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Trailer Safety: Best Adjustable Trailer Hitch


The right trailer hitch can really provide the right security to your towing providing a peace of mind. Especially if it is not just you towing your trailer around. There is a lot that can go wrong when towing a load. If somebody does not know what they are doing, these consequences can be catastrophic.

It is important to have a system in place in your business to train employees how to load and haul a trailer whether it is loaded or not. There are a few things that need to be considered when discussing trailer safety and we are going to get into all of it in this post so that you can use it in your business to provide safe training to your employees that will be using a trailer.

This also serves those looking to purchase the best adjustable trailer hitch whether it is for their business or home use. There are some excellent adjustable trailer hitches on the market that will allow you to tow safely with peace of mind. We are going to get into what you need to consider when purchasing a trailer hitch and why having an adjustable trailer hitch can help your towing.

For the purpose of this post, an adjustable trailer hitch refers to the actual ball mount that is inserted into the receiver of the hitch that is attached to the towing vehicle.


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Parts of a Trailer Set Up

Before we begin, let’s discuss the different components of a trailer set up, what they are, what they do, and why they matter to any trailer set up. With any towing set up, there is the towing vehicle and the trailer. Along with that are all the pieces that connect the two for a safe towing experience.


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  1. Hitch

  2. The hitch is connected tot he tow vehicle and is the structural part of any trailer towing set up. This is usually used to refer to the actual ball mount, but the ball mount is inserted into the receiver of the hitch which is attached to the towing vehicle.

    Trailer Hitch Classes

    There are different trailer hitch classes to consider for your vehicle and trailer and choosing which class of trailer hitch is best suited for your needs depends on your vehicle and what you will be towing in your trailer. Each hitch class has its own towing capacity, but this is also labelled on every hitch as it may not reach the maximum towing capacity within its class. When it comes to knowing your towing capability, it is important to know the rating of each piece of your towing components. Your towing capacity should never exceed the lowest of the component’s capabilities. In addition, you should never exceed the towing capacity of your vehicle’s towing capability. Here are the different classes of trailer hitches and their capabilities:

    • Class 1 Trailer Hitch
    • These hitches have a 1.25″ receiver and are typically seen on cars and small crossover vehicles with some having a fixed ball mount with the ability to remove the ball. These are typically rated to tow up to 2,000 pounds gross trailer weight (weight of trailer plus the weight of the load).

    • Class 2 Trailer Hitch
    • The next class up still has 1.25″ receivers and are also seen on crossovers and minivans, as well as some SUVs and pickup trucks. These have a towing capability of 3,500 pounds gross trailer weight.

    • Class 3 Trailer Hitch
    • Class 3 hitches have a 2″ receiver and is the most common installed on full-size pickup trucks and SUVs. Typically if your truck has a towing prep package, it has a class 3 hitch installed. These can tow up to 8,000 pounds of gross trailer weight.

    • Class 4 Trailer Hitch
    • Similar to the class 3 hitches, these hitches also have a 2″ receiver and can be found on full-size pickup trucks and SUVs. They can tow up to 10,000 pounds of gross trailer weight.

    • Class 5 Trailer Hitch
    • Class 5 hitches can offer up to 20,000 pounds of gross trailer weight and are seen on full-size pickup trucks and commercial trucks. These can be seen to have 2″ or 2.5″ receivers.

    Types of Trailer Hitches

    In addition to these different classes of receiver hitches that are the most typical that are found, there are a few others that are worth mentioning.

    • 5th Wheel Hitch
    • This hitch is dedicated to heavy-duty truck beds taking a kingpin of a 5th wheel trailer similar to that of a tractor-trailer coupler.



    • Gooseneck Hitch
    • The Gooseneck hitch is also a heavy-duty truck bed hitch that instead features a ball to connect to the coupler of the Gooseneck trailer.



    • Pintle Hitch
    • This connection features a hook and a ring providing a strong coupling mechanism for heavy-duty trucks.



    • Weight Distribution Hitch
    • This is an attachment for the receiver hitch and helps to distribute the tongue weight applied by the load of the trailer across the vehicle and trailer providing better control while driving.

     

  3. Receiver

  4. The receiver is the part of the hitch where the ball mount is inserted into and pinned in. This is specifically used for a ball mount set up, as other trailer types include a 5th wheel hitch, gooseneck hitch, among others that are intended for specific uses and capacities.

