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Setting up to tow a trailer

I am a tow hitch voyeur; I just can’t help myself. I look at every hitch set up that I pass on the road. I look at them at fuel stops. I look at them at campgrounds. I just look at them everywhere. I guess the strange fascination is that most folks don’t have a clue. They don’t research their towing capacity and they figure as long as they have the proper size ball on their hitch they are good to go. Someone buying a new trailer usually ends up buying what the dealer recommends and then gets it installed with little or no instruction. Buying used from an individual? You are really on your own there! Here is an excerpt form a post on

I just purchased a 26ft ulta-light from a dealer that was on consignment and it came with a Reese weight distribution hitch and a Reese friction anti-sway bar. When we hooked the rig to my 2005 Durango I noticed that the back end of the Durango had droped about 2.5 inches and the front had risen about .25 inches. I pointed this out to the tech and we brought the torsion bars up one chain link and found it made no measurable difference. The tech told me that it depended on the suspension of the tow vehicle and that it would trail just fine. When I got it on the road the sway above 60MPH was dangerous so I shifted to the side roads where I could safely drive 50 – to 55 MPH. Even then the sway was still noticeable and nerve racking.

62 feet long

62 feet long

Most of our equipment trailers are open deck and the bumper hitch types don’t really require a weight distribution / sway control system. I also have a 28 foot enclosed box type trailer that absolutely unequivocally requires a proper tow hitch set up. I tow it behind my Dolphin 32D and I tow it behind my Suburban 2500 4×4.

Enclosed trailers like this or like a travel trailer need the upgraded hitch  more than an open deck trailer for one simple reason.  Surface area.  A strong cross wind on the interstate at 70mph is like Russian Roulette with out an anti sway system.  Ditto on getting passed by a speeding 18 wheeler.   Many, many times during my travels I have seen a trailer and its’ tow vehicle jacknifed in the center median or along the shoulder with the trailer shredded to pieces and personal belongings strewn everywhere.  I have to think that they were towing improperly.  Either grossly over weight or with the improper hitch or the hitch not set up correctly.

I am not going to talk about GVWR and hitch capacity and all of that in this article.  We are strictly focusing on why you need a weight distribution hitch with anti sway control.   The setup that I

Resse WD Hitch with Dual Cam Sway Control

Resse WD Hitch with Dual Cam Sway Control

prefer is Reese weight distribution hitch with 1200lb spring bars paired with the Reese Dual Cam Sway Control. You can buy the hitch packages with different weight limits and it is imperative you buy one that fits your system. Buying spring bars that are too strong can actually bend the a frame of your trailer so please,please just don’t go out and by the biggest, heaviest set you can find.

Installing the hitch set up is not too bad and most folks with average mechanical ability can do it. The head fits your receiver on your tow vehicle — no big deal. You have to measure and drill your a frame on the outer sides to accept a bracket. This bracket is where you connect the chains that tension the spring bars . Measure twice and drill once!

Now we come to the part where you really need to pay attention and it relates to the quote above. You must adjust your hitch properly. When I swap the hitch setup from my recreational vehicle to my Suburban 2500 4×4, I have to re-adjust it. Basically it is all about geometry and physics and pretty simple to visualize. If you just hitch your trailer to your tow vehicle, the back of your tow vehicle is going to go down and the front is going to raise. The rear axle is going to have more weight on it than the front axle. At the same time, your trailer may or may not be level. Enter the weight distribution hitch – it does just what it says it does. You level your trailer and then you measure the distance your fender wells are from the ground with your tow vehicle unloaded. The hitch set up allows you to move the head up and down AND tilt it back and forth.

When it is all said and done, your trailer should be sitting level front to rear and the front of your tow vehicle should be no more than one inch higher than the rear. When you get it set up properly you will not believe the difference when you drive down the highway. The white knuckle days are over!

Here are two files from Reese that explain the installation and set up of the weight distribution hitch and the dual cam sway control. They are written in real, American English and are easy to understand and a great source of information.

Reese Weight Distribution Hitch Instructions

Reese Dual Cam Sway Control Instructions

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