BOVs – Part II

Considerations – Part II

(For the purposes of this section, a BOV is a vehicle with 4 wheels or more.)

Your BOV will need to move you and yours, and all you plan to take with you, from point A to point B… and maybe several other points if “special circumstances” insist.  Affecting this mission is the vehicle’s configuration, its ability to be loaded down, and its reliability under stress. Having a plan that includes who and what to be moved will avert the problem of discovering, at the last minute, that you can’t take it all with you. It may also prevent the disaster of a break down at the wrong time, or in the wrong location.

Your BOV’s load-out is mainly limited by two factors. The first is physical storage space. The second is the load carrying capacity of the vehicle.

Storage Space

This is the “cubic foot” rating so often advertised by auto manufacturers. I like to go one further and say that cubic feet are reduced to effective cubic feet due to obstructions. Look at the storage compartments and you will see that they are not perfect squares or rectangles. They contain oblong areas that can not easily be filled by totes or boxes. To take advantage of these areas, you’ll need to fill them with flexible items such as duffel bags or other soft-sided bags, and clothing or linens.

Load Carrying Capacity

GVW:   Gross Vehicle Weight – Base curb weight + payload. (Average)
GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – Maximum allowable total weight for base vehicle, passengers and cargo.
GCW:   Gross Combined Weight – Combined vehicle (passengers and cargo) and trailer. (Average)
GCWR: Gross Combined Weight Rating – Maximum allowable combined weight of vehicle (passengers and cargo) and trailer.
GAW    (front or rear): The Gross Axle Weight – Carrying capacity for that axle. (As operated)
GAWR  (front or rear): The Gross Axle Weight Rating – Carrying capacity for each axle system.

Where you see the word “Rating”, it might be easier to think of “Limit”, as in maximum limit.

Your Owner’s Manual (hereafter “OM”) should list some or all of the above information. Some vehicles come with supplements to the OM, and will have different information contained within. An example of this is my F-250 diesel. The diesel engine supplement supersedes the standard OM in several key areas. If you don’t have, or can’t get an OM for your BOV, check the driver’s door pillar for a vehicle ID sticker. These usually have the weight information most critical to the vehicle, and specifics for tire size and pressures. From my truck’s pillar, I get the following:

GVWR:           8800LB
Front GAWR: 4550LB
Rear  GAWR: 6084LB
Front tires:   55psi
Rear tires:    70psi

Notice that the total combined GAWR for both axles is greater than the GVWR for the whole vehicle. This is because the loads on the axles can vary from front to rear, but should never exceed the GVWR on the sticker. Loading up overweight can damage your tires, burn up your engine, transmission or differential, cause a roll-over and decrease your ability to stop.

You can not exceed the GVWR or the GCWR without risking trouble.  A 5th wheel trailer will max out the GVWR first, and a travel trailer will max out the GCWR first. If you think you are going to exceed the given weights, do yourself a favor and visit a public scale. Weigh the BOV and contents. You might even weigh the two ends separately from each other to determine your axle loads and weight distribution.

Using the recommended tires will ensure you don’t destroy them, if you stay within the GVWR and GAWR limits. Some Owner’s Manuals will tell you that a lower load rated tire will reduce you vehicle’s rating, whereas a higher rated tire will not increase the rating above that given by the factory. It won’t hurt to go higher, since that will ensure the tire survives, but the overall rating won’t increase because it takes into account factors like spring load limits, axle strength, brakes, etc….

Along with overall cargo weight, please consider the cargo density. Some things weigh a lot more than others. For instance, 4 cases of water will weigh more than 2 duffels of clothing, and might take up less space, too. It is a temptation to load the water last, since you won’t have to push it so far into the vehicle (truck or SUV…). This would be a mistake. Heavy items need to be loaded ahead of the rear axle. This distributes the weight between both the front and rear axles. By making the mistake of loading behind the rear axle, that weight is carried only by the rear axle, and actually works to unload the front end. Depending on the weight, and how badly the back end sags, the front end steering alignment can be severely affected, degrading control. Have you ever seen a truck /trailer combo on the highway, where the back end of the truck is so weighed down that the driver has trouble seeing over the hood? That would be an extreme example, but it illustrates the conditions wonderfully. You might have also noticed that he had to fight to keep the thing straight. Something that you probably couldn’t see what how harsh the ride was, and how the wind would have its way with the driver.

The rule: Don’t load dense cargo behind the axle, and don’t be “dense” behind the wheel!

Load Capability Enhancements

I recommend Firestone Ride-Rite Air Spring kits for load enhancements. Now, I’m not saying that you should overload the BOV, but for cases where the rear end is sagging because the load is approaching GAWR limits, air bags are the answer. They will restore a vehicle to a level ride attitude. In that respect, they are extremely valuable. With that return to level comes familiar steering, better braking (since 70% of your braking can come from the front tires) and better roll control. If your vehicle can accept the no-bolt version, it’s easier to install. Check the application chart for specifics.

