Best Weight Distribution Hitches for 2018
(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)
What the heck is a 'weight distribution hitch' thing-a-ma-jigger?
When I (Kelly) purchased my 24' travel trailer, I was asked by the salesmen if I wanted to get a weight distribution hitch with sway control for my rig. I had pulled horse trailers before as a teen, and we never had used such a thing.
A weight distribution hitch or trailer hitch sounded a little like some slimy sales talk. I thought they were just trying to get more money out of me by selling me this unnecessary gadget
Eventually, I relented and decided to buy one. I didn't even really understand what it was for.
'Weight distribution? What's that? (I, Camp Addict Kelly, didn't really even know until recently.) Sway control? Really? Hmmmm. Ugh, whatever, just put it on and show me how to use it.'
That's how I rolled. (Uh, no pun intended. 😆 Get it?) It's a lot to understand, to know and to take in. The what, where, when, why and how of a weight distribution trailer hitch is not well understood. We are here to simplify it as much as possible so you can understand why you need it, if you need a weight distribution trailer hitch, and how to use your trailer hitch properly.
Just so you know, what you will learn on this page will help to prevent this:
Well, let me clarify: NOT all weight distribution hitches are also sway control hitches. Yes, SOME do have sway control included (including the ones we recommend below). Keep this in mind. Still, adding the proper weight distribution hitch when needed can inherently help prevent sway.
(We will later explain how a weight distribution trailer hitch helps prevent sway.)
Do I Even Need a Weight Distribution Hitch?
Great question. Do you even need to read the following guide and weight distribution hitch reviews? Let's find out before you possibly waste your time.
Weight Distribution Hitch Comparison
Weight Distribution Hitch Reviews
When it comes to weight distribution hitches, many companies throw their hats into the ring and try to come up with a better mousetrap. We've narrowed down the field to what we feel are the best options among the many available weight distribution hitches (also referred throughout this page as 'WDH').
All of the below reviewed weight distribution hitches have sway control built-in. We feel strongly that any trailer that needs a WDH also needs sway control. Any hitch that doesn't have sway control as a design feature was eliminated from contention. And those add-on sway control bars? Um, yeah, not exactly the best choice, so we don't even consider any hitch that uses these as their sway control mechanism.
Through personal experience, we feel that the Andersen Weight Distribution Hitch is the weight distributing hitch that is worthy of serious consideration because it doesn't require you to hassle with the conventional spring arms.
Read on to learn more about our top pick and what we deem to be the other contenders, or jump down to the guide to learn more about weight distribution hitches.
The Andersen 'No-Sway' Weight Distribution Hitch (WDH) revolutionizes how weight distributing hitches work by doing away with the traditional spring bar style weight distribution mechanism and replacing it with a much simpler to use chain mechanism. This results in a much lighter, quieter (as in virtually silent), and easier to use setup that deserves a hard look.
The above 'Pros' highlight just some of the advantages of the Andersen WDH, but all in all, this is simply a better mouse trap. If you've had to deal with heavy, awkward, greasy weight distribution bars (like Camp Addict Kelly LOATHINGLY has), then you will totally appreciate the simplicity and convenience of the bar-free Andersen weight distribution hitch.
Best Traditional Style Weight Distribution Hitch
Equal-i-zer Weight Distribution Hitch
The Equal-i-zer hitch is a pioneer in weight distribution hitches with sway control. Progress Manufacturing, the maker of this WDH setup, has been in business over 70 years and has been making the Equal-i-zer hitch for a really long time. In other words, they have a proven system when it comes to spring bar style weight distribution hitches.
If you are looking for a proven system that has been used by thousands of trailer owners, over countless towing miles, the Equal-i-zer WDH is definitely the right choice. Our top choice, the Andersen WDH, offers some advantages to this spring bar system, but there are many people who like to go with what has been used for decades, so the Equal-i-zer hitch is the way to go.
