Understanding Weight Distributing Hitch Systems
Anyone who has ever spent any time towing is familiar with the scary sensation of trailer sway. Trailer sway occurs when the load that you are pulling behind your truck begins to move from side to side of its own accord, eventually creating a pendulum-like effect where the trailer oscillates from one side of the lane to the other. Getting a swaying trailer back under control involves creative steering and braking inputs and nerves of steel, and it’s a situation that most towers strive to avoid at all costs.
One way to help prevent trailer sway is to install a weight distributing hitch. Traditional hitches by design handle as much as 15 percent of your load’s gross trailer weight through the trailer’s tongue, which can become an issue when dealing with heavier loads. If a hitch begins to dive – i.e., sink towards the pavement – then the front wheels of your tow vehicle can loose some of their contact patch with the road, which reduces your ability to steer and brake. In contrast, too little tongue weight can lead to a scenario where trailer sway starts to become an issue.
Opting for a weight distributing hitch system is a good way to strike a balance between too much and too little tongue weight. This type of hitch uses spring bars, either in the trunion style or the round bar style, in order to distribute a trailer’s weight to both the front and the rear axle of the vehicle doing the towing, spreading out the load more evenly. Trunion bars mount though the side of the trailer hitch head assembly, while the round bars mount underneath. Round bars typically provide more clearance, but trunion bars are rated for higher loads – in some cases up to 17,000 lbs.
How do the spring bars work? The bars themselves are attached to both the hitch head and the back of the trailer tongue. As the load on the hitch itself increases, the spring bars push back against the load in order to lift it up off of the hitch and spread it out horizontally across both the trailer’s axles and the truck’s axles. With the spring bars bearing part of the tongue load, the hitch itself is no longer stressed to the same degree and the entire trailer is much more stable.
It’s important to remember that a weight distributing hitch won’t magically increase the maximum towing capacity of your vehicle – it will merely make it easier to control loads that come close to your truck’s top end tow rating. Almost any hitch out there can run either a standard or a weight distributing setup, and hitches are marked with two max capacities and max tongue weights (one for each setup). Once again, if the hitch’s max capacity when outfitted with a weight distributing system exceeds that of your vehicle, this does not mean you can tow up to that point. You still need to stay within the limits set by your truck’s manufacturer.
Filed Under: Tundra Towing