The Volkswagen Guide to Towing.

You may think that towing is as easy as 1-2-3. Connect up to your vehicle, load it up, and off you go. However, towing isn’t that straightforward and incorrect use can put serious strain on your vehicle, causing costly repairs further down the track. Below, we lay down the basics to tow safely and correctly.


Before we get into the logistics, it’s important to fully understand the terminology associated with towing.

GCM (Gross Combined Mass)Maximum allowed weight of base vehicle + trailer, fully laden
Trailer WeightMaximum allowed weight of the trailer, fully laden
Tow RatingMaximum allowed tow rating of base vehicle
GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass)Maximum allowed weight of base vehicle, fully laden
Tare WeightWeight of vehicle only when unladen (empty base vehicle)
Payload IThe difference between GVM and Tare Weight, meaning maximum load or weight which
the customer can put into the vehicle
Downball ForceMaximum allowed vertical force on the towbar, meaning the weight of trailer which usually sits on the jockey wheel or in other words the weight when you lift the front part of the trailer.
Payload IIDifference between Payload I and Downball force – effective payload left in the
combined train (vehicle + trailer)

Downball Force

“Maximum allowed vertical force on the towbar, meaning the weight of trailer which usually sits on the jockey wheel, or in other words the weight when you lift the front part of the trailer.”

Downball force will get transferred over to the main vehicle. This reduces the payload of the base vehicle.

It is important to determine the downball force of every trailer. Do this by placing a towbar height stand on top of a set of scales and then rest the tow coupling on this. You will also need to know the weight of the trailer itself, so you can determine the load capacity. If you don’t know the weight of your trailer, you can confirm this using a weighbridge. There is a public weighbridge situated at Resource Recycling, 62 Chapsmans Road, Woolston, Christchurch.

Downball load has a major effect on steering, braking, handling, and load capability. If we put too much weight on the rear axle (downball load) we lose weight on the front axle. This means the weight gets transferred to back of the car – the rear axle. The rear axle weight could be at it’s limit and therefore restricts the addition of any more weight to the vehicle. The steering is negatively affected, as well. If there is not enough downball force, there will be too much weight on the front axle, which will cause negative effects in lane keeping, as the rear axle is responsible for safe lane keeping.

Loading the trailer – what’s important?

  1. Most important is to make sure your trailer is balanced, meaning the centre of gravity of the load needs to be in the centre of the trailer just slightly ahead of the axle(s).
  2. The easiest way to see if it is balanced is to drive the truck. The steering should feel no different to driving without the trailer. Also, the trailer should not try to steer the truck in one direction.

Boat Trailers and Downball Force

Boat trailers are usually not well balanced. Generally the downball force is too high on single axle boat trailers.

Option 1: Add weight in the area behind the trailer axle to move the centre of gravity further back

Option 2: Move the winch stand backwards. Either the winch head mount or the whole stand, though this is not always possible depending on trailer construction and/or boat loading requirements

Option 3: Moving the trailer axle slightly forward (this will require professional reengineering work)

Direct Brake Systems

Trailers heavier than 2,500 kg MUST be fitted with one of the following:

  • Direct braking system
  • Parking brake
  • Breakaway brake

Several brake types are available such as electrical, electro-hydraulic, and pneumatic. Our friends at CM Trailer Parts have created this informative, easy to understand sheet about Brake Operating Systems. For more information please contact our Parts team on 03 377 7144 or send them a message.

Towing Hints and Tips

  1. Always use a second person to assist with docking the trailer
  2. Raise the jockey wheel and make sure the trailer coupling sits properly on the tow ball
  3. The coupling should lock on most trailers automatically, however double check and look underneath to see if the lock mechanism has engaged and is located correctly underneath the ball
  4. Connect the safety chain from the trailer to the vehicle using a shackle
  5. Hook up the lights, most vehicle have either 7pin or 13pin connector

Vehicle Overview

Across the Volkswagen range there are several models with varying towing capacities. These are listed in the table below.

ModelTow RatingDownball Force
Amarok V6 with 2+1 leaf springs3500kg140kg
Amarok V6 with 3+2 leaf springs3000kg300kg
Amarok 4cyl with 3+2 leaf springs3000kg300kg
Tiguan 4WD2500kg100kg (4x people)
200kg (2x people)
Passat Wagon2000kg90kg
Passat Alltrack2200kg90kg

Remember it is always important to check the users manual in regards to towing. For further information please contact one of our team on 03 377 7144 or send them a message.

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