Trailer Tongue Weight – Everything You Need to Know

Trailer Tongue Weight

Last Updated on September 25, 2020 by Michael J. Branco

It is important to know about the trailer tongue weight as it is an essential part of towing any trailer. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced RV user, you must know what tongue weight is, how to calculate tongue weight, and how to make adjustments. It is essential to staying safe while towing. Also, the tongue weight is the downward pressure from the trailer tongue to the trailer’s hook. The industry standard for trailer tongue weight percentageis 9% to 14% of the total trailer weight (GTW). The tongue’s weight allows you to control the trailer when towed, thereby making driving safer. If the tongue weight is not calculated correctly by a travel trailer tongue weight calculator, it will cause the trailer to sway and cause an accident when towing.

For the experienced RV user, the weight of the tongue is the lever. The trailer axle is the fulcrum, and the lever rotates when towing. In this way, the trailer can turn and adjust according to the road conditions, speed, and wind direction without moving left and right. When the weight of the tongue is even, it will prevent most of the swings. If the tongue’s weight is very light, the weight will move behind the tongue; if the trailer tongue weight is too heavy, it will travel before its axis. It affects the way your RV or trailer shakes, stops and moves on the road.

How to Find Trailer Tongue Weight

trailer tongue weight

As earlier highlighted, determining the weight of a trailer’s tongue is essential to towing a cargo safely. It must have the proper amount of weight or tongue pressure applied to the hitch ball to maintain the towing level. If there is too much tongue weight, emphasis will be placed on the vehicle or trailer’s frame, brakes, suspension, tires, or drivetrain. If there is too little weight on the tongue, the trailer is at risk of slipping off the ball and disconnecting from the tow vehicle.

Furthermore, there are diverse ways to find trailer tongue Weights using a trailer tongue weight calculator. Some of these include:

How to Measure Trailer Tongue Weight with a Pressure Switch?

trailer tongue weight scale

Using a Pressure Switch

The Gross Trailer Weight, or GTW, is the measurement of a trailer’s total laden weight. You can discover it by towing the trailer to certified facilities where there are drive-off/drive-off scales in drive-off operations, often at truck stops, DMV inspection stations, recycling plants, and companies that supply landscapers. However, you can determine a trailer’s tongue weight using a unique trailer tongue weight scale, occasionally referred to as a pressure switch.

Steps

Tow the trailer to a flat, level piece of ground. Remove all cargo from the trailer and make sure the tires are entirely appropriately inflated.

Use the trailer tongue jack to lift the tongue until the trailer chassis is approximately level with the ground.

Locate the scale pressure switch immediately below the receiving tongue. See scale instructions for correct operating height. If it has to be within a certain distance from the tongue receiver to give an accurate reading, however, if the trailer’s tongue is too high to accommodate the scale, increase the scale on a solid base, such as a concrete block. Use the reed jack to allow the receiver, sometimes called the coupler, to descend onto the top of the jack. When the socket or wheel plate is off the ground, read the tongue weight on the dial attached to the pressure switch scale.

Read Related Article: Pop Up Camper Weight

Using a Bathroom Scale 

If the trailer’s overall weight is small, for example, no more than 3,000 pounds, you can use a bathroom scale to measure the weight of your tongue. This method is a little more complicated than the pressure switch, but it is easy once you master it.

Steps

To do this, move the trailer from level ground. For more accuracy, raise the fully loaded trailer to a height where the tongue is slightly higher than it is parallel to the ground.

Place a series of wooden blocks under the tongue of the trailer.

Place a bathroom scale on the top wooden block directly under the tongue. Ensure the scale is positioned high enough so that the tongue will be level to the ground when set on the scale. It will be the desired position while the trailer is being towed.

Lower your tongue onto the scale. Record the scale reading to determine the weight of the tongue.

How to Set a Trailer Tongue Weight

The location of a trailer’s load determines its tongue weight. A well-balanced trailer will apply 10 to 15 percent of its weight to the tongue. For example, a 2000 pound trailer with a 1000 pound load will have between 300 to 450 pounds of pressure on the tongue. Too much weight on the tongue can lift the vehicle’s front, reducing the cornering and braking grip. Placing the weight too close to the rear will put upward pressure on the hitch/coupler connection, which could separate them.

Steps on How to Set a Trailer Tongue Weight

Determine the total weight of the trailer plus cargo. The mass of the trailer will be printed on the nameplate located on the frame.

Calculate the desired tongue weight by multiplying the total weight determined in step 1 by 0.125. The result is the weight of the target language.

Place the trailer on a flat surface and chock the front and rear of the wheels.

Install the tongue scale under the trailer torque. Place wooden blocks under the ladder until the trailer connector is no longer supporting your weight.

Read the weight on the scale. If the number is greater than the desired tongue weight, move some of the load behind the trailer axle. In case, it is a single piece of cargo, move it conspicuously to the rear.

If the number on the scale is less than the tongue’s weight, you want to move some load in front of the trailer axle or adjust it slightly forward.

Repeat steps 6 and 7 until the scale on the tongue reads the desired weight.