Best Budget Weight Distribution Hitch
Fastway e2 Weight Distribution Hitch
The Fastway e2 weight distribution hitch is manufactured by Progress Manufacturing, who also makes the Equal-i-zer WDH. The e2 line of hitches offer similar weight distribution properties as the Equal-i-zer hitches, but not as good anti-sway capability, at a more affordable price point.
The Fastway e2 weight distribution hitches are a MUCH better option than having a simple ball mount (which offers no weight distribution or anti-sway capability), and are a definite step up from the chain-style weight distribution hitches (that require add-on anti-sway bars).
Hensley and ProPride Hitches
The above reviewed weight distribution hitches use friction as a means to control trailer sway. Friction can only do so much. It helps control sway. It doesn't prevent sway. (Yes, there is a difference)
If you want to truly prevent trailer sway, you need to pony up the big bucks and go with a different kind of weight distribution hitch.
There is only one type of hitch on the market that claims to actually prevent trailer sway - the Hensley Hitch. Great, right? Well, there's a catch.
A Hensley Hitch will set you back anywhere from 5 to 10 times the cost of one of the weight distribution hitches reviewed above as they cost in the neighborhood of $2,500+. Yikes!
Are they worth the extra cost? Some think so, including Camp Addict Co-Founder Marshall, who has a Hensley Cub (the lighter weight version for trailers up to 6,000 pounds gross weight) and loves it.
Besides the extra cost, a Hensley Hitch is heavier than a traditional weight distribution hitch. This adds weight to the trailer tongue, where many trailers cannot afford to have extra weight.
There are two manufacturers who make a Hensley-style weight distribution hitch. Hensley Manufacturing and Pro Pride Incorporated. Hensley is the original manufacturer, while Pro Pride claims to have an updated version of the Hensley design. Which is better? That's up to you to decide if you wish to go the Hensley route.
Now that you have that shiny new weight distribution hitch to keep your trailer and tow vehicle in line and well behaved, it's time to consider a few accessories that may make your life a little easier. These are totally optional, but there might be something here that you find useful.
Hitch Receiver Lock
When your weight distribution hitch is installed into the receiver of your tow vehicle, there is a pin that holds the hitch into the receiver. If you have a non-locking pin, then there is nothing to prevent someone from easily removing your hitch from your tow vehicle.
There are many hitch receiver locks on the market that provide a locking pin as a deterrent to someone from easily walking off with your hitch. Below is just one example of this type of pin. While this will not prevent someone who is VERY determined to have your hitch, it will slow them down and cause them to work at it. It's worth the low price of a hitch receiver lock to give yourself a little more protection.
Hitch Ball Lubrication
Most trailer hitches need to be greased where the hitch ball meets the trailer coupler. There is movement at this 'joint' whenever the tow vehicle and trailer are in a turn, or whenever there is an uneven road surface (the trailer and tow vehicle connection - the hitch assembly - pivots when the driving surface isn't perfectly flat and smooth). If you do not use a quality grease at this connection, you will have metal on metal contact and subsequent wear.
The two traditional style weight distribution hitches reviewed above require this type of lubrication. The Andersen weight distribution hitch does not, which is another advantage it has over the others (no greasy hitch ball to collect dirt and get grease on your clothes).
Trailer Hitch Stabilizer / Anti-Rattle Device
The shank of your weight distribution most likely doesn't fit nice and snug into the receiver of your tow vehicle, which causes slight movement between the two as you tow your trailer down the road. Over time, this slight movement movement will cause wear on both your WDH shank and your tow vehicle's receiver (as pictured below), as well as make a rattling sound that can be very annoying.
You can use a trailer hitch stabilizer (hitch tightener) to eliminate this movement and save this wear on your hitch parts. It also eliminates the rattling/ clanking sound that this play makes. Talk about a win-win! The StowAway Hitch Tightener (below) is for 2" receivers and is what Camp Addict Co-Founder Marshall uses.
