If you are driving down the road towing a trailer or other large load, the last thing you want is to have it and your vehicle feeling very unstable.
To solve this problem, a weight distribution hitch is often used. But just what is a weight distribution hitch?
A weight distribution hitch is a system designed to make towing something behind your vehicle a stable and level ride. It essentially distributes the weight of both your vehicle and whatever you’re towing more evenly.
When used on your vehicle, this type of weight distribution hitch will improve your ability to steer and stop, correct any sagging your vehicle may be experiencing, and let you tow at your vehicle’s maximum capacity.
In our experiences towing trailers, we have found a weight distribution hitch to be invaluable to giving a driver a feeling of having much more control over both the vehicle and the trailer.
What is a Weight Distribution Hitch?
If you choose not to use a weight distribution hitch, you could actually be making your driving experience much more dangerous.
When you don’t use one of these hitches, the added weight from the trailer you are towing puts great stress on your vehicle’s rear axle, which often leads to sagging.
As a result, you have a harder time stopping, steering, and having your tires maintain proper traction.
Also, remember that when your vehicle sags, this puts it and you at an awkward angle when driving.
As a result, you could have a limited view of the road in front of you, increasing the chances you may be in an accident.
Finally, if you choose to not use a weight distribution hitch on your vehicle, you could end up having suspension problems along the way due to the constant sagging.
Even if you have a heavy-duty vehicle you use for towing, the added stress on the suspension is likely to eventually take a toll, meaning you could be in line for a major repair job.
Weight Distribution Hitch Explained
Though we’ve already hit on some of the key points concerning a weight distribution hitch, there is still much more to explain.
In your vehicle’s owner’s manual, there will be towing specifications and details regarding proper weight distribution.
Thus, you may assume that you won’t need a weight distribution hitch so long as you are within your vehicle manufacturer’s towing guidelines.
However, many drivers find that when they experience problems when towing a trailer, such as being involved in an accident or experiencing problems with their vehicle, insurance companies tend to refuse to pay claims.
You should consider using a weight distribution hitch if your trailer weight exceeds your vehicle’s weight by 50% or more, you want to reach maximum towing capacity, you have problems stopping or steering, or your headlights tend to point upward when towing.
To function properly, a weight distribution hitch system requires various components.
These include the weight distribution shank, which slides into the trailer hitch, a weight distribution head assembly, frame brackets, spring bars, and a Class III, IV, or V trailer hitch receiver that is properly rated to be used with a weight distribution system.
Each of the components of this system play a critical role in keeping you safe on the road and preventing trailer sway.
For example, the weight distribution shank ensures the trailer you are towing is always level with your vehicle, since the shank can be of many different lengths, drops, and rises.
When it comes to the head assembly, remember that not all of these will look alike, since they differ from system to system.
Allowing you to fine-tune the amount of leverage your system will be subjected to during towing, many head assemblies come with dual platforms, which allows for the mounting of a sway control bar on both sides of your trailer.
Weight Distribution Hitch vs. Sway Bar
Now that you know more about a weight distribution hitch and weight distribution system, you may be thinking that your vehicle’s sway bar may do the same thing.
In some ways, you are correct. However, there are major differences between the sway bar and a weight distribution hitch.
The most important difference between these two is that the sway control bar on your vehicle only helps control any swaying the trailer may experience while on the road.
Instead, your weight distribution hitch helps with this as well as proper weight distribution between your trailer and your vehicle.
Another difference you should keep in mind is that a sway bar must be removed from your vehicle before you can back up your vehicle with the trailer still in tow.
When you have a weight distribution hitch, you can back your trailer into a spot without having to remove anything.
Like many people, you may assume the sway bar and the WDH you use for your trailer are one and the same. However, a sway bar typically found on vehicles actually fits underneath your vehicle’s engine.
Fitted with two arms and various bends, its primary purpose is to let you keep your vehicle straight and level when you are turning.
Is a Weight Distribution Hitch Necessary?
Yes, a weight distribution hitch is necessary for a variety of reasons.
First, when you look in your owner’s manual, you will probably find that your vehicle’s manufacturer makes the weight distribution hitch a required piece of equipment when towing.
In fact, every truck manufacturer requires this type of hitch when you are using a bumper trailer hitch ball.
Along with wanting to make sure you are safe behind the wheel when towing a trailer, vehicle manufacturers make the WDH a requirement because it helps shield them from potential liability, should you be involved in an accident while towing.
Most of all, a weight distribution hitch is necessary because it helps to keep you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road around you much safer.
When you don’t have a WDH installed on your vehicle and your vehicle is sagging, what may have otherwise been minor bumps or dips on a road can become huge problems, increasing the chances you will bottom out.
Also, if your trailer experiences more swaying while you are driving down the highway, this increases the chances your vehicle could roll over, especially if you are trying to navigate roads containing plenty of curves.
Is a Weight Distribution Hitch Expensive?
The answer to this question will depend on the type of weight distribution hitch you need.
Generally, you can expect to spend as little as $200 to perhaps $1,000 or more for a high-quality weight distribution hitch.
Also, we have found that most of your typical auto parts stores and even dealerships do not keep weight distribution hitches on hand most of the time, meaning they will need to be special order items.
Thus, it may take some time to get the hitch you want, so keep this in mind.
Weight distribution hitches also have different capacity ranges, so make sure you get one that will allow you to tow your load.
Finally, some of these hitches are made to clamp on to your vehicle, while others are made to be screwed in. In our opinion, we prefer the ones you screw in, since this tends to give your weight distribution system more stability.
Will a Weight Distribution Hitch Increase My Vehicle’s Towing Capacity?
If you are hoping that installing a weight distribution hitch will allow you to tow even bigger loads, you will be disappointed to learn that these hitches do not increase your vehicle’s towing capacity.
Should you install a WDH and tow a load that exceeds your vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines and those of the WDH and then find yourself involved in an accident or damaging your vehicle, you will have few good options ahead of you.
If involved in an accident, you will be facing severe liability consequences. As for getting your vehicle repaired if it is damaged from towing an excessive load, expect to shell out the dollars needed for repairs on your own.
Can a Weight Distribution Hitch be Used with Surge Brakes?
In most cases, a weight distribution hitch will not be designed to work well with surge brakes.
If you have a chain-style weight distribution system, it will not be compatible with surge brakes.
This is because the system will not be made to offer the appropriate amount of back and forth movement that would be needed to activate the actuator.
Should you want a weight distribution hitch that is compatible with surge brakes, you will need to shop around. Although some are available, they are hard to find.
If you want to be safe on the road while towing your trailer, ensure you can tow at maximum capacity, and protect your vehicle’s suspension system and other components as much as possible, installing a weight distribution hitch is one thing we highly recommend you do right away.
Summing Up Weight Distribution Hitches
These hitches are imperative for any vehicle you want to use to tow loads behind you. These help to distribute the weight more evenly between your vehicle and whatever you’re towing, while also making the ride much safer for both you and your passengers, along with others on the road.
Make sure you’re ready to invest in a weight distribution hitch if you want to tow anything, especially your vehicle’s maximum load.