Learnings from our weigh-in (and why you should do it)

Weight is a big issue in the 4X4 and towing space. It is one that has been largely ignored to date, although right now it is in the spotlight. Recently, the authorities have turned their focus to loading of private vehicles (at least in NSW) and we’ve seen evidence of them conducting checks and weighing vehicles as part of roadside stops, particularly around key holidays. We’ve also seen people prosecuted for being overweight this year for the first time.

It is easy to shout from the rooftops about weight, but the proof is in the pudding.  That’s why we decided to have our Rig and the Tvan weighed while at the Adelaide show just a few weeks ago.

An organisation like ours is expected to lead the way on 4X4 and towing safety.  To help educate, provide insight, and encourage people to be responsible.  So yeah, we’d thrown around the idea of weighing the Tvan and the Raptor a few times.  But given busy schedules and being time poor, it slipped off the radar.

Martin Tipple’s ‘Your Mobile Weighbridge’ setup. It is a nice 6X4 Dmax!

I need to credit Martin Tipple from Your Mobile Weighbridge in South Australia for helping get this back on the radar, even though that was far from the original discussion we had.  Martin contacted me recently, wanting to provide some information on his weighing service in South Australia. 

Perfect! I thought as a myriad of questions ran through my head.  How much does it cost?  How long does it take? Do you do discounts for groups? What space do you require?  I started the discussion with Martin and he agreed to email me with answers to the questions. (You can find out more about the detail here in the bottom paragraph of this article)

I realised I needed to return Martin’s call. As I looked up his number, it hit me – I’d be in Adelaide that afternoon.  “How about we get together and you weigh the Raptor and Tvan for me?” I asked. 

Thursday (bump in day for the Adelaide show) was the only morning he could to it.  I left the Tvan and Raptor packed exactly as they had been loaded in the interest of fairly assessing the weight situation. 

Martin checks the Tvan compliance plate

When he showed up, Martin had already researched key specs of the vehicles he would weigh.  He then inspected the vehicles and their compliance plates, took note of any accessories on them, and also a list of what gear we had packed so that we had a reference for the weights we were about to see.

Next, he asked me to unhitch the trailer so we could measure the ball weight of the Tvan. The compliance plate listed it at 140KG.  I literally held my breath as the scales did their thing and settled.  128KG.  Good start, but next came the trailer weight.

I re-hitched the vehicle to the Trailer, and then helped Martin place the sensors in front of all tires before driving up onto them.  Martin also made me stay in the vehicle while he weighed it so that he had an accurate weight accounting for passengers as well.

Here’s what result we ended up with:

Ford Ranger Raptor

GVM3090 KG
Kerb Weight (according to manufacturer)2342 KG
Overall Weight measured as loaded2720 KG
Weight Front Left Wheel640 KG
Weight Front Right Wheel640 KG
Weight Rear Left Wheel720 KG
Weight Rear Right Wheel720 KG
Remaining Payload 370 KG

As far as the Raptor was concerned, we got a great result.  I was 370KG under the GVM of the vehicle, and the weight was evenly distributed left to right of the vehicle.

And the difference in weight on front and rear axles was largely to do with the towball downweight.

Next came the Tvan, and this thing gets packed with a lot of stuff.  The figure I had in my head that I needed to be under was 1500KG (the ATM).  I figured that if I was under this, then everything would be perfect…

Track Trailer Tvan

Tare Weight1165 KG
Towball downweight (at Tare)140 KG
Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) 1300 KG
Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM)1500 KG
Max Axle Capacity1600 KG @ GTM
Measured GTM1440 KG
Measured ATM1568 KG
Towball Downweight at Measured Weight128 KG
Left Wheel Weight720 KG
Right Wheel Weight720 KG

My initial reaction here was a big smile – I was 1440kG, and the ATM was 1500! And I’d balanced the load of the trailer perfectly.  Super happy, I thanked Martin, grabbed a copy of the report for later, and then continued setting up for the show.

It was only later that evening that I reviewed the report in detail and realised that the weight as measured by the scales didn’t account for the towball downweight (remember, ATM includes the towball download). As far as ATM was concerned, this actually then put me at 1568 KG (68KG over).  And if you calculated it based on GTM, I was 140KG overweight for the Tvan.

So while I’d packed the trailer well, I’d overpacked based on the GTM and the ATM, to the tune of 140KG. I need to state for the record here that the Tvan was packed with all of our event gear, so I’m confident that if I’d never otherwise have close to this much weight in it. 

