Vehicle Mods

Off-roading is dirty, dangerous, and daunting but always exhilarating. Every aspect of off-roading presents a challenge for the driver and the vehicle. It takes intense focus to plan ahead and develop strategies for the obstacles on the trail. The driver needs to be highly in tune with their vehicle; hands and feet learn to feel every bump and rut on the road until turning the wheel, giving more power, and braking to overcome obstacles become as second nature as walking or climbing a staircase. While off-roaders may traverse an entire trail at an average speed of 5 mph, the adrenaline rush is just like taking a race car around a track at 150 mph. It’s awesome.

Off-roading often requires vehicle modifications and always requires a lot of gear. One challenging aspect of off-roading is managing vehicle and payload weights. Puzzling through what’s needed for the trip and what the vehicle can handle while still performing its best is a significant part of an off-roader’s life. Figuring this out is its own kind of thrill; it requires intimate knowledge of the vehicle’s capabilities and a lot of creative and imaginative problem-solving.

If you’re planning on taking your truck or SUV out onto the trail, you’ve got to understand its weight, payload, and towing limits. An overloaded vehicle will not perform as you want it to and will very likely sustain serious damage in the process, both of which can quickly derail an off-road adventure. Plan for success and safety by learning the basics of vehicle weights and payloads.

The Basics

Every vehicle comes with weight and towing capacities from the manufacturer. You can find them in your owner’s manual or online at the manufacturer’s website. Some vehicles may also put these figures on a tag inside the doorframe. For this article, we will use a 2023 Toyota Tacoma as our example. We’re using the SR model, 4x4 double cab with a v6 6-speed engine, automatic transmission, and a 5-foot bed equipped with a Class IV trailer hitch. The Toyota website lists the following weights and capacities:

GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating)

This is the maximum weight of the vehicle plus all fluids, passengers, and cargo that the Tacoma can safely carry.


Curb Weight

This is the weight of the truck plus all fluids filled up completely.



This is the maximum payload the vehicle can carry. Payload is everything in the truck over and above the curb weight.


GCWR (gross combined weight rating)

This is the maximum weight this truck plus a trailer can carry.



This is the maximum weight the Tacoma can tow.



This is the maximum weight the ball of the Class IV hitch on the truck can withstand.


Digging Deeper

Now what?

Let's take a closer look at some of these numbers and their relationships to help us understand what they mean for modifying and loading the truck for off-roading.

No Trailer

If you aren't planning on pulling a trailer, how much extra weight can you add to the 2023 Tacoma? You know the truck's curb weight, or unloaded weight, is 4445lbs, and you know the GVWR is 5600lbs. That's the maximum weight the truck was built to handle. The payload limit – the amount of extra stuff you can carry – is the difference between these two.

  • GVWR - Curb weight = Payload

In this example, the math looks like this:

  • 5600lbs - 4445lbs = 1155lbs

You can safely add 1155 pounds to the Tacoma.

That sounds like a lot, but it's less than you think. Think through this example:

  • You and your buddy will be riding in the vehicle. Let's say you both clock in at about 180lbs for a total of 360lbs for people. Now the 1155lbs has gone to 795lbs. (1155lbs-360lbs)
  • You want to add a recovery winch, which means you need to upgrade the front bumper. You can choose a solid steel bumper with a winch cradle. Steel is strong but heavy. Depending on the design, you can expect a steel bumper to weigh about 175lbs, give or take. Or you can install a Hi-Lite Series Overland Front Bumper from Backwoods Adventure Mods that is built using a hybrid of aluminum and steel. This sweet-looking, lightweight, super strong bumper protects your vehicle and weighs only 80lbs.
  • You're also considering a few other mods, such as auxiliary lighting, skid plates, and possibly even a rear bumper. Maybe you also want a tonneau cover or a truck bed cover to keep your gear stowed safely away and out of the rain, snow, and dust. All these modifications add weight to your vehicle, and that weight adds up fast. You could totally max out the GVWR of your Tacoma before packing any food, dry clothing, or a sleeping bag.

Sure, your truck will handle the max just fine on straight paved roads, but what about when rock-crawling up a steep incline? In addition, it's never really a good idea to max out the GVWR. Experts recommend staying within 80% of the maximum safe weights.

With a Trailer

Adding a trailer, boat, or camper makes things a bit more complicated. There are three numbers on the chart above that relate to towing. The GCWR (11,360lbs) is the maximum load the Tacoma can carry. That is everything – the truck itself plus everything in it plus a trailer and everything in the trailer. The combo of all that can't exceed 11,360lbs.

You also know the towing capacity of the Tacoma is 6400lbs, and the tongue weight is 640lbs. With the Class IV hitch, this truck can safely tow 6400lbs. The tongue weight tells you the downward force the actual hitch can withstand, which is generally about 10% of the towing capacity. How do you use the towing capacity numbers? Here's one way to think about it:

You know the GCWR is 11,360lbs. That's everything. You know what you can tow – 6400lbs – and you know your curb weight – 4445lbs. If you tow the max, the math looks like this:

  • GCWR - Towing - Curb weight = remaining payload capacity or
  • 11360lbs - 6400lbs - 4445lbs = 515lbs
  • 515lbs - 360lbs (two people) = 155lbs

That 155 is the most you can add to the truck without exceeding the GCWR. That's not much and is probably really nothing if you've added any mods to your vehicle.

Another way to think about towing capacity is simply subtracting the GVWR from the GCFR. In this case, the result is 5760lbs (11,360lbs - 5600lbs). While the Tacoma is strong enough to tow 6400lbs, 5760lbs is a more realistic limit to what you should safely tow. It's good to look at towing capacity both ways and observe the lower number.


Don't make a rookie mistake and overload your vehicle. Embrace the challenge of staying within your truck's weight limits. Off-road accessories and modifications from Backwoods Adventure Mods are designed with off-roading and overlanding in mind. Our products are strong, durable, and lightweight. Consult our guide to overland vehicle mods or talk to one of our specialists to find the best mods for you. Shop today for the finest truck mods on the market and then get out there and enjoy the ride.

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