Weight Distribution in Vehicles: Why Is 50/50 the Goal?

Controlling your vehicle is very important. Without control, you are in a metal box hurling away on the highway. Most people would be surprised to know that weight distribution is extremely important for control. In this blog post, we’ll talk about a vehicle’s weight, what weight distribution and 50/50 weight are, and we’ll end with a discussion on why 50/50 weight distribution is the goal.

What Is Weight?

Weight is the pull of Earth’s gravity on your vehicle. That’s what you would’ve learned in science class.

The heaviest components in a vehicle include the engine, transmission, axles, and differentials. Most internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles will have their engines and transmissions mounted at the front, which means these vehicles will carry most of their weight at the front. Popular features can also add weight, such as a panoramic moonroof or a tow package.

Hybrids and Electric Vehicles: a Different Breed

Hybrids and EVs weigh more because of their batteries, generators, and inverters, but how much more is not uniform because some have ICE engines. However, it’s the battery packs, which are usually large and therefore heavy, that will be a good portion of their weight.

Even Weight Distribution

Weight being evenly spread across all four wheels is the simple definition of 50/50 weight. This can be achieved by designing a vehicle that has a mid-engine design, for example. Automotive designers achieve this in EVs by housing the battery packs under the seats, in the middle of the vehicle. Cars like the Subaru BRZ are pretty close to achieving 50/50 weight distribution.

Why 50/50 Weight Distribution Matters

Spreading the weight more evenly across a vehicle improves driver control: When a vehicle’s weight distribution is even, the car is more planted on the road. All four wheels have the same force coming down on them, improving tire traction.

What can happen if the weight is unevenly distributed in a vehicle? Let’s say you’re driving an empty pickup truck, so there’s a lot of weight at the front and therefore not at the rear. The rear wheels can travel side to side in turns, making it easier to lose control of your vehicle.

Weight distribution is equally important when loading your vehicle with cargo, e.g., when moving house. Overloading your car, or even improperly loading your car, can be dangerous, not only for your vision but it can adversely affect your handling. Always know and understand the weight capacity of your vehicle. We have all seen the pickup truck or minivan driving down the highway with the rear end sagging as it drives. This is because the vehicle is overloaded.

Weight Distribution and Your Trailer

Weight distribution doesn’t matter just for your vehicle: It also matters for your trailer or camper. We’ve covered the factors to consider when attaching a trailer or camper to your vehicle, including some towing accessories that can help you manage the towing weight.

Weight vs. Mass Distribution of a Vehicle

To a physicist, weight and mass are two different things. Weight measures, as we said, the pull of gravity on an object, whereas mass measures how many protons, neutrons, electrons, etc., are in an object. But to most humans, they mean the same thing because we all live on Earth and treat them as the same. In this blog post, we called it “weight distribution,” but you’ll also find blog posts and research articles discussing “mass distribution of vehicles.” Most times, they’re discussing the same topic.

Keep an Eye on 50/50 Weight Distribution

Weight Distribution is so important to how a vehicle drives and handles. This is because the weight helps anchor the vehicle to the road. The goal for vehicles is to be as close to 50/50 weight distribution as possible. This is because a vehicle is a lot safer with weight evenly distributed over all four wheels. When you load cargo into and onto your vehicle, keep this guideline in mind, too, so that you can continue safely driving your vehicle.