Installed: Weight Distribution Hitch

Discussion in 'On The Road' started by davido, Aug 3, 2021.

  1. davido

    davido Well-Known Member

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    I have a 2015 Forest River Rockwood Premier 2516G (Utah floorplan) popup. It is fairly heavy, as popup trailers go. I made things worse by getting it with dual propane, and air conditioning. And I later installed a bike rack on the roof, and a second battery. So tongue weight without water and bikes is already about 475 pounds. Overall weight with water and bikes is just a hair under the GVWR of 3200 pounds.

    I've towed with all of the following vehicles:
    • 2001 Nissan Pathfinder, manual transmission: Once was enough. That's not a valid option.
    • 2009 Chevy Traverse: This one did ok. Max tongue weight for a traverse is 600 pounds. Its long wheel base seemed to do well with the trailer. It was a little underpowered, though.
    • 2015 Ford Explorer Sport: This one did great, though it has a slightly shorter wheel base, and wanted to squat in back, lift in front just enough that I strongly considered a WD hitch, but never got around to it.
    • 2011 Chevy Silverado: This was fantastic but it was a friend's truck, not mine.
    • 1995 Ford Bronco XLT 5.8L V8: This has enough torque to tow well. It's my fun project car. But it does have a shorter wheel base, and lifts about 2/3rds of an inch in front when I set a 500 pound load on the tongue. I tow the trailer with this vehicle exclusively now because it's my "camping car."
    Finally it was time to deal with this tongue weight head on. I installed a Curt weight distribution hitch with 600-800 pound spring bars, and a Curt sway control bar.

    The reason I went with the 600-800 pound rating rather than 400-600: Start with a 475 pound tongue weight without water and bikes. Consider also the fact that I would be carrying a cooler and other gear in the back of my tow vehicle. Add gear and provisions for the trip, and there's no way that I'm below 600 pounds of extra load aft of the rear axle. On one recent trip I carried 20 gallons of water in the main tank, five gallons in the toilet, and twelve gallons in jugs in the forward compartment. A WDH with a 600+ pound rating is the right one for the job.

    Now here's the other problem I had: There are propane tanks that sit right at the spot where I should install WD springbar brackets. The solution was a set of bolt-on side-mount springbar chain hangers. With these I have to use the trailer's jack to lift the vehicle enough to hook up the springbar chains. But once I do, they work just as well as the snap-up hangers.

    The next problem: The springbar hangers needed to be at about 27 inches from the coupler. The frame ball for the sway control system needs to be centered at 24 inches from the coupler. Even with their mounting plates right up against each other, I was only able to get the sway control ball installed at 23 1/4 from the coupler. That's as far aft as I could go without overlapping the springbar hangers' plates.

    So... after getting all the holes drilled, all the hardware mounted, all the equipment adjusted and torqued and tested for clearances, I was able to take the trailer for a drive. It tows so nicely; I should have made this switch several years sooner. The vehicle squats about a half inch. The front lifts about 1/8th of an inch. It's almost like I'm not towing. And now when I pass a semi on the highway, or catch a gust in the middle of a curve in the highway, I don't sweat it; the trailer doesn't move at all. Backing up isn't a problem either. I have full range of motion with the sway control, though I do loosen it before backing.

    Now when I load the trailer for a trip I can focus on getting the gear I need (within overall tow limits) and on stowing it properly (rather than worrying about overloading the tongue). And while I tow on the highway, I feel so much more in control.

    Sway was never a big problem. I think of only one time where I really felt it. But the added stability of the WD hitch and sway control really make me feel better towing.

    So.... if your trailer and tow vehicle allow for a WD hitch and your tongue weight is a little on the high side, don't play games with distributing weight to the back of the trailer, where it will increase sway. Install a WD hitch and a sway bar, and be done with it. I should have done it a lot sooner.

    Additional towing hardware: I also have a Tekonsha Prodigy P2 controller. I've also used a Tekonsha Primus IQ (worked great), and a Reese time-delay controller (which sucked).
     
    ccarley, Sjm9911 and xxxapache like this.
  2. Dingit

    Dingit Well-Known Member

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    Congrats on getting this worked out. There's nothing finer than a big Bronco. :)
     
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  3. davido

    davido Well-Known Member

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    You got that right! Broncos are fun. And the old ones are still quite different from the newer ones. I'm sure the new ones are great, but the old were "Body on frame" rather than unibody. They were built atop the F150 chassis.

    I had an '89 Bronco Custom with a 5.0L (302ci) v8 from 1998 to 2005. But it was my daily driver, and over time it just became too unreliable. I sold it with 224k miles, if I recall. With that vehicle I towed a 22' Catalina sailboat a few times, one of those times over 850 miles. It did just fine.

    A couple months ago I bought a low-mileage (for its age) 1995 Bronco XLT with the 5.8L (351ci) v8. It has some rust in the rear fenders, which most Broncos have. But aside from that it's in fantastic shape, particularly mechanically. I think the specs put these at 215HP and 325 ft/lbs torque. By modern standards that's not a lot of horsepower, but adequate, and the torque is great. It tows my trailer with ease, though it prefers wants to run between 70 and 75 MPH (not the Utah rural speed limit of 80).

    The Prodigy P2 plugged right into a below-dash plug and required no additional work aside from buying the Ford adapter. The stock 7-way works fine. Its tow capacity is 7000 pounds in the 5.8L variety, 6500 in the 5.0L model. With heavier tongues, the shorter wheel base of a Bronco prefers a WD hitch.

    Lots of fun.
     
  4. jeepster04

    jeepster04 Active Member

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    Whats the total cost?
     
  5. popup-flyer

    popup-flyer Active Member

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    Nice, I have the roundbar version for mine. Very nice drivability after the addition of WDH.
     
  6. davido

    davido Well-Known Member

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    Total cost of?

    • My WDH was about $275; a Curt model that targets 8000 trailer weight, with 600-800 pounds tongue weight. That seems excessive, except that my tongue is 475 before I add water, and you should also count any cargo on the back of the tow vehicle. So I hit 600 pretty easily.
    • The ball was $25.
    • The sway control bar was about $70.
    • The side-mount chain hangers (because propane tanks are in the way of traditional hangers) were $50.
    • Drill bits for the frame: $30
    • Tekonsha Prodigy P2 was about $120
    Total came to $570.

    But you're not going to go without a brake controller. And the only reason I had to buy a ball was because the ball on my old "Weight Carrying" hitch had a smaller shank than the one needed for the Weight Distribution hitch. I did have to buy or rent some tools. It turns out OReilly Auto will let you rent them free (pay a hefty deposit, and it gets refunded when you return them). So the biggest torque wrench I required -- a 250 ft/lb model -- didn't need to be purchased.

    It seems like a lot to spend, when you consider that you can use a Weight Carrying hitch, where you buy the ball and mount together for $30. But the reduced wear and tear on the vehicle, and improved handling is worth the cost. If you take the brake controller out of it (because you already have one, right?) it would be $450 to buy and DIY install a basic weight distribution hitch and friction sway control bar. If propane isn't blocking your frame, you could get that down to $400. Or $370 if you don't need any special metal bits.

    Also, as a follow-up: I towed the trailer from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone and back last week. I averaged 12.2 MPG with my 5.8L v8 1995 Bronco. We drove at 65 to 75 most of the way. The trailer handled great. And with the weight distribution hitch the tow vehicle was level, so a lot less stress on its rear axle and suspension, and better braking / steering when compared to towing the same trailer with a weight carrying hitch.

    Overall I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.
     

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