What Is Nose Weight? - How To Calculate Caravan Noseweight

Gary White   Author: Gary White

If you want to tow a caravan or another trailer with your trailer hitch, you also have to consider the topic of the tongue load, among other things. The nose load describes the maximum weight that can act on the trailer hitch from above.

For them, neither the specified permissible vertical load for the trailer coupling and the towing device of the towing vehicle nor that of the manufacturer itself may be exceeded. There is also the support load value of the drawbar and overrun device, which is specified by the manufacturer of the trailer. If these values are not identical, the smaller value must be adhered to.

The permissible support load value should under no circumstances be exceeded but should be used to the fullest possible extent, as a high support load serves to stabilize the trailer. The tongue load must be at least 4 percent of the actual total weight of the trailer. For a small hardware store trailer that weighs, for example, 500 kilograms when loaded, that's already 20 kilograms.

According to §42 StVZO, the tongue load is added to the towing vehicle and deducted from the actual trailer weight. However, the permissible total weight of the trailer must not be exceeded.

Free Nose Weight Calculator

Measuring the Nose Weight: This is How It Works

So you can't avoid measuring the nose weight. Important: To measure the vertical load, secure the trailer well against rolling away, apply the brake, or place wedges under it in both directions. The actual nose weight can be determined using a nose weight scale from an accessory store, but also with a bathroom scale.

Here's how to do it: Lay a board flat on the bathroom scale and place a second board of a suitable length under the coupling mouth, perpendicular to the direction of travel. Slowly lower the drawbar with the jockey wheel until the coupling jaw rests on the vertical board and the jockey wheel is only hanging a few millimeters in the air. The vertical board must be high enough so that the coupling mouth is approximately at the same height as your vehicle's trailer coupling when loaded.

If you measure the nose weight directly under the support wheel, the value read will be too high and therefore not meaningful.

Bicycle Rack Nose Weight: Its Own Dynamics

But it's not just trailers that can be towed using the trailer hitch. Many people also use them as a base for a bike rack or transport box. Here too, forces act on the system and put a strain on it. Unlike when towing a trailer, the load is rigidly and immovably connected to the trailer hitch. As a rule, the center of gravity of the transported goods is not exactly above the coupling ball but a few tens of centimeters behind it.

Bike Rack Nose Weight
Bicycle Rack Nose Weight. Credit: Unsplash

How the nose weight Influences the Stability of Your Trailer

There are many reasons to attach a trailer to your vehicle. Either you want to have a nice holiday by the sea in a caravan, or you need to transport equipment that is so large that your car boot can no longer hold it.

If your vehicle has a trailer hitch and you have already checked that the trailer does not exceed the permissible trailer load for your vehicle and that you are allowed to drive the entire trailer with your driving license, nothing stands in the way of your long-awaited vacation.

But wasn't there something else you need to pay attention to? That's right, the permissible nose weight of the entire trailer is also important. Ultimately, this load plays a central role in the entire transport process. In this guide we will explain to you what the nose weight actually is and how you can determine the permissible load for your case.

Jump To:

What does nose weight mean?

The tongue load is the weight with which a trailer rests on the towbar of the towing vehicle.

Where can I find the permissible nose weight?

You can find the permitted vertical load in the registration certificate part 1.

What if the towing vehicle and trailer coupling have different permitted tongue loads?

In this case you have to go with the lower value, otherwise it will be an overcharge.

The actual tongue load is defined as the weight that rests on the trailer hitch of the towing vehicle. However, it is not the case that a certain part of the actual total mass always rests on the trailer hitch. This weight depends largely on how the trailer is constructed. A vertical load only appears on the following types of trailers:

  • • Trailer with only one axle
  • • Trailer with two axles, but less than a meter apart
  • • Trailers in which the axles are only mounted in the middle of the vehicle
  • • Trailers that do not have axles on the trailer fork side

If, on the other hand, a trailer has two axles that are close to the ends of the vehicle, then its entire weight is distributed between the two axles, so that there is little or no nose weight. The nose weight also depends on the number of axles on a trailer.

