Towing and weight regulations are becoming a major focus for police and other regulatory bodies, and for good reason. The next time you head off on a 4WDing or camping adventure, it’s important to ensure that your vehicle is capable of carrying all your gear.
So, you’re planning a big 4WDing trip. It’s summer, so you pack your Esky, full of cool drinks for the big day ahead. You’re taking a few mates and each mate packs a bag of the ‘essentials’. Maybe you’re even staying the night somewhere under the stars and you’ve hitched up your camper. All of this weight adds to your vehicle’s cargo limit, including the weight of your passengers. Do you know your car’s GVM limit? Many people don’t and this is where safety can be compromised.
The world of towing and vehicle carrying limits can be confusing, especially in the face of ever-changing regulations, including differing rules across states and territories. There are so many rules and acronyms that it can be difficult to determine whether an upgrade is the right step. Let’s break it down.
GVM stands for ‘gross vehicle mass’, while GCM stands for ‘gross combined mass’. GVM is the weight your vehicle can carry; this includes the mass of the passengers and gear carried, as well as the weight of the actual car. When towing a caravan or camper, it also includes ball weight. If you’re towing, GCM is the weight of the vehicle and the trailer/camper combined.
These measurements are calculated through car manufacturers’ careful research and development, so they must be taken very seriously in terms of safety. Loading up your vehicle beyond its capabilities can be dangerous, as can towing a load that is too heavy for the tow tug.
This is where GVM upgrades come in. It is possible to upgrade your vehicle’s suspension to boost its carrying capacity. It is important to understand that increasing the GVM does not automatically increase the GCM, so you can’t necessarily go and invest in a large palatial caravan once you’ve upgraded your GVM. The compliance plates of a vehicle will list the GVM and this will be what police check if they pull you over for a weight inspection, so it’s essential that you get it right.
GVM upgrades should be carried out by reputable experts who understand the regulations and limitations. For example, sometimes a vehicle may be limited by its axle capacities, making a GVM upgrade useless. An expert can warn you of this and stop you from shelling out unnecessary money. It’s also important to research the potential impact of a GVM upgrade on your vehicle’s warranty. An aftermarket suspension brand will be knowledgeable in all of these areas, so do your research carefully when looking for suppliers.
A safe 4WDing trip is a successful trip, so don’t overload and make sure you’re aware of your vehicle’s limitations. If you find you need to increase your GVM, remember to consult a professional first to ensure compliance and eligibility and consider the warranty and insurance implications.
The following companies offer GVM upgrades and are worth a check-in:
Pedders Suspension: This company has stores right across Australia. Pedders offer GVM upgrades as well as axle and brake upgrades for most modern utes and SUVs. This group has plenty of good information online and booking an upgrade is simple.
ARB: This famous Australian brand adds their parts, Old Man Emu, with other suppliers to offer upgrades on most new utes and SUVs. They’ll also work with you on other upgrades that affect weight, like bullbars and roof-racks, to make sure you keep a good payload, safely and legally.
Ironman 4x4: Like ARB, Ironman uses its range of suspension upgrades to underpin a decent range of upgrade options from its many nationwide stores. They’ll work with you on complete packages, including bars, lights, racks, fuel tanks and fridges.
TJM: Also focusing on modern utes and SUVs, TJM has been moving into GVM upgrades on new vehicles aggressively and have most covered now.
Lovells: A supplier of springs, shock absorbers and other parts for GVM upgrades installed at a great deal of independent 4WD shops, Lovells can point you to the right people and offers a massive range of options. You’ll see Lovells in a lot of kits on the market even if they are not a household brand.
Cruisemaster Towing Performance Centre: The TPC is agnostic to brands, making it a great place to talk options without being pigeonholed into one brand. As the name suggests, they take towing into account so will help find the right combo from all suppliers.