Do You Really Need a Weight Distribution Hitch?

Contributor

Conner Lund

Favorite Trip

Backpacking Ozark Trail

Home Base

Bowling Green, KY

Favorite RV

Winnebago Revel

About Contributor

Conner Lund is a Technical Content Writer. He has both hands-on experience and real-world knowledge. He’s an avid outdoorsman: camping, hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, kayaking, hunting, and fishing are all things he enjoys that you could find him doing on any given weekend. He loves to travel and see new places. He does most of his exploring and camping out of his overlanding truck with a rooftop tent.

From safely loading your trailer to choosing the right hitch and tow equipment, there’s much to learn when you’re new to towing an RV. But no choice is more important than determining if you need a weight distribution hitch (WDH). If you’re a new or aspiring RV owner currently asking yourself, “Do I really need a weight distribution hitch?”, you’re in the perfect place to learn the answer and find out more critical information about this important towing safety accessory.

Let’s dive in with a general explanation of these hitches and their purpose.

What Is a Weight Distribution Hitch?

hitch-types-weight-distribution-hitch-05-2023
Photo by Camping World

The goal of a weight distribution hitch is to transfer weight from the tow vehicle’s rear axle to the front when hooked up to a trailer. This increases stopping power and steering responsiveness, decreases trailer sway, and improves overall stability.

Not using one places more weight on the rear axle, which lifts the front end higher. The less weight you have on the front axle, the less steering and braking response you’ll encounter. This is due to the majority of these attributes coming from the front end of the vehicle.

A weight distribution hitch also serves as the connection point between your tow vehicle and your towable camper. The main parts of a weight distribution hitch, and their functions, are as follows: 

  • The shank inserts into your tow vehicle’s hitch receiver. It gives you a mounting point that can be adjusted up or down to match your trailer’s height. Shanks are typically available in 2”, 2.5”, and 3” sizes.  
  • The head provides the connection between the shank and the spring bars.
  • The hitch ball serves as the physical connection between the vehicle and the trailer. It’s secured to the hitch head and is offered in three sizes: 1-⅞”, 2”, and 2-5/16”. 
  • Spring bars transfer the load from the trailer to the vehicle. 
  • Frame brackets mount to the trailer via bolting or drilling and allow you to attach the spring bars. 

Learn how to hitch up weight distribution hitch.

Do You Really Need a Weight Distribution Hitch?

graphic-weight-distribution-hitch-05-2023
Photo by Camping World

A weight distribution hitch gives you more level towing, increases control, reduces trailer sway, and improves your tow vehicle’s efficiency. The spring bars in a weight distribution hitch essentially serve as a lever. They create upward pressure on the vehicle, which transfers the load from the rear to the front axle. 

The need for a weight distribution hitch depends on the weight of the trailer in relation to the weight of the tow vehicle. For example, a ¾-ton truck towing a small pop up camper would likely not need a weight distribution system. However, if you take that same pop up camper and attach it to a minivan, you might very well need one.

The vehicle manufacturer will often specify if or when a weight distribution system should be used. It usually comes down to the weight of the trailer. You’ll also need to ensure you can use a weight distribution system, as some manufacturers do not allow them due to the additional stress it has on the frame. Almost all trucks can use one, but you’ll need to research when towing with a van or SUV due to the unibody construction. 

You can use this simple rule if you’re still unsure and the manufacturer doesn’t specify: 

If the trailer’s loaded weight is over half the vehicle’s weight, a weight distribution system is recommended. If it isn’t over half, you can still use one; the effects just won’t be as noticeable. 

Learn how to adjust a weight distribution hitch for level, efficient towing.

How To Choose a Weight Distribution Hitch

Weight distribution hitches aren’t compatible with all tow vehicles and trailers. Here’s how to find the right hitch for you:

Trailer Tongue Weight

tongue-weight-weight-distribution-hitch-05-2023
Photo by Camping World

The most important consideration when selecting a weight distribution system is trailer tongue weight, also known as “hitch weight.” This is the actual weight the system is responsible for transferring, so it’s important to choose one rated appropriately for your trailer. 

