Determining Trailer Tongue Weight

In order to make sure your trailer is properly loaded, you need to know your trailer tongue weight. Tongue weight is the weight that the fully loaded trailer exerts downward on the hitch ball of the tow vehicle. Typically, your tongue weight should be 10-15% of your total trailer weight. If you don't know the tongue weight of your trailer, there are several different ways you can measure it.How to measure tongue weight:
  • Tongue Weight Scale
  • Bathroom Scale
  • Commercial Scale
Trailer Hitch with Weight Distribution
HaulGauge Tongue Weight Scale
HaulGauge Tongue Weight Scale

Tongue Weight Scales

The easiest way to measure your tongue weight is with a tongue weight scale. Various scales are available to help you easily and accurately measure your trailer's tongue weight. We'll talk about the most common scale tools below.

HaulGauge

Tongue weight scales have come a long way into the modern world. For instance, the HaulGauge wirelessly connects to your smartphone and allows you to easily measure your tongue weight, pin weight, payload, and gross combined weight—all right from your phone. The weight distribution feature lets you verify your weight distribution system is set up properly. The HaulGauge works on both travel trailers as well as fifth wheels and gooseneck trailers.
Sherline Tongue Weight Scale
HaulGauge Mobile Tongue Weight Scale

Sherline Scale

Another popular tool is the Sherline Trailer Tongue Weight Scale. The Sherline Scale can be used with standard trailers as well as fifth-wheel campers with tongue weights up to 2,000 lbs. Simply place the scale beneath your trailer jack on level ground, and the easy-to-read gauge will display your tongue weight.
Weigh Safe Ball Mount
Weigh Safe Ball Mount

Weigh Safe Ball Mount

A third option is a Weigh Safe ball mount with a built-in tongue weight scale. Weigh Safe ball mounts are adjustable and are available in various sizes, rises, and drops. With a Weigh Safe ball mount, there's no need to keep track of or store a separate scale.

Bathroom Scale

You can use a bathroom scale and a box to measure tongue weight of smaller trailers. Place the coupler of the loaded trailer on the scale at normal towing height (see Figure A). For heavier tongue weights, use the second method (Figure B). Be sure to perform these measurements on a level surface and with a leveled trailer.
Measure Tongue Weight With Bathroom Scale (Figure A)
Measure Tongue Weight With Bathroom Scale (Figure B)
To use the method in Figure B, follow these guidelines:
  • Place the trailer tongue 1 ft from the pipe on the support brick
  • Multiply the reading on the scale by the total distance between the 2 support pipes
  • Use a brick that is the same thickness as the scale so that the 2 x 4 is level when you weigh your trailer
Example: If the distance between the trailer tongue and the pipe on the scale is 2 ft, and the distance between the trailer tongue and the pipe on the support brick is 1 ft, then multiply the reading on the scale by 3 to get the tongue weight. If the distance between the trailer tongue and the pipe on the scale is 3 ft and the distance between the trailer tongue and the pipe on the support brick is 1 ft, then multiply the reading on the scale by 4 to get the tongue weight.

Commercial Scale

Another way to determine your trailer's tongue weight (and get your vehicle and trailer weights) is to take the trailer with your tow vehicle to a scale at a truck stop, quarry or material supply center. For a small fee, you can weigh your tow vehicle and trailer there.Step 1: Determine Weight of Vehicle with Tongue WeightYour vehicle and trailer must be fully loaded and fueled just as they will be when you are leaving for a trip. First, drive on to the scale with all 4 wheels of the truck and record the weight of the truck with the trailer attached.
Tow Vehicle on Scale with Trailer Hooked Up
Step 2: Determine Weight of Vehicle without Tongue WeightUnhook the trailer and jack up the trailer tongue so there is no weight on the hitch ball. Make sure that the trailer jack is not on the scale. Record the weight of only the truck on the scale. This is your gross vehicle weight (GVW). Now, subtract the GVW from the weight of the truck with the trailer attached. This will give you the tongue weight of your trailer.A - B = Tongue Weight
Determine Weight of Tow Vehicle Without Tongue Weight

