More than ever, Americans are taking to the road for weekend getaways or family vacations, and they’re using the convenience of an RV trailer or travel trailer to visit historic landmarks and enjoy breathtaking vistas. Hitching your own RV trailer to a car or pickup truck provides you with all the comforts of home and is a great way to save money on hotel costs. First and foremost, those who hitch an RV trailer should consider all safety measures that include safety chains and a trailer breakaway system in case the trailer unhooks.
To have the best trailer maneuverability and control while driving.it is important to calculate tongue weight on your RV camper before loading up and hitting the open road. While traveling, you will likely encounter variable road conditions like wind, rain, and road bumps and dips. With the correct tongue weight, your RV trailer is better able to remain stable under different conditions and speeds without whipping back and forth.
What is tongue weight?
Tongue weight is how much downward force a loaded RV trailer is placing on your truck or car’s trailer hitch.
Loading your RV travel trailer to the proper tongue weight allows you to better control the RV trailer and prevent it from swaying side to side. Consider the downward forces that are acting on your trailer hitch while towing. The metal tongue that extends from the trailer exerts a downward force on the hitch ball. And of course, depending on the weight of your load or, more specifically, the tongue weight, the amount of stiffness and stability to the entire chassis is affected.
Industry standards suggest a tongue weight that is between 10 and 15 percent of your gross trailer weight (GTW) to keep both vehicle and trailer stable. Going over the recommended tongue weight can make it difficult to handle your RV trailer, especially when navigating curves or turning corners. Also, not calculating tongue weight on an RV trailer correctly can make it harder to stop the vehicle quick enough to avoid a collision.
Why is tongue weight important?
If you’ve ever taken a visual inspection of your vehicle and trailer after setup and loading, you may have noticed a slight forward or backward lean of the RV trailer. This may an indication that your tongue weight is uneven or too heavy, and it may present some issues while towing. But, tongue weight can affect more than your truck and trailer’s maneuverability and control while driving.
Tongue weight is also important to prevent overloading your rear tires. When this happens, the RV trailer will act as a pushing weight and the towing vehicle’s rear end. Expect more dramatic swerves and sway with too much tongue load. The worst part is how this unpredictable motion affects your ability to drive and control your load. Any sharp maneuvers can cause a tip-over accident.
You can also expect turning corners and navigating curves to be more difficult when your tongue weight is too high. The right tongue weight is like a balancing act that maintains proper alignment for the towing vehicle’s rear wheels to the trailer’s front wheels.
It is also important to note that the tongue weight on a pop up camper and the tongue weight on a travel trailer will be much different. The weight distribution on different style campers will make the hitch weight calculation much different.
Hitch Weight vs Tongue Weight
Many people get confused when looking up information on tongue weight and they also find information on hitch weight. To end your confusion, they are the same thing. Tongue weight is the proper term but often times you will see hitch weight reference. They are interchangeable terms.
How to calculate tongue weight on an RV trailer
Method 1: Use a tongue weight scale
The easiest way to know how much weight is being placed on the trailer’s tongue is to invest in a tongue weight scale device. Choose one that is lightweight and small, so you can take it with you on the road. For around $200, you can buy one that stores away easily in your trunk.
To use a small tongue weight scale, simply follow the manufacturer’s instructions by placing the scale beneath the trailer jack and reading the weight.
We recommend the Sherline LM 2000 – Trailer Tongue Weight Scale. It goes up to 2,000 lbs. which is easily within the tongue weight you will have from an RV.
Method 2: Calculate the tongue weight
For this method, you will need to pay a small fee to use the scale at a truck stop, material supply center, or a quarry. First, put onto the scale with just all 4 wheels of your vehicle on the measuring platform. Here is when you will write down the weight of the truck with the trailer attached.
This weight measurement will be your Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW).
Next, unhook or drop the trailer by jacking up the trailer tongue so no weight is placed on the hitch ball. After you are sure that the RV trailer is not on the scale, record the weight of your car or truck only to obtain your gross vehicle weight (GVW).
Finally, subtract your towing vehicle’s weight (GVW) from the total weight of your vehicle and RV trailer (GCVW) to obtain the tongue weight.
After obtaining an accurate tongue weight, check your vehicle owner’s manual for the rated capacity that your vehicle can tow. You will be looking for the vehicle’s GTW or gross tow weight that the vehicle can handle.
It is highly recommended to consider buying a commercial haul gauge with technology features that instantly read payload, GCW, tongue weight, and pin weight. Often, these devices have wifi or Bluetooth connectivity to send the data right to your Android or iPhone device.
We recommend the CURT 51701 BetterWeigh Mobile Towing Scale. It plugins your vehicle’s diagnostic port (OBD-II), which is righ under the steering wheel. It requires no wiring and is bluetooth enabled to connect to your smartphone. It allows you to see the vehicle and trailer weight, cargo / payload, tongue weight, weight distribution and trailer brake gain.
No matter what method you use to calculate tongue weight on RV trailer, it is important to make sure you are within your vehicles limits when it comes to tongue weight. It will make towing easier on your vehicle, safer and result in a much better towing experience.