VW Golf estate towing capacity

Sep 19, 2021
2
0
10
Hello,

I own a Golf estate that weighs 1385 kg.

I'm interested in several caravan models where the specified MTPLM exceed 85 % of my car's weight. However, the specified "base" weight (i.e. caravan without any payload) of those caravans are less than 85 % of my car's weight.

I understand the specified MTPLM is the weight of the caravan + max permissible payload weight. However, if I were to limit the max payload to a mass that, when combined with the caravan weight, did not exceed the limits for my car (in effect setting my own - lower than specified - MTPLM ), am I correct in saying that:

1. If I limited the payload such that caravan + payload did not exceed 85 % of the car, this would be safe?

2. If I limited the payload such that caravan + payload did not exceed 100 % of the car, this would be legal? In other words, is the legal threshold based on the specified MTPLM even if you do not "use" anywhere near that limit, or on the actual weight of caravan + payload?

Thanks in advance for any help,

Dave
 

Mel

Mar 17, 2007
4,500
541
20,935
Dave, Dave, Dave, hope you have a couple of paracetamol and a darkened room to lie in, because questions about weights usually unleash a major discussion/ robust debate/ downright argument.
I will get in first and then everyone can tell me that I am wrong.
1. The 85% rule is either helpful guidance or misleading information depending on your point of view. Personally, I take it as helpful advice but not set in tablets of stone. It is not a legal factor.
2. Safety is based on a myriad of factors, including safe loading and safe driving. The 85% guidance is just one of these.
3. It is sensible to limit the weight in the caravan and keeping below the full MTPLM in your case is a sound plan but things you put in the van weigh more than you think, so proceed cautiously.
4. Well done for thinking carefully about this. TBH thinking carefully puts you most of the way there. It is idiots that don’t think carefully that cause accidents.
Welcome to the forum. All the best and keep posting
Mel
 
Jan 19, 2002
909
143
18,935
Mar 14, 2005
14,592
1,307
40,935
Hello Dave

Welcome to the forum.

I appologise now for the length of this reply, but I suspect you do not realise the multiplicity of issues you have raised. I have composed several versions of my reply, but they all seem to get very long, becasue your assumptions are not quite correct, and the devil is in the detail which despite Mel's protestations is complex.

But lets try.

I own a Golf estate that weighs 1385 kg.
You do not tell us what the 1385 kg represents, Is it the cars Unladen Weight. Kerb Weight Gross Vehicle Weight?

I'm interested in several caravan models where the specified MTPLM exceed 85 % of my car's weight. However, the specified "base" weight (i.e. caravan without any payload) of those caravans are less than 85 % of my car's weight.

I understand the specified MTPLM is the weight of the caravan + max permissible payload weight. However, if I were to limit the max payload to a mass that, when combined with the caravan weight, did not exceed the limits for my car (in effect setting my own - lower than specified - MTPLM )
You seem to be labouring under the impression that towed weights are based on a percentage of the car's weight. This is not correct. Each model car has its own specifications about what it can weigh and what it can tow, so you need to review the details of your car to establish what it can legally do.

The Gross Train Weight minus the Gross Vehicle Weight from the cars data plate can be used to calculate the Maximum Towed Weight Limit for when the car is fully loaded. Most manufactures do use this as their maximum towed weight limit but not all:

Some manufacturers do set a greater braked towed weight limit but you do have to reduce the load in the car to keep the outfits total measured weight within the cars Gross Train Weight limit.

However these limits are derived from vehicle testing, using an ideal trailer, but unfortunately caravans are not ideal trailers, which is why it is sensible to derate the cars towed limit for caravans.

This is where the UK caravan industry has fudged the issue by advicing for novices to keep the caravans weight less than 85% of the car's kerbweight, and only increasing towards 100% of kerbweight for experienced tugger's - but this advice is strange becasue it does not take into account the cars actual rating so you always need to check the advice does not go beyond the cars legal weight limits.

But considering your suggestion of using a caravan with an MTPLM that exceeds the "car's weight" runs the danger of discovering you don't have enough payload capacity left in the caravan. Consider the payload in most caravans is only 10 to perhaps 15% of the caravan's MTPLM, if you can't use 5% of the caravans MTPLM becasue of your cars limitation, you have lost between 33 and 50% of your payload capacity and you might find that unworkable.

