"A trailer hitch is an accessory designed to help vehicles tow a variety of objects." (www.ehow.com)
When you need to tow anything it takes a little more than simply hitching the trailer to the back of your car or pickup truck and taking off. There are several things you need to take into consideration such as what you are hauling, the type of vehicle you have and weight proportions, to know which kind of hitch you need.
The Trailer Hitch choices available include standard, 5th wheel, gooseneck, front mount and ball type. There are also specialty Trailer Hitches.
Choosing the correct one will save you a lot of time, money and curse words!
Normally, when towing you own stuff the most popular vehicles currently used are either pickup trucks or larger sedan-type cars. According to www.edmunds.com, below, are the top ten vehicles chosen for towing:
- Dodge Ram 3500: With more than 16,000 pounds of towing capacity, this Ram is the king of the towing hill topping the nearest competitor by more than 2,000 pounds. Sure, it's not practical for use as an everyday vehicle, but it sure can tow! If you need more towing ability than the Ram 3500 can offer, you might want to look into renting a dump truck.
- Nissan Armada: With just over 9,000 pounds of towing capacity, this new full-size SUV from Nissan is impressive. But it's not just about towing ability, the Armada offers tons of interior room and almost limolike rear-seat legroom. Towing capacity, roomy interior and a nice ride make the new Armada a tow vehicle that's easy to live with.
- GMC Sierra 1500: With a 9,990-pound rating, the Sierra Denali offers the most towing ability of any 1500-Series (half-ton) pickup. To get more capability than the Sierra, you have to step up to a heavy-duty series truck from Dodge, Ford or Chevy. Standard on this top-level Sierra is GM's Quadrasteer, a four-wheel-steering system that gives it a reduced turning radius and improves stability when pulling heavy loads.
- Dodge Durango: Sure, it's not quite a full-size SUV, but with 8,950 pounds of towing ability, it's the truck equivalent of the little engine that could. With a tow rating that exceeds that of GM's full-size SUVs, the Durango is worth considering as a tow vehicle that can double as the family car.
- Ford Expedition: Bigger than the Durango but with the same ability to pull stuff, the Expedition offers a classy and attractive SUV that can also do some real work. Its 60/40-split, fold-flat third-row seat is a nice bonus.
- Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL: With 8,400 pounds of tow capacity, the half-ton Suburban 1500 isn't the baddest on the block when it comes to pulling trailers, but its combination of reasonably stout towing capacity and tons of passenger/cargo space make it a "go to" vehicle for families on the tow. If you're willing to step up to the burlier, three-quarter-ton 2500 model, you'll be able to pull loads of up to 12,000 pounds.
(Photo courtesy of Mad Science, Flickr.)
- Land Rover Range Rover: Need some luxury in your tow vehicle? The Range Rover is for you. With a simply beautiful interior, a striking exterior and 7,700 pounds of towing capability, the Range Rover is the Rolls-Royce of trucks. Oh, and it can off-road like crazy, too.
- Chrysler Pacifica: Not everyone can live with a truck or truck-based SUV. If you're one of those people, but still need to do some towing, the Pacifica and its 3,500-pound towing capacity are worth noting. Add to this the fact that the Pacifica offers all the amenities of a luxury sedan and this big Chrysler is clearly one of the best "cars" when in comes to towing stuff.
- Hyundai Elantra: No, this is not a typo. The Elantra offers 3,086 pounds of towing capacity when trailer brakes are used (without the brakes, it tops out at 1,000 pounds). That's not much by truck standards, but for a budget-priced compact sedan, it's exceptional. Note that this is 1,000 pounds more than full-size sedans like the Cadillac DeVille and Mercury Grand Marquis are rated to carry.
- Subaru Outback: The Outback is all new for 2005 and with a 3,000-pound towing capacity, Subaru's all-terrain family wagon offers some fairly serious grunt for a midsize car. Its standard all-wheel-drive system should also come in handy when looking for the most remote campsite.
Now that you know which vehicles are the best for towing puposes, you need to pair it up with the proper Trailer Hitch. Firstly, you must find out which class of Trailer Hitch you are looking for. "A class is a way of defining the weight rating and receiver opening size of a hitch.
