Disclosure: Please note this post may contain affiliate links. This means – at no additional cost to you – I earn a commission if you make a purchase using our affiliate links. I only link to products and companies I use and feel comfortable recommending. The income goes toward supporting the free content on this website
Flat Towing Vehicles – Tow Bar And Base Plate
Number one, you are going to need a tow bar and a base plate to make flat towing a success.
The tow bar goes in the hitch of your RV and has arms that extend out. Then the base plate attaches to your towed vehicle.
And the base plate is what the arms of the tow bar connect to. Then it can pull your vehicle down the road safely.
Now before you buy any vehicle out there, make sure that a base plate is available for it. The reason I say that is these days it’s hard even getting tow vehicles. Especially with the supply chain issues we are facing now.
But even if you get the vehicle, you may find that the base plate is not available for some reason.
So before you get any tow vehicle make sure you can get the base plate to connect to that vehicle for your tow bar to connect to.
What About Installation?
Now the next thing to decide is whether you’re going to install the base plate yourself or not.
Now if you’re not really mechanically inclined, I have a suggestion for you. You probably should have someone who knows what they’re doing do it for you.
That’s because base plates require a lot of alteration in many cases to the towed vehicle. Sometimes things have to be cut out or screwed in to make it work.
And if you don’t know what you’re doing you may not do it right. So first off, decide whether you’re going to install it or not.
If you’re not going to do it, get somebody who’s really good about making those kind of alterations to vehicles. And have them do it instead.
Flat Towing Vehicles – What About Weight?
Then the next thing is to get a tow bar that fits that vehicle. Now the reason I say that is that some vehicles are very light. Like a Fiat 500. And almost any tow bar is going to work with that.
But suppose you want to pull a full-size truck. Well then, that’s quite a bit more weight.
And you probably should make sure that you get a really heavy duty tow bar that’s going to fit that kind of weight. So match the tow bar with the weight of your vehicle.
The next thing to consider is what brand are you going to buy. And there’s two major brands on the market. One is Blue Ox and the other is Roadmaster.
Honestly, either one is great. But you’re going to hear from people that say this one’s better or that one’s better.
The reality though, is they both are used extensively by RVers all over the place. And with very good success. So just make your choice and go with it. You really can’t go wrong either way.
Flat Towing Vehicles – The Braking System
Alright, so that’s your tow bar and base plate. Now the second thing you’re going to need is a braking system for that towed vehicle.
And that’s because when you’re going down the road, the car is not on. It’s turned off. And there’s no way for the brakes to be working in any way while you’re traveling down the road.
So you have to come up with a braking system for it. Because it’s a whole additional weight that you’re pulling back there.
If there’s braking on the towed vehicle, it makes it so much easier for the RV’s brakes. Now you have a couple of choices here for braking for your towed vehicle.
Built-In Braking Systems
Number one, you can get a built-in system that’s super easy and super convenient when you’re towing. Because all you have to do is just plug it into the RV’s wiring harness. And you’re ready to go.
Now it works on inertia. So when you put on the brakes in a car you lurch a little forward usually, right?
When the inertia brake detects that there’s a lurching forward, it pushes that arm and depresses the brake pedal.
So suppose you put on the brakes in the RV and and lurch forward some? Then in the towed vehicle, that device senses it and it puts the brake on back there too. And generally they work pretty well in most situations.
Inertia Braking Cons
But here’s the con with those kind of inertia brakes. They must be set up every time you tow. You can’t just leave it in there.
It’s not a set it and forget it device. You’ve got to put it in and take it out every time that you tow.
But the good news is that it can be transferred from one vehicle to another. So it’s not like a built-in braking system. Because it’s really hard to take that out once you’ve installed it.
And that’s because you’ve made it part of your braking system. With an inertia brake though, if you decide you want a different tow vehicle back there, just change the vehicle and the inertia brake can be used with it.
So it’s very convenient in that respect. But it takes a lot more work to put it in and take it out of the towed vehicle every time.
So when it comes to braking, you have your choice. Do you want the convenience of just plugging in every time, in a matter of minutes? And then being ready to go for your braking?
Or do you want to save money with the inertia brake? Because they’re much less expensive than buying the built-in brake and having it installed. So that’s your choice.
Flat Towing Vehicles – Lighting Systems
Now let’s move to our third thing that we are going to need for flat towing. And that is a lighting system for the towed vehicle.
So that when you put the brakes on in the RV, the brake lights in back of the towed vehicle come on too. That way people can see that you are stopping. Or when you put your turn signals on so they see that you’re turning.
Now once again there’s two options you could go with. There is a built-in option. And it’s going to require a lot of installation.
