467In a barely veiled dig at Ford, a GM statement said it was “ready to implement the new ratings when we can do so without creating consumer confusion about comparisons of vehicles commonly used for trailering.”

“For example,” the statement continued, “key competitors are continuing to use their existing ratings for 2013 model year pickups. Retaining our existing rating system will reduce confusion for dealers and customers.”

A GM spokeswoman would not disclose how much the tow ratings would decrease if the standard were followed for the 2013 Silverado and Sierra.

For additional information on the J2807 towing standard, click here.

Worth Pondering…

The important thing is not to stop questioning.

—Albert Einstein

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9 Safe Towing Tips

Whether you’re towing a fifth wheel or travel trailer, car, boat, or transporting trash to the dump, special attention to details is required.

A fifth wheel trailer camped at Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A fifth wheel trailer camped at Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adherence to the following nine key points will assist RVers in extending the life of the vehicle and towing safely.

The following towing tips have been adapted from those first appearing on an AMSOIL Website.

1. Weight

Ensure your net load is within the tow capacity of your vehicle. Check the owner’s manual to determine the trailer types that your vehicle can haul and the maximum load weight it is rated pull. Use the appropriate trailer hitch and ensure that it’s hitched correctly.

2. Weight Distribution

Ensure your trailer weight is evenly distributed. If you experience fishtailing or your trailer sways while accelerating, back off the fuel. If it continues when you accelerate again, stop the vehicle and recheck your load weight distribution.

3. Lights

Connect brakes and signal lights. Double check to make sure the trailer’s brakes, turn signals and tail lights are synchronized with those of the tow vehicle. Check lights daily to ensure proper functioning.

4. Tires

The tires on your vehicle are one of its most important components. (Source:
The tires on your vehicle are one of its most important components. (Source:

Ensure your tires have the recommended air pressure, sufficient tread depth, and have not aged out (NOTE: RV tires typically should be replaced due to age after six to eight years). Correct tire pressure is vital to your safety on the road. Properly inflated tires can save you up to four percent in fuel mileage, while under and over inflation can lead to premature tire failure. Ensure that you routinely check your tire pressure. Under-inflated tires affect handling and grip, potentially causing irregular or unpredictable vehicle behavior. Under-inflated tires are more likely to suffer from a dangerous blowout, especially on high-speed motorway journeys.

5. Handling

Since you’re operating a vehicle combination that’s longer and heavier than normal, ensure you make some compensating adjustments in your normal driving practices. Avoid sudden turns at highway speeds.

6. Buckle Your Seat Belt

In case your tow vehicle ends up upside down and it’s the law.

7. Stopping

It’s a matter of physics. When towing, you have more momentum than you would without a trailer. Be sure you keep in mind that it takes additional time and distance to stop. Avoid tailgating and pay attention to what’s happening further down the road than you normally would.

8. Pay Attention to Details

Some states are calling for stiffer penalties when there are accidents caused by trailers that break loose. It will be criminal negligence, not a mistake. Pay attention to the details, including hitches, safety chains, signal light hookups, handling, weight, tow vehicle capacity, and tires.

9. Use AMSOIL Synthetic Transmission Fluid and Gear Lube

Towing is one of the most demanding activities on a vehicle’s drive train system. In fact, because of the heat generated, towing is probably the number one killer of transmissions. For this reason many people install an oil cooler. An alternative is to use a high end synthetic lubricant. As a result of the reduced friction, the tranny will run cooler, and transmission life will be lengthened considerably. Tests have shown that AMSOIL synthetic automatic transmission fluid provides useful service up to twice as longer as conventional fluids.



AMSOIL RV products
AMSOIL RV products

From the initial breakthrough 40 years ago, AMSOIL has gone on to formulate a wide selection of synthetic lubricating oils for all types of engine and gear applications, including those for specialized vehicles and severe operating conditions.

In addition, AMSOIL has developed sophisticated fuel additives, filtration systems and other companion products that supplement and extend lubricant performance.

The history of AMSOIL product introductions defines an entire industry. AMSOIL synthetic motor oil, gear lube, automatic transmission fluid, two-cycle oil and other products helped introduce a new age in equipment and engine design.

Engineers today recognize synthetic lubricants as critical to increasing the power, longevity and energy efficiency of vehicles and equipment, providing concrete testimony to AMSOIL innovation.

Address: 925 Tower Avenue, Superior, WI 54880

Phone: (800) 956-5695 (toll free)


Worth Pondering…

Remember, Safety First, and Happy RVing!

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New Towing Capacities App Now Available

Are you shopping for a new or used tow vehicle, trailer, camper, boat, or other recreational vehicle?

The new Towing Capacities App from is the most comprehensive searchable mobile application available anywhere efficient way to find the right pickup or SUV for an RVer’s towing needs, the company announced this week.

Developed for Android smart phones, the Towing Capacities App from lets users search for pickups and SUVs by year, make and model, engine, transmission, and axle ratio, and even different trim levels!

Covering model years 2005 through 2012, and including Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, Dodge, Nissan, and Toyota, the Towing Capacities App is the most comprehensive searchable app on the market today, and it’s just $1.99.

“Users will love how fast and easily the app works, and how it can help them find the perfect tow vehicle,” said Brett Becker, editor and publisher of “What’s more, if they’re shopping for a new trailer or RV, the Towing Capacities App is great for finding out how much your current vehicle can tow. It’s an incredibly valuable tool.”

“The app is a great information aid for the consumer, but it also can be a useful sales tool. It’s incredibly valuable for towing safely and responsibly, Becker added.”


