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Old 12-22-2016, 12:08 PM   #1
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Weight Distribution & Payload Ratings

I'm a noob who just started reading about weight distribution, and I'm confused about how WD hitches relate (or don't relate) to a TV's payload rating.

Hypothetically, let's say I have a truck with a payload rating of 1500 lbs. Let's say I also have a trailer with a tongue weight of 1000 lbs.

Some people on this forum have said that if you factor in the tongue weight, that would leave you with 500 lbs of payload for passengers and cargo.

However, I've seen other people say that a weight distribution hitch will move some of the weight (perhaps a third) back to the trailer. Therefore, the "real" tongue weight is something like 700 lbs on the TV (with 300 lbs going to the trailer). This leaves you with 800 lbs of payload capacity in the TV remaining for passengers and cargo.

Which one of these is correct, and why? I've seen many people post both responses, and both have passed without rebuttal or correction by others. They can't both be true.
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Old 12-22-2016, 12:35 PM   #2
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I have always been told, internally, by Brand Quality and Engineering, that all specs are in place for weights w/o wd applied, and no adjustments should be made in weight allowances after wd is applied.
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Old 12-22-2016, 12:43 PM   #3
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That said, they have never given me a good explanation and my applied technology degree and work experience allows me to argue both sides of the issue. How's that for clarity?
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Old 12-22-2016, 01:10 PM   #4
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DPRoberts, For a newbi you are stepping right on in there. Congratulations.

dnzf0g, You are clear as 10 pound mud.

DP, yes, some weight is transferred to the trailer. And it is shown by weight readings. How much is dependent upon how much the WD force is applied and the attitudes of the TV & TT. (ie: is it level) In this case then some weight is removed from the TV payload.
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Old 12-22-2016, 01:40 PM   #5
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There is weight transferred back to the trailer by the WD hitch. I think it is fine to deduct that from the load on the TV. But I do not think the amount of weight is 1/3 or even near that for most setups. The amount of weight transferred is going to vary between setups and TV's. It is hard to work from TW. What you really need is the CAT scales measurment of the TV and trailer axle weights with the trailer hitched. Then it is nice to have the TV weights unhitched. Then you can calculate how much load is on the TV and how much is on the trailer axles.

I have been pulling our trailer for 10 years now. I do not know the tongue weight and have no desire to know it. I do know that when hitched it adds 800 lbs to the TV that I assume counts against the TV payload. I know how much weight is added to or subtracted from each axle on the TV.

I know that if you are considering buying a trailer or looking at a trailer the listed tongue weight is all you have to go by. But using a listed TW is fraught with potential errors. I do not have a tongue weight scale. But if I was considering buying a trailer and using a TV that might have a marginal payload I would buy the Sherline scale up front before I looked at trailers and actually weight the ones I was serious about, either new or used.
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Old 12-22-2016, 09:34 PM   #6
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WD redistributes the tongue weight across the entire setup. So static it might weigh 1000lbs, but when hooked up it will take a percentage of that and move it to the front axle and trailer axles. In my case it moves about 40% of the tongue weight off of the vehicle. In my experience softer sprung vehicles will move more weight back.
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Old 12-22-2016, 10:27 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by dznf0g View Post
That said, they have never given me a good explanation and my applied technology degree and work experience allows me to argue both sides of the issue. How's that for clarity?
I have never seen a more perfect and honest answer to this ambiguous question.
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Old 12-22-2016, 11:05 PM   #8
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What matters more than the yellow payload sticker is the GAWR for each axle. Yes, some of the tongue weight is placed back onto the trailer by using a weight distribution hitch. You need to take your rig to a CAT scale and experiment. Most trucks the payload sticker is less then actual payload capacity if both axles are loaded to their capacity.
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Old 12-22-2016, 11:14 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by kscherzi View Post
What matters more than the yellow payload sticker is the GAWR for each axle. Yes, some of the tongue weight is placed back onto the trailer by using a weight distribution hitch. You need to take your rig to a CAT scale and experiment. Most trucks the payload sticker is less then actual payload capacity if both axles are loaded to their capacity.
That's what we have learned about our half-ton pickups in extensive use towing our Airstream and using a good, capable weight distribution hitch properly set up.

