OT: Weight Distribution - Trailer vs. Vehicle


Given a front wheel drive mini-van pulling a 5 x 8 enclosed trailer, is there a recommended weight distribution between what should be put in the trailer and what should be put in the towing vehicle?
I know that there are a number of variables that would need to be considered, but if all else were equal, does it ever make sense to put items in the towing vehicle instead of the trailer?
Obviously I can't split a riding mower into pieces, but let's say I have 1000 lbs of bowling balls, each in their own box, so size and placement isn't an issue. Should I put them all in the trailer (properly loaded of course) or split the load in some percentage between the van and the trailer?
Thanks!
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DerbyDad03 wrote:

Generally should have roughly 10% of trailer weight carried on hitch; obviously cannot hitch rating.
Weight distribution should be such as to maintain level hitch so don't overload either vehicle. And, of course, trailer should be loaded nearly balanced so don't have excessive either up or down force which will happen more or less automagically if follow other guidelines.
As for specific vehicle:trailer ratio, not terribly important other than it is better to not exceed weight of vehicle w/ trailer for small vehicles and trailers w/o good remote braking systems. Otherwise, the trailer can tend to push the vehicle excessively.
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On Tue, 19 Jan 2010 09:51:05 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03

Much more important is the weight distribution in the trailer. What percentage of the total trailer weight are you putting on the tongue??? After you've got THAT figured out, you have an idea how much more weight , if any, can be carried IN the van.
You need adequate tongue weight to provide stability to the trailer. Too light and it is all over the road - and the van with it.
Generally a 1500 lb trailer should have 150 lb, more or less, on the tongue.
It also depends if the trailer has brakes. If the trailer has no brakes, you are limitted to how much you can safely, and legally, carry - and the trailer without brakes must NEVER excede half the towing vehicle's weight, regardless what the law in your area allows.
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On Jan 19, 4:29 pm, snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

re: "Much more important is the weight distribution in the trailer."
That's what I meant when I said "properly loaded of course" in my OP.
I am familiar with how to load the trailer properly as I have been using it for many years. However, most of it's uses were for items that were much too big to be put in the van, so I never gave the question about putting some weight in the towing vehicle much thought.
However, last Friday, as I was loading the trailer for a cabin-camping trip, I noticed how many "small" items I was loading up and began to wonder if it mattered whether I put "this" in the trailer and "that" in the van from a weight perspective.
Since I didn't know the answer, I opted for the cooler and clothes in the van, just in case something went wrong with the trailer and I had to leave it someplace. No roadside unpacking required.
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DerbyDad03 wrote:

FWD minivans aren't rated to pull much. Make sure you aren't exceeding the specs from the owner's manual. Those transmissions are expensive to rebuild or replace. DAMHIKT. And like the other guy said- shoot for no more than 150 lbs or so tongue weight. (easily measured with a bathroom scale on level pavement.)
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DerbyDad03 wrote:

Like was said, check your rated towing capacity. And if it's up over 1000#, with a FWD you better have brakes on the trailer also. After that is all clear there are lots of websites on the subject. Some of them explain how easy it is for a trailer to kill a whole family. A lot of camper websites also have that info.
In my tandem cargo trailer, if it has enough weight in it I can hit just the trailer brakes alone and stop it and the chevy 3500 1 ton van also. Especially when I had the 4000# antique safe in it!
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I think he needs to go back and ask the salesman. They come up with incredible weight/towing ratings, sometimes 10,000# over safe limits, but always throw in the disclaimer, "Aw, you can do it!"
Really, though......... The OP does state that it is a 5 x 8 trailer, and we all know that we would probably hook it up and move some "stuff" across a small town. It's just when you get to really loading it up, or taking it above 35 mph that it becomes hairy. I don't recall seeing anything about what type of hitch is on the tow vehicle. A receiver hitch would transfer much more weight to the frame, and a bumper hitch would probably pull off if the van has enough power or speed to put serious strain on it.
For the OP, I would take it to a hitch shop and ask them. They do it all day every day, and I think they would be your best answer. And it's free, too. Some of your advice here is spot on, and some is very dangerous. Be safe and do it right. You could kill me.
Steve ;-)
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I want to thank everyone for the various bits of advice, although it looks like other than dpb, no one has really addressed my actual question. Maybe I missed it, if so, I mean no disrespect.
I was trying to not make my OP a long dissertation on what I know and don't know about loading and towing the trailer. To repeat what I've said earlier:
"I am familiar with how to load the trailer properly as I have been using it for many years. However, most of it's uses were for items that were much too big to be put in the van, so I never gave the question about putting some weight in the towing vehicle much thought."
Some more details...
- The trailer does not have brakes - I have a Class 3 Hitch with a 2 inch ball - I've been towing this trailer (and other trailers, bigger and smaller) for over 10 years. - I've towed it with minivans and full size RAM vans - I do not overload it past it's capacity nor the towing capacity of the towing vehicles - I've never had control issues related to swaying - I've towed it hundreds of miles on highways and by-ways and I've towed it through the busy streets of cities - I can back it into a garage at the top of inclined driveway that is only 2 feet wider than the trailer - On this recent camping trip, I was forced to turn around on a dead- end park road with snow banks on both sides. It took a couple of tries, but I did it.
My point is that I don't consider myself a rookie with regards to the loading or safe operation of this trailer. Again, I thank you all for your advice, but I'm still kind of curious about whether distributing the load - regardless of whether I reached the max capacity or not - between the trailer and the towing vehicle.
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My point is that I don't consider myself a rookie with regards to the loading or safe operation of this trailer. Again, I thank you all for your advice, but I'm still kind of curious about whether distributing the load - regardless of whether I reached the max capacity or not - between the trailer and the towing vehicle.
reply: with that additional information, I can give you a better reply. Thank you.
Short answer - Personally, I would do just that. Adding more weight to the tow vehicle would make it more meat in front of the trailer, hence no heavy trailer pushing a light vehicle. Air inflation on the van and trailer is CRITICAL.
More info - If you live by a Flying J, or similar trucker stop, you can get it weighed. Look at the plate on the door frame. Do the math. Weigh the empty vehicle full of gas with two people in it. Weigh the vehicle and trailer. Do the math, and you have an accurate trailer weight. Save the figures for future expeditions. Then load accordingly, keeping the 10% tongue weight in mind. IIRC, UHauls I have rented suggested a 60/40 weight distribution, that is, 60% in front of the axle, which I personally think might exceed the 10% tongue weight, but that's me, and it depends on how anal you want to be on this. Also, check the trailer tire inflation.
And don't believe everything you hear from salesmen.
Good luck. Let us know how it does. Unless you're moving heavy equipment, it sounds like you're good to go.
Steve
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Thanks for the info.
re: "Let us know how it does."
How what does?
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Steve B wrote:

