To understand why weight-distribution via a tow attachment works, it’s important to understand what happens to the car when you tow something behind it. When you tow a trailer with a rear-mounted hitch, the trailer’s weight of the tongue is directed to the rear axle of the vehicle. This weighs down on the back end of the vehicle and it can make the front end point up, especially on a car that has regular suspension. If this does happen, your rear axle will carry the weight of not just the trailer, but also pretty much the entirety of the car’s weight. The lessened weight of the front axle will diminish the traction, steering, and stopping power too.
Your road view will be limited as well because of the awkward angles, which is accompanied by increased trailer sway.
How Does Weight Distribution Help?
Weight-distribution hitches make use of spring bars to overcome these problems. Spring bars apply pressure to either side of the mechanism, which directs the load from the rear to all of the axles of the trailer and vehicle.
This weight distribution results in a level and smooth ride, as well as the full capability to tow the entire capacity of the hitch with some room to spare for heavier loads.
When Does One Need a Tow Attachment?
Your vehicle owner manual should provide you with specifications about the tow weight, but also about weight distribution usage. For instance, the Chevrolet Traverse states that sway control and weight distribution are necessary for trailers of over 5000 lbs.
For liability and safety reasons, you should comply with the instructions provided. If you don’t, and a problem occurs, your insurance provider will most likely not help you out. Even if you are within the limits set by the gear and manufacturer, some other indications can benefit from a hitch system.
- If you experience sway
- Your headlights are pointed upward
- The rear of the tow sags
- Your trailer weight is over 50% of the car’s weight
- You want to tow the highest capability allowed by the hitch
These are all valid reasons to get a tow attachment for your vehicle. Otherwise, you risk complete failure of your vehicle and potentially irreparable damage.
Tow Attachment Class Types
Tow attachments have their own class rating that is based on the maximum weight capacity, but also the receiver opening size. The classes start at Class I and go to Class V.
Each class of two attachments has its own use case based on the receiver size and capacity.
Class I refers to light-duty receiver attachments that are used for bike racks and cargo carriers. They can handle a maximum trailer weight of 2000 lbs.
They can be used for small utility trailers as well, they are made for compact and medium-sized tow vehicles.
Class II refers to regularly-duty attachments that are mostly used for small fishing boats, cargo trailers, and ATVs. They can handle a maximum trailer weight of 3500 lbs.
They are usually installed on medium SUVs and smaller pickup trucks.
Class III refers to mixed attachments that are applied to the frame of the vehicle. They usually handle up to 6000 lbs.
This attachment comes in the form of an under-car receiver, and it’s mostly used by larger SUVs, full-size pickup trucks, and vans.
Class IV refers to heavy-duty attachments that are used for larger loads operated by full-size pickups and SUVs.
With a towing capacity of about 12000 lbs, they hitch heavy machinery, travel trailers, and large boats.
Class V refers to super-duty attachments that can support 20000 lbs. They are used on commercial trucks for the most part. 5th wheel attachments and goosenecks are covered by this class.
They are great for towing equipment trailers and full-size campers.
How Much Does a Tow Attachment Cost?
In the real world, the answer is variable. Generally speaking, two attachments cost anywhere from $40 to $1000.
Attachments that cost about $1000 are for heavy-duty use, like construction equipment and towing farms. A tow to pull a boat to the water will be about $200.
The first thing to know is that it’s important to have a qualified specialist install your hitch. If your car came with a tow attachment installed, you need to make sure the attachment class matches your needs.
When installing your attachment, there are so many things to consider. Do you need welding equipment or a drill? What is the proper distance from the spare tire, tailpipe, and suspension?
It’s also important to accommodate a proper distance from the floor and keep the same distance from the floor to the receiver.
If your weight is over 3500 lbs, a weight distribution attachment is a great choice. This attachment is placed with washers, and the ball mount uses pressure from the springs to distribute the weight between all of the axles.
It’s a good idea to have a specialist install this hitch. Why not do it together? Ask the specialist to have him show you how it’s done, so you know how to do it next time.
How Much Does Installation Cost?
You can expect a professional tow attachment installation to start from $100, and cost as much as $800. Keep in mind that this does not include the tow attachment price, which can easily run you just as much.
In the end, it comes down to the combination between the car and the tow attachment. If the installation is compatible with your vehicle, it will be simple. This means you can try doing it yourself, but it’s not recommended.
If your vehicle cannot use a standard attachment, you might have to pay for specialist help. If you are DIYing, there is one “but”. If the installation gets too confusing, you need to go to a professional. Your safety is not worth the risk.
How to Install?
It all comes down to six simple steps. But the real process is a bit more involved.
- Calculate the towing capacity of the vehicle
- Get the right equipment
- Jack the car up and activate the parking brake
- Move attachment into place, attach it using instructions
- Next, tighten the bolts well
- Ensure it’s secure before trying to tow
And that’s about it. The process is a bit different when installing stainless propellers too. If you’re confused about the process, consult the manual before anything else.
Can Tow Attachments Be Used With Surge Brakes?
Only specified tow attachments can be used with surge brakes. Most systems are not compatible with these brakes because they don’t allow the front-back movement of the trailer to make use of the actuator.
Some manufacturers have their weight distribution systems rated as compatible, but you should be aware that making use of friction control bars with the systems will make them incompatible.
To ensure your brakes operate in full functionality and not prevented from regular compressions, it’s recommended that you do not use a snap-up and chain bracket system with your surge brakes.
Is a Brake Control System Needed?
Before hitching anything and getting on the road, you must check on the laws for trailer tows in your state. For instance, in Colorado, the state has mandated that all trailers over 3000 lbs in GVW need to make use of a brake control system.
This will ensure safe, smooth, and efficient braking. This also creates less tear and wear on the breaks of the car and the trailer. If your brakes are in jeopardy, you might as well change them, having brakes in poor condition is worse than having no brakes at all.
Having the expectation of safety and expecting the brakes to do the work will be underwhelming. But if you learn to use the vehicle with the hitch without the brakes, you will be able to accommodate inconvenient situations. In any case, your state might hold you legally obligated to have brakes, so keep that in mind.
Now that you know everything you need to know before getting a tow attachment, you are well on your way to ensure that you get the hitch that works for you and does not implicate your safety on the road.
In any case, as long as you follow manufacturer instructions, do research, and don’t buy into over-hyped products, you will ensure that everything is fine and dandy.
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