I’m rather enjoying these “how to” types of write-ups. I need to do more writing about my actual camping experiences, but I’ll get there eventually. As I’ve written before, I’m a huge advocate of getting your rig weighed for peace of mind knowing that you’re within ratings and for a fantastic educational experience.
Here’s the actual process that you should go through with getting weighed when pulling a travel trailer. I don’t get into digesting the numbers, but there are plenty of forums where you can post, “Hey I weighed, and this is what I got” that will help you out.
Assuming that you’re doing it at a CAT scale that has 3 scales that you pull onto:
- Weighing Truck and Travel Trailer with weight distributing hitch (WDH) hooked up; you want your truck’s front tires (aka steer axle) on the first pad; truck’s rear tires (aka drive axle) on the second pad; all trailer axles on third pad (see the graphic above)
- Weighing Truck and Travel Trailer without weight distributing hitch hooked up; put the WDH bars into the bed of the truck
- Weighing Truck Only; park the travel trailer in a truck parking spot, put the WDH bars with the travel trailer (locked inside) and come back around to just weigh the truck
You’ll want to pull off of the scale between weightings #1 and #2 to remove the WDH bars and whatnot. It’ll keep you from holding up the line and confusing the scale master.
Important Notes for Weighing
Throughout all 3 weighs, nothing should change – no moving of passengers, no one goes to the bathroom, etc. Do them all at once (not before and after a trip, for instance).
As well to get as realistic numbers as possible, you want to be packed like you were ready to go camping on your average trip (weekend, week, month – whatever is normal for you). If you don’t have all of your passengers, you’ll have to add their weight when you evaluate your results.
Now, if you’re using a different scale (quarry, dump, etc.), they likely only have a single scale that you pull onto. You essentially want all of the same weights of each axle, so you’ll just have to move the truck more often to get individual weights (pull up with just the front tires, then the front and rear tires, then front, rear and trailer tires). And, it’ll require more math to figure out each axle’s weight.
A Tip for Cat Scales
If you’re going to a CAT scale, it can be a challenge to reach the call button. I found I had to stretch, but I could reach it (just not hear real well). Many people are taking a short 3′ stick of some sort to push it *or* going inside ahead of time to get the phone number of the weigh desk and calling that instead of using the button.
What is the Cost?
My CAT scale weightings costed me $10 for the first weigh and then $1 or $2 for each re-weigh. I’m not sure what the other kinds of scales cost – my guess is free to about the same.
You fail to mention the normally observed axle to axle variation or the side to side variation seen on almost all RV applications. While this variation may be as little as 50 Lbs it is not unusual for this unbalance to be enough to push a tine into the next level of minimum inflation. In some extreme cases the imbalance has been as much as 500 to 1,000 lbs.
I would like to ask if you know where a person can purchase the mobile weigh scales that slide under each trailer wheel. We live in Lethbridge, Alberta Canada and all we have are platform weigh scales and this would only give me the total weight of the trailer but not the individual weight on each tire. Our trailer is a Jayco 19RD with tandem axles. Please send me an email address or company name who makes the portable weigh scales. Thanks
No idea, but I believe they’re not cheap- something in the order of thousands of dollars for a set.
I took my travel trailer to the CAT scales and followed your instructions. Now how do I figure actual tongue,
axle and total weight.
Randy, you can use my other site – towingplanner.com that has a calculator that will calculate it all out for you.
I did not know how to calculate tongue weight. Thanks.
I did know how to calculate tongue weight. Thanks
I live in illinois and i just started RVing this summer. My trailer is pretty set on things added and would like to weigh it to see where i am…could you help me with info on where i could take it to be weighed? I live in Naperville Ill. Thanks!
Sure! It looks like there is a truck stop called Greater Chicago I-55 that has a scale. Here it is on a map.
What is the weight actually used for?
When weighing just the truck (3rd step), do you leave the weight distribution hitch on the truck or put it and the bars in the trailer?
Doesn’t entirely matter. I usually say to throw them into the truck bed.
I have the same question, but not sure I understood your response. On the third step when you are weighing only the truck you say to leave the WDH bars with the trailer. Should we remove the hitch from the receiver on the truck and leave that with the bars in the trailer?
Thank you for putting together such great resources!
I see, I must have skimmed the last comment and read the question wrong. I would leave the WDH on the truck because you don’t want it’s weight added to the trailer’s tongue weight.
Thank you very much! I have a follow up question if you don’t mind.
Due to conditions when I visited the CAT scale, I wasn’t able to fill up the tank or weigh the truck by itself. At the time, I had 3/4 in my 36 gallon tank – so short about 54 lbs of fuel.
Assuming I weigh the truck by itself at a later date (with identical passengers, cargo, and fuel level), are there any other considerations I need to take into account aside from being aware of the missing weight when calculating payload?
I think that’s all you need to think about. I greatly prefer to do the weights together (especially as it’s cheaper because re-weighs within 24 hours at the same scale are only $2-3). But if you can try to keep everything consistent, the math should work out and you can run the numbers through TowingPlanner.com.
I didn’t realise that a re-weigh would let you weigh a different configuration so that’s good to know. I purchased a tongue weight scale from etrailer.com, it wasn’t cheap but I can measure the tongue weight quickly and accurately without leaving my drivewayand towing my trailer 80 mile round trip to a CAT scale just for that. I’ll pull into the CAT scale on my way to the campground. I’ve put the tongue weight scale on a local ‘for sale/rent’ website so I plan to rent it out to try to recover some of the $$$. I’m in Ontario, Canada so sorry I can’t bring it to the US! Thanks for the info.
A tongue scale is well worth the investment provided you have an idea of about how heavy the trailer is overall.
Great calculator. My question is that my result for the tongue weight percentage is 17.3% (1560 lbs tongue weight) and is based on the no weight distribution numbers. I calculate the percentage at 14.8% (1340 lbs.) using the with-weight distribution numbers. I had previously upgraded my receiver hitch and WDH to 2000 from 1500 so I’m covered either way on my upgrade.
My question is in determining capacities of the towing equipment. Is the without WD tongue weight the one to use or the with WD tongue the one for selecting equipment capacities?
Without WD tongue weight. The WDH doesn’t reduce the tongue weight, it just moves it around.