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Society Of Automotive Engineers International - Towing Capacities Without The Marketing Hype

The Society Of Automotive Engineers Offers New Standards For Towing

Text By Jason Thompson, Photography by Courtesy of General Motors, Courtesy of Chrysler, Courtesy of Ford

Here is a simple question: How much can your vehicle tow? There are two ways to get this answer-experiment and risk vehicle failure, or you can look it up. When towing goes wrong, it's not a pretty sight. So unless you're conducting controlled experiments on your own private highway, Diesel Power says it's better to ask someone-but who? The first authority one thinks of is the truck manufacturer, but since they all have their own testing procedures, it makes it difficult to compare them. For one thing, the vehicle specifications are extremely complicated because there are so many different configurations of pickup trucks. Not to mention they are using weight ratings as a selling point. This might have you wishing there were some impartial organization dedicated to creating standardized recommended testing procedures. Guess what. There is and it's called the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International.

The Beginning of SAE
One of the coolest things about SAE (from our perspective anyway) is two magazine editors started it at the beginning of the 20th century. One of them, Peter Heldt of The Horseless Age wrote, "Now there is a noticeable tendency for automobile manufacturers to follow certain accepted lines of construction, technical questions constantly arise which seek solution from the cooperation of the technical men connected with the industry. These questions could best be dealt with by a technical society. The field of activity for this society would be the purely technical side of automobiles." When Heldt said automobiles, he meant anything mechanical with the ability to move itself, and this includes airplanes. SAE was very influential when the United States was fighting the World Wars and needed to have the best and latest military mechanical technology.

SAE's Trailer Towing Standard
Recently, Diesel Power came across an SAE paper called, "SAE standard J2807: Performance Requirements for Determining Tow-Vehicle Gross Combination Weight Rating and Trailer Weight Rating." The paper's goal is to create standardized guidelines in order to compare the towing performance of different manufacturers' vehicles with gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) up to 16,000 pounds. The first thing the guideline does is make sure everyone is on the same page. There are three categories within the J2807 spec, and they include tow vehicles under 8,500 pounds, greater than 8,500 pounds, and chassis cabs. The vehicles selected for testing from each manufacturer have to have the same level of options and carry two 150-pound passengers. For the last two categories, 100 pounds are added evenly between the axles. The standard even goes so far as describing the trailer used for the test-including the brand, tire pressure, frontal area, and options.

By Jason Thompson
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