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Old 02-17-2017, 04:20 PM   #1
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Hitch Question for Folks Who Tow a 19' Airstream

Do you use a weight distribution hitch and, if so, what kind? I have a 2014 19' International that I tow with a 2014 diesel Mercedes ML 350 (which is rated to tow 7,200 lbs.). I understand the advantages of using a weight distribution hitch, but think mine is too big -- the hitch itself weighs a ton and each bar is rated to 1,000 lbs. I want to be safe on the road, but it is a big pain (and hard on the back) to use the hitch I have. Could I get away with a lighter one... or none at all?

Many posts related to weight distribution hitches indicate that they are absolutely necessary "unless towing a 16' or 19' Airstream". Now I don't know what to do. Thank you for your help.
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Old 02-17-2017, 05:08 PM   #2
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Like all full independent suspension SUV's with electronic stabilization systems, your vehicle is very stable on the roadway. But you still need a w.d. hitch and sway control to stabilize the Airstream and keep the steering axle of your vehicle firmly planted for safe handling and braking, especially in wet, slippery road conditions.

The bar size rating is dependent on the hitch weight of the Airstream, and the weight of gear you carry in the SUV behind the rear axle. The w.d. bars have to be able to lift both loads to at least restore steering axle weight to before before hitching and loading the SUV. The weight distribution and it's sway control features will be best if you keep the hitch ball as close to the rear bumper as possible.

When you know the loaded Airstream's hitch weight and the weight of gear carried behind you SUV's rear axle, that is the bar size rating you need to ensure effective weight distribution.

So avoid light w.d. hitches that cannot meet this goal. An effective weight distribution hitch will be heavy. We bought a Hensley/ProPride hitch for other reasons, but a bonus is the hitch head and w.d. bars stay on the trailer tongue. Only the receiver drop bar separates from the assembly. We pull ahead about a foot, pull the receiver hitch pin, and slide the drop bar back into the hitch head on the tongue where it stays. Very little lifting effort.
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Old 02-17-2017, 06:20 PM   #3
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I would agree with dkottum with going with Hensley. You will be very pleased with its performance, outstanding control and comfort. They make a sightly smaller "cub" unit for lighter RV units.
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Old 02-17-2017, 06:35 PM   #4
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I believe that something more along the lines of a Blue Ox or Andersen would be a better fit for your 19. Lighter, cleaner, less maintenance and complexity at a much better price point. You will probably need more anti Sway control than weight distribution.
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Old 02-18-2017, 09:28 AM   #5
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Having owned the Blue Ox and Andersen hitches and now owning a Hensley. I'm not impressed by Andersen at all. Very little weight distribution and sway control is OK at best. It was fairly easy to hitch though. The BO I found to be a better hitch. It is heavy and potentially harmful if you don't insure you have all the weight off the spring bars. I made that mistake once! That being said, the stinger for the Hensley is lighter than either of the other two hitches. Yes Hensley is heavy but it's only one time you have to handle it. Maintaince is about the same as the others. The Hensley seems complex but once it is installed and setup you really don't need to be to concerned about the hitch other than routine greasing and checking tightness of bolts.
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Old 02-18-2017, 11:39 AM   #6
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I use a Reese trunnion bar WD hitch. I tow my 19 Bambi with a half ton. I don't have automatic ride height, so I have to use weight distribution. I don't use sway control, though I've often considered it.

The rule of thumb I've always heard is to use weight distribution, adjusted with the automatic ride leveling turned off. If the automatic level ever failed, you could still safely tow.

Andy from inland RV swears by 600 lb bars, as they give a soft ride; if I remember correctly, you need to have a 1-2 inch deflection in the bar for a soft ride. Use heavier bars only if the deflection exceeds 2 inches.

I started with 800 lb bars, and they had hardly any deflection when properly adjusted. With 600 lb bars,there is some deflection.

Just my thoughts...
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Old 02-18-2017, 11:50 AM   #7
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We have used a Hensley hitch for our 19' since we bought the trailer new in 2002 and would not want to be without it. Although we have had two Jeep Grand Cherokees with air suspension, we appreciate the weight distribution provided by the hitch and, of course, the Hensley (like the ProPride) allows no sway. The only thing we have to move around is the stinger. Everything else stays attached to the trailer tongue.