1. If I limited the payload such that caravan + payload did not exceed 85 % of the car, this would be safe?
There are no such guarantees. Simply relying on weight ratios cannot guarantee safety. there's far more to consider. You need to ensure
  • The car and caravan are in mechanically tip top condition,
  • With the correct tyre pressures.
  • Correct load distribution to create and adequate noseload.
  • Understanding how the dynamics of towing change the characteristics of a vehicle.
  • Driving with due care for the weather and road conditions,
  • Understanding the prevailing speed limits for cars towing caravans, and
  • Too much speed is always factor when outfits experience instability,
2. If I limited the payload such that caravan + payload did not exceed 100 % of the car, this would be legal? In other words, is the legal threshold based on the specified MTPLM even if you do not "use" anywhere near that limit, or on the actual weight of caravan + payload?
Your logic is wrong. The legality of towed weights is not based on a simple 100% ratio it is derived from the cars specifications and the limits on the cars data plate. Some cars cannot even tow 100% of their own weight, where as others can legally tow considerably more.

And you have assumed that MTPLM, is a weight its not: its a limit. The car is not interested in the weight limit of a trailer, its only interested in the actual weight its pulling. The threshold does not use the MTPLM in regards the vehicles loaded capability.

I for example have a box trailer with a 2600kg MTPLM but its unladen mass is only 600kg, I towed it partly loaded with a car that is rated for just 1700kg.

Driving licences are differnt and they do use weight limits to define classes of vehicle, but this should not be a concern to you becasue you seem to be well within the restrictions and besides which those restrictions will be lifted in the near future.
 
Last edited:
Jan 3, 2012
6,588
1,188
25,935
Hi Dave Welcome to the Forum what caravans are you interested in and what engine size is your car is it a diesel or Petrol .
 
  • Like
Reactions: Dave_J_G
Mar 14, 2005
9,237
262
30,935
lutzschelisch.wix.com
I own a Golf estate that weighs 1385 kg.
How do you know that it weighs 1385kg? Unless you have actually weighed it. Any published figure in a brochure, owner's handbook or database is only a rough guide and can differ from the actual weight quite considerably depending on the level of equipment of the car in question.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Dave_J_G
Sep 19, 2021
2
0
10
Thanks all for your replies which are all incredibly useful. I'll try to get my head around it all at the weekend when I have time to digest!

To answer a few questions before then

- ProfJohnL and Lutz: The weight I quoted is the specified kerb weight of the car, that given in the cars manual.
- BeachBall: Something like a Swift Major 4 (or similar). That one seems to be pretty heavy for its size so I've spotted some others that are similar size / layout but lighter. My car is petrol with a 1.5 l engine (not ideal I guess?)

Again, thanks to you all for your swift and detailed replies, very much appreciated. As you can probably tell, I'm new to all this.
 
May 7, 2012
6,507
829
25,935
Weights are a major problem for many. Cars are getting lighter and we want more in the caravan so they get heavier.
As others say 85% is not a rule but a recommendation for beginners. If you have towed successfully for some time you can increase the ratio but personally for safe towing I would not go above 95%., if you are still a novice you do have a good towcar and personally I would not worry about going up to 90% but you do this at your own risk.
You do need to check what the quoted kerb weight actually includes. The 85% figure allows for 75kg for the driver so you may be able to add this on which would help.
The MTPLM is the figure used in the calculation and for that the MIRO should be ignored.
The problem we have is that caravans with their large flat sides are not ideal trailers and are vulnerable to cross winds and the bow wave of larger vehicles so some caution is needed. What you need is enough weight to control the caravan, and that is why you get the recommendation but also different cars ae better for towing than others but this is difficult to be certain of until you try it.
 
Mar 14, 2005
9,237
262
30,935
lutzschelisch.wix.com
The 85% figure allows for 75kg for the driver so you may be able to add this on which would help.
The 85% figure is based on kerbweight and kerbweight, by definition, is without the driver.

I would challenge anyone to be able to detect any difference in the way an outfit at 90% handles compared with 85%, all other conditions remaining unchanged. It's only when you get close to 100% or more that one would expect to notice any unease.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Buckman and Tobes
Mar 14, 2005
14,592
1,307
40,935
Regarding the onset of instability, every outfit behaves differently, and consequently no one can quote any specific weight ratio that will guarantee to maintain full control of that outfit.

The stability of any outfit is continually changing as road conditions change, and are fundamentally in the hands of the driver. The one thing that is always involved with instability is driving too fast for the conditions, so slowing carefully is always the best way to manage the onset of instability.

Whilst it always sensible to use a trailer with as little mass as possible, Having extra load is not a dead cert for the onset of instability. It's more about the way the load is distributed within the trailer.
 
May 7, 2012
6,507
829
25,935
The 85% figure is based on kerbweight and kerbweight, by definition, is without the driver.

