Your Guide to the Perfect Tow: What to Know About Truck Hitches

A truck hitch is a great tool for towing items that you can't fit in the back of your truck. Hitches enable you to move oversized objects and a lot more weight than you could carry in the bed of your truck. When you combine the hauling capacity of a truck with its towing capacity, many popular pickup trucks are capable of carrying and towing loads whose weights rival those of the largest commercial trucks. You have to pay close attention to several factors to make towing as safe and reliable as possible, though. Let's take a closer look at what you need to know about truck hitches so that you can safely tow things with your truck.

Types of Truck Hitches

It's important to choose the right kind of hitch for your vehicle. Most people are familiar with the bumper hitch that has a ball bolted to the rear bumper of a truck. This hitch is generally the least effective for towing very heavy loads but can work fine with boats, car trailers, and small campers.

Another popular type of ball hitch is the ball platform, which usually has a heavy-duty pin and clip that keep the ball and its platform secured to the hitch. A tongue hitch that is the appropriate size fits over the ball and has a lever that you use to secure and lock the trailer to the ball hitch. Other versions of the ball hitch include weight distribution and weight-carrying hitches that help to distribute the weight on the trailer's connecting tongue.

A gooseneck hitch and pintle hitch can help to haul heavy-duty trailers that carry heavy items, like a bobcat or a load of gravel intended for a landscaping projection. The gooseneck usually is bolted to the bed of a pickup truck and has a ball to which a trailer can connect. A pintle hitch is often secured to the truck in the same manner as a ball hitch and has a jaw that attaches to a round, donut-like apparatus on the trailer to pull it.

The most heavy-duty hitch is the fifth wheel, which mounts on the bed of the pickup truck and is similar to the hitch that tractor-trailers use to haul very heavy loads. A fifth wheel has a pivoting head plate that gives a normally four-wheeled pickup a "fifth wheel" in the bed. The hitch is often used for towing heavy trailers and equipment with an appropriately sized pickup truck. This hitch also is commonly used to haul very large campers that often are referred to as "fifth-wheel campers."

Tow Weight Capacity

It's important to know the tow weight capacity of a truck hitch as well as your truck so that you ensure the safest possible towing. Exceeding the towing capacity of the equipment or your truck creates an unreasonable danger that might cause an accident. The tow weight capacity of your pickup is determined by the type of engine, the suspension, and the chassis. It is possible to improve the towing capacity by customizing the suspension to make the truck more stable while towing. You can find this information in your driver’s manual.

Another way to improve your truck's towing capacity is to improve the brakes. The heavier the load you tow, the harder it will be to slow down and come to a safe stop. Improving the brakes on all four wheels can make a big difference in your truck's ability to safely tow a heavy load. Installing new calipers that have more pistons to generate more stopping power will help to slow down and stop at shorter distances. You also might add aftermarket rotors that dissipate the heat and don't warp as easily as stock rotors tend to.

When it comes to towing heavy loads, a diesel engine is preferred over a gasoline-fueled motor if you’re going to haul a fifth wheel or very heavy equipment. The diesel engine mounted in a heavy-duty or a super-duty pickup could enable you to tow very heavy loads that exceed 10,000 pounds. A dual-axle pickup generally will tow more than a single-axle truck. You would need a truck hitch that matches the towing capacity of your truck to safely haul heavy loads that are within your truck's tow weight capacity.

Even the tires can make a difference in your truck's ability to tow heavy loads. Tires with a wide footprint help to spread out the weight more, which is partly why trucks with dual axles on the back generally have higher towing capacities than those with single axles. It's also why you see trailers with dual axles on all of their wheels and tractors with one or two sets of dual axles on the back where the fifth wheel is located.

Installing Your Truck Hitch

Safety concerns make it important to properly install a truck hitch. It's a bad idea for most people to try doing it themselves. Unless you are a certified mechanic with experience installing towing kits and hitches, you should leave the installation up to an experienced service provider. Doing so will help to protect you against liability if something were to go wrong because the towing package or truck hitch was not properly installed. The service also can ensure the hitch and trailer are the right ones for your truck and within its rated towing capacity.

Once you have the towing package installed, you need to learn how to safely secure a trailer to whatever type of truck hitch you have. Correctly hooking up the trailer will help to keep it in place while you are towing and prevent it from breaking loose and becoming a runaway trailer. Many newer trucks include a rear camera that helps you maneuver the truck into position to hook up the trailer. Once everything is connected, you should practice backing the trailer into different spots to get a feel of how to do it without hitting other vehicles or objects.

Best Hitch Safety Practices

Don’t get started with a hitch if you’re not comfortable maneuvering with extra length behind your truck. It's also crucial to learn how to load the trailer so that it's balanced to prevent it from tipping or losing some or all of its load. Securing the load also is very important to prevent items from falling off. If something were to fall off of the trailer while you are pulling it, you would be liable for any damages or injuries that it might cause. You'll also need to know how to secure safety chains that could stop it from becoming a runaway trailer if it detaches from the truck hitch for any reason.

If you're in need of a truck hitch, we have you covered. We are proud to offer fast and free ground shipping to the lower 48 states. Check out our website to get started today!

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