TRAILER HITCH FAQs
Trailer Hitches and their various accessories come in a variety of types, styles, sizes, capacities, etc. Here are the most common questions/answers.
What is the difference between Class I / II / III / IV / V hitches?
The various "classes" of hitches often refer to the size and capacities. Typically a Class I & II hitch is a smaller unit designed to fit smaller vehicles. For removeable receiver style hitches, the opening is 1 1/4" wide. This hitches usually carry less tongue and carrying weight. Class III & IV hitches care the most common. For removeable receiver style hitches, the opening is 2" wide. Class V is the largest capacity and removeable receiver style hitches opening is 2 1/2" wide.
Depending on your vehicle, that may limit what "class" of hitch is available. In addition, just because you can install a larger class hitch on it, does NOT mean your vehicle can pull a larger trailer.
What are the towing capacities of the various hitches?
There really is no such thing!! The true towing capacity is what the vehicle manufacturer (Ford, Chevy, Dodge, etc) says the vehicle is rated to tow. A hitches rating is just that... what the hitch itself was tested at. The hitche's rating could potentially be more or less that what the vehicle is rated to handle. For towing purposes, it is almost irrelevant as to what the hitch is rated for. ALWAYS verify in your owners manual, on your pillar post or with your vehicle manufacturer what your particular vehicle AND vehicle's configuration can carry.
The weight capacities listed on each hitch and accessory is the weight that physical item is tested for. Most hitches are measured in Tongue Weight, Weight Carrying and Weight Distribution. Tongue Weight is the total downward force on the ball. Weight Carrying refers to the weight the item can pull. Weight Distribution is a combination of the two using special weight distrubution hardware.
What's your towing capacity? Again, check your vehicles capacity as mentioned and then verify the hitches capacity... what you can tow is the LOWER capacity. You don't want to exceed EITHER figure.
What is a "receiver" style hitch?
This is often the most common style of hitch. A removeable receiver style hitch allows you to remove the ball and mount from the back of the vehicle so nothing protrudes past the bumper. With the ball mount/ball removed, you are left with a square hole exposed on the back of the vehicle. The three most common size holes, as mentioned above, are 1.25", 2" and 2.5"
In addition to using for towing by inserting a ball mount with a ball attached, receiver style hitches can be used for other accessories. The most common are "hitch plugs" that block or dress up that area. Bike racks and carrying baskets are also very common. They even make barbeque grills and picnic tables/umbrellas that can mount in the hitch opening. All these items require an appropriate hitch pin to secure them and lockable ones are also available to prevent theft.
How do I know what "drop" (or "rise") ball mount I need for my vehicle?
This is typically the BIG question and can vary depending on your trailer. Ideally, you want your trailer to sit behind your vehicle as level as possible when connected. The easiest way to figure this out is to measure the difference from the bottom of the trailer tongue (level) to the inside bottom of your hitch. The difference is the approximate drop (or rise) you should try to get close to.
If you are not sure your trailer height, then 15-17" off the ground is an average height for most trailers to use. Again, measure tow vehicle's hitch opening. Then the appropriate drop (or rise) is the difference between that and approximately 16". Example, your vehicle measures 19.5", then go with a 4" drop, that gets you close to the middle between 15" - 17".
This chart will help explain how ball mounts are measured.