Houston, we have a payload problem!

WORDS AND IMAGES BY ROBERT PEPPER

Pick a weekend, any weekend, and you can guarantee there'll be a procession of overloaded 4X4s heading for the bush. We need to talk.

Let's start with a definition. The payload is the difference between the vehicle's GVM or Gross Vehicle Mass, and its unladen weight which is called tare or kerb - they're slightly different, but regardless think of them as unladen weight. The difference between the GVM and the tare is the payload, so, say you've got a vehicle with a 3000kg GVM which weighs 2000kg, well, you've got a 1000kg payload. 

Payloads for touring 4X4s average around 600 - 800kg for wagons, and 800 - 1000kg for pickups. That, of course, varies depending on the specification of the specific vehicle.

For example, the LC200 GXL petrol has a tare of 2585kg, the GXL turbo-diesel 2630kg, and the Sahara turbo-diesel 2705kg or 120kg, or about 20% more than the petrol. As a general rule, diesel-engine vehicles, those with automatic transmissions and those with extra-cost luxury features will all weigh more than petrol-powered, manual and base-spec vehicles. As hybrids become more common, you'll find they weigh more than diesel equivalents.

GUIDE Payload

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Weighty matters
This table shows a handful of popular 4X4 pickups and wagons and their key weights. The payload number is the one you want to pay particular attention to as it’s so, so easy to overload your vehicle. And, remember, the roof load needs to be counted in your payload too. More importantly, just because your roof load limit is, say 200kg, this is generally considered to be an on-road figure with many car makers listing a much lower number for off-road use.

FORD RANGER XLT AUTO
KERB WEIGHT: 2230kg
GVM: 3200kg
GCM: 6000kg
PAYLOAD: 970kg
ROOF LOAD: 75kg
TOWING CAPACITY (BRAKED): 3500kg

TOYOTA HILUX SR AUTO
KERB WEIGHT: 2045kg
GVM: 3000kg
GCM: 5650kg
PAYLOAD: 955kg
ROOF LOAD: 75kg
TOWING CAPACITY (BRAKED): 3200kg

MITSUBISHI TRITON GLX AUTO
KERB WEIGHT: 1955kg
GVM: 2900kg
GCM: 5855kg
PAYLOAD: 945kg
ROOF LOAD: 50kg
TOWING CAPACITY (BRAKED): 3100kg

TOYOTA PRADO GXL AUTO
KERB WEIGHT: 2325kg
GVM: 2990kg
GCM: 5990kg
PAYLOAD: 665kg
ROOF LOAD: 120kg
TOWING CAPACITY: 3000kg

TOYOTA LANDCRUISER 200 SERIES SAHARA AUTO
KERB WEIGHT: 2740kg
GVM: 3350kg
GCM: 6850kg
PAYLOAD: 610kg
ROOF LOAD: 200kg
TOWING CAPACITY: 3500kg

Now, up to 1000kg of payload sounds like a lot, but it disappears very, very quickly. For starters, if you put your 'unladen' 4X4 on a weighbridge chances are it'll be heavier than the claimed tare. And that's because it'll have a full tank of fuel, towbar, mats and other little things which add a kilogram here and there, so you don't start with as much payload as the spec sheet might suggest.

The Toyota LC200 diesel Sahara, a capable but heavy vehicle, has a tare weight of 2705kg. The base model GX has the same engine, but a tare of 2635kg. The petrol GXL is even lighter at 2585kg.

Let's work through an example, using the 720kg payload of an LC200 turbo-diesel GXL. The average weight of the Australian adult male is 86kg, and a female adult 71kg, total 162kg allowing for clothes. Two kids at 2/3 of that are 107kg, and we're at 269kg of weight, over a third of your payload used and down to a mere 451kg. Now add 30kg for the fridge and contents, 30kg for water, 10kg for cooking gear and 20kg of other food. Now we're at 361kg, and 50% of the payload has gone.  Now we add bedding, tent, chairs, table, personal bags and lights - you could guestimate a conservative weight of 110kg.