It’s not quite as involved as the braking system. But it’s going to be expensive to have someone install it for you.
Now if you do it yourself, that’ll be fine. But you better know what you’re doing when you tie in to your towed vehicle’s electrical system.
The good news is that once you do, all you do is just hook into the motorhome wiring harness. And your towing lights are all set.
Then when you put on your turn signals in the RV, they go on in the towed vehicle too. And when you put on your brakes in the RV, the lights go on back there too. And the same with your driving lights as well.
So it’s very easy, very convenient. And just plug and play so to speak. However, there is also another way to go.
Auxiliary Lighting Systems
You can buy an auxiliary lighting system instead. And these are usually made up of magnetic lights that go on the back of the towed vehicle.
They usually sit right up there on the roof. They just stick on with the provided magnets.
And then there’s a wiring system that hooks into the wiring harness of the RV. Now the great thing about these auxiliary lights is that they’re super inexpensive.
In fact, they’re only about 20 or 30 dollars for a set. And you’re off to the races.
The con is that you’re going to have to set them up every single time you tow. And you have to be careful with where you place them.
Because if you put the wiring on your vehicle’s paint, sometimes the movement of the wind can cause the wiring to scar the paint. So you have to be careful with the way that you set it up every time.
And here again there’s a choice to be made. Are you going to spend the money to have a built-in lighting system installed? Or are you going to use the auxiliary lighting instead? It’s entirely up to you.
Well, those are three things you’re going to need to think about before you get that towed vehicle. What I recommend is, before you buy whatever vehicle you’re getting, do your homework.
Number one, find out if that vehicle can be flat towed. Because not all of them can.
If it can, find out if it has a base plate available for it. And then choose your tow bar and base plate.
After that, you have two more decisions to make. Are you going to put in a built-in braking and lighting system? Or use an auxiliary one instead. There’s pros and cons either way you go.
Well that’s it for now. Have safe and happy travels. Until next time…..
Disclosure: Please note this post may contain affiliate links. This means – at no additional cost to you – I earn a commission if you make a purchase using our affiliate links. I only link to products and companies I use and feel comfortable recommending. The income goes toward supporting the free content on this website
What Happened When My RV Tow Bar Broke
So immediately we had to get off the highway. And move over a couple of lanes of traffic as we did. Of course, you can imagine how difficult that can be with a big rig!
Finally, we got into an area where it was safe enough to stop. And cars were whizzing by at 75 and 80 miles an hour.
Now I’ve got to apologize to you because I see these RV YouTube channels where things like this happens.
And the first thing that comes to their mind is to grab that video camera. Then go out there and video the whole mess, or at least take a few pictures.
Well I apologize because that was the last thing on my mind at that point. I’ve got to tell you, in situations like that I feel a lot of stress and anxiety.
So the only thing that was on my mind was to get this situation resolved safely. And then try to get back on the road in a safe manner.
So I don’t have any video or pictures to show you of what actually happened. But as a first person account, I can tell you it was very stressful.
It was really challenging, and I don’t want to have to go through that again anytime soon.
But what happened there, the breaking of that towbar, set things in motion. Things that really taught me some very good lessons. And made me glad I had done what I did before we left on this trip.
Lesson #1 Learned When My RV Tow Bar Broke
So let’s start with lesson number one. And that is to make sure that you have a really good functioning rear camera.
Now I had a rear camera in my 2004 Newmar Kountry Star. But when a rig is that old, there’s all kinds of little issues that develop with various components.
And sure enough, in the last year or so, I started having trouble with that camera. It would just sort of go out on me all of a sudden without warning.
And it could be out for a minute or it could be out for an hour or more. So during that time I wouldn’t know what’s going on behind me.
Now when I realized that this was going to be an ongoing problem, I got somebody working on it. First of all, I replaced the camera and that didn’t solve the problem.
Then I had some other people try to diagnose it. And as soon as they looked at it, it was not showing any problem at all. It was functioning fine.
So I got to thinking about it. And I kind of figured that this really sounds like it’s more of an electrical problem. Maybe a short somewhere in the wiring system.
Now I’m sure there are some of you who know a lot about electrical issues and shorts. And if so, you know you could spend forever looking for this kind of thing and still not find it. Meanwhile, it could become very expensive.
RV Rear Camera Systems Can Be Challenging For Big Rigs
So I finally decided, I’ve had enough of this. I’m just going to buy a new wireless rear camera and install it myself.
But that has its own set of issues. Just go on Amazon and start reading about rear view cameras for RVs.
You’ll see that there’s a lot of folks that complain that they don’t work very well for long RVs. I mean for short ones they’re okay.
