Having the right weight distribution is important when you’re towing a trailer behind your car for a number of reasons, many of which have to do with keeping you and your passengers safe on the road.
A weight distribution hitch is often used to do this. How does a weight distribution hitch work, and what is it? Let’s find out.
How Does a Weight Distribution Hitch Work?
When you put a weight distribution hitch on your car, its main job is to make sure that your trailer’s tongue weight doesn’t go over 15% of your total load. Doing so gives you a lot more control over your car.
Many things can happen when a weight distribution hitch is not used.
First, you could end up with too little weight distribution between your car and the trailer, which could cause the trailer to sway out of your control.
If you don’t have a hitch, too much weight could be put on the front of the trailer. This could cause the front of the trailer to nosedive, making it almost impossible to keep control of your vehicle.
How Do Weight Distribution Hitches Work?
When your car has a weight distribution hitch, the spring bars will be the key to making sure the weight is spread out evenly.
Both sides of the hitch will be able to use the spring bars as a lever. This will move the weight of the load you are pulling behind your car to all the axles on both your car and the trailer.
This will stop the trailer from nosediving, reduce stress on the rear axles of your vehicle, and give you much more control over your vehicle. As an added bonus, it will also let you tow as much as your hitch can handle.
Other parts of the weight distribution system are the spring bars, frame brackets, weight distribution shank, and weight distribution head assembly. The hitch receiver must be rated as a Class III, IV, or V.
The shank slides into the hole in the hitch receiver, which is attached to the frame of your vehicle. The shank, which is where the head assembly will be attached, is not a one-size-fits-all piece.
Instead, it comes in different lengths, rises, and drops, so you can make sure you have a shank that keeps your trailer level with your vehicle.
The hitch ball will be mounted on the head assembly, which will be attached to the shank. Head assemblies can be different, so pick one that will work well with your tow vehicle. Once the head assembly is in place, you can use this to adjust how much force is put on the hitch ball.
As we said before, the spring bars make sure that the load of the trailer and the vehicle you’re towing is spread evenly across all of the axles of both the vehicle and the trailer. Lastly, the frame brackets attach to the frame of your trailer and keep the spring bars in place.
Benefits of Weight Distribution Hitches
When pulling a trailer, weight distribution hitches can help in a number of important ways.
First of all, the hitch will give you a lot more control over your car, especially when steering or turning. It will also keep your car and trailer more stable and level, making it less likely that your car or trailer will “bottom out” on a bump in the road.
Since your car will be more stable and level, you will also be able to see the cars, people, or other obstacles in front of you much better.
When your car isn’t level, it will point up. This will make your headlights less effective and block your view when you’re driving.
Last but not least, putting a weight distribution hitch on the trailer will stop it from swaying.
If this happens, especially if you are going fast or trying to get around a curve in the road, you are much more likely to have your car and trailer roll over, which could cause a terrible accident.
When Do You Need a Weight Distribution Hitch?
Most states have laws that say you need a weight distribution hitch if you want to pull a trailer behind your car. A weight distribution hitch is required by law if the weight of the load you will be pulling is more than half the weight of your vehicle.
For example, if your truck weighs 4,000 pounds, you would need a weight distribution hitch if the load you were towing was 2,001 pounds or more.
If you want to pull as much as your vehicle can, you will also need a weight distribution hitch. Since this is different for every car, you should always check the owner’s manual for your car.
But keep in mind that even if you install a weight distribution hitch, you still can’t tow more than your vehicle can handle. If you try to do this and something goes wrong, you could be held very responsible.
Does a Weight Distribution Hitch Reduce Tongue Weight?
Yes, this is what the weight distribution hitch is mostly used for. When you put one of these hitches on your car, the tongue weight will go down to about 10–15 percent of the total weight load.
When the tongue weight is so low, the rear axles of your tow vehicle and the axles on your trailer are put under much less stress.
If the weight wasn’t lowered in this way, it would make it more likely that your car or trailer’s axles would break, which is the last thing you want to deal with as you go on vacation or do certain jobs or other tasks.
Do Weight Distribution Hitches Really Work?
Yes, and quite well, if we may say so. When you put a weight distribution hitch on your car, you will notice a difference the next time you hook up your trailer and drive down the road.
First of all, you should be able to see the road much better because your headlights won’t be pointed up.
Also, you won’t have to fight with your steering wheel to keep your vehicle under control when towing a trailer.
A weight distribution hitch will also make it easier and safer for you to stop when towing a trailer.
Your car and trailer are also less likely to “bottom out” on the road because the weight is spread out evenly and there is no sagging.
If you tow bigger loads, the weight distribution hitch will also help you tow at higher capacity levels. This means you should be able to meet but not go over your vehicle’s maximum towing capacity.
Why Can’t You Back Up with a Weight Distribution Hitch?
Most weight distribution systems like this one won’t let you back up with the system still attached to your vehicle and trailer. If you try to back up with the system still attached, you’ll damage the hitch and other parts of the system.
You can usually back up a short distance in a straight line without hurting the system, like when you want to park your camper in a parking space or at a campground.
But if you need to make a turn while going backwards, you will usually have to disengage the sway bars first. If you don’t, they could get bent or broken as you move backward.
Is a Weight Distribution Hitch Expensive to Purchase?
Most of the time, a weight distribution hitch won’t be very expensive to buy, but it won’t be cheap, either. If you choose a cheaper hitch that clamps to your car, you can usually find one for less than $200.
But we usually suggest spending between $500 and $1,000 on a weight distribution hitch that you can screw onto your vehicle.
It will last longer, help you tow as much as possible, and give you more peace of mind as you drive down the highway.
Do Weight Distribution Hitches Wear Out Over Time?
This will depend on the quality of your weight distribution hitch, how often you use it for towing, and whether or not you take the right precautions while towing your trailer. Most weight distribution systems don’t have a set amount of time that they will last.
So, if you spend $1,000 on a weight distribution hitch, there’s a good chance it could last a decade or more if you take care of it and keep it in good shape.
Since a weight distribution hitch is required in most states, we think it makes sense for you to put one on your car as soon as possible.
When you do, trailer sway will go away, steering and stopping will be much easier than before, and you won’t have to worry about hitting a bump in the road that makes your trailer dip, which will put your mind at ease.