I mentioned earlier that tires with a load rating higher than stock will not increase your overall load limits for the suspension system on your stock vehicle. But… and this is a Big and quantified BUTif you are going to overload your BOV, and if you plan to take it beyond its stock limits, you must upgrade your tires. Overloaded tires will heat up. They will suffer a failure of some sort, such as sidewall blow out, tread separation or bead failure when you least need it – in a turn or on the side of a hill. If you don’t mind burning out axle bearings, twisting axles (or breaking them), wiping out U-joints, etc…. go right ahead and overload that beast. But do yourself a favor, and one for every passenger you value, and get tires rated for the load you plan to carry.


If your BOV is unreliable to begin with, or made so by the addition of equipment and payload beyond its limits, then you just be prepared to go on foot. When the vehicle dies, or comes up lame, you’ll need to have a means to continue some other way, or you will prove yourself to be thinking lame. I’ve read that some people have made preps to continue on:

  • Bicycles
  • Small motor cycles
  • Electric cycles
  • Electric scooters!!
  • Skates… traditional or roller blades
  • Game carts (actually a good idea… see this post in Guest Plans.)

All of this requires room on board to store the above. If you have a trailer hitch, and no trailer, make use of a cargo deck. These things are designed to handle hundreds of pounds, and will accept most wheeled backup transportation and a goodly amount of other supplies.

As mentioned above, take load limits into consideration and don’t beat this thing down. Consult your OM and see what the maximum trailer tongue weight is for your BOV, and don’t load that deck to that limit. Remember…. These cargo decks are BEHIND the rear axle, and will do everything they can to upset your front end. You may want to enhance your rear springs, or add a leveling device, to keep the whole works level if your load is large enough to cause issues. I didn’t mention that an overloaded suspension, already sagging, will be hell to deal with over sped bumps, through pot holes and anything else that shocks the system. The bounce will be worse. The length of up and down cycling will be extreme, and you may bottom out frequently. Your shocks will be working overtime, for sure.

Spare Parts

Your BOV is going to break.  Sorry to tell you that, but if you think otherwise, you’ll find yourself disappointed one day. It’s going to break. Once you have that fact firmly rooted in your memory, you can plan for it. The goal is to have the parts on hand, parts that you can install, that will enable you to get rolling again. To do this, you’ll have to do some research. This should be focused on discovering what parts are commonly used in repairs for your vehicle, and also what parts would be easy to have on board in a general sense.

A few examples. For my F-250, parts to have on board for a Bug Out (short term) would be those I might have on hand for a road trip.

  • Alternator
  • Starter
  • Fan belt
  • Radiator hoses
  • Fuses and fuse puller
  • Fluids… brake, steering, transmission, oil, 50/50 mixture of coolant and water, can of fuel

These also happen to be “general”parts.

For the Long Term Bug-Out, (or permanent), I’m concerned with parts that will take the truck down, that might not be easy to repair, and not so comfortable to salvage. Optimally, I’d like to not salvage anything at all, but transmissions and engines are kinda hard to carry with me. Still, for my truck, certain things will be hard to do without.

  • Driver’s side engine harness. On the 7.3 engines, these can wear through over time, and short out the injectors. This is bad.
  • Fuel filters. A must for these engines. I change them at the recommended interval, 5,000 miles.
  • Oil filters
  • U-joints
  • Brake pads
  • ECM – Engine Control Module, the “computer”. Stored in an EMP case
  • CPS – Crank position sensor
  • IPR – Injector Pressure Regulator
  • ICP – Injector Control Pressure
  • Vacuum hose
  • Water hoses
  • Parts cleaner solution
  • Wire and crimp-on terminals
  • …and other things

The important thing is to look ahead to regular maintenance, stock up for that service, and then consider things that can break. Check the internet for forums that discuss your vehicle. You’ll find a lot of information by people with real world repair problems, and be able to store things away ahead of time, knowing where your vehicle is weak.

Don’t make the mistake of saying, “My Toyota will never break, so I’m good.” No, you’re not “good”, just ignorant. All vehicles will break. Remember that and plan for it.


One reason I like my newer truck is that there are millions of them in current use. If I do end up needing a transmission, and the stinky has hit the rotor, I may not have to look far to find a “donor”. Likewise for any parts for it. One of the internet arguments for a BOV is a non-electronic diesel from way back in the day. Well, unless your BOL is likely to have some of those vehicles running around, you might find parts sourcing to be an issue. Yes, computers are a potential problem, especially for EMP scenarios, but other than that, I’m not very worried. With one in an EMP can, I’m set. The newer trucks are strong, reliable, and prolific. Parts are a non-issue.

Salvaging can happen in a lot of places.

  • Road side wrecks
  • Junk yards
  • Dealerships
  • Parts stores
  • Fleet yards

With a current vehicle, you also have a better chance of finding someone that knows where a donor might be sitting.

Stay away from the unique, such a H1 Hummers. They are strong, sure, but where will you get parts? Can you find a Range Rover dealership where you BOL is? Will that fancy Mercedes Benz be easy to repair without parts nearby? How many of these vehicles are available for parts? If you can get a BOV that is common, you are so ahead of the game.

You might even survive….

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