Determine Tongue Weight for Weight Distribution Hitch

If you want to use a weight distribution hitch, remember to include the weight of any gear you might load behind the rear axle of the tow vehicle. You should add the weight of this gear to your tongue weight to select a weight distribution system of the proper size.
Measuring Tongue Weight for Weight Distribution
Step 1: To get the weight of the gear behind the rear axle, weigh your vehicle with this gear and without. Then subtract the weight without the gear from the weight with the gear. This difference is the weight of your gear. A - B = C.Ex: (A) Vehicle weight with gear behind rear axle - (B) vehicle weight without gear behind rear axle = (C) total weight of your gear Step 2: Add the total weight of your gear to your tongue weight. Your weight distribution hitch must support this weight.Ex: 200 lbs (total weight of gear) + 800 lbs (TW) = 1,000 lbs (weight distribution must support this weight) Learn more about finding the right weight distribution hitch size here.

Determine Additional Weights

While you are at the scale, you can also make sure that your towing setup is within the rated capacity of your tow vehicle. To do this, you need to get the weight of your trailer.To weigh your trailer, pull it with your tow vehicle onto the scale so you can weigh them together. This weight is your Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW). You can get the weight of your trailer (Gross Trailer Weight - GTW) by subtracting the weight of your tow vehicle alone from the weight of your tow vehicle and trailer combined (GCVW). Then, check your owner's manual or with your dealer to determine if the weight of your trailer is within the towing capacity of your tow vehicle.GCVW - GVW = GTW(Tow vehicle + trailer) - (tow vehicle) = trailer weight
Tow Vehicle and Trailer on Scale
Related ArticlesRelated ProductsUpdated: 7/10/19

Questions and Comments about this Article

Mary H.

I have a small SUV with the class 2 towing package. My manual says I can tow up to 3500 lbs with a max tongue weight of 300. I went into a mechanic recently to have them install a 7 pin connector and tow brake controller and he made it seem like my hitch wasn't welded to the right part of the vehicle. I want to tow a converted cargo trailer that weights around 2100 lbs fully loaded. Am I ok or do I need a better receiver? 86107

Reply from Chris R.

Unfortunately I would have no way of knowing if what the mechanic is telling you is correct. If it is indeed accurate your best course of action would be to talk with the vehicle dealer as this would be a factory defect - they should be on the hook for correcting if there's an issue. 67810

Allen H.

Hi I have a 2015 Heartland Prowler M-32BHS Trailer. The GVWR IS 9990 lbs. What size weight distributing hitch would you recommend? I am pulling it with a 2019 RAM 1500, if that makes any difference. 84655

Reply from Chris R.

For that size trailer the Curt TruTrack WD System # C17501 will work extremely well. 67809

Greg M.

I recently weighed by TV and TT, then made the WDH adjustments . My goal was to evenly distribute the weight between the drive and steer axles. The results are theat the drive axle has 100lbs more than the steer axle. All weights are well under the mfg limitations. Is my theory of having weights equally balance between the two axles correct? 76594

Reply from Chris R.

A properly adjusted weight distribution system will definitely transfer trailer tongue weight to both axles of your tow vehicle, but it won't create an entirely equal setup. You'll still likely have a bit more weight on one axle with everything hooked up. 62459

Guillermo

HI I'M TRYING TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE TRAILER HITCH ACCESSORIES..... I WANT TO PUT 4 BICYCLES... BUT I DON'T KNOW HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT ONE, I ALREADY HAVE THE BIKE CARRIER. I HAVE A TOYOTA CORROLA 2013 76568

Reply from Chris R.

Are you just needing the hitch itself on your Toyota Corolla? If so, the Curt Class I # C11265 will work well. The issue though is that Class I hitches can only safely support up to 2 bikes (there are only Class I hitches available for your Corolla). If you need to transport 4 bikes you'll need to secure two of them on the roof. For a roof rack I like the Rola # 59734 and for a roof bike rack the Swagman # S64705 is a great option. 62458

Jim B.

