The cart is empty

Cannot find your purchased courses? Click here to Login!


Determine the correct trailer weights and towing capactiy of your vehicle.

Closed Caption


Hi there smart drivers, Rick with Smart Drive Test talking to you today about trailering basics.

This is the basic information you need to know about weights, axle weights, towing capacity, and pin weight in order to keep you safe.

Now before we get started here, if you're working towards a license or starting your career as a truck or bus driver or getting a house trailer or heavy trailer endorsement, be sure to hit that subscribe button and get all the great information that will help you to be successful on your road test and pass your road test.

Now trailering basics: the first thing you need to know is the towing capacity of the towing unit, whether that's a car or a truck.

How much can the towing unit tow.

So that will help you to determine the size of trailer that you can purchase, especially if you're towing a recreational trailer or whatnot.

Next thing you need to know is pin weight.

What is the amount of weight that is going to sit on the towing unit; on either the fifth wheel assembly or the ball and hitch assembly.


Driver's License Checklist

• A driving test is a high stress situation.

• Authorities demand a high level of skill, ability & knowledge.

• Be fully prepared with this checklist!!



And then you need to know axle weights for the truck and trailer.

You need to know the amount of load that you're going to put on the truck because your pin weight is part of that load and that can sometimes be confused with towing capacity and how much weight is on the trailer.

And then finally, you need to know the axle weights.

As well, because the axle weights on the truck and trailer have to be within specifications because you can't have too much weight on any of the axles otherwise you'll exceed the weight ratings for the axles of the vehicle and you could void your warranty if it is a new vehicle and the vehicle is under warranty.

So you need to know that as well.

Finally, we're going to talk a little bit about tires on both the towing unit and the trailer.

And then last we're going to talk about where you can get your vehicle weighed and be sure that you are within and under all of the weight ratings for the towing unit and the trailer.

So we'll go over all of that today; stick around, we'll be right back with that information.


Hi there smart drivers, welcome back.

Rick with Smart Drive Test talking to you today about the trailering basic.

This is the basic information that you need to know for weights and purchasing a towing unit and purchasing a trailer and keeping those within the weight specification set up by both the towing unit manufacturer and the trailer manufacturer to keep you safe, your family safe, and other road users on the roadways safe.

Heavy & House Trailer Endorsement

Now just before we get started here, we'll talk about house trailer endorsements and heavy trailer endorsements.

Now we have those in British Columbia and they have them in other jurisdictions as well.

If you have a trailer that weighs more than 4,600 kilograms or 10,000 pounds you will either have to get a house trailer endorsement, if it's a recreational vehicle.

If it's a utility trailer, then you have to get a heavy trailer endorsement.

Now I just had an interesting conversation with one of the managers here at one of the recreational trailer dealerships here and we were talking about how ICBC determines this weight, which requires drivers to get a licence.

ICBC is the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, which is the licensing authority here.

When you get the trailer endorsement, they don't go by how much the sticker on the trailer says, the trailer weighs, or how much the trailer is going to weigh after you load it up.

Rather they go with the licensing weight registration.

So that vehicle will be registered for 11,000 pounds on the license and if it says 11 thousand pounds on the license then you're going to have to get a heavy trailer endorsement or a house trailer endorsement if it's a recreational vehicle.

So know that, that the weight for the endorsement is what the licensing weight is not how much the trailer weighs or what how much it weighs after you load it up with the water and all your food and equipment and those types of things.

It's what is on the registration when you get the vehicle registered.

So know that, and as well if you don't have the endorsement and something happens and you get into a crash, an unfortunate event - your insurance could be void.

So make sure you ask lots of questions about that if you are purchasing a larger unit that is over ten thousand pounds or forty six hundred kilograms.

Installing a Hitch

So the first piece of information you need to consider when you're purchasing a trailer and you're getting a hitch installed on your towing unit if you have a car or a light truck--that doesn't have a towing hitch on it--you're going to have to go to a towing hitch installation place or you're going to have to go to a recreational place and get a trailer hitch installed.

These service outlets are really good at putting the hitch on that you need and oftentimes it does exceed the maximum weight that you can tow with that vehicle.

You want the hitch to be able to exceed by 10 to 25 percent, even 30% of the amount of load that you're going to put in the trailer and the towing capacity of the unit.

so therefore if you purchase a 5th wheel assembly, for example, and the trailers you're going to tow is 5,000 kilograms you want a 20% increase on the fifth wheel assembly.

