I read an article on GMC’s website about tongue weight and they compared towing a trailer with improper tongue weight to driving a car with egg-shaped tires. Just imagine, all of us driving around on egg shaped tires..what a mess that would be (and how hilarious would that look!) It would be an incredibly wobbly ride, no one could stay in their lanes and no one would be able to truly control their vehicle. Driving would be a complete mess and a gamble whether or not you’d make it to your destination safely. As if we don’t have enough things to worry about when driving.

proper tongue weight

Towing a trailer with improper tongue weight (the static force the trailer tongue exerts on the hitch/tow ball) would feel nearly the same as driving with egg-shaped tires. You have little to no control of your vehicle, let alone the trailer you are towing.  It also puts everyone around you at risk, which is why knowing your tongue weight and making sure it is within 10-15% of your gross trailer weight (GTW) is so important.

Proper Tongue Weight Explained

If you have less than 10% of your GTW on the tongue of your trailer, you have too little tongue weight which means most of your load is on the back end of your trailer. Have you ever seen a truck pulling a trailer down the road and the truck and trailer peak in the middle kind of like this?

This shows that the trailer is not properly loaded.   When you have less than 10% tongue weight, trailer sway (or fishtailing) will most likely occur, especially when the vehicle is traveling fast.  It is best to properly distribute your load prior to hitting the road and avoid this side-to-side movement from the get go.

If you do start to experience trailer sway while towing, it is best not to hit the brakes. You should first reduce your speed by letting off the gas pedal and make sure your steering wheel is straight. This should reduce the trailer sway and once it has stopped and you are in control again, make sure to pull over and reload your trailer so that your tongue weight is within 10-15% of your GTW.

On the other hand, too much tongue weight means that most of your load is on the front end of your trailer and you exceed 15% of your GTW on the trailer tongue. This looks more like a “V” shape kind of like this and is sometimes called “jack knife.”

Too much tongue weight could overload the rear tires of the towing vehicle, pushing the rear end of the vehicle around. When this happens, the vehicle is difficult to control; corners or curves may become more difficult to maneuver and your vehicle may not be as responsive when you try to brake.

Just the right amount of tongue weight (between 10-15% of GTW) will reflect a balanced line from the front of the truck to the back of the trailer with the coupler between the truck and trailer nearly level. If you maintain a proper tongue weight within this range, you will improve your vehicle and trailer towing experience by improving performance and minimizing risk on the road.

Here is a demonstration of what trailer sway looks like and how dangerous improper tongue weight can be.

Sometimes I feel that people think towing is a simple thing that takes a minimum amount of time to prepare for, but in reality it is much more complex. There is a lot of knowledge and many tasks to check off your pre-tow checklist in order to maximize safety on the road.  None of which is more important than making sure your tongue weight stays within 10-15% of your GVW.

I’ve grown up camping ever since I can remember. My family slowly graduated from a tent, to a pop up trailer, to a bumper tow trailer, and now to a fifth wheel (where we tow a second trailer behind it). Every summer, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and other trips in between for the past 23 years, my family loads up our trailer and we go on vacation. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people towing improperly. The amount of times my dad has either slowed down or sped up in order to avoid a potential crash from another trailer fishtailing is too many to count.

This is why our Weigh Safe products are so awesome! The built in gauge effectively measures the tongue weight of your towing load and helps you ensure that you stay within the 10-15% range; it also gets you on the road quicker and keeps your family and nearby drivers safer.

I know it may seem like just another box to check (among many others) prior to hitting the road but I promise you won’t regret it. As you saw in the video, improper tongue weight can be detrimental; help us improve the safety of our roads and know before you tow.