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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know. Some of you may want to bang your head on a brick wall before talking again about this subject. I understand that it states quite plainly in the Ascent owner's manual that you should not use any type of weigh distributing hitch. I understand that the Trailer Stability Assist system in the Ascent uses a breaking algorithm to counter and minimize trail sway. And I've read the many, many knowledgeable posts from people like Robert Mauro and Kevin Williams on this subject and I want to thank you all for them. It's been really, really helpful for me as I am brand new to trailering.

If my research stopped with this forum I'd be fine and wouldn't question how to proceed but I've been in contact with a man that is pulling the same exact trailer I just purchased with a 2019 Ascent (His is the Touring - I own the Limited). He said when he took delivery in Nebraska and drove it to his home in Washington State he had serious issues with trailer sway. He said that he was unable to go faster than 50 mph on the highway because the trailer was so unstable. He then purchased a weight distributing hitch and described the difference like night and day. Now towing his trailer is perfectly stable with no trailer sway and he can travel at 65 mph with confidence.

I'm not looking for a fight here, just insight. It's disturbing to get this practical use information that runs counter to what such knowledgeable people on this forum have so carefully and thoroughly researched. I sent a link to Robert's pinned post to the man and asked him to post his findings here but I haven't seen anything from him. The reason I'm opening up this conversation is that I'll be taking this trailer from Salt Lake to Maine (2,500 miles) in the next week or so and I want to make the correct and safest decision on how to pull this thing considering I'll be with my wife and three kids. Honestly, I'd pick the safety of my family over some theoretical, potential damage to my vehicle any day. I hope that you can appreciate my dilemma. This is in no way questioning the validity of your guidance on not using a WDH. I'm just trying to square conflicting advice and ultimately make the best choice.

Thank you in advance for any insights you may have.

Trailer -- Shasta 2015 Airflyte Re-Issue
Hitch -- Husky Centerline TS Amazon.com: Husky 32216 Center Line TS with Spring Bars - 400 lb. to 600 lb. Tongue Weight Capacity (2-5/16" Ball): Automotive

Here are some picts of my trailer (It really is a 2015!)

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The man sent me this picture of his hitch:

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A pic, without the WDH, of the trailer connected would be helpful. If you're nose up, or tail heavy, you will cause sway. A WDH will correct for that at the expense of damaging your Ascent. That's sadly a definite, not a guess.

Better yet, balance the weight differently and make sure tongue weight is correct, and the trailer is level and not nose/hitch up.

No matter what, with that big flat front, there's going to be forces yanking at the trailer, and, through it, the car. A WDH will stress the frame by trying to put them where they don't belong. Feels great until you crack a weld or rip a frame rail off the sub frame connection or overload the front suspension (GAWR-R is higher, to carry the higher load).

The Trailer Stability Control System will fight against sway, and, seems to do so very well if the trailer is loaded properly and leveled properly (see video below). It does feel odd, though. It feels like the trailer pulls the Ascent one way, and the Ascent squats the opposing rear wheel the other way to counteract. It works really well though (with a leveled and load balanced trailer) regardless of it feeling odd.

 

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Yeah. You gotta have 10-15% tongue weight with the loaded trailer. That's fundamental and needs to be verified using any tow vehicle with or without a WDH. What was the loaded weights and the tongue weights of your and your friends trailers when being towed?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
A pic, without the WDH, of the trailer connected would be helpful.
A pic, without the WDH, of the trailer connected would be helpful. If you're nose up, or tail heavy, you will cause sway. A WDH will correct for that at the expense of damaging your Ascent. That's sadly a definite, not a guess.

Better yet, balance the weight differently and make sure tongue weight is correct, and the trailer is level and not nose/hitch up.

No matter what, with that big flat front, there's going to be forces yanking at the trailer, and, through it, the car. A WDH will stress the frame by trying to put them where they don't belong. Feels great until you crack a weld or rip a frame rail off the sub frame connection or overload the front suspension (GAWR-R is higher, to carry the higher load).

The Trailer Stability Control System will fight against sway, and, seems to do so very well if the trailer is loaded properly and leveled properly (see video below). It does feel odd, though. It feels like the trailer pulls the Ascent one way, and the Ascent squats the opposing rear wheel the other way to counteract. It works really well though (with a leveled and load balanced trailer) regardless of it feeling odd.

Thanks Robert. I read your previous posts about a properly weighted and balanced trailer. Unfortunately I have no idea how the guy who has the WDH balances his trailer but here are some picts of mine using a Weigh-Safe 8" variable drop hitch. Pretty hitch with a scale on it to measure tongue weight.
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Nicely balanced. What's the tongue weight and cargo distribution like?

Also, what do you think of the tongue scale ball mount?
 