At this point, we're at 65% of payload used, with 251kg left. And our 4X4 is stock-standard. Almost everything you do to kit it out will make it heavier. Let's add a bull bar and winch, roof rack, dual battery and wiring, cargo barrier and drawers which likely amounts to another 175kg. And we're down to 90% of payload used, just 76kg left. And we've not accounted for taller, heavier tyres (maybe 4kg x 5), aftermarket suspension heavier than stock, UHF radio, driving lights, long-range fuel tank and fuel, underbody protection or even heavy-duty interior mats. Or the weight of your recovery gear – traction ramps, shackles, straps, snatch blocks, or your tools, jack plates, jumper leads, spare parts and fluids, air compressor or personal electronics. That's all going to weigh way more than 76kg.

The cast Torque, available in two finishes matte bronze and matte black and is offered in 17”x9” and 20”x9” - 5x5, 6x5.5 & 6x135 to start with additional sizes and fitments to follow. For more information on all of our products, including the Gripper A/T, M/T, and X/T range of tires visit us online at: fueloffroad.com

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

The figures above are on the conservative (read: light) side. I haven't factored in cast-iron camp ovens, stretchers, big tents, large camp chairs, and have assumed you're carrying only one simple table, 30L of water, a 45L fridge with no slider, and no beer or wine, or a metal replacement dual spare-wheel carrier, or even another tyre, or wheel. You'd need to add a lot more gear and weight if you were to do any remote desert work.

The fact is, your average 4X4 doesn't have enough payload to carry the load a modern family takes camping. But you know what? The payload problem is fixable. And it's simple. Only when I tell you how to do it, I'll lose a lot of friends. See, we are taking too much stuff on trips and adding too many unnecessary modifications to our vehicles, and what we do add is too heavy.

For camping gear; do you really need three tables, a giant camp oven, a set of director's chairs, an air compressor that could inflate a hot air balloon, and a 90L fridge? As for mods, I spend a lot of time driving stock-standard press cars on 4X4 tracks, and I would take any car with low-range on any touring track in Australia, stock-standard. In fact, a couple of years back I drove a showroom-spec Great Wall Steed and Haval H9 across the Simpson, and earlier this year I drove a Ford Escape on the Border Track. All you really need for a low-range vehicle is decent tyres maybe 50mm taller diameter on small rims like 17s, and a two-inch suspension lift. That's it.

We all love to take a lot of stuff camping, but when it comes down it, you can make do with the basics which fit in the back of a car. There’s less pack up and set up time too.

In 2017, we drove two Chinese 4X4s across the Simpson. Stock standard. No 35-inch tyres, no lightbars, nothing extra, just loaded and gone. Now, don't misunderstand me, we do advocate some modifications for extended off-road use, namely tyres and suspension, but it does show what a stock 4X4 can do.

What you do not need to tour Australia is aftermarket wheels, tyres 30-40mm wider than stock, throttle controllers, a tonne of underbody protection, giant steel roof racks, a rear drawer system that weighs 100kg, or 15 driving lights. And I even think that many, but not all of us, could do without bull bars. You want this gear, that's fine, but it just eats into your payload as well as your wallet. And hey aftermarket people... how about you guys think about lightweight for a change?  Why does everything have to be made out of 6mm thick steel, can't it be made strong enough without also being heavy?

Now you're thinking, well, I'll get a GVM upgrade. That'll help a bit, sure, but it's not the answer for a few reasons. First, they don't change the amount of bulk you can carry. And, second, they don't give you all that much more carrying capacity.

This LC200 has been GVM-upgraded from 3300kg to 3580kg… but that was achieved only by summing the 1630kg front axle and 1950kg rear axle load. So, you can only use the extra 280kg if you precisely distribute the weight between axles.

If the GVM upgrade sums the axle loads, then you're no better off than before as you can't exceed axle loads anyway, and most 4X4s are rear-axle heavy. But if the upgrade involves up-rating the axle loads, then that's a lot better. Still, then you're subjecting the driveline, engine, cooling system, brakes and a lot more componentry to stresses which they weren't designed for. Especially if you then go and increase the power to deal with the extra weight you'll be carrying.

When you run out of payload and bulk carrying capacity in a pickup, it’s time to tow or maybe consider a light truck like this Iveco Daily. Such vehicles have payloads of 2000 to 3000kg.