Contrary to popular belief, the actual gross weight of the trailer has little to do with selecting a weight distribution system. You must find your loaded tongue weight to get the correct system. The loaded tongue weight is how much the trailer’s tongue weighs loaded and ready to roll. Tongue weight scales can be used to find this, or you can visit a commercial truck scale. 

Please note that manufacturers’ hitch weight ratings assume the trailer is empty, so they alone cannot be used to find the true tongue weight. If you’re unable to weigh the tongue with a scale, a good rule to follow is to make sure the system is rated no higher than 15% of the trailer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) and no lower than 10%.

Hitch Types

There are many different kinds of hitches. Most of the differences come from the spring bars. Some attach to the trailer frame with chains, whereas others use L-brackets. The shape of the bar can also vary from round to trunnion. Let’s go over this and when to use one over the other. 

Round bar hitches are more cost-effective but offer less ground clearance. Due to this, they are more reserved for trucks, which sit higher off the ground. Some SUVs can use round spring bars, but van owners will want to avoid this style. 

Trunnion bar hitches are a more premium option, offering better ground clearance. They can be used with almost any vehicle, a much better option for vans and SUV’s than round spring bars. 

Comparing Weight Distribution Chains and L-Brackets

One major advantage L-brackets have over chains is an additional point of sway control. Therefore, they’ll do a much better job of helping keep the trailer in line. They are also considered easier to use since you’ll use the tongue jack to set the spring bar tension, whereas most chain-style systems use snap-up brackets, which can be dangerous and hard to use.

Hitch Rating

hitch-rating-weight-distribution-hitch-05-2023
Photo by Camping World

The hitch receiver on your tow vehicle is rated for a specific towing capacity. Here’s a general breakdown:

Hitch TypeTow Rating
Class IUp to 2,000 pounds
Class IIUp to 3.500 pounds
Class IIIUp to 5,000 pounds
Class IVUp to 10,000 pounds
Class VUp to 20,000 pounds

Note that most hitch receivers actually offer two distinct ratings – one for towing with a weight distribution hitch and one for towing without. In most cases, the rating for towing with a weight distribution hitch is slightly higher – usually by a few hundred pounds. 

However, installing a weight distribution hitch will not change the towing capacities of any stock component installed on your truck, including the truck itself. 

Technician Tip: When choosing a weight distribution hitch, ensure it’s compatible with your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation. You should never exceed the weight capacity of your tow system’s lowest-rated component.

Picks for The Best Weight Distribution Hitch Models

Now that you know you really do need a weight distribution hitch, here are a few of our favorite models:

Trailer Life Chain-Style Weight Distribution Hitch

Trailer Life 10K Chain-Style
Photo by Camping World
Ball SizeGross Trailer Weight (Lbs.)Tongue Weight (Lbs.)
2-5/16”10,0001,000

The ultimate cost-effective option for those on a budget, this Trailer Life system features bolt-on snap-up frame brackets for easy installation. The pre-installed hitch ball means such special sockets or torque wrenches are not required to get set up and go. 

Trailer Life Round Bar Weight Distribution Trailer Hitch

Trailer Life 8K Round Bar
Photo by Camping World
Ball SizeGross Trailer Weight (Lbs.)Tongue Weight (Lbs.)
2-5/16”8,000 – 10,000800 – 1,000

Check out this round-bar system if you want the perfect compromise between sway control and price. Offered in 8,000 and 10,000 lb capacities, there’s sure to be a Trailer Life weight distribution for you. It’s designed for trucks and SUVs.

Trailer Life Trunnion Bar Weight Distribution Trailer Hitch

Trailer Life 6K Trunnion Style
Photo by Camping World
Ball SizeGross Trailer Weight (Lbs.)Tongue Weight (Lbs.)
2-5/16”6,000 – 12,000600 – 1,200

This trunnion bar Trailer Life system is the best all-around option with performance, cost, and ground clearance in mind. The bolt-on frame brackets ensure no drilling is required. Offered in 6K, 8K, 10K, and 12K capacities. 

