Weight distribution hitch kit: do I really need one?
Article by Steve Smith, Caravans Plus
The first question many new caravan or camper trailer owners ask is “Do I need one of those towing hitch things”. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. First lets clarify what those ‘towing things’ are called. Unfortunately there are many names and this adds to the confusion. The names you may have heard are:
- Load Levellers
- Weight Distribution Hitch or WDH or Hitch
- Anti Sway Device
The word Stabilisers has been used in the past to mean the same as Load levellers and Equalisers but in relation to Caravans it is now more commonly used for preventing the caravan tipping or being unstable when people are inside. So stabilisers, corner steady, corner jacks all do the same thing.
Load Levellers, Equalisers and WDH all do the same thing, they attempt to prevent the rear of the tow vehicle sagging when the weight of the caravan or trailer is added to the tow ball. Load Levellers and Equalisers are usually more basic, while the Weight Distribution Hitch (WDH) is generally accepted to offer adjustable ball heights and be used with larger weights. Hitch may also be used as an abbreviation for Weight Distribution Hitch.
An Anti Sway Device has a completely different purpose. Rather than trying to level-up the Vehicle/Caravan combination, its purpose is to stop trailer sway. They can be combined in the one unit, and a WDH can also reduce sway, but the Anti Sway device is usually considered an extra, specifically added to address a sway problem that still exists if a WDH has failed to prevent sway in all circumstances. The type of sway they seek to correct is caused by poor design, poor weight distribution within the caravan/trailer, or sometimes poor alignment of wheels. Persistent swaying is covered in the article titled “How to Stop your Caravan Swaying.”
If your caravan/trailer does not cause the tow vehicle to sag at the rear and does not sway at high speed or on rough roads then you probably do not need a WDH. For passenger comfort you may find a WDH reduces front to rear rocking in the tow vehicle, but this is not usually considered a safety issue.
This vehicle/caravan combination has a problem, see the gap above the front wheel.
If you think you do need a WDH read on.
First, lets get rid of one myth. If your tow vehicle or tow bar specifications indicates a maximum tow ball weight, then the use of a WDH does not increase what tow ball weight you can apply. You must remain at or below the lowest tow ball weight specified.
Your caravan should place about 10% of its weight on to your tow ball. Your tow vehicle will also have maximums that should be adhered to. Incorrect ball weight is dangerous because it reduces your cars steering and braking ability. You can correct your ball weight by either using a Weight Distribution Hitch or a Ball Weight Scale to reorganise your load.
All of these products are designed to maintain a correct level between the caravan and tow vehicle. This is crucial because if the weight is not evenly distributed the front of the tow vehicle and the rear of the van will tend to lift.
Looking at the above diagram you will notice that if the rear of the tow vehicle sags, the front of the tow vehicle lifts. This is the major problem as it reduces the effectiveness of your steering. While it may look nice to have the caravan/ trailer itself looking level, it is really the tow vehicle level that is critical. This will result in excessive trailer sway, poor handling, and difficulty braking – not to mention abnormal tyre wear.
This combination shows what you want for safe towing.
If you want to know more about towing, drop in and see Towbar Joe and have a chat about what you need. There is also further information in this article at Caravans Plus!
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