As many Vanlifers know, one aspect to keep under control when you are on the road is the weight of the van. If your van is too heavy, you could run the risk of being over the weight allowed by law, in addition, there is a considerable inconvenience while driving.
Van weight limits
The maximum weight allowed by law varies depending on the van type. According to Sprinter Van USA, the weights for your van are shown on the placard on the driver’s seat base or in your owner’s manual. There are several different numbers to look for, including:
- GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) is how much the van is allowed to weigh.
- GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating) is how much the van and any trailer it’s towing are allowed to weigh in combination.
- GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating) is how much weight is allowed on each axle. It’s different for the front and rear axles. This is to make sure the weight is evenly distributed in the vehicle and that you don’t put too much stress on either axle. You’ll notice that the sum of the front and rear axle permissible weights is higher than the total GVWR. Just because each axle can take slightly more weight doesn’t mean you can add that entire amount to the van.
Many manufacturers try different solutions to lighten the vehicles. Some replace the classic spare wheel with a much lighter repair kit, or have the vehicle approved with a lower fuel tank capacity than it could actually support.
Despite these changes, it is still necessary to choose the type of van you want to buy carefully. Once you have performed the checks on the weight of the vehicle, consulted the appropriate booklet, and considered all the options and equipment, you can start working on your van conversion.
Balancing the weight
When building out your van, pay special attention to dividing the weight of your equipment and gear as evenly as possible on all four sides of the van, trying not to overexert a certain point of the vehicle.
As for our outfitting, initially we had given little importance to the weight factor. However, during the conversion work, we realized that the van was becoming very heavy and difficult to stabilize on the road. Luckily, since we used it as a personal car too, we noticed the gradual change that was taking place at the wheel.
Nevertheless, we had to continue in this way, since having established a budget that we wanted to respect at all costs, we had already bought a ton of supplies that added weight to the van. This was to help us avoid having to look for supermarkets to buy food and especially to avoid eating meals in bars and restaurants, which is much more expensive. We wanted, at least for a time, to be completely autonomous.
One day, after a few kilometers, we realized that the driving our van was becoming very difficult, especially in cornering and braking. For a few weeks we found ourselves in a situation of constant tension while driving, but despite this, we continued our journey smoothly. We were able to visit many beautiful places and even added many unexpected stops to our itinerary without haste.
After a while, we realized that we needed to address the weight issue in our van. It does not only make driving more difficult but even potentially dangerous. We have since dropped a ton of unnecessary weight in our vehicle and become much more organized.
If you reflect on all the aspects of this lifestyle, you can realize that van life teaches you something at any given time, and often, we do not even notice.
For more tips on your van conversion, see our previous article on Choosing The Right Camper Van For Your Travels.