How To Install A Weight Distribution Hitch (Beginner's Guide)

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Weight distribution systems have been around for years, but some are still new to them. Let’s go through the basics of installing a weight distribution hitch.

The following steps are essential in securing a weight distribution hitch to your trailer:

  • Park your truck/trailer on level ground
  • Insert/Secure the Hitch Ball
  • Measure the Distances
  • Insert/Mount the Shank
  • Prepare the Trailer Tongue Brackets
  • Insert the Spring Arms
  • Back Your Truck Up/secure the Coupler
  • Position the Spring Arms To The Trailer Tongue
  • Adjust Weight Distribution
  • Tighten all hardware
  • Pull in Wiring Harness/Secure Safety Chains.

Weight distribution hitches are specially designed trailer hitches that help to divide the trailer weight more evenly over the wheels (frame) of the tow vehicle. When you hook a trailer’s coupler to the ball mount, there is a downward force caused by the weight on the trailer frame exhibited on the tow vehicle’s rear bumper and axle. The purpose of a weight distribution hitch is to extend the trunnion or spring arms from the hitch head assembly backward toward the trailer tongue. These spring or trunnion bars connect to the trailer tongue with brackets or chains. The vehicle-trailer combination keeps too much weight from overloading the trailer hitch and the rear axle. It makes the towing more level and helps to reduce friction between the trailer ball and coupler, making it easier for the tow vehicle to pull the trailer smoothly. Many WD systems include anti-sway control bars, or spring bar chains, which can help with trailer sway (a primary cause of trailer accidents).

Table of Contents


Installing Weight Distribution Hitch System

There are several steps to installing a weight-distributing hitch system, and since every weight-distribution setup is different, it is always best to read the instructions before beginning.

(Many manufacturers have an app that lets you download the installation process onto your smartphone for easy reference).

If you haven’t done so already, determine the gross trailer weight of your camper/trailer. (Your tongue weight should be 10 - 15% of the total gross trailer weight). This number will be needed when setting the tension of the weight distribution system. In addition, it is valuable information to know so you don't overload the truck’s towing capacity.

(Please note that a WD system will not allow you to tow more than your tow vehicle is rated for. It will let you pull up that amount, but overloading your towing vehicle is a recipe for an accident).

Park Your Truck/Trailer On Level Ground

Park your truck directly in front of your trailer in as straight a line as possible. You want to ensure both are as level a surface as possible to make the installation easier. Be sure to follow all safety regulations (using wheel chucks to prevent the trailer from moving).

Use a level and trailer jack to ensure that the tongue is level with the ground. If the trailer is not level, then the weight will not be evenly distributed, and there will be more wear on the rear axle of the tow vehicle than there needs to be.

Insert/Secure The Hitch Ball Into The WD Hitch Assembly

Some weight distribution hitches come with the trailer ball already installed, but if not, you will need to insert the ball into the provided mount on the weight distribution shank assembly. Ensure that the ball is securely tightened to prevent any movement.

Measure the Distances

You want to measure from the bottom of the trailer tongue to the road surface and then from the ground to the bottom of the rear bumper. (or wheel well). After you’ve finished, re-measure from the front bumper to the ground. (These measurements will be necessary later on, so it is best to measure twice).

Insert the Shank Into The Receiver

Insert the shank into the receiver tube and adjust the ball mount with a drop or a rise depending on the height of the trailer’s coupler. Set the ball height and lock it into place with the provided hardware.

(Some weight distribution systems will have weight distribution heads that hold the spring bars in place and provide the right angle for connection. Be sure to check your specific hitch installation kit for details on this step).

Prepare the Trailer Tongue Brackets

You want to secure the trailer tongue brackets at a distance equal to the length of the spring arms. Many manufacturers have brackets with solid bolts above and below the trailer tongue that hold the bracket in place. Hand-tighten them to the trailer tongue, as these brackets will provide the base for the spring arm platform.

Measure 9 inches down from the top of the coupler and Insert the spring arm platforms into the brackets at the appropriate height. Push the carriage bolts through the predrilled holes that align with the holes in the mounting bracket hooked to the trailer tongue. (The spring arm platform should be at least 9 inches from the top of the trailer coupler). Secure the platform to the bracket with the hardware provided in your kit (locknut washer and nut). Use a socket wrench to tighten the nuts to 65 ft/lbs of torque. (Be sure to do this operation on both sides of the trailer tongue).

Insert the Spring Arms

Assemble the spring arms and insert them into the spring arm sockets. (Many WD systems have sockets that take the spring arms directly, like the Weigh Safe True Tow or Curt Mfg, but with the EAZ-Lift Elite, the arms lock into place by inserting them into a socket that faces directly toward the ground).

Regardless of the design, the spring bar should snap into place and be held by a clevis pin with a corresponding cotter pin on the other side. Once latched, ensure the spring arms are fastened correctly by giving them a good tug or pull. (Weight distribution hitches are designed to handle the abuse, the last thing you want is towing your trailer with only one side of the WD system working as it should).

Back Your Truck Up To The Trailer Coupler

Back your truck hitch directly under the trailer coupler and use the trailer tongue jack to lower the coupler onto the hitch ball on the truck’s rear. Lock the coupler in place and continue to raise the stand until it is off the ground and your truck is holding the full weight of the trailer.

Position the Spring Arm Onto The Spring Arm Mounts

To determine the correct placement for the spring arm brackets on the trailer tongue, place the spring arm straight out, perpendicular to the hitch. (The unit should form a T-shape). Measure from the middle of the spring arm directly back to the intersection point of the coupler. Mark this spot with a permanent marker. Move the mounting brackets into the correct position and lock them into place by tightening the screws.

Lock the spring arms into the mounting brackets per the instructions that came with your particular hitch kit. Remeasure the distance between the front and rear bumpers. There should be no more than ½ inch difference between this measurement and the distance you took earlier at the start of the installation. (The same principle applies to the wheel well if you used that measurement).

Adjust the Weight Distribution

Some WD systems have sway control brackets or bars that mount separately from the side of the head assembly to the trailer tongue. (Ensure that the bar is level and secure it into place).

The tongue weight should be 10 - 15% of the trailer weight. If this is not the case, then you need to adjust the tension of the weight distribution system to move the tongue weight accordingly. Some WD systems, like Weigh-Safe, have built-in tongue weight scales.

While many WD hitches have similarities, some differences need to be taken into consideration. (Some hitches use tension chain links to increase or decrease tongue weight, others use an adjustment rod or screws). You need to be familiar with how to make adjustments to the WD system you are installing.

Fully Tighten All Hardware

If you have not done so already, tighten all bolts, nuts and connective locations with a torque wrench to the manufacturer’s specifications that we listed in your installation instructions. (it is always a good idea to recheck all the torque settings to ensure that you haven’t missed a bolt or nut).

Plug in all Electric Wiring And Secure Safety Chains

You should plug in the wiring harness so that your camper/trailer will have adequate tail/brake lights and braking systems.

Most states require heavy-weighted trailers to have safety chains, be sure to hook these up from the trailer coupler to the tow vehicle’s rear. Criss-crossing the chains is always a good idea and will provide support should the WD hitch fail or the trailer’s coupler dislodges from the hitch ball.