What Is A Trailer Hitch?
A trailer hitch is a primary connector between a tow vehicle and trailer. It is the structural component that bolts onto the vehicle and provides a coupling point to hook up a trailer. When you think trailer hitch, you might picture what is actually referred to as a ball mount. A ball mount, however, is simply an accessory for a trailer hitch. A trailer hitch is what attaches a trailer to your tow vehicle along with other components. Hitches are bolted or welded onto your tow vehicle.
What Is A Receiver Hitch?
A receiver hitch is a type of trailer hitch that bolts onto the underside of a vehicle, at the rear, and provides a tube for attaching a ball mount or other hitch accessory. Receiver hitches generally have a vehicle-specific design, a standard receiver tube size, and fall within one of five hitch classes. A receiver hitch is perhaps the most common type of trailer hitch. So common, in fact, that the two terms are used interchangeably.
Different Types Of Trailer Hitches
Bumper Mounted Trailer Hitches
A bumper hitch allows for adjustment and flexibility in towing application, it mounts onto your vehicle’s bumper, rather than the frame, and provides a receiver tube for a ball mount, cargo carrier, bike rack, or other hitch-mounted accessories.
Front Mounted Trailer Hitches
Front mount trailer hitches allow you to use the front end of your vehicle for various towing purposes. They can be used for mounting a winch, snow plow, or other accessories
Gooseneck Trailer Hitches
A gooseneck hitch is designed to handle the heavy tow load that accompanies a gooseneck trailer. Trailers of this sort typically come in the form of an RV or livestock trailer but can also include other large trailers such as flatbeds.
5th Wheel Trailer Hitches
A fifth wheel hitch is installed in the bed of a pickup. The weight distribution of the trailer will press down between the cab of the truck and the rear axle.
Receiver Trailer Hitches
Receiver hitches are categorized in classes 1 through 5, according to the maximum amount of gross trailer weight they can tow.
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Hydro Trailer Hitch
Parts Of A Ball Hitch
Parts Of A Hitch
Parts Of A Trailer Hitch
Parts Of Tow Hitch
Receiver Hitch Components
Hitch Components – The Business of Connection
The hitch components in your towing car and in the towed vehicle or trailer form the essential connection between your towing vehicle and that which is being towed. Towing a trailer with your car would need five parts to execute.
Trailer Hitch Components
The trailer hitch receiver is similar to a typical hitch. The receiver is the device that connects and attaches beneath your vehicle to connect the tow vehicle to the trailer hitch. This has an opening to receive the ball mount.
Fixed Drawbar Hitches
Fixed drawbar hitches fixed tongue hitches consist of the hitch and the ball mount and are considered as a single unit not generally compatible with aftermarket accessories. The receiver type hitches accept a removable ball mount which is separate from the receiver. This allows flexibility compared to fixed drawbar hitches.
Drawbar Ball mount
This is the component that slides into your receiver’s opening to provide the platform for the ball that attaches your hitch to your trailer. In fixed-drawbar hitches, this is the part that forms a single unit with your receiver. In receiver-type hitches, the ball mount is separate.
This is the connecting metal ball that hitches your trailer when you lower the trailer tongue coupler’s round opening onto it. The coupler sits over the hitch ball and pivots on it when you turn your vehicle. These balls come in three sizes: 1-7/8 inches, 2 inches, and 2-5/16 inches.
The pin and clip is the bolting mechanism that holds the ball mount secure to the receiver opening. The pin fastens the pin into place. The wiring harness is the wiring connection that supplies power to your trailer’s lights and signals.
There are certain abbreviations that are related to the hitch class ratings and towing capacity. GTW refers to the gross trailer weight. This is the combined weight of your trailer and its contents. TW is tongue weight which means the amount of weight placed on your hitch by your trailer’s attachment.
GVWR is the gross vehicle weight rating and the GVM means the gross vehicle mass rating. This is the actual amount of the weight or mass your vehicle can carry (including the parts, passengers, and cargo, and tongue weight) but does not include the trailer. The GCWR is the combined weight rating. In effect, this is the maximum weight for both the vehicle and the trailer altogether.
Tow Hitch Installation
The maneuver for installing the tow hitch is done step by step. The first action is to maneuver into a position where the hitch ball lines up with the trailer tongue’s coupler. This closes the latch over the ball and secures it with the pin. In turn, this secures the connection of the safety chains and attaches your wiring harness. To choose the right hitches, you need to take into account not only the type of vehicle you have but also how much you need to tow including the trailer and contents.
