Feb 14, 2022

Why is Tongue Weight so Important?

What is Tongue Weight?

Tongue weight is the downward force of the trailer on the hitch ball on the back of the tow vehicle. Tongue weight should be 10-15% of the Gross Trailer Weight for a bumper pull trailer.

Tongue Weight
The weight of the trailer coupler placed on the hitch attached to the tow vehicle receiver.

How does tongue weight affect your tow vehicle?

Tongue weight is an essential factor when considering payload capacity. Payload is the maximum amount of weight that the tow vehicle can carry.

For instance, a Ford F-150 may have a payload capacity of 2,000 lb. but has a towing capacity of 12,000 lb. Proper tongue weight would state 10-15% of 12,000 lb. be the tongue weight. If we take 1,200 lb. (10%) and subtract that from the 2,000 lb. of payload, we are left with 800 lb. of payload. That 800 lb. is the remaining amount for all passengers and any other loaded cargo into the tow vehicle.

Payload is crucial because you will most likely surpass your Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or GVWR if exceeded. GVWR is the maximum weight of the vehicle. This includes payload and the vehicle’s unloaded weight, referred to as curb weight. Exceeding this rating can cause unsafe conditions and increase the likelihood of mechanical failure.

How does tongue weight affect your trailer?

Improper tongue weight, either too much or not enough, affects how the trailer handles the payload. If the trailer has too much tongue weight, it can overload the tow vehicle. This can cause a loss of steering and braking control for the tow vehicle. It also puts too much stress and weight on the tow vehicle’s rear axle, leading to the axle or suspension failure if not addressed.

If the trailer doesn’t have enough tongue weight, the risk of sway dramatically increases, and the chances of decoupling also grow. If the trailer’s weight is too far back, this will make it easier for a trailer to start to sway and harder to get it to stop. Decoupling is where the trailer completely detaches from the ball mount and is no longer attached to the tow vehicle.

The Equal-i-zer Hitch
Proper tongue weight can also improve steering, braking control and reduce trailer sway.

Proper trailer loading

To create the ideal tongue weight, the trailer must be loaded correctly. Regardless of the length and weight of the trailer, most of the weight should be just barely in front of the trailer axles. Think of the trailer like a teeter-totter. The axle is the fulcrum point, and the weight on either side will angle the trailer differently. If most of your weight can be 10-15% in front of the trailer axles, that will angle your trailer toward the ball mount with the correct amount of tongue weight.

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to get all the weight in that area of the trailer. Each trailer has different holding containers for water, waste, and propane; some are at the front and some in the rear. The distance from the axle also matters; a bike rack attached to the trailer’s bumper makes a more significant impact than placing those same bikes inside the trailer closer to five feet back from the axles. It is essential to ensure that it is done to maintain a 10-15% tongue weight when any weight is added.

Measure the tongue weight before loading anything to compare with a fully loaded trailer. Using the curb weight of the trailer with the approximated payload, ensure that the tongue weight is 10-15% of that number.

How to find tongue weight?

One reason tongue weight is often ignored is that it can be challenging to find if the right tool is not used. The FLASH SCALE ball mount by Fastway Trailer Products makes it simple to find tongue weight.

The FLASH SCALE ball mount features a mechanical tongue scale built into the ball mount that measures the tongue weight of the trailer load.

“Tongue weight is extremely important for safe towing but is often ignored because, without the right tool, it can be difficult to measure,” said Matt Barnes, a Fastway Trailer Products engineer and designer of the SCALE ball mount. “The SCALE ball mount allows for every individual who tows, new or experienced, to know exactly what their tongue weight is and what is needed to make it right, providing for a safer towing experience.”

After coupling your trailer to the FLASH SCALE, the display gauge on the side of the ball mount will show the amount of tongue weight. For tips and help loading your trailer, you can refer to this helpful video.

Proper tongue weight is the first step everyone can take to ensure a safer towing experience.