So you want the fifth wheel to be rated for 6,000 kilograms, because that's approximately 20% more than the 5,000 kilograms of your towing capacity.

So that's the first thing that you need to consider when you're getting a hitch installed on your vehicle.

Towing Capacity

A lot of these trucks--half-ton trucks--GMC, Dodges, Ford, Nissan--all of these vehicles are going to be about a 10,000 pound towing capacity.

So they're going to be able to pull a trailer that weighs 10,000 pounds.

Now when they say towing capacity of the trailer, that's the total weight of the trailer with the load on it.

That's not the trailer empty!

So know what the towing capacity of your vehicle is.

Pin or Tongue Weight

Now the pin weight is approximately 10 to 20 percent of what the trailer weighs.

You can put a little bit more on a 5th wheel hook up - you can put 15 to 20 percent on the 5th wheel.

So there's going to be about that much sitting on the back of the towing unit.

If you have a ball and hitch assembly, you want to keep it somewhere between 10 and 12 percent of what the trailer weighs.

So if the trailer weighs a thousand pounds, for example, you want to have no more than about 100, 110 to 115 pounds on the tongue.

So your tongue weight is your first consideration.

Load Capacity

The second consideration, in terms of your pin weight, is that pin weight is going to be part of the load that you place on the towing vehicle.

And the towing vehicle is going to have a maximum load capacity.

And you're going to find all of this information in your owner's manual for whichever vehicle it is - the trailer or the towing unit.

And if you're unsure about what the load capacity is of the towing unit, go down to the vehicle manufacturer and talk to them if you can't find the information in your owner's manual.

But it will be in your owner's manual.

The other way you can figure out the load capacity of the towing unit - how much weight you can put on the vehicle, is look at the sticker on the door sill of the driver's side, on inside of the gas cap for those of you in Europe, and as well look in the owner's manual.

And that information will be in there.

Gross Vehicle & Axle Weights

The gross vehicle weight and the axle weights--if you take those two axle weights--because most vehicles are going to be two axles.

If you're into three axles on the towing unit, it is going to be a commercial vehicle.

Take your two axle weights, add the two numbers together and that's the total weight that you can have for the vehicle, and the load that's on it.

Now know that the pin weight is going to be part of that load weight that you have on the towing vehicle.

So if you have a 1500 pound load weight on the truck, which is your towing unit, for example, and the pin weight is 750 pounds then you're pretty close - you've only got another 750 pounds for the number of passengers, water and other stuff that you can put into the towing unit.

So the amount of load that you put on the towing unit is different than the towing capacity for that vehicle.

And that has to be another consideration because that can affect your handling and stability of the towing unit.

Axle Weights

And then the last piece that you need to know is the axle weight.

And if you have a tandem axle trailer, the axle weight is those two tandem axles together.

So you're going to weigh that as one and then the two axles on the towing unit, the front axles, and the rear axles.

And again you can see here on the sticker that it has the axle weights for the towing unit and you cannot exceed those axle weights.

And again those axle weights for both the trailer and the towing unit will be in the vehicle owner's manual.

And you can find those numbers if they're not on the sticker.

And again, if you're unsure, go to the dealership and ask them at the dealership for either the towing unit or the trailer about what your gross axle weight ratings are going to be because you don't want to exceed the gross axle weight ratings because you can jeopardize safety and those types of things.

Weight Your Unit On a Scale

Now the final piece, in terms of making sure that you're within the weight parameters for pin and tongue weights for towing capacity, for the load capacity--the amount of weight that you can put on the towing unit, the truck, and the amount of weight that you can put on the trailer--is to get your trailer weighed at a public scale - a certified public scale.

And there's lots of places that you can take your unit after you get it all loaded up.

For example, if you have a recreational trailer, you fill the water tank up, put all your camping gear in it, all of your food, and all of the passengers is you're going to put in the towing unit in the vehicle, all of the stuff that you're going to take with you and go out to a scale and weigh it when it's loaded.

That will give you the best information and there's lots of places that you can get weighed.

The most accessible places are the government weighs scales for trucks along highways.

Oftentimes when they're not in service, they'll leave the scale on and you can just drive over the scale and you can weigh your unit.

Now most of these are going to be an axle scale, so they're just going to give you the axle weights and basically all you do to get your overall gross vehicle weight is just add the numbers together for the three axles.

