Are you looking to buy a caravan to start living the dream but are unsure if your vehicle is up to the task of towing it? - You might need a GVM Upgrade!
Imagine, you are 3 months into your round Australia trip. Relaxation mode has well and truly kicked in. You feel more relaxed and switched off than you ever thought possible. You’ve made your way up the east coast of Australia and are watching the sunset next to the Ord River in WA. The caravan, the 4WD, and the family are all still in tac. Besides a bit of red dirt on the car, all is well– Not a worry in the world.
You know what GVM is but are unsure if you need to go as far as an upgrade.
Keep reading – this article is for you.
G’day, Glen here, Director of TJM Northern Beaches, a one-stop shop for all your unique 4WD needs.
The police and road authorities around the country are cracking down on people towing loads too heavy for their vehicles. A car with a caravan in tow being pulled over by the police on the highway is a common sight on a long weekend.
Not a position you want to be in.
You want to be cruising along the highway focusing on your next destination and if you are pulled over you have full confidence that you will pass with flying colours.
But it's NOT the authorities you should be most concerned with. Let’s dig into what is.
When most people hit the road all geared up, they don’t even realise they’re overweight. Up to 60% of people are overweight on their vehicle’s GVM (GVM Check – Vehicle & Trailer Weighing)1. Now that you have found yourself here you won’t be one of them.
From tradies to caravaners, TJM Northern Beaches has assisted all sorts of towing scenarios and GVM upgrades. The TJM team are dedicated to ensuring you leave with a new and improved suspension upgrade you’ll love, and that is suited to your needs. The stability of your vehicle will be like driving along a freshly laid road all the time. Smooth AS!
We are one of the only stores in Australia that offer four different types of GVM upgrades. Most stores only offer one or two options. That means we offer upgrades for a wider variety of cars.
Any concerns about load and towing capacity will be a thing of the past. We have sourced high-quality vehicle components and are 4WD enthusiasts first and fitters and mechanics second. All the products we use and recommend we use on our own cars.
So you can enjoy your trip the way you've been craving and deserve. All without having to worry if your vehicle is overweight or if it's in need of a GVM upgrade. You'll finally live out your dream of exploring this beautiful country.
Now it's time to understand your vehicle’s GVM and why an upgrade is the answer for you! By the end of this article, you’ll know:
- What do GVM and GCM stand for?
- What can happen if you’re pulled up by police with an overweight vehicle GVM?
- What an upgrade entails?
- What to expect when you visit our shop for a GVM upgrade?
Let’s drive in!
What Is GVM?
GVM stands for Gross Vehicle Mass. It is the maximum total weight of a fully-loaded vehicle stated by the vehicle's manufacturer. For example, a standard Toyota Hilux has an approximate GVM of 3050 Kg. If it weighs any more being fully loaded up then you need a GVM upgrade.
A GVM upgrade involves upgrading the car's suspension systems like shocks and coils. In addition, some vehicles require upgraded brakes and radiators to handle the extra load capacity.
Upgrading these systems allows you to have a better, smoother driving experience, especially over bumps and rough terrain. And makes sure your car slows down at a better and much faster rate when carrying and towing extra loads.
GCM stands for Gross Combined Mass and is the maximum standard weight of your vehicle, the towing vehicle, and anything being towed while driving like a caravan or a camper. It’s the total weight of both.
Here’s an example. CarsGuide (2023)2 says a standard 2020 model Jeep Wrangler has a towing capacity of 2400 kgs. And has a GVM of approx 2,400 kgs. Therefore the GCM of a Jeep is 4,800 Kgs.
When it comes to camping trips a Jeep’s GVM is chewed up very quickly. Without a GVM upgrade, it would push the limits just by pulling a small camper.
Especially once you load up the after-market accessories like winches, a bullbar, and an extra spare tyre. Then on top of that, all the items you need for a camping trip like water, clothes, food and drinks. You could then maybe pull a small pop-up camper or travel trailer with minimal belongings at best. A caravan would be pushing it!
The average weight of a caravan is 2600 Kgs empty. Once you load up the caravan with just the necessities, like full water tanks, most standard GCMs are overweight. It's the loading up of the car and the caravan with everything that’s needed for that dream tour that catches people out of being overweight.
How and Why Is GVM Policed?
If you are towing a caravan down the highway you are a hot ticket to be pulled over. You know the truck weighing stations you see signs for along the highway – they are weighing stations that the highway patrol can take you to be weighed. Or any weighing station for that matter.
Police blitzes on caravan safety and towing compliance do happen and are happening more regularly, just like your standard RBT. Police set up weighing stations at popular checkpoints to start weighing up rigs and issuing fines. If it's a long weekend or a popular holiday time expect a random weigh station on the highway.
They use portable scales to measure the weight of the vehicle and ensure GVM and GCM haven’t been loaded up beyond what it is safely permitted to hold. If you are loaded up beyond the safe limit most of the time you won’t be left stranded on the side of the highway.
Nothing puts a dampener on good travelling vibes like being pulled over during your road trip. Keeping track of your GVM and GCM is key to making sure your road trip goes smoothly without a hitch.
Or without anything being unhitched!
In a typical scenario depending on how overweight the GVM is you are directed to make what allowances you can like emptying any water tanks and being directed to the nearest caravan park until more adjustments are made.
They can also issue a fine too. This will depend on the circumstances like how overweight the GVM is and how cooperative you are being.
Ignorance is not bliss in this case.
Caravans have recently become very popular. The pandemic saw a lot of families invest in caravans not knowing when they could travel overseas next. Even though overseas travel is back up, caravans are still popular because it is very expensive.
Owning a caravan also gives you the freedom to explore new places at your own pace. The comfort and convenience of having a home on wheels really is the dream. Also for families in particular it’s a cost-effective way to travel our great southern land.