This is where it gets interesting.  I was well under the GCM for the Raptor and the trailer, and I was also under the max axle load stated on the trailer.  But, I’d overpacked it according to the two key criteria – ATM and GTM, and these are what your limits are based on.

So how do I fix that?

Knowing I was over made planning the fix relatively easy, despite having to come to terms with the fact I’d messed up.  I simply had to reduce the axle load on the trailer to 1300 KG.  I could do this by a combination of taking gear out of the trailer and putting it into the vehicle, and by shifting weight forward onto the towball so that less of it was on the axles (bearing in mind that the maximum ball weight allowed on our Tvan is 200KG – calculated by subtracting GTM from ATM).

I moved an additional 60KG of gear into the front boot of the trailer, and then took an additional 100KG out of the trailer and into the tow vehicle.

By those calculations, I should have increased the ball weight by around 40KG, reducing the trailer weight by the same.  The 100KG weight reduction in addition to this should render me within GTM.

I haven’t had the chance to weigh the vehicle again yet, but I will do it as soon as I get the chance and let you know where I ended up.

What if I can’t move weight around?

If reducing or shifting weight isn’t possible, the other option is to upgrade the suspension and the axle, and potentially strengthen the chassis to get a GTM upgrade.  I know for a fact that you can upgrade the Tvan to carry more weight.  This involves upgrading the axle to a 2T capacity, putting in heavier duty suspension, and strengthening the trailer chassis, and then having it certified and a new compliance plate issued.  While it will then increase the ATM to 1800KG, you don’t get a 300KG increase in payload because the heavier axle and suspension adds weight to the trailer. So you might get 200Kg increase for the upgrade.  This is why you need to think carefully before you undertake this kind of mod.

The takeout for me

It is way too easy to be overweight these days, especially when we forget to add the weight of all the mods and accessories we add to our vehicles (think batteries, wheels and tyres, suspension, roof racks, bullbars and winches, side bars or steps, drawers, fridges, tools, underbody protection etc). On top of all that, we need to add passengers, cargo, and trailer downweights.

You need to educate yourself and understand the complexity that comes with loading a vehicle and trailer.  Ensure that:

  • Your vehicle with trailer attached stays within its GVM, it’s GCM, and its maximum axle loadings – and you factor the weight of every mod you’ve done on the vehicle in your calculations!.
  • Your trailer doesn’t exceed its maximum towball downweight, its GTM, or its ATM at any point
  • That the weights are balanced evenly.

All of this isn’t as easy as it seems!

Mobile weigh services are expanding, and they’ll come to you!

Mobile weigh service

There are more and more guys like Martin out there, and they offer a brilliant service in our experience, and one that could save you from embarrassment at least, to financial loss or physical harm at best.

Martin charges $195 for a two unit weigh, which is a tow vehicle combination incl trailer/caravan – and $130 for a single unit weigh, which is pretty cheap in my opinion given the service offered and the time and care taken. He offers discounts for multiple vehicles, so its not a bad idea to arrange a weigh session with a few of your friends to save.  He’ll even weigh your van empty and then loaded to see the differences (unfortunately I didn’t have time for this, but reflecting back, I wish I had).

It takes between 60 and 90 minutes to perform a weigh, by the time Martin gathers the required details, sets up the weigh plates, measures the ball weight and then performs the weigh-in.  About 15 minutes after that, he has a full report to run you through.

If you are in Adelaide, you can contact Martin on 0418 229 229, or email info@yourmobileweighbridge.com.au .  Otherwise Google can help you find your local provider.

I can’t speak for others, but Martin gives a comprehensive report which you can keep and use as a reference in future.

And for the record, Martin reckons that just about everyone he weighs is over somewhere too.

I hope you’ve found this helpful. Happy to answer any comments or questions you may have here!

Aiden

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Comments 23

  1. Plenty of public weigh bridges in Victoria, $30 to weigh both car axles, towball and trailer axles. Max 10 minutes.

    1. That’s nice David the only difference is the weigh bridge gives you the total weights only and doesn’t give the individual weights, to check how the weight is distributed in either tow vehicle or van.

      1. Hi Jared,

        Goweigh bridges in Victoria use 4 platforms – having weighed my fully loaded MY17 V6 Amarok and a recently purchased Kimberley Karavan Limited Edition last week I have a front axle load reading (including driver), rear axle weight reading, ball weight reading and trailer reading.

        Both the Amarok and Karavan have VicRoads registered GVM upgrades and whilst the combination 5.1 tons is inside the GCM for the Amarok (6 tons) there would have been no leeway to add any extra load without the GVM upgrade to the vehicle or the Karavan.

