How to Setup a Weight Distribution Hitch?

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A weight distribution hitch is there to ensure a disaster doesn’t strike when the trailer starts swaying and to ensure you don’t lose control of the vehicle especially when you’re carrying a heavy load. CareYourCars.com presumes you must have had at least one experience of a heart-pounding moment and therefore, here’s a guide on ‘How to Setup a Weight Distribution Hitch’.

It is essential to first understand ‘Gross Trailer Weight’ i.e., the total weight of the trailer (Including cargo, fuel and every other component) and ‘Tongue Weight’ i.e., the portion of the load that’s far enough forward in the trailer that presses down on the hitch (Including any weight that’s behind the rear axle).

If the hitch dives, the front of the trailer will head toward the ground and bring the front of the towing vehicle off the ground. So if you brake quickly, you may lose braking traction and control on your steering wheel which could be fatal. Conversely, if the trailer sways back and forth, you might be in a situation that’s beyond your control.

Therefore, a delicate balance between the Gross Trailer Weight and the Tongue Weight is crucial.

So how do you know which one to get? What should you consider when selecting the best weight distribution system? Following is a list of things, you must keep in mind while purchasing the best weight distribution system:

  • The weight of the load you’ll be towing. So the gross trailer weight the hitch can haul and the tongue weight that the hitch can distribute, must be above the weight you’re looking to tow. However, the difference should not be very substantial either.
  • Keep that infamous rule from “The Price Is Right” in mind when choosing a weight distribution system. Do not go over-board with your bet.
  • Choose the type of spring bars that you want in the system. There are two common basic styles: round and trunnion.
  • Decide whether you want additional features like sway control. Usually, the Weight Distribution Systems are less likely to Sway so this feature shall not have a very important contribution to your decision-making. However, provided you’ve not made a blunder while setting the system up and that you’re not driving too fast, if the hitch still sways, you can externally add this new feature. Additionally, there are combined systems available too.

Now we’ll look at how weight distribution systems are installed and the nitty-gritty on how they operate.

Most trailer hitches come along with a 2-inch receiver and the weight distribution system can be inserted directly into that. The first component you have to install is called a shank. When both vehicles are leveled, one will still often be higher or lower than the other. Therefore, a shank usually plugs into a receiver and can be turned upward or downward to adjust for the leveling. A head assembly is mounted onto the shank, and it provides a platform both for the hitch ball as well as the spring bars. At this point, the trailer can be re-hitched to the towing vehicle.

Once the vehicles are back together, you can continue installing the weight distribution system. The setup basically works like this, for most of systems. Spring bars (remember either round bars or trunnion bars) run from the head assembly to a pair of chains. Hanging below the trailer from a set of brackets, in a way so as to create tension along the bars, are the chains. As the tongue weight pushes the bars down, the chains pull the bars up. The spring bars push up on the head assembly, distributing the weight among the axles, in order to straighten out to their natural positions.

The next step in the process is usually to attach the chains to the spring bars and insert the bars into the head assembly. Then the brackets are mounted on the trailer and the chains are attached to those, often with a lift lock. The brackets should be lined up with the ends of the bars, and you generally want at least five chain links showing.

There are two main elements to keep in mind during the installation process.

  1. The change in the height of the wheel well rims of the two vehicles. Measure them before, during and after installation to make sure the weight distribution system is spreading the weight evenly and appropriately.
  2. The second aspect is the angle of the bars — they should run parallel to the tongue of the trailer or downwards towards the ground. This can be done in two ways: The head assembly can be tilted to accommodate this or the amount of chain links can be adjusted.

Some systems (especially those that also offer enhanced sway control) may use slight variations. Just remember that it’s a very good idea to get a professional to help you determine what weight distribution system will work best for you, and to follow the instructions carefully while you’re installing it. Hence you have CareYourCars.com at your perusal.

 

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