And we have our first guest blogger! One of the best things about this nomadic lifestyle is the sense of community with other tiny house/RV enthusiasts. Everywhere we go people are trying to help each other with advice or sharing war stories. Our friend Howard Kritzer is an expert in the towing industry and he wanted to share some of his knowledge with you all. Howard’s blog post below will help you answer the question “Can I pull THAT with THIS?” – Chloe
The #1 thing you should be aware of when purchasing your new 5th wheel or Travel trailer. Weight capacities!
When we were shopping for our 5th wheel I always checked on the weights. I asked every salesman and their first question would be “what are you pulling it with?” I would tell them and they would say “you’re good, people pull them all the time with that truck.” I knew better then to just take their word for it so I would do as much online research as I could to get total weights of an RV and match them with the capacities of my truck. When we finally decided on the correct unit for us I took those weights and did the math as best I could. We would be within capacity of both the truck axles and tires as well as the total weight of my truck.
Before we get too far, let’s review a couple terms you need to know:
Actual Curb Weight (ACW) – The actual weight of your vehicle loaded and ready to travel
Gross Vehicle Weight (GVWR) – The total amount of weight that the manufacturer states that your tow vehicle can weigh.
Gross Combined Vehicle weight (GCVW) – The total combined (truck and trailer together) vehicle weight your tow vehicle is capable of according to the manufacturer.
Gross Axle weight Rating (GAWR ) – The total amount of weight the tow vehicle manufacturer states you can put on one axle of your vehicle.
Tires Max Load Capacity – The total amount of weight that can be on a single tire per the manufacturer.
This Won’t Be Fun (TWBF) – Unless you really nerd out on numbers, this won’t be a fun article to read but it will be helpful.
Do I buy the cart before the horse? Depending on your situation you may already have a great truck that you want to use to pull your new RV. If that’s the case then you should immediately get all the facts about your truck written down so that you can sort out the next step of getting the correct RV.
- Find ACW – Get your current trucked weighed. Fill up the fuel tank, put your tool box behind the seat, add a cooler and ask your wife to join you for a trip to the truck stop. These are like mini Walmarts and there will definitely be something or someone you can chuckle at while you are there. You will need to find a truck stop with a scale. The most popular brand is CAT scale and you can find locations on their website www.catscale.com The scale will most likely be near the truck fuel lanes. When you arrive, drive on to the scale slowly until your front axle is on the forward scale and your rear axle is still on the rear scale. You will be lined up with the call box where you will talk to “the lady in the box” at the truck stop by pushing a button. They will ask for information like company name, truck number or if this is the first weigh or a re-weigh. Pro tip: you can come back with your RV within 24 hours for a re-weigh at a discounted price. Once you are done talking to “the lady in the box”, go find a parking spot and head inside to the fuel desk. The lady there will call you hun or sweetie or won’t talk at all. Since you most likely don’t look like a typical over the road trucker she may just hand you the weigh ticket, knowing you were the confused person outside a minute ago. They will charge you 10 or 12 dollars and give you a few copies for your records. Now you know the true CW of your tow vehicle. The manufacturer of my tow vehicle said it weighed 7649 lbs total CW. Once I added me, my wife, my cooler etc my Actual Curb Weight is 8940!
- Find your GVW – This should be listed on the tag inside the driver’s door. My truck is rated at 11,300 lbs, meaning that my truck can only weigh 11,300 lbs fully loaded. So the difference between the CW of 7649 and GVW of 11,300 is 3,651 lbs that I could add to the truck. But my Actual Curb Weight is 8940 and the GVW is 11,300 leaving me only 2360 lbs more of actual capacity!
- Find your GAW– Google “rear axle rating” for your specific truck and it will be pretty easy to find. My trucks rear axle is rated for 6100 lbs. The manufacturer says the rear axle weight is 3092 so I could add just over 3000 lbs to the bed of the truck, in my case tongue weight, and still be within capacity. My actual rear axle weight was 3540. So I could only add 2560 lbs more of tongue weight!
- Find your GCVW – This will also be the max towing capacity that the tow vehicle manufacturer gives you for your vehicle. It will have many variations depending on factors including if you have 4 wheel drive or 2 wheel drive, diesel or gas, dual or single rear wheel or are pulling a bumper pull or 5th wheel trailer. Mine said 26,000 GCVW. The manufacturer says my truck weighs 7649 leaving me 18,351 worth of trailer that I can pull on a 5th wheel. Since my truck weighed 8940 the actual capacity is 17,060!
