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    A trailer hitch is a small piece of equipment, but when it’s not working right, it’s a big deal. Trailers are involved in 73% of deaths in large truck crashes in 2016, according to the most recent available data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Riding in a vehicle with a tow hitch greatly increases the chance of getting whiplash during a rear-end collision. Quality trailer hitch accessories from a brand such as Curt can improve your chances against being involved in a serious accident. To assist you with selecting the trailer hitch and accessories that are right for your needs, below is some information to answer the most commonly-asked questions about trailer hitches.

    You can buy trailer hitch parts and accessories online or visit your local Advance Auto Parts store and have one of our knowledgeable Team Members help you.

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    FAQs Concerning Trailer Hitches

    What parts do I need in order to tow a trailer with my vehicle?
    In order to tow a trailer with your car, you need five parts:

    1. Trailer hitch receiver
      Depending on the type of hitch you have, this may be synonymous with your hitch. The receiver is a connecting device that attaches beneath your vehicle to connect your tow vehicle to the rest of your trailer hitch apparatus. It has an opening in order to receive a ball mount. Fixed-drawbar hitches (fixed-tongue hitches) include the hitch and ball mount as part of a single unit that is not generally compatible with aftermarket accessories. Receiver-type hitches accept a removable ball mount that is separate from the receiver, which allows more flexibility than fixed-drawbar hitches. Most receiver holes are 1-1/4" x 1-1/4" or 2" x 2", but some designed for heavy-duty towing are 2-1/2" x 2-1/2".
    2. Drawbar (ball mount)
      This component slides into your receiver’s opening and provides a platform for the ball that attaches your hitch to your trailer. In fixed-drawbar hitches, this part forms a single unit with your receiver. In receiver-type hitches, the ball mount is separate.
    3. Trailer hitch ball
      This is a metal ball that connects your hitch to your trailer when you lower your trailer tongue coupler’s round opening onto it. Your coupler sits over your hitch ball and pivots on it when you turn your vehicle. Balls typically come in 1-7/8", 2", and 2-5/16" sizes.
    4. Pin and clip
      This is a bolting mechanism that holds your ball mount secure to your receiver opening. The clip fastens the pin in place.
    5. Wiring harness
      This is a wiring connection that supplies power to your trailer’s lights and signals.

    Do all vehicles use the same kind of tow hitch?
    No, different classes of hitches are designed for use with different types of vehicles and loads. Vehicle manufacturers test and determine safe towing capacities for specific models, so you will need to check your vehicle’s make, model and year for compatibility when considering hitches. Hitches are likewise assigned class ratings based on the maximum weight they can safely tow and the size of their receiver openings. Consider both your vehicle type and how much weight you need to tow (including trailer and contents) when selecting hitches.

    What are some common abbreviations associated with trailer hitches?
    When considering hitches, there are some common abbreviations you will typically encounter related to the hitch class ratings and towing capacity:

    • GTW - Gross trailer weight. This refers to the combined weight of your trailer and its contents.
    • TW - Tongue weight. This is the amount of weight placed on your hitch by your trailer’s attachment.
    • GVWR/GVM - Gross vehicle weight rating/gross vehicle mass rating. This is the amount of weight/mass your vehicle can carry including all parts, passengers, cargo and tongue weight, but not including trailers. Subtract your TW from your GVWR or GVM when calculating how much you can tow.
    • GCWR - Gross combined weight rating. This is the maximum weight for both vehicle and trailer combined.

    Buy trailer hitch and accessories online or visit your local Advance Auto Parts store and have one of our knowledgable Team Members help you.


