weight distribution hitch and/or sway control

Submitted: Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 at 18:35
ThreadID: 136300 Views:3618 Replies:6 FollowUps:12
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Ok I searched for previous threads and the most recent was 2016. prior to that 2012 so I'm asking for advice:-
We have a tow vehicle Isuzu Dmax that is rated for a tow ball weight of 350 kg and to tow 3.5 tonne. (I'm not going in to the GCVM as that is of course another story). We have had Old Man Emu Suspension rated to 300kg installed. (BTW it's not the Prado in our profile pic - oops need to update that!!)
Our Van is semi-off road. It had a tare of 2.840. It has ratings of GTM of 3.2 t and ATM of 3.440.
We checked weight on a public weight bridge and we had 3 tonne on the axles/GTM and tow ball weight of 300kg, No water in the tanks. (which means at 3.3 tonne ATM there's not a lot of room for the 190 plus 65L water that we have the tanks for!!)
So questions:
1. Do we need a Weight Distribution Hitch - particularly as we are sitting level van to car. Will it improve our driving much?
2. What is to be gained from sway control devices- is it worth the money? What is the most reliable setup for your money? Anybody had experience with the Hayes Sway Master?
Thanking you all in advance.
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Reply By: Bobjl - Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 at 21:24

Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 at 21:24
Carolyn and Peter
So the Van all up is 330kg, and that is without water [255kg approx], but does that weight include your caravan payload items, food clothing annexe, full gas bottles and all the usual stuff we seem to lug?, if yes then you will well and truly exceed the ATM it seems.

Weight distribution hitches [although a nuisance] assist to redistribute some weight from rear axle to front axle and a bit to trailer axles. In many cases they are not necessary unless an inordinate amount of weight is removed from front axles. A level car/van may not mean all is well with weights on axles/loss of weight from front wheels. You will benefit from weighing the front wheels/axle with no van, then with van on to get a feel for what weight is being removed from front-steer wheels.Isuzu owners manual will likely contain a guide as to weights and use of a WDH. Long wheel base vehicles with a short distance from rear axle to tow ball usually means less weight removed from front wheels.
I use a WDH on my Landcruiser 200 as my rig is on the max, 345kg tow ball and nearly 3.5 tonne ATM. I have convinced myself that the rig is more stable in challenging terrain with some of the weight re distributed forward.Happy towing.
AnswerID: 617090

Follow Up By: Member - Carolyn & Peter L - Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 at 21:49

Wednesday, Feb 21, 2018 at 21:49
Thanks for that.

"So the Van all up is 330kg, and that is without water [255kg approx], but does that weight include your caravan payload items, food clothing annexe, full gas bottles and all the usual stuff we seem to lug?, if yes then you will well and truly exceed the ATM it seems."

Yes the van is 3.3 tonne (not 330kg) ATM and IF we did add all the water if would put us over the ATM. This weight does include our payload (although there are more items we would like to take but probably won't for obvious reasons)
FollowupID: 888570

Follow Up By: Paul E6 - Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 at 00:15

Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 at 00:15
I find much less pitch 'n' rattle with the wdh. Tightens things up nicely.
FollowupID: 888574

Reply By: skulldug - Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 at 08:55

Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 at 08:55
Hi Carolyn & Peter,

As you have said, GCM is a different matter and in fact the one you might have the biggest problem with.

Assuming though that you are willing to limit what you carry in both the vehicle and the van to remain within the manufacturers recommended weights, you will have a heavy combination which is very likely to benefit from a weight distribution and sway device.

Your rear suspension has been upgraded and the rig sits level but I suggest measuring the distance from ground to wheel arch on the front before and after putting the van onto the tow ball. Even if the vehicle moves up at the front by only a small margin, I would still suggest some correction.

I use the Andersen Hitch which acts as a weight distribution device to move weight from the back to the front axle as well as providing a friction mechanism to reduce sway. I am very happy with mine and believe it is worth every cent. The way it settles the van onto the road both laterally and horizontally is very impressive.