But when you get up to 35 to 40 feet and beyond, a lot of RVers were complaining. They said that they just didn’t have enough signal to reach that far.
So I just kept looking. Finally I finally found a rear view camera system that said it was designed for longer rigs. And I got it.
Well, boy am I glad I did! Because that’s how I knew that the tow bar had broke.
How The Rear Camera Helped When MY RV Tow Bar Broke
While I’m driving, I always make a visual sweep of my gauges that are in front of me. And of my mirrors as I’m going down the road.
So I check from time to time on a regular basis to make sure that everything’s where it should be.
And while I was visually sweeping my gauges, I looked up into my rear view camera. When I did, there’s my car back there moving from side to side as I’m going down the highway.
Now it should be following straight behind me, but it wasn’t. In fact, there was a couple of times I could see it in my side mirror.
So I knew right away that there was a major problem with the tow bar. And that meant I had to get over to the side of the road and get this resolved before it got worse.
Sure enough, seeing that situation in the rear view camera really saved me. Because if I hadn’t gotten over then, there’s a very good chance that the second bar would have broken too. And that could have been really bad!
So my first lesson is simple. Always make sure that you have a good functioning rear view camera when towing. That way you know what’s going on back there with your towed vehicle.
Lesson #2 Learned When My RV Tow Bar Broke
Now let’s get to lesson number two. And that is to always make sure that you have a good functioning tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS). One that has sensors for your RV and for the vehicle behind it too.
Now I wrote an article a while back on RV tire pressure. And I covered how to manually make sure your tire pressures are where they should be.
I also explained how to check the tire pressure before you leave out on a trip. And it’s still very good advice.
But I got to thinking about RV towing in more detail. And I thought that’s great for my motorhome. But what about the vehicle I tow behind the RV?
I might be able to tell something’s wrong with the motorhome’s tires as I’m going down the road. But I will never know if the tires are having a problem in the towed vehicle.
Horror Stories I’ve Heard About Towing
And I’ve heard some stories that aren’t really very encouraging in regards to this. I’ve read about people towing a car, and they have a flat tire that they never feel in the RV.
So the flat tire just gets worse and worse. And then the rubber wears away and you have the rim right on pavement.
Now when you continue driving with the rim on pavement, it’s very easy to start throwing sparks. And I’ve even heard of situations where this has gone on for many, many miles. Finally the sparks can cause a fire in the towed vehicle.
So all of this was on my mind. And I decided then to not only install a TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) unit on my motorhome. But also make sure there were enough sensors for that towed vehicle as well.
A Near Tire Blowout When My RV Tow Bar Broke
And once again, boy am I glad I did! Because remember I said that when one thing went wrong, other problems developed from it.
Well when the tow bar broke, it meant I had to get a new one. So I ordered one in right away. But I noticed it was really stiff from the factory.
I mean it was so stiff that I could barely pull the two connecting bars apart. But I thought if it’s coming from the factory that way, maybe there’s a reason for it being that stiff initially. And maybe it’ll loosen up pretty quickly.
So I went ahead and installed it. Then I hooked the tow vehicle up, and down the highway I went.
Well it wasn’t long going down the highway before my TPMS unit alarm starts going off. And it’s telling me that both front tires have reached the danger zone for internal tire temperature.
Why You Need A Good RV TPMS
This because the good TPMS units don’t just tell you about your tire pressure. They also tell you what the temperature is inside each tire.
And at 200 degrees or so inside a tire, that’s about the point where they start coming apart. So the TPMS unit warns you at 165 degrees.
Well, both my front tires were at 165 degrees inside the tire. So of course, we pull right over immediately. And we unhooked the CRV. Then we caravanned on to the next stop.
As we were driving, I got to thinking that it can’t be the tires themselves. Because you wouldn’t have two of them having a problem at the same time.
I also knew that tow bar was pretty stiff. So at the rest stop I loosened up that tow bar a little bit. Then I adjusted it some more and got it to where it was much more pliable.
What’s Happened Since I Got A TPMS
Now the good news is that since I did that I haven’t had any problem with my CRV’s front tires. Especially not while towing.
So my point is this. Suppose I hadn’t had those sensors on my tires in the tow vehicle. In that case, I would never have known what was going on as I was towing the car down the highway.
So I probably would have been blissfully driving along while the tire temperature just kept rising. And eventually I could have had two blowouts, not just one. You can imagine how difficult that could have been!
So both things that I addressed before I left on the trip, actually came into good use. And I wanted to share that with you so hopefully it will be of some benefit for you.
Let’s Review The Lessons Learned When My RV Tow Bar Broke
Now let’s review. Number one is make sure you have a good functioning rear view camera system. And that’s true whether you’re flat towing or using a tow dolly.
