Weight of the Trailer Tongue

The tongue load (A) of any trailer is an important weight to measure because it affects the total or gross weight of your vehicle. The Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) includes the curb weight of the vehicle, any cargo you may carry in it, and the people who will be riding in the vehicle. If you have a lot of options, equipment, passengers or cargo in your vehicle, it will reduce the tongue weight your vehicle can carry, which will also reduce the trailer weight your vehicle can tow. And if you will tow a trailer, you must add the tongue load to the GVW because your vehicle will be carrying that weight, too.

The trailer tongue weight (A) should be 10 percent

The trailer tongue weight (A) should be 10 percent to 15 percent of the total loaded trailer weight, up to a maximum or 400 lbs (181 kg) with a weight carrying hitch. The trailer tongue weight (A) should be 10 to 15 percent of the total loaded trailer weight, up to a maximum of 750 lbs (340 kg) with a weight distributing hitch.

Do not exceed the maximum allowable tongue weight for your vehicle. Choose the shortest hitch extension that will position the hitch ball closest to the vehicle. This will help reduce the effect of trailer tongue weight on the rear axle.

After you’ve loaded your trailer, weigh the trailer and then the tongue, separately, to see if the weights are proper. If they aren’t, you may be able to get them right simply by moving some items around in the trailer.

Trailering may be limited by the vehicle’s ability to carry tongue weight. Tongue weight cannot cause the vehicle to exceed the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or the RGAWR (Rear Gross Axle Weight Rating). The effect of additional weight may reduce your trailering capacity more than the total of the additional weight.

Consider the following example:

A vehicle model base weight is 5,500 lbs (2 495 kg); 2,800 lbs (1 270 kg) at the front axle and 2,700 lbs (1 225 kg) at the rear axle.

It has a GVWR of 7,200 lbs (3 266 kg), a RGAWR of 4,000 lbs (1 814 kg) and a GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating) of 14,000 lbs (6 350 kg).

The trailer rating should be:

You can expect tongue weight to be at least

You can expect tongue weight to be at least 10 percent of trailer weight (850 lbs (386 kg)) and because the weight is applied well behind the rear axle, the effect on the rear axle will be greater than just the weight itself, as much as 1.5 times as much. The weight at the rear axle could be 850 lbs (386 kg) X 1.5 = 1,275 lbs (578 kg). Since the rear axle already weighs 2,700 lbs (1 225 kg), adding 1,275 lbs (578 kg) brings the total to 3,975 lbs (1 803 kg). This is very close to, but within the limit for RGAWR as well.

The vehicle is set to trailer up to 8,500 lbs (3 856 kg).

But let’s say your specific vehicle is equipped with some of the latest options and you have a front seat passenger and two rear seat passengers with some luggage and gear in the vehicle as well.

You may add 300 lbs (136 kg) to the front axle weight and 400 lbs (181 kg) to the rear axle weight. Your vehicle now weighs:

Weight is still below 7,200 lbs (3 266 kg) and you may think that you should subtract 700 additional pounds (318 kg) from your trailering capacity to stay within GCWR limits.

Your maximum trailer would only be 7,800 lbs (3 538 kg). You may go further and think you must limit tongue weight to less than 1,000 lbs (454 kg) to avoid exceeding GVWR. But, you must still consider the effect on the rear axle. Because your rear axle now weighs 3,100 lbs (1 406 kg), you can only put 900 lbs (408 kg) on the rear axle without exceeding RGAWR. The effect of tongue weight is about 1.5 times the actual weight.

Dividing the 900 lbs (408 kg) by 1.5 leaves you with being able to handle only 600 lbs (272 kg) of tongue weight. Since tongue weight is usually at least 10 percent of total loaded trailer weight, you can expect that the largest trailer your vehicle can properly handle is 6,000 lbs (2 721 kg).

It is important that you make sure your vehicle does not exceed any of its ratings — GCWR, GVWR, RGAWR, Maximum Trailer Rating or Tongue Weight. The only way to be sure you are not exceeding any of these ratings is to weigh your vehicle and trailer.

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