New SAE Tow Testing Standards Explained

New SAE Towing Standards Explained

It’s been more than two years since we first brought news that a group of truck manufacturers — including Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda and Toyota — was partnering with the Society of Automotive Engineers to define a uniform set of tow testing standards. The effort was a response to recent hikes in claimed maximum tow ratings that have pushed some half-ton trucks into formerly three-quarter-ton towing territory.

Until now, each manufacturer was free to create and test in conditions ideally suited to a truck’s towing strengths but not what might be considered “apples to apples” relative to the other guys' claims.

Known within the SAE as “J-2807 — Performance Requirements for Determining Tow-Vehicle Gross Combination Weight Rating and Trailer Weight Rating,” the standards have finally been spelled out in clear terms.

Don Sherman at Automobile Magazine has the full rundown and explanation of J-2807’s five engineering characteristics and test areas that strongly influence any tow vehicle's performance, including:

  • The engine's power and torque characteristics
  • The powertrain's cooling capacity
  • The durability of the powertrain and chassis
  • Handling characteristics during cornering and braking maneuvers
  • The structural characteristics of the vehicle's hitch attachment area

The new standards are expected to take effect with the 2013 model year.

[Source: Automobile]


thank god they are coming out with something new, the claims that these companies make are just stupid, especially Fords.... Even if that truck can tow 11,500 pounds it would take it at least a minute to get up to 60 mph with that wimp 5.4, and that is dangerous to have on the rode....

im glad they are reviewing their system, besides anyone who tows more then 10,000 pounds with any half-ton is an retard who is just waiting for problems.

The 5.4 isn't a wimp when it comes to towing, it's torque that counts, and the 5.4 is up there with the rest of them.

"@ ALEX.... Get a grip boy. the ford half ton 5.4l is not up there in torque at all. As for fords half-ton ratings they are just overblown numbers to try to sell a small light work truck to unsuspecting people who really need a Heavy Duty truck to tow their load safely"

Thankfully the companies will start quoting realistic figures. I will still have me doubts as "towing figures" are used as PR in the US. Here in Australia the overall performance of the vehicle and Hauling or carrying statistics are much more important.

Why is this just now becoming a standard. Seems like a no brainer to me.

You guys say what you want, but its much more comfortable towing with a F150 with its weight, and stronger frame keeping everything where it should be. Go look stick your head at the frame and leafs on a Turdra and tell me you want to tow with that unit no matter how much tq it has. Given most Gms on the road are 5.3Ls I don't really think the 5.4L is down to that many half tons on the road. Through in e85 and your @ 390 ft/lbs which is right near the top of the class.. That is until the 2011s are out... then watch out. You boys won't need mirrors come next year.

why dont you all just wait until the new hemi comes out then we'll be talking business!

As long as that hemi gets a new 6+ speed tranny... you may be on to somthing?

Did anyone read down near the bottom of page 2 in the automobilemag article??? under highway testing it said "The vehicle under test must be equipped with the lowest numerical axle ratio available from the manufacturer." Does this mean that the weight rating for a Silverado SFE w/3.08 axle will be the same for a Silverado w/the 6.2 and 4.1 rear axle? Is anyone getting a different intrepretation than i am???? If this happens everyone will get blown out of the water by Toyota, their NUMERICALLY lowest rear axle for the Tundra is a 4.1 i beleive. Dont get me wrong, i hate Toyota and do beleive that automakers should not get penalized by this new system for offering a variety of axle ratios as GM and Ford do. Why not rate each axle ratio seperatly as they do now? Other than that, i think the rating system is a good idea and long overdue though.

Wow that would suck.

Guess they'll have to have specific tow models for any real towing #s.

You all really need to shut the hell up about engines especially when it comes to capability. A 5.4 is more than enough to haul 11000. A 40hp four banger from 1940 can tow 11000. The truck's ability is based on other limiting factors such as brakes suspension and frame strength which go to compute GCWR. In fact larger engines tend to limit towing ability due to the excess weight. If you really tow you will know this intuitively. But I have a feeling most of you talking about HP use your truck for personal usage like carrying you and your backward baeball cap to the next Kenny Chesney concert.

