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Old 01-26-2021, 11:50 AM   #1
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Naive question on tongue weight and lightweight trailers

Iím sure this has been asked before, but I canít seem to find the right search terms. We are looking at small travel trailers to tow with an SUV. We would prefer hard sided but are quickly figuring out that manufacturers are Ďjuicingí the numbers a smidge to get them under the magic 5000/500 numbers for towing capacity and tongue weight.

I looked at a model that seems like it would be a good fit for our family, but while the dry weight is right around 3000lbs, the tongue weight is over 400! And I understand that by the time you add propane/batteries/etc youíre over that 500lb limit.

What Iím wondering is why you canít tow with better weight distribution in the trailer. E.g. put the propane tanks and anything else heavy in the back of the trailer, or maybe center if sway is an issue. We donít plan on many months at a timeómore looking for a weekend camper, so I donít see us hauling 1000+lbs of gear with us and overloading the overall weight and I have no problem filling tanks at or close to a campground instead of doing a long drive with them.

Iím sure this is a totally dumb question, but can someone explain why?

(And Iíve over hauled before by accidentónot an experience I have any interest in repeating, so Iím trying to be careful!!)
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Old 01-26-2021, 11:55 AM   #2
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bad idea to lighten the tongue weight which needs to be 10-15% in order to avoid dangerous sway.

Dave
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Old 01-26-2021, 11:56 AM   #3
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https://www.weigh-safe.com/towing-sa...tongue-weight/

https://auto.howstuffworks.com/auto-...gue-weight.htm

https://www.torklift.com/blog/entry/...-tow-a-trailer
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Old 01-26-2021, 12:14 PM   #4
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Welcome to iRV2.

Thanks for taking the time to look into weights and towing safely.

Maintaining a certain % of trailer weight on the tongue , is important for proper handling; and relocating some items ( battery and propane tanks is not usually an option) like food and clothing in the trailer and towing without water on board to balance trailer weight is possible.
JMHO: The minimum load on the tongue of a travel trailer is 10% of total weight , with many set ups requiring more to handle properly 12>14%.
Right at the moment though , I believe you need to look at the SUV , before you go further .
You've mentioned family ; your SUV if rated as max tow 5,000lbs; is probably rated with driver only when towing at max. So every pound added to the SUV , family, pets? and other stuff , has to be deducted from max tow .
Please , load up your SUV as you think you would for a weekend out and fill it with fuel and drive over the scales , to get your axle weights , so you can compare the actual weights to the ratings of the axles and tires , to see if adding 450/500lbs to the rear is possible without exceeding the ratings.

EDIT: I see Dave posted while I was typing , boy I type slow , sorry for any duplication.
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Old 01-26-2021, 12:15 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Dave Pelletier View Post
bad idea to lighten the tongue weight which needs to be 10-15% in order to avoid dangerous sway.

Dave
Yes, I watched the video that was posted and definitely not interested in that! But in this case thereís a big discrepancy between tongue weight and total weight, so keeping the tongue weight lighter through proper load distribution would still keep it within 10-15%. This is where Iím getting confused!
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Old 01-26-2021, 12:34 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Skip426 View Post
Welcome to iRV2.

Thanks for taking the time to look into weights and towing safely.

Maintaining a certain % of trailer weight on the tongue , is important for proper handling; and relocating some items ( battery and propane tanks is not usually an option) like food and clothing in the trailer and towing without water on board to balance trailer weight is possible.
JMHO: The minimum load on the tongue of a travel trailer is 10% of total weight , with many set ups requiring more to handle properly 12>14%.
Right at the moment though , I believe you need to look at the SUV , before you go further .
You've mentioned family ; your SUV if rated as max tow 5,000lbs; is probably rated with driver only when towing at max. So every pound added to the SUV , family, pets? and other stuff , has to be deducted from max tow .
Please , load up your SUV as you think you would for a weekend out and fill it with fuel and drive over the scales , to get your axle weights , so you can compare the actual weights to the ratings of the axles and tires , to see if adding 450/500lbs to the rear is possible without exceeding the ratings.

EDIT: I see Dave posted while I was typing , boy I type slow , sorry for any duplication.

Thanks for the added info! I have a Volvo XC90Ėin looking at the GVWR, itís my understanding that theyíve been somewhat conservative. The GVWR for the vehicle is 6370 and as configured my car is 5013lbs. Adding in 100lbs of kids/car seats, 300lbs of us, and 500 hitch weight gives us about 400 pounds of gear, if my math is right?