It is also important whether you have a towable RV behind you or you are towing a small vehicle behind a motorized RV.
Whatever your setup is, make sure that you can see what’s going on back there.
But then take that one step further. And have a tire pressure monitoring system installed too. One that includes not only the tow vehicle, but what’s being towed behind as well.
That way you will know what’s going on with the towed vehicle’s tires. Because that’s really where the rubber literally meets the road.
Now the good news in all of this is this. So far both of these systems, the rear view camera and the TPMS, have functioned beautifully.
And I can say that I have a lot more peace of mind now. Because of knowing that I have this information readily available to me as I drive.
So I know about what’s going on, not only in the vehicle I’m driving, but in the one I’m towing too.
Now I’m going to put links to both of those systems here. And that way you can look at them and see what you think.
And if you think it’s something that might work for you, then great! Because both of these systems have worked very well for me.
Of course, whatever you decide to do is fine. But I highly recommend that you get that rear camera installed and make sure it’s working. And then get a TPMS for your RV and put some sensors on your towed vehicle as well.
Well that’s it for now. Have safe and happy travels my friends. Until next time…
In this article we’re going to be talking about RV weight. And how to know what your RV should weigh.
Now I know that there’s some folks that just go and buy an RV. And when they do, they buy it, and off they go to enjoy their RVing adventures.
But if you do that, the problem is that you’re not giving consideration to your RV’s weight. Or in other words, how much your RV should weigh safely.
And without knowing that information, you could be putting yourself and your loved ones at serious risk. And nobody wants to do that.
So in this article we’re going to discuss RV weight ratings. And help explain them so that you can make sure that you’re RVing safely.
RV Weight – Why It’s So Important
You know, with RV’s, sooner or later it all comes back to weight. It’s so true!
It simply means that the bigger your RV is. The wider it is. The more luxuries and amenities that you’re carrying along. Well then, the bigger engine you must have to move that weight down the road.
But it doesn’t stop there! You have to have a bigger transmission. And you have to have a beefier suspension. You also have to have bigger brakes, etc.
Now some folks assume that if the engine can move it all down the road, then everything is fine. But that’s not the case.
This is because with too much weight, your transmission could easily break. With too much weight, you could be going down the road, but you can’t stop that RV in a safe distance.
And with too much weight maybe the suspension breaks down. It could affect your tires too. Because too much weight on the tires will cause them to run hot. And they could even blow out.
So you can see where I’m going with this. Weight is very important when it comes to RVs.
RV Weight Ratings – Why We Need Them
And that’s why RV manufacturers do their best to help us out. They publish a list of weight ratings for each RV.
And there’s a spot somewhere on every RV that tells you what the RV weight ratings are for that particular RV.
As long as you stay within those weight ratings, you’re fine. You’re operating the RV the way it was designed and in a safe manner.
But some folks kind of get scared about these weight ratings. The truth is though, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know about how weight ratings work.
There’s really only a few things that you need to know about to be able to travel safely.
And what we’re going to do in this article is identify those weight ratings first. Then I’ll explain them, so you can understand them.
And that way you can use them correctly as you go down the road with your RV.
So let’s get started. First of all, I’ll explain what the weight ratings are for RV’s and what they mean.
RV Weight Rating #1 – GVWR
So let’s identify our first weight rating that we want to talk about. And that is the GVWR.
It stands for “gross vehicle weight rating”. Now what does that mean?
Well here’s the sort of everyday definition. It’s the most that a vehicle can safely weigh while traveling down the road. So what does that mean?
Well it means that it includes the total weight of any vehicle that’s on the road. And that includes the driver, the passengers, cargo, fuel, and any accessories that you’ve added to that vehicle.
Whatever that vehicle weighs with everything in it and on it, it cannot exceed the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).
That’s the maximum weight that you can safely propel down the highway with that vehicle.
RV Weight Rating #2 – GAWR
Now let’s go to the second weight rating. And that is the GAWR. It stands for “gross axle weight rating”.
And the everyday definition is that it’s the most weight that any one axle can support while traveling down the road. Now why is that important?
Well, you may have your total weight under the GVWR. But that weight may be distributed in an uneven way. So one axle may have way too much weight on it and it can’t safely support that weight.
So then, using these two weight ratings together helps us understand whether the weight is under the safe limit. But also whether it’s distributed and proportioned correctly.
Now using these two weight ratings, let’s actually see it at work on a vehicle.
An Example Of How To Use Weight Ratings
Now to illustrate how these weight ratings actually work, we’re going to use the example of our little towed vehicle. Our 2011 CRV.