StowAway Hitch Tightener Demonstration
Safety Chain Hanger
Do your safety chains hang low, maybe even dragging on the ground (especially when you make turns)? If so, the safety chain hanger by GR Innovations (made in the USA) is something you should take a look at.
Available in two sizes (for either a Class 3 or a Class 5 hitch - the difference being how wide of a hitch the hanger can straddle), the safety chain hanger is a simple piece of plastic that allows you to 'lift up' the center of a sagging safety chain.
The hanger doesn't interfere with the operation of the safety chains should something happen where the chains were needed. The hanger would break free if the safety chains get stretched out.
GR Innovations supplied Camp Addict with both sizes of safety chain hangers so that we could try them out. Both Camp Addict co-founders Marshall and Kelly have been using them for several months and find them to work very well to keep the chains up off the ground.
For Class 3 Hitches (orange)
For Class 5 Hitches (yellow)
One of the problems of a weight distribution hitch setup that uses spring bars is what to do with the big, bulky, greasy bars when you don't have your trailer connected to your tow vehicle. One solution is to install the EzStoreHitch (assuming you have space on your trailer's tongue area).
The EzStoreHitch gives you a place to store the spring bars and also gives you storage for your actual hitch (the part that mounts into your vehicle's receiver) while you aren't using it. With the hitch stored in the EzStoreHitch and locked with your locking pin, both the hitch and the spring bars are secured from theft. Nifty!
EzStoreHitch Hitch and Spring Bar Storage
The HitchGrip is a lightweight tool that allows you to easily, and ergonomically lift your hitch to install or remove it from your tow vehicle. With the HitchGrip you no longer have to touch a dirty, greasy hitch.
Designed to fit hitches with 2 5/16" balls with standard sized shanks, the HitchGrip is made from industrial strength resin and has tungsten carbide tips that 'hold' the hitch ball. It's a pretty cool tool that makes a potential dirty, and back breaking job, a bit easier and cleaner.
HitchGrip Hitch Lifting Tool
Trailer Coupler Lock
When your trailer is not connected to your tow vehicle, it is a potential target for theft. The entire trailer, that is. Think about it - your trailer is sitting somewhere with a nice, inviting coupler waiting for a hitch ball to connect to it. Pretty much anyone can hitch up to your trailer and drive away (if your trailer isn't in a secure location).
There are many trailer coupler lock solutions on the market, but most can be easily defeated by anyone with a crowbar or a reciprocating saw. If you are serious about locking your trailer coupler, consider a locking solution like the Coupler Vault Pro. This lock is pretty darn hard to break into and most thieves are going to give up before they can tow your trailer away. Yes, it's pricey, but your trailer is a lot more expensive.
Coupler Vault Pro by MegaHitch Lock
Your Dealer Might Be Clueless
Surely there are SOME very top-notch RV dealers out there who can sell you the right equipment, install it correctly, and show you how to use it. But there are many more dealerships employing salesmen AND inststallers who really know very little about what they are doing.
Weight distribution hitches can be confusing, but they certainly aren't rocket science. You would hope a dealer that is in the business of selling travel trailers would have a clue about weight distribution hitches. Or at least care enough to learn and/or have people on staff that have a clue. Apparently this wasn't the case with Kelly's dealer.
The dealer Kelly purchased her travel trailer from did the installation of a Fastway e2 weight distribution hitch. She relied on them to tell her what she needed, what weight capacity was required, and to install it for her. They managed to mess up all of this. Here are some things they screwed up:
- Fastway offers weight distribution hitches with gross trailer weight ratings ranging from 4,500 pounds to 10,000 pounds. Ideally you would select a hitch that is rated just above what your trailer's maximum weight would be. Or more correctly, how much your trailer actually weighs loaded as you use it. Kelly's trailer actually weighs (as it is loaded the way she uses it) around 4,500 pounds, yet the dealer installed a hitch rated at 10,000 pounds (the maximum available). This causes her setup to ride rougher and is harder for her to deal with the oversized spring arms.
