Tongue weight & trailer size - Fiberglass RV


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Old 08-26-2007, 06:53 AM   #1
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Hi, all - more newbie help needed. In reading some of the past posts on trailer weight & tongue weight, I noticed one poster (please forgive me for not remembering names!) noted that the Casita Spirit Deluxe 17' (one of the RVs I'm considering) has a higher tongue weight for it's size than other 17' trailers. In looking thru my Kia Sedona owner's manual, rather than a specific tongue weight, it says the tongue should be no more than 10% of the total RV weight. So what's the best way to decide if my tug can handle this RV model? Obviously, in my search for the perfect egg, this becomes fairly important info!!
Thanks for your patience
Connie
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Old 08-26-2007, 07:53 AM   #2
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Hi Connie! I can see where that is confusing. The "official" website for Kia says the Sedona has a 3500 lb towing capacity. A Canadian site says the tongue weight on the '07 is 350lbs max, so presumably the owner's manual for your Kia implies that the tongue weight of a 3500 lb towed load should be no more than 350 lbs. This is obviously another owner's manual that is brilliantly written and crystal clear!

In any event, is a pretty safe bet that most vehicles rated at 3500 lbs will have a 350 lb max tongue weight rating.

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Old 08-26-2007, 09:33 AM   #3
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In any event, is a pretty safe bet that most vehicles rated at 3500 lbs will have a 350 lb max tongue weight rating.
Which a Weight Distributing Hitch can achieve for you, if permitted for your vehicle.
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Old 08-26-2007, 10:52 AM   #4
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That poster was probably myself.

The instruction to keep tongue (or hitch) weight to 10% of trailer weight is common. In the Toyota manuals which I have seen (including mine) it is expressed as a pair of upper and lower limits: tongue weight should be between 9% and 11% of trailer weight; it is also specifically given as a limit (weight carrying tongue weight maximum limit is 350 lb).

Since you can't arbitrarily decide what the tongue weight of a trailer will be - it would not be practical to stack cargo in the back of a Casita 17' until the tongue has only 10% of the weight - I think the practical approach is to simply take the maximum hitch weight limit (of the tug) as a limit for the trailer, in addition to total trailer weight. Any trailer manufacturer should publish unloaded tongue weight, and you have to guess (and/or ask current owners) how much heavier it will get with cargo, water, and propane.

This likely means towing a trailer with the tongue weight greater than 10% of the trailer weight. I don't see any problem with that. The manufacturer's guideline is likely intended to minimize tongue weight (because of the adverse effects on the vehicle structure, suspension, and handling), but as long as the vehicle's limit is not exceeded, where's the problem?

For vehicles which do not permit use of a weight-distribution (WD) system the hitch weight might eliminate some trailers.

If the tow vehicle permits use of a WD system, it will likely allow a higher hitch weight in this case - the weight-distributing tongue weight maximum limit. The same logic applies, but in addition if a trailer's tongue weight exceed the weight-carrying limit, use of a WD system becomes a requirement. That would be the case for my Sienna and a Casita 17'.

The use of a WD system does not reduce the tongue weight; it does potentially allow the tow vehicle to handle a higher tongue weight.
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Old 08-26-2007, 04:06 PM   #5
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Using WDH hitches is fine in most our cases, if needed, but seems that some people with larger pop-ups would have problems meeting tongue weights if they aren`t allowed the use of WDH's because of trailer warranty issues....seems the auto manufacturers don`t make allowances for the different trailer types.... ....Benny
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Old 08-26-2007, 04:36 PM   #6
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With the exception of the larger pickup trucks, I would expect that the automotive industry has trailer towing in general towards the bottom of their market-drivers list!

Connie, one thing that should be made very clear here is that something like a tongue weight spec by a manufacturer, and which has a heavier tongue weight per a web site, is only a baby step towards the real world of what will be attached to your tow vehicle.

Tongue weight is ultimately a percentage of the actual, loaded for camping, weight of the trailer (aka 'wet' vs the dry weight from the manufacturer) -- Depending on how big a trailer is, the weight of options and the stuf that you stuff into it and its various tanks and cupboards may be from a few hundred to the better part of a thousand pounds, and something like 10% of that additional weight should be on the tongue (or you may experience serious control issues).
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Old 08-26-2007, 05:16 PM   #7
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B sure to check the specs on your hitch because they come with specifications that indicate the MAX tongue weight and towing capacity.

