For the majority of towing needs, there are five standard types of tow hitches used to pull trailers. Typically, most medium to heavy-duty trucks (and some SUVs) are stock-built with a standard receiver hitch on the rear end of the vehicle. There are other towing packages that can be added to the vehicle/truck in order to properly tow all types of trailers and applications. Here are the five different types of hitches available:
- WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION
- 5TH WHEEL
What is a Bumper Hitch?
The standard bumper tow ball mount that attaches directly to the rear end receiver hitch, already mounted to the vehicle, is the first and most common. You can use this type of ball mount on nearly every truck, larger SUVs and sometimes even smaller sedans can be built to have a receiver hitch. This type of ball mount comes in an array of different sizes and styles. The receiver insert sizes can range anywhere from 1-¼” all the way to 3”, which normally range somewhere between 2000 to 21,000 lbs of MAX Towing Capacity.
Bumper tow ball mounts also come in many different drop lengths. You can get a bumper tow ball mount with no drop length, one with a little bit of drop length (2” drop) or one with a lot of drop length ( We sell a 10” drop) or you can even get a bumper tow ball mount that gives you some rise length.
You can also get different styles of bumper tow ball mounts that have different features. For example, here at Weigh Safe, we have a handful of different styles of hitches with different functions. Our Fixed Height Ball Mount gives you a 2” drop, and can measure tongue weight but doesn’t have height adjustment capabilities. Our 180 Hitch has height adjustment capabilities and is easy to swap between tow ball sizes and our Weigh Safe Hitch has the ability to measure tongue weight and has height adjustment capabilities.
What is a Weight Distribution Hitch?
A weight distribution hitch is similar to a bumper tow ball mount except it has different benefits and features. It is most commonly used when you buy an RV or a travel trailer, as it can help level your trailer, restore balance and minimize trailer sway. When you tow a trailer, an increased amount of weight is placed on the rear end of the tow vehicle. Once a weight distribution hitch is hooked up, it spreads the tongue weight of the load off of the rear axle and levels it out across the other axles to restore balance.
How does this work? A weight distribution is much like a wheelbarrow. Using the spring arms (like the handles of the wheelbarrow) to lift and leverage the rear end of the tow vehicle, therefore distributing that lifted weight onto the other axles. Once the weight is distributed across all axles, driving performance is increased, stress on your vehicle is reduced and a smooth and level ride with the ability to maximize the capacity of your hitch is achieved.
It is important to know that while the weight distribution hitch redistributes weight and balances your load, it does NOT increase the total amount of weight that your tow vehicle can handle. You should only tow as much as your lowest-rated component and always abide by the towing capacities of your tow vehicle and trailer.
What is a Fifth Wheel Hitch?
A 5th wheel hitch is a heavy-duty tow hitch that mounts over the axles or slightly in front of the axles in the bed of a truck and uses a kingpin mechanism to attach the towing load. These hitches are unique because the coupling system is a part of the hitch itself rather than a part of the trailer. This type of hitch is typically used for towing large travel trailers and car haulers; semi-trucks also use this type of hitch. 5th Wheel Hitches are designed to pivot and absorb sudden bumps while driving and can increase your turning radius. You can carry a much heavier load with a 5th wheel hitch in comparison to standard ball hitches because the trailer weight is positioned between the cab and rear axle. With this type of hitch, the horseshoe-shaped plate on the hitch itself and the plate on the trailer are in constant contact and require lubrication.
What is a Gooseneck Hitch?
A gooseneck hitch is very similar to a 5th wheel hitch in that it mounts in the bed of the truck directly above or slightly in front of the rear axles. This type of hitch is typically used for towing livestock, car haulers, large flatbeds, or other commercial/industrial trailers. With the gooseneck hitch you have the ability to make much tighter turns than a typical bumper tow hitch and trailer. There are two different types of gooseneck hitches: above-bed and under-bed.
First is the above-bed gooseneck hitch which attaches to the same standard rails as a 5th wheel hitch does on your truck. This makes it easy to take on/off of your truck and is great if you’re switching hitches often.
Second is the under-bed gooseneck hitch, which is probably the most popular style of gooseneck hitch. They are custom fit to your specific truck and have rails that attach beneath the bed of the truck. The two most common types of under-bed gooseneck hitches are the OEM gooseneck hitch and the B&W gooseneck hitch.
The OEM gooseneck hitch does not require any additional installation brackets and is an easy installation because it was designed and made specifically for your truck. OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer which basically means that your truck already comes equipped with this gooseneck hitch installed.
Although some dealerships will sell a vehicle pre-set up with a B&W tow package installed, it is normally sold and installed as an after-market under-bed gooseneck option.
What is a Pintle Hitch?
A pintle hitch is mainly used for heavy-duty towing, more specifically on rough terrain. It consists of the hooking system which is called the pintle and is attached to the truck. The lunnete, which is the ring that the pintle hooks to, is attached to the trailer. These hitches are commonly used for industrial, military and agricultural scenarios where higher weight capacities are required.
Pintle hitches allow for a larger range of motion than the typical bumper tow ball mount. This range of motion is what makes the pintle hitch an ideal option for the uneven and intense angles that rough, off-road terrain presents. Because there is such a range of motion allowed with this tow hitch, there may be a rougher and noiser towing experience.