    In order to purchase the correct ball mount for your receiver, you will need to know the measurement of the opening of your receiver to purchase the similarly measured shaft of your ball mount. To do this, you will need to measure from one side of the receiver opening to the other (inside dimensions). You can then use this measurement to purchase the correct ball mount for your receiver.

  5. Ball Mount

  6. The ball mount is inserted into the receiver of a hitch and pinned with a hitch pin. The ball mount has a shaft, which is inserted into the receiver, and a platform, which is the space for the ball to mount onto. These come in a wide variety of styles including fixed and adjustable among many others. Fixed ball mounts provide a single drop for your trailer to be a specific length from the road. However, adjustable ball mounts provide multiple drops to provide the best solution to pulling different trailer, loads, and attaching to various trucks.

    When purchasing a ball mount, you do want to purchase the measurement of shaft that fits into the opening of the receiver on your hitch as stated above. You also want to purchase a ball mount that has the correct drop for a level trailer when hauling.

    How to Measure Trailer Hitch Drop

    The Department of Transportation requires a minimum 11″ of clearance from the furthest down point of the ball mount to the ground. On a mono ball mount where there is only one ball on the ball mount, you need to measure from the bottom of the platform of the ball mount to the ground.


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    If you have a 360 degree hitch or dual ball mount, then you need to measure from the bottom of the bottom ball of that ball mount to the ground.


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    With that measurement, you need to subtract the 11″ minimum clearance to provide the maximum drop that your trailer can have. However, if you are adding weight to your trailer then it will squat which will reduce that minimum clearance below the 11″ threshold. Therefore you should start at the 13″ mark for clearance to provide the 11″ minimum clearance after your trailer squats. Though it is best to know your truck and trailer set up to understand where that drop should be. A loaded trailer should be perpendicular to the ground.

    This is where an adjustable trailer hitch comes in handy especially when dealing with various load weights and hauling different trailers with your truck. With an adjustable trailer you can go with the notch above the one that is perpendicular with the unloaded trailer so that when it is loaded it squats to be perpendicular or you can play with it as you know your truck further.

  7. Ball

  8. The ball is the connection from the ball mount to the trailer coupler. This includes a threaded stem that attaches to the platform of the ball mount and a metal ball that connects to the trailer coupler and a nut that is fastened to the bottom of the stem to fasten it to the ball mount. Though some ball mounts have a welded on ball mount. Balls come in various standard sizes and you will need to purchase the ball that fits your trailer coupler. Alternatively, there are ball mounts that include various standard sized balls on the different sides of the ball mount. Installing a ball on a ball mount requires a significant amount of torque and should be installed at an automotive shop.

  9. Hitch Pin

  10. The hitch pin is a small pin that is bent in an “L” shape and is inserted through one side of the receiver of the hitch, into the ball mount, and through the other side of the receiver of the hitch and tied off with a hairpin clip. This prevents the ball mount from sliding out of the receiver of the hitch.

  11. Coupler

  12. The coupler is the part of the trailer that attaches to the ball mount, connecting the trailer to the towing vehicle. It has a latch on the top of it that when the coupler connects to the ball, it snaps down and has a pin that slips through to protect that latch from coming undone. The size of your trailer coupler dictates the size of the ball on your ball mount and they come in standard sizes.

  13. Safety Chains

  14. The safety chain is attached from the trailer to the hitch of the towing vehicle. They need to be strong enough to keep the trailer from detaching completely from the towing vehicle if another component of the set up fails. There should be two safety chains that are criss-crossed underneath the hitch and attached to the hitch itself at the towing vehicle. Along with the chains should be a safety brake chain that attaches to the hitch for added safety if anything was to fail in the components.

  15. Trailer Wiring Harness

  16. This wire strings from the trailer and attaches to the towing vehicle tying into the electrical system to allow the trailer to blink and display brake lights. The connection should always be checked after connecting and before driving. These are connected typically by a 4-way flat plug or a 7-way plug depending on the trailer connector.

  17. Hitch Locks

  18. With any investment that costs a good amount of money, you will want to protect it. A ball mount installed in your hitch can be easily pulled out and stolen. As can anything in your trailer or even your trailer itself. You can find out more about the different hitch locks that are offered on the market in our previous post here.

 

Steel or Aluminum Hitch

When choosing whether or not you want to purchase a steel or aluminum hitch, take a moment to consider these few points in terms of how they work for your needs.

