How Do You Know If You Need A Weight Distribution Hitch?
A weight distribution hitch should be used any time the trailer weighs more than 50% of the vehicle weight.
Otherwise the tongue weight would be excessive at the point where it connects to the back of your vehicle. The TW or “Tongue Weight” is the force/weight of the trailer’s hitch pushing down on your vehicle’s tow hitch. This lowers the front end of your trailer and the rear of your car or truck, with the front end of your truck raised up.
4 Disadvantages to NOT having a Weight Distribution Hitch:
1. Sloppy Steering
Without one, the raising of the front of your truck – with all that extra weight pushing down on your rear bumper area – often makes your steering sloppy as the front axle now has less weight on it.
2. Increased Stopping Distance
Without it, the stopping distance is increased – much of the braking power of any vehicle comes from the front tires/front axle; take weight off it and you’re asking for trouble.
3. Decreased Traction
Another disadvantage of NOT having a weight distribution hitch is less traction, which only makes sense if the front of your truck is not contacting the road very well.
4. Increased Trailer Sway
With the bulk of the weight of the trailer and vehicle weight concentrated on the hitch ball area, the rear of the trailer – much like the front of your truck – has less weight and traction on it, making it prone to fish-tail.
How Do Weight Distribution Hitches Work?
They add spring bars to the hitch system to apply leverage between the tow vehicle and the trailer. What is does is spreads out the tongue weight force to all the axles of both the trailer and the tow vehicle. This makes the trailer and your truck level; you won’t have that awkward-looking “V” shape to the hitch connection area – where in the profile view of your setup the hitch is at the bottom of the “V.” Performance is greatly increased as well as the safety.
This is why fifth wheel hitches are inherently better; the trailer weight is concentrated in the center of the truckbed, between the cab of the truck and its rear axle. But fifth wheels are for heavier trailer loads – not the conventional hitch and ball systems for lighter trailers.
How To Get The Right Sized One
Personally, I would just ask a qualified person – such as a reputable RV dealer or similarly qualified person who works with hitches of all sorts on a regular basis.
But the following are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
A weight distribution hitch will have two weight ratings: GTW (Gross Trailer Weight) and tongue weight (TW). The GTW capacity of the weight distribution hitch system must exceed or equal the loaded weight of the trailer. The TW rating listed on weight distributing hitches refers to trailer tongue weight plus the vehicle cargo weight behind the rear axle. So you can’t forget to add the weight you will have inside your trailer to get your TW – don’t just figure the empty weight of your trailer.
How do you get the GTW?
The best and most reliable way is to put everything in your trailer that you will be actually towing, and drive it onto a vehicle scale.
How do you get the TW?
For smaller trailers, you can just weigh the tongue on a bathroom scale with the trailer loaded. But a quick rule of thumb is that your TW is usually equal to 10 to 15 percent of your GTW.
Further Reading : How Towing Weight Distribution Systems Work