A Beginner’s Guide to Weight Distribution Setup
Posted: November 30, 2022
Categories: User Guides & Installations
A Beginner’s Guide to Weight Distribution Hitch Setup
Setting up a weight distribution hitch can seem intimidating. Afterall, it’s a complicated-looking system —– a result of countless measurements, finely tuned components and some melding of intricate guesswork and wizardry, right?
This step-by-step guide is meant to show you just how simple weight distribution hitch setup can be. While there are many weight distribution hitches on the market, most work the same way. We’ll walk through the general principles of how to set up a WD hitch so you can feel confident about completing the process with your own specific model.
Weight Distribution Hitch Setup Video
Tools Needed for Weight Distribution Hitch Installation
- Tape measure
- Torque wrench
Installing a Weight Distribution Hitch Step-by-Step
Before you begin the installation process, make sure you are on level ground and that your trailer is completely level (i.e.i.e., the frame is parallel with the ground). This will be important for finding the correct settings for proper towing.
Step 1: Measure your trailer and vehicle height
Use your measuring tape to measure the height of your trailer and vehicle. We’ll be taking three key measurements. We recommend writing these measurements down on a piece of paper or recording them in your phone.
Start by measuring the distance from the ground to the top of your trailer coupler. Then, measure the distance from the ground to the bottom of your vehicle’s rear bumper, and finally, the distance from the ground to the bottom of the front bumper.
Step 2: Install the shank
Install the shank of the weight distribution hitch into the receiver tube opening at the back of your vehicle. Most shanks can be installed in the upright (rise) or upside-down (drop) position, depending on the needs of your vehicle-trailer combination. High-riding vehicles generally require more drop, while lower vehicles need rise to accommodate the height of the trailer.
Secure the shank with a hitch pin.
Step 3: Install the head
Dry-fit the head unit – the component that holds the trailer ball – onto the shank, and secure it with a conical-tooth washer and hex bolt. Then, rotate the hitch head assembly up and measure the distance from the ground to the base of the trailer ball. Now, cross-reference the coupler height measurement you recorded in step 1. If properly installed, the base of the trailer ball should be about 1” to 3” higher than the coupler.
Step 4: Install the adjustment rod
The adjustment rod is a component within the weight distribution hitch head that helps you dial in the proper angle of your hitch. It uses spacer washers to increase or decrease the head angle. More washers angle the head downward for less leverage, and fewer washers angle it upward for greater leverage.
Install the adjustment rod with washers (consult your owner’s manual for the specific number of washers needed) into the head unit’s inner channel. You’ll need to rotate the head and ball mount down to access the channel.
Once the rod is in place, rotate the head and ball mount back up and secure it with a hex bolt in the bottom of the head unit, as well as a second conical-tooth washer and bolt through the vertical shank. Finally, secure each shank bolt with another conical-tooth washer and nut. Snug the hardware, but hold off on final torqueingtorquing for now.
Step 5: Install the spring bars
Before you begin, add some grease to the attachment points of each spring bar. This will reduce friction and help extend the life of your hitch. Then, attach the spring bars to the head unit. Depending on the type of weight distribution hitch you have, your spring bars may attach differently. Round bars are typically inserted from underneath and then rotated into place, while trunnion bars are angled onto the head and pivoted upward. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual for specifics on your hitch.
Step 6: Couple the trailer to your vehicle
First, lift the trailer tongue using the trailer jack. You need to make sure the coupler will clear the trailer ball. Then, back your vehicle into position so that the coupler can safely be lowered onto the ball and the latch engaged.
Note, the tongue jack should not be fully retracted at this time! The weight of the trailer should still be supported by the jack.
Next, position the snap-up brackets on the trailer frame, using the spring bar chains or brackets as a guide. Secure the snap-up brackets with the included hardware.
Finally, install the spring bar chains or brackets onto the snap-up brackets and lock them into the upright position. There should be a lift bar included with your weight distribution hitch to assist with the lever motion.
Step 7: Re-measure your vehicle height
Now that all of the components are installed, take another measurement of your vehicle’s height. Measure at the rear bumper and front bumper. The difference between these measurements should not be more than 1/2” compared to their uncoupled counterparts. If they are, your weight distribution hitch will need to be adjusted. This involves some disassembly of the unit to access the adjustment rod, then adding or removing washers as necessary.
After your weight distribution hitch is adjusted properly, it’s time to go back and torque the hardware. This means tightening it to the proper specifications indicated in your owner’s manual. You’ll need to uncouple the trailer once more, and use a torque wrench to achieve the correct specifications.
Congratulations! Your weight distribution hitch is completely set up and ready to use.
As you can guess, towing with weight distribution does require a little more setup each time you hook up your trailer. However, that doesn’t mean you need to repeat the entire process every single time. As long as you’re towing with the same vehicle and same trailer, your hitch will already bybe adjusted to the correct angle, and you can leave the head unit completely assembled (spring bars and all) when in storage.
Disclaimer: These photographs, recommendations, and approximations are intended for demonstration purposes only and do not reflect the specifications of any particular tow vehicle, recreational vehicle, or trailer. Always consult the manufacturer’s Owner’s Manual.