When you ‘stream by a truck stop and notice a “weigh station” sign, are you tempted to pull off and see what your rig weighs? Most new (and many expert) Airstreamers are intimidated to join the line of 18-wheelers—but don’t be. Most RVers report that they have a pleasant experience at the scales.
“It’s not scary to weigh your trailer,” said Jon Gold, Alumafiesta seminar leader. “And everyone should weigh their Airstream to make sure you haven’t exceeded any gross weight capacities.” Here’s how.
Load it up.
Weigh your trailer when you are fully packed, “when you’ve got everything in it, ready for a trip,” advised Gold. “Food, water, clothes, pots and pans…anything you’re going to take along.” This also includes passengers and pets, and a full tank of gas.
Look for a CAT sign
—big and yellow, with a friendly cat’s head logo. A Certified Automated Truck Scale (“CAT Scale” is a franchise business) can be found “at most truck stops,” said Gold. “It’s only ten dollars, and if you weigh your trailer once when it’s fully loaded, you don’t have to do again.”
“It’s not up in the air or anything like that,” said Gold. Pull up onto the scale until your driver’s side window is even with the intercom sign; painted lines on the scale will guide you as well. You’ll be required to push a “call button” that may be situated high above your head. (You could stand on your running board to reach it, or take this tip from those in the know: bring a stepstool, or better yet, a broom handle to punch the button.)
Have your trailer license number ready. A “weighmaster” will greet you, guide you through the process, and tell you when you’re done. Pull away, park, and walk into the building to get your scale ticket at the fuel desk. (The computer printout you receive includes gross vehicle weight as well as individual axle weight.) That’s all there is to it!
Typically a truck scale will provide three separate weights: front axle, rear axle, and trailer axles (all counted together). To get started you’ll need a baseline. Take your first trip through the scale without your trailer, so the report will reflect the amount of weight on each axle of your fully loaded tow vehicle. (Find the Gross Axle Weight Rating [GAWR] for both the front and rear axles in your vehicle owner’s manual, or on the sticker inside the driver’s side door jamb.)
Now hitch up your Airstream and pass through the scale again. This time your report will show all three axle weights: front, rear, and trailer.
Compare the two reports, line by line. The trailer weight should be below the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) stated by Airstream. Find these specs for your coach on the serial number plate on the lower front streetside of the body, or on a sticker on the inside of a mid-closet door about 60″ from the ground. (2009 and later trailers also have max cargo weight on a sticker on the screen door.)
If you exceed any weight ratings—
“take stuff out,” said Gold. “I worry about the people who go to the Gem and Mineral Shows,” he laughed. “But don’t take out the tool kit!” It’s easy to overload your Airstream without even knowing it. If your trailer is too heavy, you must reduce your cargo before going further.
Tire inflation matters.
An overweight Airstream and under-inflated tires are a bad combination. Look on the sidewall of your tire for the recommended tire inflation pressure and adjust accordingly, and stay on top of optimum tire pressure with a good monitoring system; find one at the Airstream Life store. “When you’re rolling down the road, it’s almost impossible to feel when a trailer tire loses air pressure,” cautioned Rich Luhr, Airstream Life publisher. “Most people find out far too late.” The tire pressure monitors—as with all items in the store—“are the things we tell our friends about,” said Luhr. “Things that can save your Airstream from disaster, or improve your travel experience. I personally use every one of these products, and recommend that you do too.”
CAT Scale Etiquette
If the scales are very busy, allow the truckers to get their certifications and back on the road first. Though pre-negotiation with the scale operator isn’t necessary—just pull up onto the platform—feel free to first park your rig off to the side and inquire within. Scale staff will be helpful and accommodating.
Weight-distribution and hitch setup are part of this process as well. Watch for the Summer 2015 release of a new Airstream Life book on maintenance, which includes clear, detailed, step-by-step instructions and answers to all your weight questions—and much, much more.