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How to Increase Payload Capacity of a Truck



  1. Upgrade the Rear Springs
  2. Add Coil-Over Shock Absorbers
  3. Install a Longer Truck Bed
  4. Attach a Trailer
  5. Add Bed Racks

What is payload capacity? That's one of the most common questions among first-time owners of pickup trucks. When it comes to the limits of what your vehicle can handle, payload is everything. As such, exceeding payload capacity is one of the most dangerous things you can do as a driver.

Consequently, a driver will typically wonder how to increase the payload capacity of a truck. While a vehicle has its ultimate limits, payload can be enhanced and maximized with the right accessories and suspension parts. First off, it's crucial to know the max payload of your vehicle, and what happens if you exceed payload capacity.

What Is the Payload of a Truck?

Payload represents the total weight capacity of a vehicle. The payload capacity limits the total amount of cargo that a vehicle can carry. The weight of passengers and engine fluids also tax the payload capacity.

If a truck has a payload capacity of one ton, this means that all weight loaded onto the vehicle — from passengers, engine fluid and cargo — must not exceed 2,000 pounds. Therefore, if 350 pounds are taken up by the combined weight of the driver, the passenger and various engine fluids, the cab and truck bed will have the capacity for an additional 1,650 pounds. If you load a series of items in the truck bed that each exceeds 100 pounds in weight, this will quickly consume the payload capacity.

How Much Weight Can My Truck Hold?

On a pickup truck, the manufacturer's sticker lists the payload capacity, which can either be found in the glove compartment or inside the driver–side door. If you're wondering how to increase the GVWR of a truck, these are the first places to look. Another place to check for the payload capacity is in the owner's manual of the vehicle.

It's important to note the difference between payload and tow load. While the tongue weight of a trailer does draw upon the strength and engine power of the truck, a trailer has its payload capacity that won't weigh upon that payload of the vehicle.

Dangers of Overloading a Pickup Truck

Driving an overloaded truck can pose many dangers. This applies to commercial truck drivers as well as to owners of family pickup trucks. If you take your friends or family out on trips in a loaded pickup truck, you need to be mindful of the total weight amount to keep the ride safe.

If you do overload your vehicle, the fact could become rather clear after driving only a short distance. As you head down the road, the steering could feel stiff, and the excess pressure on the shocks and springs could make the vehicle somewhat jittery and difficult to manage.

With too much weight loaded onto your truck, the tires will bear undue stress that — if too intense — could cause them to blow. The sidewall of a tire will list its weight capacity, and it's dangerous under any circumstance to exceed this limit. Granted, a single blown tire won't typically cause you to lose control of a vehicle, but the pressure from excess weight can make it difficult to manage your truck and pull it to safety.

An exceeded payload can also put passengers at risk. For example, if the truck were to slouch to one side, all the cargo and passenger weight could suddenly get tilted to that side, and this could cause the vehicle to turn over. In fact, rollovers are responsible for more than a third (35%) of all vehicle fatalities.

Another risk that an overloaded vehicle could encounter is transmission failure, which is most liable to occur along steep inclines. Moreover, any hurdles along a road — such as bumps, debris and potholes — pose a far greater threat to an overloaded vehicle. In a truck with low underside clearance, the chassis might even sink low enough to scrape the pavement, and this could cause all kinds of mechanical damage to the vehicle.

Payload Considerations for a Pickup Truck

A truck doesn't need to be overloaded to have payload problems. On a lot of vehicles, you can't use the payload's full capacity due to a lack of adequate suspension. This problem is often apparent at the rear of a truck, which bears most of the weight.

For example, if the cab and engine consume only 210 pounds of payload — from the combined weight of the driver, gas, fluids and assorted items in the passenger seat — yet you load 1,600 pounds of rocks onto the truck bed, the back will bear the bulk of the payload. To reach maximum payload, a truck will usually need one or more of the following enhancements.

  1. Upgrade the Rear Springs

Across the length of a truck, the vehicle's overall weight is distributed evenly atop the four springs that support the suspension along each tire. That said, the rear springs bear far more pressure with a loaded truck. You can maximize a truck's payload capacity with upgrades to the rear springs.

For example, if you load a piano or sofa into the back of your truck, the weight of that object is going to tip the balance of weight toward the back end, and this could cause your truck to slouch at the rear if the suspension is insufficient. With most trucks, a rear–suspension upgrade is essential if you plan to use the truck for hauling heavy items.