- The brackets that attach the spring arms to her trailer frame were installed upside down. This caused a gap between the bottom of the frame and the lower bracket bolt. There is supposed to be no gap here as a gap causes bowing of the brackets when you tighten the attaching bolts down to the proper torque. Guess what? Because of bottoming out, both of Kelly's brackets had a very pronounced bow in them, rendering them unusable. She got a new pair from a friend who was ALSO not happy with their e2.
- The brackets themselves hang too low on her trailer frame. This is a design issue more than an installation issue. Because her trailer rides so low, it doesn't allow for sufficient clearance between the bottom of the brackets and the ground with the way the dealer installed the system. Her brackets are constantly hitting the asphalt whenever she pulls in/out of a driveway with any sort of slight dip, and is often digging into the dirt as she is positioning. The brackets constantly hitting the ground, combined with there being a gap between the bolt and frame (as mentioned above), caused the brackets to bow. All because the dealer didn't properly install her WDH and caused the brackets to ride too low.
All of the above mentioned issues would be eliminated if Kelly had an Andersen weight distribution hitch installed. (And she now does, as of August, 2018.) It is a much better choice for her ground clearance challenged trailer she has
Here is a video of Kelly explaining the issues she's had with her Fastway e2 hitch:
Kelly's Hitch Issues (Thank You, Dealer!😠)
Kelly's e2 weight distribution hitch issues caused by the installing dealer doing a hack job have been rectified. We spent a good amount of time installing and adjusting it per the manufacturer's instructions after replacing the brackets with undamaged ones.
This resulted in better clearance between the spring bar brackets and the ground, as well as a trailer that rides level (was slightly nose down before).
Kelly still wasn't in love with the e2 system, but she was not as annoyed as she was when there were ground clearance issues. OK, she is still not happy with it, but her current beef with it (pain in the rear to attach and detach, bottoming out causing the L brackets to come off, hence causing the bar to come off the bracket.) is an inherent problem with is style of hitch, which is why we recommend the Andersen weight distribution hitch.
Weight Distribution Hitches 101
Weight distribution hitches are made for trailers of all types... horse trailers, travel trailers, boat trailers, etc. Their job is to keep your tow vehicle and trailer level. Why is this important? You need to keep the weight on all of the axles of your tow vehicle distributed as they would be if there were no trailer attached to your tow vehicle.
If you DON'T use a weight distribution hitch, you risk altering (worsening) the performance of your tow vehicle's steering and braking. Why so? Well, look at the photos below to help you understand what can happen to your tow vehicle and trailer when you don't use a weight distribution hitch versus when you do. Notice how the tow vehicle squats down, unloading the front axle? That's really bad.
As you can see, it's very likely that weighing down the back of your tow vehicle will cause the front end to rise up. Your steering is controlled from your front end. The most effective portion of your brakes are in your front end. If your vehicle's front end doesn't have its usual contact with the pavement, well, duh, things can go bad quickly.
Your braking distance will be longer. You may not be able to steer as effectively. None of these bode well for you on the road while pulling thousands of pounds behind you.
Here's a good visual video to further help you understand why a weight distribution hitch is helpful with control and braking.
How Weight Distribution Affects Braking and Handling
Weight Distribution Hitch Ratings
Weight distribution hitches come with two ratings: tongue weight they can handle and maximum trailer weight. The hitch weight ratings for trailer and tongue weight should be above what your trailer weighs as you have it normally loaded, but not by too much. You should try to match the weight distribution hitch rating as close to your trailer's weight as possible and not go over by too wide of a margin.
Types Of Weight Distribution Hitches
Weight distribution hitches use spring arms to distribute the trailer tongue weight from the rear axle of the tow vehicle to the front axle. There are two ways to 'lift' up the spring arms to 'bend' them and have them distribute the weight of the trailer tongue - via chains and by using brackets attached to the trailer frame.
