If you tow anything behind your vehicle, especially if you’re towing a travel trailer, you may have considered using a weight distribution hitch. Today’s post addresses the most common questions about a weight-distributing mechanism for a towing setup.
We’ll explain what a weight distribution hitch is, what it does, and how it impacts the towing experience and overall towing safety. Ultimately, we aim to help you determine whether or not you even need one.
Let’s dive right in!
- 1) What Is a Weight Distribution Hitch?
- 2) How Does a Weight Distribution Hitch Work?
- 3) Does a Weight Distribution Hitch Reduce Sway?
- 4) What’s the Difference Between Weight Distribution and Sway Control?
- 5) Does a Weight Distribution Hitch Allow Me to Tow More Weight?
- 6) Is a Weight Distribution Hitch the Answer to All My Towing Concerns?
- 7) How Do I Know If I Need a Weight Distributing Hitch?
- 8) Weight Distribution Hitches to Consider
- 9) Do You Use a Weight Distribution Hitch?
- 10) Free RVing Tips, Tricks, Reviews, Giveaways & More
What Is a Weight Distribution Hitch?
A weight distribution (or “WD”) hitch is a load-leveling hitch that allows your tow vehicle and travel trailer to work better together to give you a safer (and more pleasant) towing experience.
It distributes the weight between the two more evenly to achieve a more level/balanced towing setup. This is why WD hitches are sometimes referred to as load-leveling hitches or load-equalizing hitches.
Essentially, a weight distribution hitch distributes the trailer tongue weight across all the wheels of your towing vehicle.
Trailer tongue weight is the downward force that the tongue of a trailer applies to the hitch ball of the tow vehicle. (You can learn more about tongue weight in our post entitled, “What Is Tongue Weight? And Why Is It Important?“)
A WD hitch’s job is to distribute the tongue weight more evenly over the entire towing vehicle, rather than just on the rear axle. This allows the tow vehicle and the travel trailer to ride together in a more level, balanced manner.
Properly distributing the weight to achieve a more level and balanced setup will give your tow vehicle more controlled steering and braking while keeping the trailer’s weight evenly distributed on its axles (and tires and brakes).
Not only does this give you a safer and more pleasant towing experience, but properly setting up a good weight-distributing hitch will also lessen the strain on your tow vehicle and your travel trailer.
How Does a Weight Distribution Hitch Work?
A typical WD hitch employs spring bars to distribute the tongue weight more evenly to the axles of the tow vehicle and travel trailer, making both vehicles more level/parallel with the road.
The hitch on your tow vehicle connects to the travel trailer using a hitch ball (sometimes called a trailer ball.) It’s easy to picture what happens when you lower a heavy trailer coupler onto it — the weight pushes it downward.
A large travel trailer can easily have a tongue weight of 1,000 lbs or more. So placing that weight down onto the hitch ball can (and will) push the back of the towing vehicle downward — sometimes by quite a bit. And, of course, that means that the front of the trailer is now lower as a result.
Most critically, this reduces weight on the front of the towing vehicle, reducing traction and steering control.
On multi-axle trailers, this also shifts weight onto the front axle, potentially overloading its tires, brakes, and suspension components. All in all, a bad situation.
But a weight distribution hitch uses components like spring bars, with one end attached to the frame of the trailer, and the other end attached near the tow vehicle’s receiver.
When connected, the spring bars will be under tension. That pressure forces the towing vehicle and travel trailer frame more in line with each other, reducing or eliminating the sag that tongue weight causes.
So, the spring bars provide tension that applies an opposing force (lifting up) to the downward pressure of the travel trailer’s tongue weight.
This achieves the goal of making the tow vehicle and travel trailer more level and stable.
Does a Weight Distribution Hitch Reduce Sway?
Weight distribution and sway control go hand-in-hand, so a weight distribution hitch will help reduce sway.
For example, as we noted in our recent post addressing the question “What Is a Fifth Wheel?“, towing a fifth wheel provides better handling and control than towing a travel trailer. Much of this is because a 5th wheel’s weight is placed directly over the truck’s axle. This helps significantly with balance and sway prevention.
