For most of us, unless you are anticipating full-time RVing or at least spending months on the road, having a large expensive vehicle sitting for months does not make financial sense.
With the cost of large rigs like motor homes, vehicle maintenance and fuel, towing a trailer is becoming a more popular option for RV traveling.
When it comes to selecting the right hitch much of the decision rests with your tow vehicle and the weight of what you are intending to tow.
If you are adding a receiver hitch to a compact car in order to use a bike rack your options are significantly different than someone looking to add a heavy duty hitch to their diesel truck to tow a large trailer.
Your vehicle’s owners manual should tell you the GTW (gross towing weight) and TW (tongue weight) that your vehicle can safely tow. It is important to determine the total weight you wish to carry, the trailer weight plus the cargo weight, and don’t forget to add in the weight of your tow vehicle.
In some cases, such as small passenger cars, there may only be one class of hitch available. If you have a truck or SUV there will probably be many more options.
Determine the maximum GTW for each hitch and compare that to the weight of the trailer and cargo.
It is important to never exceed the GTW of any component in your towing system, it is best to choose a receiver hitch with a GTW that exceeds your needs.
Time for Class
5 classes of hitch receivers are available for passenger vehicles class 1 to class 5.
Class 1 – TW = 200 lbs – GTW = 2000 lbs for sub-compact & compact cars
Class 2 – TW = 300 lbs – GTW = 3500 lbs for mid-size cars and small pickup.
Class 3 – TW = 350 – 600 lbs – GTW = 3500 – 6000 lbs for mini-vans & SUVs
Class 4 & 5 – TW = 600 – 1200 lbs – GTW = 6000 – 12000 lbs for full size cars, vans, pickups & utility vehicles.
Weight Distribution Hitch
The design of this type of hitch is to transfer some of the tongue weight to the rest of the tow vehicle.
Smaller vehicles may use a larger capacity hitch if equipped with an equalizer (weight distribution hitch) and an anti-sway system.
Installing a Trailer Hitch
If you have decided to install a trailer hitch on your vehicle yourself, buy a vehicle specific hitch it will make installation easier. Keep in mind that your specific installation is going to be different. Carefully read the instructions that are included with your hitch. There are also various U-tube videos on hitch installation.
5th Wheel Hitches
As with other hitches it is important to buy a hitch specifically designed for your pickup. There are various models for your towing needs and one option you should consider is a two way swivel hitch that tilts forward and back as well as side to side. This configuration will prevent coupling problems should your trailer be positioned on a different degree than your pickup. Click here to check them out at Camping World.
Its the Brakes
Slowing down your rig is undoubtedly a big concern when you’re towing. Depending on the state that you are towing in and the size of load, you may or may not be required to have brakes on your trailer. For this reason, it is important to look into the towing laws before you hit the roads.
Most smaller trailers can be controlled using your vehicle brakes, but larger trailers will have their own set of brakes that you can control using a brake controller.
A brake controller activates the brakes on your trailer, there are several different manufactures and many different models. To choose the right one you will need to consider the maximum weight of the trailer and cargo and what kind of brakes your trailer has.
Timed Brake Controllers
These are the simplest and usually the lowest cost option when it comes to brake controllers. Timed brake controllers use time-based circuitry to gradually increase the amount of pressure on the trailer brakes the longer the pedal is depressed. These controllers are generally used for smaller trailers and on shorter hauls.
Inertia Brake Controllers
An internal sensor in the inertia brake controller senses the deceleration of the tow vehicle and activates the trailers brakes. These controllers have an internal sensor that is attached to an external pendulum. An inertia brake controller measures the amount of deceleration in the tow vehicle and applies a proportional amount of power to the trailer brakes.
Proportional/ Accelerometer Brake Controllers
This controller delivers the most responsive braking power. It responds to your brake pedal and delivers the same amount of force to your trailer brakes. Perfect for longer trips and larger trailers, proportional brake controllers are the Einstein’s of the brake controller world.
It is important to carefully examine your options and pick the brake controller that is right for your trailer and tow vehicle. Also, once you have chosen a controller and installed it, practice driving around slowly to get a feel for how it will react.
It is very important to adjust your electric brake controller.
If your brakes are not adjusted properly you may not be able to stop as fast as is needed.
Trailer Hitch Wiring
Connecting your vehicle to your trailer goes beyond simply placing the tongue on the hitch. In order for your trailer’s taillights, turn signals and brake lights to work properly, you also need a solid electrical connection. Most vehicles have a towing wiring harness factory installed.
A vehicle specific T-Connector and Taillight Converter are easily installed, these accessories make connecting trailer wiring as easy as plugging it in.
Brake Controller Wiring Harness
This harness connects your brake controller to your vehicle’s electrical system—no splicing needed! The modular ends plug right into your vehicle’s factory wiring harness under the dash, and the other end plugs into your trailer brake controller.
Gooseneck/Fifth Wheel Wiring Harness
This is just like a T-Connecter, only designed to give your fifth-wheel trailer the same easy plug-n-play installation.
Electric Breakaway Kits
A electric breakaway kit is a device that automatically applies your trailer’s brakes in the event of an accidental separation from the tow vehicle. The kit may have a battery or not depending on whether your trailer has a battery. The battery supplies power to the electric brakes should separation occur. Breakaway brakes are mandatory in most states and provinces.
There are many towing accessories available, from car towing kits, to mirror extensions and air bag kits for your tow vehicle, click here to check them out at Camping World.
I have created a comprehensive list of equipment and items you may need for your RV travels click here to check out my list.
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I hope this article is of some help with trailer hitches. If you have any comments or suggestions I would love to read them.
Look for my next article on driving tips for towing
Thanks for visiting.
Electric Breakaway Kits
A device that automatically applies your trailer’s brakes in the event of accidental separation from the tow vehicle. These are mandatory in most states and provinces.