        The only thing you don’t get is left/right readings with this system but I am confident that the vehicle is balanced as Enkelman Engineering weighed the vehicle loaded on each individual wheel during the GVM upgrade certification.

        Using a weighbridge such as this before departing for a trip gives you a record via email and printout of how you are loaded – and at 20 minutes and $30 is more than affordable both in time and money! The records have photos of the registration plates of the vehicles as well so their can be no confusion……….

  2. the problem with the weight in’s is the alphabet soup that comes with it I’ve been a truckie for a long time and still can’t get my head around it so how do they expect Joe Blog to under stand it half the rta don’t know it.

    1. I agree with you. The whole thing is as clear as mud. And I will almost guarantee the State & Federal Governments had some input into this, that’s why it’s so bloody hard to understand!!!!

  3. So what you’re effectively saying is that we have a overly complex system of determining “legal” weights of vehicles and vans and, more importantly, the average punter (or indeed industry experts) havn’t got a hope of knowing whether they are underweight/overweight without having to employ somebody with a fancy set of scales, a computer and indepth knowledge of the current regulations.
    Surely there needs to be a simpler system in place.

    1. There is a simpler way.
      Load up, go weigh the vehicle, adjust the weight to you are at the maximum allowable limit and then measure ride heights front centre of the wheel hub to the underside of the wheel arch in a vertical line, record these. Do this for all wheels including the trailer. So next time you load up, all you do is a quick check measure and as long as the measurements are greater than those recorded them you will know you are lighter.
      If you have adjustable air suspension or airbags then these must be at the same settings/pressure.

  4. I agree with the comments, the idiot who came up with this system, don’t understand the kiss system(keep it simple stujpid) how is the average person supposed to understand all the double talk.
    All they are going to do kill the industry, and the small towns in this country are the ones who will suffer.

  5. I think some of these tare weights they put on caravans must have been when it was a shell with no fittings i weighed my my second hand van empty no water no luggage no food no gas bottle 40 kg payload left according to the vin plate i should have 300kg the only extras would be the awning and microwave

  6. I completely agree with the requirements of weight , GVM and the rest. I have done the same but went Further and in conjunction with axle weight testing had the braking checked. The 79 needed new pads but the van well that showed an inconsistency in braking from left to right wheels and was explained to me if I had to do a very hard brake the van could quite easily whip around and flip .The issue was fixed but as was explained to me weights are important but so is braking efficiency

  7. Cant agree more about the unnessary complexity, doesn’t seem to matter how many times i read this stuff it still makes my head spin! Unfortunately there is no one who provides the weighing service on mid nort coast of nsw. I think i have it right, but that lingering dobt persists.

  8. from what i have read & heard caravan weighs on compliance plates are with out the options
    (A/C ,awning ,gas bottles,out side shower & tv etc)If this is true then we should have our vans weight checked.I have gone through stuff & culled as much as possible, if it doesn’t have two uses it goes (with in reason of necessity).
    xmas is my most weight time as we are gone for 9 days taking the Waeco 75ltr,bike ,kayak , food ,water , grog etc
    also my wife needs her mobility scooter now & it weighs 100KG (in the back of the ute)
    so this xmas i will have to pack lighter somehow.Some things are going to stay at home.
    or buy food ,water & grog down there.

      1. Further problem is that independent testing has shown the Reich scales are not accurate enough to give peace of mind. I would gladly pay to have a set on hand but if they are not reliable there is no point.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Max, in theory I’m guessing there is, but in reality, you need weight on the tow vehicle to help keep the trailer steady. Otherwise the trailer starts to control the vehicle. You’ll get your max towball down weight by subtracting your GTM from your ATM. Most trailers are designed for a 10% weight on the towball

  9. Why do you add the towball down weight to the trailer gtm. As this figure is borne by the tow vehicle and reduces the vehicle gvm. It shouldn’t factor into the trailer weight. Can anyone clear this confusion for me

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Lindsay. You don’t add the down weight to the GTM, but to the ATM. GTM is the weight over the axles. At 1440kg, I was 140 Kg over the GTM of 1300.

      Aiden

  10. O K, I`ve done the maths. Any one interested in buying an over weight GU and toy hauler. I`m going to see this big country of ours on a push bike.

    1. Post
      Author
  11. anyone can weight their set up for free at vicroads Victorian unmanned weighbridges 15km east of ballarat in either direction, or on the hume hwy just north of broadford.

  12. Pingback: Club4x4 - Learnings From Our Weigh-in - Your Mobile Weighbridge

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