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How to weigh a car using a tape measure and a tyre pressure gauge

Updated on July 17, 2013
Paraglider profile image

Dave has lived and worked in more than 30 countries. Possibly as a result, some of his articles are hard to categorise, like this one...

by stanley, of course
by stanley, of course
halford's finest
halford's finest

A weighty problem...

There are two pretty good ways to weigh a car:

  1. Drive it to the nearest public weighbridge and wait your turn.
  2. Look up the manual under General Specifications, ‘kerb weight’

But let's suppose the nearest public weighbridge is fifty miles away and you've lost the manual (and temporarily forgotten how to use public libraries and the Internet) and the burning urge to weigh your car just won't go away- what can you do about it?

The good news is, you need hardly any equipment. All you need, for a reasonably accurate result is:

  • a hand-held tyre pressure gauge which can be analogue or digital
  • a retractable steel measuring tape
  • a calculator, pencil and paper, or a good head for mental arithmetic

The method

  • Park the car on some clean, level concrete
  • Observe that the car is held up by its four tyres (!)
  • Measure the width of the tread of one tyre: e.g. 6 inches
  • Measure the length of tread in contact with the ground: e.g. 7 inches
  • Work out the area of tread touching the ground: e.g. 6 x 7 = 42 sq ins
  • Now use the gauge to measure the tyre pressure: e.g. 25 psi (pounds per square inch)
  • This tyre is therefore supporting 42 x 25 = 1,050 pounds
  • Repeat for the remaining three tyres and add the four results together for the total weight.
  • Front tyres carry more weight than rear: e.g. 1,050 + 1,050 + 900 + 900 = 3,900 pounds

If you are in a hurry, just measure one front tyre and the rear tyre on the same side. Sum them together and multiply by two. This works because cars tend to be left/right symmetrical.

The method can be used on a wide range of vehicles, such as:

  • Cars, pickups, minibuses, buses, vans, lorries, old Bullnose Mercedes trucks, articulated trucks including effing-great eighteen-wheelers that shouldn’t be allowed on the roads, garbage collectors, tankers (full or empty), concrete pumps and aeroplanes, but not railway engines, steam-rollers or seaplanes with their floats down.

To weigh your seaplane...

You will need slightly different equipment. Forget the pressure gauge. The thing has floats, not tyres. The steel tape measure will still come in handy though:

  • Procure an extremely large displacement tank and fill it with water.
  • Using a crane, gently lower your stupid seaplane into the tank.
  • Collect the displaced water in another smaller tank.
  • Measure the volume of displaced water. (This is where your steel tape measure comes in).
  • Apply Archimedes Principle to obtain the weight of the blasted seaplane, shouting Eureka at the appropriate moment, if you like.

Motorbikes are tricky too...

because they fall over.

To weigh your motorbike, if you really must, get a set of bathroom scales.

  • Park your bike with the kickstand resting on the scales.
  • Measure the area of both tyre ‘footprints’, as above.
  • Measure the tyre pressures.
  • Calculate the weights on front and rear tyres as above.
  • Add these to the reading on the bathroom scales.
  • Job done.

While you’re hanging around like a lemon with the bathroom scales, you can weigh any convenient bicycle by the simple method of:

  • standing on the scales and noting your weight.
  • picking up the bicycle and noting the combined weight.
  • subtracting your weight from the combined weight.

This method can also be used to weigh dogs, cats, sacks of wheat, sea turtles and children, but not hamsters or postage stamps, because the difference is too small to register on bathroom scales.

To weigh your hamster, use the kitchen scales instead. Can I go now?

Comments are welcome

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    • Paraglider profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      20 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Thanks Dale, just a bit of fun, with a physics lesson embedded!

    • GetitScene profile image

      Dale Anderson 

      21 months ago from The High Seas

      love it love it love it! GREAT hub. Thanks for writing it. Naturally i am going outside to weigh our car and then look up the answer on Bing or in the owners manual to check my calculations.

    • Paraglider profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      4 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Logi - in UK, tyres. In US, tires.

    • profile image

      Logi Harris 

      4 years ago

      Is it " tyres" or "tires." I am confused.

    • Paraglider profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Hi Talisker - I hadn't thought of that but, reading it again, you're absolutely right. I must have inherited the influence :)

    • Talisker profile image

      Honor Meci 

      6 years ago from UK

      This could have been written by that Retina guy. It's just his style. :-)

    • Paraglider profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      good one :-)

    • quicksand profile image


      6 years ago

      Yeah, I subscribe to his tweets too, but they're all Greek to me! :)

    • Paraglider profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Gcrhoads64 - thanks for the visit :)

      Quicksand - how did you remember Archimedes' birthday? Oh, I know - he's a Facebook friend!

    • quicksand profile image


      6 years ago

      Hi Paraglider!

      That's a great tribute to Archimedes, quite appropriately too as his birthday is (probably) round the corner! Cheers!

      (: ---Smiling---:)

    • Gcrhoads64 profile image

      Gable Rhoads 

      6 years ago from North Dakota

      Ingenious...and funny!

    • Paraglider profile imageAUTHOR

      Dave McClure 

      6 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Austinstar - this was an antidote to a bad day at work hub, a fast exercise in triviality!

      Amillar - Happy New Year to you too, and happy May Day. You've gotta watch with these hamsters though. They'll run up your sleeve, given half a chance...

    • amillar profile image


      6 years ago from Scotland, UK

      Eureka Paraglider! Thanks for this. I know now where I went wrong the last time I tried to measure my effing, stupid, great seaplane. I forgot the eureka bit. I'd better not try it with the hamster and stamps are too dear now, but I'd save a bit on spittle.

      Happy New Year BTW.

    • Austinstar profile image


      6 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

      Who was holding the gun pointed at you when you wrote this? Someone smuggling things using a seaplane perhaps???


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