Last updated on September 13th, 2021 at 10:27 am
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Are you new to towing and curious how you might increase the tongue weight capacity on your RV? Perhaps you’re so new to RVing that you don’t even know what this means, or why it’s important.
Increasing your RV’s tongue weight capacity is a bit of a misleading phrase. There isn’t a way to increase the overall capacity of your tongue, but you can increase the weight you put on it.
Still confused? Let’s break down what some of these phrases and words mean in the context of your RV!
What is An RV Tongue?
The tongue of your RV is a very important part of your rig. You’ve no doubt seen it, sticking out the front of any trailer or tow bed. The tongue of a trailer is the metal piece that attaches to your tow vehicle’s hitch ball.
The trailer tongue is attached to the overall frame of your trailer, almost always spreading out from the hitch cover to the trailer in a triangle shape. This entire exposed metal piece is the tongue, and its overall weight is key to towing your travel trailer and hitting the road. But more on that later!
The tongue of your trailer should have a jack, something to raise and lower your trailer with ease. If your trailer doesn’t have a tongue jack, it had better be light enough to lift by hand, or else you’ll need to have one installed!
Tongue jacks can be manual or electric, electric tongue jacks being the latest favorite in RV technology. Electric tongue jacks do all the heavy lifting, raising or lowering your RV tongue with the push of a button. Electric tongue jacks can be valuable additions to any trailer that is going to be operated by anyone worried about being strong enough for a manual tongue jack.
A manual tongue jack is more often found on vintage or older trailers, or on trailers not meant for RVing, such as cargo or open air trailers. Manual tongue jacks utilize a kind of lever or crank system to raise and lower the front of your rig. Sometimes these jacks, especially as they age, can stick and be heavy to use.
Can I Replace My Trailer’s Tongue Jack?
Are you like me, struggling with an old, manual trailer tongue jack? Lucky for both of us, we can replace the old and bring in the new! Perhaps replacing your manual tongue jack with an electric one will suit you best, though be prepared to pay a bit more for ease of use.
Most trailer jacks are electric these days, and you may feel more comfortable having a professional replace it. However, there are a lot of trailer tongue jack replacement videos on youtube, and it may not be as difficult as you think!
There’s a variety of trailer jacks on the market, both manual and electric. Make sure you do your own research to ensure the right size and style for your specific travel trailer. However, we recommend the Husky HB4500 4500 lbs. Brute Power Jack for heavier trailers and you can see the latest price on Amazon by clicking here. I’m also a big fan of the electric Lippert 285318 3500 LBS Power Tongue Jack which you can see on Amazon by clicking here.
If you’re concerned about towing your travel trailer, you should be aware of the many different weights you should know before you hit the road. They matter because an even distribution of weight is key to towing safely and securely.
Thankfully these weights ad numbers are fairly easy to understand, and manufacturers always include a starting weight of any travel trailer they make, so that you won’t be entirely in the dark about how much your trailer weighs.
Here are some of the terms you should know when it comes to the weight of your rig, and what it means for you when it comes to your tongue weight capacity!
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)
This is the maximum allowable weight of a fully loaded trailer, including liquids, passengers, cargo, and the tongue weight of any towed vehicle (most travel trailers can’t tow an additional vehicle). This is the weight you will want to know before departing on your first camping trip with your new travel trailer! It is the most a trailer can weigh in total, as determined by the trailer manufacturer.
Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR)
GCWR is the maximum weight of your vehicle with a trailer attached, as determined by the vehicle manufacturer. This means the weight of both the tow vehicle and the trailer together. It also includes any cargo or load placed in either vehicle.
Dry Weight or Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW)
UVW means the weight of an RV as built at the factory, by the manufacturer. It does not include the weight of the cargo, fresh water, propane gas, occupants, etc. It is the weight of the trailer with nothing extra in it, and is the weight you should know when shopping for a new travel trailer!
Tongue Weight or Hitch Weight (HW)
Also known as tongue weight, HW is the amount of weight of the trailer that is carried on the hitch. You will need to know this weight when shopping for a proper hitch. Hitches are rated both by their towing capacity and their tongue weight, but we will touch more on this later.
Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR)
GAWR is the maximum allowable weight each axle assembly is designed to carry. This is important to know, because it’s possible to be under the GVWR and still exceed an axle rating, depending on how you load the RV with your personal cargo.
This is a lot of information to digest, but once you get more familiar with travel trailers and what it all means, the various weights of your trailer will make a lot more sense! You will come to understand why it is necessary to know these weights, and the importance of staying within certain ranges depending on your tow vehicle.
How To Determine Your RV’s Tongue Weight Capacity
Determining your RV’s tongue weight capacity can be easy for some of you with newer rigs and a bit harder for those of you with vintage rigs. If you have a newer rig, your manufacturer should be able to get you your tongue weight information without much issue. You can probably even find the information online!