Rear springs come in two main varieties — the coil spring and the leaf spring. Both types of springs are rated according to the amount of load that they can support for a given vehicle. Thankfully, both types of spring can be upgraded to maximize your vehicle's payload capacity.

With leaf spring kits, the overall strength is determined by the number of springs. Most leaf spring kits contain three or four contoured leafs and a flat, supportive leaf at the bottom. One of the easiest ways to make a leaf spring stronger is to add an extra leaf to each side of your vehicle's rear suspension system. So, does adding a leaf increase payload? Not exactly, but it can help you reach max payload.

Another way to maximize the payload capacity of your truck is to replace the existing leaf springs with higher grade kits. At General Spring, we sell a range of leaf spring kits for vehicles of various makes and models.

With coil springs, the overall strength of the spring is determined by its thickness. The thicker the coil, the greater benefit it will be to a truck's payload capacity. If the preexisting coils for your truck's rear suspension are insufficient, replace them with thicker coils.

The steps required for leaf spring and coil spring replacement are relatively simple. In fact, you can complete both in under an hour with the right set of tools and instructions, both of which are usually in leaf spring and coil spring replacement kits.

With a flashlight and pair of protective eyewear, you simply crawl under the truck, unscrew the preexisting suspension parts, add the new leaf or coil, then refasten all the parts. If the underside clearance is narrow, you might have to raise your truck with a jack and keep it suspended with jack stands. Otherwise, a DIY suspension system upgrade can be performed by anyone.

  1. Add Coil-Over Shock Absorbers

An optimal suspension system should keep a truck level at all times. To that end, a truck should be capable of riding along all types of terrain at full load with little, if any, undesired swaying. However, this often isn’t the case, even in trucks with upgraded suspension systems.

With the addition of coil–over shock absorbers to your rear suspension, you can eliminate the majority of unsteady movements from your truck. Whether you are driving along gravelly back roads or over hills with steep inclines, shock absorbers can keep the ride stable and free of sway.

When a vehicle is at its peak load, it can often be harder for a truck to remain stable as it encounters the challenges of the wide open road. Curves along the pavement, as well as speed bumps and junk along the road, can all be a cause for vibrations through your vehicle.

The purpose of coil–over shock absorbers is to remove the factors of swaying and vibration from the driving experience. When secured to the rear underside of your vehicle, driving can be a lot more comfortable, whether you are moving furniture across town or shipping goods across the country.

While shock absorbers are effective at eliminating the majority of unwanted movements when your vehicle is in motion, the absorbers won't increase the payload of your truck. The loads that you carry will still need to remain within the limits of your vehicle's capacity, but you will likely enjoy a greater amount of comfort as you drive with shock absorbers in place.

Shock absorbers help you maximize the payload of your truck. An unstable vehicle can be dangerous to drive when loaded to its full capacity. If your truck has trouble driving straight when fully loaded, the task of hauling boxes, appliances and furnishings can be treacherous. With shock absorbers, your truck can fulfill one of its primary purposes.

Granted, coil–over shock absorbers come in different grades. Before you select a pair of shock absorbers, it is important to know whether the absorbers in question are suited for your vehicle. Check the owner's manual of your truck to see which type of shock absorbers is right for you. Alternately, you can check a product guide for a particular brand to see whether the shock absorbers will work with your vehicle's suspension system.

  1. Install a Longer Truck Bed

One of the most obvious determining factors of a truck's payload capacity is the length of its bed. Depending on the size of a truck, it will either have a shorter or longer bed. While you can't necessarily increase the payload capacity of your truck, you can maximize its existing payload by extending the truck bed.

When you extend the size of the bed, your truck has more room in back for larger items. If you need to haul long sofas or bedding components from one apartment to another, the job is a lot easier to accomplish with a longer truck bed. If your truck is short, an extension to the truck bed could be the solution to your problems.

Depending on your reasons for owning a truck, you might only need the expanded size on an occasional basis. For example, if your main purpose for the truck is transportation, a shorter bed will likely be the most practical option throughout most of the year. However, if you do have large items to haul from time to time, an extension to the truck bed can come in handy when tasks such as these arise.

Fortunately, you don't need to own a long truck to reap the benefits of a longer truck bed when necessary. Bed extensions can be attached to your vehicle in a few easy steps. The extension pieces will typically consist of a few interlocking components that attach to the rear of your truck.

