When towing a trailer, it’s important to have your trailer weight distributed correctly for optimum safety and handling. The truck or SUV must also be rated to pull that much weight.
Check the GVWR and Tow Capacity
You will need to know the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating), of the truck or SUV. This is the total weight of the vehicle when empty plus the weight of the cargo inside. Your user manual from the manufacturer can help you find this information. For example, if your vehicle weighs 6,300 pounds and it’s rated to carry 1300 pounds, the GVWR is 7600 pounds. Let’s look at that 1300 pounds that it’s rated for cargo. This is anything you put inside the truck, including the weight of the trailer tongue. If your trailer tongue is rated for a maximum of 400 pounds, then when you are towing, you shouldn’t have no more than 900 pounds of cargo (1300 – 400 = 900) . Don’t forget to include the weight of the driver and any passengers as part of that 900 pounds.
Now refer to your user manual for the vehicle again to look up the maximum tow capacity of your vehicle. This will tell you how much weight your vehicle is capable of towing. My truck is rated for towing up to 10,500 pounds. I have to consider the weight of my trailer when empty plus the weight of the cargo I put into it. The total cannot exceed 10,500 pounds. Additionally, if I have 500 pounds of cargo in my pick up bed, then that reduces how much I can tow to 10,000 pounds.
You will want to have the correct amount of weight on the tongue of the trailer. You will want to find out the total weight, or GTW (Gross Trailer Weight), of the trailer. This is the total weight of the trailer when empty plus the weight of the cargo inside. Your user manual from the manufacturer can help you find this information. For example, if your trailer weight is 6,000 pounds and it’s rated to carry 2500 pounds, the GTW is 8500 pounds. The rule of thumb is typically the tongue weight be 10% of the GTW, and using my example, your maximum tongue weight is 850 pounds. Again, always check with your user manual for these ratings. The other thing to keep in mind is anything you have loaded behind the rear axle of the tow vehicle contributes to the tongue weight.
One thing you can do is when you have it loaded, if it’s not too far, you can visit a weigh station and have the trailer weighed. This gives you an accurate weight of the trailer when fully loaded to know if you have too little or too much weight on the tongue. This will also ensure you have not over-loaded the trailer beyond it’s capacity. You don’t want to exceed the tongue weight rating of your trailer nor it’s load capacity.
You can purchase a tongue weight scale to help you find out how much weight you have on the tongue.
When loading the trailer, you want to put heavier items low and lighter items high, with heavier items distributed as evenly as possible. Think about which axle is carrying the most weight and put the lighter items there with the heavier items on the axle that has less weight. Doing this can control sway.
The hitch should also be rated for pulling the amount of weight you are towing. Having the correct hitch along with proper weight distribution will prevent sway and trailer bounce. When either of those things are not in control, it can cause you to have a horrendous accident that can not only total your vehicle or trailer, it could be fatal to you and your loved ones that are traveling with you.
You want to use a weight distribution hitch. Some people also call these equalizer hitches or anti-sway hitches. These hitches help ensure a smooth, level ride. They help to correct vehicle sag, improve steering and stopping and usually come with anti-sway bars to help control or correct trailer sway.
Purchase an equalizer hitch here: Weight Distribution Hitch
You want to have a good set of safety chains that run from the trailer hitch to the receiver of the tow vehicle. You want these to be crisscrossed. In the event the trailer should come off the hitch these chains will save you and the trailer. Also attach the trailer brake cable to the receiver hitch of the tow vehicle.
Trailer Brake Controller
A trailer brake controller is mounted inside the tow vehicle and activates the trailer brakes when the tow vehicle brakes are applied. The braking power can be adjusted for the best suitability for the amount of weight you’re pulling.
To ensure safety and a pleasant experience when towing, take the time to know your vehicles GVWR, tow rating, the weight of your trailer both unloaded and loaded. Remember to load the trailer to distribute the weight properly as well as not having too much or too little on the tongue. This with the appropriate equipment like your weight distribution hitch and trailer brake controller will help with your performance. Below is a video that explains how weight effects towing.