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Ask Dave: Are new trailers designed for proper weight distribution?

Dear Dave,
Are new trailers designed for proper weight distribution? The right side has a sink, oven, fridge, entertainment center, and cabinets, while the left side has a slide out, weighing as much as 800 pounds, the bathroom sink, toilet, shower, etc. Is there a way to measure the weight on each side of the trailer so when loading you can try to keep the weight even? —Al

Dear Al,
No RV is designed for proper weight distribution, in my opinion. And no, trailer weight distribution is not taken into consideration with new trailers. If it were, all the appliances and furniture would be in the middle and we would walk around the outside edge—but nobody would buy that. The RV Safety & Education Foundation has been weighing coaches for more than 30 years. Originally, more than 75 percent of the coaches they weighed were over one or more of the weight ratings. That means either the total weight of Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR), or individual wheel weight. That number is still over 50 percent today, and they have weighed more than 40,000 rigs.

Trailer weight distribution can’t be even with all that storage…

Their data shows many rigs are much heavier on one side or the other, some by more than 1,000 pounds! And you are correct: When you see a huge slide room on the driver side with a residential refrigerator, generator, full-size couch, marble kitchen countertop and pass-through storage, it invites an owner to fill it up and put too much weight on one side. I’ve always stated in my RV Buyer’s Seminar that just because you have these great big compartments all along the side doesn’t mean you can fill them up!

I applaud you for taking the first step in learning about weights and distribution. Unfortunately, the only way you can tell if one side or one tire is heavier than the other is by individual wheel position, which RVSEF can do. But it’s not as easy as going to a CAT Scale down the block. One thing to keep in mind is the weight you mentioned for the slide is a little deceiving as there would already be a wall on that side. So the 800 pounds would only be added weight of the floor, ceiling, and sidewalls. Furniture would also be in a non-slide version.

RVSEF does have weigh teams around the country, so you might be able to find someone in your area here.

Some dealers have also purchased a set of these scales, as well like the Escapees RV Club.

Check out trailer weight distribution on a CAT Scale

In the meantime, I would recommend getting your rig weighed at a CAT Scale to at least verify GVWR and GAWR.

This can be done by putting the individual axle on the pads, which will at least help provide some weight data.

The temperatures are important

I ran a company for the past 10 years that had three F-350 trucks and 8K trailers driving all over the country. They put more than 100,000 miles on each one each year. The first year we had issues with tire failures, axles, and bearings. We manufactured and installed a pressure washer, which was installed in fast food restaurants that weighed about 180 lbs. each. Trailers would be loaded up with three units on each side in racks that were customized. We’d then fill the racks with a high-pressure hose, carts, and other heavy items.

After replacing a couple of axles on the side of the road, which is expensive, I had the guys start checking the temperatures of the bearing hub, brake drums, and tires and record the ambient temperature and what they found.

When there was a spike in temperature, we knew the bearings were getting dry and needed to be repacked or replaced. A spike in brake drum temperature usually meant the brakes were sticking or set too high. High temperature in tires was usually lower inflation.

One thing I did notice was as the techs pulled out units to install, sometimes they pulled all three on one side before going to the other side, as it was easier. I started to notice the temperatures were higher on the heavy side and the tire tread was wearing faster. They started taking a unit from one side and then the other for better weight distribution, and it helped. I would suggest trying this on your trailer to determine weight distribution as well.

Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club.

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Joann
7 months ago

I’m trying to talk my husband into the Thor Outlaw with drop down on passengers side. Murphy bed on driver’s side. Love the set up of this drivable camper. It seems to me that it would be heavy on the gas mileage tho.
We want to be able to enter state / national parks too. And some parks have weight and height restrictions.

Spike
7 months ago

Great response and example.

I have been shocked at what I have seen at RV shows with trailers having all the tanks in the back plus a kitchen, etc.

Newmar weighs all coaches coming out of production and a quick request by a customer, even on units being purchased used, will get them a complete weight report including individual wheel weights, total axle weights, and more. Each unit is a scaled weight of that individual unit, not an estimate. This takes into consideration exactly how that coach was built regarding options, etc. It also includes dry weight and unloaded vehicle weight.

While Newmar generally builds coaches with lots of weight capacity, it’s still good to know the starting point numbers to this level of detail.

Bob p
7 months ago
Reply to  Spike

I had a 38’ Newmar Mountain Aire 2002, looking at the mfg.label with everything full in road driving mode I had 390lb of CCC, That was me, DW, and our 6lb Maltese and a few snacks. I couldn’t believe that when I read that label. I was overweight every time we went out.

Dave
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

Things have changed since 2002. My 2013 Mountain Aire 4347 has just under 10000 lbs CCC. I’m usually about 6 to 8k lbs under my GVWR

steve
7 months ago

On my 2017 Toy Hauler the brake pads on the driver’s side were almost metal to metal while the pads on the passenger side were fine. Driver’s side has all appliances, two slides and generator. Passenger side has couch and one slide. Very uneven weight distribution.