Weighing a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel

You can find a public scale by looking under “Weighers—Public” in the yellow pages of your local telephone directory.

Trailers must be carefully weighed to make sure that loads are properly distributed, front to rear as well as left to right. There are two additional considerations with trailer weights:

  1. The tow vehicle pulling the trailer
  2. The hitching system that connects the two

Both the tow vehicle and the hitching system have weight capacities which affect the safe handling of the vehicle. As a new RV owner or driver you should be aware of this.

Do not exceed the GVWR of the tow vehicle. The GVWR includes the curb weight of the vehicle, payload, and hitch weight. Hitch weight is the percentage of the trailer weight that is placed on the trailer coupler of the tow vehicle. (Refer to the next section on Trailer Vehicle Hitch Weight.) Tow vehicles also have GAWR limits. Payload and hitch weight must be divided evenly between the axles to conform with the maximum weight limits and to avoid over steering problems.

The proper tow vehicle hitch weight is approximately 10-15 percent of a trailer’s gross weight to be loaded in front of the trailer axles and onto the hitching mechanism. This ensures needed stability for road handling. If your trailer does not tow properly, you may have a problem with not enough weight on the hitch. Here are some methods to figure out hitch weight:

  1. Park your loaded trailer on a scale so that the hitch coupler extends beyond the end of the scale, but the tongue jack post (the post on the front of the trailer which rests on the ground when unhitched) is on the scale.
  2. Block the trailer vehicle wheels, unhitch the tow vehicle, and obtain a weight rating. This is the curb weight of the trailer vehicle alone.
  3. Place a jack stand (or 4″ x 4″ blocks) under the coupler (beyond the scale) so that the tongue jack post is supported off the scale and the trailer is fairly level. Note this weight rating.
  4. Subtract the reading in #2 from the reading in #3 for the hitch weight.

In any RV, vehicle stability and safety can be affected by weight distribution. If, for example, rear axle weight is low, it is best to load the heaviest supplies toward the rear. Keep heaviest supplies low, to keep the center of gravity low and ensure best handling.

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One Response to "Weighing a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel"

  1. what is a safe buffer in trailer weight and towing capacity of the tow vehicle a tow car that is rated for 8100 lbs and a dry weight trailer of 7100 the rv dealer is telling me this is ok and is at the top of the range but ok . Do you agree? thanks in advance.

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