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-   -   How much winter weight to put in a pickup? (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=288109)

whistlepig 11-22-2004 10:09 PM

How much winter weight to put in a pickup?
 
It's winter again, which means putting weight in the back of my pickup. I put in 320 pounds this weekend but tonight I had some slippage coming up a slight paved hill in 2wd (it's real icy - my husky just fell down while running across the same street).

I never gave a whole lot of thought as to how much weight to put in my truck for winter. I've always done around 300 pounds. I don't know if that is too little or too much but I know the owner's manual doesn't have anything about this.

So, realizing that we have to differentiate between 2x2, 4x4, little truck, big truck, and ??? how much weight should I put in my pickup?

Whistlepig

1998 Dodge Ram, 4x4, 1/2 ton

Fuji Kitakyusho 11-22-2004 10:48 PM

I assume from this question that your vehicle is 2WD? (many 4WD owners don't bother with additional ballast).

First off, stating the obvious: You will get better performance from good winter tires than by adding any amount of weight.

That said, take your truck to a scale and weigh both front and rear axles. Add weight until rear (drive) axle load is at least the same as the front axle load. Once this is achieved, adjust your tire pressures accordingly.

Fuji Kitakyusho 11-22-2004 10:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fuji Kitakyusho
I assume from this question that your vehicle is 2WD? (many 4WD owners don't bother with additional ballast).

First off, stating the obvious: You will get better performance from good winter tires than by adding any amount of weight.

That said, take your truck to a scale and weigh both front and rear axles. Add weight until rear (drive) axle load is at least the same as the front axle load. Once this is achieved, adjust your tire pressures accordingly.

Sorry, didn't notice the 4WD comment at the bottom of your post. In any case, the advice is the same. One thing you might want to check is the vehicle load rating (usually printed on a label inside the driver's door jamb) - sometimes this will indicate max loads for front and rear axles. In the absence of this information, I would do as I posted earlier and add weight to match the front axle load.

ReBusEniGma 11-22-2004 11:02 PM

One of my vehicles is a Toyota XtraCab 2X2. I have just put 250 lbs. directly over the rear axle, and it seems dandy so far.

However, going to a nearby scale and having the front and rear axles weighed for to determine ballast sounds not only like an informative experience, but also a logical one. Thanks for the insight Fuji. Having never been to a weigh scale before, is there usually a charge for this?

whistlepig 11-22-2004 11:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Fuji Kitakyusho
I assume from this question that your vehicle is 2WD? (many 4WD owners don't bother with additional ballast).

First off, stating the obvious: You will get better performance from good winter tires than by adding any amount of weight.

That said, take your truck to a scale and weigh both front and rear axles. Add weight until rear (drive) axle load is at least the same as the front axle load. Once this is achieved, adjust your tire pressures accordingly.

Fuji, your advice sounds good from an engineering standpoint, but:

1. How do I weigh the front and real axles and ONLY the front and real axles? I can go to the dump, a grain elevator or a state scale (for weighing semis), but how do they weigh only the front/rear axle or 1/2 of my pickup?

2. The manufacturer's max load reccomendations are "don't carry more than this weight in the back". The 800 pounds they reccommend are more than I need for winter weight.

I'm using studded snow tires.

whistlepig

slortar 11-23-2004 07:50 AM

I use 200 lbs myself, but yeah, what everybody else said about good snow tires is important.

Fuji Kitakyusho 11-23-2004 09:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by whistlepig
1. How do I weigh the front and real axles and ONLY the front and real axles? I can go to the dump, a grain elevator or a state scale (for weighing semis), but how do they weigh only the front/rear axle or 1/2 of my pickup?

Visit a highway scale. The scales they use to weigh transports use this method. The trucks stop with the front axle over the scale, and then when the reading has been determined, pull ahead to the next axle (or axle pair), repeating this as needed to get the cumulative weight of the vehicle. I suppose if your vehicle has an extremely short wheelbase (ie. a mini or VW beetle), you might not be able to do this, but with most trucks you should be okay. Most highway scales will permit you to weigh your vehicle free of charge, but don't visit when they are busy (ie. when trucks are getting weighed). Some scales have a digital readout that remains active even when the weigh station is closed.

mouthbreather 11-24-2004 12:29 AM

This is actually a good thread for me. I bought a truck in October (Nissan Frontier crew cab long bed, 4x2) and I've never had a truck before this. I'm about to enter my first winter, but Atlanta winters are typically very mild. I've thought about this a little bit, and I guess it's time to take action. Do you just use bags of sand or is there a better option?

AskNott 11-24-2004 01:28 AM

Some folks build a frame of 2"x4" lumber to keep the weight over the rear axle, and that's a good idea. I have a water softener, so I use bags of salt. They go into the softener in the spring. If you use bags of something, they'll lay flat and not stack up next to the cab. Last year, I used 320 lbs. This year, I might go a little lighter (for a 1/2 ton GMC pickup.) If you'd rather not use bagged weight, a junkyard will be glad to sell you a few ruined cylinder heads.

elfkin477 11-24-2004 03:59 PM

<minor hijack>

Why do pickups have to be weighted down? (my wag is the uneven weight distribution between the bed and cab, am I close?) I was told my newer, far lighter, car will probably handle much better in the snow than my old car which weighed close to twice as much did...

mouthbreather 11-24-2004 04:24 PM

Your WAG is pretty much on target. Many pickups are rear-wheel drive, while most smaller cars are front-wheel drive.

