Caravan Tow Ball Weight

Caravan Tow Ball Weight Calculator + 3 Ways to Measure

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Measuring your caravan tow ball weight is a very important piece of the puzzle for calculating all of your caravan towing weights. There are various terms to describe Tow Ball Weight, such as Tow Ball Download, Ball Load and Hitch Weight. But it doesn’t matter which term you use, they all amount to the same thing.

The caravan tow ball weight is the amount of weight that is downloaded from your caravan onto your tow vehicle when you hitch up. Tow ball download can be a fluctuating figure, which will change every time you add, subtract or shift the load in your caravan.

Use the Tow Ball Weight Calculator to find your legal TBW, then measure your caravan’s actual tow ball weight using either ball weight scales, household scales or a public weighbridge.

Here I go through how to measure your caravan’s tow ball weight in different ways so you can decide which one is best suited to you.

How to Weigh a Caravan (Step-by-step Instructions) →

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What is Tow Ball Weight?

Tow ball weight is the amount of weight a fully loaded caravan (or trailer) puts onto the tow bar of the vehicle.

The acceptable tow ball weight (TBW) in Australia is about 10% of your trailer’s ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass) or a maximum of 350 kg – whichever is lower.

Tow Ball Weight

So, when you hitch up your caravan, anywhere from 5 – 15% of the ATM weight should transfer from the caravan onto the back of the tow vehicle, ensuring that the load is level and balanced.

You need to allow for this extra weight to come out of your car’s payload capacity.

Tow Ball Weight Example:
Caravan ATM is 2,500kg
2500 ➗ 10 = 250

Therefore, the Tow Ball Weight should be about 250kg
(give or take up to 5% either way)

Bear in mind that every time you add, subtract or shift around the load in your caravan, your tow ball weight will be affected. Hence why it’s so important to keep on top of your current tow ball weight, as it affects all of your caravan towing weights.

The ATM of your caravan is the maximum allowable weight of the caravan, which is set by the manufacturer. You can find that information on the caravan VIN Plate.

The most important thing with TBW is not strictly aiming for 10%, but rather, making sure that you have the right amount of weight on your tow ball to maintain a level caravan for towing.

Keeping within 5 – 15% of your ATM is a guide for keeping you within the legal range.
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Tow Ball Weight Calculator

Use the Tow Ball Weight Calculator below to find out the maximum TBW weight limit for your caravan.

After using the Tow Ball Weight Calculator go and measure your actual Tow Ball Weight using one of the three options below.

If you find that your Tow Ball Weight is over the limit, you will need to either remove items from the caravan or shift the load around so that less weight is sitting over the front of the van.

You may have to shift the load and re-weigh the van multiple times until you are within your maximum allowable Tow Ball Weight.

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Calculating Caravan Tow Ball Weight

Weighing caravan at a public weighbridge

Tow Ball Weight Scales

One of the easiest and best ways to measure your caravan tow ball weight is with a set of Ball Weight Scales.

The thing with your tow ball weight is that it’s forever changing. Every time you shift your load or pull things in and out of the caravan, your ball weight changes. So, having your own set of scales means you can check how your weight has changed at any time.

Tow Ball Weight Scales
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Another benefit of having your own ball weight scale is being able to see the difference in tow ball download when travelling with full water tanks versus empty water tanks.

Measuring caravan tow ball weight with Tow Ball Weight Scales:

Measuring TBW with BALL WEIGHT SCALES
Step 1Make sure your caravan is level
Step 2Place wheel chocks under caravan wheels to secure the van
Step 3Raise the jockey wheel
Step 4Place the Tow Ball Weight Scale directly underneath the draw bar coupling
Step 5Lower the jockey wheel until the full weight of the draw bar is on the scales
Step 6Record the scale’s weight reading

Public Weighbridge

How to Weigh a Caravan - Tow Ball Weight

If you don’t have a set of Tow Ball Weight Scales, then head to your nearest Public Weighbridge. This is a great way to find out your tow ball weight as these industrial scales are built exactly for this purpose.

Just let the staff in the booth know on your way through that you need to work out some of your caravan weights, that way they’ll be aware that you’re going to take a little bit of time as you hitch and unhitch.

If there are a lot of trucks going through, you may have to pull over and wait till you can have the scales to yourself for a few minutes.

Measuring caravan tow ball weight at a Public Weighbridge:

Measuring TBW at a PUBLIC WEIGHBRIDGE
Step 1Hitch up your caravan and drive to a weighbridge
Step 2Let the staff at the booth know that you’re there to work out your towing weights
Step 3Once at the weighbridge, drive just the 4 car wheels onto the scales
Step 4Write down the weight (Weight A) – this is the car’s weight + tow ball weight
Step 5Drive off the scales and unhitch your caravan
Step 6Drive the car back onto the scales
Step 7Write down the weight (Weight B) – this is the car’s standalone weight
Step 8Hitch your van back up and head home
Step 9Your Tow Ball Weight = Weight A (car weight with TBW) – Weight B (car’s standalone weight)
Tow Ball Weight = Weight A (car weight) – Weight B (car weight with tow ball weight)

Household Scales

There are actually two slightly different ways to measure your caravan tow ball weight with household scales. One way is with the caravan being hitched up to the car, while the other way is done with the free-standing caravan, unhitched from the car.

