This is a question that should be pretty obvious to answer. Unfortunately, a lot of people can’t seem to grasp the way that a trailer tongue jack works. Most think of tongue jacks as tools that elevate and hold the trailer in place.
While that is true for the most part, careful planning should be put into buying any trailer jack, be it an electric or mechanical model. If you’re thinking about replacing yours or if you’re thinking about switching from a mechanical model to an electric tongue jack, here are the things you need to know.
Choosing the Right Weight Capacity
Before choosing a trailer jack, you should know two weights:
- The weight of your trailer under full load and
- The weight of the trailer tongue
You can easily estimate both if you know how much your trailer weighs off the factory line.
A trailer tongue will weigh roughly 10-15% of your total trailer weight. But that doesn’t mean that getting a jack that can barely support it is a good idea, not even if you’re on a tight budget.
A trailer tongue jack should be rated to carry a weight greater than the tongue weight under heavy load. Note that this doesn’t mean a trailer jack should be rated for 4,600 lbs. if your trailer weighs that much, but it does mean that the trailer jack should support 1,000-2,000 lbs. That’s roughly half the weight of the trailer, which should be enough as the rest of the weight will have support in the rear.
You can go above and beyond to get a high-capacity electric tongue jack if you can afford one. If you’re still asking yourself what size electric tongue jack do I need, and you also try to haggle, you’re missing the point.
The Importance of Proper Weight Capacity
Neither electric nor mechanical jacks are intended for use under maximum load. They need some margin when they’re being used. That’s why it’s recommended to get a jack that has more capacity than you need.
This accomplishes two things. First of all, it ensures that the tongue weight is supported even if you add more than you’re supposed to in the trailer. Secondly, it preserves the structural integrity of the trailer jack.
This is always important but it’s even more important if you’re often taking back roads and drive on bumpy terrain. Bumpy roads and potholes put the tongue jack under immense pressure. Therefore a few extra hundred pounds of weight capacity would give you a nice margin for error.
Final Pre-Purchase Considerations
Tongue jacks may come in various diameters. To figure out the exact size, simply measure the hole in the tongue support frame and you’ll know what electric tongue jack to buy. Alternatively, you can just measure the circumference of your old trailer jack, assuming you still have it.
Pros and Cons of Using an Electric Tongue Jack
There are two types of trailer jacks: manual and electric. The latter makes use of your battery to raise and lower the trailer tongue. It usually involves nothing more than hitting a switch to operate it.
The main benefit of using an electric tongue jack is that you don’t have to worry about it snapping when you’re near the trailer tongue. You also don’t have to worry about the handle getting stuck and having to put serious force into loosening it up again.
In case of an electrical failure, you can also use the handle and operate the jack like a regular mechanical one. Think of this as a safety net. In the long run, taking the lazy route might also spare you back problems.
But, electric tongue jacks aren’t perfect either. They could also fail, and unlike a regular jack, an electric tongue jack could suffer both mechanical and electrical failure. This means that servicing it can take longer and require more tools and more expertise.
That being said, an electric tongue jack is still more reliable and more convenient to use these days, as long as you bought the right one for your trailer.
A Final Thought
Don’t count on your old trailer jack to give you a reliable weight capacity. Maybe you’ve made modifications to the trailer over the years and maybe you’ve added more stuff inside it to make it more comfortable.
Small changes add up. Although you may not feel it, a poorly chosen tongue jack will. Weigh your trailer again before buying a new jack. And, don’t get distracted by the lift ratings or tube sizes.
You’ll notice that there are many smaller jacks that are rated at higher weight capacities than bigger jacks. It differs from one manufacturer to another. Take only the essential measurements that you need to make the new jack fit in the hole.