How Long Should a Trailer Tongue Be?

by Ken Burnside

Longer Tongues Give Better Leverage

The general rule is that a trailer tongue that's twice as long as the distance between the wheels has the forces from acceleration and braking distributed down a long, skinny triangle. This setup undercuts the tendency of the trailer to swerve from side to side.

It Should Be No Longer Than Six Feet

Most states have regulations specifying the maximum length of a trailer tongue, with six feet being the norm. Longer tongues present a hazard to other drivers who aren't used to following articulated vehicles around corners or in parking lots. Trailers with tongues that are too long handle sluggishly.

Bottom Line

Set your trailer tongue at somewhere between four and six feet to get optimum handling. Pay attention to how the trailer hitch is attached to your vehicle, and take steps to prevent side-to-side movement with a friction bar or a dual-cam sway-control system.

About the Author

Ken Burnside has been writing freelance since 1990, contributing to publications as diverse as "Pyramid" and "Training & Simulations Journal." A Microsoft MVP in Excel, he holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alaska. He won the Origins Award for Attack Vector: Tactical, a board game about space combat.

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