View Full Version : Choosing a Weight Distributing Hitch (WDH)

04-02-2005, 08:34 PM
Question: I need to buy a WDH. What are the differences among them? What should I look for as I choose one? And should I get sway control at the same time?

The two issues – choice of a hitch, and sway control – are separate. I’ll discuss the choice of a hitch in this article. The need for sway control, and the methods of sway control, will be discussed in a separate article. However, since sway control devices are sometimes part of the hitch, and you would like to buy a hitch only once, you might want to read both articles.

First, let me define a few hitch-related words. When you look at a trailer hitch, the hitch ball is mounted on a heavy piece of steel called the ball mount. The ball mount is in turn mounted on the hitch bar, the heavy square steel bar that is inserted into the tow vehicle’s hitch receiver. At the very front of the trailer is the hitch coupler – the piece that drops over the ball and clamps onto it.

Onward. There are three considerations in choosing a WDH.

The first is vertical adjustability of the ball mount relative to the hitch bar. When the trailer is parked and level, the trailer’s coupler is almost certainly NOT at the same height off the ground as the hitch receiver on the tow vehicle. A minivan will have a very low hitch receiver; a "lifted" 4WD pickup on oversize tires will have a very high receiver. And a TM with a lift kit and 15 inch tires will have a higher coupler than one that has 14 inch tires and no lift kit.

To accommodate the difference in height, the ball mount can be moved up (“raised”) or down (“dropped”) on the hitch bar. Typical WDH's have about a 6 inch adjustment range - 5 inch drop, 1 inch rise - and most hitch bars can be flipped over to give a 1 inch drop and 5 inch rise. Before you order a hitch, you need know how far off the ground your trailer’s coupler is when the trailer is level, and how far off the ground the hitch receiver is when it is supporting the trailer’s tongue weight. The height difference tells you the minimum adjustment range you will need. By the way, in extreme cases, you can get a hitch bar with as much as 14 inches of adjustment range.

The second consideration is the spring bar type - round bars vs. “trunnion” (rectangular) bars. The two types work equally well. The advantage of a round bar hitch is lower cost. The advantages of the trunnion type are that the bars are a bit easier to connect to the ball mount, and they are a bit easier to connect to a cam type anti-sway device if you have one. I’ll discuss sway control in another article, but in most cases it is NOT needed with TMs, which simplifies your hitch choice.

The third consideration is the needed strength of the spring bars, which depends on the trailer's tongue weight. You need spring bars that are rated for at least the expected tongue weight, plus some margin. Round spring bars are typically available in 550, 750, or 1000 lb ratings; trunnion bars are typically available with 600, 800, and 1200 lb ratings. A very lightly equipped and loaded TM2619 will have a tongue weight around 350 lbs and would do fine with 550 lb bars; a very well equipped and heavily loaded 3023 (or 3124KS) could have a tongue weight as high as 750 lbs, and really needs at least 1000 lb bars. I've gradually added both load and equipment to my TM2720SL and now have a tongue weight somewhere around 600 to 650 lbs. I have 750 lb bars and they're just about at their limit of adjustability. So to pick the right size bar, you really need to know your tongue weight with the trailer loaded for travel. By the way, most hitches of interest to TM owners use a pair of spring bars. Although single-bar hitches are available, they are appropriate for only the lightest TM.

Interestingly, brand has very little to do with the decision. Some brands may be a bit easier to hook up than others, but all brands (Reese, Draw-Tite, Equal-i-zer, etc.) apparently perform equally well. I'd recommend that you pick a hitch for its adjustability, its bar type, and its bar strength, and buy whatever brand of hitch you can get a good deal on.

Click here for Reese's Round Bar hitch page
and here for Reese’s Trunnion Bar hitch page