No matter what, tongue weight makes up for approximately 10-15% of your overall rig’s weight, so if you know your overall weight, some simple math will make your tongue weight clear. Simply calculate what 10% of your overall weight would be, and that should be an approximate for your tongue weight!
However, if the weight information of your rig is not readily available to you, there are a few ways you can determine your RV tongue weight. The steps are a bit more involved than a simple internet search, but still possible from the comfort of your own home!
CURT BetterWeigh Mobile Towing
Looking for an easy to operate device that allows you to weigh your travel trailer at or near your own home? Check out the CURT BetterWeigh Mobile Towing gadget.
- SMARTPHONE-READY. BetterWeigh uses Bluetooth to connect to your smartphone and show the actual weight of your vehicle and trailer. It is compatible...
- REAL-TIME WEIGHING. For safer, easier towing and hauling, the measurements provided by BetterWeigh are in real time. No need to get out of the vehicle...
- ZERO INSTALLATION. The BetterWeigh hitch and tongue scale installs in seconds. The compact, plug-and-play design fits any vehicle diagnostic port...
This device can measure the weight of your trailer and tow vehicle as well as specific parts of your trailer, such as the gross weight, cargo, payload, tongue weight, pin weight and weight distribution. Plus it is controlled via your smartphone, so that you can weigh whatever you’d like on the go with little to no hassle!
It is an incredibly easy device to use as well as install. It simply plugs into your vehicle’s diagnostic port under the steering wheel and uses bluetooth to send the information to your phone. Sounds like magic, right? It is in a way, but requires a bit of math to calculate your trailer’s weight.
From a level surface, accelerate your unhitched vehicle to about 25mph. This handy device receives data about torque and translates that into vehicle weight. Once you have the tow vehicle weight, hook up your trailer and once again accelerate to 25mph. The device will report your combined gross vehicle weight. Subtract the weight of your truck from the combined weight and you have your trailer weight all on its own!
While it’s yet another object to buy, it is the simplest and most advanced way of weighing your trailer at home. Again, always budget extra weight, even using this device, as it cannot give you as accurate a reading as, say, a weigh station can. But it will do in a pinch, especially since you can do it from the comfort of your own home!
Bathroom Scale Technique
Your very own bathroom scale can be used to weigh the tongue of your trailer, which makes up about 10-15% of your travel trailer’s weight. This is a necessary number when it comes to determining your hitch, and this is one of the most convenient options for weighing your travel trailer at home.
This method is recommended for smaller, more lightweight travel trailers only. It may not work for rigs over 3,000 pounds dry.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to weighing your trailer’s tongue at home.
- Ensure your trailer is nice and level
Being level is important when getting an accurate weight. Also, chock your wheels during this process for your own safety.
- Lay a 2×4 on the ground beneath the trailer tongue
Position a reliable board on the ground, directly below the trailer tongue. The board must be at least 3-1/2 feet long for this trick to work.
- Place your bathroom scale at one end and a brick at the other
Place the bathroom scale roughly 2 feet in either direction from the trailer tongue, and a block or brick about 1 foot from the trailer tongue the opposite direction of the scale. You’ll want to protect the bathroom scale with a small piece of plywood or other material on the top.
- Center the wood, scale, and brick on two pipes
Insert two horizontal pipes between the 2×4 and scale/brick: one in the center of the bathroom scale and one in the center of the brick.
- Rest the trailer tongue against a vertical pipe
Lower the trailer jack until the coupler is fully resting on a vertically-positioned pipe.
- Read the scale and multiple by 3
An average bathroom scale can’t measure the entire weight of your trailer tongue. That’s why you take your initial reading and multiply it by three! This should be your trailer’s tongue weight.
Take Your Trailer to a CAT Scale
Have you ever stopped at a truck stop off a major highway and seen scales? It’s not just truckers that can use those! If you make an appointment and pay less than $20, you can have your rig weighed a bit more accurately than you might at your own home.
While this may not be a convenient option for a lot of you, this is one of the only ways to get an accurate weight on your rig. It’s not a bad idea to load up your RV as if you were heading out on a camping trip and have it weighed. If you are a stickler for an accurate measurement, take your rig to the professionals!
Why Do I Want to Increase My RV’s Tongue Weight Capacity?
Now that you’ve learned a bit more about tongue weights and how they factor in to your overall rig weight, you may be wondering why you might want to increase your tongue weight capacity. The main reason you may wish to do this is to improve your overall towing experience.
Adjusting your tongue weight is more than just a preference when it comes to towing; it’s often a necessity. Your rig is much safer to tow and drive on highways if the overall weight is properly balanced and accounted for. Dangerous towing is a more common feat than you think, and the last thing you need is to tow dangerously!