Andersen Hitches Weight Distribution Hitch

andersen-weight-distribution-hitch-05-2023
Photo by Camping World
Ball SizeGross Trailer Weight (Lbs.)Tongue Weight (Lbs.)
2-5/16”14,0001,400

Andersen Hitches makes a great WDH for larger travel trailers. The 2” shank has a pre-installed hitch ball that doubles as a standard ball mount for towing without weight distribution. 

It also features a variety of bracket sizes (3”, 4”, 5”, and 6”) and works with A-frame, V-frame, and Y-frame travel trailers. Instead of traditional sway bars, the system utilizes interconnected chains to dampen motion and reduce trailer sway and bounce.

Honorable Mentions


Now that you know everything you need to know about weight distribution hitches, here are a few more resources to help you tow your trailer safely: 

What else do you want to know about weight distribution hitches? Let us know in the comments below.

  • Comment (10)
  • Ron Evans says:

    My trailer has a max wgt of 4400#. Bought the trailer used and it came with a 10000# WDH. Is this hitch too heavy for this trailer ? I’ve seen some videos that said too heavy of a WDH will damage the frame of the trailer. Any ideas ?

    • Hi Ron!

      Apologies on the delayed reply, as I wanted to reach out to our technical service team to get their thoughts. Here’s their reply:

      That is actually true! The first issue is that if you adjust it to distribute the minimum amount possible, it will still be well above what is necessary. The truck and trailer will ride high in the coupler area and low at the truck front bumper and trailer rear bumper. This adversely affects the towing geometry, creating dangerous conditions that may lead to a loss of control. The stresses imparted to the RV frame and truck chassis may cause damage to components as well. As a general rule of thumb, a WDH assembly should not be more than 50% overrated. In this case, a 6,000-pound hitch would be the biggest and a 4,500-pound hitch would be the smallest you should consider. FYI, GVWRs of 3,000-pounds and under will not do well with a WDH and should consider a sway bar accessory or an Anderson hitch.

      Hope that helps!

      • Ron Evans says:

        Thanks for the reply. I’ve been on a few 100 mile trips without the WDH without a problem. I will add a sway control before heading to Yellowstone in May.

  • Randy Guymer says:

    I need to get my new Mallard M267FK to Camping World to have its weight distribution hitch installed. Am I probably ok towing it with my GMC 2500HD about 20 miles, using slower secondary roads going about 45 mph. I’ll just be dropping the TT on the ball. Trailer weights 6700 pounds dry. Thank you.

    • Hi Randy,

      The rule of thumb is that a weight distributing hitch is recommended if the trailer weight exceeds 50% of the curb weight of the truck. Your truck’s weight is likely somewhere between 6,200 and 8,400 pounds, depending on the exact trim.

      The primary advantage is during emergency maneuvers or braking events. Most of the braking and all of the steering are at the front axle, so when the front is raised, the driver will have less control. The spring bars of the weight distributing hitch assembly are always engaged so they help to maintain weight balance to the front of the tow vehicle at all times providing consistent control for the driver.

      That said, your truck boasts plenty of power to tow your trailer safely. So I’d say yes, you’re safe dropping in on the ball with safety chains and a breakaway cable properly installed to tow it in for the weight distribution hitch installation!