I would challenge anyone to be able to detect any difference in the way an outfit at 90% handles compared with 85%, all other conditions remaining unchanged. It's only when you get close to 100% or more that one would expect to notice any unease.
I appreciate that the normal definition would not include the driver, but for the purpose of this recommendation they do allow 75 kg for the driver.
I would agree with you though that in most cases you would not know the difference between 85 and 90% so I do say this. At the same time I do show the 85% figure and leave it up to the other person to decide who to go with. Personally I would say going over 95% is getting you into possibly dangerous waters and is where the best tow cars cope but some others might become twitchy. The problem is that you have no way of knowing which are the best tow cars other than by reading tests and getting other peoples opinions, so you need to exercise some caution when you buy.
 
Mar 14, 2005
9,237
262
30,935
lutzschelisch.wix.com
I appreciate that the normal definition would not include the driver, but for the purpose of this recommendation they do allow 75 kg for the driver.
Why do they call it kerbweight then when it’s not? It only serves to confuse. If they want to include the weight of the driver they should use the appropriate term - ”actual mass”, as it’s defined in 1230/2012/EC.
 
Mar 14, 2005
14,592
1,307
40,935
The problem is that you have no way of knowing which are the best tow cars other than by reading tests and getting other peoples opinions, so you need to exercise some caution when you buy.
The problem is each outfit is different becasue of the way it's loaded and driven, so what might seem to be a good tow car in the eyes of one person may by a poor tow combination in the hands of another.

Personally I would say going over 95% is getting you into possibly dangerous waters and is where the best tow cars cope but some others might become twitchy.
All towing at any ratio increases the risk of of stability problems, and I do agree that as the ratio increases, so do certain risk factors, but as the ratio is only one of several important factors, there are arguably other factors that have a greater influence on the stability compared to just the weight ratio. This is one of the reasons why I openly challenge the wisdom and efficacy of the industries towing ratio advice and the way it is portrayed and missunderstood.

I'm unhappy about the the way the industry has adopted a weight ratio model which is based on a poorly defined vehicle characteristic (i.e Kerbweight) and as result the calculation of
100 x ( Caravan MTPLM/ Tow vehicle Kerbweight ) produces an result that is as unreliable as the tow vehicles kerbweight figures.

Apart from the challenge of actually find the true kerbweight value of a particular car, Show me anyone who actually tows a fully laden caravan with a vehicle running in its kerbweight condition! It's a wholly unrealistic scenario.

What makes your own suggestion of 95% any better and crucially safer?
 
May 7, 2012
6,507
829
25,935
Prof. I do agree generally with what you say, but the weight ratio bit is only part of the towing guide and it covers all the other points relevant. We do seem to be far more concerned about the weights than the other factors, but that is the one thing you can deal with to a large extent before you buy. I think that some advice has to be given on weights and the 85% figure is possibly low, but it does have to cover the worst combinations rather than the best, so it might be a decent compromise.
Given the problems of matching I cannot see any fixed figure being acceptable to everyone and the point it is advice for beginners tends to be missed by many. My problem is what do you replace it with, as weights are a crucial part of setting up, and unless further research is done any different figure would be open to similar criticism.
 
Jan 19, 2002
909
143
18,935
A further complication is that the MIRO and therefore MTPLM are from a sample of the van being tested, and the only way to know the true weight of an individual van is a weighbridge. Seeing the vast quantities of stuff that some people empty out of the van on site you know that the (sometimes meagre) payload and therefore the MTPLM plated weight has been exceeded!
 
Mar 14, 2005
14,592
1,307
40,935
Prof. I do agree generally with what you say, but the weight ratio bit is only part of the towing guide and it covers all the other points relevant. We do seem to be far more concerned about the weights than the other factors, but that is the one thing you can deal with to a large extent before you buy. I think that some advice has to be given on weights and the 85% figure is possibly low, but it does have to cover the worst combinations rather than the best, so it might be a decent compromise.
Given the problems of matching I cannot see any fixed figure being acceptable to everyone and the point it is advice for beginners tends to be missed by many. My problem is what do you replace it with, as weights are a crucial part of setting up, and unless further research is done any different figure would be open to similar criticism.
Hello Ray,

I do understand what you have said, and I do agree the only bits of advice we can realistically give numbers to are the weights. The "towing Guide" may cover other relevant points but how many people actually read it through and fully understand it. Instead they jump to the part where figures are given and its teh weight ratio that is continually picked out and held up as if it's teh gold standard.

I am ultimately concerned that the Industry advice, is actually very poor as it may partly address the sensibility of matching but it does not address either Legality or Safety. and it totally ignores the mechanical capability of the tow vehicle. But whilst it is flawed in so many ways it does provide a notional starting point on which to evolve an outfit.

The hobby is awash with unsubstantiated figures and myths about towing. I absolutely agree that trying to produce a single unified weight ratio figure that everyone should adopt cannot happen, so adding one more like 95% is no help whatsoever, as you say your self it's " open to similar criticism."

