If you want to reduce tow ball weight, you just shift the heaviest item you can find from the front of the trailer to the rear, and you’re done, right? No, please don’t do this!
Tow ball weight is critical for a solid, safe towing experience and shifting weight around willy nilly will not end well for you, and is bad advice.
There’s more to tow ball weight than the weight itself
Once you have a bit of an understanding of what tow ball weight is, and how you can change it in a controllable way you are able to make some adjustments, but for now, lets start off with the basics. In Australia, there’s some fascination with the 10% of ATM must be on your tow ball weight. For example, if you had a 3000kg trailer, your tow ball weight must be 300kg.
In actual fact this is just a guide that people seem to run with, and having your tow ball weight at 280kg is not going to hurt anyone. That said, there’s more to tow ball weight than getting it in the ball park figure (6 – 12%.
Don’t focus so much on getting the exact 10% weight, but focus on good load distribution, and getting it around the right figure. We go into a lot more detail about tow ball weight in another post, which you are welcome to read.
Load distribution is key
The most important thing you can do to your trailer is distribute the weight well. You can easily make a trailer have 10% tow ball weight, but if you have 50% of the weight on the drawbar, and the other 50% right at the back of the trailer, its going to tow like a pig and probably put you on your lid.
The correct way to distribute weight on a trailer is to have as much heavy weight down as low as it can go, and as close to the axles as possible. That means water tanks, main storage cupboards, tools, and other heavy items as close to the axles as possible. As you go further away from the axles, and higher in the air, the items should be lighter, resulting in a trailer that is well balanced, and safe to tow.
If you’ve done this, and your tow ball weight is miles off 10%, then you probably have a trailer that isn’t very well engineered.
How to reduce tow ball weight
You can quite literally move items backwards to reduce tow ball weight. For example, on our Reconn R2 Hybrid, we have a huge storage spot in front, over and behind the axle.
If I’m unhappy with the ball weight, I can just shift some of that weight backwards, but we are cautious not to have too much heavy weight behind the axles, as this increases the chance of trailer sway through the yaw motion, and ends in tears often.
If you have a dual axle van, things are more complicated
What might seem counter intuitive, is moving items backwards on a dual axle van might actually increase your tow ball weight, and that’s because it causes the front axle to sag more to touch the ground, which applies extra weight to the tow ball. The same thing happens when you increase the tow ball height, as you’re making the front axle take less weight, and it goes onto the tow ball instead.
If you’re comparing a single axle vs dual axle caravan, there’s a lot to think about.
Get yourself some scales, and have a play
The best thing you can do is run some of your own tests, with tow ball scales. Granted, some of them are shockingly unreliable, but if you get a set that work well, you can make some changes on your driveway and see what sort of difference it makes. If you aren’t comfortable doing this, get a mobile weighing service out, and they should allow you to make some adjustments while its going on.
Don’t reduce it too much
Having a 3000kg caravan with a 100kg tow ball weight is pushing the friendship, and will likely end up with some nasty sway issues. You can make adjustments to your tow ball weight within reason, but don’t expect the unreasonable. If you have a dual cab Ute that is overweight because you are towing a massive van, you need to change vehicles, not look at reducing the tow ball weight.