Safe Hauling – Trailer tongue weight

Q : Safe Hauling – The importance of trailer tongue weight

A : Towing a trailer is not a small responsibility and should be undertaken with great care and an eye toward safety.  An accident with a trailer can have great consequences.  Whether you are towing, a light boat or camping trailer behind your vehicle or a cargo trailer to haul a race car or move personal belongings, balancing the load and preparing the trailer are critical to safe handling.

That said, the tongue weight of a trailer is the downward force exerted on the hitch ball by the trailer coupler.  The tow vehicle and hitch must be capable of safely handling at least 15% of the Gross Weight of the trailer (GVW) for a single axle trailer (total weight of trailer plus contents).

Type of Trailer % of weight of tongue
Single Axle 10% minimum / 15% maximum
Tandem Axle 9% to 15%
5th Wheel 15% to 25%


One of the most critical aspects of safely hauling a trailer is to know the weights involved and where they are placed. The first thing to determine is how much weight will be towed, and confirm that it is within the capacities the trailer can carry. Determining WHERE that load is placed is critical to the way your trailer will handle on the road.

To tow safely, the tongue weight must be balanced correctly when the trailer is empty or when fully loaded. Check the height of the tow vehicle's bumper before and after loading. If the loaded trailer doesn't drop the height of the bumper by at least another inch (2,5 cm), then reposition your load with more weight in the front of the trailer.

If your load is NOT placed correctly, when you will hit the brakes, the trailer will dive lifting the front end even more, and you will lose most of your braking and steering at the same time. Several types of weight redistribution hitches are available that can dramatically help your handling by spreading the forces to both axles, but they cannot compensate for inadequate towing capacity or overloading.

No matter how you end up determining your weight and balance, we hope however, this makes you aware of its importance and influence when you are hauling a trailer.