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My experience in now over 6,000 miles of towing a trailer averaging 3,100lbs loaded over a variety of terrain, and with a large flat front on the trailer sitting higher up in the airstream due to it being a raised "Baja Edition," is that it pulls fine with just the standard OEM hitch and electronic stability control at speeds up to 70 mph without sway ever being an issue. But as I've stated in other posts on this subject, I'm obsessive about how I load it, adhering to a specific load-plan every time, plus before each trip it goes across the scales - the vehicle by itself first, followed by the entire setup so I know the hitch weight along with the weight on the trailer axle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Yeah. You gotta have 10-15% tongue weight with the loaded trailer. That's fundamental and needs to be verified using any tow vehicle with or without a WDH. What was the loaded weights and the tongue weights of your and your friends trailers when being towed?
Unfortunately if the man doesn't post here I can't answer those questions for him.
Nicely balanced. What's the tongue weight and cargo distribution like?

Also, what do you think of the tongue scale ball mount?
No Cargo, just full black and grey water tanks (24 gallons). We haven't put anything in it yet. I'm waiting for a RV tech to give it an inspection since we just purchased it used.

I do like the ball mount. It's a beautiful piece of aluminum, light and I love that you can dial in the height to within 3/4" of level. But I'm curious to see if the tongue weight scale is reading high (see below). As you can see it's reading 500 lbs tongue weight. Even though the tanks are full it can't weigh more than 3,100 lbs right now since it's dry weight is 2,892 lbs. It's empty other than the 24 gallons in the tanks. With the trailer being level it should be reading around 350 to 400 lbs tongue weight. Right? It's empty other than the tanks.

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
My experience in now over 6,000 miles of towing a trailer averaging 3,100lbs loaded over a variety of terrain, and with a large flat front on the trailer sitting higher up in the airstream due to it being a raised "Baja Edition," is that it pulls fine with just the standard OEM hitch and electronic stability control at speeds up to 70 mph without sway ever being an issue. But as I've stated in other posts on this subject, I'm obsessive about how I load it, adhering to a specific load-plan every time, plus before each trip it goes across the scales - the vehicle by itself first, followed by the entire setup so I know the hitch weight along with the weight on the trailer axle.
Is there a way to measure tongue weight on a Cat scale? I'm trying to figure out if the scale on my hitch is accurate.
 

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I found my weighsafe to be accurate enough for me. And accurate according to my local CAT scale. It just takes a very keen eye and some experience to see where the tongue weight is. I dont obsess about it, but I try to keep the needle on 500.

If the sway is that bad and you are sure it isnt a load balance issue, I would try friction sway bars before a wdh. I've not noticed the sway control doing anything helpful, but our setup isn't terribly prone to it at speeds of 55-60 mph exceptions of course in windy weather and when being overtaken.

Try inflating your ascents rear tires to the max pressure and the trailers tires to their max, which should be standard practice.

If you have a local CAT scale you can weigh each individual axle, doing that with and without your trailer will tell you how much weight is added to your rear axle on the ascent.
 

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Is there a way to measure tongue weight on a Cat scale? I'm trying to figure out if the scale on my hitch is accurate.
The way I do it is to first weigh the loaded tow vehicle by itself, then hook up the trailer and get two weights - the car with the tongue weight now on it and a separate weight for the trailer axle - both are weighed simultaneously as there are two separate scale platforms. I don't use a CAT scale, but use instead a Washington State DOT roadside scale when it's closed, but I don't see why you couldn't use a CAT scale as I described, you will just have to pay for it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I found my weighsafe to be accurate enough for me. And accurate according to my local CAT scale. It just takes a very keen eye and some experience to see where the tongue weight is. I dont obsess about it, but I try to keep the needle on 500.

If the sway is that bad and you are sure it isnt a load balance issue, I would try friction sway bars before a wdh. I've not noticed the sway control doing anything helpful, but our setup isn't terribly prone to it at speeds of 55-60 mph exceptions of course in windy weather and when being overtaken.

Try inflating your ascents rear tires to the max pressure and the trailers tires to their max, which should be standard practice.

If you have a local CAT scale you can weigh each individual axle, doing that with and without your trailer will tell you how much weight is added to your rear axle on the ascent.
Oh. Got it. Now I understand how to weigh tongue weight. Thank you. And thanks for the other tips as well. I guess if I'm calculating for 15% hitch weight at 3100 lbs we're right at 465lbs. I stood on the damn thing and I weigh just over 200lbs and it showed 100lbs so . . . . I let you all know what the engineer says over at weigh-safe when I talk to him on Monday.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The way I do it is to first weigh the loaded tow vehicle by itself, then hook up the trailer and get two weights - the car with the tongue weight now on it and a separate weight for the trailer axle - both are weighed simultaneously as there are two separate scale platforms. I don't use a CAT scale, but use instead a Washington State DOT roadside scale when it's closed, but I don't see why you couldn't use a CAT scale as I described, you will just have to pay for it.
Thank you! Makes sense.
 

