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How Towing Weight Distribution Systems Work

Purpose of Towing Weight Distribution Systems
The difference between using a weight distribution system and going without is clearly illustrated here.
The difference between using a weight distribution system and going without is clearly illustrated here.

We learned on the last page about gross trailer weight and tongue weight and why they're such big factors in towing a trailer. Keep in mind, too, the more weight you add to the equation, the more the situation is exacerbated. While a weight distribution system can't increase the total amount of weight a tow vehicle can haul beyond its maximum capacity, it can improve handling by distributing some of the weight off the tongue and onto the other axles -- thereby safely getting you closer to that maximum mark.

To understand this, keep in mind what we read on the last page concerning too much or too little tongue weight. With a weight carrying hitch -- one lacking a weight distribution system -- there needs to be a delicate balance struck between how much weight is on the tongue, or your towing excursion could end in disaster.

You still need to carefully keep the same ratios of tongue weight and gross trailer weight in mind with a weight distribution hitch, but when you have a heavier load you have to consider how much more tongue weight that actually entails. A weight distribution system is important because it eases the situation by spreading some of that increased tongue weight off the rear axle of the tow vehicle and onto the front axle, as well as the axle (or axles) of the trailer. With that leverage, everything balances out and driving performance increases dramatically. Also, don't forget the tow vehicle's axles each have a gross axle weight rating -- adjusting the weight distribution system can help distribute the weight appropriately.

If you're looking to tow a smaller load, generally you can get away with a weight carrying hitch. As the gross trailer weight creeps up on the scales, a weight distribution hitch might start to look a lot more attractive. Usually if your trailer weighs in at more than 50 percent of the towing vehicle's weight, you'll need one of these hitches. Plus, once you reach certain gross trailer weights, a weight distribution system is required by law anyway. So how do you know which one to get? On the next page, we'll delve a little deeper into what you should consider when picking out a weight distribution system.