If you’re looking at towing a trailered boat this summer, you are going to need to learn a little bit about your tongue weight, because towing a trailer with improper tongue weight could land you in a world of trouble on the roads.
Tongue weight is the downwards force from the tongue of the trailer to your hitch. In other words, it’s the amount of your loaded trailer weight that sits behind the rear axle of your vehicle.
So why does tongue weight matter? I’m happy you asked!
Did you realize that towing a trailer with improper tongue weight can lead to trailer sway, wobbling, fishtailing, and an out of control ride?
Doesn’t sound safe, right? Right!
So how do we avoid what could potentially be a dangerous driving situation?
Well let’s start with the basics!
Proper Tongue Weight
Have you ever been driving down the road only to notice the vehicle in front of you is towing a trailer that seems to be skirting dangerously close to the next lane?
When you see a trailer swaying it is mostly always the result of insufficient tongue weight!
Too little weight on the tongue can lead to swaying from side to side and fishtailing, making it really hard to keep things under control behind the wheel.
On the other hand, if you are putting a little too much weight on the tongue you could weigh down your rear wheels, making steering a difficult task.
Your tongue weight should come in between 10 and 15 percent of the total weight of your loaded trailer, also known as your Gross Trailer Weight (GTW).
So if you are hauling a 2,000 pound trailer that’s loaded up with 2,000 pounds worth of cargo, your tongue weight should be between 400 and 600 pounds.
Check out the example below:
How To Calculate Your Tongue Weight
2,000 trailer + 2,000 pounds of cargo = 4000 pounds
4,000 x 10% = 400 or 4,000 x 15% = 600
Thus, the proper tongue weight would be between 400 and 600 pounds!
Pro Tip: You can often tell whether your tongue weight is off by looking at your trailer! Take a step back and ask yourself if your trailer is leaning forward or backwards. If so, your tongue weight might be uneven.
How Do You Calculate The Actual Tongue Weight?
So how do you check your tongue weight to make sure it falls within the target range?
Thankfully, it's not too complicated!
To figure it out, you can use one of the following methods:
- Tongue Weight Scale: An ideal investment for heavier boats and trailers, as it will allow you to measure much higher weight.
- Weigh Safe Ball Mount: A convenient means of weighing your tongue weight, as the ball mound comes with a built in scale!
- Bathroom Scale: Likely the most affordable means of measuring the tongue weight, however, a typical bathroom scale will not be able to measure the weight of heavier trailers and boats. Also, it might be tricky to set the scale at the same height as the hitch ball on the tow vehicle. That said, you can use cinderblocks to do this.
What to do if You Aren't Meeting Your Tongue Weight Targets?
So you aren't within the expected tongue weight...now what?
Not to worry, assuming that you have not exceeded the vehicle tow weight capacity, all you need to do is focus on weight distribution.
By moving some of the trailer's cargo rearward or forward the tongue weight will either increase or decrease.
Weight distribution allows you to either move weight rearwards to place more weight on the trailer's axle, or forward to place more weight on the front of the trailer's axle.
This may take a few attempts, but you should be able to hit your target tongue weight.
Congratulations! You now know how to get to your safe tongue weight! And like with all other things in life, practice makes perfect!
Next, you may want to brush up on your launching knowledge.