Caravan Weight Distribution

Introduction

Caravan weight distribution is a critical issue. When you place too much weight at either end of a caravan, it negatively impacts the caravan’s stability. Whilst there are some complex physics involved, RV Books explains in simple terms why this is a problem and what can be done to ensure it does not become a serious issue.

The Rotating Weightlifter

The Rotating Weightlifter is a metaphor that we use to show what happens when too much weight is placed at either end of a caravan.

Imagine a weightlifter holding a bar with two, heavy circular weights on the bar. Let's start by asking him or her to place the two weights at the centre of the bar. Now let's ask the weightlifter to lift the bar to chest height and rotate on the spot. Now let's try to stop him or her rotating by placing our arms in the path of the rotating bar. Fairly easy, isn't it? For caravan purposes, let's put our weights inside our caravan and look at them from above:

The green arrows show that it's relatively easy to stop the weightlifter from rotating.

Now let's put the two weights at the end of the bar and again ask the weightlifter to rotate on the spot. And again, let's try to stop the rotation:

Even if you were courageous enough to stand in the path of the rotating weightlifter, this time the chances are that you would have been flung to the far side of the room in an instant. The large red arrows illustrate the point.

This is what happens to a caravan that is overweight at either end - it starts to oscillate dangerously and with sufficient force to create the chaotic motion that can cause a jack-knife.

This shows why you should never put heavy items at either end of a caravan.

Items that you need to think very carefully about locating at the front or back end of your caravan include spare wheels, toolboxes, bicycles, motorbikes, spare water and fuel canisters, extra batteries, generators and BBQs. If placed at either end of a caravan, these items can become just like the weights at the end of the bar of the rotating weightlifter.

As long as the caravan is travelling in a straight line, you probably won’t notice a problem, but as soon as a sideways force is exerted on the caravan, such as a gust of wind or taking a bend too quickly, the extra weight at either end of the caravan pivots around the caravan’s axles and can generate yaw (or sway).

RV Books recommends placing all heavy items as close to the caravan’s axle(s) as possible.

Weight Distribution Experiments

In 2007 Dr. Jos Darling of the University of Bath in the UK developed an experiment in partnership with Bailey UK to demonstrate the impact of incorrect weight distribution on trailer stability.

Watch the video below to see how weight distribution affects trailer stability:

If you have any difficulty watching this video on our site, you can watch it here.

Ideal Caravan Weight Distribution

The diagram below shows where you should place light, medium and heavy items in a caravan for maximum towing stability:

Motor Home Weight Distribution

Motor homes are less susceptible to incorrect weight distribution, because, with wheels in each corner and no overhung hitches, they are inherently more stable than caravans. Nevertheless is it still advisable to place heavy items low down in the middle of a motor home. Use a motor home roof rack for light items only.

Securing all items is critical in a motor home because goods and passengers share the same space.

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