I have a small truck with a #5000 towing capacity and #600 hitch capacity. I am looking at a camping trailer, single axle, that weighs #3400 and has a dry hitch weight of #426. I assume once there is a #20 LP bottle and battery on the tongue, the hitch weight will go up to about #475-#480 or so. My question is this, I plan to use a weight distribution and sway control hitch, does this hitch need to weigh less that the difference between my truck hitch capacity of #600 and the tongue weight? In other words I only have about #125 left on my max hitch spec, so does the hitch, ball, and weight control/anti-sway bars need to stay under #125 or does the weight of the hitch and components not matter? Thank you very much. 76345

Reply from Chris R.

Good question. The good news is that you don't need to factor in the weight of the WD hitch as added tongue weight. When utilized, it essentially becomes part of the hitch and vehicle frame so it doesn't actually count as tongue weight. 62317

Donald P.

On the 2020 Silverado it states in the owners manual that the maximum trailer tongue weight rating for a conventional trailer hitch is shown on the trailering information label. Does this mean with or without a weight distribution system.Does conventional mean just on the hitch ball. The label in the door jamb indicates max tongue weight of 960 lbs on a conventional trailer hitch and in the owners manual it states to not exceed 1250 lbs as well the sticker on the hitch says 1250 max, Which weight is the one i should use? 75830

Reply from Chris R.

A conventional trailer would indeed be one that hooks up to a hitch-mounted ball mount/ball on your truck (as opposed to a 5th wheel or gooseneck trailer). Typically the door jamb label provides the most accurate info, as it's specifically written for your exact truck - where the owner's manual is a bit more general and covers all the various 2020 Silverado models. The rating on the hitch would just be for the hitch itself and it's definitely possible for it to have a higher rating than the truck it's on. When this happens you still have to adhere to the truck's lower capacity. You might also check with a local Chevy dealer with your VIN to get even more detailed specs. 61894

Heather S.

We have a 2010 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer EL 4X4 with heavy duty towing package. Love the truck for our large family. We are looking into renting first, then buying a travel trailer. We have 15,000lb GCWR with 8,700 lb Max Trailer Weight. We know the maxes are conservative estimates, but still, we are looking at 7,000lb dry/empty trailers. Safe, right?But heres the issue. The maximum weight of occupants and cargo for tires, suspension, etc. of the Expedition itself is 1,403 lbs. That seems really low, no? With five of us in the car weighing 650 lbs total, plus if we carry our luggage in the car or bring our other kids or friends, we are estimating 1,000 lbs. in the car. Correct me if Im wrong, but then we only have 400 lbs for tongue weight because you have to add the tongue weight to the towing vehicle cargo capacity? Tongue weight for a 7,000 lb dry/empty trailer would be between 700 and 1,050 lbs. So we are out of luck pulling a travel trailer with this SUV?How are other similar SUVs able to do it? Different tires, suspension, otherwise? All suggestions welcome including give it up, or get a class C. Were not interested in trading in our SUV for a pick-up truck at this time. 75689

Reply from Chris R.

Does the owner's manual for your Expedition specify anything other than occupants and cargo with regards to the vehicle's max weight? If not, I don't think a trailer's tongue weight would need to be added to this figure. As long as the 15,000 pound GCWR (combined weight of the Expedition and trailer) isn't exceeded you should be safely under its limits. With this in mind, I still highly recommend talking with a local Ford dealer to be sure. You can provide them with your VIN and they should hopefully be able to provide some more clearly defined capacities, etc. 61769

Reply from Heather S.