If you are determined to tow something with a tongue weight far to heavy for your vehicle, look no further. Northern Tool sells this device that gives U a 3000lb tong weight.
http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/sto...ssearch=3377825
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Old 08-26-2007, 06:02 PM   #8
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Where's the kitchen on that dolly, because it must have one at that price.
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Old 08-26-2007, 06:09 PM   #9
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Hi - thanks for all the input. I don't even have a hitch yet as I didn't want to get anything till I had this all figured out ( or at least as much as I need to get started.) I don't want to tow anything heavier than recommended since I don't want to tear up my van. I'm mostly trying to understand what the max size RV I can tow would be, and I do see that the wet weight could be considerably more than the dry. Knowing the size max helps me as I search - for instance if a 17' Casita will be too heavy when loaded, then I'll look for a 16'. The difficulty seems to be in finding out just how much these things actually weigh including hitch etc, allowing for the differences in the amount of stuff one carries. Have you all found that the manufacturers listing of the weights are accurate? Of course, it goes the other way too - if I know I can only carry, say 600#, then that's what I'd limit myself to. Obviously, the tanks hold however much they hold, at 8# a gallon (even black water, BTW??), but the rest is somewhat negotiable, I'd imagine.
Thanks all!
Connie
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Old 08-26-2007, 09:28 PM   #10
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Manufacturer weights are not accurate for a fully loaded RV. For the 17' Casita, plan on 3,000 lbs. tow weight and 500 lbs. hitchweight.
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Old 08-26-2007, 09:59 PM   #11
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If you are determined to tow something with a tongue weight far to heavy for your vehicle, look no further. Northern Tool sells this device that gives U a 3000lb tong weight.
http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/sto...ssearch=3377825
That looks similar to a "slip dolly" that was used in this movie.
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Old 08-26-2007, 11:14 PM   #12
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Hi, all - more newbie help needed. In reading some of the past posts on trailer weight & tongue weight, I noticed one poster (please forgive me for not remembering names!) noted that the Casita Spirit Deluxe 17' (one of the RVs I'm considering) has a higher tongue weight for it's size than other 17' trailers. In looking thru my Kia Sedona owner's manual, rather than a specific tongue weight, it says the tongue should be no more than 10% of the total RV weight. So what's the best way to decide if my tug can handle this RV model? Obviously, in my search for the perfect egg, this becomes fairly important info!!
Thanks for your patience
Connie
The best place to find out what you are able to tow is the owners manual of your vehicle. It should specify a maximum tow weight plus a maximum tongue load for a specific type of trailer hitch (Class III, Class IV, etc). Specifying tongue weight as a percentage of the RV weight without setting a limit on the maximum towed weight is meaningless. If you can't find it in the owners manual, you need to contact the manufacturer and have them provide the info. You are wise to try to find this info BEFORE you select a trailer.
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Old 08-27-2007, 08:13 AM   #13
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Have you all found that the manufacturers listing of the weights are accurate?
No. Not by a long shot.

Some reasons why the published "unloaded" weight always seems to be low:
  • it does not include optional equipment (even the battery and propane tanks are often optional), even factory-installed options which you might think were standard equipment
  • it does not include water, propane
  • it does not include your cargo
  • it assumes standard construction, but in actual construction of the trailer a little extra material always seems to be used
  • in used trailers, there are usually modifications by the owners, which invariably add weight
  • manufacturers are often optimistic
My Boler is about 10% overweight compared to the factory specs. Past discussions suggest that recent weights published by Bigfoot are relatively accurate, but older specs from most manufacturers are substantially low.
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Old 08-27-2007, 08:14 AM   #14
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You are wise to try to find this info BEFORE you select a trailer.
Actually, I'm of the opposite camp. Most folks tend to keep their trailer much longer than their tow vehicle. I'm of the opinion that folks are happier longer with their purchase if they find the trailer they want, and THEN figure out what they need to tow it with. In this case, apparently Connie isn't up for that.

The good news is that most of the 16' and below (and the Burro 17 and the Bigfoot 17' trailers) all have a gross vehicle weight of 3500 lbs or less, and most of them will have tongue weights at or below 350 lbs so the field of fiberglass trailers for Connie is pretty wide.

