You might think you could just throw your boat on a trailer and be done with it. But there’s a lot of physics that’s involved in managing a boat trailer and keeping your boat and your vehicle safe. One particularly important factor is weight distribution. What happens when the weight on your trailer isn’t balanced? Boat trailers with too little tongue weight tend to do what? Find out here.
What Happens When a Trailer Doesn’t Have Enough Tongue Weight?
The simple answer according to Boat Ed is that it can cause your vehicle’s tail end to rise up, thus pushing the rear end of the trailer to fall back. This ‘tail fishing’ movement can cause you to lose control when you’re driving, or may even risk damage to your trailer’s tongue or your car’s hitch.
What is Tongue Weight?
Obviously, tongue weight is an important factor for safely and efficiently transporting your boat. But what exactly is tongue weight? Well, tongue weight or simply TW is the amount of force that pulls down on the front or tongue of your trailer. It basically pulls the tongue of your trailer towards the ground.
When your tongue weight is too low (which means that there isn’t enough downward force on the tongue) your trailer’s front end will likely pull upwards, causing the vehicle’s rear end to rise with it. If the tongue weight is too high (which means there’s too much downward force on the tongue) then your trailer’s tongue will pull down towards the ground.
The axle of your trailer works as the pivot point for weight distribution. So if you’re noticing that your trailer tips too low towards the tongue, then you’d have to move the weight to the back of your trailer. If the trailer tips down at the rear, moving weight to the front.
Calculating the Tongue Weight
Bet you didn’t think you’d have to do math just to tow your boat trailer, yet here we are. Well, to lay down the foundation for the computation, it’s important to know that the weight of your tongue should be equivalent to at least 10% of your gross trailer weight. The upper limit for TW rests at 15% of your GTW.
That said, the obvious first step of figuring out your ideal tongue weight would be to know your gross trailer weight. Fortunately for you, there’s no need to look for an industrial scale for the process. All you really need to do is take a look into your trailer manual.
Alternatively, you could call up the manufacturer to find out exactly how much your trailer weighs. But if push comes to shove and you just can’t find the numbers, then a trip to your local public scale for accurate measure. Luckily, these things are pretty accessible and you should be able to use them for a very minimal fee.
You’ll have the option to weigh your trailer with or without the boat loaded on. If you don’t have your boat with you when you weigh, you can just factor in the weight later on (which should be found on your boat manual.)
Once you have the combined weight of both the trailer and the boat, then you can start computing how much the trailer weight should be. Essentially, you’re just going to get 15% of the GTW. So if you measured a gross weight of 4,800lbs, your tongue weight should be 720lbs.
To measure to the tongue weight, there are specialized trailer tongue weighing scales that you can use. Your local marina probably has them, and all you need to do is place the scale under the trailer jack and check what the scale says. If you fall within 10-15% of the GTW, then you should be in the clear.
Why is Low Tongue Weight Dangerous?
There are some serious risks and hazards to driving around a trailer with insufficient tongue weight. The obvious risk would be difficulty steering your vehicle. As the weight of the cargo loads heavier on the tail, your trailer pulls up at the tongue and your vehicle’s rear wheels are gently lifted off of the ground. This could cause your car to sway back and forth, and may push forward on your vehicle during downward slopes.
On the other hand, tongue weight that’s too much could pull down on your car’s rear wheels. This added pressure can impact your vehicle’s maneuverability, limiting your ability to control it during turns. It’s also possible for increased tongue weight to cause breaking issues, leading to serious accidents on the road.
Taming the Tongue
Boat trailers with too little tongue weight tend to do what? They tend to increase your risk of accidents, among many other potential hazards and dangers. So before you head out and hitch that trailer to the back of your car, make sure you measure the weight and adjust your cargo to guarantee a seamless ride and prevent accidents.