The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) has designated 5 classes of Trailer Hitches, according to weight:
- "Classes range from I to V
- Hitches within the same class will have the same weight capacities
- Designed for use with removable ball mounts
- Custom built according to the vehicle manufacturer and model year to ensure perfect fit
- Most hitches bolt to the vehicle frame using existing holes
- Towing capacities typically range from 2,000 pounds to 17,000 pounds
- Construction is solid and all-welded for maximum strength and safety" (www.etrailer.com)
(Diagram courtesy of www.hitches4less.com)
Class I Hitches
This is the lightest type of trailer hitch. A Class 1 trailer hitch can handle a gross trailer weight (GTW) of up to 2,000 lbs., and a maximum tongue weight of 200 lbs. The hitch may be a simple drawbar-type hitch or step bumper-type hitch. Other hitches may have a crossbar with a small one-inch or 1-1/2-inch square receiver, or a small 2-inch by 5/8-inch receiver.
Class II Hitches
Class II hitches are for loads of up to 3,500 lbs. GTW and 300 lbs. tongue weight such as a small boat trailer, snowmobile trailer, motorcycle trailer or camper.
Class III Hitches
Class III hitches can handle up to 5,000 lbs. GTW and 500 lbs. tongue weight. This type of hitch generally has a 2-inch rectangular receiver and is considered the "standard" type of hitch for general towing.
Class IV Hitches
Class IV hitches are for up to 10,000 lbs. GTW and 1,000 to 1,200 lbs. of tongue weight. This type of hitch is usually a weight-distributing hitch.
Class V Hitches
Class V hitches are for extra heavy loads greater than 10,000 lbs. GTW and more than 1,200 lbs. tongue weight. This type of hitch is usually a weight-distributing hitch. This type of hitch may have up to a 2-1/2 inch receiver with a 3/4-inch pinhole." (www.hitches4less.com)
STANDARD: This is the most common type of Trailer Hitch. This hitch works best when towing "a trailer, bike rack or carrying a cargo carrier." (www.etrailer.com)
5TH WHEEL: This type of Trailer Hitch is used for very heavy loads and the vehicle recommended are pickup trucks. "Capacities range from 15,000 to 30,000 pounds; installs inside the truck bed; because the hitch must remain in front of the rear axle, long-bed full-size trucks are recommended; If a short-bed truck will be used, it is recommended that a Slider Fifth Wheel Hitch or Sidewinder is used. (www.etrader.com)
GOOSENECK: This is another Trailer Hitch that is used to haul heavy loads with vehicles such as a pickup truck and is good for towing horse and construction trailers. "Typical capacity is 30,000 pounds, but is limited by capacity of truck; nstalls in truck bed, similar to a fifth wheel hitch; can be used with short bed trucks;allows for maximum use of the truck bed while still allowing the vehicle to tow gooseneck trailers; some gooseneck hitches fold down or install under the truck bed, allowing full use of the truck bed when not towing; others can be removed by releasing the attachment pins. ""www.etrailer.com)
FRONT MOUNT TRAILER HITCH: This type of Trailer Hitch should be used when "carrying additioal gear or equipment such as when launching a boat, carrying a winch, spare tire, or bike rack. Designed for use with removable ball mounts; custom built according to the vehicle manufacturer and model year to ensure perfect fit; most hitches bolt to the vehicle frame using existing holes; construction is solid and all-welded for maximum strength and safety." (www.etrailer.com)
The vehicle of choice, in this instance, is a truck.
(Photo courtesy of slworking2 for Flickr.)
This is the most common Trailer Hitch available and is used "with bumper pull trailers which are the name that ball type hitches are often interchanged with. These hitches feature a machined ball which bolts on to a hitch receiver for quick removal as well as height adjustability. They come in the following sizes 1 7/8", 2", and 2 5/16" with capacities from 2,000-25,000 lbs" (www.trailer411.com)
This model of Trailer Hitch is manufactured for specific needs such as "light duty, fixed tongue hitches that are intended for small vehicles that need to do light duty towing, to invisible hitches that are completely concealed from view, or heavy duty weld-on hitches for towing large trailers." (www.etrailer.com)
Some specialty hitches models include: "invisible hitch, stealh, fixed tongue, integrated wiring and weld on." (www.etrailer.com)
Another type of specialty Trailer Hitch is the weight distrubition hitch, whose name is self-explanatory and, is used to haul very large, heavy loads. "A weight-distributing hitch is a "load leveling" hitch. It is a hitch setup mounted on the tow vehicle that uses spring bars under tension to distribute part of the trailer's hitch weight from the towing vehicle's rear axle to the towing vehicle's front axle and to the trailer's axle(s). It can help reduce trailer sway and hop. Trailer hop can jerk the tow vehicle. Trailer sway is sometimes called "fish tailing". At high speeds, trailer sway can become dangerous. Most vehicle manufacturers will only allow a maximum trailer capacity of 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) and 500 pounds (230 kg) of tongue weight without using a weight-distributing hitch. Tow vehicles often have square receiver sockets to accept weight distributing hitches." (www.wikipedia.org)