Loading and packing an RV is something to which most RVers pay scant attention. Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to load your RV. It is far too easy for the uninformed RVer to overload his or her RV—and in more than one way.
Your RV can be over the gross vehicle weight, over an axle weight, or over a tire load rating—and none of these situations are safe.
As strange as it might seem...
Your RV can be under weight—but still be overloaded!
Loading and packing of an RV is something that most people do with little or no forethought. Just grab your stuff, find a place for it, and forget it, right? Wrong, possibly very wrong! Most motorhomes are overloaded and are not load-balanced. A motorhome already has a high center of gravity and loves to lean way over as you go around curves on the road.
In a nut shell, put the heavy items (like canned goods) down low, and put the lighter stuff (like potato chips) up high. Use some common sense and also try to load balance your stuff—don’t put all the heavy items in one bin. Put some heavy items in compartments on both sides of your coach, some toward the front as well, since many RVs are already heavy in the rear with water tanks and an LP tank. For example, if you have a heavy tool box, put it on the opposite side away from the LP tank or the generator but in about the same location (front to back wise).
But let the lady help with the “livability quotient” of what to pack where. It is nice to have a couple of chairs, a small table or two, and a floor mat in the compartment right behind the entry door—making it very convenient to set up your living space when you settle into a new camp site.
The same goes for the barbeque “stuff.” A good place for this is the compartment just in front of the entry door. It is easily available when you want to BBQ.
Unless you are a full-timer, resist the temptation to take along all your clothes. You will soon find that you will need many less clothes than you first thought. You don’t need an entire wardrobe and 10 pairs of shoes to camp comfortably.
When your new motorhome is finally crammed with all your “stuff”, the fuel tank is topped off, the fresh water tank has been partially filled, and your propane tank has some fuel in it, maybe you are ready to hit the road.
But your first stop should be a truck scale that will permit you to weigh your motorhome four different times—a scale where you can weigh each wheel separately —so that you can accurately know if you have an overloaded wheel, an overloaded axle, or an overloaded rig. An alternate plan is to weigh first the front axle and then the back axle—this scheme will tell you if you have an overloaded axle, but will not tell you if you have an overloaded tire (or tires).
Most RVers do not realize that it is possible for a rig to be under the GVWR, but exceed either the front or rear GAWR, or to be within the allowable GAWRs but to have an overloaded wheel (either a single front tire or a set of rear duals). In other words, your RV can be underweight but still be overloaded!
Let’s go through an example to make this situation more clear, and go back to the first case where we are able to weigh each of the four corners of the RV separately. For our example, lets assume that we have an older motorhome with a GVWR of 17,000 lbs., a front axle GAWR of 6,000 lbs., a rear axle GAWR of 11,000 lbs., and tires whose specifications allow a maximum load of 3100 lbs. on a single tire and a maximum load of 2800 lbs. per tire in a dual configuration (side by side). (I’ve taken some editorial liberty with these tire specs to reinforce this example.)
Lets further assume that the measured scale weights are as follows:
When we add the weight on the front axle (3300 lbs. on the left side and 2600 lbs. on the right side), we find that the total front axle weight is only 5,900 lbs., just within the front GAWR of 6,000 lbs. However, note that the left front wheel is carrying more weight than the maximum tire load rating. The RV weight is less than the front GAWR but has overloaded the left front tire. Oops, time to think about relocating some of the “stuff” to redistribute the weight farther back.
Now lets check the rear axle. In the same way as we did before, when we add the weight on the rear axle (5900 lbs. on the left side and 5000 lbs. on the right side), we see that the total rear axle weight is again within the rear GAWR of 11,000 lbs. However, a weight imbalance of 900 lbs. is not good—there is too much weight on the left side. In addition, the weight on the left side of the RV overloads the specified carrying capacity of the left-side dual tires. Please note that the rear axle RV weight is within the rear GAWR, but has overloaded the left-side dual tires. Again, it is time to think about where to move some “stuff”. And, yes, folks, it is highly probable that there is just too much “stuff” crammed into the RV.
Please note that if only the front and rear axles had been weighed separately, we would not have discovered that tires on both the front and rear axles were overloaded.
If you happen to attend an FMCA or Escapees rally, you will usually find a vendor who is able to simultaneously measure the RV weight on all four corners of your RV at the same time.
Also remember that the tongue weight of your tow dolly, transporter, or four-down toad subtracts from the allowable GVWR of your RV.