And that will give you an overall gross vehicle weight.

So government scales along the highways.

The other place you can go is truck stops.

Most truck stops will have weigh scales - it's going to cost you a fee.

If you can't find one at a local truck stop, gravel pits will have weight scales, dumps will have scales, salvage yards, recycled paper, timber mill.

All of these places will have scales Just before you go in and drive up on the scale, make sure that you go in and ask the weight master if you can actually weigh your vehicle.

And sometimes there's a small charge for it.

Usually it's less than $20 to get a weigh on your vehicle.

That's going to give you the most precise information on weighing your unit.

Platform Scales vs. Rolling Scales

Now just one last piece on weighing your unit at a public weigh scale is if it's a platform scale.

You're going to need your axle weights.

So what you're going to do is go into the weigh master and say, "Listen, I need the axle weights." So what you do is, you drive the vehicle onto the scale with the first axle.

They give you a number, the weigh master will wave you forward; you drive on with the towing unit with the two axles, you get that weight; and then the weight master will wave you on forward.

And then you drive on with the whole unit and you weigh the whole unit.

And essentially all you do is you take the numbers--the three numbers that the weigh master will give you--you subtract the first number from the second number and that will give you the rear axle of the towing unit.

And then you subtract the second number from the third number and that will give you your trailer axle weights.

And then you'll have an overall gross vehicle weight as well because that's the third number that you have.

And again, I'll leave a description down in the description box there of how to do that calculation for getting your axle weights on a platform scale if that's what happens.

But again, just before you drive onto a platform scale with your unit, go in and tell the weigh master that you want axle weights because they're going to have to take a different weight every time you drive the first axle on, the first and second on, and then the whole unit on to the platform scale and get your unit weight.

If you're in the least bit doubt about how much weight you have on your unit-- what the actual weights are and those types of things, make sure you take it to a scale and get it weighed.

And there's lots of scales around, different places and industries and those days places that have scales and they'll charge you a few dollars.

Another place that you can get it weighed is at local dump and those types of things.

So make sure you get it weighed.

Trailer Tires

Tires are another consideration when you're trailering.

Trailer tires are specific - they're stiffer sidewalls.

And the reason they have stiffer sidewalls is for better handling and better tracking behind the towing unit.

So make sure that you have the right size tires on the trailer.

And the sticker on the front will tell you the tire size that you need for the trailer that you have.

If you don't have the sticker on--it's an old trailer, like this one here--then take the trailer down or take the wheel off and take the actual wheel with the old tire on it to the tire shop and they will be able to match the tire.

And buy good quality tires.

Again I'm just one of those people - it's like garden hose, buy good quality garden hose, buy good quality windshield wipers, buy good quality tires.

It will just protect you and your family and other road users on the roadway.

Correct Tire Pressure

Finally, as well, with tires, make sure you have the correct tire pressure, And again, you can see here on the sticker what the correct tire pressure is for your trailer is on there.

For bigger utility trailers, most of the time it's going to be 50 pounds per square inch in terms of the amount of tire pressure in there.

And a you know you can pick up the tire gauge - they're really inexpensive and it doesn't take you very long.

and I'll put a card up here in the corner for you in terms of checking tire pressure and having the correct tire pressure on your trailer.

And if you have too much tire pressure or you have too little tire pressure it's going to affect the handling and the safety of your vehicle.

So make sure you have good tires and you have tires up to the correct pressure, for the both the trailer and the towing unit.


Quick review of trailering basics.

The first thing you need to understand is towing capacity.

And if you're purchasing a new vehicle for towing a trailer or you're purchasing a trailer, you need to understand how much the vehicle, the towing unit, can tow.

So if you have an existing vehicle you need to match the trailer to the vehicle and this is the reason that I have a Boler is because my 1998 Honda only tows about a thousand pounds.

Thus the Boler trailer sitting behind me is the camper trailer that we use.

If I was going to go to a bigger trailer I would have to buy a different towing unit because the 1998 Honda CRV is only rated for about a thousand pounds.

The next thing you need to understand is the pin weight and how much weight you're going to put on the hitch or the fifth wheel assembly for this unit.

Behind me here, it's about ten percent.

So it's about a hundred pounds on the ball and hitch.