The cost of a Hensley (or ProPride) is nothing to sneeze at and needs careful consideration. That said, they are wonderful devices.

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Old 02-18-2017, 12:21 PM   #8
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I have the Eazy-Lift on my FC19. No problems. The SwayBar tends to get noisy on turns, but no biggie.
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Old 02-18-2017, 12:41 PM   #9
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Now for the contrarian opinion: the only reason you need a weight distribution hitch for your MB and trailer rig is to keep the MB headlights pointed down on low beam. Otherwise, you are good to go. You certainly don't need an hitch costing over $1K plus installation. Visit you local MB dealer and talk to the shop super about the ability of your vehicle to tow your 19' trailer if you want a 2nd opinion.
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Old 02-18-2017, 12:57 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by USAtraveler View Post
Now for the contrarian opinion: the only reason you need a weight distribution hitch for your MB and trailer rig is to keep the MB headlights pointed down on low beam. Otherwise, you are good to go. You certainly don't need an hitch costing over $1K plus installation. Visit you local MB dealer and talk to the shop super about the ability of your vehicle to tow your 19' trailer if you want a 2nd opinion.
You ought to weigh the steering axle of your tow vehicle empty, and then with your loaded vehicle and Airstream before posting that potentially dangerous advice. If your headlights are high you have also reduced the weight on your steering axle, and it's control and braking, especially when the road gets slippery. Adding air bags to lift the rear of the tow vehicle does nothing to restore weight to the steering axle or take weight off the rear axle, it only looks better.
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Old 02-18-2017, 02:49 PM   #11
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Don't let all the WD hitch aficionados frighten you with the unknown.
Your request for info indicates the subject is a big unknown for you...and we are all easily frightened by horror-tales of the unknown.
I've towed plenty of trailers that weigh more than your 19" Int'l and NONE of them needed weight-distribution hitches. (Of course, those that drank that KookAid are loathe to admit they either didn't try it without first... or loathe to admit to themselves they were so foolish as to spend a lot of money and trouble on something they didn't need...so they want everyone to follow in their footsteps.)

YOu likely do not need a WD hitch at all. Tow a trip or two and see.
You MIGHT need some rear suspension beef-up, such as airbag support, but unlikely on a MB, which has excellent suspension already.

You likely will find that a friction-type anti-sway device will make your towing more pleasant and safer, and that's a $50 add-on if you do it yourself, or $100 if you have someone else weld the small sway-bar onto your regular ball-hitch.

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Old 02-18-2017, 03:56 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Boxite View Post
Don't let all the WD hitch aficionados frighten you with the unknown.
Your request for info indicates the subject is a big unknown for you...and we are all easily frightened by horror-tales of the unknown.
I've towed plenty of trailers that weigh more than your 19" Int'l and NONE of them needed weight-distribution hitches. (Of course, those that drank that KookAid are loathe to admit they either didn't try it without first... or loathe to admit to themselves they were so foolish as to spend a lot of money and trouble on something they didn't need...so they want everyone to follow in their footsteps.)

YOu likely do not need a WD hitch at all. Tow a trip or two and see.
You MIGHT need some rear suspension beef-up, such as airbag support, but unlikely on a MB, which has excellent suspension already.

You likely will find that a friction-type anti-sway device will make your towing more pleasant and safer, and that's a $50 add-on if you do it yourself, or $100 if you have someone else weld the small sway-bar onto your regular ball-hitch.

I'm standing-by with Nomex-suit on.
Well said!
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Old 02-18-2017, 04:55 PM   #13
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Do you use -- snip -- think mine is too big -- 1000 lbs. -- snip -- Could I get away with a lighter one... or none at all? -- snip -- help.
Yes - BOSP - yes it is - 350 or 550 lbs - yes - no - you got it, use it or lose it.

