Working in this industry we get lots of questions about towing. Can I install a hitch on my vehicle? What equipment do I need to tow a trailer? More importantly how do I make sure I don't look like this guy?
Unfortunately for this guy he was hauling a bit more than his jaloppy could handle! I love the british guy saying deadpanned, "I think it's running a bit rich." All kidding asside the key to towing is having the correct equipment. Your basic set up consists of a receiver hitch, wiring, ball mount and a hitch ball. Figuring out what all is needed can sometimes be a little intimidating, but with some help from us and our friends at curt manufacturing you should learn everything you would need to know to get your qualified vehicle on the road with a trailer in tow.
Hitches are broken down into 5 classes. Class 1 and 2 light duty receivers are made for passenger cars and smaller SUVs and comes with a 1 ¼ receiver tube. Class 1 receivers are rated for up to 2,000 pounds with 200 pounds of tongue weight. Class 2 receivers are rated for 3,500 pounds with 350 pounds of tongue weight. One thing to keep in mind is even if the hitch is rated for 3,500 pounds your vehicle may not be rated to haul as much, it’s very important to learn what your vehicle is rated to pull!
Most vehicles with a factory tow package come with a class 3 receiver as it is the most common receiver on the road. These receivers come with a 2” square receiver tube. You will notice that receiver hitches have two different weight ratings WC and WD. "WC" stands for "Weight Carrying," meaning a basic ball mount and coupler. The "WD" ratings are higher, and those limits require you to use a Weight Distributing ball mount. "TW" stands for Tongue Weight, which is the weight on the trailer coupler when the trailer is fully loaded. Class 3 receivers are rated for up to 8,000 pounds and up to 800 pounds of tongue weight. If you have a weight distributing ball mount it will haul up to 12,000 pounds and up to 1,200 pounds of tongue weight which typically exceeds your towing capacity unless you have a commercial grade vehicle.
The final two classes would be class 4 and class 5 receivers. The Class 4 is rated for up to 10,000 pounds and up to 1,000 pounds of tongue weight with a standard weight carrying draw bar. If you have a weight distributing draw bar it can tow up to 12,000 pounds with up to 1,200 pounds of tongue weight. A class 5 receiver is rated for an amazing 14,000 pounds and 1,400 pounds of tongue weight. Class 4 & 5 receivers use the same 2-inch receiver tube as a Class 3, but some Class 5 receivers use a 2 ½-inch receiver tube. For more information on the differences check out this page.
Once you determine which receiver hitch will work for you it’s time to figure out what kind of wiring you need to make sure your trailer is lit up and legal! Trailer wiring harnesses use 4 to 7 wires to control basic lighting and brake functions. The simplest connectors for the smallest trailers use four wires on a flat plug to control tail lights, brake lights, and turn signals. Connectors with 5, 6, and 7 wires add (in order) backup lights, electric brake control, and auxiliary power. To make trailer wiring less confusing, there's a standard color-coding for each of the 7 possible wires and their functions. For a more detailed approach check out this link .
Ok, so you have your receiver hitch, your wiring and a trailer. Next on your list is finding the correct hitch ball mount. Also called a "stinger" or a "draw bar," the ball mount is a square steel tube with a thick mounting plate to hold a hitch ball. These ball mounts are made to be easily changed so that you can quickly use a variety of hitch balls. The ball mount is held in place in the hitch with a special pin, or a locking device. The right ball mount has a shaft sized to match the receiver tube, and raises or lowers the hitch ball to ensure that your tow vehicle and trailer each remain level as you travel. Having a level trailer with a balanced load is key
Once you select your draw bar it’s time to attach the correct hitch ball to it. Also called a "tow ball," the hitch ball is half of a flexible joint that allows your tow vehicle and trailer to turn corners and navigate bumps and dips. The coupler on your trailer mounts and locks on top of the hitch ball and rotates around the hitch ball. Light duty and recreational hitch balls come in a variety of sizes including 1 7/8-inch, 2-inch, 2 5/16-inch and a 3-inch ball you don’t see very often. Once you determine what size ball accepts you’re ready to go.
Some helpfull towing tips:
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