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horse trailers equipment

How to Choose the Right Trailer Hitch Accessory

When selecting a trailer hitch accessory the name of the game is to properly identify your present and .... anticipated future needs, from both the vehicle and the trailer standpoints.

The key is to use a trailer hitch that is within the towing capacity of your vehicle and is strong enough to handle the weight capacity of the trailer. A row boat trailer will require a different hitch than a horse trailer. Likewise a full-size truck will pull more than a minivan. Make sure you evaluate all your possible needs.

So first things first ... find out in your vehicle owner’s manual what is the maximum towing and tongue weight capacity. Then evaluate the weight you will need to pull. Now, let's look at the two general of trailer hitch accessory categories. The weight-distributing hitch has an attachment that slides into the receiver to transfer part of the weight on the tongue. It has two spring bars, for each side of the trailer, to provide leverage to the vehicle pulling the weight. This, again, transfers the tongue weight from the rear axle to the front to provide stability to the vehicle while towing. These features are obviously most recommended for bigger payloads. The other category is the weight-carrying hitch, with no attachment, is better suited for lighter loads.

Let's cover the various trailer hitch accessory classes. The class I trailer hitch handles a trailer weight of up to 2,000 lbs., and a tongue weight of up to 200 lbs. It is best suited for light-duty tow needs with cars and minivans. The class 2 hitch handles a trailer weight of up to 3,500 lbs. a tongue weight of up to 300 lbs. It is most appropriate for a small boat, a camper or a snowmobile trailer with large rear-wheel drive cars, full-size vans, pickups and SUVs. Class 3 hitches will handle a weight of up to 5,000 lbs. while the tongue will take up to 300 lbs. This class is general considered the standard in the industry for general towing needs. The class 3 trailer hitch accessory has a capacity of up to 10,000 lbs. of trailer weight and of up to 1,000 lbs. of tongue weight and usually falls in the weight-distributing category. finally, the class 5 hitch handles the loads over 10,000 lbs and is appropriate for towing large boat trailers and other similar payloads.

So much for trailer hitch accessory categories and classes. Let's discuss some very important issues.


The load of the trailer tongue must not exceed 10 % and 12 % of the trailer weight for weight-carrying and weight-distributing hitches respectively.


You may find that a class 3 and up trailer hitch accessory will require an upgrade of your vehicle's suspension and automatic transmission system. The use of stiffer springs, air springs, overload shocks, larger sway bars or an automatic transmission cooler may be appropriate. You should discuss those issues with your mechanic before selcting a trailer hitch.

From a driving visibility point of view you should also consider extended side-mount mirrors to improve the rear view, particularly if you are pulling a large trailer.


Most hitches can be easily installed without the need to drill or weld. The installation instructions of the hitch supplier should provide you with all the necessary details. One important note anyway : make sure the hitch clears the spare tire (if applicable), all suspension components and the tailpipe.

Also, make sure the distance from the ground to the inside top of the ball coupling on the trailer is similar to the distance from the ground to the receiver. Adjustments to the ballmount and the receiver should be made to ensure the trailer is levelled.

We hope this will help you in selecting a trailer hitch accessory for your towing needs. Hitches are available from a variety of online suppliers and for the full range of vehicles.

Marc Deschamps is the editor of Car Accessories Magazine, a free online publication dedicated to automotive accessories, car care and related topics. Other articles on truck accessories can be found at