I had to call Chevy to get an answer. Then I still bugged the dealer for an answer just to see if they hopefully both have the same answer. The dealer took a week to get me the info. My van is rated to pull 10,000 pounds and a tongue weight of 1000 pounds with a weight distributing hitch and 7000 with 700 tongue weight with a regular hitch.

I don't recall ever seeing a real legal bumper hitch. Maybe on old, old models. For a hell of a long time, pickups with step bumpers normally have a hole for a ball but it tells you the bumper is not rated to tow anything!!! Sure doesn't stop many people from using it as a hitch. If the load is light enough I don't see it hurting anything but I wouldn't try it with a significant load.

I think I mentioned it here, but it seems for the past few years the manufactures are making the old "towing package" standard. They seem to be on all trucks, full size cargo vans, and 4x4's right from the factory.
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Tony wrote:

Both the original step bumper on my dad's '73 Chevy and the one on my '93 Ford (which look very similar, BTW) have a weight rating stamped on them. Don't remember what they ARE, now (the Chevy has had a later model bumper grafted on at some point after the original got rusty and ugly anyway) but it was pretty close to the max tow rating of each truck IIRC. I want to say 5000 lbs trailer/500 lbs. tongue for the Ford bumper but I may be off a little bit.
Funny thing is the rear bumper on the Ford has been hit at least twice, and both times the brackets folded up like paper. So I don't really trust it to actually perform at its rating; I scavenged the Class III receiver hitch off my buddy's truck when it went to the Big Parking Lot in the Sky and will be installing it as soon as I have a warm, non-rainy Saturday to do so.

That'd be nice, not to have to run all that extra wiring. I'm also not sure what the point is of a 1/2 ton pickup truck, as they don't really seem to be rated for regular use as a truck, but they sure do sell. I'd love to trade up to a 3/4 ton if I could find a good one at a reasonable price. (I'd also trade my dad even up for his '73 Chevy, because it rides and drives so much nicer than my '93 Ford. I can live without A/C. Maybe. Or I could just add it.)
nate
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Nate Nagel wrote:

Hmmm... maybe my eyes were only drawn to the bumpers that were all twisted up? I know a lot of them are not rated to tow, I'll have to take notice what make and model they are.

Yes, a class III bolted to the frame will ease your mind, and if someone hits it again, they should get a little more damage than in the past. ;-)
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DerbyDad03 wrote:

Hi, Things to consider, your vehicles max tow rating with proper hitch(what class?) Your trailer axle load capacity, your tongu weigh, trailer brake. Start with these factors.
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On Tue, 19 Jan 2010 09:51:05 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03

Sure. It may mean you won't rip your rear bumper off.

What is the rating of your van for towing capacity. IIRC, my Chrysler Lebaron is maybe 500 pounds, or 1000 pounds. The only trailers I can tow is tiny, 4'x8', probably with no roof. Oh, I could probably tow 5x8 too, if the sides and roof were light. I have the vague feeling that Chrysler minivans tow only a little more than my convertible. maybe twice as much, maybe less than twice. Trailer companies and hitch companies, even online, will have ratings for your minivan. Plus your car's shop manual and even the owners manual will say.
BTW, very few cars have frames anymore. No FWD cars or vans iirc. My hitch is attached to the struts that mount the bumper to something in front of that, with two bolts directly into the metal bumper that is under the rubber bumper. Vans should be better but I don't know details.
I personally am sure you can tow more if you always start slow and accelerate gradually. But such a limitation makes driving somewhat riskier. Cars with good acceleration have a lower accident rate.
I towed my little trailer with an heirloom dresser on it from Texas to Maryland. It was fun, except for the one time I was lost and started into a cul-de-sac. I only went 10 feet in, but it took me 15 minutes to get out. Partly because someone I'd never met was waiting for me. In other words, study how to back up. Memorize it. Probably practice it in a parking lot. Oh, yeah, a parking lot without light poles.

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I don't believe that my class 3 hitch is attached the bumper.

3500 lbs, but why do you ask? Why would that factor into the *percentage* of weight I put in the trailer vs. the van for any given load?

That's too bad!

Once again, the question was not about how much I can tow, it was about weight distribution between trailer and van.

Maybe you missed my post about how I've been towing various sized trailers for over 10 years and that I regularly back this one up an inclined driveway (off a narrow street) into a garage that is less than 2 feet wider than the trailer. I've kinda got the "backing up" thing pretty much "memorized". ;-)

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On Wed, 20 Jan 2010 18:30:30 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03

Theere is no fixed percentage if one is nearing the maximum weight.

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