If you’re thinking of towing a load, whether it be a horse trailer, RV, or boat, you may want to familiarize yourself with trailer hitches. Here’s our brief guide to trailer hitches, so you can make sure you have the right hitch for your weight.
Trailer hitches come in two types: fixed-drawbar and receiver. Fixed-drawbars are a single piece with a hole for the trailer’s ball. Receiver types are more flexible and can swap out attachments, such as bike racks or adjustable ball mounts. A trailer hitch should always attach directly to the chassis of your vehicle, unless you’re using a pickup truck bumper hitch. Make sure to follow the weight limit specified on your truck’s bumper to avoid seriously damaging your vehicle.
The Society of Automotive Engineers has ranked trailer hitches into 4 classes, with weight limits for each. A Class 1 is good up to 2,000lbs, a Class II up to 3,400 lbs, a Class III up to 5,000 lbs, and a Class IV up to 10,000 lbs. If you’re towing a camper or boat you’ll want a Class III or IV hitch.
If you’re towing a heavy load, you can use a weight-distributing hitch which spreads the weight of whatever you’re hauling over both your vehicle’s axles. This helps prevent the trailer from swaying from side to side, which can potentially be very dangerous.
Another option for heavy loads is a fifth wheel coupling, which attaches to the bed of a pickup truck. This allows the truck to carry some of the weight directly, instead of just pulling it along. If you hear someone refer to their RV as a ‘fifth wheel’ it’s the style of large RV that has to be pulled with this system.