Online Towing Guide

Like so many other things, towing a trailer has a learning curve, so it’s critical to learn to tow a trailer safely and successfully, every time, and that’s where comes in.

Resources available on helps provide a solid understanding of the fundamentals of towing and provide tips and information on techniques and products that can help you make the process smoother and safer.

The site offers tow vehicle evaluations to assist buyers in locating a suitable the truck or SUV for your towing needs. After all, the more knowledge you have, the more comfortable you will be once you are on the road—and comfort goes a long way toward enhancing safety.

Address: 255 Eugenia Drive, Ventura, Calif. 93003

Phone: (805) 850-8310


Towing Capacities App

Towing Capacities App lets you search for specific towing capacities of every domestic and imported pickup truck and SUV sold in the United States from 2005 to 2012.

Cost: $1.99

To download the app, visit

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Worth Pondering…

Recently I ran across a few lines by Pierre de Ronsard, a 16th-century poet: “Live now, believe me, wait not till tomorrow. Gather the roses of life today.” Maybe it’s time to stop dreaming about that trip you’ve always wanted to make—and just do it!

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Tow Ratings Standardization: Comparing Apples to Apples

Have you ever wondered if 10,000 pounds of towing capacity means the same for trucks manufactured by GM, Ford, and Dodge?

Towing Capacity Overkill. What could possibly go wrong here? (Credit:

You will soon know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Automotive manufacturers agreed in 2008 to standardize tow ratings as specified in the SAE’s Surface Vehicle Recommended Practice J2807 to take effect by 2013.

The industry alliance includes Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota, and Honda, along with several leading trailer and hitch makers.

Until now, each manufacturer was free to test using proprietary conditions ideally suited to a truck’s towing strengths and decide their own maximum trailer rating. They could pretty much advertise whatever ratings they wanted since there was no “apples to apples” comparison between brands or models.

Each company designed its own test, and—surprise, surprise—their trucks always aced the tests. Imagine the EPA didn’t exist, and car companies could just make up fuel-economy figures to boost sales. Kinda like, catch me if you can—on my towing ratings!

Makers would boast about the pounds their pickups and SUVs could tow, and their exhaustive testing used to determine the towing capacity.

But when a new truck claimed a higher number, the other manufacturers would rewrite their spec sheets with increased towing capacity and, as if by magic, match or beat the new kid on the block.

The maximum vehicle towing capacity is... (Credit:

And there was nothing a customer could do, short of bringing a 12,000-pound fifth wheel or travel trailer to a test drive.

Towing capacity measures the maximum weight that a vehicle can safely and legally haul. The rating is as important to many pickup and SUV buyers as fuel economy or horsepower are to minivan or sports-car shoppers, reports the Detroit Free Press.

“Before, you couldn’t say who had the best towing capacity, because you didn’t know how it was tested,” says Mike Levine, editor of “This is the first time a customer can do an actual apples-to-apples comparison.”

Major makers of pickups and SUVs have agreed to a standard test to rate their vehicle’s towing capacity. By the end of the 2013 model year, most truck buyers should know—for the first time—how a vehicle performs compared to the competition.

This will allow for apples-to-apples comparisons between trucks from different manufacturers and it’s a really big deal for millions of drivers especially for RVers towing a fifth-wheel or travel trailer.

There are five engineering characteristics that strongly influence any tow vehicle’s performance:

  • Engine power and torque characteristics
  • Powertrain cooling capacity
  • Durability of the powertrain and chassis
  • Handling characteristics during cornering and braking maneuvers
  • Structural characteristics of the vehicle hitch attachment area
To tow safely, do what the pros do: Visit a certified scales to find out what your truck weighs loaded, what your trailer weighs with everything in it, and the two together weigh. With that, you can compare to the manufacturer's published capacities and plan accordingly. (Credit:

The standard, known as J2807, spells out test procedures and performance requirements that must be met for a manufacturer to assign a maximum tow rating to a particular vehicle. While various trailer configurations are suitable for these tests, the towed unit must provide a minimum specified frontal area starting with 12 square feet for a TWR (Trailer Weight Rating) below 1500 pounds, ranging to 60 square feet for a TWR exceeding 12,000 pounds. There are also specifications for how the trailer’s load is distributed on its axle(s) and how the attachment tongue is configured.

One major change from past practice is what the SAE committee defines as TVTW (Tow Vehicle Trailering Weight). Unlike the past, a driver, a passenger, optional equipment purchased by at least one third of the customer base, and hitch equipment are now included in this calculation along with the base weight of the tow vehicle. Raising the TVTW figure automatically lowers the maximum permissible GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) and TWR figures.

With the demanding test, automakers expect their tow ratings to decrease by anything from a few hundred to more than a thousand pounds. They’re willing to take the hit, because it’s in their interest as well as the customers’ to have credible towing figures.

Toyota was the first to use the standard. It already applied it to the Tundra. The Tundra’s claimed towing capacity decreased, but its credibility grew.

Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and GMC full-size pickups are expected to adopt the test during the 2013 model year, which begins January 1, 2012. Nissan will use the standard someday, but won’t say when or on which vehicles.

Every truck tested to the standard can say its towing capacity is SAE rated. That’s the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval when it comes to vehicle performance. The SAE is the leading independent body for vehicle standards and tests.

The towing standard is not mandatory. No manufacturer has to use it. If they don’t, though, the figures they claim for towing capacity will be less credible and more open to challenge than their competitors.

Worth Pondering…
The important thing is not to stop questioning.

—Albert Einstein

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