Avoid a Tilted Rig
Your tongue needs a proper amount of weight upon it in order to properly rest upon your hitch. If your trailer weighs more in the back than the front, you run the risk of your trailer’s tongue lifting off of your tow vehicle’s hitch! Plus, a dangerous tilt to your trailer can lead to accidents on the road.
Watch Out for Highway Sway
Sway is the number one concern for RVers new to towing, and the easiest way to prevent sway on the highways is to weigh your cargo properly from end to end of your trailer. There are certain hitches you can purchase that assist with sway, but the best recommendation I have is to arrange your interior cargo appropriately.
Let’s go over some easy ways to increase your RV’s tongue weight capacity!
How to Increase Your RV’s Tongue Weight Capacity
We’ve finally arrived at the big question: can you increase your RV’s tongue weight capacity, and more importantly, how can you do that?
Well, the answer may seem a bit obvious or simple, but the main way to increase your tongue’s weight is to simply put more weighted things at the front of your rig. If you’re hitting the road, place all of your cargo closest to the tongue, at the front of your rig nearest the hitch.
Travel trailers are designed like seesaws in a way, with their center point or fulcrum being where the wheels are. Thinking of your rig in this way may help you on your next towing excursion! Keeping some weight (but not too much weight) at the front of the rig allows for a more stable and balanced connection to your hitch.
My vintage travel trailer is designed with the fresh water tank right at the front of the rig, on the tongue. Putting a heavy metal tank which then gets filled with heavy water on the tongue of the rig? Sounds like RV manufacturers knew what they were doing, even back in the 70s! Filling up my fresh water tank basically guarantees that my tongue weight will be accurate and safe for towing.
While this may not apply to all of you, hopefully you have enough cargo to shift on the inside of your trailer in order to achieve proper balance, with more weight on the front of your rig. If you’re not bringing very much cargo, you may consider simply bringing weighted things with you such as bricks or gallons of water- something to increase your tongue weight!
It may seem silly, but it is as simple as that. Besides driving at a reasonable towing speed, the next best way to stay safe while towing is to have a balanced trailer. Make sure you don’t have too much cargo in the very back, and hopefully that is enough to solve your tongue weight problems!
Hitches That Can Help
We mentioned highway sway earlier and how that might affect your overall towing experience. You’ve moved your cargo around a hundred times and still experience a bit of dangerous sway when you get up to highway speeds. What can help, if increasing your tongue weight hasn’t?
Thankfully towing has come far, and there are many different types of hitches to assist with your new rig. Also, many modern hitches include more than one of these features in the same hitch! Here are a few of the different features to be on the lookout for.
Weight Distribution Hitches
The most important feature to look for on any hitch and with any travel trailer is a weight-distribution hitch. These little guys do exactly what they say they do: distribute the weight of your travel trailer more evenly across the hitch. This allows for a smoother and more controlled ride.
Most modern hitches utilize some aspects of weight distribution. One of my favorites is the Equal-i-zer hitch which has a unique weight-distributing design. You can check it out on Amazon by clicking here.
Hitches with Sway Bars
Sway bars are another popular feature on modern hitches. These bars attach to the tongue of your trailer and to the hitch on your tow vehicle, putting pressure on both and ensuring more control over the sway of your trailer.
While they can be a bit noisy and tricky while backing up, sway bars are easily removed and are key for navigating busy highways. A great sway bar hitch recommendation we have is this Fastway hitch, with weight distribution included, which you can see on Amazon by clicking here.
Hitches with Sway Control
While there are hitches with sway bars, there are also hitches with additional sway control accessories, so that you can feel as safe as possible while on the road. These accessories aren’t recommended for use through town or on icy roads, but this EAZ LIFT Hitch on Amazon allows you the option to turn the sway control off with ease!
Does a Weight Distribution Hitch Increase Towing Capacity?
You may be wondering about weight distribution hitches and if they can increase your towing capacity. While it may seem possible, unfortunately weight distribution hitches simply distribute the weight evenly; these hitches do not increase your towing capacity in any way.
The weight distribution hitch is designed to spread out the weight, but it is still weight that is being added to your tow vehicle. The hitch does not adopt any of the weight for itself, nor does it lighten the load in any way. Your GCWR should never be exceeded!
While it may seem easy, towing a rig with a weight distribution hitch, make sure you never tow something beyond your tow vehicle’s recommended capacity. It may feel like a smooth ride, and it should be! But it doesn’t turn your truck into some sort of superhuman tow vehicle.
Towing can be tricky, with so many weights and numbers to remember. Shopping for a hitch can be a complicated and time-consuming process. However, keeping your overall tongue weight in mind as well as the weight of your rig will lead to a safe and hassle-free time on the road for you and your family!