What is a Weight Distribution Hitch?
Posted: December 03, 2021
What is a Weight Distribution Hitch?
If you’re an avid traveler, adventure-seeker, lover of all things outdoors, or anything along those lines, chances are you may be looking into getting your hands on a travel trailer, or upgrading to a larger one to accommodate some of your newly-scheduled road trips that await. Whether your plans involve a state-to-state weeklong trek, spending a few days at some famous national parks, or simply weekending with your rig to wherever the road leads you, one of the most important things you need to know is how to safely haul your trailer to get to each destination safely, and weight distribution hitches are the answer. Weight distribution hitches, aka WD hitches, are your key to ensuring safe trips on the road with their ability to provide more level towing and increased control. Sounds great, right? Let’s take a deeper dive into how WD hitches can completely change your towing experiences and enhance them for the better.
First things first, let’s begin with the basics. What exactly is a weight distribution trailer hitch? It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a hitch that helps distribute weight better and more evenly. In more technical terms, a weight distribution hitch (also called a load-equalizing hitch or load leveler hitch) is essentially a hitch designed to distribute the tongue weight of a trailer across all four wheels of the tow vehicle. Any time a trailer is hooked up to your vehicle, it puts a certain amount of weight on the rear axle, which is called the tongue weight. The job of a weight distribution hitch is to even out that weight over the entire vehicle so that both the trailer and vehicle ride more levelly. This gives you more control on the road and makes the job of towing easier on your vehicle.
Weight Distribution Hitch Before and After
The diagram below displays how a weight distribution hitch can help level a vehicle-trailer combo. It shows the effect of the trailer tongue weight at the coupling point without a weight-distributing hitch installed, as well as the effect corrected with a hitch installed. This is a representation only, but it does help provide a visual of the weight-distributing concept.
How Does a Weight Distribution Hitch Work?
After learning about how a WD hitch is basically a towing superhero, your next question may be, “how does it work?” Weight distribution trailer hitches work by distributing the tongue weight evenly to the trailer and tow vehicle axles, allowing both to be more parallel with the road. It accomplishes this using spring bars.
Like a standard ball mount, a WD hitch couples to the trailer using a trailer ball. However, unlike a ball mount, the WD hitch has spring bars that also bridge the vehicle-trailer connection, with one end attached to the trailer frame and the other near the receiver on the vehicle. The spring bars are placed under tension, leveraging down on the trailer frame and therefore lifting up on the back of the vehicle. This tension serves as an opposing force to the downward pressure of the trailer tongue weight, and ultimately keeps the vehicle and trailer level.
Benefits of Weight Distribution
Now the question becomes, do I need a weight distribution hitch? Without the use of a WD hitch, the rear axle of your vehicle can suffer from the trailer tongue weight forcing down on it, leading to dangerous hazards, including upward lift on the front axle of the tow vehicle, reduced vehicle and trailer control, insufficient braking power, and overall increased stress and wear on critical vehicle components.
With the even weight distribution provided by WD hitches, you can look forward to a more level, controlled ride that gives you confidence and peace of mind, even in those split-second situations where you need to turn or brake quickly.
Parts of a Weight Distribution Trailer Hitch
Now that you know what it is and how it works, you may be curious about what makes up a weight distribution hitch. After all, with all that it can do, there has to be some kind of genius engineering behind it, right?
WD hitches are comprised of several parts and accessories: a shank, head, spring bars and hookup brackets.
1. Shank: provides an adjustable mount that can be moved up or down to accommodate the height of your tow vehicle
2. Head: connects the shank and spring bars
3. Spring bars: help level the trailer and tow vehicle by evenly distributing weight
4. Hookup brackets: allow for secure mounting of the spring bars on the trailer frame
Two Types of Weight Distribution Trailer Hitches
There are two basic types of weight distribution hitches, both having to do with the type of spring bar they use: round bar and trunnion bar.
The round bar WD hitch is named for the shape of its spring bars. The spring bars are round in shape and protrude from bottom of the hitch head, angling back to attach to the trailer frame. Because the bars stick out from bottom of the head, round bar hitches generally have slightly less ground clearance compared to trunnion bar.
