The more I am off-road with my nice rig, the more I am convinced that weight is an incredibly big negative influencer to a lot of things.
The heavier you are:
- the more fuel you’ll use,
- the more difficult it is to drive up-hill (depends on your vehicle obviously),
- the more scary it will be on slippery down-hill sections,
- the more you’ll wear out your engine and drive train,
- the higher the chance of shaking your camper to pieces,
- the higher the chance of overheating a shock absorber,
- the more difficult it will become to get over off-road obstacles,
- the more likely you'll get bogged in sand,
- the longer your stopping distance,
- the less pleasant the combo will be to drive,
- the higher the risk of swaying and jack-knifing.
- the most important argument of all: If YOU'RE OVERWEIGHT YOU'RE UNINSURED !!
Note that these problems are the same for any vehicle and camper brand, so I’m not bagging Conqueror here.
When reading off-road articles from people whom I believe they know what they are talking about, there seems to be a consensus that anything above 1000Kg trailer mass is ‘pushing your luck’. It’s the off-road tracks that are the problem here, 1000Kg on a high way is perfectly fine, but the same 1000Kg off-road are a very heavy bag of sand to drag behind you.
I've recently done a very nice and long trip to the red centre, and that was all easy and enjoyable so it's not like I have a combo that is scary or impossible to drive, but what I don't know is how much I am wearing out my engine and drive train, and how much more of these cool trips I can do before my engine gives up in a puff of smoke in the middle of nowhere.
So, I’ve been trimming weight off my 440. It’s a Kg here and a Kg there, but it all adds up. But … so far I had no idea what my combo actually weighed, except what the Conqueror brochures claimed, and what it says on the vehicle registration plate.
To replace fiction with facts I’ve put the combo on a public weigh bridge last weekend, and came home a little bit shocked because both the vehicle and the trailer where a lot heavier already than what I expected. Finding a weigh bridge is easy. A lot of big truck companies have one, but I found out that my local public waste facility (the TIP) also provides this feature - for free.
These public scales are reasonably accurate and are regularly calibrated, so I am going to assume that a reading from a public weigh bridge is an accurate reading. The readout is in 10Kg increments, but let's assume it's within 40Kg accurate. Good enough for our purposes.
What I did was first drive on with the front wheels, take a reading, then drive on the whole defender, take a reading, and drive on again until the 440 was also on the bridge and take a third reading.
The readings are as follows:
- front axle alone: 1160Kg
- front and rear axle: 2640Kg
- all three axles: 4080Kg.
So the front axle weight of the Defender is 1160Kg, the rear axle is 2640-1160=1480Kg and the UEV 440 weighs 4080 - 2640 = 1440Kg.
Next thing I did was measure the tow ball weight back at home. To this extend I have invested in a tow ball scale (around $70), but to make sure that this thing gave me accurate readings I also measured with a bathroom weigh scale - and it actually was pretty accurate. My tow ball weight came in at 130Kg which, considering the fact that I have removed my spare wheel plus carrier etc, wasn’t too bad.
Next thing I did was compare these numbers against the legal max capacities of my vehicle to work out what breathing space I have left to load more goodies onto the combo.
My Defender max front axle load is 1250Kg. I’m at 1160, so I have a bit spare but I don’t want to get much heavier. This is a problem, because I really intended to put heavy stuff *between* the front and rear axle, i.e. behind the front seats, so I will be pushing this number up further.
My max rear axle load is 1940Kg. I’m at 1480, so I have about 440Kg spare. That’s nice, but with one or two passengers in the car plus all heavy luggage in the car, I am sure I’ll blow that budget before I can blink my eyes.
The GVM of my Defender is 3050Kg. I currently weigh 2640, so I actually can’t legally add more than 410Kg to the vehicle in total.
The UEV side of things ...
Tow ball weight is 130 Kg which is within legal range (max 150Kg for my LR and tow bar), but I’d like to get it lower, down to 110 Kg or so.
