Selecting the Correct Hitch for Your Vehicle

By: Burke Jones

If you are towing a trailer for the first time you will want tohave everything going for you. Changing from a single vehicle towhat is essentially double that, is not a step to be takencasually. The hitch you use to link your tow vehicle to yourtrailer is a key element in your safety and the safety of othermotorists on the road.

A great deal hinges on the choice of hitch in the world oftowing. There are a number of factors that you need to take intoconsideration when making the decision. Before doing anythingelse, you will need to consult your vehicle owner's manual. Thiscomprehensive source of information will give you valuableinformation regarding the towing specifications of your vehicle.

You will want to stay well within the parameters outlined in themanual, being ever cautious not to place the rig under morepressure than it can safely handle. Remember that what you cantow under ideal towing conditions and what you can tow underchallenging conditions are two completely different things.

The tow combination that you put together needs to have capacityto spare in order to handle these challenges when they arise.Both the tow vehicle and the hitching system have weightcapacities that impact the safety of the whole rig.

Once you have determined the tow vehicle's maximum towingcapacity you will be able to choose the trailer and hitch thatis the best fit. Tow hitches come in varying classes to matchthe weight capacities of the vehicle and the gross trailerweight, known as the GTW.

Trailer hitches are specific to each vehicle so you need to findthe exact hitch for your vehicle model and year. Most onlinewebsites will have you key in these details before coming upwith the hitch for your vehicle.

The most common hitches are receivers. They are the ones thatyou see on most SUVs, trucks, vans and RVs. They come in Classesspecific to their weight carrying capacity. Class I hitches havea GTW of anything up to 2,000lbs. They are the best option forlight duty tow vehicles and commonly allow for the towing ofsmaller loads like bike racks and utility trailers.

Class II hitches, with a GTW of 3,500lbs, are commonly used onpassenger vans and the less powerful SUVs. Class II hitches arecapable of towing smaller, lighter travel trailers safely. Someclass II hitches can have their tow capacities expanded incombination with a good weight distribution system. Details onthis option should be available in your vehicle owner's manual.

Class III hitches have a more generous tow capacity of up to5,000lbs. They are the most common hitch for the more powerfulSUVs and trucks and allow for heavier duty towing and a broaderrange of weight distribution systems that balance out thetrailer load between the wheels of the tow vehicle and those ofthe trailer. The addition of this kind of hitch system offersenhanced safety in the form of improved steering and brakecontrol.

Once you have selected the correct hitch for your vehicle andtrailer and you have had it shipped to your door you will befaced with a mysterious bundle of odds and ends that bolts ontoyour vehicle frame without welding. Installation times vary from30 minutes to an hour so don't rush. If you have doubts aboutthe finished product of your work you might want to invest in asecond opinion from a professional before heading out onto thehighway.

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