If you open the driver’s door and you look inside on the pillar you’re going to see a label right there. Like this:
And that label is very common to almost all passenger vehicles. You’re usually going to see a label of some kind somewhere around the front door.
When you look at the label right at the top, you are going to see the vehicle’s GVWR. That’s the most that vehicle should safely weigh.
Then you also have GAWR for the front axle and you have GAWR for the rear axle. And they tell you what the RV weight rating should be on each axle.
Now they they usually have the weight listed in kilograms. But of course, we use pounds. So the GVWR for my little CRV is 4560 pounds.
That’s the most that it should weigh going down the road. And the front axle at most should have 2310 pounds on it. The rear axle at most should have 2290 pounds on it. Now let’s see that in action on the car itself.
Let’s Put It All Together
Here’s a side picture of my little CRV. So the total that vehicle weighs as it travels down the road is the GVWR. And it should not be more than 4580 pounds.
But then we break it out to the front axle and the rear axle too. And the rear axle should never have more than 2 290 pounds, the front axle never more than 2310 pounds.
Now suppose that I am within the GVWR and each axle rating as well. Then I am operating this vehicle the way that it was designed by the manufacturer. And in a safe manner as I’m going down the road.
So that’s how these weight ratings work. Now the important point to understand here is that this principle applies to all vehicles going down the road.
So if you have a motorhome, then the motorhome has to conform to the same guidelines. It has a GVWR, a total weight limit. It also has limits on each axle, the GAWR.
You need to find both of those weight ratings and work with them to make sure that you’re operating them safely.
RV Weight Ratings
Well that’s a close look at GVWR and GAWR for RVs and what they mean. Let’s see how we can use those weight ratings in real life.
First of all, suppose you have a motorhome that doesn’t tow a vehicle behind it. Then GVWR and GAWR may be the only weight ratings that you really need to know about.
For instance, suppose you have a Class B motorhome or a small Class C. They’re both small enough that a lot of RVers just use them for their around town vehicle too.
And it would work fine for that. So there’s no need for a towed vehicle at that point. And really the only weight ratings that you need to focus on in that case are the ones for the motorhome itself.
Once again, you find the RV weight ratings on the label inside your RV first.
Now how do you find out though, how much that motorhome or your RV actually weighs? Well that’s a fairly simple process.
How To Find Out What Your RV Weighs
The first thing you need to do is make sure that you take your RV and put everything in it. All the stuff that you’re going to use going down the highway.
For instance, you need to make sure you have the passengers in it that you will be taking with you.
You also need to have a full tank of fuel. And make sure you have a full tank of propane too.
Also include whatever fresh water or wastewater that you feel you’ll normally have traveling down the road.
Then make sure you’ve got all the cargo that you’re going to be taking with you too. In other words, everything that normally would be with you as you’re going down the highway.
Once you have the RV outfitted that way, now you need to take it to a scale to have that RV weighed. That way you know whether you’re within the stated weight ratings of that RV or not.
How To Find A Scale For Your RV
Now I personally like to use CAT Scales to do that. CAT Scale is a company that produces weight scales mainly for truckers to use.
You know, truckers really have to know what’s going on with their vehicle weight. And they’re checked very often to make sure they’re not overweight.
So CAT Scale places these heavy duty scales all across the country. And there’s a lot of them.
It’s kind of rare if you don’t have one within driving distance to where you are. But you can use their scales to also weigh your RV to compare with your RV weight ratings.
But now how do you find a CAT Scale? Well the good news is the company has a website that you can use to do that. And it’s called catscale.com.
How To Use The CAT Scale Locator
So here is how you can use their website to find a scale that’s close to you. On catscale.com all you need to do is go up to the top menu and there you will find the CAT scale locator.
Press that and you will come up with the locator page. As you go down the page, first of all there’s a section there where you can enter in where you’re located. And it’ll pull up however many scale locations that are in that area.
So you can do it that way. Or you could also go a little farther down the page. And there you’ve got a map of all the CAT Scales in the country.
Then you can zoom in anywhere you want and find where the CAT scales are that are nearby. By using their website, you should be able to find something that’s usable around the area where you are.
So that’s how you can use catscale.com to find a scale that’s close to you.
RV Weight – Weighing Your RV
Now you’ll find that many of these scales are at large truck centers. At places like Loves, TA’s, Petros and Flying J’s. And the first time you pull in there you might feel kind of intimidated.
You’re there with the big rigs all around you and it is intimidating. You may even question whether you even belong back there at that scale with them. Let me assure you though, you do belong.
The truth is they will weigh anything, as long as they get paid for it. So here’s what I normally do before I get on the scale.
I’ll usually go inside to the counter first. And I’ll tell the person there that I have an RV and that I’ll be weighing it. That way they understand what I’m doing.
