How do I know the tongue weight of my trailer?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: How do I know the tongue weight of my trailer? We will explain what the tongue weight of a trailer is and how to measure it. 

How do I know the tongue weight of my trailer?

​The simplest way to determine the tongue weight of the trailer is to use a tongue scale – a measurement unit designed so that you can place your trailer’s tongue on it and read the exact weight. 

However, if you are using a static trailer hitch or a weight distributing hitch, you can use a common appliance and little simple math to calculate the optimal trailer tongue weight.

Here’s how you do it, step-by-step:

  1. Take your towing vehicle and trailer to a commercial truck scale. Disconnect the trailer and weigh your tow vehicle. Reconnect the trailer and weigh both your trailer and your vehicle.
  1. Subtract the weight of your towing vehicle from the combined weight. This is your trailer weight. Look at the label inside the driver’s side door frame and locate the total gross weight, gross weight rating of the vehicle
  1. Compare the total gross weight to the combined weight of your vehicle and trailer to ensure your vehicle can safely handle the combined weight.
  1. Calculate your ideal tongue weight by multiplying the weight of the trailer by 0.10. The result is the minimum safe tongue weight. Multiply the weight of the trailer by 0.15. This is the maximum weight of the safety tab.

Note: You can use a bathroom scale to measure the tongue weight of your trailer! Here’s how you do it:

  1. Lay a flat cinder block on a flat piece of ground. Place a second cinder block on top of the first. The blocks should be laying on their sides so that the holes through the blocks are on the sides of both blocks. Place your bathroom scale on top of the stack of blocks.
  1. Move the tongue from the trailer to the scale. Read the tongue weight directly from the scale. See the scale for your tongue settling on it. If the scale advances to its limit, remove the tab from the scale and place the scale directly on the ground.
  1. Lay a brick the same thickness as the scale three or four feet from and parallel to the scale. Lay one length of tubing along the ladder and the second length of tubing lengthwise into the brick. 

Lay a meter long 2 by 4 on top of the pipe sections on the brick and scale. Place the trailer tongue on the 2-by-4. Use a tape measure to measure the distance to the pipe from the top of the scale and the distance to the pipe at the top of the brick.

  1. Read the scale. Multiply the result by the total distance between the tongue and the brick and the distance between the tongue and the scale. If the distance between the scale and the tongue is three feet and the tongue and the brick, one foot, multiply by four. 

The result is the weight of the tongue. If the distance between the tongue and the brick is 1.5 feet and the distance between the tongue and the two-scale feet, multiply the Scalea’s reading by 3.5 to determine the weight of the tongue.

Tricks to reduce the tongue weight of your trailer

Improper loading of trailers causes serious handling problems. Trailers with too much weight on the tongue put unnecessary loads on the rear suspension of the towing vehicle, often overheating the tires and increasing the danger of a knockout. Trailers with very little tongue weight are difficult to control due to swaying, possibly resulting in loss of vehicle control.

Never exceed the weight specifications of your trailer hitch and tow vehicle. A properly loaded trailer will have 10 to 15 percent of its weight at the tongue of the trailer, therefore 150 to 225 pounds. is the proper tongue weight of 1,500-lb tow pounds. 

The upper end of this range exceeds the maximum tongue weight of Class I trailer hitches. Those values ​​are 2,000 pounds maximum gross trailer weight and 200 lbs. tongue weight, so the weight must be moved within the trailer to reduce the weight of the tongue.

In case the trailer falls within the maximum gross trailer weight (GTW) but has too much weight on the tongue, you will need to verify the problem in order to determine how much weight should be repositioned. Take the trailer to a commercial scale to get the GTW. Weigh the towing vehicle only, but with the trailer attached, the trailer alone, and the towing vehicle without the trailer attached. 

Using these three weights you can determine the GTW and the tongue weight. To get the weight of the tongue, subtract the weight of the truck only by the weight of the truck with the trailer attached. Using the 10 to 15 per cent figure by weight of the appropriate language multiply your GTW by 0.1 and 0.15. 