So, anything that helps with balance and weight distribution across the system will reduce sway. (See our post on stabilizing an RV for more on this concept.)
By definition, then, properly redistributing the weight across the front and rear wheels of the tow vehicle will reduce sway that would otherwise be caused by the improper distribution of weight.
What’s the Difference Between Weight Distribution and Sway Control?
Note that while there are weight distribution hitches that offer built-in sway control, a sway control bar alone does not offer weight distribution.
As you may recall from our posts on trailer sway control and trailer sway bars, many factors can contribute to trailer sway. These include wind, road conditions, tire pressures, speed, tongue weight, and the number of axles your trailer has.
But cargo weight distribution is one of the most significant causes of trailer sway. Moving more weight to the front can help reduce sway, (as can driving slowly in areas with high wind conditions).
We offered this video in our post on trailer sway control to demonstrate the results of the redistribution of weight:
A sway control bar uses friction to keep your trailer centered as it rides behind your tow vehicle. So, if the rear of the trailer starts to sway, the friction/sway bar functions like a side-to-side brake, offering enough resistance to keep your trailer centered.
However, depending on the towing capacity of your tow vehicle and the weight of your travel trailer, sway can still occur even if you’re using a very good sway bar or anti-sway hitch. This is where the additional assistance of a weight distribution hitch comes into play, to better distribute the weight of the entire setup across the front and rear axles of your rig.
So, sway control and weight distribution are not the same thing. They do go hand-in-hand, but they’re not the same.
Does a Weight Distribution Hitch Allow Me to Tow More Weight?
The answer to this question is (sort of) yes and no, but the details are SUPER important.
Some Class 3, 4, and 5 receiver hitches have two weight ratings. One is for when a weight distribution hitch is being used, and the other is for when no WD hitch is installed. In this case, it’s possible that the WD hitch can increase the approved weight rating by several hundred pounds.
However, a weight-distributing hitch doesn’t increase the weight capacity of your tow vehicle or any other component of your towing system. For example, if your tow vehicle is rated to tow 8,000 pounds and you install a WD hitch, your vehicle will still be rated to tow 8,000 pounds.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you should never exceed the weight rating of the lowest-rated component of your towing system, whether you have a weight distribution hitch installed or not.
Is a Weight Distribution Hitch the Answer to All My Towing Concerns?
Absolutely not. A weight-distributing hitch can be a band-aid solution to a deeper balance/leveling problem. Let’s talk about why your towing vehicle and travel trailer need to be level in the first place. (It’s all about balance!)
If your towing vehicle is sitting either nose-up or nose-down when attached to your travel trailer, this means the weight of the vehicle has shifted. This will impact the rig’s driving dynamics.
Other factors come into play when you’re also working to achieve a well-balanced towing setup. These include the weight rating of your tow vehicle, how long the vehicle is (wheelbase), proper payload distribution (vehicle and trailer), and correct tire pressures (both vehicle and trailer).
PRO TIP: RVgeeks subscribers have FREE access to our eBook — How To Inflate RV Tries Correctly — an important safety read. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe today to read it (and our daily RV newsletters).
Tow Vehicle Nose Up?
If you connect your tow vehicle and travel trailer and find that the tow vehicle is nose up, then you’ve got too much weight in the back of the tow vehicle (and/or on the hitch ball).
The problem is that with the front of the tow vehicle lifted, the grip of your front tires will be reduced, negatively impacting steering and braking. This is exactly what weight distribution hitches are for.
Tow Vehicle Nose Down?
If you hitch up your tow vehicle & travel trailer and find that your tow vehicle appears to have a nose-down position, the tow vehicle’s weight is too far forward. Or, more likely, the trailer is improperly loaded (with too much weight at the rear). This can also be caused by over-adjusting a weight distribution hitch (too much of a good thing?).
This nose-down posture on the towing vehicle also increases the potential for trailer sway.
How Do I Know If I Need a Weight Distributing Hitch?
Unless you’re towing one of the smallest rigs (such as a teardrop trailer), most travel trailer owners will experience improvement by using a WD hitch. But without question, use a WD hitch if your travel trailer weighs 50% or more than your tow vehicle weighs.