Steel has better fatigue life, so if you are using your hitch day in and day out and maxing out the weight rating of your components then perhaps you should be considering a steel set up. Aluminum on the other hand typically is half the weight and is not going to oxidize or corrode over time like a steel set up will.

If you are using a trailer infrequently then aluminum is the way to go hands down, but if this is for commercial use and you are going to be using this set up every day then you will likely want to side with the steel for its better fatigue life.

 

Trailer Tongue Weight

Tongue weight is the vertical force on the ball mount of your trailer hitch from the weight of the trailer coupler. It is important to have between 10% and 15% of your gross trailer load to be your tongue weight. To calculate this, you need to know the weight of your trailer and the weight of the load in your trailer. Multiply that by 10% or 0.1 to realize the recommended tongue weight for your trailer.

Loading a Trailer

This makes it extremely important to know your trailer and how to load it properly. When loading your trailer, you want to place the weight where the center of gravity is on the trailer. This is right above the axles on the trailer.

If you have loose items like gravel or smaller items, they should be mostly loaded above the axles for optimal weight distribution. If you are loading a piece of equipment, you want the heavier part of the equipment positioned above these axles. It is important to not have too much tongue weight or too little tongue weight, otherwise there can be dire consequences while you are driving. Let’s explore these two scenarios and what could be experienced while driving.

Too Much Tongue Weight

Having too much weight at the front of your trailer will push down on the tongue of your trailer or the coupler which then pushes down on the ball mount of the hitch. A lot of people are so worried about having a back loaded trailer that they will overload the tongue of the trailer so that they do not experience trailer sway. However, this can be just as bad when you are driving with an front overloaded trailer.

This will cause less ability to steer and brake when you are driving as the coupler pushes down on the ball mount of the hitch and pushing the front end of the vehicle in the air. With less wheel friction of the front of the towing vehicle on the ground, you will have less ability to steer your load and less ability to brake which is obviously not something that you want to experience when driving around a heavy trailer. Also, at night your headlights will be up in the air as opposed to on the ground in front of you which causes less ability to see in front of you at night. The wear and tear on your rear axle and tires will increase with the majority of the weight pushing down on them, increasing the amount of slip on the rear end and reducing fuel economy as well.

Too Little Tongue Weight

If you have too little tongue weight, then the trailer coupler is pulling up on the ball mount. This leads to trailer sway which is the side-to-side movement of your trailer and the number one cause of trailer fatalities. If you experience trailer sway and the brake is applied, these trailer oscillations get compounded creating an even worse trailer sway.

The best way to deal with trailer sway is to remove from the accelerator reducing your speed, hold the steering wheel straight without trying to turn the steering wheel to control the sway, do not brake, and squeeze the electronic trailer brake controller if there is one which will manually activate the trailer brakes. If you experience trailer sway and you prevent it, get to a safe place and evaluate your towing vehicle and trailer to understand what may have caused it and what could prevent it. Once you have completed any preventative measures, start driving again with caution and at a slower speed. If it continues, make sure to get a professional opinion as to what may be causing it.

Making sure that you have a secure load is extremely important to ensuring you are remaining safe when towing a trailer as trailer sway can quickly throw equipment or other loads side to side and off of the trailer. Other factors that can cause trailer sway include tires with low air pressure, driving downhill, strong winds, overloading your trailer, excessive speed, poor road conditions, or mechanical failure.



How to Reduce Tongue Weight on a Trailer

The best way to reduce the tongue weight on your trailer would be to redistribute the weight in your trailer to have the optimal load distribution for your safety. Moving a piece of equipment or shoveling around gravel will take more time, but your safety is most important especially when towing a trailer.

Alternatively if the load is not off by much, there are a couple of options to be able to reduce the tongue weight without moving and redistributing the load in the trailer. If you have an adjustable hitch, you can raise it to reduce the tongue weight. If the trailer squatted more than expected and you do not have the minimum 11″ clearance that is mandatory between the ground and the bottom of your ball mount, then you can raise the adjustable hitch to reduce the pressure that is on the ball mount thus reducing the amount of tongue weight. You still do not want to raise the hitch too high to an unsafe height.

Also, you can install a weight distribution hitch while will distribute the weight evenly between the trailer and the truck thus improving your control of the towing vehicle and trailer while driving.

Weigh Safe has a product that allows you to measure your tongue weight at the ball mount to understand if you are overloaded at the tongue or under loaded, making sure that you are keeping your tongue weight within that 10% to 15% range and keeping everyone safe driving and on the road around you.