Do your research and decide for yourself. IMHO - friction is not as good as springs or levers to dampen or prevent sway. Figure out what you believe is appropriate for your application. Pat
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Old 02-18-2017, 05:50 PM   #14
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I've a 19c and tow with a ram 1500. I feel the WD hitch etc. is beneficial and wouldn't tow without it. I use a blue ox with 750# bars. It's what blue ox recommended but I would try some 550# if I had the chance. But have no complaints and it all tows great!
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Old 02-18-2017, 07:25 PM   #15
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The problem is the 1,000 lb bars. I use an Equilizer hitch with 600 lb bars with my 20' FC and they seem just about right.
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Old 02-19-2017, 08:59 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boxite View Post
Don't let all the WD hitch aficionados frighten you with the unknown.
Your request for info indicates the subject is a big unknown for you...and we are all easily frightened by horror-tales of the unknown.
I've towed plenty of trailers that weigh more than your 19" Int'l and NONE of them needed weight-distribution hitches. (Of course, those that drank that KookAid are loathe to admit they either didn't try it without first... or loathe to admit to themselves they were so foolish as to spend a lot of money and trouble on something they didn't need...so they want everyone to follow in their footsteps.)

YOu likely do not need a WD hitch at all. Tow a trip or two and see.
You MIGHT need some rear suspension beef-up, such as airbag support, but unlikely on a MB, which has excellent suspension already.

You likely will find that a friction-type anti-sway device will make your towing more pleasant and safer, and that's a $50 add-on if you do it yourself, or $100 if you have someone else weld the small sway-bar onto your regular ball-hitch.

I'm standing-by with Nomex-suit on.
Mechanics and TV aside, I think your comfort level towing plays a part as well. We've towed our 19 for years with no add-ons. Not the case with our 23, WD a necessity.
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Old 02-19-2017, 09:56 AM   #17
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We tow a 2016 19' with a Silverado with towing package. We do not use either a wd or sway control. The truck and trailer specs say we don't need them and so far driving has confirmed that. You may want to read (a lot) about trailering, towing and specs. The chevy trailering guides are useful for definitions and explanations. I would also read and understand your suv's information as configured and the trailer's information, and understand it so you can make your own informed decision and feel comfortable doing so. Knowing Mercedes I would also go in and have their service people answer any questions you may have, and escalate if the person doesn't seem to answer appropriately. Best of luck with your adventure.
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Old 02-19-2017, 10:16 AM   #18
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Weight distribution and sway control definitely improve towing comfort and safety. I've towed trailers without them as well, and have experienced uncontrollable sway with a heavily loaded utility trailer. No thanks to that experience. I still tow our boat and utility trailers without w.d. or sway control, but the design, weights, and distance and speed traveled are quite different from our Airstream.

Some people have towed travel trailers without w.d/sway control and some have driven years without using seatbelts and had no problems. Same deal.
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Old 02-19-2017, 10:41 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by dkottum View Post
Weight distribution and sway control definitely improve towing comfort and safety. I've towed trailers without them as well, and have experienced uncontrollable sway with a heavily loaded utility trailer. No thanks to that experience. I still tow our boat and utility trailers without w.d. or sway control, but the design, weights, and distance and speed traveled are quite different from our Airstream.

Some people have towed travel trailers without w.d/sway control and some have driven years without using seatbelts and had no problems. Same deal.
No. They're NOT the "same deal."

Again,...that's the fall-back answer so many use when they want to frighten people into making the same choice that some unknowlegeable folks have fallen for. You don't need a fire truck to put out a candle, and although if you can get it thru security... parachutes have proven helpful in some occasions...they are definitely NOT required equipment for airline passengers.
THAT ... is a similar deal in the case of small Bambi trailers with typical low tongue weights pulled by proper tow-vehicles.

The best way to determine if you need a heavy, expensive, complicated WD hitch... is to tow your own trailer with your own TV and then make an informed decision based on that experience.

IMO.
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Old 02-19-2017, 11:47 AM   #20
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The factory hitch weight of a FC 19 is 550 lbs. Loaded it may weigh 700 lbs which you are setting on the o.p.'s Mercedes hitch receiver. That will unload the steering axle significantly. Then you put another 100-200 lbs gear in the back of the Mercedes, maybe a passenger. That will unload the steering axle even more.

Chances are the Mercedes has a load leveling system so the tow vehicle levels itself and all looks good. But the load leveling does NOT distribute weight, the heavy load remains on the rear axle and the steering axle remains light.

Chances are the Mercedes electronic stabilization devices will help it feel okay on dry pavement at 55-60 mph with no need to steer suddenly, or brake suddenly, no gusting crosswinds on a steep downhill in a curve when a semi blows by. When driving conditions are good it may be okay, but in reality it's a dangerously unstable setup.
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