Tag Archives: gcwr

Travel Trailer and Truck Weights

Full-timers reputedly take everything with them in their RV. There’s no “home” for your stuff except your RV, the home you live in year around. Stuff can get heavy, especially when stuff is densely packed. And RVs have specific limits on hauling heavy stuff. We don’t want to run around the country without any books, food, water, or gear. We could simply declare everything is “a critical need” no matter the weight. Bad idea. How do we figure out how much we can take?

Many RVers have pulled truck and travel trailer across the CAT scales at a truck stop somewhere. Perhaps you’ve stopped by one of the state’s weighing scales? Any of these seem to provide a reasonable look at compliance with overall weight restrictions. Trucks and trailers each have maximum allowable weights, called gross vehicle weight rating or GVWR. The truck and trailer also each have gross axle weight ratings (GAWR) specific to each axle.

The truck has an additional rating you might need to look for a little deeper, the GCWR or gross combined weight rating. This is the maximum allowable total combined actual weight for truck and trailer. You cannot use the two vehicles’ listed weights for this, you need to know what your fully loaded weights are. The CAT scales provide you these total weights for the truck and the trailer for under $10 USD.

You won’t obtain weights for any given corner, or tire load, from these truck scales. They weigh across the entire width of the axle for the weight supported by the left and right tires of each axle. Portable scales can provide weights for each individual tire’s load. We had not attended any rally offering this more detailed weighing and were interested in how balanced, side to side, our truck and our trailer are.

front wheels go onto the two scales first

A prime reason for us to attend the Escapees rally in Marion this past weekend was their SmartWeigh program. Mark Nemeth, Escapees technical advisor, supervised and documented the wheel by wheel weighing of our trucks and trailers. This accurate weighing system provides this information beyond what we obtain from CAT scales.

pads keep the unweighed wheels level to the others

We learned the load per tire for all eight tires. The first weighing was truck only, front axles first. Not surprisingly, Jim’s side weighed thirty pounds more and corresponds closely to our difference in body weight. The rear axles highlighted a 250 pound difference, probably attributable to the 295 pounds of gasoline remaining in the fuel tank on the truck’s left side and the 150 pounds of tool box at the left rear.

must be a diesel-pwr truck, mine doesn't weigh this

Twelve percent imbalance from left to right may not be a big deal but probably explains the utility of tires rotation, eh? More importantly, we want to be attuned to weights distribution for safely towing our full-timing setup down the road.

Our trailer’s weight on the axles is 5,650 pounds. This is good, our axles rating is 6,000 pounds so we are 350 pounds under the maximum rating.

Unfortunately the axles aren’t loaded equally. The front one is 3,200 pounds and the rear is 2,450 pounds. So we plan to raise the hitch head’s height to move weight from the front axle to the rear. We will re-weigh the trailer’s axles afterward.

We learned our weight-distributing hitch needs a little tweaking. Jim knew the hitch wasn’t loading quite enough to the truck’s front axle. The trailer’s weight distributing hitch is still allowing the trailer to push the truck’s rear fenders down over an inch and raise the truck’s front fenders one-half inch. The weighing shows in more detail the problem with the trailer hitched to the truck — five hundred pounds added to each truck rear wheel, and fifty to one hundred off the front wheels. We don’t want to see weight subtracted from the truck’s front end.

Our hitch head is already mounted at the draw bar’s top holes. Jim plans to tear the hitch head down and paint it so it’ll look as good as the a-frame and other hitch parts. Then he will invert the draw bar to provide additional upward adjustment and raise the trailer’s front two inches. He will adjust the hitch ball’s tilt away from the truck to increase the loading to the truck’s front axle.

We could have obtained these results from CAT scales easily enough. But the CAT scales would not have shown us our side-to-side loading. Our trailer’s rear axle weight is equal from side to side. The trailer’s front axle is two hundred pounds heavier on curb side and we don’t think we can effect much change on this — we’re not ready to move the case work or holding tanks. And the truck is less than two-hundred pounds heavier on the curb side, which we can account for and alter by relocating some of the truck bed’s heavier contents.

We have corrections to make on the hitch and fine tuning on our loads. Jim has another project, again. Then a trip to the CAT scales to verify the improvements.

Jim and Debbie

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©2007-2011 Dreamstreamr


Isn’t alcohol lighter than water?

