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Travel Trailer Hitch Bounce

Originally Published in Trailer Life Magazine

We recently retired and purchased a KZ Sportsman Classic with one axle. It weighs 2,700 pounds and measures 15 feet long. We tow it with a 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee that is rated to tow 3,500 pounds. During our first outing, with slight exaggeration, it felt like we were in a small boat in a choppy sea. Our vehicle went up and down and sideways to our great discomfort. There was no wind and the trailer had no water and very little added weight. Since the Cherokee’s hitch is so high we purchased a 9-inch drop coupling which makes the tow very close to level. I have been researching sway bars and the like but I am hesitant to purchase one as our vehicle’s motion is more up and down than sideways.

— Pete Thorpe | Dickinson, Texas

Because you didn’t specify the details I’m going to go out on a limb here, Pete, and conclude you’re probably using a dead-weight hitch rather than a weight-distributing (WD) hitch. If that’s the case, that bouncing and weaving you feel is the result of the hitch weight on the hind end of your Cherokee. Not only does it load down the rear axle, it then unloads the front axle due to the leverage effect, with the rear axle acting as a fulcrum. Your front suspension and steering are designed to function at a certain ride height, which keeps the alignment correct for optimum steering response, and when you raise the front end a bit it throws off that alignment to some degree. It may feel as if a large bungee cord is attached to your front bumper and lifting the front of the car while driving.

When you traverse bumps or dips in the road, the combined effect of the Cherokee suspension and the trailer suspension flexing vertically plus the leverage of the hitch weight out back can indeed make for an uneasy ride. That’s true even if the trailer is the right weight for your tow rig.

I’d recommend a WD hitch as your next equipment purchase. These hitches are available in a wide range of weight capacities and there’s a right one for your setup that does the job without being overkill. It distributes the hitch weight to both of the tow rig’s rear and front axles and lets you tow with your lashup on an even keel. The friction-type sway control is also a good idea to further keep lateral sway in check, and would be the next good investment. Also, be sure your trailer has at least 10 or 11 percent of its overall weight on its hitch, as this also contributes to safe and stable towing.

–Jeff Johnston

Ken Freund and Jeff Johnston To send your questions to RV Clinic, write to 2575 Vista Del Mar, Ventura, Calif., 93001; or email [email protected].

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