However, we also carry heavy loads in our pickup for home chores when not towing. I like the yellow payload sticker weight for that purpose, but it can still be a close call on overloading the rear axle or getting the front axle too light.

Towing or hauling can be an entirely different driving experience.
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Old 12-23-2016, 11:25 AM   #10
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Great replies. The payload sticker number & trailer brochure tongue weight are just to provide some type of guide prior to purchase or prior to being able to scale. Many people mistakenly think these are some kind of useable hard numbers.

What matters for safety proper handling & long term wear are the loaded axle weight numbers primarily of your TV. And the combined TV & trailer weight. And as such if you were to be weighed by DOT etc or go through a scale/port of entry as I do since I tow commercially, what they are concerned with is axle weights & combined truck & trailer weight. As said above a WDH helps re distribute some of the weight from the TV rear axle to the TV front axle and to the trailer axles.

For example my standard axle 1/2 ton truck has front & rear axle ratings of 3,900 pounds & GCVW gross combined vehicle weight rating of 14,500. Also fwiw a max tow rating of 8,800 & a GVWR gross vehicle weight rating of 6,950.

I've towed an 8,000 pound AS TT (dry) with a no sway WDH that isn't known to be the best at weight distribution & was not tweaked or optimized. With me extra fuel tools gear & hitch the numbers roughly looked like this;

TV Front axle 3,400
TV Rear axle 3,800

Each trailer axle 3,550

Combined truck 7,200
Combined trailer 7,100
Combined weight 14,300

The TV front axle weighed a little under 90 percent of the rear axle weight and the weight on the truck axles was a little more than the trailer axles. As such the percentages & numbers were good enough that the truck towed steered handled great. Truck axle weights & combined vehicle weight were in check or safe and as such the scale house moves you through.

Some legalistically minded which is fine and has a place would quickly point out that the combined TV axle weight is more than the CVWR combined vehicle weight rating of 6,950 and or the trucks factory maximum payload suggestion or sticker.

For me I know it's safe reliable & handles well as I have been all over the country & western grades with loads like this to the tune of 257,000. In fact I would say this might be a safer load & more enjoyable tow for driver & AS than the same trailer behind a 3/4 ton that does not use a WDH and has never been scaled.

As a counterpoint if you wanted to tow this same trailer with say a family of four & a pair dirt bikes fuel gear etc in the bed you would want a bigger truck. Or if a guy blindly hooked & ran with no weight distribution & no WDH. He could with this load end up with the back of the truck on the bump stops the front lifted up with little weight on the steers and squirley handling that would leave the whole set up upside down & backward in a ditch the first time he had to make a quick swerve due to other traffic. So the moral of the story isn't buy a bigger truck fly blind & hope for the best. It's scale your axles & know your numbers.
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Old 12-23-2016, 12:54 PM   #11
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When torque is applied to the WD bars it actually presses down harder on the hitch ball, due to the leverage effect. Though, the way I see it no tongue weight has change, just pressure increased. Anyone ever tried to remove the trailer tongue while it's leveraged down ward by the WD bars?

It's the same with measuring weight transfer on the axles/tires. It has nothing to do with tongue weight changing, it just changes where pressure, not weight, is transferred and measured on both vehicles.
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Old 12-23-2016, 02:43 PM   #12
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Recently there was a guy on here who showed his CAT scale tags of his truck and trailer hitched and unhitched. The trailer tongue weight was 800 lbs, but when he hitched up, the truck squatted. The rear truck axle gained 1000 lbs, and the front axle lost 200 lbs. I’m guessing his rear bumper went down 3” and his front bumper went up 1”. That’s a 4” difference in angle. His low beams are going to blind oncoming traffic.

