There are two big things to remember when you are preparing for a big cross country trip or a weekend jaunt to a campground nearby. One is the payload of your SUV. The other is tongue weight. That’s not to say that towing capacity and the length of your trailer, for instance, are not important.
One of the meanings of the word payload on the The Free Dictionary website is as follows:
a. The total weight of passengers and cargo that an aircraft carries or can carry.
b. The total weight of the instruments, crew, and life-support systems that a spacecraft carries or can carry.
c. The passengers, crew, instruments, or equipment carried by an aircraft, spacecraft, or rocket.
In the case of an SUV, you have the weight of all the people. In addition, there is the weight of all the luggage, BBQs and charcoal, tents, toys and other gear that you are bringing. If you end up taking a quick trip to Starbucks or someplace else and take all the food or beverages on the go, that makes a few extra pounds (or kilograms). Look at a manual for the year of your vehicle, and it will show the amount of maximum payload that your vehicle will take and still operate safely. This is a good number to keep in the back of your mind.
If you plan to bring a trailer on your trip, hook it up to your SUV first and then pack up everything that you are going to take on the trip. Have everyone sit in the vehicle that is coming on the trip. Now step out of the vehicle and look to see if the vehicle is still level. If it is not, unload the vehicle until it is level. You can move some heavy cargo from your SUV to the trailer to keep your vehicle level during the journey.
While we are on the subject of vehicles being level, this brings us to the second issue at hand of tongue weight. Tongue weight is another variable to consider on top of all your luggage, people in the car, BBQs, coolers, tents, fishing poles, tubes and other gear that will be packed. Most hitches that are mounted underneath your vehicle have a label on the front that displays the maximum tongue weight (in pounds or kilograms) that is allowed. Remember this number and keep it in the back of your mind. If you have too much tongue weight on your vehicle, this picture is an example of what happens:
You want to avoid that. Deformed suspension is not a pretty picture, and neither is a cop or highway patrol officer pulling you over off the road or highway for having seen that your vehicle is overloaded and issuing a ticket. Now you see in this picture how the rear end of the Jeep is lower than the front end? The reason that vehicles end up being lower to the ground is from too much weight from the cargo that is in the back of the vehicle, on the roof of the vehicle, on a hitch receiver, and too much tongue weight.
One way to reduce tongue weight is to take some cargo from the front of the trailer and load it in the center or just behind the center of the trailer. Tie the cargo down good to keep it from getting out of place. Another way is to obtain a device such as a weight distributing hitch, even if it means borrowing one from another person if you don’t have the money to buy it. If you are willing to make some modifications and empty your wallet a little more, consider buying some helper springs and having them installed.
I would suggest reading this article:
Be safe, and do not let your vehicle be overloaded with too much cargo and tongue weight.