Loading your caravan and motorhome correctly
First and foremost, it is important to ensure that you correctly load your camper van in order to stay safe. However, this also increases driving comfort and means that you consume less fuel. In addition to a general weight check, this also includes appropriate weight distribution, especially when it comes to heavy objects, as well as meticulously securing the load. We’re here to show you how it's done!
The first thing to do is to check the weight limits of your vehicle and determine the maximum load.
General weight limits
Unladen weight and permissible gross vehicle weight
You can find information on the motorhome or caravan’s unladen weight and permissible gross weight under items G and F.1 on the vehicle registration certificate. The potential payload is calculated from the difference between the two.
If you have a caravan, the correct term is "unladen mass in running order" and this usually includes the weight of the caravan, a full or 90% full water tank, an 11kg aluminium gas canister and a cable drum. However, this can vary somewhat from manufacturer to manufacturer, so it is definitely advisable to ask after exact details.
The situation is similar for motorhomes - here, too, there are differences between manufacturers that are not necessarily obvious at first glance. Usually, in addition to the points mentioned above, 75kg is included for the driver, as is a fuel tank filled to 90 percent, and sometimes the equipment carried is even included too, such as spare wheels and tyres, spare parts, tools, a jack or fire extinguisher.
Everything else - from passengers to your dog, wheels to awning and barbecue to camera equipment - is part of the payload and must be calculated in addition.
If, despite careful consideration, it appears impossible to load your vehicle within the weight limits, it may make sense to increase the payload. There are a number of options here - from a modified entry in your vehicle documents to the installation of special spring systems, through to the replacement of individual body components or the body in its entirety. Contact our customer centre or the following telephone numbers and we’ll be happy to help you: 0800 - 25 56 000 (free of charge in Germany) or +49 8221 - 97 92 61 (abroad)
To find out how much weight can be distributed on and around the axles of your camper van, check the axle load under item 8 on your vehicle registration document.
Tyre load capacity
There is a code on each tyre sidewall which, in addition to information on the tyre size and width, rim diameter and speed index, also indicates the load capacity. This must not be exceeded.
Please take the opportunity to look at the tyre age and tread every now and then too! These are also factors that contribute to keeping you safe on holiday.
Weight limits for journeys with trailers
Permitted gross weight of the vehicle combination
If you are travelling with a trailer, you should also keep an eye on the permitted gross weight of the vehicle combination. This is calculated from the sum of the permitted total weight of the towing vehicle and that of the trailer, and can have an effect on the class of driving licence required.
Nose load and towable load for the towing vehicle
Another important point is to consider the weight limits of the towing vehicle when towing a trailer. The nose load is the maximum weight that may be placed on the towbar and, where possible, you should not go significantly lower than this figure. The towable load determines how much weight the towing vehicle is allowed to pull. These two figures can be found on the vehicle registration document under items 13 and O.
Special features of the different vehicle types
Overloaded or incorrectly loaded trailers, especially caravans, can start to lurch or sway, even when travelling at medium speeds. To avoid this, attention should be paid, not only to the load itself, but also to the weather conditions (gusts of wind!) as well as to maintaining a moderate driving speed and a forward-thinking, defensive driving style.
With technical aids, such as an anti-sway hitch or an electronic anti-skid system that automatically intervenes in the event of unnatural swaying movements, the risk can be reduced even further and driving comfort significantly increased.
Motorhomes, especially models up to 3.5 t, often have only a small payload capacity due to their often lavish additional equipment. At the same time, generous boots and storage spaces tempt you to pack half your household, including e-bikes and your garden barbecue, to take with you on holiday.
In addition to massive overloading, the concentration of weight at the rear of the vehicle poses a considerable potential danger - sound judgement is needed and you should also meticulously weigh the items you want to take with you!
Load distribution and securing
Heavy loads must be stowed as low as possible and around the axles in motorhomes as well as in caravans - always taking account of the weight limits mentioned above, as a matter of course. Chests of drawers, floor units and other storage facilities close to the floor are suitable for standard everyday items such as shoes, food supplies (except tinned food and bottles) and kitchen utensils. In the upper compartments, on the other hand, only light items, such as textiles or camping utensils made of special weight-saving materials, should be transported.
Loads should always be secured so that nothing can "fly around" in the vehicle, even when braking. Loose objects must be placed in storage compartments or lashed down before setting off so that they do not come loose. This is even more important for motorhomes than for caravans, as it is easier for drivers and passengers to be hit by objects flying around, and even seriously injured or killed.
When securing loads, it is also important to consider any pets travelling with you. Dogs or cats can be kept secure in transport boxes that you can lash down or with special harnesses, so that they themselves and their owners are protected, at least in the event of minor accidents.
And just so you know: in motorhomes with the ISOFIX system, dog carriers as well as baby and child seats can be installed safely, easily and quickly.
The manufacturer's specifications on the vehicle registration document do not always 100 percent correspond to reality - and in addition to driving safety, your travel budget could also take a considerable hit if you overload your vehicle!
So if you want to be on the safe side, you should weigh your camper van (have it weighed) at least once with a full load. To this end, camping shops sell small portable scales that you can place under your wheels or which you can use to determine the nose load. The AL-KO premium jockey wheel, which already has a built-in weighing function, makes things even more convenient for caravan owners.
If you don't want to buy your own scales, you can also ask gravel quarries, haulage companies, BayWa or Raiffeisen stores, waste disposal stations, TÜV, DEKRA or ADAC if they can weigh your vehicle.
Permitted gross weight exceeded?
If it turns out that the permitted gross weight has been exceeded, there is only one thing for it: reduce the load, as there isn’t usually any tolerance for motorhomes that have been overloaded. If you’re caught, you’ll face fines and points on your driver’s licence, and you won’t be allowed to continue your journey until you have got rid of every excess kilo. It has happened to quite a few travellers that they had to dispose of their equipment there and then into containers provided during inspections.
So as not to spoil your holiday mood and so you can stay safe on the road, you should save on every kilogram you can before the trip. By taking just a few simple measures, you can do this without compromising on comfort during your holiday:
- Drain your water tanks before the trip
- Dispose of any greywater and blackwater
- Carefully select your clothing and shoes according to what you actually need
- Use aluminium instead of steel gas canisters
- Buy eating and cooking utensils made of lightweight materials
- Avoid "luxury equipment" such as Thermomix, additional camping furniture for guests, heavy barbecues or a library of printed travel literature
We hope you have a safe, carefree trip!