The fact that your rig is much better off with a weight distribution hitch than without one, is hardly debatable. A weight distribution hitch evenly distributes the weight of your caravan to the front and rear axles of your car, thus making it easier and safer to manoeuvre. Where a number of new caravan owners get stuck, however, is the matter of choosing the right weight distribution hitch for their rig. A number of factors come into play here, including your caravan’s weight, the type of towing vehicle, and the set of additional features (such as dedicated sway control) that you would like your hitch to have. Additionally, there is the aspect of brand preference, which is always subjective. So while your final choice of weight distribution hitch will ultimately be a personal decision, we’ll just try and run you through a few basic elements to look for. Hopefully, this post will help you understand the main differences between some popular weight distribution hitches available today.
Points of difference between modern weight distribution hitches:
Essentially, weight distribution hitches differ on the basis of their rated weight capacity, their build (round and trunnion bars), and their type sway control mechanism. Let’s start with the first aspect. Every weight distribution hitch has 2 weight ratings – the gross trailer weight (GTW) and the tongue weight (TW). TW is typically 10-15% of GTW, and refers to the sum total of your trailer’s tongue weight and any cargo that’s placed behind the rear axle of your car. While choosing a weight distribution hitch, you must ensure that the rated GTW is equal to or more than the total weight of your trailer when fully loaded. The rated TW should be as close as possible to the actual measured tongue weight.
Spring Bars (round / trunnion):
Typically, round spring bars are designed to cater to low or medium capacity weight distribution hitches. Heavy duty hitches such as those with rated TW of 1500lb and above typically feature trunnion bars. Round bars also lead to lower ground clearance than trunnion bars, and are slightly more flexible than trunnion bars, thus potentially leading to a smoother ride (within rated weight limits of course). In terms of usability, weight distribution hitches with trunnion bars are easier to hook up, the trunnions sliding into the head of the hitch as opposed to the twisting mechanism that hitches with round bars typically have.
Sway controls can either be independent mechanisms that are added to an existing wright distribution hitch, or dependent systems that are part of the design of the hitch. Hitches with low weight capacities can do without any sway control, but as soon as you approach a medium weight rating, it is important to look for a product with a built-in sway control, or one that can support a sway control add-on. Independent sway controls have friction pads to seduce sway. They are also known as bar-style sway controls. They are incompatible with surge or hydraulic trailer brakes. Dependent sway controls can belong to the 2-point or 4-point varieties. Another variety of built-in sway control is the dual-cam design, featured in many Reese hitches. These are again incompatible with surge or hydraulic trailer brakes.
Other features to look for:
Weight distribution hitches by reputed brands often come with the added assurance of high quality materials and workmanship. All hitches are typically made of steel bars, though in some cases the specifications will mention power coated, hot-rolled, or hardened, heat-treated steel. Another point of difference is the hitch head, which may be fixed or adjustable. Lift brackets are another feature to look for, as they govern the usability of your hitch. Lift brackets can be L-shaped, snap-up, cam-style or platform-style.
The above information was just a brief outline to guide you on the points of difference between the weight distribution hitches that you’re considering for your rig. Read all specifications carefully, to ensure that you’re making the right choice.
DISCLAIMER* Please note, this advice is general in nature and we strongly recommend consulting the product manual and where relevant, a professional installer.