Before you choose the proper weight distribution hitch for your trailer, you need to know your total trailer tongue weight. Tongue weight is the name for the total downward force that your loaded trailer applies to the ball of your weight distribution equipment.
This is not as confusing or complex as it first sounds but it is new to some trailer and would be trailer owners. So, first we’ll take a quick run through trailer hitches 101.
Trailer Hitches 101
When we talk about trailer hitches, we are usually actually referring to what is actually a system made up of a number of components.
Your trailer hitch is made up of:
- Receiver hitch
- Ball mount
- Trailer ball
- Trailer coupler
- Hitch pin
- Safety chains
- Trailer wiring harness
This is the tube which is attached to the underside of your vehicle. The exact design is usually specific to your vehicle but the size of the opening is standard.
One end of the ball mount goes into the receiver hitch. The other end has a spot for the trailer ball.
Ball mounts can be made of a single piece of metal or they may be adjustable.
The trailer ball is the piece of the hitch system that normally comes to mind when you think of a trailer hitch. This metal ball has a threaded stem which allows you to connect it to the ball mount.
Trailer balls are available in a variety of sizes.
Many people choose to leave the receiver hitch-ball mount-trailer ball set-up in place when not towing a trailer.
The trailer coupler is attached to the item you are towing, and they come in a variety of styles.
One end affixes to the ball mount. This end of a trailer coupler can come in a variety of sizes. As a result, you must ensure your trailer coupler will fit with your trailer ball.
The safety chain connects the trailer to the tow vehicle and rather than just one, you should use two safety chains.
During our research, we came across many videos of trailers tipping over while driving on the road.
Any driver, towing anything, should take extra precautions to drive safely. However, there are some things a travel trailer hitch can do to help mitigate the chances of you tipping over on the road.
Proper Tow Vehicle
Knowing exactly how much weight your vehicle can tow is very important. Be careful not to push this average maximum weight limit as these numbers are the maximum amount of weights that the average car in each category can handle.
Some people think that if you have a weight-distribution kit on your vehicle and trailer that this will increase your towing capacity. This is not true. It will only add to the safety of pulling your trailer.
Check out our other article, “How much can your vehicle tow?“
Proper Weight Distribution
When you connect your trailer to your vehicle you might notice a few things that look “off.” There may be excess weight compressing the rear of your vehicle, causing it to be uneven.
A weight distribution hitch will force that weight back on the trailer, giving you proper weight distribution.
Having uneven weight makes you more at risk of sway while you drive.
Sway Control Is A Must
Friction sway control is a must if you experience any trailer instability while towing.
Some weight distribution hitches come with built-in sway control others do not. If you buy or already have a hitch without one, you can add a sway control device later.
Sway control will also help mitigate against high winds and large vehicles passing.
Ease of Use
Hitches can be tricky at first. However, most are simple to use after you get the hang of it. Using a trailer hitch becomes even easier when you combine the hitch with an electric tongue jack.
Sway control bars may need proper adjustment to achieve maximum sway control. This may not be an issue for most people, however, I prefer to have the maximum sway control with the littlest effort possible.
Sway control bars must be properly maintained and are at risk of breaking if you were to jack knife your trailer.
There are so many options for weight distribution hitches on the market, and I haven’t found one to be safer than another when used appropriately. If you are purchasing from a reputable dealer, there shouldn’t be any reason they would let you off of the lot with something that may fail and get you into trouble.
Hows the Ride?
Different hitches will give you a different type of ride. Some may feel bumpy over the smallest of bumps and others may handle them with ease. The best hitches help your tow vehicle maintain proper steering and brake control. They do this by transferring a portion of the trailer’s weight from the tow vehicle’s rear axle to the front axle and back to the trailer’s axle.
Round Bar hitches will be a bit lower and won’t handle potholes and bumps as well as other hitches may.
If you are willing to spend a bit more money, trailer hitches with trunnion bars are a great alternative. An example would be the equalizer hitch.
Which Hitch Do We Recommend?
My pick for the best weight distribution hitch is the Equalizer Hitch. This hitch gives me 4 point sway control built into the system without the use of a sway bar. This means that I don’t have to worry about maintaining a sway bar and am able to drive knowing that I have a system fighting the wind every time I tow.
The ground clearance is higher than other systems and after three years I have never bottomed out.
One of my favorite features with this hitch is that I am able to reverse without worrying that I forgot to remove the sway bar.
I don’t feel as though this is a common hitch because sometimes when I take the family to Carpenteria, CA people seem to yell at me to remove a sway bar before I back up. Not many people are used to this hitch and it shows with the questions the ask.
Things to remember with the Equalizer Hitch:
- You can back up without disconnecting the hitch
- You can hitch and unhitch from any angle
- It may be louder when turning slowly and if you choose to grease the hitch, your will lose some sway control.
- This hitch is more expensive than other options.
On A Budget?
If you are on a budget and you want a great hitch with sway control, then look no further than the EAZ LIFT weight distribution hitch with sway bar included. This system uses a round bar set up which is a common in the hitch world. Here are some things to remember about this system:
- You must disconnect the sway bar before you reverse.
- You may experience some bounce when you hit a pothole or bump in the road.
- Your ground clearance may be lower than you expect.
What is Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, GVWR?
GVWR stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating and refers to the maximum weight allowed of both your RV and cargo. Cargo needs to include the weight of your belonging, camping gear, passengers, and anything in your tanks (fresh water tank, grey tank, black tank). I always recommend traveling with near empty, if not empty, tanks.
No matter which type of hitch you go with, I highly recommend you have an authorized dealer install it for you. I am a handy guy but I feel much more comfortable knowing that my trailer hitch was installed properly when I’m towing it behind me.