A trailer hitch is the mechanism that attaches a trailer to your vehicle. The trailer has a socket on the end of the arm (or tongue) that fits onto a ball, found on the tow bar of the towing vehicle. The hitch refers to the entire system.
Hitches are used on SUVs, trucks and other vehicles to tow trailers, boats and campers. It is an important piece of equipment and it must be suited both to the towing vehicle and the intended trailer. The wrong hitch can cause dangerous load balance and can fail under loads it is not designed for.
It is important to have a hitch and vehicle that is designed to pull the loads that will be required of it. A car may have a smaller tow bar and hitch to pull small trailers, but is not designed for heavier loads. Every vehicle has a specified limit as to the loads it can tow. The tow bar is installed on the vehicle, under the tailgate; it must be installed correctly.
Be Familiar with Hitch Terms
Ball – The ball is a ball-shaped piece found on the vehicle hitch that allows for pivoting. This ball attachment allows the trailer to adjust to road conditions and corners smoothly, and without jarring
Ball Mount – This is the part of the trailer that is lowered onto the ball. It is the important connector between the vehicle and the trailer.
Gooseneck Hitch – This hitch is different than a ball hitch because the trailer is mounted onto the center of a truck bed.
Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) – This is the weight the hitch can bear when the trailer is full.
Tongue Weight (TW) – This is the amount of downward force the tongue can bear.
Weight Distribution (WD) – This is how evenly the weight is distributed on the trailer. Correct weight distribution can increase safety while towing.
Pin Weight – The actual weight that is sitting on the pin.
Hitch pin – A steel bar that slides through the draw bar and holds the mechanism together.
4 Types of Trailer Hitch
1. Ball Hitch
This is the most common hitch for most SUVs and pick-up trucks. This consists of a metal ball that is attached to the tow bar of the vehicle. The ball sizes vary with larger ones suitable for heavier towing. Make sure the vehicle ball matches the size of the trailer socket.
2. Gooseneck Hitch
These also consist of a ball, but it is attached to the bed of a truck instead of a towbar at the back. This is usually used to tow larger trailers like those used for horses, known as gooseneck trailers.
3. Fifth Wheel Trailer Hitch
This is the strongest hitch. This hitch is employed on larger trucks. It is a permanent hitch, mounted to a steel plate on the bed.
4. Bumper Frame Hitch
This hitch is a ball that is attached to the rear bumper of a car. This hitch is not recommended as it has very little strength.
Before you choose your towing system (hitch) you should be aware of the trailer tongue weight, socket size, and your vehicle towing capacity. Don’t be tempted to exceed the maximum towing weight recommended for your hitch or the trailer can break loose and cause an accident