Some argue that it is unsafe to tow a trailer that is heavier than the vehicle. I disagree with this.

It is certainly going to be safer to tow a 3t van with a prime mover but that doesn’t make it unsafe to tow a combination where you are within all specs provided by the makers.

Do note though that you may need to drive slower in some circumstances (eg down steep hills) than you would if you bought a RAM or F250 etc.

Hope this helps

AnswerID: 617096

Follow Up By: Member - Carolyn & Peter L - Friday, Feb 23, 2018 at 11:32

Friday, Feb 23, 2018 at 11:32
Thanks for that very helpful advice. We had measured the distances to the wheel arch before and after installing the suspension - with great results. We checked again yesterday before hitching the van and again after - fortunately there is a difference of less than 0.5cm.

We have held off using our Hayman Reese WDH (which we purchased previously) as it is a bit of a fiddle to install and is very heavy - we have to be careful with tow ball weight and the hitch weighs just short of 25kg - which would add the to tow ball weight considerably.

We have gone ahead and purchased the Hayes Sway Master to try and protect against sudden gusts of wind, passing semi trailers etc.

Yes we agree we have to slow down coming down steep hills and keep our cruising speed at about 90km/hr

Thanks again
FollowupID: 888602

Reply By: Mikee5 - Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 at 13:48

Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 at 13:48
A WDH 'transfers' weight from the rear wheels to the front wheels. To really assess your needs, weigh each axle without the van then with the van. In my case hooking up the van overloaded the rear axle, the WDH brought that back under the limit. A side effect is that my steering is less floaty with the WDH. Before weights became an issue, I towed the same combo for years without WDH, using Lovells HD springs and Polyair airbags with no issues, and off road still remove the WDH.
AnswerID: 617100

Reply By: Batt's - Friday, Feb 23, 2018 at 11:28

Friday, Feb 23, 2018 at 11:28
To me some of the questions your asking would tell me your not that experienced at towing and that is where people get into trouble pushing the limits of their vehicle and their own capabilities and relying on these devices to cover up an unstable and unsafe towing set up. It would be safer to tow a lighter van for a few yrs and have a bigger safety margin between it and the tow vehicles capabilities. Then if a 3t plus van can be justified get an appropriate tow vehicle like an F-truck so your not putting you your family and others at risk

I have never had to tow something heavier than the tow vehicle and probably wouldn't have the need to do so and I have more than enough experience to be competently able to as I have been driving trucks for around 28 yrs. It boils down to the size of the van you think you need and the size of the van that you actually need which is quite often smaller and more importantly lighter so if something should happen to say the vans breaks your vehicle is still able to pull all that weight up safely so you don't fly down a mountain range with it pushing you.

It's something worth trying on flat ground and every body who tows should experience what it's like to try and stop their vehicle with the van or trailer brakes disconnected to get a taste of reality and then turn to the wife and say yeah were good to go and watch her reaction.

Something else to remember is your vehicles towing limits are often greatly reduced when you leave the tarmac for dirt tracks again that's where having a bigger safety margin comes into play happy travels.
AnswerID: 617125

Follow Up By: Member - Carolyn & Peter L - Friday, Feb 23, 2018 at 11:58

Friday, Feb 23, 2018 at 11:58
Not so much inexperienced at towing as much as ending up with a van that is heavier than what we were led to beleive it would be and are now doing everything we can to keep it legal and as safe as possible. Very disappointed (like many others) about the caravan industry and what is happening.

Husband very experienced and was a bus driver for some years. Has driven farm machinery and trucks for years. To counteract my lack of experience I underwent a towing course with the van shortly after we purchased it as I have been very happy towing our kimberly kamper for some years but of course a bigger van is a very different story.

