Driving an RV is like driving a semi-truck when it comes to weight and handling. You’re dealing with a wide and heavy load whose weight alone makes it handle differently than other vehicles you’re used to driving. Motorhomes, as well as travel and fifth-wheel trailers, are very top heavy in nature and very susceptible to side wind forces which can create a unique problem for RVers.
The Balancing Act
Motorhomes are already designed with the proper placement of cabinetry and facilities to effectively balance your rig. When loading your RV, it is very important to keep in mind that proper weight distribution is critical to ensure safe handling. Be sure to evenly space out the weight and cargo within your coach. From fuel, water and propane to towed items, supplies and passengers…everything counts. You’ll appreciate this proper balancing when you try to turn or maneuver your rig in traffic.
When you’re pulling your travel trailer behind you, it’s essential (depending on weight/length of your trailer) to use a weight distribution or equalizer hitch that will balance out your ride. Otherwise, too much weight in the front of the trailer will place excessive weight on the back of the towing vehicle, raising the front of your tow vehicle and causing loss of steering control, hitch dragging and braking difficulties. The key is to balance the weight over the axles and the hitch.
Don’t Overload Your Coach
Know your RV’s load rating, otherwise known as GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating), which is the amount your vehicle is designed to carry. This includes the vehicle’s chassis, body, engine, all fluids and accessories, driver and passengers. It is also important to know your GCVWR (gross combined vehicle weight rating), which is the amount your coach can carry (GVWR) + how much weight you can tow behind you coach. You can find this information either on your door edge or on the manufacturer’s placard near the driver’s seat. You’ll also find load ratings on pickups, campers, travel trailers and tow vehicles. Overloading your RV or tow vehicle can be serious, and it has major effects on tires, wheels, springs and axles.
You can easily get your RV weighed for a fee at a truck stop; they’ll even give you a weight slip that shows the front axle and total weight. (For motorized RVs, it is recommended that the front axle account for approximately 33-35% of total weight.) Ultimately, you should take your RV to a professional weighing agency to make sure it isn’t overweight on the corners or axles.
Weight Distribution Tips to Remember
- Keep the center of gravity low and set tire pressure appropriately
- Keep cargo and weight evenly spaced out
- Keep your cargo secure to prevent shifting and sliding around
- Use a weight distribution hitch system (for trailers over 5000 pounds)
Before your next trip, remember that proper weight distribution is a must! It will help avoid unwelcome problems in ride quality, handling and braking…and ultimately help provide for a safe and enjoyable RV experience.