If you are behind the wheel of the towing vehicle you are responsible for maintaining the vehicle's GVM.
But the police and weighing checkpoints are not your biggest concern. Having an accident in a vehicle that is overweight is very dangerous for you and your passengers. It also puts other drivers at risk. This should be your main concern and is the reason why it’s policed.
You are not insured when you are driving in a vehicle that is over its GVM and GCM. Personal liability insurance is also void. We all know insurance companies don’t want to pay out.
Upon assessing your car they will comb over to find any reason not to pay out. Don’t let your GVM weight be one of them. It's the first place they look especially if you are towing cargo.
On a more positive note: A few Australian states, like Victoria, are focusing on education rather than enforcement of caravan and towing compliance. Educating caravanners on how to load and balance their rigs and vans.
You are educating yourself right now!
The Side Effects of Towing the Incorrect GVM Weight on Your Car
Towing the incorrect weight for your car over time will start to grind away and wear it down. When we say car we mean,
- It can warp the chassis
- Strain the transmission and the engine
- Increases brake wear
- Suspension wears out quicker
- Damage to the tyres
Yep, pretty much the whole car is impacted. It also increases your running costs and you may need new parts like a new transmission sooner.
Several immediate impacts happen as well. The car is harder to control. The weight can overload the rear tyres of the tow vehicle and push the rear end around. You have less stopping power and turns are much harder. The overall brake efficiency is diminished.
Watch out if someone breaks suddenly in front of you. Think about how often that happens.
You don't want to ruin this beautiful trip you finally took after years of shelving it away by crashing or losing control of your vehicle. Keep the trip light, smooth, and, most importantly, fun by staying safe.
The immediate effects depend on how overweight the vehicle is. The more your vehicle is over its GVM the more severe and immediate the impacts are.
Increasing the Towing Capacity
Now we’ve gone through the possible repercussions and effects it's time for the fun part: The GVM upgrade.
It will increase your towing capacity so it is never a concern again and you can focus on your well-earned holiday.
It involves reinforcing your vehicle’s entire suspension system. From the front to the rear. The suspension upgrade kit you decide to purchase will determine what’s included and the work completed on your vehicle.
Each car’s make, model and series are unique. Making each GVM upgrade different from one to the next. The TJM mechanics and fitters adjust and customize each upgrade to ensure its strength, compliance and delivery of what you need and exactly what you expect.
Let's take a look at a specific GVM upgrade suspension kit example – a kit suitable for a 300 series Landcruiser with a 3-inch lift and a 3800 kg GVM. This particular kit is from JMACX, a key supplier of TJM Northern beaches. It is one of the most popular upgrades we supply our happy customers. Some of the items include,
- Heavy-duty coil spring load rated to suit your needs i.e. load requirements
- Airbag helpers for the inside of the coil springs to help with flexibility
- Replacement suspension arms to upgrade and set the position of the car's diff
- Adjustable alpha shocks – working all the time to help with handling and ride comfort. Especially good on rough terrain
- Upper control arms with ball joints to ensure the wheel alignment is where it needs to be
As we said, each upgrade is unique BUT this is more than just because the car is unique. We have a variety of kits to suit your specific touring needs.
Perhaps you’re looking for another upgrade aside from towing. Something more for being able to pack the car full and carrying a full kit of aftermarket 4WD accessories. Like a bullbar and storage platform. Without having worries about GVM. You have more to worry about with the spouse and kids!
What to Expect From TJM Northern Beaches
When you visit TJM Northern Beaches a 4WD sales expert sits down with you and goes through what type of towing and touring you will be doing with your vehicle, budgetary requirements, storage needs and more.
You might have a large caravan or boat to tow along with a packed car, full rooftop storage platform and bikes! That’s a full load and nothing the TJM fitters and mechanics can’t handle.
Our sales expert will create a custom quote for you. Then all you need to do is book your car according to your schedule.
On completion of your suspension upgrade, before your car is handed back to you, the TJM Team will:
- Do a wheel alignment
- Check the alignment to ensure it complies with GVM safety requirements
- Weigh your car
- Finalise paperwork to certify the suspension has been completed and your new GVM and GCM weight
- Post-registration GVM upgrades need to take the paperwork down to Services NSW and have the vehicle’s records updated
Before you rush out and buy a caravan come down and speak with us at TJM Northern Beaches. You don’t want to fork out and buy that dream caravan and then realise your car’s GVM isn’t up to scratch with towing it or you are not insured!
We will give you a straight answer and some options to work with.
With the crackdown on GVM being policed nationwide, being informed about your vehicle’s GVM and understanding if you need an upgrade is now a necessity. Along with the fact that more people are opting for fully kitted aftermarket 4WD accessories like bull bars and storage platforms. All this increases the weight of your car.
This all may seem like a lot now but it won’t after you speak to an expert – one of our expert team members. We want you to enjoy that holiday just as much as you want to.
- GVM Check – vehicle & trailer weighing – GVM Check can weigh your car and trailer attached and un-attached in one smooth easy process. (n.d.). Retrieved May 2, 2023, from http://gvmcheck.com.au/?gclid=CjwKCAjw8pH3BRAXEiwA1pvMsYM7-Jg0Jjn_GNqbNyNJmtrRiZdd8k0NXuRqKZMhz0uCWxsz9A-VKBoCmFAQAvD_BwE
- Jeep Wrangler Towing Capacity - How Much Weight Can a Wrangler Tow? (n.d.). CarsGuide. Retrieved May 2, 2023, from https://www.carsguide.com.au/jeep/wrangler/towing-capacity#:~:text=CarsGuide%20has%20published%2015%20expert