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How Much Weight Can My Truck's Tailgate Cables Support?

If you've ever used your pickup to haul a heavy vehicle like a motorcycle or ATV, you've likely had concerns about how much your pickup truck's tailgate can handle. A couple of common questions that are often asked about tailgate capacity include “What is the tailgate weight rating of my pickup truck?”, “Will the tailgate cables hold my motorcycle or ATV?” While the tailgate ratings have nothing to do with how we rate our ramps, they do play an integral part in how our ramps load machines into pickup trucks. Here is an overview of important information you need to know about your tailgate cables.

How Much Weight Can My Truck's Tailgate Cables Support?

Tailgate Cables Share the Load

Tailgate cables level the tailgate to the truck’s bed whenever it is lowered, which makes it easier for loads to be put in and taken out of your vehicle. The tailgate can sometimes end up as a loading platform for ATVs, motorcycles, and other equipment; if the cargo is too large then sometimes it shares the total weight of the items. Ideally, taking off your tailgate when loading up recreational vehicles is best, however sometimes that isn’t possible. Laying planks of wood down lengthways on your bed and tailgate is one way to help disperse the direct weight of heavy loads on your tailgate, and you should always make sure your vehicle is rated to haul the entire weight of your cargo.

They Don’t Have a Manufacturer’s Weight Rating

Although truck manufacturers might conservatively rate the tailgate itself for a weight such as 500 pounds perfectly centered, for liability reasons it is rare that they rate the tailgate cables specifically. If your tailgate and cables are original to your vehicle, research the make and model just in case your manufacturer does provide a weight rating for them. With regards to loading multiple types of large recreational vehicles, most manufacturers will state that tailgate cables are not designed to handle to weight of an ATV, motorcycle, or golf cart.

Modern Manufacturing Has Strengthened Tailgate Cables

In the early to mid-90’s there were numerous recalls of tailgate cables from several makes and models of trucks. Today, tailgate cables are made stronger and more durable because more people are using their pickups for hauling a variety of different items that put stress on the tailgate, and its cables.

Most tailgate cables are made of multiple thin steel cables wrapped with a protective rubber, nylon cover or other protective material. Today’s cables are designed for high performance and built to last. Both and after-market tailgate supports are designed to handle extra loads, however none carry set weight ratings.

Perform Regular Inspections

You should examine your tailgate cables regularly to check for any damage that may interfere with the integrity of the cable. Inspect both cables for fraying, rust, corrosion or other wear and tear that may weaken the cable's strength.

Replace Your Cables if They Look Worn

It’s a lot cheaper to replace your $20 dollar cables than risk dumping your $20,000 dollar Harley Davidson because your tailgate cables failed. If one of your cables looks like it’s on its way out, replace both cables are the same time – with the protective covering, hidden rust isn’t always visible so if one is compromised the other could be as well. Also be sure to replace your cables regularly if you use your tailgate often for loading and unloading four wheelers and motorcycles, as that puts extra stress on the cables.

Be Aware of Manufacturer Recalls

In the fall of 2004, one of Discount Ramps’ salesmen was sitting on the back of his tailgate with a friend after a day of hunting when one of the cables snapped! The day before, they had unloaded a four wheeler with a ramp and if the cable had broken at any point in their transportation process it could have been a disaster for the four wheeler and their truck. It turned out that GMC had a recall on the tailgate cables. The truck was brand new so they took it to the nearest GMC dealership and got the cables replaced immediately. They asked what the cables were rated for, and were simply told by the staff that they should be replaced regularly if they look worn or damaged. Stay on top of manufacturer notifications regarding your make and model so that you can keep ahead of the game instead of doing damage control when a recalled cable fails.