- Max Tire load – This will be on the side of your tires in small print and is one of the most important numbers you will need. It will say something like “max load of 3450 lbs at 65PSI max”. This means you can put 3450 lbs on the tire as long as the tires are at 65 psi. So even if an axle has a rating of 7500 lbs the tires may only have a combined rating of 6900 (2 tires X 3450 = 6900).
So now that we know the actual weights of the tow Vehicle, and its capacities, it’s time to choose the correct RV to match your truck’s towing capacities.
The same steps apply here.
- Find your ACW – This time take your truck and trailer, wife, tools, Fufu the lap dog and her doggie stroller to push her, and re-weigh the total unit together. If you have not purchased the RV yet have your dealer do this same thing. Once you get your new ticket just subtract what you know your tow vehicle weighs and you will have the total ACW of the trailer itself. Our manufacturer says it weighs 12,900 lbs. I weighed it on the trip home from the dealer with full propane and 40 gallons of water. Actual CW or Dry weight 14,920!
- Find out the GVWR– This is what the RV manufacturer says the vehicle can weigh when it is fully loaded. It is normally on a tag near the door of the RV or in the literature. Our manufacturer says it can weigh up to 16,000 lbs. So the difference between our CW of 12,900 and GVWR of 16,000 is 3100 lbs of stuff we can add to the unit. Actual amount we can add is 1080 lbs!
- Find the tongue weight. This will be the difference between what the rear axle weighed empty and what it weighs now with the 5th wheel or travel trailer hooked up. Research shows that you can expect about 20% of the weight of a 5th wheel to be on the tongue and some place between 10% and 15% for a travel trailer . Our 5th wheel at 16,000 lbs should weigh about 3200 lbs on the tongue or “Pin Weight”. Ours is more like 25% with over 4000 lbs on the tongue!
- Max Tire Load – This will be on the side of your tires in small print and is one of the most important numbers you will need. It will say something like “max load of 3500 lbs at 110PSI max”. This means you can put 3500 lbs as long as the tires are at 110 psi. So even if an axle has a rating of 8000 lbs the tires may only have a rating of 7000 lbs (2 tires X 3500 =7000). This is the case with our unit.
To review: Here are the actual numbers for my tow vehicle and trailer (and a picture of them hooked up and ready to hit the road):
- Find your CW– The manufacturer of my Tow vehicle said It weighed 7649 lbs total CW. My actual CW is 8940!
- Find your GAW- The Manufacturer says the rear axle weight is 3092. Actual rear axle weight was 3540. So I could only add36of tongue weight!
- Find your GCVW- Mine said 26,000 GCVW. The manufacturer says my truck weighs 7649 leaving me 18,351 worth of trailer that I can pull on a 5th wheel. Since my truck weighed 8940 the actual capacity is 17,060
- Max Tire load- 2 tires X 3540=7080 per axle. This is the actual tire rating of my Tires.
- Find your CW– Our manufacturer says it weighs 12,900 lbs. Unloaded ACW or Dry weight is 14,920! (40 gallons of water and 80lbs of propane)
- Find out the GVWR – So the difference between our ACW of 12,900 and GVWR of 16,000 is 3100 lbs of stuff we can add to the unit. Actual GVW is 14,920 so the amount we can add is only 1080 lbs!
- Find the tongue weight. Our 5th wheel at 16,000 lbs should weigh about 3200 lbs on the tongue. Our actual tongue weight is 4000 lbs!
- Max Tire load – 2 tires X 3500 =7000. This is the case with our unit even though we have 8000 lbs axles we only have 7000 lbs tire capacity.
As you can see, we were grossly overweight on our tow vehicle. The manufacturer says it has the suspension and gearing to pull 6100 lbs on that axle. Since our dry GCVW was 6640 to start, it only got worse when we added our life’s belongings to it. Once we did that we were immediately overweight on the tire capacities as well. In the first 6 weeks we pulled the RV about 4000 miles with this set-up. There was noticeable tire wear on the drive axle tires vs. the steer tires. I added some suspension helpers to keep it looking level but there was no way of getting around the fact that it was still too heavy. Since we were going to be in one place for a couple of months we started to look for a new truck that could handle the load and the miles we plan to drive. That info will have to wait for another blog post.
Stay Safe, Have Fun, Enjoy Life
Howard Kritzer is a 20-year veteran of the Towing and Recovery Industry. Currently traveling the country with his wife and son in their Artic Fox 35-5Z 5th wheel. Howard offers sales, consulting and training nationwide thru these platforms: www.duttonsconsulting.com, www.protiedowns.com and www.winchingbythenumbers.com. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.