@chevyvan - I don't think the lowest numerical gear ratio stipulation will end up favoring Toyota. The buying public will have a benchmark to make their purchase decisions. Most people who tow get the lowest ratio available anyway. If any manufacturer gets an advantage due to a lower gear ratio, I suspect we would see all of the companies offering a "bull low" gear set. You also need to factor in the gear ratios inside the transmission. Once there is a set testing standard all of the various companies will figure a way to optimize their own products ratings.

Is it me or do people not realize what gets the job done. If your are pulling a heavy load its torque that gets the job done. Horsepower comes into play later down the road say if you hit a grade going 60mph but in the end its mostly about torque. To call the 5.4L a wimpy engine is not fair. Considering most Chevy's and GM's have the 5.3L in them puts them on par with the 5.4L when using regular gas. The reason Ford gets a higher tow rating is simple. The 5.4 has higher torque and the Ford frame is the leader in strength and durability. Chevy 5.3L on gas is 315hp/335tq on 85% ethanol it is 326hp/348tq. Ford 5.4L is 310hp/365tq and with 85% ethanol it is 320hp/390tq. You could get a 6.2L in a Chevy 1/2 ton but if you are going to be doing that much towing then why not get the heavy duty? And lets not forget that Ford will also have a 6.2L for the next model year. The bottom line is by the numbers Fords 5.4L should be able to easily take Chevy's 5.3L. Now that don't take into effect the weight of the truck which could affect towing a heavy load. Now its been my personal experience that if I want to tow a heavy camper around 7,500lbs the Ford just does it better. I have used both a Chevy and Ford and the Ford just handles better under load. Now I didn't say it would speed up faster or beat a Chevy or Dodge off the line, I just said it rides better and handles better under load. Just my .02 cents.

calling someone a retard because you think they are stupid is very 7th grade. last time I checked retard didn't mean stupid.
when you run to get your dictionary look up ignorant.

mapple....needs to go look under the F-250 and F-350 also. surprise surprise...they have the same frame setup as a half ton TUNDRA. so does that mean they are capable also??? research before you make an uneducated comment please.

LMAO @ texastoyota (AKA, TexasToyotaNutswinger)

The tundra frame is as small as the tacoma frame, I dont know how many tundras I have seen on the highway towing small trailers and the frame is flexing enough that you can see the bed sagging.

Toyota shouldnt be in the full size truck game, the taco on the otherhand is a great small truck.

@ Texastoyota Are you for real? I will have what ever it is that your are smoking cause its got to be some great stuff for sure! Have you seen a Tundra pulling a heavy trailer? I have and it sucks. The frame is so week and sags so much... have you ever seen how bad the truck twist and lurches when it goes off road. It MIGHT be the same setup but if it is then Toyota didn't do itself any favors for trying to copy the best truck out there.

@ Ryan you hit the nail right on the head!

@ texastomato Uneducated comment? The Turdra may have same "design" as the Superduty, being c channel out back but that don't mean its as strong or as thick (which it ain't) My boys wagon has same design as the Turdras leafs out back too but... oh wait they are the same size. My bad.

Follow a Tunrda down a rough road and watch and learn. Follow a Superduty down a rough road, watch and learn.

Just to clarify the first point, the Turdra has a great powertrain... but that alone does not make a capable top of the line tow vehicle.

A solid frame is needed to be a good tow truck. The tundra does not have a solid frame from the cab back. It is a combination between two styles of "C" channel. Neither of which is a HD version, this causes the truck to sag and twist under heavy loads.

The "C" channel used under the HD F450+, the Ram 3500HD+, and even Semis is a HD version that is around a 3/4 of an inch thick (Semis), it is around 1/2" thick on the pickups.. The crap they use on the tundra is around 1/8 of an inch thick. Big difference. That is why I would never use a tundra to tow until the get a fully boxed frame like Ram, GM and Ford half-tons.

Now onto the lowest gear set available. A lower gear is a higher number. A 4.10 rear end is a lower gear then a 3.55 rear end, which is a higher gear. I did not read the article, but that is the way I took it when explained by the previous post.