Personally speaking, I think anyone that starts to run up against the limit after a GVM upgrade needs to be at least considering light trucks like Canters, towing, or doing a serious conversion such as a 6x6. Or go back to the basics, take less gear, and take lighter gear while you're at it. Then you won't have a payload problem.

Here's a rough list of accessories and their weight (all weights are approximate):

  • Bullbar: Steel – 50kg. Alloy – 10-15kg lighter (maybe);
  • Winch or Tirfor: 15-25kg;
  • Side rails: 30-50kg;
  • Rear bar and spare wheel carrier: 20-30kg;
  • Roof rack: Steel or alloy – maybe estimate 30-40kg. Certainly don't put much 'stuff' up here; it all adds up;
  • Tow bar: 3,500kg capacity, including ball and wiring, 20kg;
  • Recovery equipment: Traction aids, high-lift jack, 10-50kg;
  • Second battery: Including brackets and charger, 20kg;
  • Canopy to ute back: 75kg (often ute-back vehicles have a lesser carrying capacity compared to cab/chassis vehicles with alloy trays);
  • Alloy tray to cab/chassis vehicle: 50-70kg. Steel trays often double this – depending on roll bars, sides, underneath drawers, tanks;
  • Suspension, shocks: Maybe bigger, heavier shocks and thicker coil springs and more/thicker leaves in the rear spring pack, best estimate 20-30kg more than standard;
  • Fridge: 60L with slide and food: 30kg for fridge plus another 30-40kg for slide and food (beer is heavy stuff);
  • Solar panel: 10-20kg;
  • Toolboxes, drawers in the back, cargo barriers, slide-out kitchen: 50-100kg;
  • Lights, shovel, awning, computer navigator, UHF radio and antenna: 10-30kg;
  • Snorkel, bash plates, fire extinguisher, toolbox, spares: 40-60kg;
  • Camping gear: Chairs, table, tent, swags (they're heavy), bed, tarps, cooking gear, camp kitchen stuff, 50-80kg;
  • Food: Beer, wine, puddings, tins, fruit and vegetables. Depends on how long you are heading off-track, but best estimate is 30-70kg;
  • FishingL Rods, reels, box of sinkers, bait, box of lures, 25kg; and
  • Clothes: Allow up to 20-30kg for clothes and footwear to suit a range of climates depending on occupants.

If you have ticked many (certainly NOT all) of these boxes, you are probably 100-200kg overloaded. The above list works out at around 1000-1200kg, which is way more than most 4WDs on the market are designed to carry… and that includes the large American pickups which typically have less payload than their size would suggest.

BELOW This GU is a beautiful and capable build, but it’s also very heavy.  Weight is the enemy of performance, reliability and efficiency.

To make this easy for the confused and uninitiated, here is a checklist for an easy tally of common accessories; and importantly, the 'hidden weights' that are part of your payload:

Firstly the 'hidden weights':

  • All fuel. We may have extra tanks carrying more fuel, and jerry cans; add it all up. One litre of either petrol or diesel is less than one kilogram (but that's without taking the weight of the holder into account).
  • Driver and passengers. Usually, for two of you (average male and female), which is 87kg and 71kg, respectively… that's 162kg including clothing.
  • Larger tyres. This is tricky but each of those 10-ply mud terrains can weigh a lot more than a standard tyre. Oh, and you have an extra spare wheel and tyre? That's a lot of extra weight for the tyre and spare.
  • Water. We all carry 10 to 40 litres? One litre means one kilogram.

You can shift a lot of your touring load into a camper trailer, but not all of it.

Modifications like the bullbar, tyres, winch and dual battery won't change, obviously, but you will be able to shift the bedding, almost all food, fridge, some spares and tools, most water, some jerrycans and personal bags. That could be anywhere from 100 to 400kg.

But towing comes with its own set of weight challenges, as then you need to add the towball mass (TBM) onto the payload, so if you've got a 150kg TBM work on 150kg less payload. You'll also need to consider your GCM and rear axle load.

GUIDE Payload

Houston, we have a payload problem!