Selecting The Best Trailer Hitch For Your Vehicle
Look Up Your Vehicle- Begin by looking up your vehicle in our Select Your Vehicle tool near the top of the page. Enter the year, make, model and submodel, if needed. A custom-fit ensures an easier installation, maximum towing capacity and optimal look and integration with the spare tire and other vehicle design features.
Select A Hitch Class
After entering the year, make and model, you will be able to view the trailer hitch or trailer hitches that are specifically tailored for your vehicle. Some vehicles may have more than one option to choose from. In this case, it is helpful to understand that trailer hitch receivers are divided into five different classes. What class of trailer hitch is best suited?
Maximize Your Trailer Hitch Potential
What size hitch do I need? If multiple trailer hitches are compatible with your vehicle, it can be helpful to consider what and how often you'll be towing. If you're planning to frequently tow heavier trailers, you should maximize your towing potential with a higher-rated hitch and larger hitch receiver. If you'll only be towing light-duty trailers or using the hitch receiver for cargo management with a bike rack or cargo carrier, a smaller trailer hitch may be sufficient.
Add Accessories To Your Trailer Hitch
A hitch receiver is just a receiver. It doesn't provide a direct connection to a trailer. As such, after you've selected a hitch for your vehicle, you will need to purchase some hitch accessories, such as a ball mount, trailer ball, hitch lock, and wiring harness.
Key Hitch Component Parts For Trailer Hitching
If you’re considering the purchase of a new trailer and you’ve never towed before it can seem like a daunting task. There’s a lot to learn, but once you have the tools and knowledge necessary it provides the foundation for a lot of great recreation! In this guide, we discuss the various parts that go into hitching up a trailer.
The foundation of the hitch! The Hitch receiver bolts or is welded onto the frame of your tow vehicle, allowing you to attach a hitch. Common brands include Hidden Hitch, Reese, & Blue Ox. Be aware when shopping, hitch receivers are often mislabeled as hitches. What it is called isn’t as important as doing what you need though. These come in 5 sizes, Class I, Class II, Class III, Class IV, Class V. Each class has different ranges of available ratings, and intended uses.
There are many kinds of Hitch, and some do a lot more than others. An Equalizer hitch is recommended or required in a large number of trailer applications, and will greatly reduce the strain placed on the tow vehicle. The most basic hitches are only a linkage between the hitch receiver and the Hitch Ball, whereas fancier hitches like the Equalizer pictured below use some clever engineering to reduce weight transfer and increase stability.
The Shiny bit that attaches to the trailer! Some hitches will have a ball built-in and some will require attaching one. The Ball has a pretty simple, but very important job – securing the trailer and allowing it to twist and tilt without losing it. Make sure to keep the ball well lubricated, and make sure you have the right size for your trailer. There are 4 commonly available sizes: 1 7/8, 2, 2 -5/16, and 3. The vast majority of RVs use a 2 5/16? hitch ball, but older trailers and tent trailers might use 2? or even 1 7/8?. Making sure your ball is the same size as your coupler is extremely important when hitching your trailer. Too large a ball and you won’t be able to lock the coupler, too small a ball and you won’t get a firm connection potentially causing the coupler to fly off the hitch!
This is actually part of your trailer but is a good thing to understand. The Coupler is typically welded onto the A-frame of the trailer and is what attaches to the ball to create the connection to the tow vehicle. The coupler is meant to slide freely on the ball and should be lubricated. The coupler contains a jaw-like mechanism that when locked in position will secure the ball inside of it, while still allowing some rotation. There are many ways that the mechanism can work, but there is usually a locking lever somewhere that controls the jaw and must be locked into position before moving the trailer.
Should your trailer and tow vehicle experience an unplanned separation, you’d be in a lot of trouble if the trailer were left to its own devices. There is not much to say about chains other than – “USE THEM!!!” – it could save someone's life, or at the very least a very expensive insurance claim. One thing often forgotten is that the chains should be crossed like in the photo below, the cross provides a place for the tongue to rest if it does become detached. Without it, the tongue would scrape on the ground, which would be much harder to control and can also result in “pole vaulting”.
Should all of the components above fail at once, your breakaway wire is your last line of defense. The wire should be firmly attached to your tow vehicle’s frame (not your chains), if the trailer decouples and the chains fail, the wire will be pulled out of its seat on the trailer which will cause the trailer brakes to lock up. Obviously, there is no controlling the trailer at this point, and the breakaway wire is only meant as a last-ditch effort to slow the trailer in an absolute emergency.
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