Now the 5.4. It is WAY too weak to be pulling 11,000lbs. You can claim low end torque all you want, but there just isn't enough power there to keep the truck and the weight moving. The truck itself can handle the weight, but so can a GM, or Ram, given the right driver (I believe no half-ton should tow more then 8500lbs.)

I will give an example showing the difference between by partners 09 f-150 5.4 Lariat and my 08 Ram 1500 SLT HEMI. We have a small construction company. We do mostly, dry wall, small concrete pours, and shingling. When towing our site trailer, which usually weighs around 7000 lbs. His truck (which has 6 forward gears/2 of which are overdrives/one of which can be used during towing) will cruise on level ground in the first OD without any problems. But as soon as we hit any hills (doesn't matter the grade) his truck down shifts into Drive. It will even down shift again, into 3rd if a short hill is long enough or any medium grade hills come along the trucks path.

Now when comparing my truck (which has 6 forward gears/two of which are overdrives/one of which can be used while towing; my truck also has two 2nd gears/one of which is used while up shifting the other used when down shifting) when coming to the same small hills, doesn't matter the length, will not shift out of the first OD, because it has more torque and HP it can lug itself up those hill without the extra gear needed. It can even lug its way up small medium grade hills without down shifting. However, it will down shift into Drive if the medium grade hill is any longer then a short one. I hardly ever see it down shift twice for a hill (his truck will down shift twice for a hill quite often).

Because his truck has less power, it causes the tranny shift more often, causing more ware to the engine and the tranny. Both trucks are pretty even while accelerating, even with my trucks one less gear for up shifting. I also believe this is because the extra power my truck has.

Both trucks, which have fully boxed frames, handle the same while towing. We have never noticed either truck bouncing, sagging, or twisting excessively. Because GM has a similar suspension setup to the Ford and the Ram, I would imagine that GM has similar towing characteristics as the Ford if the GM has the 5.3. I state this, because I firmly believe, that the Ford has no better handling then its domestic competitors (this is coming from a guy who either drives one, or rides in one, every other weekday). It is too bad that so many are brainwashed into thinking it.

When the f-150 gets the 6.2, it should be just as good of a tow vehicle as the Ram or the GM with the 6.0+. The engine will finally have enough "lug" which should cause not as many down shifts, like the Ram. I would also imagine that with the extra gear while up shifting, it would be much better while accelerating then the Ram.

Sorry for the long post. But I just wanted to share.

@cola - good points and good catch. I re-read the article and this is what it said"The vehicle under test must be equipped with the lowest numerical axle ratio available from the manufacturer." I misread it the first time. The power of suggestion, I guess. "chevyvan" guy misread it as well. It makes perfect sense testing and rating the various trucks with the "lowest numerical ratio" ie. tallest or "highest" gears. If the truck can pull a set load with a 3.08 axle, then things will be much better with a 3.73 or 4.10 ratio. The testing is done with (exerpt) " a driver, a passenger, optional equipment purchased by at least one third of the customer base, and hitch equipment are now included in this calculation along with the base weight of the tow vehicle." THis is closer to real world. In the past, testing was done with the lightest model truck and just the driver.

@Lou N. This is exactly what i was talking about w/ the axle ratio:) Take Ford for example, assume they offer a 3.08 axle ratio w/ the 5.4. Now assume this truck is rated to tow 4000 lbs (just making up numbers here). The article seems to say that this will be the MAX tow rating for all 5.4 f150's. Yes, i agree that the 3.55, 3.73, and 4.1 will all pull better than the 3.08's However, those buyers who opt for the 3.73 ratio will still be stuck with the SAME crappy tow rating the 3.08 has. This means that Ford will ultimatly be forced to either A.) Deal w/ the crappy tow rating and just dont advertise it OR B.) Drop the 3.08 axle ratio, leave the 3.73 and 4.1 as the only avalible ratios so that they can get a good tow rating to brag about/allow their trucks to tow. However, the trucks will now be less efficent. Either way this comes back and bites the truck buyer(not just talking about Ford, but ALL MAKES :) Oh, and to all the 5.4 haters out there, even though ive never driven the 5.4 ford, ive driven a 190 hp 5.9 cummins in a 34k lb streight truck. This truck had a 4 spd Allison automatic and 3.90 rear end. Slow as hell but it worked. Ive also driven other sub 200 hp 30-34k trucks before and they all got the job done (mostly dt466's) not sure how much torque any of these had,but i highly dobut it was over 500. Just sayin you dont need 400 hp+400 tq to tow a decent trailer w/ a half ton

Cheyvan. Good point about the less then 200 Hp cummins. But the thing with that motor is it reaches it peak torque (410 ft. lbs.) at 1400 rpm and keeps that number right up till redline on the motor.