What Is Nose Weight?
Credit: Unsplash

In these vehicles, the actual total mass is not entirely on the axles of the vehicle, but also partly on the trailer coupling of the towing vehicle. You can measure the load with which a simple single-axle trailer or a large caravan is supported after you have fully loaded it with a so-called nose weight scale. Alternatively, for trailers for cars, it is also possible to place the coupling head well on a normal scale using a piece of wood.

How Can You Determine the Permissible Tongue Weight of Your Vehicle?

The actual nose weight that can occur on your trailer without you committing a violation depends on the following factors:

• maximum nose weight of the motor vehicle

• maximum nose weight of the trailer coupling

• maximum nose weight of the trailer

• minimal nose weight for stable control of the trailer

After calculating or measuring the actual tongue load of your car trailer, you need to check whether it is within these three values. You do not have to calculate the maximum nose weight of your trailer separately, but you can find out as follows:

In the new approval certificate the nose weight is stated in Part I under: “(13) nose weight in kg”. If you still have an old license for your vehicle, you will not find any information about the tongue weight there, but you will have to look for a corresponding sign on the vehicle. This number indicates the maximum load that your vehicle can “handle” before its structure is put under too much strain.

If the actual nose weight is too high, the rear of the towing vehicle can also be pushed down, meaning that the front wheels have less grip on the road. This means that cars can no longer be controlled safely. With the trailer, on the other hand, there is a risk that its trailer fork will be subjected to too much load. Therefore, according to Section 44 Paragraph 3 of the Road Traffic Licensing Regulations (StVZO), it is forbidden to exceed the “technically permissible vertical load” specified by the manufacturer.

For trailers that are towed by a car, the permissible vertical load is usually in the range of 50 to 100 kilograms (without taking the maximum vertical load of the trailer coupling into account). According to Section 44 Para. 3 of the StVZO, the technically permissible vertical load in Germany must be at least 25 kilograms if it is not a motorcycle.

What is the Permissible Tongue Load for Special Trailers?

The nose weight is also important for a bicycle rack. After all, it stands with its full weight on the trailer hitch as a supporting load. You can only attach such bike racks to your car if you have ensured that your trailer hitch can handle the nose weight of your bike rack.

You don't have to calculate the vertical load of your bike rack, you can simply measure it with a scale. Otherwise, the same rules apply to all trailers, regardless of whether it concerns the tongue weight of a caravan or the tongue weight of a horse trailer.

How Can You Increase the Tongue Load of Your Trailer?

If the trailer tongue load is too low to ensure a stable and safe ride, you must first try to shift the load to the area between the center of gravity and the trailer fork.

According to the principle of leverage, the closer it is to the fork, the more you can increase the load. If this doesn't help because you don't have enough load on the trailer overall, you can achieve the required tongue load by loading additional weights onto the front of the trailer. However, it is not possible to increase the vertical load of your trailer hitch. If you want to tow a car trailer with a higher tongue load, you will need a new coupling.

What is the Minimum nose weight the Trailer Must Have?

The actual supporting load should not fall below a certain value. If it is too low, there is a risk that the rear part of the trailer will lower and possibly touch the road. Additionally, when the front axle of the trailer is raised and puts less pressure on the road, the trailer becomes harder to steer. In extreme cases, the connection of the combination can even come loose.

That is why the StVZO stipulates a minimum nose weight for trailers in Section 44 Paragraph 3, which does not depend on the design of the vehicles but is derived solely from the weight of the trailer. Accordingly, the actual tongue load must be at least 4% of the actual total mass of a trailer. However, it does not have to exceed 25 kg if the trailer has a permissible total mass of no more than 3.5 tonnes.

How To Calculate Nose Weight

To calculate the minimum vertical load for your trailer, you can use this formula:

minimum nose weight = actual towing capacity x 4 / 100

For rigid drawbar trailers with a permissible total mass of more than 3.5 tons, the tongue load does not have to be more than 500 kg.

You can use a formula to calculate the minimum nose weight.

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