What are the Different Types of Tow Hitches & Shanks?

Posted on 08/09/2023 by RV Travel and Destinations, RV Products, Parts and... 243
What are the Different Types of Tow Hitches & Shanks?

Tow hitches and shanks are essential components for safely towing a trailer. A tow hitch is the portion of an automobile or truck that attaches to the trailer, while a tow shank is inserted into the receiver of the tow hitch in order to secure it. There are many different types of tow hitches and shanks available on the market today, all designed for different applications based on size, weight capacity, and type of vehicle being towed. Choosing the right combination of hitch and shank can be a daunting task but one that is important for ensuring safe operation when towing.

Types of Tow Hitches

Class I & Class II Hitches are the most common type of tow hitch. These hitches are rated for towing up to 3, 500 lbs and can typically be found on light-duty vehicles such as minivans or SUVs. They use a standard 2" receiver opening and come with both a ball mount and pin/clip so that they can quickly be attached to either the trailer’s coupler or an aftermarket drawbar.

Class III, IV & V Hitches are designed for heavier-duty applications such as full-size trucks or large SUVs. These hitches usually have higher weight ratings ranging from 6, 000 lbs to 15, 000 lbs depending on the model chosen. Additionally, these types of hitches will often require a special mounting system due to their size and weight capacity making them more difficult to install than lower-class models.

Gooseneck Hitches are used primarily in agricultural applications but have become increasingly popular with truck owners in recent years due to their ability to provide stability when hauling heavy loads over long distances without sacrificing maneuverability. Gooseneck hitches require unique installation kits which include brackets that attach directly to your truck frame allowing for easy coupling and uncoupling of trailers even when off-road or traveling at high speeds down highways.

Finally, Fifth Wheel Hitches offer some of the highest weight capacities available reaching up to 25,000 lbs in certain cases! This type of hitch is designed solely for use with 5th-wheel trailers which feature a “kingpin” mounted directly above the axle instead of having it hooked into a conventional ball mount as other types do. Installation requires specialized mounting hardware which utilizes multiple points along your vehicle's frame similar to what you would find on semi trucks ensuring maximum stability while pulling heavy loads with ease!

Types of Tow Shank

Fixed Tow Shanks are the simplest type of tow shank and offer a secure connection between the trailer and the towing vehicle. These are typically made from solid steel bars that have an opening at one end for attaching to a ball mount or drawbar. Fixed tow shanks provide basic stability, but they do not allow for any flexibility in terms of movement when traveling down rough roads or making sharp turns.

Bolted Tow Shanks offer more flexibility than fixed models since they can be adjusted to fit different-sized trailers as well as allow for some minor movement when traversing uneven terrain. Bolted tow shanks consist of two pieces; a tube-shaped body with multiple bolt holes along its length and a removable coupler that is attached using bolts directly onto the hitch receiver on your vehicle’s frame. This design allows you to quickly adjust the height and distance between your trailer’s coupler and vehicle’s hitch without having to use additional tools or parts other than those included with the purchase!

Reese Tow Shanks are designed specifically for heavier-duty applications such as fifth-wheel trailers where extra strength is needed due to their higher weight capacity requirements. Reese two shanks feature solid construction, adjustable drop lengths, anti-rattle bushings, and spring-loaded pins which help prevent accidental disconnection while driving over bumpy roads or during tight maneuvers like parking lot turns!

Drawbar Tow Shanks provide another level of convenience by allowing you to easily switch out hitches depending on what kind of trailer you will be hauling. Drawbar tow shanks come with interchangeable heads that can accommodate both standard 2" receivers and 3" balls so that you don't need separate components every time you want to change what kind of trailer you're pulling!

Choosing the Right Hitch & Shank

When selecting the right tow hitch and shank, it is important to consider several factors including your vehicle’s weight capacity, trailer size, and usage. Your vehicle’s manual should provide information regarding its recommended maximum towing capacity as well as any specific requirements for mounting hitches or shanks. It is also essential that you be aware of the gross trailer weight (GTW) which includes both the loaded weight of your trailer plus any cargo being hauled. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and select a hitch with a higher rating than what you think you need – this will help ensure safe operation and reduce wear and tear on your vehicle over time.

In addition to considering your vehicle’s capabilities when choosing a tow hitch and shank, it is also important to keep safety in mind at all times when hauling trailers behind your car or truck. Make sure that all components are securely attached before heading out onto the road; check for loose bolts or other signs that could indicate improper installation or potential failure while driving. Additionally, always read up on local laws regarding the proper use of hitches such as lighting requirements or speed limits when pulling trailers so that you can stay compliant without sacrificing safety!


In conclusion, it is important to consider a variety of factors when choosing the right tow hitch and shank for your vehicle. Understanding the differences between types as well as their recommended weight capacities will help ensure that you select one that is both safe and suitable for your intended purpose. Additionally, proper installation of all components including lighting systems and aftermarket brake controllers can greatly increase safety while towing heavy loads over long distances or rough terrain. When in doubt, consult with an experienced professional who can provide guidance on selecting the best type of hitch along with other valuable advice regarding maintenance and operation!

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