Posted by: Mark Polk | 5:00 am

Trailer Tongue Weight Questions

weight distributing hitchQuestion: I read an article you wrote about the ideal ratio of hitch weight to overall trailer weight. The numbers you gave for trailer tongue weight were 10 to 15% of the loaded trailer weight, and the reasons you stated made a lot of sense to me. Recently I was talking to an RV salesman at our local dealership and he claimed the ratio didn’t matter if you use a weight distributing hitch. I am not sure if he is correct or not. I would appreciate your take on his statement.

 Mark’s Answer: He is correct about using a Weight Distributing Hitch (WDH), but incorrect in saying the Tongue Weight (TW) ratio does not matter if you use a WDH.

Let me try and explain. The trailer tongue weight ratio definitely does matter. Too much trailer tongue weight placed on the hitch ball can cause poor steering, handling and braking, and too little tongue weight can cause the tow vehicles rear wheels to lose traction and contribute to trailer sway.

The amount of tongue weight does depend on the hitch system you use. For the most part there are two types of hitches, weight carrying and weight distributing. The term Weight Carrying (WC) hitch means that all of the trailer’s tongue weight is supported by the hitch itself. Weight carrying hitches are used for lighter trailer applications that don’t require a weight distributing hitch.

Heavier trailers, with more tongue weight require a weight distributing hitch to lessen some of the tongue weight placed on the hitch ball. When you use a weight distributing hitch, a portion of the tongue weight is distributed to the axles on the trailer and to the front and rear axles of the tow vehicle. In essence you use a weight distributing hitch to bring the amount of tongue weight placed on the hitch ball within the optimum range.

For the best towing scenario the tongue weight amount still needs to be in the 10 to 15% range of the loaded trailer’s weight. That is why there are different size weight distributing hitch systems, so it can be properly matched to the trailer weight you are towing. If you use a weight distributing hitch that is too big or too small you don’t get the proper amount of hitch weight, and you are defeating the purpose of using a weight distributing hitch in the first place. Your RV dealer should be able to determine the proper weight distributing hitch for your particular application.

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Happy RV Learning,
Mark Polk

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