2 Key Automotive Towing Terms Explained

Posted on: 3 March 2017

Larger vehicles such as trucks and SUVs generally contain towing hitches, making them able to haul aluminum trailers and other wheeled attachments. This is a great advantage when it comes to moving, hauling, and transporting goods. Yet before you begin to capitalize on this useful feature, it is important that you possess a strong basic understanding of towing principles. This article will help to get you up to speed by explaining two important terms to understand.

Gross Trailer Weight

Gross trailer weight is the simplest yet most important thing to know before hauling a loaded trailer. Often abbreviated simply as GTW, the gross trailer weight is used denote the added weight of both the trailer and the cargo with which it is loaded. Thus it is important to be aware that GTW is not a constant sum; rather it changes with each specific load you haul.

To determine your gross trailer weight, you will need to drive your loaded trailer to the closest public scale. If you are new to automotive towing, you may not know where this is located. Fortunately, the answer can be easily obtained by calling a local shipping company and asking them politely. Such companies have to weight loaded trucks on a regular basis, and so will surely know the closest public vehicle scale to your location.

Tongue Weight

The tongue is the part of a trailer--whether aluminum or otherwise--that attaches to the hitch on your vehicle. Thus the tongue weight refers to the precise downward force that a given trailer load will exert on your vehicle's hitch. To ensure safe towing, the tongue weight must fall within a certain range. Excessive tongue weight will make it more difficult to operate and maneuver your vehicle.

Few people realize that insufficient tongue weight can be just as problematic. The worry here is that your trailer will succumb to a dangerous phenomenon known as trailer sway. As the name of this issue would seem to imply, this involves a trailer that may begin to swing wildly from side to side--seemingly without provocation. In order to avoid this problem, your tongue weight must fall into a range between 10 and 15 percent of your gross trailer weight.

Tongue weight is fairly simple to determine--even at home. All you will need is a basic bathroom scale. Stack up cinderblocks until they have nearly reached the height of your trailer tongue. Then place the scale on top, and gently lower the tongue onto it. Divide the corresponding reading by your GTW to determine whether you fall within the acceptable 10 to 15 percent range. 


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