Friday, October 22, 2021

MENU

Ask Dave: How does a weight distribution hitch work?

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.) Today Dave explains how a weight distribution hitch works.

Dear Dave
How does a load-leveling hitch work? I can’t seem to get my head around it. —Gary

Dear Gary,
A weight distribution hitch is a more common term for an add-on apparatus that helps distribute the tongue weight of the towed vehicle more evenly between the truck and the trailer axles. When all the tongue weight of the towed vehicle is applied to the single point of the ball of the tow vehicle, it can lighten the front axle by 20 percent or more, which is applied additionally to the back axle.

Issues from uneven weight distribution

A lighter than normal front axle can negatively affect steering and braking. Too much weight on the back axle can cause premature tire wear, issues with axle bearings and other rear-end components and, more importantly, trailer sway.

A weight distribution hitch provides a much longer connection point between the ball and the trailer tongue and provides leverage on both sides. This shifts the weight to all axles of the tow vehicle and trailer.

A weight distribution hitch does not reduce the tongue weight or increase your towing capacity. It simply helps distribute the tongue weight to all the axles.

There are several brands on the market such as the Camco brand shown in the photo that we tested. It was amazing how it handled the previous swaying condition we encountered. Blue Ox has great products, too, such as the SwayPro and TrackPro.

You can check out weight distribution hitches on Amazon here.

Read more from Dave here

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.

HAVE A QUESTION FOR DAVE?

Ask it here. Please be as brief as possible. Attach a photo or two if it might help Dave with his response.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

##RVDT1698

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

9 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Irv
23 days ago

There’s a good article at:
http://popupbackpacker.com/how-much-trailer-can-you-tow-part-1/

Part 2 covers weight distributing hitches. They agree with Ray that it’s like a wheel barrow.

Ray
23 days ago
  • As hard as it was for me to comprehend how the hitch works, I finally came to realize or rather accept that the tension bars act like handles on a wheel barrow. When you lift up on them, the weight is transferred to the front wheel. Those steel bars, that are set in high tension by chain or bracket when connected, provide a downward torque, a force, that is transferred to the vehicle side of the hitch which is solidly connected to the vehicle itself and onto the front wheels.
Bob P
23 days ago
Reply to  Ray

It also transfers weight to the trailer axle(s). In a theoretical world if it is exactly applied a 600 lb tongue weight would translate to 200 lbs on the front axle, 200 lbs on the drive axle and 200 lbs on the trailer axle, but we all live in the real world so we get as close as we can. As I said in a prior post one more link in the chain made the difference between having front brakes and antilock brake testing.

Thomas D
23 days ago

I really think his answer was, as my dad woukd say” as clear as mud”
Sorry Dave, poor answer!

Bob P
23 days ago

In a recent trip to the Smokies I had the occasion to mis calculate the length of the equalizer bar chains. The combo looked level, running “through the woods” instead of the interstate I had the occasion to have a hard braking situation. I found out the front brake anti-lock system works fine. Several blocks later I found a parking lot and tightened up one more link on the chains, that solved the problem. Yes they do work and No they are not for sway control. Some of the manufacturers have incorporated sway control into their bars, mine still use a separate friction sway control that I adjust as needed. On a windy day in can tighten it up to stop any effect from the wind. On the ones that use the bar tension the friction is controlled by the slippage between two pieces of steel.

Don
23 days ago

Sorry, Dave. This doesn’t answer the question. He wanted to know HOW the hitch works. You just told him WHAT it does. IMHO there is a big difference. To explain how, you’d have to diagram the loads on the hitch-point, the equalizing arms, and each axle of the tow vehicle.

TIM MCRAE
23 days ago

Didn’t answer the question. In fact ‘doesn’t reduce the hitch weight’ seems to prove weight distribution is a false term?

Why not just call them sway bars (which is what they are).

My guess is what you are trying to say is that the move the turning point (or fulcrum) further back. In so doing the ‘virtual fulcrum’ is closer to the trailer axle(s) which gives more stability.

It controls the load better but it doesn’t shift the weight? Sway bars or sway control hitch not weight distribution hitch?

Crowman
23 days ago
Reply to  TIM MCRAE

What the springs do is push up on the hitch which in turn pushes the front tires down maintaining more contact with the pavement. It’s the same as if you put a jack under the hitch then start to jack it up. You’ll start to see the rear or the truck going up as well as the front of the truck going down. There was a poster back in 1970 advertising a hitch equalizer with a Grand Toronado, a front wheel drive car pulling a trailer down the road with the both the rear tire REMOVED to prove their point that it lifts the rear to transfer the weight to the front tires. I’m sure you can look it up on the web to see it.

Bob P
23 days ago
Reply to  TIM MCRAE

You’re wrong sir, do your research.