It’s easy to get carried away when packing the car for a road trip, whether it just be for a quick weekend, or for a more extended period of time. Between bags, maybe bikes, possible camping gear, coolers, and those last minute pieces “just in case”, it soon becomes a complex game of tetris to squeeze everything in.
But have you ever considered that you could have exceeded your car’s carrying capacity?
Before we left for South America we sold our home and loaded all of our possessions into a storage facility which was shipped to Arizona. We packed our car with everything we thought we needed for our upcoming US road trip and left it in the care of neighbours in Florida. Upon our return to Florida from the international leg of our journey, with two more suitcases and 4 backpacks in tow, we realized we had WAY too much stuff to cram into our little Chevy Malibu.
Don’t get me wrong – we made everything fit, but at close to 900 pounds (inclusive of our weight), we began to seriously worry about our safety driving 2,500 miles from Florida to Idaho.
Every car has a recommended combined weight for both passengers and cargo, but most people have no idea what the safe capacity of a car is. In fact, I hadn’t even considered that overloading your vehicle was a possible danger until now.
Generally, a vehicle’s maximum capacity will be around 800 pounds. If you look on the panel of the drivers side door, there should be a sticker which gives the maximum capacity for your vehicle specifically.
Why You Should Never Overload Your Car
Overloading your car while driving is dangerous for the following reasons:
- Excess weight can cause your wheels to bulge out and heat up increasing the risk of a blowout.
- Your suspension/traction control will not be able to handle highway speeds appropriately. The suspension system comes under stress, and, over time, the weakest point can give way.
- Reduced effectiveness of your breaks.
- Overloading could seriously compromise your ability to steer the car in a straight line and round bends safely. You could do serious damage and lose control if you hit a pot-hole or other obstruction at any speed.
- Any sudden steering/maneuvering is almost certain to end in a spinout.
- If you pack the back seat too high, your rear vision may become impaired. Also, on this point, if you break too hard, remember that the gear in the car is still traveling at 70 miles per hour. In our case this would mean a microwave coming at our head at 70 miles per hour. Goodbye face.
- Gas costs rise significantly due to excess weight.
- Insurance will not cover any damages caused due to an accident caused by overloading.
So the last two are not so much physically dangerous as it is dangerous to your budget, but it’s still something you need to seriously consider.
Our main concern this road trip has been our tires. With a combined weight for passengers and cargo of roughly 900 pounds, we have been sitting right on our vehicle’s maximum weight load capacity. For the duration of the trip the car has been sitting ridiculously low, our tires are noticeably worn, and the steering of the car is more difficult.
We’ve been driving slowly and keeping a very close watch on the tires. Thankfully we haven’t yet blown one.
Note: If you DO blow a tire, do NOT hit the breaks as you will likely spin out. Steer the car as straight as possible and slowly pull over into an emergency lane.