The UEV currently weighs 1480 Kg on the axle, so the total trailer mass is 1480 + 130 = 1610Kg, much more than the 1150 claimed on the registration plate. I can legally have 1800Kg, so I have 200Kg breathing space left. The axle can carry 2600Kg, so that's well and truly in the safety zone, but each tire has a max load of 1400Kg, so if the UEV would be with one wheel in the air for a while and the full weight minus towball weight would be on one wheel then that would be close to, or slightly over 1400Kg already.
Also with the Defender weighing 2600Kg the UEV is still a lot lighter than the Defender, and with the UEV at approximately 65% of the Defender weight the on-road behaviour should be pretty good in theory. But ... I'm finding it all damn heavy.
The difference between off-factory and actual weight is a huge 460 Kg, which I can't quite explain yet but I'll give it a try:
- 14Kg inner spring mattress,
- 150Kg full water tanks
- 40Kg full jerry cans
- 25Kg (estimated) for 78L fridge
- 10Kg pots and pans
- 10Kg solar panel
That's totalling at 250Kg added weight so not quite the 460Kg difference and if I also take into consideration that I've taken about 70Kg off because of the spare wheel + spare wheel carrier + spare hub + gas tank boxes + several drawers/slides and other pieces of metal then there is a total of 210+70Kg that I can't account for. So, my guess is that the 1150 Kg claimed curb side weight has been a very optimistic weight.
The Defender side of things ...
Next thing I did was ask myself where the hell the 668Kg weight difference came from between the allegedly off-factory curb side mass of my Defender (1972Kg) versus the amount I current have on the scale (2640 Kg).
Here’s the list of changes to the Defender and an estimated weight:
- 180Kg caused by the ball weight (130Kg ball mass is 180Kg on the axle),
- 100Kg caused by my full water tank plus the UEV’s spare wheel that I carried in the back of the defender
- 80Kg thanks to a big winch and steel bull bar,
- 30Kg thanks to two heavy duty steel rock rails,
- 50Kg extra due to my stupid decision to change to big fat - good looking - 285/75R16 muddies,
- 15Kg extra due to a steel spare wheel carrier,
- 10Kg extra due to a heavy duty rear (disconnect) anti sway bar,
- 5Kg added by heavy duty front steering rods,
- 10Kg courtesy of heavy duty super big bore shock absorbers,
- 40Kg extra from a 2nd battery + air compressor,
- 10Kg extra from Ashcroft lockers and HD rear drive shafts,
- 10Kg or so from front under carriage protection plate.
Adding it up I’m a little bit over a shocking 540Kg of extra weight!!
Land Rover specifies their curb side weight with 10L in the tank and no driver weight included which would explain for the remaining 130Kg.
Something worth mentioning also: the Defender had about half a tank of fuel, a full water tank (45Kg) and a second spare wheel (40Kg) plus one 76Kg driver.
The UEV had full water tanks, full jerry’s on the back and an empty 78L fridge plus all the pots and pans. No consumables or clothes packed and I’v taken off the spare wheel + spare wheel carrier + spare hub assembly.
I considering myself very lucky that I have a LR Defender with a massive load capacity of 1000Kg. I sympathise with anyone who has less.
The problem I have is that even in it’s current state, with just a driver, no clothes, no food, no spare parts, no recovery gear I’m close to what I’d consider my max acceptable weight and I’d prefer to go much lower (something like 1250 Kg on each axle). I consider the 1600Kg of the UEV to be far higher than what I'd like it to be. I'd prefer something around the 1000 but I understand that's not a realistic option. But it's clear that - unless I can remove some more heavy weight off the UEV - I do not want to load anything heavy onto it and probably want to keep the front water tank empty unless I absolutely have to use it.
Furthermore, I have max 400Kg I can add to the Defender before I over load that car and that includes the weight of one or two passengers, which means I can't put a lot in the defender either.
So … the weight loss program has started.
Stuff I'll be doing:
- go back to standard tire size (235/85R16)
- consider removing the rock rails
- consider putting back the standard anti-sway bar
- rip out the rear seats when I'm traveling with my partner only
- seriously, seriously, seriously think about any and all things that I am loading and only take stuff with me that I really need.
- replace heavy gel batteries with Lithium batteries
I’ll be adding more information to this article as it becomes available.
PS. If anyone can point at a mistake in my calculations, I'd appreciate the feedback very much!