Then I get in line for the scale. Or sometimes you can just pull right on it. And once you’re there, very often you’ll find that you can communicate with the counter inside through a speaker.
They’ll tell you when they’re about to weigh so you know what they’re doing. And then when they’re done, they’ll tell you they’re done so you can pull off.
Afterwards, just go find an area to park. Then go inside, get your report, and now you know your list of actual weights. And you can compare that with the weight ratings for your RV.
That report will tell you what your total weight is, what the weight is on each axle, and so on. Then you will have a complete understanding of what’s going down the road with you in your RV.
RV Weight – What If Your RV Weighs Too Much?
Now let’s suppose that you get your information from the scale. And you find out that you’re overweight.
Maybe your GVWR weight has exceeded the weight rating for your RV. So you’ve actually got more weight than you should in the RV. What do you do?
Well there’s only one thing to do. You’ve got to find ways to economize on the weight. And usually that’s in your cargo.
So you might just need to start pulling out some cargo. Some things that you really wanted to take with you, you might want to keep them.
But maybe there’s some things that you could do without. Then you need to start moving those out of the RV. And get that weight down under the GVWR rating for sure.
RV Weight – What If An Axle Is Overloaded?
Now suppose though, you find out that you’re under the weight rating for the GVWR. But you’re overweight on an axle. So one of the axles has too much weight on it.
Well that’s another matter to address. And that means you need to reposition some of the weight in your RV.
Maybe the way that you pack your cargo needs to be rethought out. And repositioned so that axle doesn’t have too much weight on it.
You can position it so that you distribute the RV weight a little bit more evenly. Now you would never have known that if you hadn’t gone on that scale and gotten the information.
But once you do, you can make the adjustments needed to make sure that you’re going down the highway safely.
RV Weight – How About Towing?
Now suppose you tow another vehicle with your RV though. For instance, suppose you have a motorhome that has a little towed vehicle behind it.
Or suppose you have a travel trailer or a fifth wheel. And you have a tow vehicle that pulls it. Now what do you do with the weight ratings? Because you’ve got two vehicles involved now!
Well, let’s talk about that subject. And how to use the weight ratings that that you’re given for your RV and whatever other vehicle is involved.
That way you will be able to to know what you can tow safely using the correct vehicle weight ratings.
Now to do that I’ll give you a little hint. We’re going to add another weight rating beyond the ones we have already discussed.
So far we’ve talked about GVWR and GAWR. But we’re going to add another one called GCWR. And that means “gross combined weight rating”.
It’s one that a lot of folks kind of forget about in this whole process. And therefore they’re not actually driving safely.
Misinformation About RV Weight And Towing
Now the first thing I want to talk about at this point is that I know the way a lot of people get their information on towing. And that is that they just ask their salesperson or the dealer that they’re buying the RV from.
So the dealer salesperson tells them what they need to tow or what they need to be able to tow their RV.
And then they go out and they get that. But you know I really don’t think that’s the best source of information for towing. Why?
Because the internet is filled with stories on RV forums and also in social media about folks that did that. And then they were very sorry because the tow setup that they got just really didn’t work correctly.
So that’s not the best way to do it. But why is it not the best? Well, the RV salesperson or dealer really has one major thing in mind. And that is selling you an RV.
So naturally they’re going to be way too optimistic about how easy it is to get something to tow. Or to get something to tow it with.
Therefore that’s really not your best source of information. Instead, what we’re going to talk about in this article is completely different.
RV Weight Rating #3 – GCWR
And that is how you should know just a few weight ratings that are established by the manufacturers of RVs. Or of vehicles that are towed by them or tow them.
Then with those weight ratings you can easily figure out what you need to know about how much you can tow in your RV travels.
Now so far we have covered how to make sure that your RV itself is not overweight. And really we covered two weight ratings up to now.
That’s GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating). And then GAWR, which is (gross axle weight rating). And just using those two weight ratings alone you can make sure that your RV itself is not overweight.
But now we’re going to add another vehicle into the mix. So here is where we need a little bit more information.
And there’s two more pieces of information that you need to know about here. Then you can pretty much figure out what you need to tow with almost any rig.
So let’s go ahead and add one more weight rating that you need to know. It is GCWR. Or (gross combined weight rating).
How Can GCWR Help Us?
The real world definition is that it’s the most both vehicles can weigh in total while they’re going down the road.
So what it simply means is that first you take the GVWR, of the RV itself. Then add that to the GVWR of the towed vehicle.
And when you do, it should never exceed the maximum limit established by the GCWR. So using these three weight ratings you can really keep things under control.
