Stay Safe On The Road By Weighing Your Travel Trailer
If you’re new to travel trailer or RV life, you may not understand the importance of weighing your rig, or weight distributing. Trying to figure out the rules and logistics can get confusing and downright overwhelming. Knowing your vehicles weight rating is an important first step to owning a travel trailer or RV.
The most convenient places to weigh your trailer is at the CAT truck scales which can be found at most truck stops along the freeway. Also try your RV dealership, and local trucking companies.
Without knowing the weight, it is impossible to know if your vehicle can even safety tow it. Other important things to consider are the difference between the weight of the rig by itself and once it has been fully loaded with gear and water, the weight that is carried on the wheels and axles, and the weight that is carried on the hitch. If you have a multi axel trailer, it is important to balance the weight across the axels.
Many people assume that the only weight they need to know is the weight of the trailer when they pull it off the lot, and this is a dangerous mistake. Pulling a fully loaded trailer that is above your vehicle’s maximum towing capacity can be very dangerous. We can help you learn what is involved with weighing a trailer so that your trips are always safe and comfortable.
Do RV’s Have to Stop at Weigh Stations?
Legally, RV’s, travel trailers, and fifth wheels aren’t required to be weighed for travel. However, owners will need to know their gross vehicle weight for traveling over bridges, so it’s a good knowledge to have on hand, just in case.
Before setting out on your first trip, it’s always a good idea to research your state’s, and your destination state’s, weight regulations for RV’s and travel trailers. It could be there are very few state laws regarding RV’s, but it’s always best to be prepared for any situation that can arise. You don’t want to be caught unaware should you get pulled over by a police office in a state you’re not familiar with.
Another very important reason to weigh your fifth wheel or travel trailer is to make sure you aren’t exceeding your tow vehicle’s max towing capacity or gross weights. Your vehicle may be able to safety tow your trailer when it’s new and isn’t filled with gear and water, but things could quickly change when you start outfitting your trailer. You should always follow the vehicle manufacturer’s requirements for towing capacity and never come close to exceeding them.
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Where Can I Weigh My Travel Trailer?
There are multiple options for weighing a travel trailer or RV, and some may be free or charge a small fee. Before heading out for your trip, it’s best to call around to find out which places offer facilities for weighing a trailer and their hours and fees. You can easily locate a CAT scale online before you hit the road.
This way you can plan your trip around your stops to maximize your travel time. A truck stop will usually have a weighing station and is also a great place to stretch your legs or grab a snack and a cup of coffee to fuel you for the rest of the journey.
If you’re already planning to stop at truck stops to refuel during your travels, this is likely your best option for weighing as well. This will save you the time and hassle of trying to track down a scale that’s specifically for RV’s or travel trailers.
Truck stops are plentiful along highways, and most have certified CAT scales that are easy to use, and cost anywhere from $10-$20. Make sure you tell the weighmaster that you don’t need a certified weight receipt and you may get a discount on the price.
Use CAT Scales To Weigh Your Truck And Travel Trailer
CAT scales usually are three separate scales, so that you can capture the tow vehicle weight, front axle weight, and rear axle weight in one fell swoop. Other scales may require you to move forward a couple of times to capture the three weights you need.
Many private trucking companies have these types of scales and it may be possible to use them for free. Make sure you contact them prior to travel to find out their hours and requirements.
CAT scales at truck stops are your best option for accuracy and convenience. They are located practically everywhere along interstates and are extremely accurate because of strict state regulations regarding the weights of tractor trailers.
You know that you will be getting the most accurate weight possible which means a safer experience for you and your rig. While it may add a few extra minutes to your trip, the information is invaluable.
How Do You Actually Weigh a Travel Trailer?
Weighing your rig isn’t complex, but it make take a bit of practice, especially if you’re new to towing. If you’re using a CAT scale, it can be as simple as: pull onto the scales, let the weighmaster know you’re there, get your weight, and continue on your way. For other scales, it may be a bit more involved.
