What is tongue weight? A 101 Complete Guide

  • Post category:Guide & Tips
  • Post published:June 6, 2022
  • Post last modified:June 6, 2022
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  • Reading time:9 mins read

Towing tongue weight is critical since incorrect tongue weight might cause driving dangers. The trailer may swing back and forth if the tongue weight is too little (less than 10% of the total trailer weight). Your vehicle may become less sensitive, especially when turning and braking, if the tongue weight is greater than 15%.

So today we are going to cover up all the necessary information regarding tongue weight to clear your thoughts. Try to read the article carefully to understand your necessary queries. 

Tongue weight 101 featured image

What is Tongue weight?

It’s the downward tension exerted by the tongue of a trailer on the towing vehicle’s hitch. In other words, the force exerted on the hitch ball by the trailer tongue. The right trailer tongue weight might mean the difference between a safe and deadly trailer towing trip. Therefore understanding tongue weight is very important.

How to calculate Tongue weight?

Whenever you are towing you need to understand the calculation of tongue weight. It isn’t difficult to calculate tongue weight. In fact, with enough practice, you’ll soon be an expert at determining tongue weight, and your trailer’s handling will reflect this.

Straightforwardly Subtract the weight of the car without the trailer from the weight of the vehicle with the trailer. The discrepancy is due to the trailer’s tongue weight. That’s it. 

Steps to check the Tongue weight

To check tongue weight, use a commercial scale or a bathroom scale with the coupler at towing height, or find out what your Gross Towing Weight rating is and subtract 10% from that amount. The tongue weight of a trailer should be between 7 and 10% of the entire gross towing weight, according to the majority of experts. If the tongue of the trailer does not exert enough downward force on the towing vehicle’s hitch ball, trailer instability might result.

For example, if my trailer hitch has a towing capacity of 5000 pounds, the tongue weight will be roughly 320-500 pounds.

What is the ideal tongue weight?

Your tongue weight, also known as your Gross Trailer Weight, should be between 10% and 15% of the overall weight of your loaded trailer (GTW). This is the ideal measurement of tongue weight which all should maintain. Otherwise, it can create many problems on the road while you’re traveling and can cause some major damage as well. 

What are the risks if you don’t measure tongue weight properly?

Measuring tongue weight is very important. The tongue weight is the static force exerted on the hitch ball by the trailer tongue. The right trailer tongue weight might mean the difference between a safe and deadly trailer towing trip.

If there isn’t enough weight on the tongue of the trailer, it may swing from side to side, making it difficult to manage. If you place too much weight on the hitch ball, however, the force can overload the tow vehicle’s back tires and cause it to spin.

This could influence handling, you might not be able to travel through corners and curves as smoothly, and your car may not stop quickly enough when you apply the brake pedal. It can create an accident as well. So, it’s very important to maintain tongue weight properly.

Hitch weight vs Tongue weight: Is it the same?

Well basically yes! Both tongue weight and hitch weight refer to the force that a bumper pull trailer exerts on the hitch.

It all depends on who uses which phrase. A weight-distributing (WD) hitch or any additional weight added to the tongue is normally not included in trailer specifications. Hitch weight is calculated by adding the weight of the weight distribution hitch and any extra weight on the tongue of the trailer. When reading receiver hitch specs, the tongue weight specification implies hitch weight, or tongue weight plus the weight of a weight-distribution hitch, plus the weight of anything riding on the tongue, such as bicycles.

Does hitch height affect tongue weight?

Yes, the hitch height will affect the tongue weight. The hitch will lean backwards if it is too high for the travel trailer, resulting in a sloping profile and unequal weight distribution. This will make you less aerodynamic, and your trailer will be more prone to catch the wind and swing.

So, we suggest you not travel if your hitch height is too high or low. Better to solve this problem or buy a proper mount ball which can reduce most of this kind of problem. 

How much tongue weight can my truck handle?

