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Trailer Weight - Don't Screw This Up!

Okay I was talking to a friend and they were looking at trailers that seemed light but given their tow vehicle I wouldn’t recommend it. So, it made me think, this should be one of the first posts we put out there. I know you can do a search and get tons of info, so I will be another source. If you screw up here, you are putting yourself and everyone around you at risk.

It isn’t as simple as looking up your max vehicle weight. It takes into consideration the trailer weight, the wheelbase, width, your experience, what you plan to do with the trailer, etc. Remember RV salespeople want to sell you an RV, so they will sometimes tell you your vehicle can tow something that realistically would be unsafe. Never trust just their word, always do your own research.

For me if my max tow capacity is a small truck or small SUV and the tow weight is 5,000 lbs. I want my weight to be under 4,000. But what weight you ask, well let’s talk about the various weights out there.

GVW: Gross Vehicle Weight

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is the actual weight of the fully loaded vehicle or trailer, including all cargo, fluids, passengers, and optional equipment, as measured by a scale. If you are in a motorhome and not towing anything, the GVW is the total weight of the RV and everything in it. If your RV is composed of more than one unit (towing a trailer or a vehicle), then the GVW is only part of the total. The GVW is important because without this number you cannot determine if you are within the limits set forth by the manufacturer, laws, and regulations. This number can be approximated based on information provided by the manufacturer or dealer.

This means you need to pay attention to what you are putting in your trailer. Every single item down to RV toilet paper has weight. Where you put it in the trailer too plays in as it can increase your tongue weight. So don’t dump all your stuff in your trailer if you are close on weight.

GTW: Gross Trailer Weight

GTW Includes (Gross Trailer Weight)

  • All GAW’s (Gross Axle Weight)

  • Tongue Weight or King Ping Weight

  • Weight on all deployed jacks

Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) is the same as Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) when referring to a trailer. While GVW can be applied to tow vehicles and trailers, GTW makes it clear that we are speaking of a trailer. When connected, a portion of the trailer’s weight is transferred to the tow vehicle through the hitch. In this case, the GTW includes all axle GAW’s and the Tongue Weight or King Pin Weight.

GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the maximum number that the GVW or GTW should never exceed. GVWR is applied to trailers as well as vehicles, but you may see this rating referred to as the Maximum Loaded Trailer Weight.

GAWR: Gross Axle Weight Rating

Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) is the maximum number that the GAW of a single axle should never exceed. You may see the more specific RGAWR when referring to the rear axle, or FGAWR, when referring to the front axle.

Tongue Weight or King Pin Weight

Tongue Weight (also called Tongue Load) is the actual weight pressing down on the hitch ball by the trailer. The recommended amount of Tongue Weight is 10-15% of the GTW. King Pin Weight (also called Pin Weight) is the actual weight pressing down on the fifth wheel hitch by the trailer. The recommended amount of King Pin Weight is 15-25% of the GTW. These weights are added to the tow vehicle’s GVW.

UVW: Unloaded Vehicle Weight

UVW Includes

  • Vehicle weight as manufactured at the factory

  • Full fuel tank weight

  • Equipment fluids weight

Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW) is the weight of a vehicle as manufactured at the factory. It includes full engine and generator fuel tanks and fluids, if applicable. It does not include cargo, water, propane, or dealer-installed accessories. Be aware that some manufacturers weigh each unit to determine UVW, while others provide only the average or estimated weight for each model. We have seen the following variations to this definition:

  • Includes actual factory installed options

  • Includes commonly ordered factory installed options

Pay close attention to how the manufacturer defines UVW because this is often used to calculate other weights, such as the cargo carrying capacity or Payload.

Dry Weight

Dry Weight is the actual weight of a vehicle or trailer containing standard equipment without fuel, fluids, cargo, passengers, or optional equipment. We have seen the following variations to this definition:

  • Includes commonly ordered optional equipment

  • Includes fluids of generator and other onboard equipment (oil, coolant, fuel)

  • May or may not include RV batteries

Pay close attention to how the manufacturer defines Dry Weight because this is often used to calculate other weights, such as the cargo carrying capacity or Payload. Sometimes you can spot them on the main A-frame chassis. Look for these stickers by the main entry door.

Cargo Weight

Cargo Weight Includes

  • Personal cargo weight

  • Optional equipment weight

  • Tongue Weight or King Ping Weight

Cargo Weight is the actual weight of all items added to the Curb Weight of the vehicle or trailer. This includes personal cargo, optional equipment, and Tongue or King Pin Weight. This is important because it will determine how many things you can safely pack into your RV. Within this number, you need to fit the weight of your clothes, linens, books, dishes, beer, cleaning supplies, computer equipment, hiking gear, bicycles, water sport toys, food, basically everything you want to take with you.

Whew, okay that was a lot. The most important is if your max towing weight is 5,000 your all-in weight should be a bit below that. Also, you should keep an idea of how much stuff you are putting in your trailer. This doesn’t consider how much harder your car will have to work too, so maybe you need a transmission cooler or other modifications. Go light, go slow and know your vehicle and trailer is the best advice.

One cheat we used that may help you in your search is that a typical trailer axel is rated for 3,500 lbs. so if it is one axel, it will be less than that weight generally. If you see two axels generally it is more than that. Now there is a discussion that two axels are more stable, etc., and that is true, but you still shouldn’t exceed the max towing weight.

Things like sway bars and weight distribution hitches can help but guess what, you still shouldn’t exceed or even come close to your max weight. We have had a friend who was well within their weight limit have the travel trailer flip and flip their tow vehicle which was a huge truck due to a huge gust of wind, so even if you do it right, there are risks.

I do recommend TPMS on two axel trailers as a tire emergency could be far worse on these rigs than on double axel ones. We will be adding these and look for our video on this and why we are replacing the trailer tires right away on our channel. Hope to see you out there safe!

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