Apologies if Iím being obtuse. Iím trying to wrap my head around whatís pushing things and whatís safe so we donít get drawn in by a salesman who just wants to sell!
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Old 01-26-2021, 12:46 PM   #7
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Apologies if Iím being obtuse. Iím trying to wrap my head around whatís pushing things and whatís safe so we donít get drawn in by a salesman who just wants to sell!
No apology required , you're asking questions that relate to you, and your family's safety . This is an area where you need to be sure.

Years back , I had a salesman say ( when I was looking at a 5er's weight sticker) , " You've got a 3/4 ton 4X4 , you can tow anything you want ."
I couldn't get off the lot fast enough.
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Old 01-26-2021, 01:08 PM   #8
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Yes, I watched the video that was posted and definitely not interested in that! But in this case thereís a big discrepancy between tongue weight and total weight, so keeping the tongue weight lighter through proper load distribution would still keep it within 10-15%. This is where Iím getting confused!
400lbs on a 3,000 dry trailer weight is 13%. Consider 10% bare minimum and every trailer tows differently - I personally try to stay between 12% minimum and 15%. It would seem that the manufacturer of your trailer thinks it needs 13%+ (battery, propane).

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Old 01-27-2021, 07:15 AM   #9
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The veritable here is we are not sure what Travel Trailer you will finally purchase. If we use the 3,000 lb. mark as stated for a base line TT your SUV still has a maximum of 2,000 lbs towing capacity.
2021 Volvo XC90/Towing capacity 4,000 to 5,000 lbs.. That would mean a 500lb. hitch weight is in a 10% range or 13% of 4000lbs.
If I have followed your numbers correctly, IMO youíll run out of TT manufacturers GVWR before you get to the maximum tow rating of the TV. Even your numbers loaded up with the family will not exceed your TV GVWR with a 500 lb hitch weight.
I am not suggesting by any means look at larger unit there is a natural margin for safety in the configuration you are looking at. It is obvious youíve done some homework.
I am no expert in load distribution hitches, perhaps that needs to be your next question.
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Old 01-27-2021, 08:20 AM   #10
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Is load distribution even possible on that Volvo?

Before you go to deep searching, look through your Volvo owner's manual in the towing section. Is it even possible/safe to contemplate using a WDH (weight distributing hitch) on that Volvo? Most vehicles of that type construction do not permit it, although a handful here have promoted it using various homemade and unproven frame reinforcements.

Myself? I don't recommend it. I doubt any traiiler in the 2000lb+ category would tow well without that behind that vehicle.
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Old 01-27-2021, 08:26 AM   #11
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My philosophy has always been .... if you have doubt about the towing ability of your vehicle, then it probably is not a good vehicle to tow with at all.

You have doubts. You have your own answer.
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Old 01-27-2021, 08:47 AM   #12
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https://www.irv2.com/forums/f45/ultr...ue-516358.html

Check out my previous post about ultralight trailer tongue weight.

This is my real world experience, my trailer is 2700 lbs dry, 3500 lbs gvwr, single axle with 405 lbs tongue weight according to manufacturer. I weigh the rig in camping setup and the tongue is about 800 lbs, almost twice.

Be careful of these single axle ultralight trailers, their tongue weight could be way out of the limit of class iii hitch receivers.
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Old 01-27-2021, 09:00 AM   #13
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Since this is your first camping trailer experience keep the numbers low. Not that you need another consideration but campers are like pulling a big parachute. They are tall, wide and create a lot of air drag. Give serious consideration to a pop up. Lighter, smaller and cheaper. If the camping thing works for the family after a season you can evaluate your options.
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Old 01-27-2021, 10:51 AM   #14
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Lots of good advice posted above!

I now have my second single axle TT. Tongue weights for both were more than double the published tongue weight. I made modifications to the TT's reduce the tongue weight. I never got the weight down to the weight on the mfg sticker.

Many of us started out thinking we could tow at the Dry Weight or Unloaded Weight. I did not come close. Neither has anyone else that I know of. Except in certain conditions most TT on the road today are close to the Maximum Gross Vehicle Weight (MGVW) of the TT.

For planning purposes, it is best to use the MGVW of the TT. Even at that, if you push the limits of the tow vehicle, you will have to drive slowly and leave much longer stopping distances.

Driving 60 mph on an Interstate or a Texas highway can be annoying.

I wish you good luck and happy trails ahead!
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