Before weighing, you need to make sure that your rig and tow vehicle are filled with everything they’d normally be filled with during a trip. The tow vehicle should have all passengers, and the rig itself should have all gear and water you normally bring on your travels. This will ensure you get an accurate weight for road travel.
If you’re on a single platform scale, you’ll have a few extra steps for weighing your rig. Your goal is to get three weights: tow vehicle, front axle, and rear axle. The axle weight is especially important for fifth wheels so that you know the proper tire pressure for the front wheels and rear wheels.
You will need to adjust your psi depending on the weight each tire has to tow, and always keep manufacturer guidelines in mind. It may be a good idea to go for a slightly higher psi to plan for changes in temperature or other variables.
Find The Weight On Each Wheel For Best Balance
To figure out the weight each tire has to carry, simply divide your rig’s weight by four. Knowing this will prevent inconvenient, costly, and dangerous tire blowouts on the road. If you don’t know the exact weights each tire is carrying, always set your psi to your manufacturer’s recommendations for a full load.
First, you’ll want to get the weight of the entire rig, including tow vehicle. Simply pull your rig onto the scale and get the combined vehicle weight. Once you have that logged, pull the tow vehicle so that the rear axle is completely off the scale.
The travel trailer hitch or the fifth wheel landing gear should still be completely over the scale. Let the weighmaster know to record that weight and document.
Finally, unhook the rig from the tow vehicle and have the weighmaster record that weight. This final measurement is the total weight of the rig, as it is no longer being partially supported by the tow vehicle.
What Do I Do After I Weigh?
Once you’re finished weighing, you will need to pull off the scales to park and pick up your weight slip. If you want to save some time, CAT now has an official app you can use called Weigh My Truck. Make sure you download the app and set everything up before you get there to avoid any confusion.
Once you have your information entered, you can simply drive off the scale and be on your way. The weights will show up in the app and also be emailed to you. You can find more information or download the app online. If, for some reason, you get stopped by a police officer, you can easily show him your vehicle weights in the app.
When you have the three weights, you’ll need to do a bit of math to get the extra information you need. To get your tongue weight, you will need to subtract the second weight from above from the weight of the travel trailer. To get your actual tow vehicle weight, you will need to subtract the weight of your trailer from the first weight you obtained, the combined weight of your tow vehicle and trailer.
How (and Why) Do I Weigh My Trailer Tongue Weight?
The tongue weight is the weight on the hitch of a travel trailer. Knowing this weight is imperative to preventing unsafe towing situations. In order to avoid extreme trailer sway or porpoising, it’s very important that your tongue weight be at least 10% of your gross vehicle weight, with 12% being ideal.
Your trailer tongue weight is the second weight measurement we discussed above, while your rig is still hooked up to your tow vehicle. Once you’ve recorded your first weight, you’ll pull forward to get the tongue weight.
When your trailer has excessive sway or porpoising, it can be dangerous for many reasons. Traveling down the highway for long periods of time can cause a lot of damage to your rig and tow vehicle. Damage to your rig can cause safety issues on the road.
Sway can also make for a very difficult, stressful trip, and make your rig difficult to control. We want to take every precaution possible to avoid accidents or dangerous situations on the roads.
What About Portable RV Scales?
Weighing your rig using portable RV scales is also an option. There are traveling companies who offer the option of weighing your trailer on portable RV scales, but you’ll need to research online to find out where the service will be offered near you and plan accordingly. It can be a very convenient option, but it will only weigh the front or the rear axle. You won’t be able to obtain the three separate weights we discussed above.
Some dealerships also have portable scales and you can get weighed there. If they can do the job, you can get the individual wheel weights on your multi-wheel trailer. That is good information to make sure you are balanced well.
There’s also the option to purchase portable RV scales for yourself, but be aware that they are expensive. It’s a much more logical option to either use a portable scale service or plan a trip to the truck stop along your route.