You know where your limits are for RV weight as you’re towing. All right, so let’s see these weight ratings in action.
An Example Of Using Weight Ratings For Towing
We’ll use a couple of examples to explain it in action. And the first one is our own rig here:
As you can see in the this picture, we’re parked at a rest stop. And it’s actually a very good place to make this explanation of weight ratings.
That’s because the whole motorhome here must have a weight that is under the limit that’s set by the GVWR. It can’t go over that weight limit.
So everything in my motorhome. Us, our cargo, our fuel, our water tanks, everything, cannot exceed the limit established by the RV’s GVWR.
But then I’ve also got a limit that’s established for my towed vehicle, the Honda CRV. So it’s got a GVWR too.
And all of the weight that it carries cannot exceed the limit set by the GVWR for that vehicle too.
But now there are four axles in this rig. There’s two on the CRV. But there’s also two on the motorhome.
And they have their own weight rating limit as well. That you can have for weight on each individual axle.
RV Weight – How To Use GCWR For Towing
But now let’s take the the total GVWR of the motorhome. That is, the limit of the weight that could be in it. And the limit of the weight for the CRV, or it’s GVWR.
Now, let’s add these two together. Then we see how it compares with the GCWR, or the combined weight rating of these vehicles.
In other words, if I add the maximum weight for the CRV to the maximum weight for the motorhome. And together they’re under the limit of the GCWR, then I’m doing fine.
So this is very important to understand. Because this is how you can establish that you are towing safely.
One More Important RV Weight To Consider
However, we still have one more thing we have to consider. And that is the hitch or pin weight where the two vehicles are connected. Because the CRV is attached to the back of the motorhome.
So there is some weight being transferred to the back of the motorhome by the tow bar.
Now there is some good news on motorhomes here. Suppose you’re towing a little towed vehicle behind your motorhome, like my CRV.
With a tow bar, all four wheels are down on the ground for the CRV. So there’s not very much weight being transferred to the motorhome by the tow bar.
Indeed the car is taking the vast majority of it’s own weight. So there’s not much here for hitch weight that you have to worry about.
But there is some transfer. And that transfer will contribute toward the total weight, or the GVWR, in the motorhome.
It could also have some influence on the motorhome’s rear axle too. Because the hitch is on the back of the motorhome.
So any downward pressure on the back of the RV transfers weight onto the rear axle of the RV.
All right, so this is the first example. This is a situation where you have a motorhome that’s pulling a towed vehicle.
Now there’s a good reason why I asked them if I could use their example in this article.
That’s because they’ve had to take the weight ratings that we covered today and adjust them somewhat. From a motorhome pulling a vehicle to a vehicle pulling a towable RV.
Now normally for the last few years they’ve had a large motorhome that pulls a smaller vehicle. It’s a car, like we have. But now here you can see they’re doing just the opposite.
Now they have a small travel trailer. And it’s being pulled by the vehicle that was previously being pulled by their motorhome.
So they had to work things out to make sure that they are towing safely. With that in mind, let’s go over their rig’s RV weight and see what we can learn from it.
Using RV Weight Ratings On The Bennet’s Rig
First, they had to make sure that they knew the weight of their Jeep Cherokee. And that’s with everything in it, including them and any cargo and a full tank of gas.
And all of that could not go over the limit established by the Cherokee’s GVWR. Remember, that’s the top limit of the weight that is allowed for their Cherokee.
They also needed to do the same thing with their travel trailer with everything in it. All the cargo, all of their water and waste tanks, and all of that going down the road.
They had to be sure it didn’t exceed the limit of the weight established for its GVWR.
But now they also needed to make sure of one more important thing. That the axle on their travel trailer didn’t have too much weight on it either. And the same thing for the axles on their tow vehicle, the Jeep Cherokee.
Then they needed to add the GVWR for their Cherokee to the GVWR for their travel trailer. And make sure that putting those two figures together did not exceed the GCWR for the whole rig.
But now here is where things get much more important to watch with towables. Because the hitch weight comes into play here very significantly.
Applying The Hitch Weight Correctly
Remember, that each travel trailer applies some downward pressure to the hitch on the back of the tow vehicle. Now where does that weight transfer? To two places.
It will now be included in the total weight of the Jeep Cherokee. So it’s got to be considered in the amount that cannot exceed its GVWR.
But it also has to be added to the rear axle of the Cherokee too. Since all of this weight is going on the vehicle’s rear, it’s going to affect the rear axle.
So whatever weight it contributes to the rear axle, it cannot exceed the limit of weight the rear axle can carry. Or its GAWR.
Now suppose their tow vehicle here, the Cherokee, is all within specs with these weight ratings. Also, suppose the trailer is all within specs of its weight ratings too.
