Towing can be fun and easy! 

Towing a fifth wheel or trailer can be a trial and seemingly minor details such as adding just a couple hundred pounds can make a huge difference in vehicle and trailer stability. Although many of you already know a lot of information about weight distribution systems, the different types of hitches available and more, it’s always good getting back to the basics for a refresher. For those who are new to the towing and hitching world it will be a good starting off point.

Below is a breakdown of how to choose a trailer hitch, how to determine towing weight capacity, the difference in classes of trailers and more.

The Essentials You Need to Know About Hitches 

Make sure you know your tongue and towing weight

Hitches are rated in two different ways. Towing and tongue weight. Towing capacity is the gross weight (GTW) that can be towed by the hitch. Tongue weight is the downward force or weight that the tongue of the trailer applies to the hitch of the tow vehicle (the tongue weight is considered part of the vehicles Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), but the entire weight of the trailer is not).

The number one cause of hitch failure is due to exceeding tongue weight so it’s best to know exactly what that is. Calculating tongue weight can be tricky, but here is where you can find a step-by-step guide of how to measure tongue weight, the best rules to go by are 10% of your towing capacity. So, if your car can tow 2,000 lbs. then you will have around 200 lbs. of tongue weight.

*Different Classes of Hitches- 

The different classes of towing hitches

  • Class I (2,000 lbs. hauling, 200 lbs. tongue): Often used with small cars, pickups or vans for light-duty towing 
  • Class II (3,500 lbs. hauling, 300 lbs. tongue): Towing hitch used for recreation with full-size vans, pickups and SUVs for towing small boat trailers, snowmobile trailers and campers
  • Class III (5,000 lbs. hauling, 500 lbs. tongue): Used for general towing with a higher towing and tongue weight than Class II
  • Class IV/V (10,000 lbs. hauling, 2,000 lbs. tongue): Used for high capacity towing including towing a car trailer, horse trailer, a large boat trailer or large camper
  • Fifth wheel hitch/Gooseneck hitch (16,000-30,000 lbs. hauling, 5,000 lbs. tongue): Works best with a medium to heavy duty truck and used for towing the heaviest recreational vehicles. The hitch mounts in the back of your truck bed in front of the rear axle

By towing safely and staying within your weight capacities and hitch classes you will prevent many problems including trailer hitch failure, loss of control due to rear suspension stress, weakening of brake system due to weight being overloaded and more.

Trailer Sway
After your weight is properly distributed then it’s good to think of how you can fine tune towing a trailer. Typically, trailer sway can be a problem if the trailer balance or hitch adjustment are not correct but it is still recommended to use a sway-control device even if a trailer is well-balanced with a properly adjusted hitch. Sway-control hitches and devices are available in two different configurations: one with a steel bar attached to the ball mount and the other makes the tow vehicle and trailer act as a single unit with no pivoting of the coupler unless the tow vehicle turns.

Equalizer Weight Distribution Hitch 

At Torklift Central, we carry the Eaz-Lift Sway Control bar which is the bar-style sway control. It works with a weight distributing hitch as well as an independent friction-style sway control. Typically for trailers that are 26ft or longer it is suggested to use two sway control units for more safety.

While the addition of the Eaz-Lift Sway Control on your weight distribution will help reduce sway, we recommend using Equalizer’s weight distributing hitches that have 4-point sway control built into the system. With great features and rigid enough to combat trailer sway, the Equalizer weight distribution system is a good way to make sure you stay safe while towing and hauling.

Weight Distribution

The SuperHitch Everest weight distribution hitch 

Weight distributing hitches should be used in many weight situations of Class II and in most situations of Class III and heavy duty towing. These hitches typically use heavier ball mounts as well as spring bars that provide the leverage needed to distribute weight at the front and end. In general, a weight distributing hitch will improve stability in most situations because the weight rests on the ball mount and connects the tow vehicle and trailer like a bridge. Setting up weight distribution isn’t too difficult and will just take a few measurements and basic tools. Here’s a step-by-step process of how to set up a weight distribution hitch.

*Ball Mounts: For safe and comfortable towing, the trailer should always be as level as it possibly can. Because trailer and vehicle heights often differ, ball mounts are the best way to go when it comes to raising or lowering your trailer. There are 5 different classes of ball mounts that correspond with each of the hitch classes and should be used with their matching number. 

    Ball Mount 
  • Measuring for your ball mount: 
    1. Measure hitch height from the ground to the top of the hitch receiver with the vehicle parked on level ground
    2. Measure the coupler height (on your trailer) from the ground to the bottom of the trailer’s coupler with the trailer parked on level ground
    3. Compute the difference between the hitch height and coupler height. 
      • If the hitch height is greater than the coupler height, the difference is that a drop is required (hitch height – trailer height = drop)
      • If the hitch height is less than the coupler height, the difference is that a rise is required (trailer height –hitch height = rise)
      • For example: the hitch is 24 ½” and the coupler height is 17”. Because the hitch is great, a ball mount that would drop 7 ½” would be required for a level trailer so picking the ball mount that is closest to the actual drop is the right one to use

Don’t forget, the keys to happy towing are proper hitch-ball height and proper tension on the spring bars. When all aspects are correct, the towing vehicle and trailer are at proper ride heights making it so you have an easier time towing. Make sure you Get Out and Go trailer hitch and towing safely – contact us today for your entire receiver hitch and towing accessory needs at:

Torklift Central
315 Central Ave N. Kent, WA 98032
[email protected]