Whether you are renovating your own from scratch or just loading an existing or beautiful brand newy – weight distribution is everything! Be it 4WD & caravan or camper trailer or Motor home – they all need to be loaded with some things in mind. While evenly loading for weight is often carefully considered by most travellers, here are a couple of things you may not have already considered;
1. The 4WD with roof racks, bull bar, and rear back loaded … how much does it decrease your towing capacity? – and Ball Weight?
2. Have you stepped to the side and looked at the level of your car and rig? Is your tow bar adjusted for height? Should you invert it to create a higher hitch? Incorrectly loading your entire rig will impact on your tyre wear, the way it tows, especially if you have a tyre blow while driving? And it will also affect the way it travels behind you. If you need help, 4WD mechanics and places like ARB and many tyre places, mechanics can adjust these issues for you and ensure you are correctly set up. Other campers have a giggle at bad set ups, but its really not funny if your front wheels are up so high that you have lost good steering ability, or your rear end is riding heavily on the springs, or your caravan looks like its about to do a headstand? So what happens if you do have to pull up super quick? Will it flip?
3. A boot in the front of a caravan doesn’t mean you should load it full of tools, generator, fishing gear, jockey wheel and various other heavy items…. It will impact on your ball weight. Yes its not as easy to get things out from under the lounge cupboard, but its safer.
3. Have you done a towing course? Defensive driving? Do you insist that only one of you is the driver? Fatigue is one of the greatest killers on the road. If you are an adult in the vehicle and you have a license, you should have training on driving/towing in case of emergency. Just in case. It takes a good amount of time and confidence to constantly pass 4 caboose Road trains – my last trip in WA: passing me were: (on most days), 4wd, then 4 Road trains, 4wd, then 4 Road trains…Along the Savannah Way in the north, there is only one car width of road in most places, so Road train means you need to pull onto the dirt while still driving – so make sure you are confident with driving your rig – before you leave home.
4. Ever seen that add about towing where they have everything at the back? The rear of the van will start to sway wildly with any sudden jerk of the wheel, and often results in the caravan jack-knifing across the road, often taking the 4WD with it – sideways or over an embankment or worse into on coming traffic. Unfortunately many vans or motor-homes are made with the double bed at the back, with the lift up storage underneath.
Again, think about what you put under there .. light and fluffy like a blanket, not 4 slabs of beer in case the stores run out! Because we turn to the right around all round-abouts, most caravan designers put the heavier stuff down the driver’s side. This means the rig will balance better when leaning over to the left. Having all the heavy gear on the passenger side, will feel like you are going to tip. Try to balance the heavy stuff out and of course this means your batteries too. You may have 3 x 140 deep cycles = 90kg +. Think about which side the stove should be on, and even go to the extent of weighing everything you put on board. Keep a list and know what weight you have on each side, front and back. About one metre inside (over the wheels) is best spot to have anything truly weighty.
5. Lots of Motor home’s you see have a little trailer running behind. This is to off set the weight. Some vehicles, like Toyota Coasters are set at different gross weight allowance while using a car license (up to 4.5 Tonne) but by towing a trailer, they can have a lot more weight on board between the two and also have the convenience of taking toys with them or having a place to deploy things to, should they be pulled up and weighed, and found to be over weight. If you do get caught being over weight, dumping your water tank is the fastest way to decrease your overall weight. If you are on your own and get caught, you will need to stay by the roadside until your weight is within the ranges of your MOD Plate (registration weights) unless you do have the LR or now, MR license to cover the additional weight. The other thing worth noting: IF you have two seats but are travelling alone, if weighed, they will add 100kg to your total to allow for that second person/clothing/food that your vehicle is registered for. So say in the Coaster, your total would have to be 4.4T to allow for that 100kg if it was only licensed for car license.
Where to get weighed? The Refuse Tip, I just go dump a piece of metal for free and look at the weigh station gauge as I drive through. If you need to pay for a bag of rubbish, you will get a slip with weight printed on it. Then there are the metal recycling yards, they will often weigh your rig at no charge, especially if you offer to pay, or are bringing in a battery or metal. The other one is Landscaping yards, same as previous, they are set up to weigh their trucks, so can sometimes be a good spot. I have asked many times in different states if I go to a council weigh station for trucks and pay my $15 to get weighed and happen to be over: will that info be sent to the Service centre in my state? The jury is still out on that, so just be careful.
6. Remember: if your weight is over the legal mount on your rego papers, your insurance will NOT pay out in case of an accident. The assessors have weigh scales on board and it is the first thing they will do in the case of an accident. Remember, they don’t want to pay out!