How to Calculate the Weight Distributing & Carrying Capacity of a Trailer Hitch


Driving with a trailer changes the braking and handling characteristics of a vehicle. Understanding the limitations of the hitch and the towing vehicle are critical to safe operation. By working inside of these limitations you mitigate any risk associated with towing a trailer. Calculating the maximum load your hitch can handle both vertically and horizontally is simple if you know how to find its capacities. A little planning can make your road trip less stressful.

Things You'll Need

  • Trailer tongue weight scale
  • Look on the hitch for its class. This should be stamped into the metal surface or on a data plate. Its class determines the maximum trailer weight it is designed to tow. Class I can tow up to 2,000 lbs., Class II up to 3,500 lbs., Class III up to 5,000 lbs. and Class IV up to 10,000 lbs.

  • Calculate the vertical tongue weight your hitch can safely handle by taking 15 percent of its maximum trailer weight. For example, a Class I hitch can handle a maximum tongue weight of 15 percent of 2,000 lbs., or 300 lbs.

  • Look on the trailer's data plate for its gross trailer weight and make sure your hitch is designed for that mass.

  • Determine the trailer's tongue weight by using the trailer tongue weight scale. If the weight exceeds the maximum tongue weight of the hitch, you can reposition some of the cargo behind the trailer's axle to adjust this weight. You need to maintain around 200 lbs of weight or 10 percent of the trailer's total weight on the tongue for safe operation.

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  • Photo Credit accessoires 164 image by Jacques Ribieff from
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