How to measure a caravan's nose weight

Knowing (and having the ability to adjust) the nose weight of your caravan is very important.

The nose weight is the weight (force) that is exerted on the car’s tow ball when your caravan is attached.

The weight of the caravan should exert a slight downwards force on the rear of the car. This helps the rear tyres grip the road keeping the car in control of the outfit.

It is important however, to get the downward weight correct, as too much could jeopardise safety by lowering the car’s rear suspension and by raising the front. This will put too much pressure on the car’s rear tyres, lower the grip of the front tyres and raise the headlights above the legal limit.

Equally, not enough weight will reduce the grip of your car’s rear tyres which is of course, particularly dangerous with rear wheel drive vehicles and not enough weight could also potentially lift the rear of the car on steep inclines.

To give you an idea as to how to monitor this, your caravan’s nose weight should be approximately 7% of its laden weight (although some older handbooks will give you a specific nose weight). For example, a caravan with a laden mass of 1200kg would have a recommended nose weight of 84kg.

You can measure the nose weight with a nose weight gauge or with a set of bathroom scales. Please take care to ensure that the caravan is well supported and on an even surface as you do this.

Cars also have maximum nose weights they are able to take. These are stated in the handbook and should not be exceeded.

However, the following list gives an approximate guide to the nose weights of various types of cars.

  • Small to medium hatchbacks and saloons – 50kg to 75kg
  • Large saloons and medium 4x4s or SUVs – 75kg to 100kg
  • Large 4x4s, SUVs and 4x4 pickups – 100kg to 150kg.

A 1200kg laden caravan with a 7% nose weight of 84kg would need a car that could support a weight of 100kg or more, such as a large saloon or a medium 4x4.

Note also, that towballs and towbars have independent limits, especially if they are fitted to the car post-production.

Our members always recommend fitting a towbar with an independent limit that meets or exceeds the maximum nose weight of the car it’s fitted to. Whilst always adhering to the car’s limit this will ensure that your towbar is more than adequate to manage the load.

A balancing act

To attain the ideal nose weight, when loading your caravan, take care to balance the weight across the axle.

Full gas cylinders and batteries tend to be the heaviest items you carry, so load these first and then locate the remaining items to achieve the ideal nose weight. Check that loaded items will not move around during transit.

Please make sure that heavier items, such as awnings and furniture are mounted as close to the axle as possible, positioning them slightly off-centre to reach the target balance. This will improve the balance and reduce any swinging effects on the caravan.

Check the nose weight as you go along and stop when the desired weight is achieved (you may need to move a number of items around to do this).

Some of our members have noted that when changing towcars to bigger 4x4s, they’ve had to increase the nose weight by around 10kg to keep the same feel of balance and avoid any twitchy movements from the caravan when towing. However, if you are in doubt, check your nose weight to vehicle ratio as described above.

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