In this guide we focus on WDH's that use brackets to hold up the spring arms as they offer sway control, which is vital when you are towing a trailer that requires a weight distribution hitch.
Weight distribution hitches are available with two styles of spring arms: Trunnion or round bar.
Trunnion: Trunnion arms come straight back from the hitch head which gives them better ground clearance compared to a round bar setup. The arms are square in shape and a trunnion weight distribution hitch will typically cost more than an equivalent round bar hitch.
Round Bar: These arms connect underneath the hitch head and curve back until they are parallel to the ground. The bent style puts them closer to the ground, sometimes causing ground clearance issues in lower trailers. Camp Addict Kelly had this style and struggled with ground clearance issues with her hitch from day one. 😬 Keep this in mind if you have a low-riding rig.
Towing Pieces and Parts
You will have to have certain parts before you can tow your rig with or without a weight distribution hitch:
1. Your tow vehicle WITH a hitch receiver (DUR!)
2. Your trailer (DOUBLE duh...)
3. A trailer hitch for your vehicle (this will come with a weight distribution kit)
4. The hitch ball (round thinggy that the trailer attaches to) sized properly to fit your trailer's coupler
5. Coupler (the part on your trailer that goes onto the ball - this will be part of your trailer's frame)
6. Safety chains
7. Trailer wire harness for lights/brakes and a receptacle on your tow vehicle to plug your trailer's wiring into
Each of these items is necessary to safely pull a trailer.
Trailer Hitch Receiver 'Classes'
Dangit- something else we have to know about? Yerp. Not all trailer hitch receivers are alike. Be very aware- they can vary in the amount of trailer weight they can handle.
Trailer hitch receivers (the part of your tow vehicle that 'accepts' the trailer hitch) come in different weight classes, between 1 and 5. Your vehicle's owners manual will tell you what class receiver it comes equipped with and/or the weight it's able to tow.
Below is an infographic (provided by USA Cargo Trailer Sales) that shows the five different trailer hitch receiver classes and a brief explanation of each. (Scroll infographic to read in its entirety.)
Typically, you will not need a weight distribution hitch with a Class 1 or 2 trailer hitch as you will be towing a very light trailer. Most of the time travel trailers that require a Class 3, 4 or 5 hitch will need a weight distribution hitch. Always consult your tow vehicle's owner manual to see if there are any specific recommendations about weight distribution hitch use directly from the tow vehicle manufacturer.
OK, now that you know which class receiver you have, or which one you need for the trailer you are looking at towing, let's move on to your vehicle's towing capacity.
How Much Can Your Vehicle Tow?
Boy oh boy, I get it. MORE stuff to know! Yes, it's all important, so let's continue on. You've got this. 😀
Your tow vehicle is 'rated' to tow and to carry only a certain amount of weight. No, your Ford Ranger CANNOT pull that 30' travel trailer you have been eyeballing. Why? Well, it should be obvious, but it's not rated to pull 9,800 pounds.
So how do you know, or find out, how much your vehicle CAN pull? Your best bet is to look it up in your tow vehicle's manual. If you don't have it, most of the manuals can be found on the manufacturer's website.
Or, here's a convenient guide to vehicle tow ratings from Trailer Life Magazine. You can search your vehicle and year to find your maximum towing weight (though this weight may depend on the equipment your particular vehicle is equipped with).
Weighing Your Travel Trailer
Your trailer will weigh differently depending on whether it is empty as it comes delivered from the factory, or full of your stuff- personal items, food, water, propane, etc. Therefore, you have to know what your trailer weighs when it's loaded (as you typically would use it) versus when it's unloaded (the amount the manufacturer claims your rig weighed when it left the factory).
Having an accurate weight ensures that your trailer isn't loaded above what its maximum weight rating is, and that your tow vehicle has enough towing capability to safely pull your trailer. It also will tell you what the weight rating your weight distribution hitch needs to be.
It's pretty important to weigh your trailer. Actually, it's vital you know how much your trailer weighs!
