If you’re safely towing your RV with a pickup truck or an SUV, there’s a good chance that you’re already using a weight-distribution hitch. If you’re not using a weight-distribution hitch, with or without a sway bar, there’s a very good chance that you should be! Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about weight distribution hitches for towing your travel trailer.
Weight distribution hitches evenly distribute your load over the axles of your trailer to give both your tow vehicle and your trailer a safer, more level ride. A weight distribution hitch will help make sure that the weight of your trailer doesn’t cause undue stress on your tow vehicle and is especially important for use on light pickup trucks and SUVs. It will also increase your ability to tow at maximum capacity.
When you tow a travel trailer with a standard, rear-mounted hitch, the tongue weight of your trailer is transferred to the rear axle of your vehicle. This will weigh down your vehicle’s back end, causing the front end to point upwards and wreaking havoc on the suspension, steering, traction and stopping power. A standard trailer hitch also increases the chances of trailer sway.
Weight distribution systems use spring bars to apply leverage to both your tow vehicle and your trailer. This transfers the load at the rear of the tow vehicle to all of the axles on the vehicle and the trailer. This results in an even, smooth, level ride.
A weight distribution system is made up of 5 main components.
Class III, IV, or V trailer hitch receiver rated for use with weight distribution
Weight distribution shank (slides into trailer hitch)
Weight distribution head assembly
The trailer hitch receiver attaches to the frame of your tow vehicle. This provides a receiver opening for the weight distribution shank to slide into.
The weight distribution shank provides an attachment point for the weight distribution head assembly. Weight distribution shanks are available in many rises, lengths and drops to ensure a level fit between your travel trailer and your tow vehicle.
Weight distribution head assemblies vary from system to system but all have the same purpose. The head assembly attaches to the weight distribution shank and acts as the spring bar attachment point. The head assembly is also where the hitch ball is mounted for trailer hookup and will be used to adjust the amount of leverage applied to the weight distribution system. Friction sway control bars can also be mounted to the weight distribution assembly head and most premium systems will have the sway control point included in the assembly.
Spring bars are used to apply leverage to your towing system by distributing the load on the rear of your vehicle to all the axles on both your tow vehicle and your TT. Depending on your needs, spring bars are available in round, trunnion and square shapes.
Frame brackets are mounted on the frame of your trailer to hold the spring bars in place. There are a variety of bracket designs available, with most standard systems using a bracket and chain system. Higher-end weight distribution systems generally use specially designed sway-control brackets for more trailer control.
Sway control is optional but already built-in to many weight distribution systems. If your system does not include sway control, it is a recommended addition that can easily be installed.
The best way to choose a weight distribution hitch is based on the tongue weight of your trailer. If you choose a hitch that is too light, it won’t be effective. If you choose a hitch that is too heavy, you’ll have a bouncy trailer.
Weight distribution systems have capacities ranging from 100 lbs to over 2000 lbs. In order to choose the right size, you will need to determine your trailer tongue weight as well as the weight of any cargo behind the rear axle. This will decide the tongue weight that your weight distribution hitch needs to support.
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