A weight distribution hitch can help reduce trailer sway in high winds or when being passed by, or passing, large vehicles. It will also help increase stability and reduce lane wandering.
A primary situation dictating the use of a weight-distributing hitch is if the rear of your tow vehicle sags. When this happens, your tow vehicle’s nose will be pushed upward, reducing front-wheel traction and steering control. It also reduces ground clearance at the rear of the vehicle.
And finally, if the manufacturer of your tow vehicle recommends or requires a WD hitch for certain trailer weights, you should never ignore this recommendation/requirement. The best way to check for these types of recommendations or requirements for your vehicle is to consult your owner’s manual.
Weight Distribution Hitches to Consider
Here are a few popular weight distribution hitches to consider, should you be in the market for one. Be sure to check (and double-check) all specs when ordering any WD hitch, to be sure it’s the best hitch for your particular tow vehicle and travel trailer setup.
ANDERSEN Weight Distribution Hitch
Made in the USA, this weight distribution hitch improves your towing experience by giving you a smoother ride and better control as it distributes the tongue weight of the trailer across the combination of the tow vehicle & travel trailer, leveling the load.
With forged steel spring bars, this WD hitch weighs just over 17 pounds and comes with an adjustable 2″ shank with a universal fit to any 2″ trailer hitch receiver.
This particular hitch has a 2 5/16″ trailer ball and 3″, 4″, 5″, and 6″ universal frame brackets, and comes with a money-back guarantee.
- 🛻[LEVEL TOWING]: This weight distribution hitch offers a smooth ride and improved control by distributing the tongue weight of the trailer across...
- 🛻[BUILT IN USA]: As a US-based company, we are here to create premier towing products that improve the journey from point A to point B. That’s...
Camco Eaz-Lift Elite
This 1,200-pound weight distribution hitch kit features external adjustable sway control. Sway control is manually adjusted with a clamp, and can be turned off by simply unclamping it.
Weighing in at just under 91 pounds, the kit includes a round bar WD hitch, the manual sway control, and a 2 5/16″ hitch ball. The universal spring bars are interchangeable and can be used on either side of the hitch.
Both the hitch ball and sway control ball are pre-installed and torqued to spec on the adjustable ball mount, while the U-bolts and chain package are pre-installed on the spring bars. All mounting hardware is included.
This weight distribution hitch has a maximum tongue weight of 1,400 pounds and a maximum gross weight rating of 14,000 pounds.
- Weight Distribution Hitch Kit: Designed to provide trailers with a safer, smoother ride
- External/Adjustable Sway Control: The sway control is manually adjusted to your desired amount with a simple clamp adjustment; unclamp the sway...
CURT 17601 TruTrack 2P Weight Distribution Hitch with 2X Sway Control
CURT TruTrack integrates the sway control function into the design of the hitch. The tilting head is easily adjustable without disassembly of the hitch, and the entire system is designed for easy setup and adjustment.
This WD hitch system weighs 94 pounds and features powerful round spring bars and an adjustable 7-hole shank that fits a 2″ receiver.
The hitch is rated for 8,000 to 10,000 pounds GTW (gross trailer weight) and 800 to 1,000 pounds tongue weight.
CURT’s TruTrack system levels the vehicle and trailer and reduces trailer sway.
- INTEGRATED SWAY CONTROL. The TruTrack doesn't just level the vehicle and trailer. It also reduces trailer sway. It uses fixed support brackets to...
- PRECISE WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION. The TruTrack weight distribution hitch with sway control offers precise levelling of your tow vehicle and trailer. It...
Do You Use a Weight Distribution Hitch?
Let us know your favorite WD hitch system and why you like it. Are there features that you’ve found contribute to a safe and easy towing experience?
Drop us a comment and let us know!
One final note… there are some very high-end… and heavy… and expensive!… hitches in an entirely different category of their own, commonly known as Hensley hitches (made by Hensley Manufacturing and ProPride). These weight-distributing, sway-eliminating hitches are so specialized that we plan to write a separate follow-up post about them. If you’re interested in following this topic, and our other RVing content, be sure to subscribe!
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