4×4 Weight Distribution Tips for Overland Vehicles

Looking for some 4×4 weight distribution tips?

Well, that’s what this post is about



The distribution of weight, is very important

When it comes to loading your 4×4 full of gear for overland travel

To help with steering handling, control, and traction.


So, let’s dive in to and talk about

Vehicle Weight Distribution

For an overland rig


Ok, to start with let’s talk about

Weight In Front Of The Steering Axle

A load/weight that goes way out in front of the axle on the front

Like bull bars, big winch etc.

Can leverage the rear of the vehicle off the ground, making it lighter.

The further it goes out the front.  The easier it will lift the rear.


So, you want to keep the weight as close to the front of the vehicle as possible.

And in some cases, even if you do

You still may have to do a spring upgrade

To accommodate the extra weight, of an upgraded bumper, and or winch etc.

Because on some vehicles they’re not designed for all that extra weight

And you can start to overload the factory front springs.




Weight Behind The Rear Axle

The more the load is behind the rear axle it will affect the steering axle making it lighter lifting the wheels up


Also Keep in mind that most of the time

The rear axle/suspension of the vehicle is designed to handle more weight.

For added cargo vs the front axle



Moving Weight In Between The Axles

Now keep in mind the more the load is toward the back.

The more it will affect the rear axle

Because, now the rear axle will be carrying more of the load


And the more the load, is towards the front.

The more it affects the front axle.

As the front axle will carry more of the weight.


And when the load is placed in the middle of the vehicle.

Between the two axles

Both the axles, will share the load, more evenly.

Most pick up trucks can benefit from added weight toward the rear axle for traction and to balance things out

As most of the weight is on the front springs


Balance Weight Side to Side

When you load your vehicle

Also you need to think about the weight on each side of the vehicle

Because if you load more weight or gear on one side than the other

The vehicle will lean which isn’t good

So you need to try to keep the load even and balanced from side to side

If its gear you can split up.  Put some on one side, and some of it over on the other

Or if its a larger piece of gear, try to center it

But if you have no choice and need to put it on one side for a certain reason

Try to put something of equal weight on the other side to balance it out



Center Of The Wheel Hub 

Or wheel bearing


The Rear Axle

Is the shifting point (pivot point) for weight

And this is where the leveraging will start on weight transfer

Lifting up on the front of the vehicle

Which will then create bad steering and handling of the vehicle

As the front wheels get lighter


So try not to put gear behind the center point of the rear axle hub

Keep cargo weight as far forward as possible, toward the center of the vehicle as much as you can.

But sometimes it can be hard to do depending on the vehicle


Something else to keep in mind.  When the load is behind the center point of the rear axle

It will make climbing steep grades harder, as it will leverage the front end up more.

Making it lighter, reducing traction on the front wheels


Along with the loss of traction, the light front wheels, create a lack of steering,


And same thing happens, with

The Front Axle

And the further you go out in front, of the centerline of the hub of the front wheel.

The more it leverages up on the back of the vehicle

And with the unbalanced weight.

You’re just making the vehicle more tippy going up, and down grades.

So, with your overland rig.

Try to keep the weight in the middle, and as even as possible.



Of course make sure.


Stay Under The Maximum Load Capacity

Of each of the axles.

And the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR)

You don’t want to overload the front or rear axle


Also the more weight you load your rig down with

The more stress you put on the wheels, frame,, axles, bearings and driveline etc.

Plus it cost you more with reduced fuel economy

So keep it as light as you can


Not to get off topic too much

But, sometimes in the extreme off road crawler crowd

They like a little extra weight, slightly forward.

Helps with more traction on the front wheels on climbing really steep grades

May work going up hill

But coming down steep grades the backend could be too light and lift up on you

Then again too much weight to the back climb grade can cause the front end to lift up as well



Center of Gravity

For a vehicle to be able to take a corner safely.

It will depend on its center of gravity



Keep in mind, they design a vehicle to handle a certain amount of load

And the suspension is set to accommodate that load

Of course within the standards of their load specs


So when you add accessories to the vehicle, outside the parameters.

You will alter (reduce) the handling, and performance of the vehicle



For example

Weight Up Top On The Roof

Like putting gear up  on a roof rack

Or say if you have a roof top tent etc.

Which in return will make it not as safe, as the manufacturer intended it to be

When turning, and cornering


So with that in mind, always put the least amount of weight as possible on the roof

Like the jerry cans which can add weight along with the fuel as well

That will go in them can add a lot of weight to a roof

So all the extra weight on a roof

Like roof top tents (RTTs) fuel, awnings, and or other gear

Can decrease steering, and handling, and even increases the chance of a roll over


So try to keep gear, along with water, and fuel cans as low as possible.

