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Ask Dave: Did my rig come from the factory properly weight balanced?

Dear Dave,
Is it safe to assume that my 2018 Coachmen Freelander Elite 23-foot motorhome left the factory well-balanced? And when loading, what is correct balance? I mean, similar weight on each wheel? Or rear wheels heavier than front? Or what? —Judith

Dear Judith,
It is safe to say your Coachmen Freelander left the factory with a front end alignment, but not a proper weight balance. This has been an issue in the RV industry for years, as RV manufacturers do not design and build coaches for optimum weight balance, but rather for what sells.

I have worked with the RV Safety & Education Foundation (RVSEF) since the early 1990s helping to develop a safety program that included tires, weight ratings, driving and more. They have weighed more than 40,000 RVs at rallies, conventions, and dealerships. They found initially over 75% of the rigs they weighed were out of conformance in either overall Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR), and, more specifically, individual wheel position weight. According to the latest data, more than 50% are still over recommended weight ratings in one or more of the categories.

Weigh individual wheel positions

The only way to verify the proper weight balance of your rig is to have it weighed by individual wheel position, which is not easy to find these days. RVSEF has teams that will weigh around the country, as well as Escapees at their rallies, and at some dealers. You can find weighing locations of RVSEF here.

However, I have some pretty good experience with your exact model, as the owner of our office complex had three RVs that we did extensive videos on as well as used for personal trips. One was the 23’ Freelander, which was a great unit! We did not get individual wheel position weights, as being in the Midwest was a challenge. But we did get the GVWR and GAWR at a local CAT Scale.

This is not ideal, but it did give me a starting point to make sure it was not drastically overweight in those two categories. Since the unit is so small and there is not a lot of storage compartments that could be filled with heavy items, I was fairly confident it was OK in weight balance. To confirm, I made sure we did not overload the one large exterior compartment that accessed under the bed, and paid close attention to the tire tread. Excessive wear on one side would indicate more weight.

Check tire temps, etc.

Another test I conducted every day while traveling was checking the temperature of the tires, brake drums, and bearings with an infrared thermometer. If you have an ambient temperature of 80 degrees while driving, it’s not uncommon for the temperature of the hub and drum to run 20-30 degrees higher. The tire can be 5-10 degrees or more. However, if you see a spike in those temperatures, it indicates something is wrong. Possibly the bearings are getting dry or the brakes are rubbing.

If the tire temperature rises, it could mean a loss of tire pressure. However, if one side is consistently higher than the other, it could indicate there is much more weight on that side and it is working harder. In that case, I would shift some of the items in the compartment or inside to the other side.

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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Bruce
2 months ago

I agree warmer tires on one side could be heavier and working harder but I also notice tires on the sunny side will be warmer.

Don
2 months ago

You missed her question about “what is correct balance” Dave.
The rig is correctly balanced if the weight on each corner is about the same percentage of the axle rating for that axle. It’s typical for the axles to have very different ratings. My coach has a 16,600 lb rated front axle, 20,000 lb drive (w/duals) and 11,000 lb Tag axle. My weights (recently determined by RVSEF at a Rally) are 12,550 front, 19,500 drive and 9,050 tag. Which in terms of %’s are 75.6% front, 97.5% drive and 82.3% tag. I.e. I’m out of balance toward the rear of the coach. This is easily explained by the fact that I’ve got about 1,500 lb of Hydra Lift and motorcycle hanging off the back of the rig. This could potentially upset the handling of the coach, but in fact it does just fine, with slightly less pressure in the fronts than normal to compensate for the lighter loading (still staying well within safety margins for tire loading, of course).
I hope this helps.

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