There has to be a better way to resolve outfit matching, and the advice must ensure the outcome would be at least legal and sensible . Car manufacturers have to publish more than enough information about their products to enable choosing a sensible outfit which is legal every time through a few simple calculations. Safety is always going to be about more than just a towing ratio.
 
Mar 14, 2005
14,592
1,307
40,935
A further complication is that the MIRO and therefore MTPLM are from a sample of the van being tested, and the only way to know the true weight of an individual van is a weighbridge. Seeing the vast quantities of stuff that some people empty out of the van on site you know that the (sometimes meagre) payload and therefore the MTPLM plated weight has been exceeded!
Not quite right.

The MTPLM is a limit and absolute figure decided on by the trailer manufacturer. A good manufacturer will also understand how its materials and manufacturing processes might affect the trailers actual MIRO value, and provide a MIRO figure which should express the heaviest outcome.

The difference between the MTPLM and the MIRO is the available load margin.

MIRO + LOAD must not exceed the MTPLM under any circumstances.

Thus for each individual caravan allowing for manufacturing tolerances MTPLM minus the measured weight of the caravan in its MIRO condition will produce the available load margin

The load margin is thus a variable value dependant on the individual trailers actual measured MIRO condition weight.
 

JTQ

May 7, 2005
2,441
442
19,935
A good manufacturer will also understand how its materials and manufacturing processes might affect the trailers actual MIRO value, and provide a MIRO figure which should express the heaviest outcome.
And boy can't they get their MIRO figures seriously wrong.
I agree getting a sound estimate is child's play, I had undertaking that one part of my professional career, so why has it proved to be so wrong in this industry?
 
Mar 14, 2005
9,237
262
30,935
lutzschelisch.wix.com
And boy can't they get their MIRO figures seriously wrong.
I agree getting a sound estimate is child's play, I had undertaking that one part of my professional career, so why has it proved to be so wrong in this industry?
The MIRO figure may actually be quite right. It does not, after all, apply to the actual vehicle in question, but only to the vehicle that was submitted for type approval and that may have had a different level of equipment.
By definition, MIRO, applies to a vehicle in basic trim with the bare minimum of factory fitted options to make it saleable.
 

JTQ

May 7, 2005
2,441
442
19,935
Lutz, our MIRO ought to have applied as all the weight ramifications of extras and options from the base product were all printed values. Thus, a simple arithmetical task to determine and there in print to use for the basis of a contract.
 
Jan 31, 2018
1,447
574
5,435
In a nutshell what is the manufacturer stated braked towing capacity of your car? As long as you don't exceed this you're fine. Keeping it simple.
 
Jul 18, 2017
4,625
1,037
6,935
MIRO + LOAD must not exceed the MTPLM under any circumstances.

Thus for each individual caravan allowing for manufacturing tolerances MTPLM minus the measured weight of the caravan in its MIRO condition will produce the available load margin

The load margin is thus a variable value dependant on the individual trailers actual measured MIRO condition weight.
A bit of an abnormality is that on many caravans the MTPLM can be increased in some cases by up to 100kg. Our increase was about 75kg.
One of the reasons why I think that you cannot be prosecuted for exceeding the MTPLM however you can be prosecuted for exceeding the gross maximum axle weight or the load rating of the tyres.
Of course this is just my opinion and happy to corrected.
 
Jul 18, 2017
4,625
1,037
6,935
In a nutshell what is the manufacturer stated braked towing capacity of your car? As long as you don't exceed this you're fine. Keeping it simple.
Ours is 3500kg, but would not like to tow anything even close to that weight as it exceeds the gross maximum weight of the car by nearly 700kgs.
 
Jan 31, 2018
1,447
574
5,435
As you know that really doesn't bother me having towed very happily at 113%. But we've been there before and this has been fully discussed-am simply trying to errr simplify the picture for the op as it's so confusing. Having seen a farmer go past me today with his Isuzu half cab loaded to the eyeballs in the back with overhanging(past the mirrors) bails and towing a twin axle trailer similarly piled high, farmers don't think the same either-and this was most definitely a worse than caravan shaped slab of bails-no aerodynamics about it.
 
Mar 14, 2005
14,592
1,307
40,935
A bit of an abnormality is that on many caravans the MTPLM can be increased in some cases by up to 100kg. Our increase was about 75kg.
One of the reasons why I think that you cannot be prosecuted for exceeding the MTPLM however you can be prosecuted for exceeding the gross maximum axle weight or the load rating of the tyres.
Of course this is just my opinion and happy to corrected.
No it's not an abnormality. I clearly stated the manufacturer sets the MTPLM.

If there is scope within the mechanical capabilities of the components, the manufacture can upgrade the MTPLM, but no one else can do it.
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY

TRENDING THREADS

Latest posts