You need to know how much your travel trailer TRULY weighs when loaded for a typical trip. This includes cargo, propane, and water. This is because every weight distribution hitch is rated for a certain trailer weight. You don't want to get a hitch rated too heavy or too light, so you need to know your travel trailer weight and your tongue weight.
Yo- You're gonna need a scale to get a weight. How else do you expect to weigh your trailer????
Where on earth can you find a scale big enough to weigh your travel trailer? There are commercial scales at some truck stops such as Love's and Flying J (CAT scales are a common 'brand'), as well as at some highway weigh stations. It may be prudent to call ahead and make sure they allow RVs to be weighed. There is usually a fee involved.
Again, there are two weights you will want to get:
1. Trailer tongue weight
2. Trailer gross weight
Trailer Tongue Weight Measurement
There are 4 ways to measure your travel trailer's tongue weight. Commercial scale, Bathroom scale, tongue weight scale, or a weigh safe ball mount. Of these methods, only one (commercial scale) will allow you to also get the trailer gross weight as well, so this is the method we recommend.
Commercial Scale Method (to determine tongue weight and trailer gross weight)
Once you have located a commercial scale and verified they will let you weigh your RV, it's time to get busy!
Depending on if you have a weight distributing hitch setup or if you are looking to only to figure out your trailer tongue weight, you will choose one of the two methods to way to your setup:
Figuring Out Tongue Weight Only
You will have to do two separate weighings. One with the trailer connected to your tow vehicle and one with just the tow vehicle (trailer not connected).
For the first weighing you will need to press the call button and tell the clerk that this is your first weigh. They may ask you for your truck number. Just tell them it's a private account or that you are an RV.
When you are taking your second weighing, you will need to be very clear that this is a re-weigh. If not, you may be charged the full price for the second weighing (re-weighs are usually cheaper).
Weigh as follows:
- Weigh your tow vehicle with the trailer attached. Position your setup so that the trailer axle(s) are on one weighing 'pad' and your tow vehicle's axles are on another weighing 'pad'. This will give you two separate weights on the printout you will get at the end. When checking tongue weight only, you don't care about the trailer weight number - just the tow vehicle's weight. This is weight A.
- Drive off the scale and detach your trailer from your tow vehicle. Drive JUST the tow vehicle back onto the scale, making sure it's on just one weighing 'pad'. (Tell the scale operator this is a 're-weigh' so you don't get charged the full amount for a second weighing.) This is weight B.
- Go collect your weighing slips from the scale operator (you will be getting two slips). It's time to do math! Subtract weight B (tow vehicle without trailer attached) from weight A (tow vehicle with trailer attached) to get the tongue weight. Weight A - Weight B = tongue weight. It's really that simple!
Figuring Out Tongue Weight AND How Well Your Weight Distribution Hitch Is Doing Its Job
Figuring out how well your weight distribution hitch is distributing weight, as well as what your trailer tongue weight is, can be a bit more involved than getting only your tongue weight. Actually it's not very hard, but requires three weighings instead of just two when only figuring out tongue weight.
You will have to do three separate weighings. One with the trailer connected and weight distribution engaged (so weight is being transferred to your tow vehicle's front axle). One with the trailer connected and weight distribution disengaged (no transfer of weight to the tow vehicle's front axle). And finally you will be weighing your tow vehicle by itself (trailer not hooked up).
For the first weighing you will need to press the call button and tell the clerk that this is your first weigh. They may ask you for your truck number. Just tell them it's a private account or that you are an RV.
When you are taking your second and third weighing, you will need to be very clear that this is a re-weigh. If not, you may be charged the full price for the second and third weighing (re-weighs are usually cheaper).
Weigh as follows:
- Weigh your tow vehicle with the trailer attached and the weight distribution bars/ mechanism engaged. Each axle will need to be weighed individually. You will weigh the trailer axle(s) on one 'pad' of the commercial scale, the rear axle of the tow vehicle on another 'pad', and the front axle on a third 'pad'. See the pictures and the video below to see how this is done. This will give you three separate weights on the printout you get when you are done weighing.
