Measuring noseweights

Feb 21, 2019
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Having read many views on this, and other, forums about methods of measuring noseweight, there appears to be two camps. Those that use gauges; deemed less accurate because of differences of height from the actual towbar and also calibration errors. And those that use the ‘bathroom scales’ method, deemed more accurate because calibration is better and the height can be adjusted to match the height of the loaded towbar.

So my question is; bathroom scales are designed to be used on hard, smooth and flat surfaces .... so how do members of this camp use these on soft, muddy campsites of rough, stones surfaces? It would seem to me that a single pole-type design of gauge can be used on any surface, including in the middle of a muddy puddle if necessary?

My own problem is that my van is kept at a storage facility with a rough stone surface - how do I measure the noseweight? Being new to caravanning I would like to measure the noseweight when leaving campsites - how do I do this on muddy grass? In both cases it is neither practical or time efficient to hitch up and move the van to a hard/flat surface elsewhere before trying to adjust the packing and balance the weights.

So, how do folks measure noseweight on rough/soft surfaces please?
 

Parksy

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Nov 12, 2009
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Neither a noseweight gauge or bathroom scales would be at the correct height to measure noseweight on level ground with the hitch at towball height, so you could stand either on a flat piece of board, a block of wood or even the side of a levelling ramp to provide a rigid surface and then adjust to get the hitch height as close to the correct towed height as possible.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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Parksy said:
Neither a noseweight gauge or bathroom scales would be at the correct height to measure noseweight on level ground with the hitch at towball height, ..

Hello Parksy
This doesn't seem to make sense, it perhaps needs an edit.

For Muddy Paws

The surface should be horizontal because if its angled that will make the measurement inaccurate, for the same reasons the hitch should be at the same height as when it is coupled to the car and the suspension has accommodated the nose load.

I favour the bathroom scales used on top of the caravan step with a few magazines to set the scales at the correct height.
 
Nov 11, 2009
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I have used our bathroom scales to measure noseweight whilst the van is at the correct height and I then use the Milenco noseweight gauge to see what it reads. In effect using the bathroom scales to “calibrate” the gauge.
The bathroom scales are easy to calibrate. Just book a long haul flight. If you weigh say 80 kg and your suitcase 23kg then your combined weights on the scales will cover the noseweight range. And the nice check in staff will cover the low end of the range too. :)
I rarely reameasure noseweight when leaving a site as over the years we have become disciplined enough to repack stuff where it was on the outbound trip. But in the days when I did check it I used pads of wood to support the gauge.
 
May 7, 2012
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At the end of the day you do your best and keep your fingers crossed. Neither method is foolproof but should get you near enough for a check by the authorities to be near enough for them to accept or just ask you to adjust the weights rather than prosecute. Generally they can get enough serious problems for them to accept minor errors.
 
Jul 18, 2017
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Raywood said:
At the end of the day you do your best and keep your fingers crossed. Neither method is foolproof but should get you near enough for a check by the authorities to be near enough for them to accept or just ask you to adjust the weights rather than prosecute. Generally they can get enough serious problems for them to accept minor errors.
I may be wrong but doubt if they can prosecute if the nose weight of the caravan is exceeded as there is no legislation as such. I don't think there is any specific legislation if you exceed the the maximum capacity of the tow bar on the car however you could be done for dangerous load or vehicle unsafe.
We use a Milenco calibrated gauge and have found it to be quite accurate. Previously we had a Reich Towball gauge and that was spot on however you need to be careful with it. We were doing the towbal when the caravan shift and snapped off the head of the gauge.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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lutzschelisch.wix.com
Exceeding the noseweight limit is not an offence so long as doesn’t constitute a dangerous loading condition. However, it can adversely affect vehicle warranty and manufacturer’s product liability. Obviously, the noseweight must also not be so high that the towcar‘s rear axle load limit is exceeded.
 
Aug 11, 2018
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Tow ball weight is approximate, there are too many variables, use a standard friction pad and spring anti snake and spring assister and tow ball weight is decreased but no measuring device normally used will measure it.

Using a set of bathroom scales we would normally place the jockey wheel on them, which is closer to wheels than the ball socket, so again measurement is slightly out.

If I can lift the socket onto the ball it's not far out, it's more down to common sense, if you can see the weight on the tow ball is likely to cause grounding it is clearly too much.

When towing an agricultural trailer high hook weight is good, and often no springs on the towing tractor, and the hook is placed as close to the rear axle as you can, but with a car the tow ball can be a meter away from the axle and with front wheel drive you would likely get wheel spin trying to start off. So it is normally around half to one hundred weight.

It will vary car to car due to different overhang but you not trying to get the weight spot on, so if care says 20x and you measure 15x or 20x that's OK.

If it does not tow well change something, we will move a mattress side to side or front to back if not towing well and try it again. It's more down to trial and error than any scientific measurement.
 
Mar 14, 2005
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ericmark said:
Tow ball weight is approximate, there are too many variables, use a standard friction pad and spring anti snake and spring assister and tow ball weight is decreased but no measuring device normally used will measure it.

