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Traditional hitches are composed of three main parts:
- Receiver – the square receptacle that is mounted to your truck.
- Ball Mount – the shaft that slides into the receiver and is securely pinned when it’s time to tow (should be removed, or stowed, when not in use).
- Trailer Ball – the metal ball and connection point between your truck and trailer, allowing you to turn corners and travel over bumps and hills. (Trailer balls come in different diameters, and should be selected to match your trailer’s specific requirements).
All three of these components will be stamped or labeled with GTW (Gross Trailer Weight) ratings of their own, and all three ratings must meet or exceed your truck’s tow rating.
Hitch Capacity Formula
- Find your receiver hitch GTW rating.
- Find your ball mount GTW rating.
- Find your tow ball GTW rating.
- The lowest of these GTW ratings is the maximum capacity of your hitch.
Pro tip: It’s important to note that using overrated components does not increase your truck’s towing capacity, but undersized ones represent the weakest link and must therefore lower it. You may not need the full capacity now, but when you need to pull a larger trailer in the future, it pays to have a hitch that is already equipped to handle the weight.
Receiver Hitch Ratings:
Receiver hitch classes are separated by their maximum weight capacity rating and receiver opening size. Classes range from I to V, and each class has its own unique capacity and applications. You can start by using the chart below to determine which class of receiver hitch is required to pull your trailer:
Class Basic Use Size of Opening Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) Tongue Weight Capacity I Light-Duty 1.25” 2000 lbs 200 lbs II Moderate-Duty 1.25” 3,500 lbs 350 lbs III Versatile/Mix 2” 3,500-6,000 lbs 350-600 lbs IV Heavy-Duty 2” 10-12,000 lbs 1,000-1,200 lbs V Heaviest-Duty 2.5” 16-20,000 lbs 1,600-2,000 lbs
Continuing with our example: If your trailer has a GVWR of 4,000 lbs, your truck must feature, at least, a Class III receiver hitch to pull your fully-loaded trailer safely. And all of your ball mounts will need a 2” shaft that will fit into the 2” opening of your truck’s hitch receiver.
What size tow ball does my trailer hitch need?
The size of your hitch’s tow ball must perfectly match the size of your trailer’s coupler (the front part of your trailer, designed to latch onto the tow ball). Let’s say your trailer comes with a 1-7/8” coupler. You’ll need a 1-7/8” tow ball on your hitch’s ball mount, in order for your trailer’s coupler to latch onto the tow ball and operate correctly.
Tow Ball Ratings:
There is a comprehensive range of ball hitch sizes – and weight capacities range from 2,000 up to 30,000 pounds. When selecting a trailer ball (like any towing accessory), weight capacity must always be considered. You can start by using the chart below to determine which size and type is best for towing your trailer:
Type Size of Tow Ball Diameter Size of Shaft/Receiver Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) Max Weigh Safe Adjustable Drop Hitch 1-7/8″ – Always rated at 7,500 lbs 2” – Always rated at 8,000 lbs 2-5/16″ 2 12,500 lbs 2.5 18,500 lbs 3 21,000 lbs Weigh Safe Fixed Height Ball Mount 2” 2” 10,000 lbs Weigh Safe Universal Tow Ball 2” – 10,000 lbs Weigh Safe Universal Tow Ball with Clamshell 2-5/16″ – 10,000 lbs
Continuing with our example: Let’s say your truck features a Class IV receiver with a 2” opening, and your trailer features a 1-7/8″ coupler. To hitch your trailer to your truck, you’ll need a ball mount with a 2” shaft and a 1-7/8′ tow ball.
Now, let’s talk about the amount of drop or rise your ball mount must have to meet the height of your trailer.
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