We’re overweight. What’s new, right? I mean, aren’t something like sixty percent of Americans overweight now? Except I don’t mean “us”, but our home. How much does your home weigh? You don’t know? Who weighs their home? We do, up to 2X/year. How else can we maintain any margin of safety relative to our trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (gvwr) or our truck’s gross combined weight rating (gcwr)?

Jim likes to pull occasionally into a Flying J or Pilot or another truck stop with scales. He can pull the truck and trailer onto the scales platform and, for less than $10 and five minutes, we obtain a printed weight report for each of the truck’s two axles and for the trailer. We try to have our home weighed once or twice a year.

How’s it working out? Not too badly for having moved everything from a 3,000 sf house into a 184 sf trailer. Well, not everything — it wouldn’t fit. We moved what we thought we should and could take with us. We tried to be very judicious about our belongings, only taking what we thought we would need and use.

Gradually we have accumulated stuff. Mostly the increase seems to be food, clothing, and books. Wait a minute, aren’t these the only things we have in the trailer? Not really, since we have cookware, place settings, radio equipment, and cleaning stuff, too.

Still, the trailer has gained weight in the three years we’ve been full-timing. Here are our weights over the past four years:
date              trailer truck
25-Sep-06 5580 7400
12-Aug-07 6060 8160
17-Aug-07 6040 8080
4-Jun-09 6120 8840
22-Oct-09 6220 8760
28-Mar-10 6400 8700

The first weight is one of our first outings with this trailer, packed for a weekend. The next two are in the first week of our maiden voyage as retirees, on our 8,000 mile shake-down cruise. The weights, interestingly, are pre-solar panels (60 pounds), pre-6 volt batteries (50 pounds increase) and pre-roof-mounted ham radio antenna (40 pounds?). Also, we had a weight in 2008 (not shown) that is 800 pounds heavier and we attribute it to scale (or math) error and tossed it out.

Our last three weights are current, last year and last week. And we decided we have finally reached the tipping point. We are officially over-weight. Last year we emptied the trailer’s outside storage bins (curb side and rear) of all weighty gear, including chemicals and shoes. Nice thought, but this left a lot of work yet to be done.

Today we earnestly started cutting out excesses in our rolling home. First to go? Bose Sound System sub-woofer and Almost Invisible speakers, comprising 20 pounds, are de-mounted and heading for storage where they’ll await another, heavier home sometime in our future.

Next? We pored through our clothing totes in the trailer and found almost five pounds (woohoo!) of clothes to give away or store for backpacking or winter. The stored ones will stay with us, but in the truck which has almost limitless weight capacity. Well, not really, since the gvwr is 9,200 pounds and we’re already at 8,700.

And we’re carrying all the gear we have room for — the truck bed is full enough already. We lack no tools or fun gear. We will swap out Jim’s golf clubs and add our backpacking gear for some adventures in Washington or Oregon late this summer or fall. Our challenge, then, is to find the stuff we aren’t using and don’t really need but just happen to carry along.

The best examples are our pretty Airstream books, or our complete Martinis and Medicine MASH dvd collection. We can’t watch but so many episodes in a year’s time, and as much as we love the books we spend more time reading books and periodicals. Speaking of periodicals, we’ll save a few pounds if Jim will catch up with Debbie on Time, Appalachian Trail Conference, Carolina Alumni Review, and QST magazines so we can carry fewer of these.

And we have increased our food stocks without any regard for weight totals. Who wouldn’t? What do you want to do without, beer, chocolate, or ice cream? Nah! We want them all! And the truck isn’t a good place for these items. But we can move ten or twenty pounds of canned and other dry goods to the truck.

What else can go? We have carried two spare sets of sheets and one spare set of towels. And have never needed them. We can wash and dry either in one day and put them back in service. Rarely do we have overnight house guests needing linens, although once we did have a granddaughter stay overnight two nights. Okay, we’ll shed the oldest set of bed linens and the remainder comprise almost five pounds more we can move to the truck.

This weight reduction will help, but we could cut the most weight by keeping our fresh water tank empty. Jim prefers to maintain the fresh water tank full. But at 39 gallons X 8.3 pounds per gallon, we can trim some part of 320 pounds right there. Traveling without fresh water isn’t a great idea, but we can carry less than a full tank. Lacking water, if we get thirsty we’ll still have a case each of beer and wine and a few fifths of liquor, right?

Jim and Debbie
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©2007-2010 Dreamstreamr