Weight distribution hitches

Submitted: Sunday, Mar 23, 2008 at 13:30
ThreadID: 124571 Views:5542 Replies:11 FollowUps:0
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I'm intrigued to see a post on that "other" Bushtracker forum from somebody with a Toyota Sahara towing an 18ft BT and stating that they do not use a weight distribution hitch on what I'm guessing to be a loaded van weight of around 3 tonne. Despite the oft-stated aim of BT's management to look after its customers and a pretty heavy-handed approach to offering company advice on every post in that forum, the post has stood for well over a week without a hint that this is less than smart. I recall the question of weight distribution hitches once being expressed in terms of "just how much loss of steering/roadholding control are you prepared to forgo?".
Surely, in 2008, the value of weight distribution hitches is not subject to any sort of dispute? What do BT owners on this forum think about it?

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Reply By: Miker - Monday, Mar 24, 2008 at 06:31

Monday, Mar 24, 2008 at 06:31
Hi Michael,
I tow our 18' with a L/C ute without WDH and have done since new (2005) and haven't had any problems. Station wagon, can't comment .
I will ask the question, do people towing with utes use WDH's, or are happy with the factory suspension or have you upgraded to heavier suspension?
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Reply By: Fred & Marj - Monday, Mar 24, 2008 at 08:45

Monday, Mar 24, 2008 at 08:45
Hi Michael

I have towed my 18' with initially a Disco series 2 with SLS and now a LC 2006 TD in both cases without WDH and they tow without any problems, I changed the Disco due to lack of power i.e 2.5l vs 4.2l which makes a hell of a difference.

I too have watched the various discussions re the great WD debate and towed all sorts of things over the past 30 years and just don't see the need if you have the balance of the caravan right and your vehicle is in a level position when loaded.

I did though fit airbags to the LC just in case and they are excellent you are always able to have the correct attitude i,e, van slightly down at the front and the tow vehicle level.


Helen & Wayne

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Reply By: Tellem Bugrem - Monday, Mar 24, 2008 at 17:22

Monday, Mar 24, 2008 at 17:22
Michael et al,

We have an 18ft BT @ 3 tonne and an LC100 V8, (also 3t loaded), previously an LC100 a/m turbo Diesel. Have airbags in rear springs and use the WDH mainly because it reduces the pitching (fore and aft) that you will typically get on most bitumen and gravel roads in Austrelia. We both have bad backs and the pitching does not help.

The purpose of the WDH is to assist to evenly distributing the ball weight between the front and rear wheels of the Tug and this is a very important safety issue, particularly when braking.

If your rig is "level and balanced" when standing still and "feels good" when towing, I reckon you are running the gauntlet, safety wise, as the rig probably won't "feel good" and remain "level and balanced" in an emergency braking situation.

If the WDH contributes to safer towing (which it undoubtedly does) then it is advisable to spend the dollars and put up with the bit of "fiddling around" to hitch and unhitch.

I certainly would not promote travelling without them.

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Reply By: Innkeepers - Monday, Mar 24, 2008 at 17:26

Monday, Mar 24, 2008 at 17:26
Hi Michael,
Yes, we have an 18' BT and tow with a 100 series cruiser and certainly don't have a need for WDH. As above, if you have the weight distribution in your BT down to a plan when you load it up and use your water tanks in accordance with that plan then you can achieve good drawbar balance.

Our only modification to the Landcruiser is a set of Poly Air Bags in the rear coils and we don't have any rocking or rolling as we travel and the rig level is always good.

Michael, what size Bushtracker do you own and what do you tow it with??
Rick & Julie
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Reply By: Grumblebum & Dragon - Monday, Mar 24, 2008 at 23:04

Monday, Mar 24, 2008 at 23:04
How many of you not using a WDH have had to do an a real emergency stop? or got the rig 'out of shape' ie after dropping off the edge of the tarmac where there is a drop onto rough gravel.

I would not dream of towing without it - and yes my 19' rig tows fine with the Tojo 100 Series TD and no WDH.

I think they are a life saver in an emergency situation and help prevent jack-knifing.

$750 worth of peace of mind.

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Reply By: Tassie Bushies - Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 at 08:05

Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 at 08:05
For thoes contemplating towing any van without them, I ask, why do you wear seat belts & keep your tyres & brakes in good repair?
They just might keep you out of hospital or maybe even a box, someday.
BE SAFE & happy travelling.
Regards Peter.

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Reply By: CD & JW - Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 at 08:53

Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 at 08:53
Highly desirable is our comment ( if you are close to the load limit, then strongly advised).

