Safe towing requires a certain amount of downward pressure on the hitch ball, called tongue weight, to ensure that the trailer will tow straight and remain stable. In all cases, it is not the weight itself that matters, it’s what tongue weight represents: that the trailer’s center of mass is situated ahead of its axle.
How Tongue Weight Affects Your Truck’s Stability and Handling
This video demonstrates just how vital it is to keep within your target tongue weight. Yet, manually measuring tongue weight is an extensive process requiring several steps: pulling your trailer onto the scale, uncoupling it, leaving it on the scale to get your total trailer weight, then reconnecting and driving your truck wheels off the scale to measure your trailer’s axle weight measurement, then subtracting the axle weight from the total trailer weight to determine your trailer’s hitch weight….
Get where this is going??
Most people don’t bother to weigh tongue weight at all. They just eyeball it and call it good. Which puts you at risk of losing control of your truck and trailer.
Not any more.
Introducing your secret weapon…a Weigh Safe hitch with a built-in scale to measure tongue weight.
A Weigh Safe hitch will accurately measure the tongue weight of your trailer.
For safe towing, the recommended amount of tongue weight is 10% – 15% of your loaded trailer’s weight. Use this formula to calculate the recommended amount of tongue weight for your trailer
Target Tongue Weight Formula
Find your GTW (Gross Trailer Weight. This is the weight of your trailer, plus the weight of the cargo you’ve loaded onto it. GTW can also be referred to as GVW, Gross Vehicle Weight).
Multiply GTW by (0.1).
This is the minimum of your target tongue weight.
Multiply GTW by (0.15).
This is the maximum of your target tongue weight.
When loading your trailer, aim to position your cargo so that your trailer’s tongue weight is within this range. Also, check to make sure the tongue weight isn’t putting your truck’s payload capacity above its maximum.
Adjusting Tongue Weight
Adjusting your tongue weight involves putting heavier items ahead of the trailer axle, but not all the way towards the extreme forward edge. You’ll also need to center heavy items left-to-right and position them as low to the trailer deck as practical. Be sure to secure loose items — particularly the heavier ones — so they can’t move and alter the trailer’s tongue weight underway. The goal is to have about 60% of your cargo’s mass ahead of the trailer axle and 40% behind.
Let’s follow up on our example with numbers. You’ve calculated that it’s safe to load 2,500 lbs of landscaping equipment onto your new trailer. This brings your GTW to 3,500 lbs. This means your target tongue weight is within 350 lbs – 525 lbs. Your truck is already loaded with 4,000 pounds of dirt. With this additional tongue weight, your truck’s total payload will now be 4,350 lbs – 4,525 lbs.
This brings your combined weight – your truck’s curb weight (5,000 lbs), plus your truck’s payload (4,525 lbs), plus your loaded trailer weight (3,500 lbs) – to a total of 13,025 lbs.
This total combined weight is below your truck’s GCWR of 15,000 lbs, so you’re feeling confident that your truck (and your trailer) can handle this amount safely.
I’ve met several people that have had crazy towing experiences from towing with bad tongue weight. A lot of those people will tell me about how scary the experience was and how they narrowly escaped a roll-over or trailer-related accident. However, there are many that we involved in serious accidents and they were grateful they were able to share their story with me and others…
And that’s what people mainly think about when towing with too much or too little tongue weight- compromised safety. But I met a man at Sema in 2019 that shared a different experience.. He made several cross-country trips while towing equipment for his job. He knew not to have too little tongue weight, so he’d load ALL his equipment towards the tongue of the trailer. This caused him to have WAY too much tongue weight. He said that he went through soooo many tires and a few axles until he realized tongue weight might be the issue. He purchased a Universal tow ball, set up his trailer with the correct tongue weight, and tow. He said made a world of difference and said, “it pulled like a dream”. That just goes to show that good tongue weight improves safety AND towing performance and comfort.