How Does A Weight Distribution Hitch Work?
There are so many uses for various trailers around Michigan, but the right hitch often receives too little attention. One important option to consider is the weight distribution hitch. What makes these hitches different, how do they work, and when would they be appropriate to use?
What Happens When Hauling a Heavy Trailer
First, it’s important to understand some mechanics behind towing a trailer. As you lower the tongue on a standard ball, it puts a lot of pressure on the ball.
The tongue naturally sags down, allowing more weight from the trailer to shift forward to the tow vehicle’s back axle. It also raises the tow vehicle’s front end, shifting 20%-30% of that weight to the back axle as well.
This sets up a situation centering most of the weight at the connection between the vehicle and the trailer. There are many problems with this, all of which increases the likelihood of losing control and causing an accident.
How Distribution Hitches Works
A weight distribution hitch has spring arms that lead back to the trailer tongue. This design shifts 20%-30% of the tongue weight back onto the trailer tongue, which transfers it back onto the trailer’s axle.
This setup helps create more even weight distribution throughout the entire setup. The weight from the front of the tow vehicle stays on the front axle, improving contact with the road.
The weight from the trailer tongue only transfers 70%-80% of the original tongue weight to the tow vehicle’s rear axle. More evenly distributing the weight through the entire rig system improves overall traction and control of the entire system.
When You May Need a Distribution Hitch
There are two primary ways to determine whether this is right for your tow setup. The easiest, but least accurate method is a visual inspection.
Once you hitch up the trailer and the weight is resting on the ball, step back and observe how the vehicle and trailer set. If both appear to lean in toward the ball, you may want to consider a weight distribution option.
However, a more accurate method is to calculate the ratio between the gross trailer weight rating and the gross vehicular weight rating. The GVWR is the total weight of the tow vehicle and your fully loaded trailer.
The rule of thumb is that if the weight of the trailer exceeds 50% of the GVWR, then you should consider a distribution system. Even when more appropriately distributing the trailer’s weight, be careful not to push your tow vehicle’s capacity limits.
Benefits of Weight Distribution Hitches
Opting for a weight distribution system provides many benefits. As already discussed, they improve handling, reducing swaying tendencies. They also reduce the up and down movement of the tongue and trailer when you encounter bumps and uneven roads, which we all know are common throughout Michigan.
While these do not increase your tow vehicle’s GVWR, they may increase how much you can safely tow. When you have the weight-bearing down on the rear axle, more weight makes it easier to lose control of the trailer and vehicle. By more evenly distributing the weight, you can more safely tow closer to the maximum GVWR.
Finally, they decrease wear on both your tow vehicle and the trailer. This means your trailer should last longer, which is a plus if it’s a significant part of your business. You’ll also have fewer repairs on your tow vehicle, especially the rear suspension components.
Any time you haul a significant load, you may want to consider a distribution system. However, these hitches are ideally suited for some specific applications.
Food trailers are growing in popularity, but pose an interesting towing challenge. These are often extremely heavy, when you consider the equipment and the goods sold. When the trailer doesn’t ride evenly, your equipment may sustain damage.
Likewise, contractor, construction, and lawn service providers often haul large loads. These tow vehicles often experience tremendous wear, both because of the weight and because of where they travel. Weight distribution systems help reduce the cost of repairs from that wear.
Amateur and semi-pro racing is still alive and well in Michigan, and participants need to haul their cars to the track. Not only do you have to consider the weight of the car, but also the equipment needed for a successful race, which all add up quickly.
Weight Distribution Hitch Styles
There are two weight distribution styles to consider. The first is the round bar, which has spring bars that mount to the bottom of the ball mount. These have a towing capacity of between 5,000 and 14,000 lbs, depending on the manufacturer.
The other option is the trunnion bars, which offers better leveling, and a slightly higher capacity of 5,000 to 15,000 lbs. These have a pre-torqued trailer ball and sway control, making these perfect for heavier applications.