Both measurements should be the same and it doesn’t matter which process you use, there’s just a slight difference in the steps.

Things to be aware of when calculating tow ball weight with household scales:

  • The measurement isn’t 100% accurate, but it will give you a ballpark figure
  • Make sure your timbers and pavers are strong and solid (no cracks or fractures)
  • Household scales must have a limit of over 100 kg
Materials for Measuring TBW with HOUSEHOLD SCALES
• Solid plank of wood (about 1 metre long)
• Solid piece of wood (to lower coupling onto)
• A few pavers
• 2 x pieces of pipe
• Household scales
Measuring Caravan Tow Ball Weight with Bathroom Scales

A) Measuring tow ball weight while caravan is UNHITCHED:

Step 1Measure the plank of wood into three sections, marking each section 300mm apart from each other (see diagram above). Make sure there is some overhang at both ends of the plank.
Step 2On the underside of the plank, cut out a little notch at each of the end markings (for the pipe pieces to sit in).
Step 3Place the plank of wood on the ground underneath your draw bar. Make sure the coupling is directly over the 1/3 marking on the plank.
Step 4Slot your two pieces of pipe into their notches underneath the plank.
Step 5Place the household scales underneath the pipe that is the furtherest away from the draw bar.
Step 6Place a few pavers underneath the other pipe, lifting the plank up to be level with the scales.
Step 7Use a spirit level to make sure the plank is level.
Step 8Tare your scales back to 0 (if you can’t, take note of the weight on the screen, which will need to be deducted from your final weight).
Step 9Make sure your caravan is secure with chocks under its wheels.
Step 10Raise the jockey wheel.
Step 11Place a piece of wood vertically underneath the caravan coupling at the 1/3 marker (this should be the height that the caravan will sit at when hitched up to the tow ball).
Step 12Lower the jockey wheel until the coupling is resting on the wood.
Step 13Read the measurement on the scale and multiply it by 3. If you couldn’t tare your scales, deduct that number from your final measurement.
EXAMPLE
The household scales read 80 kg
80 x 3 = 240 kg

Therefore, the Tow Ball Weight is 240 kg
Measure Caravan Tow Ball Weight with Bathroom Scales

B) Measuring tow ball weight while caravan is HITCHED UP

Step 1Measure the plank of wood into three sections, marking each section 300mm apart from each other (see diagram above). Make sure there is some overhang at both ends of the plank.
Step 2On the underside of the plank, cut out a little notch at each of the end markings (for the pipe pieces to sit in).
Step 3Place the plank of wood on the ground underneath your jockey wheel. Make sure the jockey wheel is directly over the 1/3 marking on the plank.
Step 4Slot your two pieces of pipe into their notches underneath the plank.
Step 5Place the household scales underneath the pipe that is the furtherest away from the jockey wheel.
Step 6Place a few pavers underneath the other pipe, lifting the plank up to be level with the scales.
Step 7Use a spirit level to make sure the plank is level.
Step 8Tare your scales to 0 (or record the weight on the screen and deduct it from your final weight).
Step 9Make sure your caravan is secure with chocks under its wheels.
Step 10Raise the jockey wheel until it comes off the tow ball.
Step 11Read the measurement on the scale and multiply it by 3. If you couldn’t tare your scales, deduct that initial number from your final weight.

▶️ VIDEO: Demonstration of calculating tow ball weight with household scales

For a better visual on how the ‘household scale’ method works, check out the video below.

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How to Reduce Your Tow Ball Weight

If you weigh your tow ball and find that it’s overweight, you will have to find a way to reduce it. Here are some ways you can reduce your tow ball weight, which will be a process of trial, error and elimination.

How to Load a Caravan for Towing
How to load a caravan correctly

Load Distribution:

Make sure you’ve distributed your load strategically. The heaviest items need to be packed as close to the caravan axles as possible with the lighter items being up high and at the ends of the caravan.

This will reduce trailer sway and move the heavier items away from the tow ball.

Cull Items:

Go through all of your luggage and accessories and consider what can be culled to help reduce your tow ball weight.

Shift the Load:

Get yourself a set of Ball Weight Scales and play around with how your caravan is loaded until you can get the required ball weight.

Empty the Water Tanks:

If you can’t reduce your ball weight enough, but you’ve still got full water tanks, you’ll need to empty them and see if that will get you back underweight.

More Tips for Reducing Ball Weight →
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Caravan Buyers Guide (15-page)

Caravan Buyers Guide

Take the stress out of buying a caravan with this interactive step-by-step guide!

  • 15-page Guide
  • Checklists to tick off
  • Interactive prompts to fill out
  • STEPS INCLUDE: Budget, Set-up, Towing Weights, PPSR Check, Handover, Hitching Up & more!
  • DIGITAL & PRINTABLE
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1 thought on “Caravan Tow Ball Weight Calculator + 3 Ways to Measure”

  1. Public weighbridges are often busy in the morning eg if at a sand & metal supplier. It is recommended to do it in the afternoon, when you are less likely to upset busy truckies.

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