@ChrisR Thank you. But yes, the owner's manual does show pictures and say that the cargo weight of the vehicle includes "Base Curb Weight, including cargo, people and optional equipment. When towing, trailer tongue load or king pin weight is also part of cargo weight." With a 1,400 pound max cargo weight, perhaps subtracting nearly 200 pounds alone for a full tank of gas (31 gallons X 6 pounds per gallon)? Then I'm already at 1,200 pounds max capacity that could be almost entirely utilized by tongue weight of a 7,000 pound trailer much less if I pulled the 8,700 pounds max trailer weight. I mean, a 1,400 pound max cargo weight for an 8 passenger vehicle is ridiculously low in the first place, no? How can other SUVs pull travel trailers? I can't imagine Ford Expeditions are so different from other large SUVs. But the towing capacity vs. cargo capacity seem WAY misaligned, no? I have called Ford dealer, no clue, they keep repeating 8,700 pound towing capacity and have no idea about tongue weight being added to cargo capacity. RV salespeople either have no idea or tell me the tongue weight doesn't need to be considered in vehicle cargo load. I've called Ford Customer Service, no idea. I'm now awaiting a call back within a couple days from Ford customer service supervisor, who I'm sure also won't know, because only design/engineering would be knowledgeable on this, I think. 61803

Reply from Chris R.

Thanks so much for that clarification. That cargo weight really doesn't give you much room for a travel trailer, like you said. I wish I had a solution for you here, hopefully the supervisor at Ford CS will give you some better insight. As for how other SUVs can handle larger travel trailers - it honestly is likely a combination of some simply having higher capacities and others being driven by those who don't do their research (and are likely exceeding their vehicle's capacity). 61893

Reply from Mark

Just so everyone is clear here... tongue weight absolutely needs to be deducted from the vehicles overall payload. In the above example the 2010 Expedition has: Payload: 1,403 lbs Trailer Tongue Weight: ~1,000lbs? That leaves 403 lbs for additional occupants and gear. If you need more than that, you need a bigger vehicle. Or a smaller trailer. Suv's arent made to haul 7000 lbs campers around. Try looking at 4000-4500 lbs trailers. Lots of nice ultra light models in that range. 62566

Reply from Heather S.

@Mark and Chris - thanks to both of you. This was a VERY helpful discussion. No reply from Ford customer service afterall (sigh). But we have indeed concluded we would need a lighter trailer, fewer passengers and gear or a different truck, not the Ford Expedition XL 4X4 even with heavy duty towing package that we have. So for now since we love our Ford and don’t want a pick up truck with heavier duty payload, we have started looking at Class C RVs. It’s surprising (and scary) to realize all the people (RV salespeople, car dealer reps, trailer owners/drivers, etc) who do not know about tongue weight and it being deducted from vehicle payload. Well done gentlemen. 62776

Stephen D.

My trailer as weighed at dealer had a TW of 800 lbs. When I follow this procedure with a WDH it shows I only have a 400 lb tongue weight. I have a sway problem. Is the WDH causing this by redistributing too much weight back to trailer axle? as per CAT scales GVCW- 12760 TV-6200 GTW-6160 but according to dealer GTW-6025. 75581

Reply from Chris R.

A weight distribution system redistributes tongue weight to all axles of your setup, so this is exactly what's happening. It's doing what it's supposed to do. If you're still having sway issues though then it likely just has to be adjusted a bit - try tilting the head towards the trailer a bit, which will take some tension off of the spring bars. If you can let me know what model system you have I would be happy to look into this further as well. 61736

Reply from Stephen D.

@ChrisR Its an equalizer hitch. Yesterday I lowered the tension bars a full notch and that has helped quite a bit. I now have a tongue weight of 640, 580 on truck. I think it should be heavier, there are about 7 washers pushing the head out. I did notice that the friction points where the bars attach by pin, look really scuffed up after one trip home from the dealer. I mean grooves in the metal. Any other thoughts would be appreciated. 61742

Reply from Chris R.

Why do you think you need more tongue weight? I wouldn't base this off of weights alone - if the ride is much better after adjusting the head and your truck and trailer are level, there really isn't a need for anything further (unless of course you still feel the need for some improvement in the ride). You could try adjusting the head even further, or even physically adding some more weight to the front of the trailer to see if it helps. 61892

Wali R.

Just built a 8x6 bicycle trailer using a DIY kit from WikeBike Co.Canada using 1 sq aluminum tubing. Its designed to be attached to the left side of the bikes rear wheel. Instead I got a bike ball hitch assy. and plan on attaching the connecting rod on top of the tongue and connect to the rear of the bikes cargo rack or seat post. In determining the tongue weight, should trailer be loaded/unloaded? Need to know just how much I can tow 73583

Reply from Chris R.