And in smaller trailers, like this one, you could just put the jack on a bathroom scale and that would allow you to figure out what the pin weight or the tongue weight is.

If you've got a bigger unit, you can go to a scale house and then unhook it or just jack it up with just the jack on the scale and that will allow you to figure out what the tongue weight or the pin weight is.

Now when you're going to get the hitch installed, if you don't already have a towing package on your vehicle, you have to get a hitch that's rated for the amount of weight that you want to tow on your trailer, whether it's a recreational trailer, a boat trailer, or a utility trailer.

And a trailer hitch installation place or a RV dealership, or whoever is going to install your hitch will be able to help you with that and get you the correct hitch assembly.

Now on a fifth wheel assembly, you want about twenty percent more than what you're actually going to tow.

So for example, if you're going to tow a thousand kilograms you want a twelve hundred kilogram fifth wheel assembly, or five thousand pounds you want a six thousand pound - you want twenty percent more than what you're actually going to tow.

Then you need to understand load weights and how much load you can actually put on the towing unit and how much you can put in the trailer.

And that's going to on the trailer.

And that's going to increase your towing capacity in terms of what you need in terms of the towing unit.

So on the towing unit-- the truck--if you have a thousand kilograms that you can put on in terms of load, your tongue weight is going to contribute to that.

So know that it's your tongue weight plus all your passengers plus the fuel and anything else that you bring in the vehicle with you is all going to be part of the load of the towing unit.

So you need to understand the load that's in the towing unit and that the tongue weight and the pin weight are going to contribute to that load on the towing unit.

As well you want to understand axle weights.

And if you don't understand axle weights on the sticker or the vehicles owner's manual - that's going to give you what the axle weights are and you'll need to take it out to a scale.

And if it's a platform scale weigh each axle individually and do a bit of math to figure out what individual axle weights are.

If it's a rolling scale, you can just do each axle and then do the overall gross vehicle weight and see that you're within manufacturer specifications for the allowable weight on your unit.

Finally tires - make sure you good quality tires on your trailer and know that trailer tires are specific to trailers.

You want good quality tires.

It's like garden hose or windshield wipers and other things in life that will annoy you if they're not good quality.

And as well, good quality tires will keep you safe.

So make sure you have good quality tires on your unit when you're going up and down the road.

Trailer tires, as mentioned in the body are stiffer and they will allow the trailer to track and not sway and move around as much when you're pulling it up and down the roadway.

So that's basic information that will keep you safe and make sure you don't exceed the weights, whether you're pulling a boat trailer, a recreational trailer, or a utility trailer.

Because that will endanger not only yourself and your family, but other road users on the roadway.

Question for my smart drivers:

Do you pull a trailer? Do you know how much your trailer weighs that you're pulling and have you actually taken it to a scale and gotten it weighed?


Leave a comment down in the comment section there, all that helps out the new drivers working towards getting their license and starting their career as a driver and looking to expand the capability of their vehicle.

If you like what you see here share, subscribe, leave a comment down in the comment section.

As well, hit that thumbs up button.

Check out all the videos here on the channel if you're working towards a license or starting your career as a truck or bus driver.

Lots of great information here.

As well, head over to the Smart Drive Test website - awesome information over there and tremendous online courses that you can purchase.

In the summer 2017 we're bringing out "Air Brakes Explained Simply." It updates the 40-year-old air brake course here in North America that is currently in circulation.

As well, there's a hundred multiple-choice questions that you will be asked on a CDL license exam and that will help you to pass your CDL license here in Canada-- you're Class A or your class one license.

Thanks very much for watching.

I'm Rick with Smart Drive Test.

Good luck on your road test.

And remember, pick the best answer not necessarily the right answer.

Have a great day.

Bye now.


featuring and making sure ahhhhh!!

Not manufacturer.

Ohhhhhh, look at the big puddle [DRIVING THROUGH THE BIG PUDDLE] [LAUGHING] Daughter - oh, Daddy.

That was a big puddle.





Log in to comment

Latest Smarter Driver Podcast

Learn tips & strategies to pass your driver's test first time - both your learner's permit and on-road test.
July 08, 2022 Rick August, PhD

Pass Your Driver's Test First Time

No matter at what stage of your learning, these tips, strategies and skills will ensure you pass first time. Learn your job, the driving examiner's job, and what are the best practices for test day?

© Smart Drive Test Inc. 2024.

Contact Us: [email protected]