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Is your car Overweight?

Tips on Safely Loading your Vehicle for the Holidays

You are ready to hit the roads for the holidays. The car is fully loaded with not only passengers, but also their luggage and holiday travel needs. There are five safety belts for the five passengers, and at least five pieces of luggage in the vehicle. So you’re good to go, right? Not necessarily.

According to AAA, your fully loaded car could put you in harm's way this holiday season. If your vehicle is bogged down and overweight, AAA experts warn it may become potentially hazardous while on the road.

Each vehicle has a manufacturer’s recommended payload capacity, which is the maximum combined weight of all cargo and passengers that can be safely carried by the vehicle. The weight, however, does not including towing. According to AAA reports, exceeding this payload capacity stresses the vehicle's tires, shocks and springs — three important pieces for keeping a vehicle under control.

All vehicles do post their recommended payload capacity and passenger limits on stickers inside the driver-side door panel. For example, a 2005 Nissan Quest minivan can hold up to seven passengers, with a suggested payload capacity of 1,200 pounds. If each of the Nissan's passengers weighed at least 200 pounds, the minivan would be considered overloaded even without passenger luggage.

Payload capacity can differ from vehicle to vehicle, including those that may hold the same number of passengers. For instance, a 2006 Toyota Corolla can hold five passengers with its payload capacity of 850 pounds. However, the 2007 Lincoln Town Car can hold the same amount of passengers, but has an increased payload of 1,100 pounds. Some smaller vehicles like the Mazda Miata can only hold two people with a payload capacity of just 320 pounds.

According to John Nielsen, director of AAA's Approved Auto Repair program, an overloaded car is a safety hazard even if it is well-maintained.

“Built in safety mechanisms that help a driver maintain control at highway speeds won’t work properly when supporting more weight than they were designed to carry," he said.

A properly inflated tire carrying too much weight tends to bulge at the bottom and sidewalls, causing them to contact the pavement. As the tire rolls along the pavement, the bulged sidewalls can rub against the tire, heating it up and increasing the chance of sidewall and tread failure or a dangerous blowout. In addition to tire damage, Nielsen said an overweight vehicle can prove dangerous to control.

“In a turn or sudden swerve, an over-weighted vehicle will roll too far to the outside, which causes the spring and shock system to rebound, pushing the vehicle back to the inside. This condition creates a rocking effect similar to a ship on the sea that can make steering so difficult that a driver may lose control of their vehicle,” Neilsen said.

AAA recommends motorists following a vehicle weight checklist if they are traveling with passengers and cargo this holiday season.

  • Check the sticker on the driver-side door for the vehicle's payload capacity.

  • Consider renting a car if you need more payload capacity.

  • Be prepared for a vehicle to take longer speeding up, braking and steering when it's fully loaded with passengers and luggage.

  • Limit the number of passengers to the number of safety belts available in the vehicle.

  • Limit any load traveling on the hood of your vehicle to no more than 100 pounds, or 18-inches in height.

  • Be careful not to overload the trunk or rear cargo compartment.

  • Items that are placed inside a vehicle's open cargo area should be properly secured and stored.

Source: AAA