Towing a caravan can be overwhelming, whether you're doing it for the first time or the fiftieth. But there is a tool that can help you keep control and tow your caravan safely. You need a caravan hitch.
A caravan weight distribution hitch is a type of caravan hitch specially designed to keep the correct level between the caravan and tow vehicle. In other words, you don't get the sagging or lifting between the vehicles that can create challenges and issues while towing. This means you enjoy better braking, easier towing and a stress-free drive.
Which caravan hitch should you buy? Read on for our guide to Caravan Weight Distribution Hitches.
How Does A Caravan Weight Distribution Hitch Work?
Before you can work out which hitch you need, it's worth knowing exactly how they work. Whether you hear it called a caravan weight distribution hitch, load leveller or equaliser, they're all the same thing.
They are designed with an important purpose: To stop the rear of the tow vehicle from sagging when you add the weight of the caravan or trailer to the tow ball, and simultaneously stop the front of the tow vehicle and rear of the van from lifting.
There are three components that make up a caravan hitch:
- Towball mount.
- Spring bars - these attach to the ball mount and are tensioned using chain links.
- A-frame bracket attachment - brackets are secured on the A-frame of your caravan.
This transfers the weight from the back of the tow vehicle to the front, which balances the vehicles.
Is A Weight Distribution Hitch The Same As An Anti-Sway Device?
No - a traditional caravan tow hitch can reduce sway, depending on the model you buy, but we recommend buying an anti-sway device as an extra accessory. Check out Fastway and Andersen tow hitch ranges for new "no-sway" models.
How To Work Out Whether You Need A Caravan Weight Distribution Hitch:
A caravan hitch isn't something every caravan owner needs - mostly, they are a good option if you are towing a long or heavy caravan.
If your van is light and well-balanced, you probably don't need a caravan hitch.
So, how do you know if it's well balanced?
Measure the front and rear heights of your vehicle's wheel arches (when unloaded).
Next, measure the front and rear heights of the caravan.
This will give you the best case scenario of what "level" looks like.
Then, when you hitch the van, measure the wheel arch heights again. Is the difference more than 20mm? Try rebalancing your load.
If this still doesn't work, it's time to buy a caravan hitch.
Choosing The Right Caravan Tow Hitch:
To choose the right hitch, you need to look at the tow ball and A-frame of your vehicles.
Start By Looking At Your Tow Ball:
Tow Ball Weight
This will be 10% of your Gross Trailer Mass (GTM), which is the total mass rating imposed on the trailer's axle when the trailer is fully loaded and connected to the towing vehicle. Remember, exceeding your vehicle's GTM is illegal and dangerous. The tow ball weight will be listed on the tow ball or the user manual of your vehicle.
Pro Tip: Does your tow bar indicate a maximum tow ball weight? The caravan tow hitch will not increase what tow ball weight you can apply.
Tow Ball Height
Find the height of your tow ball. Depending on your towing vehicles, you might need a tow ball mount that can be adjusted so the tow ball can be set higher or lower than usual.
Next Check Your A-Frame:
- How much room do you have on the A-frame to mount the hitch?
The standard A-frame will allow 30 inch bars. But, if there's a jockey wheel or other obstruction on your A-frame, look to the 28 inch bar.
- Measure A-frame depth
Tow hitches were traditionally designed to suit an A-frame with 100mm depth. Now, many caravan models have A-frames with 150mm depth and there are more tow hitches on the market to give you extra clearance.
Finally, Check Your Brakes:
If you have electric brakes on your caravan or trailer, you can choose any weight distribution hitches. However, a tow hitch will stop manual override brakes from working properly. You will need to allow for harder braking if you choose to use one.
Which Caravan Hitch: Straight Bar Hitch Or Round Bar Hitch?
Look at the position of the coupling on your caravan A-Frame.
If the coupling is in the centre or bottom of the A-frame, choose a straight bar hitch, aka Trunnion hitch.
If the coupling is on top of the A-frame, buy a round bar hitch.
Here are our top recommended brands for caravan tow hitches:
Famous for its reliable and easy-to-use trailer products, Fastway is a top selling brand for hitches. Check out the best selling Fastway e2 model, which comes in a Round Bar and Trunnion style, if you need more ground clearance.
The e2 is designed for exceptional sway control and weight distribution by changing the way the tow vehicle and trailer couple together. The hitch creates a bridge between vehicles, helping them work together like one unit and distributing the weight more evenly to the axles of both. The best part is you don't have to worry about buying and installing extras like chains, add-on sway bars or dampening arms.
Both e2 designs can be installed around gas tanks and battery boxes. They also work with surge brakes.
For both e2 models, check the GTM depending on the model:
- 6,000 lb (2500kg)
- 8,000 lb (3500kg)
- 10,000 lb (4500kg)
- 12,000 lb (5500kg)
You can also pick from a range of bundles to create the ultimate towing set-up such as the Fastway E2 Round bar Hitch 8,000lb with Anti Ant Stabiliser Pads Combo or the Fastway E2 Roundbar Sway Control WD Hitch 6000lb with Black Jack Trailer Jack Combo.
Andersen offers a weight distribution hitch in a one size fits all model, using chains rather than bars. The hitch can tow up to 350kg ball weight, or 3500kg GTM and suits a 50mm 3.5T tow ball. It comes in a 4" or 8" drop/rise shank. The system weighs less than 25kg, which is much lighter than other brands (including the Fastway e2).
One feature we love on the Anderson hitch is the sway control that self-adjusts in a greaseless system. They call it the "simplest, quietest and most advanced weight distribution hitch on the road today."
Not sure which Anderson hitch to choose? They've provided an easy guide to help you work out whether you need the 4" or 8" drop shank size:
Both the E2 and Andersen weight distribution hitches can be used when reversing without the need to remove the hitch.
Do You Need Accessories?
Depending on the tow hitch, you might need an off-set shank. Work out which one you need based on your tow ball height. Alternatively, an adjustable shank will help you switch your hitch from one vehicle to another, so you can tow trailers with different coupler heights.