Types of Trailer HitchesLast Updated August 4, 2019 | Sam Padgett
It seems that there are more styles of truck hitches than there are grains of sand on the beach. There are a lot of different towing options that you can employ for a variety of different types and sizes of loads. In actuality, picking a type of trailer hitch isn’t too tricky, given that you know what type of load you will be towing. While the following list covers the most common types of trailer hitches, there are a lot of different types and classes of hitches out there suited for some of the most specific towing jobs.
Receiver hitches are some of the most common types of trailer hitches, but receiver hitches don’t all look the same: Most are made to the specifications of individual cars. Receiver hitches work by having an insert for any form of tow mount that can be attached to the frame of the tow car.
This style of hitch comes in many different sizes and can fit on many different cars, including small passenger cars. This also means that the maximum weight rating for receiver hitches can vary by quite a lot. For this reason, receiver hitches are broken up into a series of 5 classes. Classes 1 and 2 are more suited for SUVs and smaller passenger cars, and classes 3-5 are what is generally found on full-size trucks. More often than not, a truck will be equipped with a class 3 receiver hitch, which can tow up to 8,000 lbs of gross trailer weight. Below is a chart that shows the various weight ratings on each class of receiver hitch.
The bumper hitch is in many ways quite similar to receiver hitches. They look quite similar to receiver hitches, but instead of being mounted to the vehicle's frame, they are mounted onto the bumper. Basically, they are receiver hitches that are more suited for lighter loads. This is partly because they rely on the strength of the bumper rather than the frame, meaning that the amount of weight they can handle is both lower and more variable from vehicle to vehicle. Additionally, front mount hitches are a similar thing but they are instead mounted on the front of the vehicle. These can be used in the same way as bumper hitches, but also can serve a variety of niche functions. If you’ve ever wanted to convert your F-150 into a snow plowing machine, then a front mount hitch is your best option.
Weight Distribution Hitch
While this isn’t a hitch in itself, it is a useful addition to a variety of hitch types. A weight distribution hitch is more of an attachment to a receiver hitch. While it looks complicated, it serves a quite simple function. These hitches are used to mitigate excessive tongue weight of towing load across the wheels of the towing vehicle. Tongue weight is the amount of pressure the tow load presses down onto the vehicle. With a weight distribution hitch, the rear wheels don’t have to deal with all of the weight, meaning that the tow vehicle will drive more smoothly.
5th Wheel Hitch
For the most serious towing jobs, an entirely different style of hitch is necessary. Instead of being mounted onto the trailer of a vehicle, a fifth wheel hitch is installed into the bed of the truck. That also means that fifth wheel hitches are only available on trucks. Instead of having a traditional ball mount, 5th wheel hitches use a kingpin mechanism to attach the towing load. Because of their mounting position in the bed of the truck, they can tow a considerable amount, ranging from 16,000 to 25,000 lbs.
These hitches are generally employed to tow large trailers, campers, and car haulers, but that doesn’t mean that a fifth wheel hitch is relegated to these towing tasks. As long as the tow load can accept the kingpin, then it will work. A key part of the fifth wheel hitch’s design is its ability to both pivot and absorb the sudden bumps of the road. By being able to move freely, this style of hitch can absorb many of the unexpected bumps and jumps of the road, giving the driver of the tow vehicle some peace of mind. Additionally, fifth wheel hitches allow for an increased turning radius, allowing the tower to maneuver their load This is the same type of hitch that you will see on semi-trucks.
A gooseneck hitch is another type of tow hitch that is mounted on the inside of a truck bed. In many senses, this style of hitch is similar to a fifth wheel hitch. In that case, what is the difference between 5th wheel and gooseneck towing? The difference is that a gooseneck hitch uses a traditional ball mount instead. While both fifth wheel and gooseneck hitches require some involved installing on the bed of the truck, the mount for the gooseneck hitch does not take any space in the bed. This hitch promises some of the best towing capacity as well as good maneuverability. Another one of the benefits that gooseneck has over fifth wheel towing is the increased variety of towing options. Since gooseneck hitches do use the ball mount, they don’t have to rely on kingpin devices purely to tow.
A final type of towing apparatus is a pintle hook, which is quite simple. A pintle hook is merely a loop and a hook, with the hook being attached to the towing vehicle and the loop being attached to the tow load. The previously mentioned loop is referred to as a lunette eye. While pintle hooks and lunette eyes aren't as flexible and don't provide as smooth a towing experience, they can tow an impressive amount of weight, anywhere from 10,000 to 60,000 lbs. As opposed to the other types of towing hitches, pintle hooks are more commonly used for construction jobs.
There is a type of trailer hitch suited for any towing job out there. If you know what kind of job you will need to take on, then picking the right hitch should be easy. Most likely, you will need some form of receiver hitch given that those are the most common and versatile. But if there are any heavy or bulky tow loads in your future, you now know what type of hitch to employ.
There are many options for towing hitches. Regardless of which type of load you are looking to haul, there is a hitch made for that job. If you are planning on hauling something, be sure to understand the limitations and the strengths of each type of tow hitch.
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