  • Fred Baginski says:

    I thought I posted this question yesterday, but I can’t find it today. In June I bought a 2020 Keystone Passport Grand Touring 2600BH with the intent to use it as my home when I retire in two years. I will be using my 2019 RAM Crew Cab 4X4 with a 5.7 liter Hemi, 3.92 rear end, Off Road package, air ride suspension and towing package. According to RAM, the truck can tow 11,000 lbs. The dry weight on the trailer is 5500 pounds. I am using the Class 4 that came with the truck and a 2 5/16 Convert A Ball to tow it. My question is, when I lower the trailer onto the ball, the truck goes down and the Air ride suspension brings everything back up to level. I have towed the trailer a couple of times and it tows like a dream. I have been on superhighways, two lane highways and gravel roads and no sway. On two lane highways, I have gone by trucks going the other direction and the trailer never moved. It towed beautifully on the superhighway too. (I drive a semi with a 6,000 gallon tank trailer and have felt that trailer move when trucks are going by in the other direction.) Given my experience with this setup, I’m wondering if I should by weight distributing hitch. Your opinion please.

    • Hi Fred,

      I apologize for the delayed response, as I wanted to reach our to our technical service team to get their insights. Here’s their reply:

      The tow vehicle as equipped in this scenario has a tow capacity that is about 4,000 pounds greater than the most this trailer will ever weigh. It also has a tongue weight capacity of 1,100 pounds while the trailer tongue weight is 645 pounds. The truck is more than capable. The automatic air suspension will maintain a level and even attitude of truck and trailer, so an equalizer is not an absolute necessity.

      However, the rule of thumb for this question is that a weight distributing hitch is recommended if the trailer weight exceeds 50% of the curb weight of the truck. This truck comes in at 6900 pounds and the trailer grosses at 7,200 pounds so it is advisable to use a weight distributing hitch. The primary advantage is during emergency maneuvers or braking events. In these circumstances, the air suspension doesn’t adjust immediately, so dynamic loading of the truck suspension may result in the rear of the truck dropping and the front lifting.

      Most of the braking and all of the steering are at the front axle, so when the front is raised, the driver will have less control. The spring bars of the weight distributing hitch assembly are always engaged so they help to maintain weight balance to the front of the tow vehicle at all times providing consistent control for the driver. The anti-sway features will make the already stable platform even more so.

      Hope that helps!

  • Fred Baginski says:

    In June I bought a 2020 Keystone Passport Grand Touring 2600BH trailer which will be my retirement home when I retire in two years. I am pulling it with a 2019 RAM 1500 Crew Cab 4X4 with a 5.7 Hemi, tow package, air ride suspension and rated to tow 11,000 pounds. I am using a Convert-A-Ball on the hitch that came with the truck. My question is when I hook the trailer to the truck, the truck squats down then the air ride levels the truck and trailer. I have towed it a couple of times including to a state park about 70 miles away. I towed on I-94, some two lane highways and even on dirt roads. I have had semis pass me at 65 mph and go by in the other direction at 60-70mph on two lane highways. The trailer towed as straight as an arrow and I never felt any sway. I’ve felt sway in the semi truck I drive with a 6000 gallon tanker on two lane highways. My question is do I need a weight equalizing hitch for this setup?

    • Hi Fred,

      The tow vehicle as equipped in this scenario has a tow capacity that is about 4,000 pounds greater than the most this trailer will ever weigh. It also has a tongue weight capacity of 1,100 pounds while the trailer tongue weight is 645 pounds. The truck is more than capable. The automatic air suspension will maintain a level and even attitude of truck and trailer, so an equalizer is not an absolute necessity. However, the rule of thumb for this question is that a weight distributing hitch is recommended if the trailer weight exceeds 50% of the curb weight of the truck. This truck comes in at 6900 pounds and the trailer grosses at 7,200 pounds so it is advisable to use a weight distributing hitch. The primary advantage is during emergency maneuvers or braking events. In these circumstances, the air suspension doesn’t adjust immediately, so dynamic loading of the truck suspension may result in the rear of the truck dropping and the front lifting. Most of the braking and all of the steering are at the front axle, so when the front is raised, the driver will have less control. The spring bars of the weight distributing hitch assembly are always engaged so they help to maintain weight balance to the front of the tow vehicle at all times providing consistent control for the driver. The anti-sway features will make the already stable platform even more so.

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