Pick a weekend, any weekend, and you can guarantee there'll be a procession of overloaded 4X4s heading for the bush. We need to talk.

WORDS AND IMAGES BY ROBERT PEPPER

Let's start with a definition. The payload is the difference between the vehicle's GVM or Gross Vehicle Mass, and its unladen weight which is called tare or kerb - they're slightly different, but regardless think of them as unladen weight. The difference between the GVM and the tare is the payload, so, say you've got a vehicle with a 3000kg GVM which weighs 2000kg, well, you've got a 1000kg payload. 

Payloads for touring 4X4s average around 600 - 800kg for wagons, and 800 - 1000kg for pickups. That, of course, varies depending on the specification of the specific vehicle.

For example, the LC200 GXL petrol has a tare of 2585kg, the GXL turbo-diesel 2630kg, and the Sahara turbo-diesel 2705kg or 120kg, or about 20% more than the petrol. As a general rule, diesel-engine vehicles, those with automatic transmissions and those with extra-cost luxury features will all weigh more than petrol-powered, manual and base-spec vehicles. As hybrids become more common, you'll find they weigh more than diesel equivalents.

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SCROLL TO CONTINUE

Now, up to 1000kg of payload sounds like a lot, but it disappears very, very quickly. For starters, if you put your 'unladen' 4X4 on a weighbridge chances are it'll be heavier than the claimed tare. And that's because it'll have a full tank of fuel, towbar, mats and other little things which add a kilogram here and there, so you don't start with as much payload as the spec sheet might suggest.

Weighty matters
This table shows a handful of popular 4X4 pickups and wagons and their key weights. The payload number is the one you want to pay particular attention to as it’s so, so easy to overload your vehicle. And, remember, the roof load needs to be counted in your payload too. More importantly, just because your roof load limit is, say 200kg, this is generally considered to be an on-road figure with many car makers listing a much lower number for off-road use.

FORD RANGER XLT AUTO
KERB WEIGHT: 2230kg
GVM: 3200kg
GCM: 6000kg
PAYLOAD: 970kg
ROOF LOAD: 75kg
TOWING CAPACITY (BRAKED): 3500kg

TOYOTA HILUX SR AUTO
KERB WEIGHT: 2045kg
GVM: 3000kg
GCM: 5650kg
PAYLOAD: 955kg
ROOF LOAD: 75kg
TOWING CAPACITY (BRAKED): 3200kg

MITSUBISHI TRITON GLX AUTO
KERB WEIGHT: 1955kg
GVM: 2900kg
GCM: 5855kg
PAYLOAD: 945kg
ROOF LOAD: 50kg
TOWING CAPACITY (BRAKED): 3100kg

TOYOTA PRADO GXL AUTO
KERB WEIGHT: 2325kg
GVM: 2990kg
GCM: 5990kg
PAYLOAD: 665kg
ROOF LOAD: 120kg
TOWING CAPACITY: 3000kg

TOYOTA LANDCRUISER 200 SERIES SAHARA AUTO
KERB WEIGHT: 2740kg
GVM: 3350kg
GCM: 6850kg
PAYLOAD: 610kg
ROOF LOAD: 200kg
TOWING CAPACITY: 3500kg

The Toyota LC200 diesel Sahara, a capable but heavy vehicle, has a tare weight of 2705kg. The base model GX has the same engine, but a tare of 2635kg. The petrol GXL is even lighter at 2585kg.

Let's work through an example, using the 720kg payload of an LC200 turbo-diesel GXL. The average weight of the Australian adult male is 86kg, and a female adult 71kg, total 162kg allowing for clothes. Two kids at 2/3 of that are 107kg, and we're at 269kg of weight, over a third of your payload used and down to a mere 451kg. Now add 30kg for the fridge and contents, 30kg for water, 10kg for cooking gear and 20kg of other food. Now we're at 361kg, and 50% of the payload has gone.  Now we add bedding, tent, chairs, table, personal bags and lights - you could guestimate a conservative weight of 110kg.

