Hitch weight, or tongue weight, is the downward force the tongue of your trailer applies to the hitch. It is critical for proper towing and safety.
Defining Hitch Weight
– Hitch weight, or tongue weight, is the downward force the tongue of your trailer applies to the hitch.
Too little hitch weight causes trailer sway. Too much hitch weight greatly affects your ability to steer. Typically, the safe area for hitch weight should be between 9% and 15% of the total gross weight of the trailer.
Calculating Hitch Weight
Calculation of hitch weight is pretty straightforward. With a small trailer, a bathroom scale and blocks are all you need to determine it. Simply use blocks to raise the bathroom scale to the same height as your hitch and then place the tongue of your trailer on the scale. Determine what percentage of the gross weight of your trailer is shown on the scale. See figure 1 below.
Heavier trailers are a bit more tricky, but still relatively painless. There are two ways to tackle it. First, you can simply buy a tongue weight scale that has the capacity necessary for your trailer. Otherwise, you can follow these steps:
- Gather a bathroom scale, a 2×4 cut to a 5′ or 6′ length, two pipes and a brick.
- Lay one pipe on the scale and the other on the brick.
- Position the scale and the brick 3 feet apart.
- Lay the 2×4 across the pipes
- Either by blocking up the scale and brick, or using some kind of support, place the tongue on the 2×4 at the same relative height as your hitch. Place the tongue on the 2×4 2′ from the scale and 1 foot from the brick.
- Multiply the weight on the scale by 3. That’s your hitch weight.
Once you’ve determined your hitch weight, you can adjust your cargo to make sure your hitch weight falls into the 9 to 15 zone. If you need more hitch weight, place more cargo in front of your trailer axles. If you need less weight, move cargo behind the axles. Hopefully, these tips will keep you safer on the road and make pulling a trailer a pain free experience.