These calculations will give you the proper range for the weight of the tongue. If the weight of the tongue falls within those calculated weights the trailer is loaded correctly.

If it is necessary to weigh the distribution due to excess tongue weight, move cargo around inside the trailer. Move heavier items and replace them with lighter items, but always keep even weight distribution one side to side in the trailer. You can check the weight of the tongue with a bathroom scale after reloading the trailer. 

With the trailer unhitched from the tow vehicle – and the wheels safely chocked – place a block between the trailer hitch and the ladder and the trailer socket jack down until the jack wheel is off the ground a bit. You can then read the weight directly on the scales. Continue to redistribute the load until the tongue weight is in the safe range as indicated by the scale.

What influence does the trailer tongue weight have on swaying?

Towing a trailer can be a difficult challenge as it involves forming a safe, secure, and coordinated hitch that connects a towing vehicle and a trailer. One of the main concerns of a trailer is trailer sway control. It is dependent on several factors, such as trailer weight, tire pressure, coupling, hitch, and tongue weight and dimensions.

One way to control trailer swaying is to ensure the weight of a tongue is 10 per cent to 15 per cent compared to the weight of the trailer according to the California DMV. For fifth-wheel trailer types, the tongue weight is about 15 per cent to 25 per cent. The tongue length, on the other hand, usually measures twice the width of the trailer wheel. 

Note: A tongue that is too long can make the trailer slow-moving and difficult to manoeuvre; however, if it is too short, it can cause the trailer to wobble.

Sway control devices are available that apply resistance to the trailer and tow vehicle to reduce the effects of sudden turning movements or gusts of wind. These are classified into two main types – a friction bar and a double cam system. The friction bar system consists of a rail that is attached to the hitch and frame of the trailer. The rail is compressed by the weight of the trailer when braking or turning. 

For large trailers, the dual cam system is commonly used, consisting of two separate cameras. One end of each cam is connected to two sides of the trailer and the other end to the hitch. Sway control is achieved by weight moving forward or by regulating weight changes.

Trailer weight and hitch adjustment are also important considerations in trailer sway management. The weight of the trailer must be properly distributed to ensure balanced loading and the weight capacity of the towing vehicle must not be exceeded. 

If the hitch weighs less than the recommended percentage, the weight can be offset by placing heavy loads to the front of the trailer, or if the trailer has water tanks on its front, the full tank will add weight to the hitch. Trailer sway can sometimes also be attributed to suspension or tire pressure problems.


The tongue weight of a trailer is defined as the force of gravity on the hitch ball by the coupler. The tongue weight of smaller trailers can be determined using a standard bathroom scale. Weight should be measured when the trailer is loaded. The scale is typically placed on top of a box to ensure the coupler is weighed at normal towing height. 

A more intricate weighing method that involves multiple-scale reading may be necessary for heavy trailers. Tongue weight scales are also available for more accurate scale measurements.

Do you still have unanswered questions about the tongue weight of a trailer? Let us know!

FAQ on How do I know the tongue weight of my trailer?

Does tongue weight affect MPG?

Yes, tongue weight can affect both MPG and how easy your vehicle is to drive. An overloaded trailer can represent a 2% to 5%  fuel increase. If the tongue weight is light, the weight moves behind the axis. If the weight of the tongue is heavy, it moves in front of the axis, making it more difficult to manage the towing vehicle. This also affects the way your camper or caravan sways, stops and moves on the road.

What is tongue weight?

Tongue weight is the force applied by the tongue of the trailer to the hitch of the towing vehicle. The industry standard for tongue weight is between 9% and 14% of the total trailer weight (GTW). This weight allows you to control the trailer when coupled, which makes driving safer. When the tongue weight is incorrectly calculated, it affects the trailer and can cause accidents when towing.

What happens when you exceed your vehicle’s towing capacity?

When you exceed your vehicle’s towing capacity you bring a series of consequences for your card, such as engine overheating; tire failure, overloading the drivetrain, CO2 emissions increase among others. 


Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!