Car and trailer overloaded: what should be considered? | ADAC

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Car and trailer overloaded: what should be considered? | ADAC
  • By deutschewhiskybrenner

Just take as much as you can fit in the car and stow the rest in the trailer? Not a good idea. If you carelessly pack everything in the trunk, on the roof and also a rear carrier on the trailer hitch, you will quickly have too much load with you. What should be considered when loading the car and trailer? The ADAC gives tips.

Do not exceed the permissible total weight and axle load•Load presses on the rear axle•High fine for overloadingYou see them more frequently during the holiday season: vehicles with fully packed trunks, roof boxes and bicycles at the rear. The cars are often still on the road with a loaded trailer, caravan or boat trailer. But caution: The towing vehicle must not be used as a pack mule indefinitely. If you use all the options that are available, including vertical and roof loads, the vehicle is quickly overloaded.

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Overloading: drivability deteriorates

Why is it so important to pay attention to the Gross Weight Rating (the sum of curb weight plus maximum payload of a vehicle or vehicle combination)? Because fully loading or even overloading the car has a serious influence on driving behavior. Not only can the braking distance increase, evasive maneuvers are also slower and require more space. In an emergency, the vehicle can start to sway despite ESP - often with fatal consequences.

Do not overload the trailer and pay attention to the towing capacity

When driving with a trailer, you must also always pay attention to the permissible towing capacity of the towing vehicle. The trailer load is the maximum permissible load that a vehicle (car or truck) can pull behind it with a trailer. This must not be exceeded under any circumstances. The actual mass (total of the axle loads) of the towed trailer is decisive for the calculation of the permissible trailer load of the towing vehicle. The nose load describes the maximum weight that can act on the trailer hitch from above - it is added to the towing vehicle.

Vehicles that are towing a trailer, caravan or boat trailer usually need a high towing capacity. The ADAC has just recently examined which cheaper towing vehicles up to 30,000 euros are suitable and what to look out for when buying.

Anyone who wants to go on holiday by car should, in their own interest, make sure that the car and trailer are not overloaded. The consequences would be danger of skidding and poor braking performance. Luggage must also be stowed away safely and secured. An emergency stop, for example, is enough for an apparently harmless, unsecured load to turn into a life-threatening projectile.

Do not exceed the car's total permissible weight

On the one hand, the total permissible weight must not be exceeded under any circumstances. This is in the registration certificate part I (vehicle registration) under the letter F, the curb weight of the vehicle under G. The difference is the payload. The fact that this is often not particularly high, even with new models, is repeatedly noticed in the ADAC Autotest, where all test cars are weighed. It is not uncommon for the payload to be less than 500 kilograms.

Examples: According to ADAC measurements, a current Renault Mégane TCe 140 still has an acceptable payload of 485 kilograms, but a Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid from 2016 can only carry a meager 315 kilograms.

In the following example, a lower mid-range vehicle has an unladen weight of 1286 kilograms and a gross vehicle weight of 1725 kilograms. If you pack it full, it weighs 51 kilograms too much.

Penalty for overloading

An overloaded vehicle endangers road safety. It is not without reason that a fine of up to 235 euros plus one point in Flensburg is imposed in Germanyfor overloading. In abroad the penalties can be much higher. Incidentally, anyone who is caught is not allowed to continue driving, but only when the weight is right again. In concrete terms, this means: unloading – on the spot.

Caution axle load: There are also limits here

What many people don't know: It's not just the permissible total weight that matters. The weight on the axles is also limited. The maximum axle load can also be found in part I of the registration certificate, among other things, under number 8.1 (front axle) and 8.2 (rear axle). The fatal thing: The loaded weight is not evenly distributed between the front and rear axles. Usually the rear axle is loaded more. Even the weight of the driver only has an effect of 45 percent on the front axle, 55 percent on the rear axle. If someone climbs in from the back, their weight puts even more strain on the rear axle: 85 percent is distributed to the rear, 15 percent to the front.

With 85 percent on the rear axle, the roof load (roof box, etc.) also has an effect. It also raises the car's center of gravity and causes worse handling. The luggage in the trunk generally puts 110 percent of the load on the rear axle, which means the front axle is ten percent lighter - and sensitive drivers actually notice this in the changed steering feel.

Car and trailer overloaded: what to do note? | ADAC

A bike rack with four bikes on the trailer hitch has an even worse effect. Because it is attached well behind the rear axle, a lever effect sets in: the vehicle is lighter at the front, but all the heavier at the back. The 75 kilos of ballast at the rear, which conforms to the vertical load, lightens the front axle by 34 kilos, putting 109 kilos on the rear wheels.

Load distribution in the vehicle in the longitudinal axis


Load front axle

Rear axle load

Front occupant



Rear passenger




minus 10%


Roof load



Towing capacity trailer

down 30%


Bicycles on rear carrier

down 45%


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Where can you weigh the car and trailer?

You can only actually check whether you have exceeded the permissible total weight or the axle loads if you weigh the fully packed vehicle. Some ADAC test centers offer this service. Simply inquire locally at your regional club. In addition, many communities have public car scales, and some recycling depots, builders' merchants, sand and gravel works or scrap dealers have scales or the appropriate equipment.

If you often go on vacation with bag and baggage, it can make sense to purchase a wheel load scale. However, a price of one hundred euros or more is to be expected.

Tips from the ADAC

Video: How to pack correctly

Other interesting topics

Recommendations to the manufacturers

Professional advice: Burkhard Böttcher/ADAC technical center