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Old 08-27-2007, 08:16 AM   #15
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Of course, it goes the other way too - if I know I can only carry, say 600#, then that's what I'd limit myself to. Obviously, the tanks hold however much they hold, at 8# a gallon (even black water, BTW??)...
Yes, you can carry as little water as you'd like, with the following notes:
  • many of us tow most of the distance with almost no water in the tanks, and fill at the campsite or nearby; on departure, we dump at the campsite or nearby
  • leaving some water in the fresh tank is better than expecting the pump to re-prime each time
  • enough water for a toilet flush or quick cleanup after lunch at a rest stop is nice to have
  • the water heater (if you have one) should stay full for convenience (to avoid bleeding the air out after refilling) - that's usually 6 gallons
  • black water weight is usually not considered: the assumption is that it is no more than the freshwater weight, and the black and grey tanks are empty when the fresh tank is full, then contents just move (in some cases quite indirectly...) from the fresh tank (and food storage) to the grey and black tanks
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Old 08-27-2007, 08:24 AM   #16
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While it's nice if you can treat the tow vehicle as an accessory to the trailer, many people do not have that luxury. The perfect tow vehicle is unlikely to be the best choice for the rest of the time, and if "the rest of the time" is 50 weeks of the year, then a reality check is in order.

I agree that a 3500 lb limit (the same as my Sienna) leaves a lot of choices in our class of trailer. There are two load factors which may eliminate a significant number of options:
  1. the tongue weight, as we have been discussing
  2. the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of the tug
The GCWR, which is the allowed maximum of the total of the loaded tug and loaded trailer, limits the passenger and cargo load which can be combined with the trailer. In the extreme case (most trucks and truck-based SUVs), if you really tow at the published maximum trailer weight, the GCWR limits the tug to carrying nothing but the driver.

For many minivans and similar vehicles, the trailer rating (apparently 3500 lb in this case) can be combined with significant passenger and cargo load, but not as much as without the trailer.
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Old 08-27-2007, 08:30 AM   #17
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Another factor in the chicken-or-egg selection discussion is that many vehicles have a very similar trailer-towing capacity, at 3500 lb total and 350 lb hitch weight. Go just a little over that, and a large range of vehicle choices disappear. Is the extra feature in the trailer really worth it?

Take this to an extreme, and you arrive at 15,000 lb fifth-wheel trailers (hey, we can just by a tug to suit it) and "one-ton" dually pickups or custom haulers as tugs. What's another $70,000 (Canadian)? Seriously, while this kind of rig is not quite mainstream, it barely gets noticed around here.

We picked our van for entirely different reasons, with no intention to tow a travel trailer. Although it limits our trailer choices, I would still rather have my current situation than have a much bigger tow vehicle just to handle a Casita 17's tongue weight.
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Old 08-27-2007, 03:56 PM   #18
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Brian has stated it perfectly - in reality, my van was not purchased to tow, but to drive my dogs to field trials & dog shows, and occasionally, carry just people, tho then they have to ride in the dog crates! The idea of the camper came just recently, and I do love the van, (in addition to getting a FANTASTIC buy on it on EBay) so don't want to trade it in order to tow something. What seems to make the most sense to me after these discussions, is to downsize the RV so it safely fits my towing capacity, especially while I decide whether this is one of "my things" or not. I suspect I'll like it just fine, and can certainly "make do" with a 16' trailer instead of a 17'! Then after while, I could move up if so needed. In truth, I feel blessed to be situated financially so that I can do these things at all, and appreciate all the advice you kind folks have given me so far!
Thanks again
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Old 09-01-2007, 08:09 AM   #19
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[*]black water weight is usually not considered: the assumption is that it is no more than the freshwater weight, and the black and grey tanks are empty when the fresh tank is full, then contents just move (in some cases quite indirectly...) from the fresh tank (and food storage) to the grey and black tanks[/list]
When considering tongue weight the freshwater/blackwater "balance" might be very important. I am not aware of the Casita layout but in my 21' Bigfoot the water tank is in the very front of the trailer, and the waste tanks are in the rear. Therefore moving the 250 to 300 lbs of water weight between these tanks in various amounts (while not changing trailer weight) has a tremendous effect on the tongue weight and safety of towing this trailer. I think in a perfect world trailer, transferring weight between these tanks would not change tongue weight (tanks are located over axles??) but at least in my trailer that is far from reality, they are like ballast weight tanks and their levels have to be considered. Ed
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Old 09-01-2007, 09:32 AM   #20
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Ed's point is quite important. I meant that waste water was not considered in the total weight calculation, and I should have said that explicitly.

In my Boler, the freshwater tank is immediately behind the axle, the greywater immediately in front of the axle, and the black tank is further forward than that (and on one side), so if I start with the fresh tank full, the weight shifts forward with use, increasing the tongue weight.

I notice that the new Oliver Legacy uses long and thin tanks, side by side along the length of the trailer floor, perhaps in some part to reduce the fore-aft shift. I would be concerned about the contents sloshing from end to end, causing dynamic shift when the tanks are partially full, but that's only speculation.

I have heard of stacked tanks, on top of each other, but I don't know of a specific example and I would expect it to present several design challenges.
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