How bad is it if I tow more than my truck's towing capacity?

Exceeding Towing Capacity: Shortened Life for You and Your Car
That last bag might have been a bit much.
That last bag might have been a bit much.
©iStockphoto/Harald Tjostheim

Just because your pickup might be able to manage the extra weight of the boat for a quick trip doesn't mean it's OK to do. Your ailing grandmother could probably carry a heavy backpack across the room too, but would you really ask her to do it?

Just like repeated trips across the room with a bulging bag would put a strain on Nana's back and likely lead to broken bones, a few trips to the mountains with that four-wheeler will put a similar break in the life of your truck. Vehicles are designed to handle only a certain amount of force, and the way they're constructed reflects that. That's why commercial trucks that regularly haul tons of cargo across the country have significantly bigger wheels, more powerful engines and stronger braking and suspension systems than do passenger cars.

When you ask your truck to pull more than it was meant to -- exceeding its towing capacity -- a number of things start to happen: The brakes begin to fade, the added weight contributes to tire failure, and the extra work required of your engine causes it to overheat, which, in turn, overloads the drivetrain and shortens the life of your transmission.

Although you may not see the effects of exceeding towing capacity at first, the gradual wear and tear will lead to eventual failure. The best case scenario is repeated trips to the repair shop; the worst is a major wreck.

Of course, if you insist on pulling an overweight load, you may not even live to see the effects of this wear and tear. That's because the extra weight pulling on the back of your vehicle significantly hampers your braking ability and steering control. When the back of your truck is loaded down, the front tires come up, causing them to lose some traction with the road. Without those front tires firmly on the ground, you'll definitely see a negative impact on your stability and handling. Your truck's brakes, which were designed to stop a limited amount of weight, will either take much longer to slow the vehicle down in an emergency or they simply won't work at all.

So do yourself a favor and forego the fishing this weekend. Your truck and your well-being will thank you for it. For tons more information on towing, hitch onto the next page's links.


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More Great Links


  • Cook, Miles. "Trailer Towing Q&A." (Oct. 13, 2008)
  • Kerekes, Charlie. "Changin' Gears." (Oct. 13, 2008)
  • Smith, Bruce W. "Trailer Towing Illegally." Gulf Coast News. (Oct. 13, 2008)
  • "Trailer Loading and Towing Guide." Sherline Products Inc. (Oct. 13, 2008)
  • Webster, Rick. "Trailer Towing Tech." 4x4 (Oct. 13, 2008)