Answers to questions about RV Repair and Maintenance from RV expert Dave Solberg, author of the RV Handbook and the managing editor of the RV Repair Club. This column appears Monday through Saturday in the RV Travel and RV Daily Tips newsletters. (Sign up for an email reminder for each new issue if you do not already receive one.)
I cannot find a hitch receiver that makes my camper completely level. I have tried five types with different drops. None is right on the money. I finally settled on one that puts the camper an inch higher in the front than if it were completely level. So my question: Is it better to have the front of the trailer a bit too high or a bit too low? —Emma Jean H.
Dear Emma Jean,
Although there is no standard hitch height, as all vehicles are different, most manufacturers try to establish a 17” height which will avoid bottoming out in most cases. The goal is to get the hitch height as close to level as possible. If you are having trouble finding a drop hitch that will do that, I would suggest looking at the various adjustable hitches such as the Curt Adjustable Channel Mount model that can go down as far as 10-1/8”.
If your tow vehicle is level, a one-inch drop in the trailer hitch is acceptable as long as it is not bottoming out when driving out of fuel stations and such. This is only if the vehicle is level. If not, there is most likely too much weight on the tow vehicle hitch. That means the front will be light and affect steering and stopping distance, and put additional stress on the rear axle/tires.
It is not advised to have the trailer hitch higher than level as this means the trailer is pitched back and weight distribution is shifted. This will cause the trailer to sway more often when introduced to wind gusts.
Consider the weight
One other very important consideration is the weight carrying capacity of your tow vehicle and the actual weight of your trailer as well as hitch weight. I would recommend searching your tow vehicle manufacturer’s towing chart to find out your towing capacity and then take 10 percent off that number for safe towing. You don’t want to be at maximum weight when trying to stop on a hot day, in rain, or trying to get up a 6 percent grade.
Next, get your trailer weighed with all the “stuff” you plan to take. Every trailer has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). You should make sure you are 10 percent below max here, as well. You should be able to find the rating on the data plate typically located on the tongue. You can get your rig weighed professionally by individual wheel position here.
Otherwise, use a CAT Scale found at most larger truck stops. Place your tow vehicle front wheels on the first platform, back wheels on the second, and trailer on the third. Make sure you have a full tank of gas and all passengers that will be traveling with you. If you are using a weight-distribution hitch, you will need two more weights. Drive off and disconnect your weight distribution hitch and put the bars in the back of your tow vehicle. This will verify the hitch is set correctly. Next, drive off the scale and disconnect the trailer and weigh just the tow vehicle. This will tell you what the weight is on the tow vehicle hitch.
Make sure you let the attendant know you are weighing your rig and will be doing three trips through. And, keep in mind this will not provide individual wheel position weights, which are important for weight distribution and tire safety. Not all trailers are built with proper weight distribution. Click here to find a weighing location near you.
Dave Solberg worked at Winnebago for 15 years developing the dealer training program, as marketing manager, and conducting shows. As the owner of Passport Media Creations, Dave has developed several RV dealer training programs, the RV Safety Training program for The Recreation Vehicle Safety and Education Foundation, and the accredited RV Driving Safety program being conducted at rallies and shows around the country. Dave is a leading expert in the RV industry and author of the “RV Handbook” as well as the Managing Editor of the RV Repair Club, a one-stop go-to online resource for RV enthusiasts.