And the two together are under the GCWR for combined weight rating. Finally, the hitch also has not put too much weight on the tow vehicle or its rear axle either.
If this is all true, then they are all set for towing happily down the highway.
A Little Review About RV Weight Ratings
Now let’s kind of cover this information again just briefly as a review. And it’s as simple as this.
You need to weigh each vehicle in the rig. Then make sure that the weight of each one is under its GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating).
Then put the two weights together. And make sure that they are under the GCWR (gross combined weight rating).
Then make sure each axle in the rig is not overloaded as well (GAWR). And there you have it. You’re ready to go!
Don’t Listen To RV Weight Misinformation
Now let me address one other point here. And that is that I often see people try to skirt around vehicle weight ratings. Since it probably seems too difficult for them.
In fact, I see RVers on forums actually get on there and brag to no end about hauling some really heavy weight with a smaller truck.
And they talk about how they soup up their engine a little bit to give it more power.
Then they talk about how they they beefed up their suspension too. And then by doing all that, they say they’re all set to go. My friends don’t fall for that!
How RV Weight Ratings Are Established
It’s just not the way to do things. You’ve got to understand these vehicle weight ratings are established by the manufacturers. The designers of these vehicles. And under very strict guidelines I might add.
Now when they establish the vehicle weight ratings it’s really based on a lot of things. It’s not just engine size or suspension. In fact there’s many things that go into it.
For instance, the engine, the transmission, and the braking components are very important. And yes, the suspension too. But also tires. And even things like the size of the radiator and so on.
So many things are taken into consideration here with the vehicle weight ratings by the manufacturer.
Therefore, be sure that you know and follow the weight ratings for your particular rig. And how do you do that?
Well you need to weigh the rig. You need to make sure that you weigh each vehicle in your rig. You know, the RV and the tow or towed vehicle.
How To Find Out Your RV Hitch Weight
And if a hitch is involved, you need to find out how much that hitch weight is. So how do you do that?
Well on Amazon, there are hitch scales that you could use that will tell you the weight of the hitch. But you know, most people actually do it a little different way. And it works as well.
You just simply need to know something about towable manufacturers. And that is that they design their products to be balanced the right way.
So with travel trailers, generally speaking, they try to design them so that the hitch is providing no more than about 10 to 15 percent of the total weight of the RV on the hitch. For fifth wheels it goes up closer to 20 percent.
But you know what I would do? I recommend contacting the manufacturer and just give them a call. They’ll be happy to answer the question about your RV’s hitch weight for you.
Because they want you to safely tow their product down the highway. So just ask them how have they designed their particular travel trailer or fifth wheel to have the weight on the hitch?
How much percentage should you use? And using that information, you can get very close to the actual hitch weight.
Now suppose both of the vehicles in the rig are under their GVWR ratings. And the whole rig is under the GCWR rating.
Also suppose the hitch weight does not bring it over any axle ratings. Then you’re really good to go at that point in most cases.
An Important Warning To Consider
Now one other point I want to mention. Try not to get all the way up to the limit on your RV weight ratings.
Leave yourself a little head room if you can. And why do I recommend that?
Because RVers have a habit of bringing things into the RV as we travel. You know we buy this, we buy that, and we’re bringing new things in.
And we’re not even thinking about the weight of these items as they come in. Little by little all those things accumulate. And their weight keeps accumulating as well.
Before you know it, if you started right at the limit of your weight ratings to begin with, well it’s not going to be hard to go over them very quickly.
So try to leave yourself a little bit of head room there to work with on your RV weight ratings. Because you’re probably going to be accumulating some weight as you go along.
Now where do you weigh all of this? Where do you get the information you need? Well, once again, I think CAT scales are very useful in this.
You can use pretty much any kind of heavy duty truck scale, but I find CAT scales work really well. And to find one that’s near you just visit catscale.com. And follow the directions I mentioned above for using a CAT scale.
Now I’ve tried to make this as understandable and clear as I can. And there is a reason for all of this RV weight information I’ve covered here.
It’s because I get the feeling that a lot of people don’t look into these weight ratings very deeply. Maybe because they feel overwhelmed by them.
And I visit a lot of RV websites that discuss towing. Mainly they’re covering all kinds of acronyms, not just the vehicle weight ratings.
They often go into every kind of acronym you can imagine. And honestly that’s just complicating things unnecessarily.
But you just need to understand the few RV weight ratings explained in this article. And then make sure that you work within their guidelines.
If you do, then you’re pretty much all set for towing. So I hope what I’ve showed you in this article has been beneficial and helpful for you.
That’s it for now. Have safe and happy travels my friends … until next time.
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