Payload – My Story

I saw a request on the forum for information on payloads available on new 3500kg gross weight motorhomes and it did more than ring a bell, it mirrored what we were doing.

We were downsizing from a six berth at 4500Kg. The grandchildren were no longer needing us for long term trips away, and my recent tribulations with the post 70 C1 medical, despite it being granted (it took five months because of the correspondence between their medical committee and my specialist), had resulted in the decision not to rely on that classification at the next renewal in just over 2 years time.

We must carry some junk, as the last time we went to France with three of them, our first point of call after locking the front door at home, was the weigh bridge two miles away. We were over. Only by just under 100Kg, but we had to go home to trim some really unnecessary luggage and drop some fresh water. That was without any pedal cycles, or canoes, or much of the stuff you see being rolled out of motorhomes at some sites. So, we knew we had a job on our hands. Now, it’s not that the job is that confusing in its basic requirements, until you get round to what different manufacturers count as payload, or more accurately omit from payload notices.

Visiting dealers. And the main shows was an eye opener. They will show you a 350kg motorhome on their stand and lead you to believe it has a 600kg payload.

They are also great at promoting it has this media package, a second leisure battery and other bits of extras, and they do to be fair, show you the extra price involved. What they almost exclusively fail to point out is that many of these extras are for payload purposes additional to the standard offering, and need to be taken off the 600kg payload they are promoting

The problem is, you don’t know what this will leave you with. This is your first job, make sure what weight any extras have and if not already included in that payload figure, take it off immediately

We went to the NEC show in October 2019, having done a tremendous amount of research. This helped considerably. There was at least one manufacturer some of whose vehicles we could not actually put fuel in because of our personal weight. So that’s the next thing to do, especially if the driver is over 75kg, work out how much and be careful to deduct both the excess and the passenger(s) weight off any payload.

About the only thing we did know at this stage was despite our attempts at trying to like a PVC, there were for us personally too many compromises even in those that came near our space requirements. This was mainly a personal thing, there were several PVC’s we really rated, we are definitely not knocking PVC’s.

We by now had a very good idea of what we wanted from our local dealer, and they had already taken the identical model, (which had extras we weren’t having), to the weigh bridge for us. This gave us a good idea that their brochure weights were fairly accurate, but please look at the small-print. Ours warned it was possible the weight tolerances could be plus or minus 5% either way. Our personal calculations at this stage always added this 5% as a worst case scenario. Just to simplify it, for 500kg that could result in 25kg off before you begin, leaving you with 475kg.

It might not seem much, but when you’re down to your last 50kg later as you will find out it is very important.

We chose the extras we wanted very carefully, they really had to be essentials for us. We had read a number of reviews, and watched a lot of videos.

We rarely use the television, and for UK purposes I now have one of those mini tv receivers you connect to your iPad with if I have to.

The second battery is not being fitted, but we will get solar so we can still go to shows without worrying

Having had the 3 litre Fiat engine and the comfortmatic auto box, it was going to be a challenge lowering the power, but the auto box had to stay. Listening to various reviews, everyone was quite happy with the 130bhp Fiat engine in a 3500kg vehicle, so that’s why we decided to stay with it to save those few extra important kilograms. Time will tell.

We also noticed the model we had chosen had the two rear passenger seat belts function made operational by inserting two lose seat backs into special brackets so you could be belted while facing forwards. That’s two things in the vehicle we can leave at home, and about 20kg to be made available as extra payload.

There will be other things I will be looking at to see if we can gain more payload in due course, though I suspect this will be all I can guarantee.

We have had refillable gas cylinders on both our previous motorhomes, I really object to Calor’s pricing. The first was Alugas, the second Gaslow. No problem with either, other than the Alugas aluminium cylinder saves quite a few kilos, so again that’s what we are going for. Yes, it’s that important

The phone call to say our new motorhome had arrived earlier than expected was a pleasant surprise early April. As we are concentrating on keeping below the magic 3500kg we began seriously looking at what we were carrying that we didn’t need. We still needed the new vehicle weighing, and when it was, it became apparent that the payload we would have for everything, my extra weight, the passengers weight, and the extras on top of the standard weight would leave us with about 240kg for payload.

We had taken out of the external lockers about 110kg of kit. From the inside, excluding clothes, some bedding and refrigerator contents, slightly more at about 120kg. Putting this into our weight spreadsheet it was almost 3545kg. Ouch.

Something still had to be done. We were carrying 6 chairs, so three of those at 7.7kg and the gas bbq (we won’t have an external point anymore) will go at almost 10kg saving.

We fortunately have a special valve that keeps just the 20litres of water needed as a minimum to travel with. I always carried a full tool kit and torque wrench just in case. I have never ever used them, and I am now at the stage that tightening up wheel nuts will mean a visit to a fitter, or a mobile fitter coming to me, so more savings there.

