Posted on December 8th, 2015 by TTS2014
At The Trailer Specialist, we provide customers service beyond the sale of our durable trailers. This includes our helpful hints when it comes to trailers, their parts, and how to haul correctly and safely.
Part of that basic trailer knowledge is finding the right hitch for you.
When deciding what hitch is accurate, it is important to recognize your trailer’s overall weight and tongue weight. There are two types of hitches: Weight-carrying hitches and weight-distributing hitches.
Weight-carrying hitches are recommended for trips when the combined weight of the trailer and cargo is 3,500 pounds (1,588 kilograms) or less. Weight-distributing hitches, on the other hand, are recommended for heavier loads. When there’s too much weight on a trailer, the tongue weight – the downward pressure that the tongue exerts on the hitch ball – can get too high.
This causes the tow vehicle and trailer to sag, which can make the whole setup look like a very wide V. A weight-distributing hitch redistributes the tongue weight to the axles of the tow vehicle and trailer, which keeps both vehicles level, or parallel to the ground.
So when deciding which hitch is right for you, here are five things to consider:
Determine the Weight of the Trailer and Tongue
Not all hitches are made the same. The weight that your vehicle can haul is specified by the manufacturer and is listed in the owner’s manual. First, find the gross trailer weight (GTW) and the maximum tongue weight. The tongue weight should be about 10 percent of the trailers weight. Too light and the trailer will sway; too heavy, and it will make your vehicle hard to steer.
Hitches are split into five classes based on weight:
Class 1: 2000 pounds GTW/200 pounds tongue weight
Class 2: 3500 pounds GTW/350 pounds tongue weight
Class 3: 5000 pounds GTW/500 pounds tongue weight
Class 4: 7500 pounds GTW/750 pounds tongue weight
Class 5: 10,000 pounds GTW/1000 pounds tongue weight
The best advice is to install a hitch receiver that’s heavy-duty enough to match your vehicle’s GTW and tongue-weight specs – even if you’re only planning on towing a small trailer.
Selecting Your Hitch
Once you know your vehicle’s towing capacity and your total trailer weight, you have the information you need to select a hitch. As you shop for a hitch, bear in mind that it’s good to have excess capacity. Sometimes your towing needs will increase, and you don’t want to have to purchase a heavier hitch later on.
You can always tow a lighter trailer with a heavier hitch, with the exception of a weight-distribution hitch. Because a weight-distribution hitch is essentially a spring, using a higher rated spring bar than necessary will create a stiff ride and could cause problems
Matching Trailer, Tow Vehicle, and Hitch Class
If your trailer is a fifth wheel or gooseneck design, then you already know you need that style of a hitch, and all that remains is to select a hitch with an appropriate weight rating for your trailer. Make sure to check to make sure your particular trailer does not exceed the weight listed. Most hitches also employ a removable drawbar, which holds the hitch ball. The bars come in two sizes: 1.25 inches (for lightweight pop-ups and bike racks) and 2 inches (for heavy loads).
Shopping for a Hitch
When you know what hitch class you need, talk to your trailer hitch dealer about the designs that are available. Your dealer may have some recommendations for your particular vehicle. Some hitches are made to be unobtrusive and hide under your vehicle’s bumper while others are designed to be more prominently placed or can’t be hidden due to the vehicle’s undercladding.
You have many options in hitch style, quality, finish and in some cases even color, so investigate and invest in the trailer hitch that best meets all your functional and aesthetic needs. Armed with the right basic tools, the manufacturer’s installation instructions, and a little patience, most hitches can be installed by car/truck owners with little mechanical expertise.
Some hitches may require specialized installation techniques, and you should know what the installation requirements will be before you make a purchase. If your vehicle came with a hitch installed by the manufacturer, check to be sure that the class of hitch on your vehicle matches your needs.
Choosing a Ball Mount
Once you’ve selected a hitch, you also need to select the correct ball mount. The right ball mount has a shaft sized to match the receiver tube, and raises or lowers the hitch ball to ensure that your town vehicle and trailer each remain level as you travel.
Hitch balls come in three main flavors: 17/8 inches, 2 inches and 25/16 inches. Generally, the bigger the ball, the more weight it can support. If you own two or more trailers that call for different ball sizes, it’s recommended to buy separate drawbars with the proper balls permanently attached.
For other information about picking out the right hitch for you, give us a call at 209.334.9600. Serving you since 1988, The Trailer Specialist has everything you need when it comes to trailers, including helping tips and hints.
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