To limit the affects of heavy sloshing weight of liquid when you turn


And like mentioned above

You can have reduce fuel economy from not only the the added weight laboring the engine more

But from wind drag with gear up on the roof as well.


And also, keep in mind

Also, if you’re not use to driving a top heavy vehicle.

The braking can feel different as well.

But, every vehicle will carry weight differently than the next.



Something to keep in mind is to try to always find quality gear

That can do the same job.  But weighs less, because every ounce counts



Do you use it all the time as a

Daily Driver or Single Purpose Overland Rig?

Because if you use it as a daily driver

And maybe just use it on the weekends to hit the trails and camp

Your set up will be different than someone with a dedicated overland type rig


Because, you can’t have one vehicle setup.  That can do everything well

When driving on road, off road and or overland


You need to try to prioritize,

And only take what you need to have, in or on the vehicle at all times

And eliminate what you don’t need.

Cut back on any gear you may not need to carry along with you

Like spare parts, tools etc.  To help reduce weight

If you’re traveling style changes at times. (short trips vs long trips)

You have to work out what gear you will need to take along.


The terrain you will be tackling.  Will determine your setup


 Long Wheelbase (LWB) vs Short Wheelbase (SWB) 

Just remember,

That shorter wheelbase vehicles.  Can be more reactionary in nature

When it comes to handling

And or you start to shift weight around.

From front to back in between the axles

Or, even when going out the front, or the rear of the vehicle with weight.

From the center point of the front or rear axle hub



There isn’t as much length between the wheels

So it doesn’t take as much.  To leverage up on the other end of the vehicle.


But then

Longer wheelbase vehicles

Have their problems as well

Like getting high centered easier.

And they can be harder to turn around on a tight trail


Also something else to consider if you’re

Towing An Off Road Trailer 

A trailer will have tongue weight

Of course you need tongue weight

And you always need to make sure. You always have  the proper amount of tongue weight

So the trailer tows properly, and safely

But the main point to keep in mind is that

Trailer tongue weight, adds to the payload of the vehicle

And it’s also weight behind the rear axle

So if you get too much

It can cause the front of the vehicle to lift up reducing steering and handling



Suspension Upgrade

Some people will add the weight up

Of all the gear they will be carrying in or on the vehicle.

And then, find an upgraded suspension that will work for it

Or some may load it up see how it looks, and drive it first,

And if doesn’t drive well

Then find a suspension suitable to accommodate it

Also at times when you put an upgraded suspension on.

You may still need to fine-tune it a bit.  If it doesn’t drive well.



If, it’s over sprung it will be too stiff

And if it’s under sprung it will be too soft

Say if the front end is up a bit.

Of course, assuming you’re not overloaded.  Or have too much weight, behind the rear axle.

Sometimes, a little stiffer spring in the rear.  Can help level things out.


Also you need to make sure you have a quality set of shocks

A set of good shocks can make a big difference


And for some

Extra Suspension Tips

Keep in mind air bags are not the best option for an off road vehicle


They can be very unreliable. as they can get punctured, and blow out.

Coil Springs, and or leaf springs.  Are the most reliable type suspension, for off road use.


I would always try to upgrade the suspension to handle the load

With an improved rate coil or leaf spring if all possible


Now, the leaf spring style air assist bags

Like the firestone Ride Rite type.

Might be ok only if its really needed.  To help support the extra weight in your vehicle.

As you still have a the leaf/coil spring themselves

Still holding everything

The air assist springs, helps level the vehicle out from the extra weight.



You need to make sure they have enough travel

Because you could over extend them on really big dips in the road

Or even let’s say you get cross-axled

And don’t have enough you could rip a bag


Though they do have a product made by Daystar called the air bag cradle for them

That allows the bottom of the air bag to stay unattached on the bottom

So the bag comes out of the cradle when the axle drops

And then when the axle comes back up

It will  land right back in it



Not the air assist bags that go inside coil springs

They have been known to rub more, and when dirt, and grime gets between them, and the coil spring

It can wear them out quicker 


Final Thoughts

If you have a fully loaded equipped rig

A lot of times.

The rear axle will need a spring suspension upgrade.

And the front might need one as well.

To support a heavy bull bar, winch

Or any other additional weight you added loading it down with gear

And remember

Keep it as light as you can

Don’t put weight up high, or on the roof, if you don’t need to

Try to keep weight low and toward the center as much as you can.