    Tow Hitch Types

    Trailer hitches are divided into four main class ratings by the Society of Automotive Engineers based on GTW, TW and receiver opening sizes. In addition, some manufacturers advertise a fifth class, which is not officially recognized by the SAE. You can find your tow hitch’s rating on a label on your hitch.
    1. Class I Trailer Hitch Receivers
      • Maximum 2,000 lb GTW, maximum 200 lb TW, receiver opening: 1-1/4" x 1-1/4".
      • Designed for smaller vehicles including compact cars as well as larger vehicles such as SUVs and minivans hauling light loads such as cargo carriers, bikes and canoes.
    2. Class II Trailer Hitch Receivers
      • Maximum 3,500 lb GTW, maximum 525 lb TW, receiver opening: 1-1/4" x 1-1/4".
      • Designed for mid-sized cars and larger vehicles hauling light loads such as cargo carriers, bikes, canoes, small trailers, small popup campers and small boats.
    3. Class III Trailer Hitch Receivers
      • Maximum 8,000 lb GTW, maximum 800 lb TW, receiver opening: 2" x 2".
      • Designed for full-sized cars and larger vehicles including large SUVs and trucks hauling medium loads such as utility trailers, midsize campers, lawn maintenance equipment, motorcycles and snowmobiles.
    4. Class IV Trailer Hitch Receivers
      • Maximum 10,000 lb GTW, maximum 1,000 lb TW, receiver opening: 2" x 2".
      • Designed for larger vehicles such as heavy-duty trucks and SUVs hauling larger loads such as large campers and boats.
    5. Class V Trailer Hitch Receivers
      • Maximum 20,000 lb GTW, maximum 2,000 lb TW, receiver opening 2-1/2" x 2-1/2" or 2” x 2”.
      • Designed for heavy vehicles such as heavy-duty and commercial trucks hauling large loads such as equipment haulers, large toy haulers and multi-car haulers.

    How to Install a Tow Hitch

    Installing a tow hitch basically involves backing your vehicle up into a position where your hitch ball lines up with your trailer tongue’s coupler, closing the latch over the ball and securing it with your pin, securing the connection with safety chains and attaching your wiring harness. For more details read these tips on towing for beginners.

    Additional FAQs

    Can I still tow a trailer if I don’t have the right type of towing hitch?
    While this may be physically possible, this is asking for trouble. You run an increased risk of your trailer coming loose and causing an accident. In addition to the physical risk, in the event you are in an accident, your insurance provider may not cover damage caused by using an improper hitch.

    When using a towing hitch, what additional driving precautions should I take?
    When hauling a load, all maneuvers should be done more slowly and deliberately to allow for the effects of the extra weight and added length. Allow for more time to stop at signs and lights. Factor in the extra space and time you need when changing lanes or making turns. When navigating steeper hills, consider pulling over to the side and turning on your hazard lights to alert drivers and shift down a gear when driving downhill.

    What can I do to keep my trailer from swaying?
    Loading your trailer evenly with at least 10 to 15 percent of the weight toward the front end will control swaying under normal towing conditions. Under exceptional conditions, such as hauling a load that weighs over 50 percent of your vehicle’s weight or driving in windy or busy conditions, special weight distribution spring bars and sway controls are available. Some of these are not compatible with all braking systems, so check for compatibility with your vehicle.

    What are some common trailer hitch accessories?
    In addition to hitches, there are a number of trailer hitch accessories that can make hauling trailers easier and safer:

    • Hitch installation accessories
      These make it easier for you to install hitches through difficult access points, such as enclosed frames.
    • Hitch covers
      These covers protect your hitch receiver entrance from weather and can also provide a custom look.
    • Reducer bushings
      These enable you to use a smaller size trailer hitch ball without buying a new ball mount.
    • Gooseneck trailer balls
      These allow you to move the position of your trailer ball when you need to pull a trailer with an extra-long overhang.
    • Hitch lock
      This locks your pin and clip together to prevent theft of your trailer.
    • Safety chains and hooks
      These help ensure that your trailer stays attached.
    • Trailer wiring kits
      These kits make it easier to attach your wiring harness if your vehicle doesn’t have factory-provided trailer wiring, which is true for the majority of cars.
    • Tow hooks and straps
      These attachments assist with straight-line towing and vehicle towing.
    • Step pads
      These attachable mounts make it easier to climb into your trailer or lift objects into your trailer.
    • Enlarged rotors
      These add heavy-duty brake pads to protect your brakes from overheating when towing a heavy load.
    • Transmission coolers
      These protect your transmission system from overheating when hauling heavy loads.
    • Wheel bearings and protectors
      These help lubricate your trailer wheels and protect them from the elements.
    • Towing mirrors
      These mirror extensions allow you to see past your trailer for better side and rear visibility.
    • Anti-rattle kits
      These kits prevent noise that can occur when towing trailers.

    Buy trailer hitch and accessories online or visit your local Advance Auto Parts store and have one of our knowledgable Team Members help you.