We have had to be ruthless, so we will unfortunately never arrive on show sites full of water again, that’s a nuisance, but it’s also a 100kg I won’t be needing to carry.
We fortunately have a special valve that keeps just the 20litres of water needed as a minimum to travel with fitted, so that can be regulated very easily. Also, this is where manufacturer confusion in the technical sales literature could help us.

Being a continental vehicle, things like the oven are not standard. It was shown as part of the UK pack. It weighs a lot, 28kg according to the brochure. Our dealers say as this is part of the UK pack it is included in the brochure vehicle weight before payload is calculated. The supplier seems to intimate this weight should be added to the base vehicle weight, so our initial calculations of 3545kg gross include all the extra weights of UK Pack equipment.

The next part doesn’t sound like good news, and it’s not, but importantly it’s recoverable from inpart. They started the PDI works before taking it to the weigh bridge. Consequently, they put in 20litres of fuel, and filled the cold water tank. Obviously annoyed, but it wasn’t done to prevent me weighing it as near empty from the factory as possible, and I can recover from it.

As part of the PDI they installed my 100W solar panel and MPPT controller; the alarm; transferred my tracker; installed the whale pump filler 2 pin fuller connection near the fresh water filling point; the 11Kglightweight Alugas refillable lpg cylinder; and, the rear view camera connected to a mirror monitor attached to the rear view mirror. The way they fitted this was good, they used my cheap old dvr to feed the camera through to the monitor, so I can now record what the rear view camera (bullet camera neatly mounted over the rear number plate) sees as well as giving me a view behind other than rear view mirrors (it has a reversing camera as standard at the top of the solid rear end). Why is this recoverable? It may not be for many perfectionists (reject it etc etc., they are thinking right now), but life is too short to start getting worried and stressed about everything that goes wrong.

I have seen vehicles prepared in showrooms and at shows in nowhere near the pristine condition.

The motorhome was in on delivery . It’s recoverable because I wanted all those extras anyway, and my cold water system has a drain-tap that drops all but 20litres essential for travelling.

I can see the perfectionists brains working overtime again now. How do you know it’s 20 litres, you can’t trust the manufacturers figures! But I don’t need to trust the manufacturers figures, what is important (for me) is that the amount left when I drain it using that special tap is, as long as I keep the vehicle near enough level when I drain, is going to be the same on every occasion. That is what I will be weighing, along with my essential accessories, as my base vehicle weight before I work out what my actual payload is.

What I did have to do was work out the fuel on board at weighing and what that weighs, so I can work out the weight of any extra fuel I need to add to fill it.

To simplify the fuel/weight issue and as I will almost always leave home full, I decided to fill it. We knew we would rarely use the vehicle with any more than two people aboard, so we did the weighing minus the two heavy rear passenger belted set inserts that we will leave at home.

Weighed full of fuel, 20’ish litres of cold water, but not ourselves (our council insist on weighing the vehicle with no people on board, for some reason they want the vehicle empty) at3004 tonne, which happens to be exactly the same in kilograms.

We know our weights, and I certainly am responsible for the bulk of that. This left us a real world figure of 496 kilograms. Add us to the mix, 205 Kg, and we are down to 291 Kg to live with (clothes, bedding, bath room bits, food, technical bits and garage stuff like chairs and a table that we take with us).

The more lithe amongst you will save I reckon about 50 to 60 kilograms for extra payload. We think that weighing showed our supplier was right, items included as extra in the brochure that were part of the UK pack were included in the 3060Kg brochure figure. Just in case, I checked the plates under the bonnet, manufacturers first, at 3650 Kg gross.

Now, the Rapido plate Axle weights are the same, but Rapido have downgraded our model to 3500 Kg. Handy to know this, as it’s probably a paper exercise to up plate it if we need to. Putting in what we thought was essential, and weighing it as we did, we reduced our contents to what we thought would be about:i) 75 Kg for essential external locker items; and, ii) 65 Kg for internal non fridge or food items; and, iii) 50 Kg for food and drink. That should have left us with about 65kg free.

The reality was our weighing of stuff wasn’t as accurate as we thought. We came in at 3260 Kg, minus us. That leaves us with a real world 35Kg free when our 205Kg allowance for us is added.

We were loaded for nearly a week over a bank holiday weekend, certainly about the same we would take for say the food festival at Chester. Well, we knew it was going to be tight, we had done everything we could that was simple to make it liveable in and tour.
We now know we can travel full of fuel, or perhaps have the option not to fill to the brim if we are bringing wine back (well you have to get priorities right) or if we do wilding or aires, where you need in most cases to have extra water on board. It’s been a journey and a half.

We have a lovely vehicle, and are going to get many hours of enjoyment out of it.
We are though, going to have to be constantly aware of what we put in it, and the effect this can have on our gross weight. It also means one positive thing will come out of it, we (I) will have to do something serious about shedding some. pounds, and that can only be good.

Eddie AKA ,grumps147