What happens if your RV is overweight?

In this blog post, we will answer the following question: What happens if your RV is overweight? We will explain why the weight of your RV actually matters. We will tell you how you can weigh your RV and how to make sure you are carrying the appropriate amount of load. 

What happens if your RV is overweight?

If your RV is overweight it will be more difficult to drive and control, you are slowly damaging your motorhome and on top of that, you risk getting a fine. 

When driving an RV, towing a caravan or trailer, there are a few key points one must always respect:

  • Look for GVWR 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.

Why you shouldn’t overweight your RV

The danger of driving an overweight vehicle goes beyond a pure administrative penalty. We must bear in mind that the total weight of the vehicle is the sum of the weight of the vehicle and all its luggage, including passengers, luggage, car fluids and any other type of article that is transported in it.

The limitation in the datasheet does not only constitute a restriction on the mechanical resistance of the vehicle but also on the behaviour that said vehicle will have on the road. It is therefore very important to ensure that you do not exceed the maximum weight allowed by the vehicle manufacturer, as its behaviour above the limits imposed does not have to be verified.

There will be many who assure that, although the technical data sheet is limited, our vehicles are prepared to transport much more weight, reasoning that we do not doubt, but we must not forget that most manufacturers float their motorhomes on conventional industrial chassis, deriving in an exemption from liability that in no case should fall on the end-user.

On the other hand, we find in our trips many roads with weight restrictions for vehicles, to protect the weakest areas of the same, such as bridges or half-built areas, or to prevent damage to the structures located along the road. Driving with excess weight in the vehicle through them could make us incur a double danger, that of exceeding the limit of our vehicle as well as that of the road.

How to weigh your RV

Many motorhomes end up overloaded simply because people put too much stuff in them. There is no quick and easy way to determine the weight of the items you have loaded, so there is a temptation to keep loading things until every available space is filled. People are loading in volume, but weight is much more important.

Unfortunately, you may have exceeded the load capacity of your tires or axles long before everything is put away. The only way to know if your motorhome is overloaded is to have it weighed.

  1. Finding a place to weigh up your motorhome. There are probably several certified public scales in your area. You will find public access ladders in a variety of places, such as moving and storage lot companies, agricultural suppliers with grain elevators, gravel pits, recycling companies, and large commercial truck stops. Most will charge you a nominal fee.
  1. Your motorhome must be weighed up when fully loaded, loaded with what you would normally travel with, including passengers, food, clothing, fuel, water, propane gas, supplies, etc. Any towed vehicle, such as a car, boat, or trailer, or items loaded on the racks at the rear of the motorhome, such as bicycles or motorcycles, must also be included in the weigh-in.
  1. There are three types of scales: platform, segmented platform, and single axis. The platform scale is long enough to weigh the entire vehicle. The segmented platform scales provide individual axle weights and the total vehicle weight at the same time when the vehicle is positioned correctly. Single-axis scales that weigh one axis at a time.
  1. This step is for platform scales.
  • Start by pulling on the scale so that only the front axle is on the platform (with the end of the scale midway between the front and rear axles), and record the reduced weight.
  • Then pull forward until the entire motorhome is on the scale, and record the reduced weight. This is the gross vehicle weight as scale.
  • Now pull forward so that only the rear axle is on the scale (again with the middle edge of the scale between the front and rear axles), and record the reduced weight.
  • Next, if the motorhome has a rear tag axle, pull it forward so that only the axle (rear) label remains on the scale, and record the reduced weight. If there is no towed vehicle, this weight represents the actual weight on the tag axle. To determine the actual rear axle load, subtract this value from the recorded weight of the rear axles combined.
  • Lastly, if there is a towed vehicle, pull forward so that only the towed vehicle remains to get the “towed vehicle only” weight. Record the reduced weight.
  1. This step is for platform segmented type scales. This is a much simpler way to weigh your motorhome so if you can find a segmented scale, that’s your best bet.
  • Simply place the motorhome on the scales so that each axis is centred as much as possible on separate segments, and record the scale weights. To get the gross vehicle weight, add all segment weights together.
  • If there is a towed vehicle, pull forward so that only the towed vehicle remains on the scales. If there is enough room for both axles of the towed vehicle to be placed on a single segment, record the reduced weight of that segment. Otherwise, record the values ​​of the towing vehicle axle segments and add them together. This is the total towed weight of the vehicle.
  1. This step is for single-axis type scales.
  • Attach the front axle to the scale and allow enough time to record the reduced weight. Pull the motorhome forward until the rear axle is off the scale and record the reduced weight. To get the gross vehicle weight, add the two-axle weights together.
  • If there is a towed vehicle, pull forward so that only the towed vehicle remains on the scale. Record this weight.
  • Now that you have obtained all the axle weights, you still have a little more work to do. It is also necessary to obtain the individual wheel position weights.
  • To get the individual wheel position weights, follow the appropriate steps for the type of scale you are using, but this time, use only one side of the scale. Write these weights down.
  • To calculate the opposite side of the motorhome wheel position weights, subtract the individual side weights from the respective recorded axle weights.
  • To determine where your motorhome weights are in relation to your motorhome specifications, find the Motorhome Weight Capacities poster. Look at the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight) number and compare it to the total registered vehicle weight. If the registered weight is greater than the gross weight, the motorhome is overloaded and some items have to be removed and weighed again.

Final thoughts

If you are towing a boat, trailer or other vehicle, it must be weighed and combined with the towing vehicle’s gross weight to ensure that the total weight does not exceed the GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating). The tongue weight of the towed vehicle must also be considered as it contributes to the rear axle weight and could possibly overload the rear axle.

Always determine the correct inflation pressure for your tires based on the actual loads on the tires. Use the tire manufacturer’s recommendations, found in the manufacturer’s load and inflation charts. Never use inflationary pressures lower than those printed on the motorhome poster.

All tires at both ends of an axle must have the same inflation pressure. If the load at each end of the axle is so varied that different inflation pressures are recommended, use the highest pressure at both ends. Or, redistribute the load so that the same inflation pressure is recommended for both ends of the axle.

If you have a motorhome or fifth wheel, with a weight that is similar to the steps outlined here. See the book link in the Resources section. This book offers shapes used when weighing this type of RV.

Individual wheel position weights should not exceed the maximum load capacity of the tires. The maximum load capacity of the tires can only be used with the maximum allowable psi as indicated on the sidewall of the tire.

Please feel free to share any thoughts, comments or questions on the content. 

FAQ on What happens if your RV is overweight?

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.

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