At this point, we're at 65% of payload used, with 251kg left. And our 4X4 is stock-standard. Almost everything you do to kit it out will make it heavier. Let's add a bull bar and winch, roof rack, dual battery and wiring, cargo barrier and drawers which likely amounts to another 175kg. And we're down to 90% of payload used, just 76kg left. And we've not accounted for taller, heavier tyres (maybe 4kg x 5), aftermarket suspension heavier than stock, UHF radio, driving lights, long-range fuel tank and fuel, underbody protection or even heavy-duty interior mats. Or the weight of your recovery gear – traction ramps, shackles, straps, snatch blocks, or your tools, jack plates, jumper leads, spare parts and fluids, air compressor or personal electronics. That's all going to weigh way more than 76kg.

The cast Torque, available in two finishes matte bronze and matte black and is offered in 17”x9” and 20”x9” - 5x5, 6x5.5 & 6x135 to start with additional sizes and fitments to follow. For more information on all of our products, including the Gripper A/T, M/T, and X/T range of tires visit us online at: fueloffroad.com

SCROLL TO CONTINUE
ADVERTISEMENT

The figures above are on the conservative (read: light) side. I haven't factored in cast-iron camp ovens, stretchers, big tents, large camp chairs, and have assumed you're carrying only one simple table, 30L of water, a 45L fridge with no slider, and no beer or wine, or a metal replacement dual spare-wheel carrier, or even another tyre, or wheel. You'd need to add a lot more gear and weight if you were to do any remote desert work.

The fact is, your average 4X4 doesn't have enough payload to carry the load a modern family takes camping. But you know what? The payload problem is fixable. And it's simple. Only when I tell you how to do it, I'll lose a lot of friends. See, we are taking too much stuff on trips and adding too many unnecessary modifications to our vehicles, and what we do add is too heavy.

For camping gear; do you really need three tables, a giant camp oven, a set of director's chairs, an air compressor that could inflate a hot air balloon, and a 90L fridge? As for mods, I spend a lot of time driving stock-standard press cars on 4X4 tracks, and I would take any car with low-range on any touring track in Australia, stock-standard. In fact, a couple of years back I drove a showroom-spec Great Wall Steed and Haval H9 across the Simpson, and earlier this year I drove a Ford Escape on the Border Track. All you really need for a low-range vehicle is decent tyres maybe 50mm taller diameter on small rims like 17s, and a two-inch suspension lift. That's it.

We all love to take a lot of stuff camping, but when it comes down it, you can make do with the basics which fit in the back of a car. There’s less pack up and set up time too.

In 2017, we drove two Chinese 4X4s across the Simpson. Stock standard. No 35-inch tyres, no lightbars, nothing extra, just loaded and gone. Now, don't misunderstand me, we do advocate some modifications for extended off-road use, namely tyres and suspension, but it does show what a stock 4X4 can do.

What you do not need to tour Australia is aftermarket wheels, tyres 30-40mm wider than stock, throttle controllers, a tonne of underbody protection, giant steel roof racks, a rear drawer system that weighs 100kg, or 15 driving lights. And I even think that many, but not all of us, could do without bull bars. You want this gear, that's fine, but it just eats into your payload as well as your wallet. And hey aftermarket people... how about you guys think about lightweight for a change?  Why does everything have to be made out of 6mm thick steel, can't it be made strong enough without also being heavy?

Now you're thinking, well, I'll get a GVM upgrade. That'll help a bit, sure, but it's not the answer for a few reasons. First, they don't change the amount of bulk you can carry. And, second, they don't give you all that much more carrying capacity.

This LC200 has been GVM-upgraded from 3300kg to 3580kg… but that was achieved only by summing the 1630kg front axle and 1950kg rear axle load. So, you can only use the extra 280kg if you precisely distribute the weight between axles.

If the GVM upgrade sums the axle loads, then you're no better off than before as you can't exceed axle loads anyway, and most 4X4s are rear-axle heavy. But if the upgrade involves up-rating the axle loads, then that's a lot better. Still, then you're subjecting the driveline, engine, cooling system, brakes and a lot more componentry to stresses which they weren't designed for. Especially if you then go and increase the power to deal with the extra weight you'll be carrying.