The function of weight distribution is to share the tongue weight between both front and rear axles of your TV. Instead of his front axle losing 200 lbs, he should have GAINED perhaps 200 lbs. And the rear should have gained perhaps 600 lbs instead of 1000 lbs. At the very least, he should have not lost weight in his front end. When the front axle loses weight, you lose traction for steering and braking.

Payload numbers for your truck include what you put in the cab too; not just the trailer’s tongue weight and cargo in the back.

The weight shifted from the tongue weight back to the trailer is negligible at best. Do not factor it into your weight profile. Make sure you have sufficient payload capacity to handle everything in the truck plus the full tongue weight.
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Old 12-23-2016, 02:45 PM   #13
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PS You can use your bathroom scales to measure tongue weight. The method is easily found online. I'm sure there are YouTubes that demonstrate it too.
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Old 12-23-2016, 04:22 PM   #14
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Now all of the above raises a question:
Have Anybody ever used the Shurlite scale to weigh the TW before hook-up, and then after hook-up? I haven't.
Might be a curious thing to try and find out the difference in TW, and come to ???some conclusions.

trailer trash............
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Old 12-23-2016, 05:33 PM   #15
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Not even sure how you would do that. You could use the Shurline for the unattached weight and use a CAT scale for the attached weight.
But I think the combined errors from using different methods would make any firm conclusions debatable.
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Old 12-23-2016, 06:25 PM   #16
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Not even sure how you would do that. You could use the Shurline for the unattached weight and use a CAT scale for the attached weight.
But I think the combined errors from using different methods would make any firm conclusions debatable.
It can be done. I have an extremely complex spreadsheet that I and a couple others (primarily from another forum) have worked to the point of being able to get changes in any of the important weight points as items are added or moved around between and within truck and/or trailer. It's pretty accurate as checked at CAT scales and with Sherline.
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Old 12-23-2016, 07:57 PM   #17
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It can be done. I have an extremely complex spreadsheet that I and a couple others (primarily from another forum) have worked to the point of being able to get changes in any of the important weight points as items are added or moved around between and within truck and/or trailer. It's pretty accurate as checked at CAT scales and with Sherline.
I understand all the spreadsheet calculations and how to do free body diagrams etc.

My point was that you are using two different measuring methods which both have precision issues, and when you stack the measurement errors you will not get very reliable results.
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Old 12-23-2016, 08:13 PM   #18
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Ok, I do understand all the stacked inaccuracies, but I can tell you I have it worked down to less than 100 pounds difference on the axle and tongue weight and around 120 pounds on gcw when comparing actual scaled weights and dropping in items and letting the sheet calculate changes in setup weights. It's a lot of detail and involves a lot of weighing your gear, but it works. Has taken about a year to get it right.
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Old 12-23-2016, 08:14 PM   #19
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maybe if you have a bambi
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Old 12-23-2016, 09:16 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by DPRoberts View Post
I'm a noob who just started reading about weight distribution, and I'm confused about how WD hitches relate (or don't relate) to a TV's payload rating.

Hypothetically, let's say I have a truck with a payload rating of 1500 lbs. Let's say I also have a trailer with a tongue weight of 1000 lbs.

Some people on this forum have said that if you factor in the tongue weight, that would leave you with 500 lbs of payload for passengers and cargo.

However, I've seen other people say that a weight distribution hitch will move some of the weight (perhaps a third) back to the trailer. Therefore, the "real" tongue weight is something like 700 lbs on the TV (with 300 lbs going to the trailer). This leaves you with 800 lbs of payload capacity in the TV remaining for passengers and cargo.

Which one of these is correct, and why? I've seen many people post both responses, and both have passed without rebuttal or correction by others. They can't both be true.
We also have a trailer with a 1000 lbs tongue weight. I did invest in a Shirline scale and it came in at 975 lbs actual weight.
I also hit the cat scales regularly and in no circumstance have I seen more than 12 to 15 percent of that transferred to the TV front axle and the trailer. Usually a bit more towards the trailer. So about a 25 percent gain off the rear axle, however you shouldn't factor that into your loading. As you travel and the tongue travels up and down it will exert the full tongue weight on the rear of the TV intermittently.
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