A longer truck bed can maximize payload capacity by evening out the distribution of weight across the vehicle. Whereas a short bed will concentrate a lot of weight right above the rear suspension, the extended bed area will allow weight to distribute more evenly between the far point and the truck's middle section.

Short and long beds for different makes and models are available from truck manufacturers. As a truck owner, you have the option of getting your truck bed extended with parts that correspond to the model of your vehicle.

You can take your truck to the manufacturer for a fitting, or buy the parts and attach them yourself by following the simple instructions in a manual. If you do decide to extend the bed of your truck on a periodic basis for heavy loads, it is best to learn how to apply the extension parts yourself. That way, you can have the extensions attached quickly and save money in the process.

  1. Attach a Trailer

Pickup trucks are built to carry and also tow heavy items. The size of the bed and the vehicle's overall payload capacity limits the amount of stuff that can fit in the back of a truck. The size and weight of what you want to tow, on the other hand, is not limited by the factors above.

While it is not technically possible to increase the actual payload capacity of a truck, an attached trailer can effectively serve as an extension of the payload capacity. After all, the trailer has its payload capacity. For the truck itself, towing capacity is a separate asset from payload capacity.

In some cases, the attachment of a trailer to the back of a truck can effectively double the vehicle's payload capacity. As long as the truck has optimal suspension, there should be no problems with sag or drag at the back of the vehicle when you attach a trailer.

The design of a trailer is similar to that of a truck bed. Trailers serve as hauling space for long and heavy items such as furnishings, appliances, crates and boxes. As long as the trailer itself has optimal payload capacity, you can fill the trailer to the limit and tow it with your truck, which at the same time can carry its maximum payload. The situation is win-win.

In much the same way that you can maximize the payload capacity of a truck, the trailer too can have its payload enhanced. If the springs under the trailer don't seem to offer optimal support, upgrade the springs with thicker coils. Shock absorbers can also help improve the trailer's performance when added along each axle.

The extended payload of the trailer will draw upon the towing capacity of the truck. Engine power and structural strength the truck's towing capacity. For pickup trucks, towing capacity is substantial, especially considering that the vehicle doesn't pull much of the weight. The trailer itself runs on its wheels, and only draws heavily on the strength of the truck during uphill inclines.

  1. Add Bed Racks

Another way to increase room in the bed of your truck is to add bed racks, which mount to the vehicle on one side and serve as bunk space for the hauling of items. With side–mounted bed racks, you can free up space in the truck bed for additional boxes and furnishings.

Bed racks serve as an ideal solution for long items with shapes that would be awkward in the bed of a truck. A bicycle, for example, would have to be placed on its side when carried in the back of a truck. But when there's a rack to keep the bike wheels braced, the bike can be sat upright along the side of the truck bed.

Bed racks are a convenient pace for certain items that wouldn't even fit into the bed of most trucks. For example, a ladder would exceed the length of most truck beds, and its legs would jut out the back if lied top–down on a truck bed. With a bed rack, the ladder can lie horizontally along the rack, which can hoist the item above the roof of the truck for maximum clearance.

Effectively, a bed rack can enhance the payload of a truck by offering additional storage space. The arms of bed racks extend above the rear–view of most trucks, and this creates far more horizontal storage space than a truck bed could allow. Additionally, bed racks can keep large items from obstructing your view of vehicles that approach your blind spot on the freeway.

Bad racks can be used as a singular storage enhancement to the back of your truck or used in combination with a truck–bed extension for the ultimate expansion to your payload. Granted, it is also important to upgrade your springs and shock absorbers for maximum suspension and smooth riding.

While a bed rack won't allow your truck to bear more weight than the vehicle itself was built to carry, it can help you maximize the existing payload capacity. Each time you place something on a bed rack — or on the truck bed, for that matter — be sure that the contents don't put you over the load limit for your vehicle. After all, the weight can add up when you factor in everything that relies on payload.

Get Leaf Springs for Your Truck From General Spring

People often wonder how to increase truck payload. The answer is to maximize the payload of your truck with upgrades to the vehicle's suspension system. Since the mid-1960s, General Spring has been the leading provider of leaf springs, coil springs and other parts designed to enhance the suspension systems on trucks. To learn more about our products and to place an order, click on over to our products pages.