Connecting The Truck
And Trailer

By Pat Piper
Published: Summer 2013

The tow vehicle and the trailer are connected in five different places, and each is important. Here's what you need to know.

The Hitch And Receiver

There are four types of hitches, each measured by the weight it can pull. Every hitch has a weight capacity (WC) or weight distribution (WD) sticker telling you what loads can be carried.

Some boats and trailers will require a tow vehicle to have a weight distribution hitch so that some of the weight on a tow vehicle's rear axle is shifted to the front axle.

Class I: Capacity is 2,000 pounds

Class II: Capacity is 3,500 pounds.

Class III: Capacity is 6,000 pounds.

Class IV: Capacity is 10,000 pounds.

There was a time when a trailer ball was a permanent part of a pickup truck and the result was a lot of skinned shins from people who forgot it was there. Today, the trailer ball can be removed because most new tow vehicles’ hitches use a draw bar receiver, to which the ball mount and hitch ball are attached and secured with a hitch pin. Most receivers are either 1 1/4 inches by 1 1/4 inches (1,000 pounds-2,000 pounds), or 2 inches by 2 inches (3,000 pounds-4,000 pounds), though larger boats (read: heavier) will require a receiver hitch with 2 1/2-inch dimensions. See hitch illustrations at right.

The Coupler

A coupler is at the end of the trailer tongue; and this is what rests on the hitch ball and is secured with either a latch lever or, if an older trailer, a round "hand wheel" that is simply screwed down to tighten. Most levers have a locking pin to keep the trailer secured to the tow vehicle. Alternatively, use a small padlock for extra security. Always check that this is tightened/locked before going on the road.

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Trailer hitch classes illustration


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