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

Dave P 01/14/2020

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 01/17/2020

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

David Poelstra 01/17/2020

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 01/20/2020

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

Helpful Links

faq-2-steps-weight-distribution-size.aspx

Jake 01/24/2020

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 01/24/2020

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

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