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Determining Trailer Tongue Weight

In order to make sure your trailer is properly loaded, you need to know your trailer tongue weight. Tongue weight is the weight that the fully loaded trailer exerts downward on the hitch ball of the tow vehicle. Typically, your tongue weight should be 10-15% of your total trailer weight. If you don't know the tongue weight of your trailer, there are several different ways you can measure it.How to measure tongue weight:
  • Tongue Weight Scale
  • Bathroom Scale
  • Commercial Scale
Trailer Hitch with Weight Distribution
etrailer Tongue Weight Scale
etrailer Tongue Weight Scale

Tongue Weight Scales

The easiest way to measure your tongue weight is with a tongue weight scale. Various scales are available to help you easily and accurately measure your trailer's tongue weight. You can also purchase a ball mount with a built-in scale.

Bathroom Scale

You can use a bathroom scale and a box to measure tongue weight of smaller trailers. Place the coupler of the loaded trailer on the scale at normal towing height (see Figure A). For heavier tongue weights, use the second method (Figure B). Be sure to perform these measurements on a level surface and with a leveled trailer.
Measure Tongue Weight With Bathroom Scale (Figure A)
Measure Tongue Weight With Bathroom Scale (Figure B)
To use the method in Figure B, follow these guidelines:
  • Place the trailer tongue 1 ft from the pipe on the support brick
  • Multiply the reading on the scale by the total distance between the 2 support pipes
  • Use a brick that is the same thickness as the scale so that the 2 x 4 is level when you weigh your trailer
Example: If the distance between the trailer tongue and the pipe on the scale is 2 ft, and the distance between the trailer tongue and the pipe on the support brick is 1 ft, then multiply the reading on the scale by 3 to get the tongue weight. If the distance between the trailer tongue and the pipe on the scale is 3 ft and the distance between the trailer tongue and the pipe on the support brick is 1 ft, then multiply the reading on the scale by 4 to get the tongue weight.

Commercial Truck Scales

Another way to determine your trailer's tongue weight (and get your vehicle and trailer weights) is to take the trailer with your tow vehicle to a scale at a truck stop, quarry or material supply center. For a small fee, you can weigh your tow vehicle and trailer there.Step 1: Determine Weight of Vehicle with Tongue WeightYour vehicle and trailer must be fully loaded and fueled just as they will be when you are leaving for a trip. First, drive on to the scale with all 4 wheels of the truck and record the weight of the truck with the trailer attached.
Diagram - Tow Vehicle Only on Scale with Trailer Hooked Up
Tongue Weight Commercial Scale
Pictured: Commercial truck scale
Step 2: Determine Weight of Vehicle without Tongue WeightUnhook the trailer and jack up the trailer tongue so there is no weight on the hitch ball. Make sure that the trailer jack is not on the scale. Record the weight of only the truck on the scale. This is your gross vehicle weight (GVW). Now, subtract the GVW from the weight of the truck with the trailer attached. This will give you the tongue weight of your trailer.A - B = Tongue Weight
Determine Weight of Tow Vehicle Without Tongue Weight

Determine Tongue Weight for Weight Distribution Hitch

If you want to use a weight distribution hitch, remember to include the weight of any gear you might load behind the rear axle of the tow vehicle. You should add the weight of this gear to your tongue weight to select a weight distribution system of the proper size.
Measuring Tongue Weight for Weight Distribution
Step 1: To get the weight of the gear behind the rear axle, weigh your vehicle with this gear and without. Then subtract the weight without the gear from the weight with the gear. This difference is the weight of your gear. A - B = C.Ex: (A) Vehicle weight with gear behind rear axle - (B) vehicle weight without gear behind rear axle = (C) total weight of your gear Step 2: Add the total weight of your gear to your tongue weight. Your weight distribution hitch must support this weight.Ex: 200 lbs (total weight of gear) + 800 lbs (TW) = 1,000 lbs (weight distribution must support this weight) Learn more about finding the right weight distribution hitch size here.

Determine Additional Weights

While you are at the scale, you can also make sure that your towing setup is within the rated capacity of your tow vehicle. To do this, you need to get the weight of your trailer.To weigh your trailer, pull it with your tow vehicle onto the scale so you can weigh them together. This weight is your Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW). You can get the weight of your trailer (Gross Trailer Weight - GTW) by subtracting the weight of your tow vehicle alone from the weight of your tow vehicle and trailer combined (GCVW). Then, check your owner's manual or with your dealer to determine if the weight of your trailer is within the towing capacity of your tow vehicle.GCVW - GVW = GTW(Tow vehicle + trailer) - (tow vehicle) = trailer weight
Tow Vehicle and Trailer on Scale
Related ArticlesRelated ProductsUpdated: 8/1/2022


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