In order to shed a little light on the subject and get you the information you need to talk-the-talk, we’re going to do a brief vocabulary lesson. We’re going to start with the basics, and we’ll update you with new terms as we move along.
The Trailer Hitch
The trailer hitch is a device that attaches directly to a tow vehicle to provide the connection between your tow vehicle and the trailer. Most hitches utilize a ball mount. It consists of a large metal ball attached to a heavy-duty metal drawbar that is connected to the tow vehicle. The trailer hitch can come in two different varieties:
- Fixed-tongue hitch
- Receiver-style hitch
These main difference between these two styles is how permanent they are. A fixed-tongue hitch includes a non-removable drawbar, so the size of the ball mount cannot be changed. A receiver-style hitch allows you to attach different-sized drawbars to your tow vehicle to accommodate different ball mounts.
The Ball Mount
So if the drawbar is what attaches to the tow vehicle, the ball mount is what lies at the other end of the drawbar. The ball mount, as its name suggests, is a large metal ball that is used to couple a tow vehicle and a trailer. Trailers have a sphere-shaped receptacle that sits atop the ball mount for a secure connection. This is typically the type of mount seen on commercial tow trucks.
These ball mounts come in a few different sizes:
- Class I Hitch
Trailer hitch with a capacity up to 2,000 pounds gross trailer weight, with up to 200 pounds of tongue weight.
- Class II Hitch
Trailer hitch with a capacity up to 3,500 pounds gross trailer weight, with 300 to 350 pounds of tongue weight.
- Class III Hitch
Trailer hitch with a capacity up to 5,000 pounds gross trailer weight with 500 pounds of tongue weight.
- Class IV Hitch
Trailer hitch with a capacity up to 10,000 pounds gross trailer weight, with 1,000 to 1,200 pounds tongue weight.
When selecting a trailer hitch of your own, make sure your tow vehicle is able to meet the weight and strain you’re adding to it.
When you’re selecting hitches, you also need to be aware of the ball height. This is the distance from the ground to the center of the hitch ball when parallel to the ground while parked on a flat surface. This is a crucial to making sure your trailer hitch and trailer are compatible.
Hopefully this quick rundown of your average tow connection will get you started and allow you to understand tows a little better. Stay tuned as we update you with more towing terminology in the future.
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