What is Tongue Weight and What Does it Mean for Safe Towing?

A trailer is a valuable tool for hauling cargo. Knowing how to tow a trailer correctly will protect you and others on the road. It’s essential to know the tongue weight of a trailer before towing for safety reasons. Here, we’ll explain what tongue weight is, how to find it, and why it’s so critical.

What is Tongue Weight?

Tongue weight is the downward force that the trailer tongue exerts on the hitch connected to the tow vehicle. The tongue is the most forward part of the trailer that attaches to the towing vehicle’s hitch. It often looks like one thick bar or two metal bars in a V shape.

What Is a Good Tongue Weight?

A good rule of thumb for an acceptable tongue weight for a trailer is to keep the weight between 9 to 15 percent of the gross trailer weight (GTW). For example, if you tow a 5000-pound trailer, the tongue weight should be approximately 600 pounds.

Why Is Tongue Weight Important When Towing? 

Improper tongue weight can cause a dangerous accident, so tongue weight is extremely critical. Too little tongue weight can cause the vehicle’s back end to lift, resulting in a hazardous condition known as trailer sway. The trailer can sway back and forth and become uncontrollable at high speeds. 

On the other hand, excess tongue weight can cause the back end of the vehicle to sag, negatively affecting the vehicle handling, driver visibility, and the effectiveness of the vehicle’s brakes. Knowing how to measure tongue weight is vital.

How to Measure Trailer Tongue Weight

There are a few ways to calculate the tongue weight of a trailer.

1. Use a Drive-On Scale

Start by driving the towing vehicle onto the scale and weighing it without the trailer attached. Then, connect the trailer and weigh the towing vehicle with the trailer attached, but ensure the trailer wheels don’t go on the scale. Subtract the first weight from the second. The difference between the two numbers will be the tongue weight of whatever you tow. 

Towing vehicle weight while attached − towing vehicle weight = tongue weight

2. Use a Bathroom Scale

Believe it or not, you can find the tongue weight using a regular bathroom scale. Start with a bathroom scale, elevate it at hitch ball height with a box or cinder block, and place the tongue directly on top. This method is excellent for small trailers but not for heavy trailers whose tongue weight outweighs the bathroom scale’s maximum weight limitations. 

3. Use a Tongue Weight Scale

Special scales are available to test the tongue weight of most trailers. These scales look like a traditional car jack or a pipe standing straight up. Place the trailer hitch on the scale, and it will indicate the precise tongue weight.

4. Use a State-of-the-Art Built-in Scale

The simplest way to determine proper tongue weight is to use the Weigh Safe drop hitch. Weigh Safe offers an easy and effective way for trailer users to measure the tongue weight exerted on the hitch. Weigh Safe’s design is straightforward and self-explanatory. With a built-in scale, trailer owners just need to know the loaded trailer weight, apply the 9-15% tongue weight calculation described above, adjust the load within the trailer (either toward or away from the hitch), and note the reading on Weigh Safe’s scale.

No external scales, no hassle.

Stay Safe on the Road with Weigh Safe Products

A trailer’s tongue weight is vital information; you must know it before towing anything. Weigh Safe trailer hitches provide the best equipment for towing a vehicle of any size or weight. With products like Weigh Safe’s drop hitch, you’ll have built-in scales to help ensure a safe tow. 

The next time you need to know the tongue weight, measure it with Weigh-Safe’s Drop Hitch. Contact us if you have questions; we’re happy to help.


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