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Selecting the Correct Hitch for Your Vehicle

Additional Reading

If you are towing a trailer for the first time you will want to have everything going for you. Changing from a single vehicle to what is essentially double that, is not a step to be taken casually. The hitch you use to link your tow vehicle to your trailer is a key element in your safety and the safety of other motorists on the road.

A great deal hinges on the choice of hitch in the world of towing. There are a number of factors that you need to take into consideration when making the decision. Before doing anything else, you will need to consult your vehicle owner's manual. This comprehensive source of information will give you valuable information regarding the towing specifications of your vehicle.

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

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

Once you have determined the tow vehicle's maximum towing capacity you will be able to choose the trailer and hitch that is the best fit. Tow hitches come in varying classes to match the weight capacities of the vehicle and the gross trailer weight, known as the GTW.

Trailer hitches are specific to each vehicle so you need to find the exact hitch for your vehicle model and year. Most online websites will have you key in these details before coming up with the hitch for your vehicle.

The most common hitches are receivers. They are the ones that you see on most SUVs, trucks, vans and RVs. They come in Classes specific to their weight carrying capacity. Class I hitches have a GTW of anything up to 2,000lbs. They are the best option for light duty tow vehicles and commonly allow for the towing of smaller loads like bike racks and utility trailers.

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

Class III hitches have a more generous tow capacity of up to 5,000lbs. They are the most common hitch for the more powerful SUVs and trucks and allow for heavier duty towing and a broader range of weight distribution systems that balance out the trailer load between the wheels of the tow vehicle and those of the trailer. The addition of this kind of hitch system offers enhanced safety in the form of improved steering and brake control.

Once you have selected the correct hitch for your vehicle and trailer and you have had it shipped to your door you will be faced with a mysterious bundle of odds and ends that bolts onto your vehicle frame without welding. Installation times vary from 30 minutes to an hour so don't rush. If you have doubts about the finished product of your work you might want to invest in a second opinion from a professional before heading out onto the highway.
About the Author

Burke Jones is a frequent contributor to the


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