In FWD cars, you have the weight of the engine and everything else under the hood bearing weight on the drive axle, leading to better traction. In pickups the ass end (drive axle) of them is much lighter leading to less traction. Extra weight in the bed helps to overcome this.

Ethilrist 11-24-2004 05:31 PM

Somebody told me of an extreme example that some people up in Canada did: put a tarp in the truck bed, fill the bed with haybales, then top up with water and wait for it to freeze.

Bet that's great for the gas mileage...

AskNott 11-24-2004 08:40 PM

A local variation on the ice-in-the-pickup theme is, when you shovel the snow off your driveway, throw it into the back of the truck.

On snow, an empty pickup doesn't have enough weight on the rear tires to make them bite. You'll just sit there and spin the tires. That's why some weight is a good idea in the winter.

racer72 11-24-2004 10:54 PM

Noticed a couple folks mentioned placing the weight directly over the rear axle instead of at the back of the box where it would actually do more good traction wise. This is how the instructors at the Bob Bondurant School say to add weight too. Your quiz for the day, why is it better to place the weight over the rear axle instead of the back of the pickup box?

Fuji Kitakyusho 11-24-2004 11:28 PM

Placing weight at the back (rear) end of the box, aft of the rear axle, allows you to use less weight to obtain a given rear axle load (or put another way, gives you more load on the rear axle for a given amount of weight), but unloads the front (steering) axle in the process - giving you increased drive traction at the expense of vehicle control. By placing weight immediately over the rear axle, you can adjust the proportion of load carried by this axle without affecting the normal load carried by the front axle. Similarly, adding weight between the axles increases the load on both.

My recommendation of matching axle loads is to achieve maximum braking effectiveness, since in that case the traction available at all four wheels is equal. While you could obtain better drive traction by biasing the load to the drive axle, I am of the opinion that the ability to stop in winter driving conditions is somewhat more important that your ability to get going.

ReBusEniGma 11-25-2004 12:27 AM

Yes, what Fuji said. But with more passion. :D

[Slight hijack]
Hey I learned something today about my truck. As obvious as it sounds now, or for other people who already knew this, I didn't know that having the tailgate up and the box empty can significantly reduce gas mileage. The ways to remedy this are to either take off the tailgate, leave it down, use a web instead of a tailgate, or put a topper or tarp over the box so as to reduce the cavitation and air drag. Cool.
[/Slight hijack]

racer72 11-25-2004 08:50 AM

Fuji got half of it. The other problem could be if you go into a spin, the weight will make it much harder to control. We got to practice spin control using the cars with outrigger wheels. Lots of fun and hilarity watching us flailing about trying to control the cars.

kanicbird 11-25-2004 09:20 AM

Back in my college days I found a artical stating that the lowering or removal of the tailgate, contrary to popular believe, actually increases drag and decreases MPG. It also has the effect of unloading the rear wheels at speed. The theory is that air has to travel further down in the bed, which cost energy to do. This was many moons ago, perhaps the laws of physics has changed since then.

enipla 11-25-2004 09:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ReBusEniGma
Yes, what Fuji said. But with more passion. :D

[Slight hijack]
Hey I learned something today about my truck. As obvious as it sounds now, or for other people who already knew this, I didn't know that having the tailgate up and the box empty can significantly reduce gas mileage. The ways to remedy this are to either take off the tailgate, leave it down, use a web instead of a tailgate, or put a topper or tarp over the box so as to reduce the cavitation and air drag. Cool.
[/Slight hijack]

Sounds crazy, but I think I've heard just the opposite. The tail creates an air damn that actually creates a better air flow over the vehicle.

I've never had to put weight in my truck. But it is a 4x4. It's an old one that has a strange full time 4x4 time system. IE - no locking hubs.

mouthbreather 11-25-2004 10:08 AM

This page seems to claim that the drag is less with the tailgate up, not down.

ReBusEniGma 11-25-2004 11:42 AM

kanicbird, enipla, mouthbreaker, It appears you're right. It would seem I should not have taken my friend's (in whom I hold great credibility usually) word for this one. I'm usually the type that will DMOR, however, look what happens when I don't. :smack:

Great article BTW. Thanks for enlightening me. Now I'm off to find my friend and continue the fight against ignorance.

ReBusEniGma 11-25-2004 11:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ReBusEniGma
...mouthbreaker, ...

Should be mouthbreather of course. Apologies.

pullin 11-26-2004 10:39 AM

I buy one of the cheap, twin-size, airbed mattresses at Wallly World every winter. They cost 9 bucks, and have the exact same filler neck as a waterbed. Fill with hose to get the desired weight (anywhere from 0-800 lbs), and leave it for the winter. Yeah, it freezes sometimes, but it'll usually last till spring. Fairly easy to empty if I want to put something heavy in the bed. I can't really see any effect on gas mileage (it might go from "shitty" to "slightly more shitty").


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