Trunnion bar WD hitches have spring bars that are square shaped. They attach to the face of the hitch head, protruding outward and running parallel with the trailer frame. Trunnion bar WD hitches generally have slightly higher weight capacity options compared to round bar and provide a small amount of additional ground clearance.
There isn’t a significant difference between the two in terms of performance; the biggest differences are the obvious shapes and the way that the spring bars attach to the hitch head. So, essentially, it really comes down to a matter of preference for whether you choose round bar or trunnion bar – but either option will give you more comfort and control while towing.
Watch an Introduction to CURT Weight Distribution
Now that you’ve realized that you have no idea why you waited so long to learn about weight distribution trailer hitches and you’re ready to get one ASAP, you also need to know how to properly set it up and install it.
Some of the basic steps include:
- Measuring your vehicle and trailer height
- Installing the shank into your hitch receiver
- Setting up and adjusting the hitch head
- Mounting the spring bars
- Hooking up your trailer to your vehicle
- Re-measuring your towing setup
When you’re installing your weight distribution hitch, remember to go slowly through each step, and don’t be afraid to go back a few steps in order to correct a mistake. A weight-distributing hitch is very adjustable, so no need to worry if you’re a newbie and this is your first WD hitch rodeo.
For more info, check out our complete step-by-step walkthrough on how to install a WD hitch.
A Note about Sway Control
Weight-distributing hitches are perfect for towing slightly heavier loads such as RVs and larger trailers, and while they’re not as capable as 5th wheel hitches or gooseneck hitches in terms of weight capacity, they do offer some helpful sway control options.
Most WD hitches are compatible with a sway control unit, featuring ready-to-mount tabs; and others integrate the sway control functionality into the hitch itself – the CURT TruTrack™, for example. The TruTrack is a sway and weight distribution hitch all in one, giving you the best of both worlds for simplistic towing.
Alright, now that you’ve loaded up your brain with all of this handy dandy weight distribution hitch information, it’s time to put it to use! You can be sure that the next time you get ready to hit the road with your rig that your ride will be leveled, smooth and safe when you have a WD hitch installed and part of your arsenal. Ready to take that next step and get the search process started for the WD hitch that’s perfect for you? Check out the Lippert store to get started and find exactly what you need!
Frequently Asked Questions about Weight Distribution
Can you tow more with a weight distribution trailer hitch?
In some cases, the overall towing capacity can be increased weight distribution. For example, some class 3, 4 and 5 receiver hitches have two weight ratings – one for when a weight distribution (WD) hitch is installed and the other for when it is not. The WD weight rating is typically higher by several hundred pounds.
However, it is very important to understand that a weight distribution hitch does not increase the weight capacity of any towing component, including your vehicle. If your truck is only rated to tow 10,000 pounds, adding a weight distribution hitch does not increase the weight capacity of any towing component, including your vehicle. If your truck is only rated to tow 10,000 pounds adding a weight distribution hitch will not increase that rating. Never exceed the weight capacity of the lowest-rated towing component.
Does a weight distribution hitch attach to the tow vehicle?
Yes, a weight distribution (WD) hitch attaches to your tow vehicle using your vehicle’s rear receiver hitch. However, it’s helpful to understand that the attachment isn’t permanent and that your tow vehicle’s receiver hitch is a different component than the WD hitch. The WD hitch also connects to your trailer and uses a shank to mount onto your tow vehicle’s hitch.
Does a weight distribution hitch work with every tow vehicle hitch?
It’s only safe to use a weight distribution hitch on your trailer if the hitch on your tow vehicle is rated for one.
How do spring bars work for weight distribution?
Spring bars act as a giant lever. They create pressure that lifts up on the coupling point and pushes down both the front of the tow vehicle and the back of the trailer to create a level platform that increases control and safety.
Should I get a sway control unit with my weight distribution (WD) hitch?
Since most WD hitches are compatible with a sway control unit, it’s definitely beneficial to use one. It will help promote a more stable ride when you encounter crosswinds and wind from traffic.
Please note that a sway control unit should not be treated as a solution for an incorrectly loaded trailer, the wrong tires (on the trailer or the tow vehicle) or suspension issues. In these situations, it offers some help. However, it’s always very important to rebalance your trailer, upgrade your tires and fix the mechanical issues for maximum safety.
Pro tip: Ensure you have at least 10% of the overall trailer weight on the tongue.
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