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Oh. Got it. Now I understand how to weigh tongue weight. Thank you. And thanks for the other tips as well. I guess if I'm calculating for 15% hitch weight at 3100 lbs we're right at 465lbs. I stood on the damn thing and I weigh just over 200lbs and it showed 100lbs so . . . . I let you all know what the engineer says over at weigh-safe when I talk to him on Monday.
It's a hydraulic scale so it takes a while to settle at the appropriate pressure, however, the scale is most accurate at a certain % of its max. Also, keep the weigh safe out of temperature extremes it will be more accurate that way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
It's a hydraulic scale so it takes a while to settle at the appropriate pressure, however, the scale is most accurate at a certain % of its max. Also, keep the weigh safe out of temperature extremes it will be more accurate that way.
Thanks Ruben. It is a beautifully built hitch.
 

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I know. Some of you may want to bang your head on a brick wall before talking again about this subject. I understand that it states quite plainly in the Ascent owner's manual that you should not use any type of weigh distributing hitch. I understand that the Trailer Stability Assist system in the Ascent uses a breaking algorithm to counter and minimize trail sway. And I've read the many, many knowledgeable posts from people like Robert Mauro and Kevin Williams on this subject and I want to thank you all for them. It's been really, really helpful for me as I am brand new to trailering.

If my research stopped with this forum I'd be fine and wouldn't question how to proceed but I've been in contact with a man that is pulling the same exact trailer I just purchased with a 2019 Ascent (His is the Touring - I own the Limited). He said when he took delivery in Nebraska and drove it to his home in Washington State he had serious issues with trailer sway. He said that he was unable to go faster than 50 mph on the highway because the trailer was so unstable. He then purchased a weight distributing hitch and described the difference like night and day. Now towing his trailer is perfectly stable with no trailer sway and he can travel at 65 mph with confidence.

I'm not looking for a fight here, just insight. It's disturbing to get this practical use information that runs counter to what such knowledgeable people on this forum have so carefully and thoroughly researched. I sent a link to Robert's pinned post to the man and asked him to post his findings here but I haven't seen anything from him. The reason I'm opening up this conversation is that I'll be taking this trailer from Salt Lake to Maine (2,500 miles) in the next week or so and I want to make the correct and safest decision on how to pull this thing considering I'll be with my wife and three kids. Honestly, I'd pick the safety of my family over some theoretical, potential damage to my vehicle any day. I hope that you can appreciate my dilemma. This is in no way questioning the validity of your guidance on not using a WDH. I'm just trying to square conflicting advice and ultimately make the best choice.

Thank you in advance for any insights you may have.

Trailer -- Shasta 2015 Airflyte Re-Issue
Hitch -- Husky Centerline TS Amazon.com: Husky 32216 Center Line TS with Spring Bars - 400 lb. to 600 lb. Tongue Weight Capacity (2-5/16" Ball): Automotive

Here are some picts of my trailer (It really is a 2015!)

View attachment 4236 View attachment 4237 View attachment 4239 View attachment 4238

The man sent me this picture of his hitch:

View attachment 4241
I fully understand your concern and applaud your willingness to ask questions. However, it's very important to understand all the pertinent facts rather than listen to any single source such as the person you mention who insisted on using a WDH/Anti-Sway hitch.

I recently had a similar conversation with a proprietor of an RV dealership famous for his YouTube videos. He implied that the Ascent and other vehicles that cannot use a WDH/Anti-Sway hitch are therefore unsuitable for towing many travel trailers even within their towing limits.

First of all, we already know this is entirely untrue. Many here have reported successfully and safely towing travel trailers and all kinds of other trailers of all sizes right up to the Ascent's weight limits without a WDH/Anti-Sway hitch. Many of these have been documented in Ken Myers' website: Subaru Ascent Real World Towing Examples.

Second, you need to understand that many people who tow trailers do not do their homework and do not know how to properly load a trailer. Even those that do may not be diligent enough to always ensure that their trailers are properly loaded. This can and does create scenarios where the trailers are tail heavy which can cause serious and dangerous sway. WDH/Anti-Sway hitches attempt a catch-all solution for this problem so it's no wonder that RV dealers and owners swear by them. This way they can sell travel trailers to any uninformed or careless person without as much worry about how they load their trailers. This, however, does not mean that they are required for safe towing.

