Whether you’re towing a boat for a day of fishing, pulling a camper for a weekend in the great outdoors or towing a trailer full of items from one spot to another, towing remains popular among scores of Americans.
But while towing a boat to the local lake for a day out on the water can be fun, too often activities that involve towing end in accidents. The NHTSA reports that there are over 50,000 accidents every year related to towing.
To make sure you’re doing it right and are still able to tow your boat, car, RV or other item around, here are some key dos-and-don’ts.
A weight distribution hitch is essential. This helps ensure a smooth ride while you’re towing and keeps both the thing being towed and the towing vehicle level while allowing you to two the maximum capacity of whatever hitch you have. A weight distribution hitch improves your ability to steer and to stop, corrects tow vehicle sag and can correct trailer sway when used with sway control. Weight distribution systems are recommended if your trailer weight is more than 50 percent of your vehicle’s weight.
Let’s say you’re towing a boat with an everyday rear-mounted hitch. When you do that, the tongue weight of the trailer is transferred to your vehicle’s rear axle, which can cause the back end of your vehicle to be raised. Over time, that rear axle is taking the weight of both the trailer and the vehicle itself. This can lead to a decrease in vehicle performance and cause trailer sway.
Instead of dealing with this sort of problem, a weight distribution hitch can make things a lot easier and safer. A weight distribution system uses spring bars to apply leverage on the system. This transfers the weight of your trailer load to the axles on your vehicle and the trailer.
You might be wondering, how do I know if I need a weight distribution system. You might need one if:
- The weight of your trailer is more than half of your vehicle’s weight.
- You have trailer sway when towing.
- You’re having difficulty steering.
- You notice the rear of your vehicle sags when hooked up to a trailer.
Whether by crosswinds, too little spring bar tension or poor weight distribution in the trailer, trailer sway happens a lot. In fact, a 35-mph crosswind could put as much as 3,440 pounds of force pushing on the side of a large trailer, according to a study by Knott Laboratory.
Using a weight distribution system can help limit trailer sway by making the weight more evenly distributed. A sway control device is almost standard when it comes to weight distribution systems. In fact, in many cases, sway control is build into them. Trailer sway devices come in 2 basic types – those that reduce sway once it has begun and those that work to prevent sway altogether.
Sway control systems rely on friction to keep your trailer from moving around too much once swaying has begun. Independent friction sway control bolts onto one end of a trailer frame and the other end is hooked to a sway control hitch on the other end. These attachments help supply tension to keep the trailer in a straight line. As a vehicle moves, friction pads work to create resistance to help in correcting trailer sway and controlling trailer sway.
Dependent sway (2-point) control is built into weight distribution systems are create resistance when a trailer moves to force it to stay in line. If a trailer is going to sway under this configuration, it must overcome a great deal of resistance and make the frictional resistance brackets on both sides slide underneath the system’s spring bars.
There are many types of weight distribution systems available to give you plenty of sway control and help with trailer sway control. If you’re in the market for one, know that weight distribution hitches come in two weight ratings: gross trailer weight (weight of a fully loaded trailer in towing condition) and tongue weight (weight of the cargo you’re towing and the weight of the cargo behind your vehicle’s rear axle).
To help you sort it all out, trailer manufacturing companies can help you find the best system for your needs.