Torque curves on gas engines are much different. Gassers are lucky to be making 50% of there max torque at 1400 rpm. Most gassers reach ther max torque at the mid 3000 rpm range. Well past the rpm most people care to pull at.

I mentioned the ability to "lug" in my previous post. This has to do mostly with torque. The cummins you drove has its max torque at most any rpm people pull in.

@chevyvan - sorry, I misunderstood the point you were trying to make. The standards don't specify what engine the manufacturer's have to provide for the testing. Currently Ford has the 4.6 2valve and 3 valve engine, and the 5.4. They will probably have the Ecoboost v6 out, and hopefully the 6.2 will be in the F150. The way around your concern is for the manufacturers to pair their most fuel efficient engines with the lower numerical (taller gear) ratio engines for fuel efficiency. Guys wanting these trucks are unlikely to want huge towing numbers . Trucks with the "big" engines ie. 6.2, 6.4 etc. which would be better suited for heavy work would be paired with higher numerical(lower gear) ratio's. If you can't get a 3.08 gear ratio with a 6.2 then you can't test that truck! The auto makers had input on the guidelines so I don't see them agreeing to a standard that would give any one company an advantage.
Cola & chevyvan - good posts.

@Cola Cola you made a very good point with your long post. Like I said in mine the weight of the truck (by itself) and what you had to say about the rear gears all effect how the truck will pull under load. If you have a higher gear ratio then your truck will pull easier (at the expense of gas mileage though). The problem with the Ford is not so much the motor but the gear ratio and shift patterns used. I have never driving a Dodge so I can't compare but I have a 2004 Ford Ext cab and a 2006 ext cab Chevy work truck. I have used both trucks to pull trailers and even my camper (picked up my camper with the work truck one day at the RV shop after work) and I will say the Chevy is more stable shifting up through the gears. But if I had my choice I still prefer the Ford for a couple of reasons.

My main complaint is that some say the Ford motor is the problem and I think its not so much the motor but the tranny and gear ratio's used. I do not think Ford overstates their HP or TQ or for that matter even how much you could tow with their truck. I know when I have both trucks loaded down or towing a heavy trailer with both trucks the Ford just feels way more capable and sturdy. Maybe its because of the frame not sure. I have not had the pleasure of towing with one of the newer fords with the new 6 speed in them yet so I can't really say to much about the newer trucks...

Oh and before anyone yells at me for the gear ratio statement what I mean is the gear spread from 1st to 6th. Both Chevy and Ford use 3.73 rears... also the computer and shift pattern is more or less what I was talking about.

"...besides anyone who tows more then 10,000 pounds with any half-ton is an retard who is just waiting for problems..." - a good point by Jake. This is by far too risky to pull more then 10K lbs by ½ trucks even in nice weather conditions on a flat road. You need an HD truck, preferably diesel.

It will be interesting to see how much the towing and carrying capacities of pickups drop once these new standards come into effect. They are supposed to go into effect 2013. Too bad they didn't start for 2010. Magazines and e-zines should use these new standards in any shootouts. It would be a good start.

If the towing capacities drop it won't be due to this, it'll be from lightening the half tons to meet fuel economy standards effectively putting half tons into the "mid size" truck market performance wise. And forcing people that actually just needed a half ton to buy a HD in the process.

Uphill towing speed is absolutely pointless for towing comparisons -
If it can maintain the speed on flat, level ground that's all it really needs to do.

If you're going to whine about the truck not having enough HP to pull a mountain at 65 MPH with a 11,000 pound max load on it - have you ever noticed that no semi ever made can pull a serious mountain with a max load at top speed? These are vehicles that do nothing but tow their whole life and they can't even do some of the crazy stuff you want these half tons to do.

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