And don't forget the dealing with regret regarding your victim coming the other way if you get into difficulties.
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Reply By: Maximus - Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 at 09:11

Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 at 09:11
I would not leave home without one. They do what they are supposed to do ie distribute the weight evenly over the tow vehicle. I have $180000 tied up in our setup, so what is $750 to insure you have a safe towing set up.
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Reply By: Kiwi1 - Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 at 10:17

Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 at 10:17
I must say that I'm surprised at some of the first replies. I thought that WDHs had long ago moved from the realm of "debate" and were accepted as sound and sensible safety engineering.
When we first looked at vans about five years ago, we were told at the BT stand at the Sydney show that BTs "didn't need" WDHs. Just inside the pavilion next to BT, Hayman Reece had a 4WD hitched to a tandem axle van with all eight wheels sitting on scales. The demonstration left no doubt that the addition of the WDH evened out the weight on all wheels, which was clearly out of whack without the WDH. To the eye, everything looked OK but the scales told a different story.
Over the next couple of years I monitored the forums while choosing our van and listened to some pretty qualified people stating the case for WDHs. I'm not an engineer, but it's pretty easy to summarise the advice from the experts.
Firstly, that changes to the tow vehicle's rear suspension do not change the effect that towball load will have on the front wheels. It's a simple and logical concept: the rear axle is a fulcrum upon which the tow vehicle pivots like a seesaw. If you add weight to one end (the towball) the other end must rise. It doesn't matter what suspension you use. In fact you could beef it up to solid steel blocks - the front end must still lose weight if you add weight to the towball. The removal of weight from the front wheels will be exacerbated by undulating road surfaces, reducing the load on the front and therefore the grip on the road, braking effectiveness and wheel camber angles.
This doesn't mean that suspension changes are not a good idea, but for a different reason. Our 100series TD has had its suspension modified. But the modifications were determined by the overall load to be carried by the truck, not just the ball load of our 3 tonne van.
Another way of looking at it is to think of the WDH bars as wheelbarrow handles. Lift them up and the weight is sent to the front wheels.
An acknowledged authority on many caravan and motorhome issues, Collyn Rivers, was one of the major exponents of WDHs on this and other forums. I recall once that, when finding himself preaching to a brick wall, he asked just how much loss of front-end control the non-believer was prepared to accept. The answer, of course, should be none.

I started this thread when I saw the unchallenged statement on the other BT forum. We had just had the experience of arriving on the scene moments after a caravan went out of control and overturned on the road out of Busselton in WA. The driver was pretty shaken, couldn't remember what had prompted the incident and claimed that everything had always been OK. The van went into its death throes, sending the rig across three lanes and leaving it facing the opposite direction, on its side and with the tug suspended in the air on the hitch. The van was a tandem axle and the driver thought it was correctly loaded and had been travelling perfectly. It didn't have a WDH. It was a reasonably busy 110km stretch and it takes little imagination to see how this ordinary incident could have created headlines but for a fluke of timing.

I see that within a few hours of starting this post, it appeared to prompt a response on the other forum by somebody who suggested the WDH unbeliever might be being a bit cavalier. Disappointingly, there is still no response from BT.

AnswerID: 574752

Reply By: Slider - Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 at 23:34

Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008 at 23:34
Hi all,
ok I am a firm believer in the WDH as we had our bushtracker roll and if it was not for the WDH I hate to think where we would be now!!
In our instance our tow vehicle and the bushtracker where in a serious whip situation which eventually slowed down, once the bushtracker and our cruiser came just about to a stand still it was the WHD and the momentum of the bushtracker that rolled the cruiser as well.
I dont think it should be a cirumstance of WE DONT NEED THEM! I think it should be a MUST- ON EVERY TOWING SET UP. As pointed out the cost of $750 means more peace of mind and not just the perception that everything looks right!
Regardless of how careful you are its better not to leave things to chance.
AnswerID: 574753

Reply By: Noosa Fox - Wednesday, Mar 26, 2008 at 06:54

Wednesday, Mar 26, 2008 at 06:54
I am also a fan of WDH and by law have to have one with our F250 when the ball weight exceeds 227kgs or the towed weight exceeds 2270kgs.

For those who say that they do not need one because of their suspension set up or what ever reason, please consider the reply above by Rob Caldwell.

Take your vehicle to a weigh bridge where you can weigh axle weights individually.
Measure the weights on front and rear axles and record details.

Attach the caravan which will normally be around the 300kgs and now record the axle weights. I believe that you will find that the weight carried on the rear axle has increased by more than the 300kgs of ball weight and that the weight on the front axle is now less than what it was without the ball weight.
(It is the same principle as a child's see saw, put weight on one end and the other end lifts up. The rear axle with good suspension may not sag but it acts as the centre point of the see saw.)

Connect up a WDH and apply force to the bars and you will then see weight transferred by this lever action from rear to front axle.

While it is important to have the caravan weight well balanced, it is also very important to have the axle weights of the tow vehicle properly balanced.

Front axles without sufficient weight reduces the efficiency of both steering and braking.

Many so called 4WD equipment specialists just cannot grasp Newtons law of physics that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

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