For trucks, you need to keep knowledge about payload, tongue weight, and other things as well. Because the tongue weight of the trailer can limit how many people can ride in the cab and how many items can be carried in the bed, it’s also critical to know your truck’s payload capacity and to calculate the tongue weight into the truck’s payload.

These are important numbers: The tongue weight of your truck should be 10 to 15% of the trailer’s entire weight; for example, if you’re towing 5,000 pounds, the tongue load should be 500 to 750 pounds.

If your truck is capable of towing the trailer you’re towing, it should also be capable of towing the weight that the trailer places on the hitch.

Keep in mind that the tongue weight of the trailer must be added to the truck’s payload, thus the 500 to 750 pounds in the example above must be added to the truck’s gross vehicle weight (GVW).

Is tongue weight included in trailer GVWR?

GVWR means Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the maximum overall safe weight of your vehicle, including the curb weight (the weight of our vehicle when empty), passengers, gasoline, any extra equipment, baggage, and the “tongue weight” of a tow trailer. 

Tongue weight is not included in GVWR. You Have to subtract the trailer weight from the GVWR to get the maximum payload capacity. The amount of your trailer’s weight that passes to your tow vehicle via the tongue or gooseneck is known as tongue weight. Any validated scale can be used to determine tongue weight.

Is tongue weight considered payload?

The maximum amount of weight that may be safely added to a truck’s cargo space in addition to its empty weight is referred to as its payload capacity (or curb weight). Towing capacity, on the other hand, refers to the maximum weight a vehicle can tow after taking into account the truck’s weight as well as any cargo. So yes, the tongue weight is also included in the payload. 

Is it better to have the trailer tongue higher or lower?

No, a nose-up trailer can cause major issues. A level trailer is ideal and worth pursuing for safety reasons. So better to keep it at a level and for that try to use a perfect ball mount that will evenly distribute the height.

If you can’t get the trailer level even with an adjustable ball mount, it’s better to have its nose down as long as the hitch and vehicle’s tongue weight capacity aren’t exceeded. If a trailer’s nose is pushed up too far, the tongue weight is insufficient to keep the trailer from swaying.

In conclusion, the level is the greatest option. If levelling isn’t an option, consider going slightly nose down. Slightly nose up is acceptable, but watch for trailer sway.

Is it ok to have Tongue Weight Too Heavy?

No, it’s not ok. Tongue weight cannot be abnormally high or low. It has to be just about right balanced like the weights of two individuals on a playground seesaw. Weight modifications are required if the tongue weight of a trailer is not properly balanced.

So, what happens if the tongue weight is too heavy? If your tongue weight exceeds your tow vehicle’s hitch weight or cargo capacity, you risk overloading the tow vehicle’s rear axle. Tire blowouts, broken studs, bottomed-out springs, bent axles, and a variety of other issues can result.

Also read: How to reduce tongue weight on a trailer?

Is it safe to have Tongue Weight Too Light?

No, it is not safe to have a tongue weight too light. As we said earlier it can be slightly low which is acceptable but if the tongue weight is evenly distributed that is preferable. The trailer may be difficult to manage and swing from side to side if there is inadequate weight on the tongue.

The cargo must be relocated ahead of the trailer’s axle if the tongue is too light. The tongue of the trailer does not exert enough downward force on the tow vehicle’s hitch ball when the tongue weight is too light.

This causes trailer sway, a potentially dangerous situation in which the trailer may slip off the ball and lose contact with the tow vehicle. It can hamper your life and others. So better to maintain you’re your tongue weight properly.

Measuring the tongue weight on A trailer (Video)


In the above discussion, we tried to give you all the information which is commonly asked and faced by many people. Having and facing these problems are very common in your early days. But knowledge and experience make you perfect day by day.

So, we hope that you read this information carefully because it’s better to stay advanced before doing anything which I believe. After all, I had a bad experience with some of these problems in the middle of the road. So that was all. Stay connected with us. Have a safe journey!

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