What happens if you tow too much weight?

In today’s blog post, we will discuss: What happens if you tow too much weight? We will explain the dangers you are exposed to if you tow too much weight, and discuss the basic rules of towing a trailer or caravan. 

What happens if you tow too much weight?

If you tow too much weight, the rear of the car will be pushed up and the front is pushed in. The result is that the grip deteriorates, the trailer becomes more unstable and the range of the low beam is shortened.

A car with a trailer is more difficult to drive and control than a car without a trailer. This is because the weight and length of a car with a trailer will increase, which affects both steering and braking.

When towing a trailer, it is important to keep in mind the following:

  • Look for GVW and MAM in the car manual. These indicate how much the vehicle can tow.
  • Always try to place the heaviest objects at the bottom of the load and the lightest at the top.
  • Be sure to use straps or the like to secure the load so that nothing will come loose and fly off during hard braking.
  • Load intelligently, for example against the rear seats of the luggage compartment. Then, the load or object cannot fly off during hard braking because the seat holds the load.
  • Do not drive if the load is not secure. Secure means it must not move, leak or fall in any way.
  • Do not drive if you cannot properly control the vehicle. Loads should not be positioned so as to restrict your ability to manoeuvre the vehicle.
  • License plates must be visible. If the license plate is not visible, you must attach an additional license plate to the item being transported (bicycles, etc.)
  • The load should not exceed more than 3 meters in front or 3 meters behind your vehicle.
  • If the load is suspended more than one meter forward or backwards, you must attach an authorized reflective flag. At night it should be visible.
  • On the sides, the load should not exceed 2.55 meters.

What happens if you load your trailer unevenly?

If you load too heavily on the front of the trailer, the rear of the car is pushed in and the front of the car is pushed up. The result is that the grip is impaired and oncoming traffic is more easily blinded by your light.

If you load too heavily on the back of the trailer, the rear of the car is pushed up and the front is pushed in. The result is that the grip deteriorates, the trailer becomes more unstable, and the range of the low beam is shortened.

How to correctly load a trailer?

Safe towing begins with loading the trailer correctly. Uneven weight can affect steering, braking, and sway control.

In general, 60% of the load weight should be in the front half of the trailer and 40% in the rear half (unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer). When you load the load, you want it to be balanced from side to side, keeping the centre of gravity close to the ground and over the axle of the trailer.

After balancing the load, you should clamp it in place. An unsecured load can shift when the vehicle is in motion and cause trailer instability. Use nylon ropes or tow ropes to tie everything down.

To avoid overloading your trailer, look for the recommended weight rating. It is located on the VIN plate on the trailer chassis, usually on the tongue. Confirm the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) before towing.

What is GVWR?

It is the total weight that the trailer can support, including its weight. You can also find this number as the Gross Trailer Weight (GTW). The tongue weight should be 10-15% of the GTW.

What is the tongue weight?

The tongue weight is the downward force that the trailer coupler exerts on the hitch ball. An unbalanced reed weight can cause kicking or loss of control. 

By loading your trailer 60% of the weight in the front you are placing 10-15% of the GTW on the hitch ball of the vehicle. For a minimal fee, you can weigh your trailer at a highway truck stop. Never exceed the maximum tongue weight of your truck.

Recommended distribution for trailers and caravans

See the table below for the recommended distribution for a different type of trailers:

Type of TrailerRecommended Distribution
Trailer with Double Axis9% – 15%
Trailer with Simple Axis10% – 15%
  Fifth-wheel18% – 20%

If the wheel well is displacing the tire, there is too much lug weight. Solve this by placing the heaviest items in the centre of the trailer.

If there is too much weight on the rear of the trailer, the rear of the truck can be raised slightly, resulting in negative tongue weight. Again, solve this by placing the heaviest items in the centre of the trailer.

A balanced tongue gives you full control of the truck and trailer. If the tongue of the trailer is parallel to the ground, then it is balanced.

How to safely tow a trailer or a caravan

Besides correctly loading the weight, to safely tow a trailer or a caravan with your car you must take some precautions. 

  1. Go slow – When towing a loaded trailer, you have to accelerate and brake farther. Then go slowly, leaving room between your truck and other vehicles. Drive like you would on an icy road.
  1. Maintain control – If there is too much weight on the rear of the trailer, the rear of the truck may lift slightly, resulting in negative tongue weight. Again, solve this by placing the heaviest items in the centre of the trailer.
  1. The longer the trailer, the wider the swing – Sway as you turn and check your mirrors twice to make sure the trailer passes all obstacles.
  1. Get ahead – As a rule, go ahead only when necessary and abide by all the rules. Remember to consider the length of the trailer when passing a slower vehicle. Verify that you have passed the other vehicle before returning to your lane. Also, the added weight of the trailer will slow down acceleration. Make sure to use turn signals and leave enough clearance.
  1. Uneven terrain – Always slow down before going uphill. If your vehicle has a manual transmission, shift down one gear when going up and down hills.
  1. Carry a large spare tire – Never use a compact spare tire when towing a trailer.
  1. How to reverse –  First, place your hand on the bottom of the steering wheel. To turn left, move your hand to the left. To turn right, move it to the right. Adjust the direction little by little. Slight steering wheel turns to allow for more trailer movement.

If the trailer kicks, simply move forward to straighten it and try again. Backing up can take some getting used to, so go slowly and ask someone to stand behind the trailer and direct you.

  1. How to park – Always park on a flat, level surface. Find a parking spot where you can go forward to avoid backing up into a parking lot. Always set the parking brake and chock the wheels of the trailer.

Final thoughts

We need to remind you of the safety rules, and that exceeding towing capacity is never recommended, as it can represent a great risk especially on a long road.  The weight makes your car less agile and less balanced, especially if you carry a lot of weight in the trunk, in the rear, if you have a roof rack, a trailer or any other accessory to carry more cargo.

If the weight is poorly distributed on the trailer and it suffers a blow, the vehicle loses control.  This, on a busy road and at a high speed, could cause a fatal accident, so we emphasize the importance of dedicating the necessary time to properly place the load on the trailer and stop considering it an unimportant process. 

If you have any questions or comments on the content, please let us know!

FAQ on What happens if you tow too much weight?

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. 

What percentage of max towing capacity is safe?

A percentage of 80% or 75% of max towing capacity would be safe and recommendable. 

How do you know if you tow too much weight?

You know you are towing too much weight when the rear of the truck will appear hunkered down and the front end will feel light.

References

Leave a Comment