All towing products aren’t created equal; selecting the proper setup is critical
Once you’ve gone through the fun, yet often exhausting, process of choosing the ultimate trailer, you’re going to need to choose the right equipment and to tow it with. Having the right towing products for your truck is very important. A hitch may just look like a big hunk ’o metal from the outset, but there are weight classifications to take into consideration, as well as a variety of features that can make towing a more pleasurable and stress-free experience.
With regard to travel trailers, the tow vehicle’s hitch receiver (the part at the back of the vehicle the hitch slides into) dictates what you’ll be able to tow, so start there first. Towing accessories like hitch receivers are divided into classes, which define how much weight the hitch is designed for. Smaller hitches like the Class I (rated for 2,000 pounds and 200 pounds hitch weight) and Class II (3,500 pounds and 350 pounds of hitch weight) are weight carrying (WC) designs, meaning the hitch assembly carries all the weight on its own. These are simple hitches that usually don’t require any additional equipment; the only thing you have to do is select the right ball size, and decide whether or not you need a drop/rise hitch to compensate for the difference in height between the trailer and tow vehicle.
Larger hitches (Class III and above) are more commonly weight-distributing (WD) designs, which incorporate hitch bars that take some of the burden off the hitch assembly by shifting the weight forward. A WD hitch platform has sockets into which one end of the bars is inserted, while the other ends attach to the trailer’s A-frame, typically via chains (but not in every case). The chains (for the purpose of this example) can be adjusted to move the hitch bar ends upward, increasing tension, or downward, reducing it. In this way, the appropriate amount of tension can be created to keep the trailer and tow vehicle level when hitched up. An adjustable ball mount, meanwhile, allows the user to adjust the hitch ball height, which is important if the tow vehicle is higher or lower than the trailer’s hitch coupler.
As you might have guessed, there are more than a few WD hitch designs. A traditional “trunnion” hitch incorporates square, solid-steel bars that taper at the trailer’s end. Other systems incorporate hollow tubes instead of bars, which may be inserted on the bottom (typical) or top of the hitch platform. These are the most common, but there are other designs. When shopping for a hitch system, keep in mind that they are rated for the maximum weight of the trailer as well as the hitch weight, so it’s important to know these figures ahead of time.
If you’re new to RVing and are just beginning to shop for towing products, you might consider a hitch system that incorporates sway control; if you already have a hitch, there are add-on systems that are available. These are typically friction-type sway control systems that make it more difficult for trailer sway to begin — but aren’t designed to stop it once it starts. If you want to practically eliminate sway altogether, then shop for a complete hitch system designed for this purpose or add an electronic sway control system. They’re not cheap, but both have been proven to be extremely effective.
Fifth-wheel hitches are a little less complicated, as they’re designated by the gross trailer weight they are designed for. A 16,000-pound (or “16K”) hitch is rated for up to 16,000 pounds gross trailer weight, a 20K hitch for up to 20,000 pounds, etc. No other accessories are needed, but it’s important to carefully shop the various hitch designs that are available. Some incorporate a suspension system of some type to smooth the ride, while others are designed for easy installation/removal. If you’ve got a short-bed pickup, you’ll want an automatic sliding hitch or pin box extension that prevents the front cap of the trailer from interfering with the cab of the truck in tight turns.