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
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)
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.
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
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
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
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.