Posted 15 May 2013 - 03:27 PM
On weight distrubution, WDH and tow vehicles...
If your tow vehicle sags appreciably when you drop the trailer on the ball, you generally need a weight distribution hitch. While you never should exceed the rating of your hitch/tow vehicle, the necessitiy of a WDH has more to do with rear squat on the tow vehicle than the hitch rating, although some correlation between the two could be drawn. But for example, you could have a 500/5000 lb hitch on a vehicle rated to tow 7500 lbs and wouldn't need a WDH or anti-sway.
When the vehicle is sagging in the rear, your headlights will be "shooting the moon", the steering system will be unweighted and the rear is likely overloaded and you're likely going to want to raise the level of your seat so you can see over the hood. Just because you can tow without a WDH when you really need it, doesn't mean you should. In some states you will be stopped if you look like you're out of kilter because you end up being a hazard not only to yourself and your occupants, but to others on the road as well, especially in an emergency manuver or on slippery road surfaces.
Generally speaking, your vehicle will perform best and be at its safest when weight is distrubuted as evenly as possible and TV and trailer are relatively level. Depending on the wheelbase, some bias to the rear might be tolerable. Sometimes squat can be neutralized with inexpensive suspension aids. In many cases though, it's the WDH that is the right ticket.
I don't use one on the Xterra as have been able to adequately manage trailer weight AND weight distribution without one. But if I needed one, I would give the Andersen a hard look for it's simplicity, integrated anti-sway control and ease of installation. I don't have any personal experience with it and that's why I can't outright recommend it.
Also, I see many "new to towing" Casita owners matching their tow vehicles lb for lb to the GVWR of the Casita (e.g. Casita GVWR 3500lb, a tow vehicle rating of 3500lbs). The belief is that that will be sufficient. Unless that Casita will never weigh more than 2100-2300 lbs of that 3500 lb rating, that's really kind of unnerving for the experienced towing communtiy. In reality, while it will likely PULL 3500#, it's going to be short lived, especially if it has an automatic transmission.
For best results and general longer term, we should stick with tow vehicles where the trailer weight is no greater than ~70% of the tow vehicle rating and then, it's best with a manual transmission or an automatic that has substantial cooling. That number is from experience covering many factors. Sure, it will work for a while, but at some point, you're likely going to be spending some good vacation time and money in the repair shop, notwithstanding general handlingy issues. If you can swing it, try to pick a tow vehicle where the trailer weight is not more than ~ 60% of the tow vehicle rating, especially if you are a longer haul vacationer. A fully loaded 3500# Casita uses up 70% of a 5000 lb tow rating, That's borderline and in my opinion, generally shorter haul flatland territory.
I HAVE towed @ 100% of tow rating 10,000 miles at a time (safely, I might add), with vehicles better equipped for it than a Volvo, et al.. Eventually, It's an expensive proposition, just from the wear and tear standpoint.
From the fuel mileage perspective, the Xterra returns 13-13.5 mpg combined Interstate/secondary roads in the high country of Arizona schlepping the Casita. Our 7.3l turbodiesel will get 14.7mpg combined and has seen as high as 18+ on flat terrain for 300 miles with no headwind.
Wishing safe and happy towing....!