You can ensure the tires on your RV or travel trailer are not overloaded by maintaining the proper inflation pressure and by never exceeding your vehicle's Gross Axle Weight Ratings (GAWR) or the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). (Remember: this information can be found on the certification label or in your vehicle owner's manual.) The vehicle load must be distributed so that no individual axle, tire or dual assembly is overloaded.

How To Determine Your RV's Actual Weight

Where To Weigh Your RV/Travel Trailer

How To Weigh Your RV

How To Weigh Your Travel Trailer

The major components of an RV -- the vehicle frame, brakes, axles, rims, tires, etc. -- are designed to accommodate a particular weight. If these weight ratings are exceeded, these parts may wear rapidly. The RV manufacturer provides the weight ratings and load specifications printed on the vehicle certification label. There are five weight-related terms you should know:

  1. GVWR: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
    GVWR is the weight rating established by the chassis manufacturer as the maximum weight (including vehicle, cargo, liquids, passengers, etc.) that the components of the chassis are designed to support.

  2. GAWR: Gross Axle Weight Rating (for each axle)
    This is the maximum weight rating that components of each axle are designed to support (i.e., tires, wheels, brakes, springs, axle). This is determined by the lowest design capacity of any component. In other words, if the wheels have the lowest design capacity of any component on that axle, installing tires with a higher load capacity does not increase the GAWR.

  3. GCWR: Gross Combined Weight Rating
    GCWR represents the maximum allowable total loaded weight rating of the motor vehicle and any trailer it is towing. GCWR minus GVWR represents the allowable weight for the towed vehicle.

  4. GVW: Gross Vehicle Weight
    GVW is the actual weight of a fully loaded vehicle (i.e., vehicle, cargo, liquids/fuels, passengers, towed vehicles, tongue weight, etc.) The GVW must not exceed the GVWR.

  5. GAW: Gross Axle Weight
    GAW is the actual weight of a fully loaded vehicle carried by a single axle. Due to the many ways that weight can be distributed within an RV, GAW can often provide a false sense of security. Even though the weight of the total axle may be within the axle's rating, it may be overloaded on one side.

To weigh your RV correctly, measure the fully loaded vehicle, axle by axle and wheel position by wheel position. you can find several certified public or commercial scales at moving and storage lots, farm suppliers with grain elevators, gravel pits, recycling companies, and large commercial truck stops. (Also look in the telephone book under "weighers" or "weighing.") Allow adequate time, since the entire weighing process can take up to 30 minutes. There may be a small fee for each weight taken, but the expense is a worthwhile investment towards the safe and economical operation of your vehicle.

Your RV must be weighed fully loaded, that is, with passengers, food, clothing, fuel, water, propane, supplies, etc. Any towed vehicle (car/pickup, boat or trailer) or item loaded on brackets on the back of the RV, such as bikes or motorcycles, should also be included in the weighing.

There are three types of scales:

  1. PLATFORM - This scale is long enough to weigh the complete vehicle. The following steps are suggested:

    a. Pull onto 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 scaled weight.

    b. Pull forward until the full unit is on the scale weight.

    c. Pull forward so that only the rear axle is on the scale (again with the edge of the scale midway between the front and drive axles), and record the scaled weight.

    d. If the RV has a rear tag axle, pull forward so that only the tag axle remains on the scale, and record the scaled weight.

    If there is no towed vehicle, this weight will represent the actual weight on the tag axle. To determine the actual load on the drive axle, subtract this value from the recorded weight in step 1c. If there is a towed vehicle, proceed to step 1e to obtain the "towed vehicle only" weight. Subtract that value from the value above and then subtract that from the weight recorded in step 1c.

    e. If a boat, trailer or other vehicle is being towed, it should be weighed and combined with the towing vehicle's GVW to ensure the total weight does not exceed the GCWR.

  2. SEGMENTED PLATFORM - Platform scales with segmented sections can provide individual axle weights and total vehicle weights simultaneously, when the vehicle is positioned properly.


    Position the vehicle on the scales so that each axle centered as much as possible on separate segments, and record the weight. Reposition the vehicle so that only one side is on the scale, again centered on the segment as much as possible. Subtract the weighed wheel positions from the total axle weights to determine the unweighed wheel positions' weights.

  3. SINGLE AXLE - This scale weighs one axle at a time. Drive your front axle onto the scale and stop long enough for the weight to be recorded. Pull vehicle forward until the rear axle is on the scale. To obtain the gross vehicle weight, add the two axle loads together. To obtain the individual wheel position weights, repeat this process with only one side of the RV on the scale.

    Note: Even though the weight of the total axle may be within the axle's rating, it may be overloaded on one side. This causes one wheel position to be overloaded. Therefore, side-to-side weighing should also be done.

    To determine individual wheel position weights, it is necessary to repeat the previous three steps (1a, 1b, and 1c), but this time, use only one side of the scale.

    To calculate the opposite side of the vehicle wheel position weight, subtract this side's weights from the weights recorded in steps 1a, 1b, and 1c.

    Your RV must remain as level as possible on the scale (even though an axle or side is not physically on the scale). Obviously, to obtain the side-to-side weights, there must be enough space on either side of the scale to accommodate the RV being partially off the scale.

    If there is a difference in the weights on one side of the vehicle as compared to weights on the other side, components (tires, wheels, brakes, springs, etc.) on the heavier side could be overloaded, even though the total axle load is within the GAWR. It is important to redistribute the load to avoid component failure, as well as to improve the handling characteristics of the vehicle.

    With these actual weights, it is now possible to compare them against the GAWR, GVWR and tire capacities. These weights are also what should be used to help determine the proper air pressure for the tires.

To properly weigh a travel trailer, it should first be weighed, including the tongue weight, while detached from the pulling vehicle. This actual overall weight must be less than or equal to the GVWR for safe operation. If the overall weight is greater than the GVWR, some contents must be removed until maximum GVWR limitations are achieved. Once the actual overall weight is determined and the trailer is within GVWR limits, the following weights must be determined:

  1. Weight of complete trailer, while attached, but excluding towed vehicle. This will result in the actual weight which is exerted on all of the trailer tires. This weight may be subtracted from the overall trailer weight (above) to determine actual "tongue" weight.

  2. With the trailer still attached to the towed vehicle, each wheel position should then be weighed separately to be sure each tire is not overloaded. If and overload condition exists on any wheel position, trailer loading must be redistributed or removed. If an overload situation is not corrected, tire or mechanical failures may occur.

  3. The individual wheel positions (particularly the rear positions) on the towing vehicle should also be weighed for possible overload while the trailer remains attached. This is especially important on 5th-wheel applications where tongue weight may be extreme.

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