By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Is your RV overweight? How much does it really weigh? If you have a fifth wheel or a motorhome, you probably have lots of storage space to put lots of stuff. And stuff it we do — right?
There’s always that extra tool or gizmo, that “necessary” thing we just can’t do without. And if you full-time RV then it’s even easier to overdo it. It doesn’t take long to stuff, and stuff and stuff — to the point our rigs look like overloaded Thanksgiving turkeys.
If it’s a towable unit, is the weight of your trailer safe for your tow rig? Imagine the chagrin of the fellow whose story was related on an RV forum. After living in a motorhome for some years, he decided he wanted to swap over to a little fifth wheel. OK, “little” meaning a 38-foot fifth wheel. He figured he had a plenty big tow vehicle — a one-ton pickup with an 18,000-pound-rated fifth wheel hitch. He made the transaction with the dealer, transferred his possessions from the motorhome to the fifth wheel, then showed up to pull his new fiver home — and the dealer refused to let him tow it off the lot. Seems the dry weight of the new fiver was 17,000 pounds. Worried about liability issues, the dealer saw to it that the trailer was towed to the buyer’s home.
Every truck manufacturer sets a towing weight limit for their trucks. Go over the limit, what can happen? Truck systems, meaning engine, braking and frame, all figure into the picture. Too much weight puts too much stress on those systems. Get in an accident with an “overload” condition and you may well find out your insurance company isn’t standing behind you.
Here’s a tip from the Recreation Vehicle Safety Education Foundation: Weigh it before you buy it. Yes, new rigs are supposed to be equipped with a sticker that shows the weight of the rig and information on the total allowable rig weight — sadly that sticker can be “off” considerably when options are added. Ask the dealer to have the rig towed to a public scale and weighed in — then take into account how much “stuff” you’re thinking about adding. The Foundation also provides a few statistics on some things we all have to carry:
Water weighs in at 8.3 pounds per gallon, gasoline at 5.6 pounds, diesel at 6.8, and propane at 4.2.
How much stuff will you “stuff” in your rig? The Foundation says their experience shows the average RVer adds about 2,000 pounds of personal baggage. For us full-timers, we’ll typically tip the scales at 3,000 pounds. After moving “stuff” out of our fifth wheel into our new trailer, we’d have to say, hard as it is to believe, that 3,000-pound estimate is probably pretty close.
Keep it to the limit. Keep it safe.