Hello Eric,

Making reference to friction and spring stabilisers is not helpful or relevant as nose load would be measured without the stabiliser engaged. And even when it is engaged the the caravans nose load is still there but split between the ball and the friction pads anchor point which should be fixed to the tow bar, so the full nose load is transferred to the tow bar of the car.

ericmark said:
Using a set of bathroom scales we would normally place the jockey wheel on them, which is closer to wheels than the ball socket, so again measurement is slightly out.

The effect of moving the support from the hitch to the jockey wheel as you say does reduce the distance to the axle, but crucially it moves it closer to the caravans CoG. Because of the turning momment has a shorter displacement the measured load at the jockey wheel will be greater than when the nose is supportr on the cars tow ball. The difference is dependant on the relative distances to the CoG and can be in the order of up to 20 kg difference.

ericmark said:
If I can lift the socket onto the ball it's not far out, it's more down to common sense, if you can see the weight on the tow ball is likely to cause grounding it is clearly too much.

Humans are notorious for being hopelessly inaccurate at assessing the weight value of lifted weights. It is not a sufficiently precise way of assessing nose load. All modern cars sold in the EU with a towed weight allowance, will have specifications that will allow the maximum towed weight to be pulled with at lest a 4% nose load, and the car suspension will not be compromised by it. In other words the compression caused by the trailers nose load should not even begin to look as though grounding is likely.

ericmark said:
If it does not tow well change something, we will move a mattress side to side or front to back if not towing well and try it again. It's more down to trial and error than any scientific measurement.

I do agree becasue even two peopel with the same car and caravan will load it differently and get different nose loads, so there is no practical way of calculating the ideal nose load. But there are reasonably accurate methods of measuring it.
 
Jul 18, 2017
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The issue of towball weight is no big issue as long as you are within reason. After all when travelling on many UK roads the caravan nose weight will probably vary between minus zero up to 200+kg. Also it must be remembered that the nose weight of the car is equally as important as that will also fluctuate and will do so before the caravan nose weight oscillates between minus zero and 200+kg. Would that be a pendulum effect while towing a caravan?
 
Nov 16, 2015
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On my first Caravan, a Sterling Eccles Jewel, no small caravan, I used to do as Ericmark , stated, and thought if I could easily lift the tow hitch then it was ok, where in actual fact the nose weight was at about 45kg, way too light for the weight of the caravan. After a few years and getting more sensible about towing then I started to weighing thing I tend to keep our nose weight around the 80 to 90 kg weighed at the tow hitch on garage scales, ( they are not kept in the bathroom anymore),

Our van tows much better with a heavier nose weight rather than, lighter .
 
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Buckman said:
The issue of towball weight is no big issue as long as you are within reason. After all when travelling on many UK roads the caravan nose weight will probably vary between minus zero up to 200+kg. Also it must be remembered that the nose weight of the car is equally as important as that will also fluctuate and will do so before the caravan nose weight oscillates between minus zero and 200+kg. Would that be a pendulum effect while towing a caravan?

The reason that nose load is always set when stationary, is becasue that is the only practical way it can be assessed.

When underway the actual nose does vary becasue of the dynamic effects of vibration and changes of speed and direction. The scale of of the nose load variation is highly variable and is directly related to the G forces created when driving. The static nose load is multiplied by the g forces, so if an excessive nose load has been set, it could be capable of exceeding the design of the vehicle when expected g forces are encountered.

Because the vehicle is designed to manage the dynamic loads created when towing, it is highly unlikely a vehicle would be damaged if the load increases whilst stationary for example when people might use a coupled caravan for a meal or a comfort break., But the nose load must not exceed the lowest applicable limit when it is in motion.

Excess static nose load on a vehicle when being used on the road could be designated as an unsafe load which could be prosecuted.

Indeed the discussion about end loading affecting stability is connected to nose loading.
 
Jul 18, 2017
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ProfJohnL said:
Buckman said:
The issue of towball weight is no big issue as long as you are within reason. After all when travelling on many UK roads the caravan nose weight will probably vary between minus zero up to 200+kg. Also it must be remembered that the nose weight of the car is equally as important as that will also fluctuate and will do so before the caravan nose weight oscillates between minus zero and 200+kg. Would that be a pendulum effect while towing a caravan?

The reason that nose load is always set when stationary, is becasue that is the only practical way it can be assessed.

When underway the actual nose does vary becasue of the dynamic effects of vibration and changes of speed and direction. The scale of of the nose load variation is highly variable and is directly related to the G forces created when driving. The static nose load is multiplied by the g forces, so if an excessive nose load has been set, it could be capable of exceeding the design of the vehicle when expected g forces are encountered.

Because the vehicle is designed to manage the dynamic loads created when towing, it is highly unlikely a vehicle would be damaged if the load increases whilst stationary for example when people might use a coupled caravan for a meal or a comfort break., But the nose load must not exceed the lowest applicable limit when it is in motion.

Excess static nose load on a vehicle when being used on the road could be designated as an unsafe load which could be prosecuted.

Indeed the discussion about end loading affecting stability is connected to nose loading.

Which is exactly what i said for those that did not want an in-depth analysis, but thank you for it anyway. LOL! :cheer:
 

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