Trailer Hitch 101
You ask, we answer all your questions about trailer hitch installation.
Q: I just purchased some snowmobiles, and I need to pick them up next week. My buddy is giving me a trailer, but my Jeep doesn’t have a trailer hitch. I am trying to figure out what to buy, and I keep seeing trailer hitch classifications. What does that mean? – AA, Ohio
A: Without knowing your exact make and model, we wouldn’t be sure exactly what the specifications would be for your Jeep, and we wouldn’t want to speculate. If you can bring your Jeep to our Mentor location, we’d be more than happy to look. But, this does give us an opportunity to dive in and revisit some trailer and hitch basics!
Trailer Hitch Classifications
Receiver hitches are probably the most common trailer hitches on the market. These hitches mount onto the tow vehicle’s frame, and they have a tube opening that accepts the shank of a ball mount or other insert. They are usually vehicle specific, which is why we couldn’t answer AA’s question without knowing a little bit more. Receiver hitches are further broken down by classification. There are 5 different classifications based on their receiver size and weight capacity range. Let’s look at what separates the classes:
Class 1 Receiver Hitches
These hitches are for very light towing or accessory attachment. Common uses for these hitches would be attaching a bike rack to a passenger vehicle or attaching a cargo carrier.
•1 ¼” x 1 ¼” receiver tube opening or fixed tongue
•Weight carrying capacity up to 2,000 lbs. GTW*
*Keep in mind that not all hitches are rated at the same capacity and no hitch ever increases the max tow weight for a vehicle.
Class 2 Receiver Hitches
Again, Class 2 hitches are usually used for bike racks and small cargo carriers, but they can also be used to tow some lightweight trailers as well.
•1 ¼” x 1 ¼” receiver tube opening
•Weight carrying capacity up to 3,500 lbs. GTW
Class 3 Receiver Hitches
These hitches can tow a little more weight and are most common on trucks, Jeeps, and SUVs. You won’t find these on many cars. Small boats and heavier trailers are perfect for this type of hitch. (AA, there is a good chance that this is what you need, but come see us to make sure!)
• 2” x 2” Receiver tube opening
• Weight carrying capacity up to 8,000 lbs. GTW
• May be compatible with a weight distribution hitch*
*Weight distribution hitches help keep the hitch from sagging, and they also improve steering and stopping while towing.
Class 4 Receiver Hitches
These hitches are commonly used to tow full-size campers and large boats. They are made for more heavy-duty towing jobs.
•2” x 2” receiver tube opening
•Weight carrying capacity up to 10,000 lbs. GTW
•May be compatible with a weight distribution hitch
Class 5 Receiver Hitches
These are the big boys that are often referred to as heavy-duty hitches. Full-sized campers, large boats, flatbed trailers, and livestock trailers are all commonly towed using these Class 5 hitches.
•2” x 2” or 2 ½” x 2 ½” receiver tube opening
•Weight carrying capacity up to 16,000 18,000 or 20,000 lbs. GTW
•May be compatible with a weight distribution hitch.
Other Specialty Receiver Hitches
5th Wheel Hitches
These handle large trailer hitches up to 25,000 lbs. They will only work with pickup trucks and no other vehicles. They have a unique pivot design which gives them the capability to absorb bumps and contours of the road without damaging the vehicle or trailer. Another unique feature is that they are the only type of hitch where the coupling device is part of the hitch and not the trailer.
Gooseneck hitches give you the maximum towing power without being too intrusive. When you don’t have a trailer attached, you can use your entire truck bed. The hitch sits just above the rear axle in the truck bed to keep the weight forward and allow for more power. These trailers will hold up to 30,000 lbs., so they are great for hauling livestock trailers and heavy equipment.
Knowing your hitch class alone doesn’t mean you’ve solved your riddle though, AA. You’ll still need to know some things about weights and specs before you can make your decision, but you’re well on your way. Do you still need some direction? The pros at D&S Automotive can not only tell you which trailer hitch is right for you, but they can also install them and ensure that it’s done properly and safely. Contact us today to find out more about our professional trailer hitch installation service near you!