If you would like to purchase a set of portable RV scales for peace of mind, there are many reputable online vendors who sell them. Just remember, if you decide to travel with them, you’ll have to find a place in your travel trailer to store them and account for the added weight.
Balancing the Trailer’s Weight
Balancing a trailer simply means moving weight from the front or back of the trailer to help prevent it from becoming heavy in the front or rear. A trailer that was perfectly balanced when you purchased it can become off-balance once you start adding gear and water.
An off-balance trailer can cause many safety issues as well as make for an uncomfortable towing experience. Most of the time, the salesman at the RV or travel trailer dealer won’t have more than the basic knowledge necessary to pull the trailer safely. It’s up to you to research and make sure trailer is safe for the roads.
The more you travel, the more gear you acquire, which can cause an excess of added weight in your trailer. It’s very important to regularly weigh your rig and make adjustments as needed. Before each trip, evaluate your gear to see if there’s anything you can leave home or move to help with balancing the trailer.
If you’re camping in the fall or winter months, it may be a good idea to store those beach chairs and umbrellas at home in the off season. Extra heaters and blankets can be stored away at home in the summer and spring.
Evaluate your cookware and utensils and see if there are any you simply don’t need or use. Metal kitchen gear is bulky and heavy, and it takes up a lot of room.
What About Full Time RV'ers?
If you’re a full-time RV’er, you’ll need to decide what is absolutely necessary to haul in your trailer in order to keep your rig as light as possible. Not only is it safer, it helps you get the best gas mileage possible, which means less stops along the way. Your wallet, and passengers, will be grateful.
While it’s always a good idea to carry some water in your rig, keep in mind that a gallon of water weighs almost nine pounds, so you’ll need to plan accordingly. If you’re traveling to a campground that doesn’t have water hookups, research the area to see if there’s somewhere nearby you can fill up your tank before heading to the campsite.
Many campgrounds that accommodate large rigs will realize their customers need options or water and can likely point you in the right direction to fill up.
With limited storage, you may have to get creative in organizing your gear, and it’s tempting to put firewood, extra beverages, or other miscellaneous items in the small storage compartments in the front or back.
Sometimes storing seasonal gear at home is the best option to keep your rig balanced. Once you have either unloaded some gear or moved things around a bit, it may be a good idea to re-weigh your rig to have updated numbers on hand.
Weigh Your RV From Time To Time To Stay Safe
Weighing your travel trailer can be a bit intimidating, but having this information is very important and necessary to maintain the safety of your rig and tow vehicle. Most of us forget about the massive amounts of gear and “stuff” we accumulate over our years of traveling in our trailers. Those extras can add weight here and there that eventually create an unsafe towing situation for you and your rig.
Weighing your travel trailer on a CAT certified scale can be not only convenient but can save you hassle and expensive repairs down the road.
With the app, you won’t even need to get out of your vehicle if you’d rather not. All of your information will be safely recorded in your phone or other device for you to access at your convenience.
If you’re feeling nervous before weighing your travel trailer or fifth wheel for the first time, the CAT web site has a lot of very informative videos that show you the types of RV’s you can weigh on the scales and the steps you need to take to get each weight.
Sometimes seeing how something is done can make you all the more confident before trying it our yourself.
Cost Of Weighing an RV Is Minimal Compared To The Risk
Spending a lot of money to weigh your travel trailer isn’t necessary. While some may choose to purchase expensive portable scales, it’s just as easy to weigh at a truck stop and the cost is minimal compared to the peace of mind you’ll get knowing that your vehicle within safe weight regulations.
Using a certified CAT scale will give you the confidence you need in case you ever have to show your weight to a police officer.
Weighing your travel trailer or fifth wheel is a very important step to traveling safely. It can be done during one of your stops along the way, and it can also give everyone a chance to get out of the tow vehicle, grab a snack, and use the facilities.
Having this information can make the trip less stressful, knowing that you’ve done all you can to make your rig as safe as possible for the journey.