 

Best Adjustable Trailer Hitch

Weigh Safe has a line of ball mounts that have a built in scale that allows you to measure the tongue weight of your trailer set up at any given time. This safety feature is a must for any homeowner or professional. Whether you are towing different types of trailers at any given period of time or you have somebody else driving your trailer set up that may not know trailer weight, these ball mounts are going to provide you with a system to make sure that whoever is driving will be able to calculate whether their trailer is loaded properly and safely.

As a homeowner that may not be 100% comfortable with trailer safety, this provides that security and peace of mind that you can easily and quickly calculate how well loaded your trailer is and adjust accordingly. For employers, this can provide a system to make sure that your employees are loading the equipment properly at all times. Having an overloaded front or back end of your trailer can evidently lead to horrible consequences for you, whoever else is in the truck, and everyone else around you. Trailer safety should be of the utmost importance.



In addition to the feature of these ball mounts that allow you to calculate your tongue weight and adjust accordingly, they are also adjustable which has its own benefits in itself. Being the best adjustable drop hitch on the market with these features allows safety and flexibility with your trailer towing. Where having the best adjustable ball mount comes into play is being able to flexibly adjust your trailer set up according to how your trailer is loaded or even if you have more than one trailer that you may be towing at any given point.

If you are switching from one trailer to another, you may be working with different heights in keeping that minimum 11″ clearance from the ground to the bottom of the ball mount. In order to keep that safe clearance before and after your trailer is loaded and considering how much your truck will squat after loaded, you will want to be able to adjust your ball mount as needed. It can also help in reducing the amount of tongue weight by raising the ball mount to reduce the amount of downward force from the trailer coupler to the ball mount.

These adjustable ball mounts also come with interchangeable balls to meet the different needs of your trailer couplers which improve the flexibility in what you are towing at any given point.

Weigh Safe Hitch Review

Weigh Safe trailer hitches have a hydraulic gauge on the ball so when the trailer coupler is placed on the ball it pushes down on a plunger which then pressurizes a hydraulic bed of oil then reading out on an easy to read gauge to show you what the tongue weight is of your trailer. It provides the easiest and safest way to understand what your tongue weight is.

Weigh Safe hitches come in aluminum and steel, but all of the balls are made of stainless steel so that they are not going to rust or flake and have up to a 21,000 pounds of weight rating. Their aluminum hitches are made of aircraft grade aluminum providing high strength and have the same weight ratings as their steel counterparts. The aluminum ball mounts are half the weight of weight of the steel ball mounts and are not going to oxidize / corrode, looking as good as always. They have no welds with no weak points in the ball mount because of that. They take tombstones of aluminum and place it on a CNC mill in Utah and machine it out of one single piece.

Their ball mounts come with a one year warranty on manufacturer defects and come with locks standard across all of their ball mounts. They are the only manufacturer that I know of that comes with a standard lock when you purchase their ball mounts. There is also a lifetime warranty on all of their locks. The gauge drive which includes the plunger to the hydraulic oil going to the gauge has a lifetime warranty as well. And that lifetime warranty covers manufacturer defects or if it is hit and broken. The gauge is made of stainless steel construction, the coil spring is stainless steel and designed to hold 3,500 pounds of tongue weight, and they have a defect rate of less than 1%. Weigh Safe is evidently confident with these hitches.

Best Anti Sway Hitch

Having the best anti sway weight distribution hitch will provide you with the peace of mind that you are able to distribute the weight between your trailer and towing vehicle. These systems are really incredible in creating a safe and distributed load.

They have a built in scale like the other Weigh Safe ball mounts and an adjustable ball mount. The tongue weight is distributed between the back axle of the tow vehicle and the axles of the trailer. This also helps in keeping your front axle on the ground improving its friction and your ability to steer and brake.



These systems provide anti-sway friction areas at the sway bar connection points to ensure that it reduces the possibility of trailer sway from the environment around. In addition, there is a app that allows you to ensure you are distributing your load correctly and keeping your set up as level as possible and as safe as possible. It is easy to calculate and adjust your weight distribution hitch set up at the head of the assembly.

No doubt this is the best weight distribution hitch with sway control on the market to keep you safe on the road with your towing vehicle and trailer set up. It is the easiest to adjust and keeps you flexible while hooking up and towing your trailer at any time.

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