Large and midsize unibody SUVs and CUVs represent a relatively new class of vehicles able to seriously tow travel trailers. Unlike most large trucks, such vehicles do not have a body-on-frame design and therefore may not be suitable for a WDH/Anti-Sway hitch which requires a heavy, stiff frame to work properly and without frame damage. If you wish to tow with such a vehicle, you cannot rely upon a WDH/Anti-Sway hitch to remedy improper trailer loading. Instead, you're going to need to diligently ensure your trailer is properly loaded front to back with 9-14% of the trailer's actual Gross Vehicle Weight on the hitch ball. If you think this is bothersome, keep in mind that this is what everyone pulling a trailer should be doing in the first place, not relying on a mechanical band-aid such as a WDH/Anti-Sway hitch to fix improperly loaded trailers.

So, to address your questions and concerns:

- The Ascent cannot and must not ever use a WDH/Anti-Sway hitch. If you do so, like the person you mention, and you improperly load the trailer where the WDH/Anti-Sway hitch is stressing the frame, you may incur serious damage to the frame of your Ascent which will probably not be covered under your warranty. You are risking potentially thousands of dollars in damage as well as possibly damaging the frame to the point where the car may be unsafe to drive. Do not do this under any circumstances no matter what anyone tells you. It's right in your Ascent's owner's manual, believe that if nothing else.

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- The Ascent is an excellent and safe tow vehicle provided that you properly size and load your trailer to ensure that you stay well within the Ascent's towing limits for total weight and hitch weight, and properly load your trailer front to back to ensure that you always have 9-14% of the trailer's actual Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), i.e. the total actual weight of the trailer and all cargo (not the GVWR), on the hitch ball.

I'm actually grateful that the Ascent does not allow the use of a WDH/Anti-Sway hitch because this way I have properly learned and will always practice proper trailer loading rather than relying on a mechanical band-aid which may or may not always compensate for unsafe loading.


For more information on unibody vs body-on-frame, watch this:

 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I fully understand your concern and applaud your willingness to ask questions. However, it's very important to understand all the pertinent facts rather than listen to any single source such as the person you mention who insisted on using a WDH/Anti-Sway hitch.

<Break>

I'm actually grateful that the Ascent does not allow the use of a WDH/Anti-Sway hitch because this way I have properly learned and will always practice proper trailer loading rather than relying on a mechanical band-aid which may or may not always compensate for unsafe loading.
Thank you. This is very well reasoned and understandable and I appreciate the time you spent in the reply. My follow up question is based on this assessment of what I think is being communicated in this conversation.

1. The Ascent's unibody construction does not permit the use of Weight Distributing Hitches.
2. Trailer sway is mostly due to improper loading of travel trailers so if you load your trailer properly you don't need a WDH. With proper loading techniques (9%-14% GVW on the ball that does not exceed 500lbs), proper ball height (Trailer is level and inline with the Ascent) and with the Ascent's use of Trailer Sway Assist the use of a WDH is not necessary.

Okay, I get all of that. But what about this?


This is a trailer anti-sway bar and mounts to the the side of the hitch. It is non load bearing so it would not affect the unibody construction of the Ascent. True, it would affect sway and that would influence the Trailer Sway Assist system of the Ascent BUT my question to you all is "Would that be beneficial?" My sense is that it wouldn't interfere with TSA, it would merely dampen sway (through friction) so that the TSA system would not need to activate or it would activate less often. My thought is that the braking action of the TSA system would still result in the trailer sway coming under control with the anti-sway bar attached. The sway bar would just reduce the intensity of the swaying trailer that the TSA system is tasked to control. So how is that not a good thing?

Here's the thing that is not being addressed so far in this thread. Trailer sway occurs because of various factors, bow waves from tractor trailers, wind gusts, emergency maneuvering and probably a lot of other things that I'm unaware of. And yes improperly balanced trailers will amplify these inputs but a properly balanced trailer does not prevent them. I don't think anyone on this forum is saying that a properly loaded trailer being pulled by an Ascent will NEVER experience trailer sway. So my reasoning is that if you could add a mechanical device that doesn't interfere with the unibody design and doesn't adversely affect the TSA system why not consider that mechanical device if it does indeed decrease trailer sway?

Does that reasoning work or am I missing something?

Tim
 

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Okay, I get all of that. But what about this?

https://www.amazon.com/CURT-17200-Sway-Control-Kit/dp/B000HLO7QA
This is a trailer anti-sway bar and mounts to the the side of the hitch. It is non load bearing so it would not affect the unibody construction of the Ascent.
Alas, that does indeed transfer forces onto the Ascent. Any type of torsion bar, whether designed to compensate for weight forces or sway forces, works in a very similar fashion of trying to move the forces forward on the car body, and stiffen the connection (instead of leaving it a swivel point).

Remember, the ball forward is the Ascent.

Also, the Ascent has a built in Trailer Sway Control system that cannot be disabled. I'd not want the computer to be fighting against a mechanical device.
 
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