- WITHOUT moving your tow vehicle and trailer, disconnect the weight distribution bars/ mechanism. Take the second weighing. (Tell the scale operator this is a 're-weigh' so you don't get charged the full amount for a second weighing.) You will get another three separate weights on the printout you get when done.
- Drive off the scale and detach your trailer from your tow vehicle. Drive JUST the tow vehicle back onto the scale, making sure the front and rear axles are on separate weighing 'pad', just like they were for the first two weighings. (Tell the scale operator this is a 're-weigh' so you don't get charged the full amount for a second weighing.) This will give you a set of two weights on the printouts you will collect.
- Go collect your weighing slips from the scale operator (you will be getting three slips). Make sure you make notes on each of the three weigh slips which weighing they represent, so you know which is the one with the weight distribution bars connected, disconnected, and the tow vehicle by itself.
How to Position a Trailer on a Commercial Scale
It's time to enter all of these weights into the Google Sheets spreadsheet that we've created for you. It can be found here. (You will have to log into your Google account and you will be forced to make a copy of this Sheet so you won't be 'messing' with the original.) Make sure to enter the correct weights in the correct spots and the spreadsheet will do the heavy lifting for you.
Whew! You are done! You now know what your trailer tongue weight is and how well your weight distribution hitch is distributing the weight of the trailer to the tow vehicle's front axle.
Bathroom Scale Method (to determine tongue weight)
For this, you will need:
- A cinder block (or block of wood) that is the same thickness/height as your scale
- Two small steel pipes
- Bathroom scale
- A piece of wood (4x4 preferably) that is at least 4 feet long
The above chart pretty well explains how to set up your scale system. You can view the video directly below to see this process demonstrated.
The main constant is that you must put the tongue 1 foot away from the end that doesn't have the scale. The other side can be 2, 3, or even 4 feet away from the tongue. Keep it at a 2 foot minimum. The spacing you choose determines how you do your math.
If you use the above scenario, you are using a 2 foot scale-tongue gap and a 1 foot block-tongue gap. Therefore, you have a 2:1 ratio. This means that the scale will only support 1/2 of the tongue weight.
In our example where you are using spacing of 2 feet and 1 foot, you add the two distances together, which is three. This is your multiplier. Your math will be to multiply what the scale says by three. For example, if the scale says 220, then 220 x 3 = 660. Therefore your tongue weight is 660 pounds.
Say you use three feet in between the tongue and the scale, then you have a 3:1 ratio and will multiply the scale reading by 4 (3+1). Thankfully, it's pretty simple math.
The idea of using this method is to keep the tongue weight from being directly on the scale and breaking it. Most average sized travel trailers will have a tongue weight that is more than a typical bathroom scale can handle.
Measuring Tongue Weight With a Bathroom Scale
Tongue Weight Scale Method (to determine tongue weight)
These scales are made just for this purpose but can be a little costly. They are simple small scales made to take the weight of a trailer tongue up to the number of pounds they are rated for.
To use, simply place the scale under the tongue jack while the trailer is connected to the tow vehicle. Then disconnect the trailer as usual (be SURE you have the trailer chocked!) and then get it level from front to back. The scale will measure how much tongue weight is on your tow vehicle when connected.
Weigh Safe Ball Mount Method (to determine tongue weight)
The Weigh Safe Hitch is a hitch with a scale built-in. It's as simple as that. You connect the trailer to the hitch, and bammo- you have a fairly accurate trailer tongue weight showing in the trailer hitch itself. This option will be more expensive than the other methods but is also helpful as your tongue weight can change with varying cargo, water, and propane levels.
The Weight Distribution Of Your Cargo
The worst thing you can do for your setup is to put a lot of your cargo/weight behind the axle (wheels) of your travel trailer. As a general rule, you should have 60% of your cargo weight in FRONT of the trailer axle, and 40% of the weight behind the trailer axle.
