Trailer Tongue Weight Question - too much stuff in Caravan?
Tue, 17 Aug 1999 16:34:16 EDT

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
West Wight Potter Website at URL
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
In a message dated 8/16/99 11:04:04 PM Eastern Daylight Time, writes:

Hi Webgang,

I'm hoping to get some sound advice from one or a few of our trailer gurus...

My P19 and trailer weigh about 2000-2100 pounds (fully loaded with gear. I
weighed the tongue today using a home scale and it read 250 pounds. The
conventional wisdom says that tongue weight should be between 5 and 10% of
total weight, right?

I'm bringing it in tomorrow for a warranty repair on something else --
should I have them move the axle to get the tongue weight down to 200 pounds
or less? What is the effect of having the tongue weight too heavy?

I have noticed that the trailer causes my tow vehicle to "bounce" a bit when
the trailer goes over a bump. (Dodge Grand Caravan with factory tow package
consisting of heavy duty shocks, tranny cooler, factory tow wiring. Rated to
pull 3500 pounds)

Thanks in advance. Judy B
WWP19 #266 Redwing
Sailing SF Bay, CA

Hi Judy:

First, all vehicles bounce a bit when towing a trailer. Anyone tells you
different has been towing for too long... You cannot expect to tow a trailer
that weighs over 2000 lbs without changes in ride and way you drive. All
vehicle manufacturers specify a load leveling hitch and trailer brakes when
towing over 2000 lbs. Dealership personnel are woefully ignorant of towing
needs. (Ask for manufacturer towing manual or read your vehicle towing
instructions)You can correct rear bounce with auxiliary springs or air shocks
in back... About 100 bucks a pair installed at Monroe shock stores sometimes
K or W mart have specials.

I would suggest you weigh rig fully loaded and set hitch weigh at 10% and no

The effect of too heavy a tongue is that front wheels tend to have less weigh
than normal. This makes it slightly harder to steer when road is wet or
slippery. But not that much! Your vehicle weigh and loading have a lot to do
with this. If you check towing specs you will notice mfgs indicate towing
performance with 2 passengers and 2 bags of clothes and no more. When you
threw in that tool box and extra blocks, sheets, sails, coolers (with ice no
less!), food, bedding, etc. you exceeded mfg recs. Perhaps, not trailer weigh
but extra gear causes vehicle bounce (shocks bottoming out?) Another thing
overlooked a lot is that towing over 2000lbs should be done in next lower
gear from HI. (IF OD transmission indicator then you should tow in D only -
This will ensure enough oil flows through radiator and tranny to keep it
cool. - Otherwise you will smell a strange odor when you exit car - odor of
burnt transmission fluid!) I fried my transmission fluid towing Potter in OD
at 70MPH from VA to FL in summer air temp of 90+. The Astro (towing equipped
for 5500#) transmission fluid had a quaint odd stink that stopped as soon as
I had it drained and replaced. In past I had towed my 5000# powerboat all way
to NCarolina and back in D with no problems.

The effect of too light a tongue (less than 10% towed weight) is that trailer
weaves left to right behind vehicle. (This is illegal and dangerous!) If too
light on hitch, weave at 55 MPH may cause vehicle to rollover. I've seen
towed boats swing clear across to other lanes...

Best magazine for trailer towers is "Trailer Boating" mag. This rag is
mostly trailerable powerboats but addresses all towing and towing vehicle
problems. Most other mags are only interested in selling new BIG powerboats.

Solar Fry