It’s one of the easiest things to overlook regarding RV safety. RVs can be substantially overloaded but not outwardly show it like a car or truck when it is obvious the back end is riding low. So unless you weigh your RV, you may never know it may be dangerously overloaded and a safety concern.
RVs leave the factory at a safe weight, and most give plenty of extra weight capacity for us to load them up with our stuff. But sometimes, over a period of time, we add things and invent extra storage areas until almost imperceptibly we have bypassed the safe weight.
Things That Cause Overloading of the RV
Carrying too many tools
I fell into this trap myself. Since I like to do most of my RV repairs and maintenance tasks, I brought a crap load of tools and supplies. These types of things tend to be very heavy, and it doesn’t take much to add a few hundred pounds to the rig easily. Now I’m much more selective and consider each item carefully with its weight in mind.
Adding Extra Batteries
The extra power is fantastic, but each lead acid battery will add between 50 and 75 pounds. Even 100 amp-hour lithium types are about 25 lbs each. So keep that in mind when building that battery bank. At one point, I carried 4 Golf Cart style batteries with a combined weight of 248 lbs! Thankfully I now have a lighter lithium type which has freed up weight for other things.
Don’t forget that rigid glass solar panels can add significant weight. Say you have eight 100W panels that weigh about 20 lbs each. That’s an extra 160 lbs.
Another item many campers carry in the RV is a portable power generator that typically adds 50 – 100 pounds.
The longer we own an RV, the more likely, we will want to change and improve the factory furnishing, fixture, and layout. As you renovate or upgrade, things keep in mind the extra weight you may be adding or subtracting. Examples are furniture, mattresses, sinks, faucets and lighting fixtures, wood paneling, shelving, flooring, and electronics.
Dishes & Kitchen Appliances
With slide-outs popularity, the newer RVs provide more kitchen cupboard space. It’s tempting to carry a lot of extra dishes and many more kitchen appliances like blenders, mixers, can openers, etc. But remember that just because the manufacturer has created additional space doesn’t necessarily mean they add extra weight capacity.
Canned and Dry Goods
It’s nice to stock up and not have to hit the grocery or beverage store as much, but canned/dry goods, pop, and beers are heavy, so you may want to limit the quantity stored on board.
Books and magazines can add up in weight quickly. Every so often, donate them or get yourself an E-Reader device.
Things like lawn chairs, barbecues, tables, decorations, etc., also all add up. Weigh the pros and cons and decide if the extra weight of an item is worth it. Do you use it often enough?
This is a big one! Every gallon of water on board weighs a little over 8 pounds. When I fill up my 60-gallon freshwater tank, I add 500 pounds, give or take to the rig weight! There could be 1200 pounds of liquids if I have full waste tanks + fresh water. Not that this is likely to take place, but it gives you an idea of how fresh/waste water can dramatically affect the weight and cause overloading of the RV.
Other Miscellaneous Items and Add-ons
Remember to consider every item you’ve added to the rig. It all adds up. I’ve added some extra things over the years, like a 30 lb sewer tote strapped to the rear ladder, 20 lb sewer hose storage box, 100 lbs of landing jack stabilizer bars, 30 lb water filter system, and 180 lb Air Ride pin box.
You’ll find there is an alphabet soup of weights out there to consider. Your main concern is not to be overloaded on any of your RV’s axles or tire capacities. ChangingGears.com has a good write-up explaining all the acronyms. The easiest thing to do is find a closed highway weight station and see if the scale is on. Pull in with the RV fully loaded and weigh each axle, add them all together, and you have the total weight of the RV. Ensure you have the usual number of humans and pets on board and a full tank of fresh water to approximate max weight accurately.
To get the most accurate measurements, weighing each of your rig’s wheels individually is worth it. This service is offered at many RV rallies, shows, and anywhere large numbers of RVers gather.
The problems caused by the overloading of the RV can be severe. Overloading causes tire failures and excessive wear to the suspension and frame and can degrade the handling characteristics of the RV. It’s in an RVers best interest to know the weight specs of the RV and keep it under the maximum by 10-15% for a reasonable margin of safety. A bonus of maintaining a lean RV is better fuel economy, and we all need that these days.
I got some excellent advice through an email from a reader. Look into a Toy Hauler type trailer if you need to carry much extra weight.
That is why I intend on buying a Toy Hauler trailer. It can handle 4 thousand lbs. of load. Of course I plan to boondock most all the time, so I will need 300 lbs. of batteries, 175lbs. of solar panels, and it carries 830lbs. of water, 250lbs. of fuel, etc. Can carry a 250-350lb., 75-100 mpg motor scooter for most running around, and all the gear I can pile in. Yes, it’s heavy, but it will be my home, and I can haul it off the pavement. Additional Water capacity, fuel capacity, cargo capacity, are just some of the benefits of a Toy Hauler over a TT.. Some are very nice now, compared to when they looked like a garage inside. And, I don’t want or need a slide out, as that is just something else that could become a problem later on. Motor/electrical, or weather resistance issues to name two. Just thought you might have listed this as an alternative to those who want or need to carry more than their rig will safely allow. Thanks, Tom K.