While most boaters put a lot of thought into their tow vehicles and trailers, many don't consider the vital link between the two - the hitch. The Right Hitch! The right hitch is essential for the tow vehicle and trailer to work together safely.
The trailer hitch consists of a frame that's bolted to the vehicle's undercarriage, a fixed ball-mounted platform, hooks for attaching safety chains, electric wiring harness and surge brake cable. All are categorized so they can be matched to the loads.
The Class System
Hitches use maximum capacity ratings based on the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of the trailer. Additionally, trailers are rated for tongue weight, although GVWR is the more important of the two.
Trailer hitches are broken down into four classes - allow plenty of leeway when choosing a hitch to match the maximum load of the trailer - even if it means moving up a class.
Select your Style
Hitches also come in different styles. Light Duty Class I, for instance, comes in a frame-mount hitch, bumper/frame mount hitch, step bumper and bumper hitch. Of the four, the frame-mount hitch is highly recommended.
Frame-mounted hitches are the best for medium, and heavy duty towing. The two most common types in this category are the fixed ball-mount platform and the receiver hitch.
A receiver hitch is the most versatile since it allows owners to remove the ball mount and stow it in the tow vehicle. It also allows adjustment of hitch height. For very heavy loads, the weight distributing hitch spreads out tongue weight evenly between the tow vehicles and wheels.
On the Ball
Like other trailering components, the hitch ball must be matched according to its rating. For Class I hitches, 2" and 2-5/16" are standard. Solid steel balls are recommended. It's important to match the shank of the hitch ball to the size of the ball-mount or ball-mount platform.
The Perfect Coupler
Located on the end of the trailer tongue, the coupler is connected to the hitch ball. Couplers come in two types: a hand wheel type and a lever type. Both styles have a coupler socket that fits snugly over the hitch ball, and a clamp that locks the ball in place.
Playing it Safe
Safety chains, which are likewise rated according to category weight, are designed to prevent the trailer from separating from the tow vehicle. In general 1 3/16" chain is rated for 3.000 lbs., 1/4" for 5,000 lbs. and 5/16" for 7,600 lbs.
The wiring harness and surge brake cable are the final links in the hitch assembly. The cable is linked directly to the master brake cylinder. Be sure to hook the wiring harness and surge brake cable as your last step in the assembly process.
- Steve Hicks