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Can You Get Pulled Over for Towing an Overweight Trailer?

Can You Get Pulled Over for Towing an Overweight Trailer?

Being overweight is a hot topic in many online RV communities, but can it get you in trouble?

There are so many numbers to keep straight to ensure you’re towing safely while on the road. RVers can obsess over weights and measurements.

Can you really get pulled over for towing a heavy trailer, though?

Let’s take a look!

RV leaving campground in mountains

What Happens If You Tow an Overweight Trailer?

Towing an overweight trailer can cause issues for not only the trailer but the tow vehicle as well. The axles, tires, and other important suspension components on your RV have a weight rating.

When you put these ratings to the test, you risk damaging these essential components. This can lead to broken leaf springs, blown tires, and increased wear and tear on your RV.

It’s also important to keep in mind that your tow vehicle will also have some towing limits. By overloading a trailer, you’re also likely putting your tow vehicle to the test. The more weight you put on your trailer, the more weight you’re asking your tow vehicle to carry and tow.

If this increased weight pushes your RV over your vehicle’s towing capacity and other tow numbers, you’re likely going to cause damage to your tow vehicle.

Doing so can damage not only critical suspension parts but also your transmission and engine.

You must be aware of your maximum weight rating for both your trailer and your tow vehicle. If not, you’re more likely to experience mechanical issues and could find yourself visiting a mechanic more often. 

Pro Tip: Mechanical issues also affect your RV. Here are the first things that will break on your camper according to a mechanic.

Is It Really That Dangerous to Tow an Overweight Trailer?

Towing an overweight trailer can be incredibly dangerous. RV manufacturers assign weight ratings to RVs to maintain the safest possible towing experience. These weight ratings aren’t just suggestions or recommendations.

By overloading your RV, you’re creating an unsafe scenario for towing. You could even void your warranties. 

When you travel with an overweight trailer, you’re more likely to experience a tire blowout as well. Tire blowouts can occur as tires carry excessive weight down the highway and cause tire temperatures to increase.

The more the temperatures rise, the greater the chances a blowout will occur. Not only can a blowout cause extensive damage to your RV, but it can also cause you to lose control.

Keep your trailer underweight and avoid a dangerous situation for you and other drivers on the road. You don’t want to be in or cause an accident because your trailer is overweight.

Can You Get Pulled Over for Towing an Overweight Trailer?

While laws vary from state to state, you generally can get pulled over for towing an overweight trailer. Very few law enforcement officers have the capabilities to weigh a vehicle on the side of the road to confirm whether or not you are, in fact, overweight.

However, if it’s obvious you’re towing too much weight, a police officer can pull you over.

If you’re towing for commercial purposes and go across a highway weigh station scale while overweight, you’re likely to receive a citation. If you’re towing for personal use and don’t have to go across the scale, you can still receive a citation and face serious legal consequences if you’re involved in an accident while towing an overweight trailer.

Most insurance companies will deny any claims, and you’ll be stuck footing the bill yourself.

How Does an Overweight Trailer Affect Your Car?

An overweight trailer doesn’t just affect the trailer but also the car towing it. The more weight you put on the trailer, the more weight you’re also putting on the car. You may be doing more harm than you realize when you choose to tow an overweight trailer. Doing so could affect the vehicle’s suspension as well as other essential components.

Towing an overweight trailer requires your transmission and engine to work harder. When these components work harder, they create more heat. The heat produced by these parts causes fluids to break down and lubricants and seals to fail.

You can even cause them to seize up from significant damage. Causing premature wear and tear on your vehicle is a great way to become best friends with your local mechanic.

How Do You Know If Your RV is Overweight?

The only way to know if you’re overloaded is to know the maximum weight rating for your specific trailer. Manufacturers assign this number and factor in the capabilities of your trailer’s axles and other components in your suspension system.

However, knowing your maximum weight rating isn’t enough.

You’ll also need to know how much your trailer weighs. There are more than 1,400 CAT scales across the country where you can drive your RV up and get a readout of your total weight.

This will help you know whether your RV is overweight and if you’re within the towing capabilities of your tow vehicle.

Keep in mind that you should go across the scales with a full tank of fuel and with a fully loaded trailer. You want to know that you’re underweight even when carrying full tanks.

Pro Tip: These are the best dually trucks for towing.

2022 Ram 3500 Heavy Duty Limited Crew Cab Dually

What Is the 80% Towing Rule? 

The 80% towing rule is a general towing safety rule that helps maintain a safe towing environment. Those who follow this rule use a maximum of 80% of their weight numbers.

This means that while their truck may be able to tow 30,000 lbs, they’ll never tow more than 24,000 lbs (30,000 lbs x 80% = 24,000 lbs).

While some who like to push the boundaries may see that as being too conservative, safety is one area where we think it’s important to be a little cautious.

How to Avoid Towing an Overweight Trailer

To avoid overloading your trailer, you need to know how much weight you can add to your trailer. Without knowing how much weight you have to work with, it’s a guessing game of whether or not you’re within your towing numbers.

So you first need to check the stickers located on your RV or the documentation that came with your RV to find this number.

You’ll then want to make sure that you’re only adding items that you consider essential. If you don’t have much room to work with, you’re not going to be able to bring lots of unnecessary items.

Once you load everything in, drive across a CAT scale to check how much room you have left. Depending on the results, you may need to reevaluate how necessary some items are.

Keep in mind that by adding items like solar panels or a second air conditioning unit to the roof of your RV, you’re increasing the weight of your RV.

Unless the manufacturer added these items before your RV left the factory, the sticker numbers aren’t likely to factor in their weight.

Be Safe and Tow Wisely 

We don’t think it’s possible to overstate the importance of safety while towing. You, as the driver, are responsible for not only the people in your vehicle but also others on the road.

You must follow the tow ratings for your vehicle and trailer and any local restrictions regarding towing. It’s better to arrive safely with fewer things to make your trailer a little lighter than not to arrive at all.

Have you ever been caught towing overweight?

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