We both share your concerns about safety and putting others at risk which is exactly why we are doing what we are. We have heard very conflicting stories about WDH's (not so much the anti-sway devices) as many people believe they are merely a bandaid and the load and suspension are what needs to be fixed first. Also the WDH weighs just short of 25kg - we don't want to add that if we don't NEED to. Just thought it was worth asking the veterans.....
FollowupID: 888605

Follow Up By: Batt's - Friday, Feb 23, 2018 at 18:15

Friday, Feb 23, 2018 at 18:15
Good to here you both have experience and you have taken the time unlike many others to participate in some training and you are trying to help the situation with the van being heavier.
Sounds like something that may need to be investigated across the board if vans are being sold with incorrect weights on their plates. Sometimes people get extras added before they pick up their vans and don't take that into account either like larger tyres extra gas bottle etc etc. If I purchased one that had incorrect weights I would certainly take it back as they would be legally obligated to correct it.
FollowupID: 888624

Follow Up By: Bobjl - Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 at 10:53

Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 at 10:53
You will likely benefit from reading the towing guidance provided in Collyn Rivers article - see link. https://caravanandmotorhomebooks.com/caravan-and-tow-vehicle-dynamics/

You have an over weight van unfortunately and as others have said, someone is at fault. As to redress that may be difficult but if the compliance plate numbers are inconsistent with weigh bridge meaning the Product is not fit for purpose and is unsafe, then the agent/manufacturer should be accountable [trust manufacturer is not another entrant to the van game and will be gone before long].

You are doing the risk management stuff sensibly, hope outcome is positive, lest you grab a 200 series. Bob
FollowupID: 888662

Follow Up By: Member - Carolyn & Peter L - Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 at 15:48

Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 at 15:48
I probably should clarify that as far as we know the compliance plate is correct although we didn't have the opportunity to check the tare weight before we added payload. The problem was that we were expecting a van with a lower tare weight than what we got - we can tow up to 3.5 with 350kg towball weight with our tow vehicle but with our current van and tare of 2.840 we are sitting about 3000 kg on the axle but once the towball weight of 300 is added (again all withing specs) there is only 140kg left for water to reach our 3.440 ATM - and that is very disappointing when we have capacity in our tanks to carry over 200 litres water.
FollowupID: 888681

Reply By: Blown4by - Friday, Feb 23, 2018 at 17:26

Friday, Feb 23, 2018 at 17:26
You can't go wrong with the Hayman Reese WDH. I have one with 750kg bars and found it makes towing like chalk and cheese with and without it, especially towing two heavy horses which tend to move about a lot. They take some weight off the van axles and the tug rear axle and transfer some to the tug front axle. You can prove this on a weighbridge. Apart from towing level at all times when you hit dips in the road the back axle on the tug tends not to hit the bump stops as often. Improves you steering too and whilst some may laugh I found they improved the fuel economy because when towing level the whole rig just glides along as opposed to getting slower and slower and having to drop a gear to get back up to cruising speed all the time. If you have the chain up type just make sure you don't over tighten the chains or you will have trouble moving from a standstill on gravel surfaces (which proves they work I suppose)
I've never used sway control devices but as with the WDH I think no matter how experienced you are at towing, with the loads you mention they would be just an added safety measure should the need arise and they come in to play. The ALKO seems to be fairly common as standard equipment on many vans these days. You don't say what the D-max weighed but don't forget you can load that up to its rated GVM rather than make the van heavier than the tug and whilst having the van heavier it is preferable to have as much weight as possible on the tug to give you a nice firm footprint for steering, braking, crosswinds, wet roads, etc. Some of the larger 5th wheelers I see being towed essentially by what are no more than an empty ute worry me about what would happen in an emergency when evasive action is required or when turning on wet roads, etc.
AnswerID: 617137

Reply By: Nomadic Navara - Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 at 15:47

Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 at 15:47
Quote- "2. What is to be gained from sway control devices- is it worth the money? What is the most reliable setup for your money? Anybody had experience with the Hayes Sway Master?"

