For many people, a pull behind travel trailer or camper is the perfect alternative to a full-sized RV. You have a place to sleep, relax, and even cook, but you’ve still got a standard vehicle to navigate the streets.
Of course, a travel trailer brings its own set of issues. When you’re pulling a 2,000 or 4,000 pound trailer behind you, you’ve got to make sure you have a safe, secure hookup. And in most cases, your vehicle’s standard trailer hitch isn’t enough.
Weight Distribution Hitch Basics
When you tow a trailer with your vehicle’s standard, rear mounted hitch, the weight of the tongue is transferred to the rear axle of the vehicle. In many instances, this puts too much of a strain on the tow vehicle. When you hook your trailer up, if you notice a visible sag, your vehicle’s headlights point upwards, you experience sway, or if it’s difficult to steer or stop, you’re going to need something to help distribute that weight.
The standard chain method.
For years, the standard method of hooking up a weight distribution system involved a special hitch and chains. Even though it was by far the most common method, there were still plenty of potential problems.
Standard hitch hookups still had a decent amount of sway, and they were often difficult and time consuming to hook up and release.
Standard spring bars can sometimes hold back hundreds of pounds of pressure. When it’s time to unhook the trailer, you needed to take special care to use a lifting accessory. If the spring bar was still under pressure, there’s a good chance that it could snap back and cause serious injury.
An Alternative to Using Snap Up Chains
Since the chain method has been the most common way for a long time, many people aren’t aware that there are alternatives out there. Likely the most popular alternative is the Straptek Weight Tension Technology Kit from Lippert.
Instead of chains, this system uses Straptek brackets and straps on your weight distribution system.
The Straptek Weight Tension Technology Kit from Lippert.
What makes this setup so much better? For starters, you get much better sway control. A standard weight distribution system will require at least 8 inches of chain between the snap up hook and the spring bar (and often will require more).
This system reduces the pendulum length by around 50%, dramatically increasing your stability. No longer will you be anxious about simply changing lanes! Reviewers have said that it makes your tow vehicle and your camper feel like one unit.
How to install the Strap Tek system.
There’s very little movement from passing vehicles or wind. Most weight distribution systems require raising the tow vehicle with a manual jack over and over again just to get the right tension.
All you need to make adjustments to a Straptek system is a standard socket wrench! Many people who have used this system also report that turns are much more smooth, without the popping and creaking that a chain hookup produces.
So you’re not just reducing sway, making your ride safer, but you’re decreasing the amount of work you have to do.
Downsides to Using a Strap-Based Weight Distrubutor
One downside that some people have reported to this style of hookup is the potential for the straps to rot and decay in the elements.
But as long as you’re not leaving your hitch out in the weather, you should be fine. The straps are built to be very durable, and as long as they’re treated with care (like you would with any important safety item), they’ll last a very long time.
If you are pulling a travel trailer, there’s a good chance you’ll need a weight distributing hitch (unless you have a very high powered vehicle or a very small trailer). Instead of using chains, take the time to consider another method. Just a quick glance at online reviews shows many people saying that it’s the best RV related decision they’ve ever made.