How Does a Weight Distribution Hitch Work? (Is It Needed?)

Are you trying to figure out how a weight distribution hitch works? 

You’re in the right place!

In this LearningRV.com guide, you’ll learn:

  • What each part is called and what they’re for
  • If it’s worth the money
  • How a weight distribution hitch actually works
  • And much more!
how does a weight distribution hitch work

Camping season is here. It’s all sunshine and roses…until your camper starts swaying all over the place!

With a weight-distribution hitch, you can avoid this problem and the hassles that come thereafter.

Read our article on how they work to learn about:

  • What it is and how it is different from common hitches
  • How it works
  • The different parts
  • When it makes sense to invest in one

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What Is a Weight Distribution Hitch?

A weight distribution hitch is a towing accessory. You use it for connecting your RV or trailer to your towing vehicle (e.g., your truck).

Unlike a regular rear-mounted hitch, a weight distribution hitch equalizes the weight distribution between your vehicle and whatever you are towing.

It does this with the use of spring bars and a weight distribution system.

Downsides Of A Regular Hitch?

To better understand what a weight-distribution hitch is, let’s look at what a regular hitch does.

A hitch is an accessory or apparatus you can use to connect your towing vehicle to your RV or trailer.

It allows you to pull your RV or trailer so that it does not swing or veer uncontrollably.

As you tow your RV or trailer, certain forces will come into play. In particular, the weight distribution of your trailer or RV will be of particular concern.

For some reason, most RVs and trailers have a 60:40 weight ratio. And, the majority of the weight happens to be in the front.

The weight in front of the trailer is higher than in the rear. This makes the “tongue weight” or the weight of the frontend heavier.

For this reason, it can heavily press down on a regular rear-mounted hitch.

As the weight of the RV or trailer’s front end bears down on the rear-mounted hitch, part of your vehicle bears the weight.

Being where the hitch is mounted, the rear end of your truck can depress further into the ground.

As a result, you can expect the hitch, your trailer’s front end, and your vehicle’s rear end to take a hit during drives. This is especially true if your RV or trailer weighs a lot.

A weight distribution hitch solves the weight ratio issue by evenly distributing the trailer’s tongue weight to the other parts of your vehicle’s chassis or axle.

What Are The Parts of a Weight Distribution Hitch?

Weight distribution hitches from different brands differ in various ways.

However, look at each system closely, and you’ll find that a weight distribution hitch ultimately consists of the following parts:

Receiver

Let’s start with the hitch receiver. The hitch receiver goes on the frame of your pick-up truck or SUV.

It is where you connect the weight distribution shank that holds the weight distribution head.

Different companies have different designs for the hitch receiver. Ultimately, the hitch shank slides into the receiver.

The Weight Distribution (Hitch) Shank

The weight distribution shank slides into the hitch receiver. It marks the second point of connection between the weight distribution head and the receiver.

The weight distribution shank is one of the parts that ensure that your trailer is level with your vehicle.

Weight distribution shanks come in a plethora of sizes, heights, and drops.

For this reason, you might be better off getting one based on the height of your vehicle and trailer.

If you are unsure, measure the height of your towing vehicle and the RV or trailer.

It is also a good idea to take stock of your trailer or RV’s total weight and tongue weight.

Have these figures with you when you buy a weight distribution shank. The shop you take these figures to can make recommendations.

The Weight Distribution Head Assembly

The head assembly acts as a connection point for your shank and the trailer.

The weight distribution head assembly is where the hitch ball goes when you connect your vehicle to the trailer.

The weight distribution head assembly has two holes for bars that allow for freedom whenever you steer. These are snug enough to ensure that the bars stay on.

It also allows the bars enough room to sway with the RV or trailer as you make turns.

Spring Bars

Spring bars come in pairs. These do more than anchor your trailer.

They also ensure that your trailer or RV’s tongue weight or front-end weight gets distributed to your vehicle’s frame.

Frame Brackets

Lastly, you’ve got the frame brackets. These go on your trailer or RV’s front end. The frame brackets connect your trailer to the spring bars.

Read More >> How Do You Use Stabilizer Jacks? (5 Easy Steps)

weight distribution installation tip

Top 3 Reasons Why a Weight Distribution Hitch Is Worth Your Investment

A weight distribution hitch might seem like an unnecessary investment if you are still married to your rear-mounted hitch.

Due to the possible weight you have to tow, you may want to reconsider your position.

Here are 3 reasons why a weight distribution hitch can be worth the extra dollars:

Reason #1: You Will Actually Be Able To Tow Your RV or Trailer

As mentioned earlier, a weight distribution hitch works by maintaining the right level of your trailer or RV and towing vehicle.

The equal level of your trailer and vehicle is key to ensure safe towing.

If the weight of your trailer bears down too much on the rear end of your vehicle, two things can happen.

Either your vehicle’s rear sustains damage from skidding on the pavement. Or, the front end gets lifted to the point where you can’t drive.

Reason #2: You Can Control “Trailer Sway”

Trailer sway is a real roadside hazard, especially if you are driving on a busy motorway.

Regular rear-mounted hitches may anchor well to your vehicle. However, in the absence of weight distribution, wind and sudden sharp turns can cause your trailer to sway violently.

In a worst-case scenario, you may even tip over.

A weight distribution hitch ensures that weight is evenly shared between your vehicle and trailer. This ensures stability, minimizing the chances of trailer sway.

Quick Note >> We noticed a BIG difference after installing and driving across the country with ours attached.

Reason #3: You Can Maximize Your Towing Capacity

First of all, let’s be clear. A weight distribution hitch will not allow you to tow a trailer that’s 100 times heavier than your vehicle.

However, it can allow your vehicle to tow at its maximum.

Every vehicle has a maximum towing capacity. The car company that made your towing vehicle establishes this on one assumption.

What is the presumption? The presumption is that the weight of the towed vehicle and your vehicle is equal.

It sounds sensible on paper. But, hardly is this ever true.

In fact, your trailer or RV is likely at least 50% heavier than your vehicle.

The difference in weight is what causes the connection between your vehicle and trailer to “sag.”

Needless to say, you’ll only be able to avoid this in one of two ways:

  1. One is by towing a much lighter trailer.
  2. The other is by getting a weight distribution hitch to remove the weight difference.

With a weight distribution hitch, you remove the issue of a weight difference and tow at your vehicle’s maximum capacity.

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Final Thoughts On Hitches

Being safe on the road is always the top priority any time you’re driving. It’s even more critical when you’re pulling a heavy trailer behind you.

Along with always installing your new hitch on a level surface, here are a few more safety tips to consider:

Also, remember that just because your vehicle can pull a trailer, doesn’t mean you should. Make sure you’re well within the vehicle’s ability to stop after going down steep grades…safely.

If you have additional questions, please message us on Instagram or drop a comment below!

Shawn and Bree

Shawn and Bree

Hey there! We're Shawn and Bree. We're currently traveling full-time in our travel trailer with our 8 kids. We've had to learn a lot to make this lifestyle work, and we wanted to pass some of that experience to you! Our goal is to help save you time, frustration, and money!

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Shawn and Bree

Shawn and Bree

Hey there! We're Shawn and Bree. We're currently traveling full-time in our travel trailer with our 8 kids. We've had to learn a lot to make this lifestyle work, and we wanted to pass some of that experience to you! Our goal is to help save you time, frustration, and money!

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