If you're trying to determine how much you can safely pull, you'll definitely want to calculate the trailer's tongue weight while it's loaded. Load it up just as it will be for a trip. 60028

Reply from Wali R.

TY Chris I'll load up my camping gear and take weight. 60038

Reply from Chris R.

No problem! Just let me know if anything else comes up. 60123

Kathleen F.

I was wanted to know what size weight distribution sway bar do i need for a 2017 Winebago minni plus 8800lbs 73022

Reply from Chris R.

You're looking at a loaded tongue weight of around 880 to 1,320 pounds on the Winnebago. With this in mind I highly recommend the Equal-i-zer # EQ37140ET , which will work perfectly for this range once you load up the back of your tow vehicle with cargo. 59765

Jeff W.

So if any can tell me if Im ok I got a dodge 2500 with 11 ft lance camper. Im using an extended 4 ft or so hitch to tow a mid 90s ski boat with tandem axles. Im guessing around 350 pounds on tounge of boat or more. The salesman said Id be fine but Im thinking I need a super hitchdouble bar extension an a double reciever rather not spend the money if not needed. Any thoughts or suggestions/info would be grateful. 71043

Reply from Chris R.

Can you tell me what particular model hitch extender you're using? I think the truck itself has enough capacity to handle your current setup, but the limiting factor here might be the actual extender. A lot of the longer units will have varying tongue weight limits or they may reduce the capacity of the trailer hitch on the truck when used. I can definitely provide a more detailed answer if you know what model you're using. 57999

Jake

I installed a Draw-tite class III hitch on my 2020 Forester Sport. Is the weight of the hitch counted in the tongue weight? In other words, the Forester unfortunately only has a max tongue weight of 150 lbs, and I read elsewhere on this site that the hitch weighs 32 lbs, so am I limited to adding only 118 lbs? 64746

Reply from Jacob H.

The weight of the hitch itself will not cut into the total weight capacity of the vehicle. So you will still have what the manufacturer says that your vehicle can handle. 54984

David P.

You mention TW This combined weight is used when choosing the weight distribution system needed for your application. my question has nothing to do with choosing the correct weight distribution hitch system. My question is to the TW rating of the hitch and vehicle. Example: I have a TV with a hitch TW rating of 950lbs WDH rating, not static rating. I measure the tongue weight of my fully loaded TT at 900lbs - NO WDH ATTACHED. 900lb is under my TV max rating of 950lbs. EXCEPT, if I then add the 100lbs of WDH which is actually joint between the TV and TT, carried by the hitch, am I now at a TW of 1050lbs which is OVER my TV TW rating. Again, nothing to do with ing the correct system with the correct bars. 64422

Reply from Jason S.

The tongue weight rating of the vehicle will be listed in your vehicle owner's manual. The trailer hitch tongue weight rating may be greater or less than that and will be listed by the hitch manufacturer. The lesser of those two ratings is the maximum tongue weight. If your travel trailer has a tongue weight less than that rating, then you will be able to tow it with or without a weight distribution system. If the travel trailer tongue weight is greater than that rating, then whether you have a weight distribution system or not, you would need a different vehicle to pull that trailer. 54605

Dave P.

Is the 100lbs of the WDH ADDED to the tongue weight of the TT to determine if you are over the vehicle WDH-TW rating, or does the vehicle assume a 100lb WDH already present, and the vehicle already takes into account the presence of the hitch when is lists the WD rating, in other words, the TW of the TT ALONE is the TW used, and the 100lb WDH is not added to the measured TT TW. 64328

Reply from Jason S.

The weight of the weight distribution system (the head, shank, brackets, and spring bars) is not added to the total tongue weight. The total tongue weight used is the trailer tongue weight as well as any cargo weight behind the rear axle of the tow vehicle. This combined weight is used when choosing the weight distribution system needed for your application. 54550



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