I am yet to here from anyone with genuine experience of them no matter what the brand. The only ones with real experience would be those who have had their van attempt to get out of control and have lived to tell the day. The great majority of us have them fitted hoping that we will never have any experience with them but have them just in case anything extreme happens and they can save us. We all trust that their advertising blurb is kosher.
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AnswerID: 617166

Follow Up By: Member - Carolyn & Peter L - Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 at 16:03

Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 at 16:03
That's what I thought but I guess it's more insurance. I'd love there to be a be a public information service that reports the outcome of investigations into the increasing number of van accidents and rollovers we hear about - there is a lot of assumptions made and it would be really helpful to know exactly what has caused the accidents and if they are truly preventable. I would have to think that any of the vans involved in flips and roll-overs had anti-sway devices fitted!
Even the Hayes Sway Master gives you no feedback if it is activated at any time - you know it's enabled by a blue light but it is on the towbar! Would be great if a warning light came on in the car to say when/if it is activated.
FollowupID: 888683

Follow Up By: Bobjl - Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 at 18:02

Saturday, Feb 24, 2018 at 18:02
Whilst it is a complex issue and lots of careful assessment needed, if you revisit the bit in the link to Collyn Rivers article on Caravan Dynamics I attached, then if you drill down in the article to the sub heading...........
Caravan and tow vehicle dynamics – weight distributing hitches - and read that bit you may get better understanding.

Some SUV and Ute manufacturers say not to use WDH, so you need to get certainty on that. I do wonder the effect on steering/braking if an inordinate amount of weight taken from front, maybe your long wheel base means no real issue.
My own experience with a GVM Upgrade to my 200 series Cruiser to 3850kg [Lovells] used for towing a 3450kg 22 foot Van with usually 340kg on tow ball, with the WDH I am comfortable in all conditions, without it on [I have tested it on a couple of occasions] there is more pitch toss and big trucks passing tend to push pull more. I would prefer not to use a WDH given the stresses and have implemented a rolling bearing surface on chains to overcome much of that end to end stress when tight turning - roundabouts etc.

Note also a WDH is not intended to overcome excessive weight/load on axles and if manufacturers limit exceeded, then that is obviously a separate issue.

FollowupID: 888691

Follow Up By: skulldug - Tuesday, Feb 27, 2018 at 17:24

Tuesday, Feb 27, 2018 at 17:24

I guess we will never know from first hand experience how well a WDH works. The only scary experience I have had was without one. It has never happened since. Perhaps because I now pay mere attention to vehicle set up.

In relation to Collyn River’s opinions on WDHs - his advice is unrealistic and if followed, would see everyone driving RAMS or F-Trucks to tow anything with an ATM of more than 3,000kg.

I’d rather believe the user manual of an established manufacturer than one of Collyn’s campaigns.

FollowupID: 888814

Follow Up By: 9900Eagle - Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018 at 08:09

Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018 at 08:09
Some maybe interested in this vid on trailer sway controls, independent testing of a sway control system and they really do push the boundaries with the load and towball weights. I believe there are a few systems around that brake on one side or the other to control sway and not brake on both sides at the same time.

Indpendant sway test
FollowupID: 888831

Follow Up By: Bobjl - Thursday, Mar 01, 2018 at 09:30

Thursday, Mar 01, 2018 at 09:30
Skulldug, I have found Collyns informative articles on Caravan Dynamics reliable and supported by physics, and they align with other experts opinions. His advice has assisted me to appreciate the considerable risks with caravan/trailer towing and to get my big rig to a safer state. I am interested to learn what exactly in his advice you find unrealistic.
I have however seen many a caravanner that is towing a rig that is [based on my understanding] poorly set up, has a weak/inappropriate tow vehicle and or is well above safe limits, eg very heavy weights on rear bumper central axles etc, and when enquiring as to handling, they say, tows beaut, never had a problem and reckon campaigners such as Collyn are wrong [and do so at their own peril - in my opinion] Safe towing. Bob
FollowupID: 888841

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