It’s best to load your heaviest load on the trailer floor and above the trailer axles for maximum stability.

Frequently Asked Questions On Trailer Tongue Weight

What happens if tongue weight is too heavy?

If the weight of the tongue is heavy, it will travel before its axis. This affects the way your RV or trailer shakes, stops and moves on the road.

How can I increase my tongue weight?

As mentioned earlier, increasing the tongue weight is as simple as adjusting or redistributing the travel trailer’s load. More weight is placed before/in front of the travel trailer’s axle. This is generally known as trailer tongue weight distribution. To work on how to increase tongue weight capacityyou must also adjust the travel trailer’s payload forward and toward the travel trailer’s tongue to increase the weight of the tongue.

What is maximum tongue weight?

To get the maximum tongue weight, multiply the total trailer weight by 15%. The optimum tongue weight ought to be over 13%. 

Is tongue weight included in trailer weight?

Generally, the tongue’s weight should be about 10% to 15% of the total weight of the loaded trailer-no more, no less. This tongue weight must be considered in the payload capacity of the trailer as well.

How do I reduce the tongue weight of my trailer?

Have you ever imagined why the rear of your vehicle sinks to such a low position when towing? The most likely cause is improper loading of the trailer, resulting in excessive tongue loading. Before towing, it is essential to know that the trailer’s weight is measured in two ways: the total weight and the weight of the load on the tongue, which will affect the amount of downward force applied to the hook and the trailer. Ideally, the tongue weight should be 10-15% of the trailer’s total weight to avoid damaging the trailer or encountering serious handling difficulties. If you are working on how to reduce tongue weight on a trailer, follow these steps:

  1. Weigh the trailer to determine the total weight of the trailer. Use a local scale to determine the trailer’s weight and calculate the weight of items that
  2. Put large and heavy objects in the trailer for proper fixing. Ideally, the heaviest items should be placed on the trailer axle. However, if there is no suitable place to fix the item near the axle, other smaller items may offset the extra weight—secure large objects with strong bindings.
  3. After placing large objects, check the weight of the trailer tongue. If the tongue’s weight exceeds 10% to 15% of the trailer’s total weight, start loading smaller items through the axle near the rear of the trailer. Always place items of equal weight on both sides of the trailer so that one side of the load is not significantly more massive than the other. 
  4. After the trailer is fully loaded, use the tongue load scale to check the tongue weight. If the splitter load is still higher than the ideal weight, please rearrange the objects away from the trailer’s front and close to the axle.

Can you tow over your towing capacity?

trailer weight

When you ask your trailer to pull more than its expected towing capacity, many things happen:

  • The brakes start to fail.
  • The added weight causes the tires to fail.
  • It would help if you did extra work to drive safely.

The engine can be caused to overheat, which in turn causes the transmission system to be overloaded. This shortens the life of the transmission in the end. Although at first, you may not see an effect on your vehicle upon exceeding the towing capacity, gradual wear and tear can lead to eventual failure. The best case is repeated trips to the repair shop; the worst case is a significant accident.

Of course, if you go ahead to pulling an overweight cargo, you may not even be alive to see the effects of such wear. That’s because the extra weight pulled at the rear of the vehicle dramatically hinders your braking ability and steering control. When the rear of the truck is lowered, the front tires lift, causing them to lose traction on the road. If these front tires are not firmly fixed to the ground, you will see a negative impact on your driving stability and handling.

Your truck brakes are designed to stop a little weight, and in an emergency, it will take longer to slow the vehicle, or it will not work at all. This may result in the loss of your truck, or even in severe cases, the loss of your life.

Can I exceed my towing capacity?

Towing is not an easy task and usually requires unique beasts to get the job done correctly. Among other things, trailers require a more robust frame, suspension system, engine, and axle to withstand greater loads. Just as you are afraid to cross a bridge made of lightweight materials, worrying that it will collapse due to your weight, so you should not force the truck to bear a load that exceeds its towing capacity rating.

What happens if you exceed towing capacity?

The truck’s towing capacity should not be taken lightly. Exceeding the designed vehicle traction may stress the engine and gearbox, accelerate brake wear, damage the tires and even warp the chassis. In turn, this may cause catastrophic failures while driving and may result in property damage

Does tongue weight count as trailer weight?

Yes. Generally, the tongue’s weight should be about 10% to 15% of the total weight of the loaded trailer. The weight of the tongue must be considered in the payload capacity of the trailer as well. Furthermore, as a general rule of thumb, the GTW of a trailer should be between approximately 10 and 15 percent of the GTW.

Trailer hitch balls have weight ratings. The GTW must not exceed the safe values stamped on the hitch ball.

Correct tongue weight is essential. Excess weight when towing can push the tow vehicle from side to side, a phenomenon colloquially known as “the tail that moves the dog,” and can also push the rear of the tow vehicle down so far the steering shaft is not in firm contact with the road. Too little weight on the tongue can cause trailer sway, in which the trailer sways from side to side in crosswinds or when a large truck passes in either direction.

Conclusion

In conclusion, having adequate knowledge about your trailer tongue weight is vital as it guarantees safe driving, amongst other merits highlighted above.

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