Why is this? The more weight in the back, the heavier your 'butt end' becomes (and the less weight there is on the trailer's tongue). If the heavy butt end of your trailer gets pushed to the side a little by a sudden gust of wind, or a quick little correction, or a semi passing you, it can start to swing (sway) out of control.
Built-In vs. Add-On Sway Control
All of the weight distribution hitches reviewed on this page have sway control as part of their design. This is the best option if you need sway control (and any trailer that needs a weight distribution hitch needs sway control) as it doesn't have the limitations that an add-on device does. Also, built-in sway control can be much more effective than using an add-on device.
A WDH with built-in sway control commonly uses friction between the spring arms and the spring arm mounting brackets that attach to the trailer frame (some also incorporate friction points where the spring arms meet the hitch head). The spring arms are forced down onto the brackets as they do their job distributing the weight of the trailer tongue to the front axle of the tow vehicle. Any side-to-side movement of the trailer due to sway causes a great deal of friction between the spring arms and the brackets, which helps limit sway.
An add-on sway control device is a friction arm that is literally added on as an afterthought. It attaches to one side of your weight distribution hitch, between the trailer frame and the hitch head that is mounted on your tow vehicle. You can adjust the amount of friction the arm has by cranking down on a handle.
Drawbacks to an add-on anti-sway system are several, including the need to remove them in order to backup or if you need to turn tightly. Also, they have to be removed in slippery conditions (gravel, rain, ice, snow, sand, etc). Oh, wait, it's raining? Let me pull over and remove this device. 😬
Plus, the add-on systems just don't work as well. Progress Manufacturing claims that the built-in anti-sway capabilities of their Equal-i-zer hitch is equal to 8 add-on sway bars (you only can have one, so you can see the difference).
The above reviewed weight distribution hitches all utilize a form of sway control in order to help limit this trailer sway (swing). However, these types of anti-sway systems are not foolproof and have limits to the amount of sway they can 'control'. You definitely need to have your trailer's load distributed properly so that your trailer's tongue weight is within the proper range of 10-15% of the trailer's total weight.
You can't quite understand why proper loading of your trailer is so critical? Maybe a visual will help. Take a look at the below experiment to help you understand how this happens:
What Happens With Too Much Weight at Rear of Trailer
You think that that was a fluke? Here's another example:
Tow Vehicle Handling Affected by Trailer Weight Distribution
As you can see, overloading the back end of your trailer is a no-no. So how do you know how much your cargo weighs? It's not like you weigh every item that goes into or out of your RV. That would be crazy.
It's simple to find out if your travel trailer is properly balanced. You will need to know your trailer tongue weight, and the weight of your loaded trailer, to figure this out (learn how to weigh your rig). If your cargo is loaded properly, your trailer tongue weight will be in between 10% and 15% of the total weight of your fully loaded travel trailer.
For example, if your trailer weighs, fully loaded, 7,000 lbs, then a tongue weight of 700 to 1050 pounds would be perfect. Actually, 12% is best, but getting exactly 12% may be difficult, and a few percentage points either way is OK.
There you have it. You are now fully armed to know if you need a weight distribution hitch, what kind of WDH you will want, and how to tow your travel trailer using one. You know that you need one if the back of your tow vehicle sags, if you are towing a trailer of any appreciable size, or if your tow vehicle's manual specifically says to use one.
If you need to get a weight distribution hitch, you can find out which will work best for you by checking out the reviews on this page.
Be safe out there on the roads. Don't pull your trailer at speeds faster than your travel trailer's tire ratings. This is very dangerous and often leads to horrifying and unnecessary accidents due to blowouts. And don't be an idiot when you are towing. You CANNOT drive 'normally' when you are towing a trailer.
If you don't like to follow rules, make this one be the one that you do.
Get out there and Camp On, Addicts!!!