April 25, 2024
Learn how to determine your trailer's tongue weight without a scale. This article provides step-by-step instructions and tips for using various methods to estimate tongue weight.

Introduction

Knowing the tongue weight of your trailer is crucial for safe towing. Tongue weight is the amount of weight that your trailer’s tongue places on the hitch of your vehicle. It is important to determine tongue weight to ensure that it falls within the safe range recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Fortunately, you can determine tongue weight without a scale using a variety of methods. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most popular methods for estimating tongue weight.

Using a Bathroom Scale

One of the easiest ways to determine tongue weight is by using a bathroom scale. Here are the steps:

  1. Park your vehicle and trailer on a level surface.
  2. Place the bathroom scale directly under the trailer jack and ensure that the scale is stable.
  3. Lower the trailer jack onto the scale and make sure that it is level.
  4. Read the weight displayed on the scale. This weight is your tongue weight.

It’s important to note that not all bathroom scales are created equal. Look for a scale that has a maximum weight capacity of at least 300 pounds to ensure accuracy.

Additionally, try to avoid placing the scale on uneven ground or gravel as this can cause inaccurate readings. It’s also a good idea to perform this method with a partner to ensure accuracy and safety.

Using a Vehicle’s Suspension

You can use your vehicle’s suspension system to estimate tongue weight. Here’s how:

  1. Park your vehicle and trailer on a level surface.
  2. Attach the trailer to the hitch.
  3. Measure the distance from the ground to the bottom of your vehicle’s bumper without the trailer attached. Record this measurement.
  4. Attach the trailer to the hitch and measure the distance from the ground to the bottom of your vehicle’s bumper with the trailer attached. Record this measurement.
  5. Subtract the second measurement from the first measurement. The resulting measurement is an estimate of your trailer’s tongue weight.

It’s important to note that this method provides an estimate and may not be entirely accurate. Use caution and always double-check with another method if safety is a concern.

Using a Measuring Tape

You can also use a measuring tape to estimate tongue weight. Here’s how:

  1. Park your trailer and vehicle on a level surface.
  2. Measure the distance from the ground to the center of the hitch ball without the trailer attached. Record this measurement.
  3. Attach the trailer to the hitch and measure the distance from the ground to the center of the hitch ball with the trailer attached. Record this measurement.
  4. Subtract the second measurement from the first measurement. The resulting measurement is an estimate of your trailer’s tongue weight.

Again, it’s important to note that this method provides an estimate and may not be entirely accurate. Use caution and always double-check with another method if safety is a concern.

Using the See-Saw Method

The see-saw method provides an alternative way of determining tongue weight. Here’s how it works:

  1. Place a board or pole underneath the trailer’s tongue jack, perpendicular to the tongue.
  2. Place another board or pole under the trailer’s axle or just in front of it, perpendicular to the axle or frame.
  3. Slowly lower the tongue jack until the tongue just starts to lift off of the hitch.
  4. Mark the jack board at the point where it meets the other board or pole.
  5. Lift the tongue jack so that the trailer is level with the ground.
  6. Measure the distance from the mark to the tongue jack using a measuring tape or ruler. This measurement is your tongue weight.

It’s important to note that this method does require some physical strength and is not recommended for those who are not confident in their abilities. Use caution and consider using another method if safety is a concern.

Using a Commercial Tongue Weight Scale

If you don’t mind spending some money, you can invest in a commercial tongue weight scale. Here’s how it works:

  1. Park your trailer on a level surface.
  2. Place the tongue weight scale under the trailer jack and ensure that it is stable.
  3. Lower the trailer jack onto the scale and make sure that it is level.
  4. Read the weight displayed on the scale. This weight is your tongue weight.

The advantage of using a commercial scale is that it provides accurate readings and doesn’t require any math or estimation. However, it can be expensive and may not be feasible for those who only need to determine tongue weight occasionally.

Using the Water Tank Method

You can also use the water tank method to estimate tongue weight. Here’s how:

  1. Park your trailer on a level surface.
  2. Fill a large water tank with water and weigh it on a bathroom scale.
  3. Place the water tank towards the front of your trailer and secure it to the frame or floor.
  4. Attach the trailer to your vehicle’s hitch.
  5. Slowly lower the tongue jack until the trailer starts to lift off of the hitch.
  6. Measure the distance from the hitch to the ground.
  7. Divide the weight of the water tank by the distance measured in step six. The resulting number is your tongue weight.

While this method can be accurate, it does require a significant amount of preparation and cleanup. Additionally, it may not be feasible for those who don’t have access to a large water tank or bathroom scale.

Conclusion

Determining tongue weight is critical for safe towing. While using a scale is the most accurate way to determine tongue weight, there are several methods available for those who don’t have access to one. Whether you choose to use a bathroom scale, your vehicle’s suspension system, a measuring tape, the see-saw method, a commercial tongue weight scale, or the water tank method, it’s important to take the necessary precautions to ensure safety. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations, and make sure that your tongue weight falls within the safe range for your vehicle and trailer.

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