Ever since I’ve started to write posts on our website I do like to focus on writing safety-related posts when I think of them. The topic of safe/legal leisure vehicle weights is a topic I’ve brought several times previously. For instance, I’ve written about how much do caravans weigh. Furthermore, how important it is to know and measure a caravans noseweight and user payloads. I’ve also discussed motorhome weight plates in terms of how to understand all the figures and their relevance. Within those posts, I have briefly referenced how you weigh a caravan, motorhome or campervan. However, knowing the weight of your leisure vehicle is such an important topic discussing how to do it does deserve its own post. I’ve previously been dismissive of portable weigh scales for leisure vehicles. However, from speaking to a few other people and seeing a few videos of them in action they may have more value than I originally thought.
So, first and foremost if you don’t know what your caravan, motorhome or campervans gross weight or payload limits are, please click one of the links above in my introduction. Before learning how to weigh a motorhome, caravan or campervan you need to understand the what figure will indicate you are overweight. You also need to appreciate the impact weight distribution which I discuss in those posts linked above. For instance, with both caravans and motorhomes, even if you are within the legal weight tolerance, the location of that weight within the vehicle can dramatically impact on-road handling. With all that covered, lets now discuss the two methods you could use to determine the weight of your leisure vehicle. A portable weight scale and/or finding and travelling to your local public weighbridge.
Weighing a Caravan, Motorhome or Campervan with a Portable Scale at Home
So the first option to consider is a portable weigh scale, you basically place it on the ground and drive over it with each wheel of the leisure vehicle. The portable weigh scale then stores that data until you have measured each wheel of the caravan, motorhome or campervan. It can then display a total weight figure for the vehicle. For a motorhome, it can also display the weight for the left side of the vehicle and the weight for the right side of the vehicle. For good on-road performance, you want to try and keep the weight on both sides of the vehicle reasonably comparable. Currently, the only such portable weigh scale that I’m aware of is made by Reich. Reich produce lots of other leisure vehicle accessories such as towing mirrors.
This portable weigh scale by Reich can measure up to a maxium of 1,500kg per wheel: Image – Amazon
Now, if you have read any of my other leisure vehicle weight-related posts linked above you will know I’ve previously been quite dismissive of this portable weigh scale. I basically said don’t use it, not based on my own opinions of using the product but based on some forum comments I’d read etc. The Reich portable weigh scale states it has a 3% accuracy. However, I would read comments of people repeating tests with results which were wildly different.
Recently one of our guests to Horton Common who reads my posts contacted me and said they actually own one and get on quite well with it. They have compared the portable weigh scale results with the figures provided by a public weighbridge and they were comparable. So I thought I would look into it again and give a bit more feedback on my thoughts of how to use this portable weigh scale to measure the weight of your caravan, motorhome or campervan.
How to Use the Reich Portable Weigh Scale
Before I discuss why I believe its working for some people and not others I thought I would provide a bit more information on how you actually use it. As often is the case a picture (or video in this case) can speak a thousand words. Therefore, to save me typing a thousand words please watch the video below to see how to use the Reich portable weigh scale:
Just a quick heads up, there are actually two versions of the Reich portable weigh scale, one yellow and one orange. The yellow scale measures up to 1,000kg per wheel and the orange version linked above weights up to 1,500kg. The orange version is a bit more expensive than the yellow version due to the higher weight reading. Both units have the same rated accuracy to within 3% of the actual weight.
Getting Accurate Results With The Reich Portable Weigh Scale
So the reason I believe some people are getting reasonably accurate results with this portable weigh scale and other arent is how it may be used. For instance, I think the speed at which you drive over it is important. I think slow and steady will give you the most accurate result. If you drove over it too quickly I can see it not taking the reading correctly and giving a weight figure lower than the actual weight.
Secondly, I think its absolutely vital you are taking a reading over a very flat and level surface. For instance, if you have a gravel drive at home I would not use this portable weigh scale. You could (where safe to do so) drive onto the street and use it on a flat tarmac surface. I think that would give a much more accurate result. A more suitable option may be to drive to a local car park with a flat tarmac surface. However, that’s obviously a lot easier with a motorhome than when towing a caravan. Providing the motorhome can actually get under any applicable entrance barriers etc.
I really do think the surface finish underneath this portable weigh scale is crucial to achieving an accurate result. Tarmac would be best, paving may be ok, but a paved surface is not completely flat. As I’ve said above, I would always avoid a gravel surface. The weigh scale would not be properly supported, hence not only may it produce an inaccurate result it may actually break. Therefore, I suspect some of those people who have struggled to use this portable weigh scale it may have a lot to do with the driveway/road surface they tried it on.
Taking Your Caravan, Motorhome or Campervan to a Public Weigh Bridge
Ok, so I’m no longer completely dismissive of the portable weigh scale above. I get how it can be really handy to be able to weigh your caravan, motorhome or campervan at home. And if it encourages more people to check the weight of their leisure vehicle to make sure its safe and legal, great, I’m all for it. However, even if you own a portable weigh scale for your leisure vehicle I would still encourage you to get familiar with the process of how to use a public weighbridge, and importantly where to find them. First, I’d encourage you to watch the video below from Practical Motorhome on using a public weighbridge.
So as shown in the video with a public weighbridge you can get the total weight for your leisure vehicle. However, for motorhomes, you can also get just the rear axle load by reversing back onto the plate. With a caravan and tow car, you may want to get a couple of readings. Both your car and caravan have their own legal weight restrictions when it comes to payloads. Therefore, once you are loaded up for your trip it is best practice to visit a public weighbridge as your first stop on your travels.
Using a Portable Weigh Scale before a Public Weighbridge
Now, for the weighbridge results to be applicable to your car, caravan or motorhome they would have to be fully packed with all your belongings. Therefore, this is where it could end up being a pain if the results show you are exceeding your leisure vehicles legal weight limits. You would then have to go back home and unload some of that weight. To be sure you were still under the limit you would then have to go back to the weighbridge. This could obviously take up a lot of time and create a lot of frustration. Hence the appeal of portable weigh scale is you could use at home such as the Reich product above.
I suppose the most practical but safe scenario would be to use the portable weight scale at home to check the leisure vehicles weight first. Then once you are pretty confident you are within the legal payload limits for the vehicle you then take it to the public weighbridge. The public weighbridge will then provide you with that official confirmation that your outfit is safe and legal. With this method, you would likely avoid going to the public weighbridge only to find out your overweight and all the hassle that would create.
How to Find Your Closest Public Weighbridge
Conclusions on How to Weigh a Caravan, Motorhome or Campervan
So my position on portable weight scales for leisure vehicles has changed a bit. If you use them on a suitable driveway/road surface they could be a handy tool as a first check to see if your outfit is legal. However, I would still not rely on that reading as the final weight check. I would always still advise going to a public weighbridge. However, what that portable weight scale may be able to do is avoid the frustration and hassle of turning up at a public weighbridge fully laden only to find out your outfit is overweight. I discuss this topic more in how to properly load a motorhome.
Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope whether you choose to consider a portable weight scale or not you now know how to find out where your local public weighbridge is located. I also hope at some point in the near future you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common Caravan Site. 🙂