Preparing Your Vehicle To Tow
Part Two: Tow Hitch
In part two of our series of educational articles we will help you understand and prepare yourself and your tow vehicle for your first trip with your new trailer, and provide you with the necessary information to arrive on pickup day with confidence that everything will be a smooth and stress-free experience. In this article we will go over the tow hitch to adequately prepare your vehicle for your new teardrop trailer.
We covered the electrical connection in part one of the series, the next step is to ensure that your vehicle is equipped with an appropriate tow hitch (or receiver hitch) for towing your trailer.
A tow hitch, shown above, is a heavy-duty fabricated steel component that attaches to the rear of your vehicle’s chassis to allow a solid and secure anchor point through which to connect your trailer for a safe towing experience. While many vehicles may include a tow hitch from the factory (often as part of a tow package), your vehicle may not have one installed already.
Tow hitch receivers are rated by class, the common class ratings found for lightweight trailers range from Class 1 through Class 4. Class 1 hitches are the lightest weight options available, and Class 4 being the most heavy-duty. One of the most common designators of a Class 3 tow hitch is the receiver tube size; Class 3 tow hitches use a 2-inch by 2-inch square receiver tube, whereas lighter classes (Class 1 & 2) typically use a 1-1/4-inch square opening.
For our trailers, we recommend a Class 3 tow hitch for the optimum combination of safety and compatibility.
Shown above: 2-inch receiver size vs. 1-1/4-inch receiver.
As you can see, the size of the 2-inch receiver shown above is much larger than its 1-1/4-inch sibling. While the smaller Class 1 and Class 2 hitches are often capable of towing the weight of our trailers, we use exclusively 2-inch tow balls and the Max-Coupler articulating hitch. Both of these trailer-to-vehicle connections are not compatible with the smaller 1-1/4-inch receivers.
It is especially common for smaller SUVs and crossovers to have only one option for factory-installed tow hitches, and commonly these are the smaller 1-1/4-inch size. If your vehicle has a 1-1/4-inch hitch, please have a qualified mechanic install an aftermarket 2-inch receiver. Companies such as Curt, Draw-Tite, and Uhaul typically make a 2-inch tow hitch option for most common vehicles on the road.
Special Note: Tow Hitch & Tow Capacity
While Class 3 tow hitches can have a tow capacity as high as 7,000-pounds and a tongue weight rating up to 700-pounds, it is important to note that a heavy-duty tow hitch does not mean that your vehicle can tow 7,000 pounds.
With towing capacities, you must account for the lowest rated component within your system. If you install a 7,000-pound tow hitch on a 1,500-pound tow capacity vehicle, your ultimate tow capacity is 1,500-pounds. Please take note of all the listed weight ratings of your towing equipment before towing a trailer with your vehicle. Tow capacities, gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWR) and loading information for your specific vehicle are typically located in the vehicle’s owners manual. If you cannot find the information in your manual, please consult your dealership before towing anything.
Tongue weight ratings are typically 10% of the gross towing capacity for most vehicles. This is another critical factor for safety, please do not exceed the rated tongue weight capacity for your vehicle when towing to ensure your safety and that of those around you.