RV Lifestyle

The Importance of Trailer Weight Distribution & Why You Need One

The importance of trailer weight distribution… Okay, but what is a weight-distribution hitch, and how do I know if I need one?

There is nothing more exciting than shopping for your first (or second, or third) camper! Newbies quickly realize, though, that the process is a bit more involved than throwing it on the hitch and driving off into the sunset. Suddenly you start to see trailer jargon being thrown around like axles, gross vehicle weight rating, sway, or shanks – and you have no idea what any of them mean.

Don’t panic! While these words might be new to you, with a little light reading and some practice on your setup, you’ll soon be navigating the trailer hitching process with ease. Happy Glamper is here to help you navigate the importance of trailer weight distribution, so keep reading for some clarity!

A close-up view of a trailer hitch.
A close-up view of a trailer hitch.

The Basics of Trailer Towing

We’re not going to sugar coat it – there is a bit of a learning curve when it comes to towing a recreational vehicle for the first time. But don’t let that scare you. Anyone can learn, so let’s start with the basics.

There are two main things to consider: the tow vehicle and the trailer. For bigger, heavier trailers, you’ll need a more equipped tow vehicle with a built-in tow package that is strong enough to pull the weight of the trailer. 

Regardless of your tow car and trailer combination, you’ll want to make sure you have proper sway control and weight distribution. These two factors control how easily and (more importantly) how safely you can drive while towing your trailer.

Sway control systems

Sway control systems can prevent gusts of wind from causing your trailer to swing side to side, a dangerous situation at high speeds.

Weight distribution systems

Weight distribution systems do many things including:

  • Improve towing ability
  • Help keep control of your vehicle
  • Prevent excess damage to both the tow vehicle and trailer

Do I Need a Trailer Weight Distribution Hitch?

You should have a trailer weight distribution hitch if your trailer weight is more than 50 percent or more of your vehicle weight.

That being said, a trailer weight distribution hitch can improve the safety of any vehicle and trailer combination. If you’re in doubt, consult the owner’s manual of your vehicle to find the exact weight at which a weight distribution hitch is required.

If you’re finding it difficult to brake or maneuver your travel trailer, then a trailer weight distribution hitch may be the solution.

You can also check visually. If your trailer is sagging at the hitch (also called “squatting“) or your headlights are pointing up, install a weight distribution hitch to level out your rig.

Why Weight Distribution Is Important

There are risks to a lack of and benefits to installing a weight distribution hitch. These range from ease of use to safety and should not be overlooked.

Dangers of improperly weighted RVs

Let’s take a look at some of the dangers of improperly weighted rigs.

  • Loss of control: if not enough weight is on the tongue, the trailer can start to sway from side to side. This can cause your trailer and vehicle to overturn in seconds!
  • Braking issues: if too much weight is on the tongue, your vehicle’s brakes may struggle to gain traction, which can push rear tires on corners or curves and cause damage to your brakes
  • Blown tires: too much weight on the tongue can also put too much pressure on your back tires, eventually causing them to blow out, which is extremely dangerous
  • Cause accidents: all three of the dangers mentioned previously can cause traffic accidents

Benefits of a weight distribution hitch

In addition to avoiding the dangers caused by improperly weighted trailers, installing a weight distribution hitch has other additional benefits.

  • Prevent unnecessary wear and tear: avoid uneven weight to prevent excess stress on your vehicle and trailer’s axles and tires and restore balance
  • Extend the life of your suspension system: correctly loaded rigs will slow down the breakdown of your suspension
  • Offer a smoother ride: prevents swaying from side to side and up and down
  • Improve gas mileage: properly weights loads will maximize fuel consumption
  • Increase towing capacity: you can load more weight into your trailer without causing unsafe conditions
  • Provide the safest ride possible: we can’t stress this enough – even weight distribution makes towing as safe as possible

Key Features of a Weight Distribution Hitch

Weight distribution hitches are designed to evenly spread the tongue weight of the trailer across all four wheels of your vehicle. The tongue weight is the amount of weight on your rear axle. When this weight is too high, it causes the issues that we previously discussed. 

The weight distribution hitch uses spring bars to distribute the weight more evenly across the axles of the trailer and tow vehicle. There are two types of spring bars available: round bars and trunnion bars.

The hitches are made up of:

  • The spring bars
  • Shank
  • Head
  • Frame brackets

These four components work together to push down on the trailer and lift up on the back of your tow vehicle, keeping your entire rig more level. 

What is a Weight Distribution Hitch Going to Cost Me?

There are many different weight distribution hitches available on the market.

You can find some options for under $200. But considering we’re talking about safety here, the cheaper option might not be the best.

Most people should be able to find a high-quality weight distribution hitch between $300 and $500. The highest-priced options can reach $700 or more, but these often include additional features such as integrated sway control.

Don’t Ditch the Trailer Weight Distribution Hitch

We highly recommend a trailer weight distribution hitch no matter how much weight you’re pulling or what vehicle you’re using to tow it. It’s hard to argue with the safety improvements that come with properly weighted rigs!

One small investment will keep your family safe as well as lessen the strain and stress on your vehicle of towing a trailer.

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