Before you can hitch up your new caravan and head off into your first outback or beach side adventure, it is important to invest some time in understanding the issue of caravan weight, why it is something you can’t afford to ignore and how exactly you should go about measuring it.
The Importance of Caravan Weight
Just like any other vehicle, caravans are built to sustain a certain maximum weight. What’s even more important to note is that your towing vehicle also has its own weight limits. With a fully loaded caravan hitched to it, your vehicle will be handling a lot more weight than it typically does in isolation. This can make controlling your caravan quite a task in meandering terrain, windy conditions, and in any kind of situation that requires sudden braking. Too much weight can also compromise your car’s performance in terms of fuel efficiency and air conditioning. Last but not the least, exceeding the weight limits set by your car’s manufacturer can land you in legal trouble. To avoid all of this, it is important to weigh your caravan (and your entire rig) correctly, before leaving for your next holiday.
Weights You Should Know About
Gross Combination Mass (GCM) is the total weight of your rig (everything loaded and coupled).
Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) is the maximum permissible weight of your towing vehicle when loaded. This is specified by the vehicle’s manufacturer.
Tow Ball Weight is the maximum weight that your caravan can apply to your vehicle’s tow ball. This is specified by the vehicle’s manufacturer. You can use a measuring gauge (manual or digital) to measure the actual tow weight of your caravan at any given point in time, to make sure it’s within your vehicle’s limits. Generally your tow ball weight will be 10% of your ATM.
Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) is the maximum permissible weight of your caravan when loaded, and without being hitched to your towing vehicle. This is specified by the caravan’s manufacturer. It will include axle and tow ball weight
Gross Trailer Mass is the actual weight of your loaded caravan at the axle when connected to the tow vehicle. This will always be lighter than the ATM as some weight will transfer to the tow vehicle when hitched.
Weighing your caravan/rig:
Weighbridges are the most accurate form of weighing your rig. They are designed to help vehicle owners weigh their cars, caravans and entire rigs, to ascertain their weights and payloads. What you essentially need to do is drive up to a weighbridge near you, pay the per-use fee (typically around $30), and move your vehicle or rig on to their specially made scales set into the ground. The idea is simple: weigh your empty vehicle or caravan to ascertain its tare weight; take it back to the weighbridge when fully loaded for another reading; subtract the two to calculate its payload. But what makes modern weighbridges a blessing for caravan owners is their ability to give you multiple readings at once.
For at home options check out the Reich Caravan Weight Control Orange 1500kg or the Black Jack Weight Scale. These don't allow for the larger caravans so always check the specification of each product before you purchase.
Don't forget when visiting your weighbridge ensure you have the caravan and tow vehicle loaded as you would if your heading away. Don't forget the kids, the dog and the kayaks, every little bit of weight counts to keep you and your family safe on the road. And the insurance companies happy should anything happen.
DISCLAIMER* Please note, this advice is general in nature and we strongly recommend consulting the product manual and where relevant, a professional installer.