When you run out of payload and bulk carrying capacity in a pickup, it’s time to tow or maybe consider a light truck like this Iveco Daily. Such vehicles have payloads of 2000 to 3000kg.

Personally speaking, I think anyone that starts to run up against the limit after a GVM upgrade needs to be at least considering light trucks like Canters, towing, or doing a serious conversion such as a 6x6. Or go back to the basics, take less gear, and take lighter gear while you're at it. Then you won't have a payload problem.

To make this easy for the confused and uninitiated, here is a checklist for an easy tally of common accessories; and importantly, the 'hidden weights' that are part of your payload:

Firstly the 'hidden weights':

  • All fuel. We may have extra tanks carrying more fuel, and jerry cans; add it all up. One litre of either petrol or diesel is less than one kilogram (but that's without taking the weight of the holder into account).
  • Driver and passengers. Usually, for two of you (average male and female), which is 87kg and 71kg, respectively… that's 162kg including clothing.
  • Larger tyres. This is tricky but each of those 10-ply mud terrains can weigh a lot more than a standard tyre. Oh, and you have an extra spare wheel and tyre? That's a lot of extra weight for the tyre and spare.
  • Water. We all carry 10 to 40 litres? One litre means one kilogram.

Here's a rough list of accessories and their weight (all weights are approximate):

  • Bullbar: Steel – 50kg. Alloy – 10-15kg lighter (maybe);
  • Winch or Tirfor: 15-25kg;
  • Side rails: 30-50kg;
  • Rear bar and spare wheel carrier: 20-30kg;
  • Roof rack: Steel or alloy – maybe estimate 30-40kg. Certainly don't put much 'stuff' up here; it all adds up;
  • Tow bar: 3,500kg capacity, including ball and wiring, 20kg;
  • Recovery equipment: Traction aids, high-lift jack, 10-50kg;
  • Second battery: Including brackets and charger, 20kg;
  • Canopy to ute back: 75kg (often ute-back vehicles have a lesser carrying capacity compared to cab/chassis vehicles with alloy trays);
  • Alloy tray to cab/chassis vehicle: 50-70kg. Steel trays often double this – depending on roll bars, sides, underneath drawers, tanks;
  • Suspension, shocks: Maybe bigger, heavier shocks and thicker coil springs and more/thicker leaves in the rear spring pack, best estimate 20-30kg more than standard;
  • Fridge: 60L with slide and food: 30kg for fridge plus another 30-40kg for slide and food (beer is heavy stuff);
  • Solar panel: 10-20kg;
  • Toolboxes, drawers in the back, cargo barriers, slide-out kitchen: 50-100kg;
  • Lights, shovel, awning, computer navigator, UHF radio and antenna: 10-30kg;
  • Snorkel, bash plates, fire extinguisher, toolbox, spares: 40-60kg;
  • Camping gear: Chairs, table, tent, swags (they're heavy), bed, tarps, cooking gear, camp kitchen stuff, 50-80kg;
  • Food: Beer, wine, puddings, tins, fruit and vegetables. Depends on how long you are heading off-track, but best estimate is 30-70kg;
  • FishingL Rods, reels, box of sinkers, bait, box of lures, 25kg; and
  • Clothes: Allow up to 20-30kg for clothes and footwear to suit a range of climates depending on occupants.

If you have ticked many (certainly NOT all) of these boxes, you are probably 100-200kg overloaded. The above list works out at around 1000-1200kg, which is way more than most 4WDs on the market are designed to carry… and that includes the large American pickups which typically have less payload than their size would suggest.

BELOW This GU is a beautiful and capable build, but it’s also very heavy.  Weight is the enemy of performance, reliability and efficiency.

You can shift a lot of your touring load into a camper trailer, but not all of it.

Modifications like the bullbar, tyres, winch and dual battery won't change, obviously, but you will be able to shift the bedding, almost all food, fridge, some spares and tools, most water, some jerrycans and personal bags. That could be anywhere from 100 to 400kg.

But towing comes with its own set of weight challenges, as then you need to add the towball mass (TBM) onto the payload, so if you've got a 150kg TBM work on 150kg less payload. You'll also need to consider your GCM and rear axle load.

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