Without trailer hitches, hotshot trucking wouldn’t exist.
Have you ever wondered about the various types of hitches that connect trucks to trailers? There are eight main types of hitches, give or take a few depending on how they’re classified.
1. 5th Wheel Hitch
A fifth wheel hitch goes right in the middle of the bed of a pickup truck. It mounts to the industry standard rails directly above the axle. It’s designed for towing large RV trailers with a maximum weight limit of around eight tons.
2. Bumper-Mounted Hitch
This is a very simple hitch that attaches directly to the bumper of your vehicle, giving greater flexibility and adjustment. It’s used to haul boat trailers, campers, and more. However, this kind of hitch can only carry as much weight as your bumper can, so be aware of this before linking up. Overall, this is very useful for light applications.
3. Front-Mounted Hitch
Using this kind of hitch, you can see where you’re going when lining things up. It also accommodates cargo carriers, hitch steps, winch-mounting plates, and other accessories. With this kind of hitch, it should be relatively straightforward to ease your boat in or out of the water.
4. Gooseneck Hitch
A gooseneck hitch (for gooseneck trailers) has a higher than average weight capacity. It also gives you a tighter turn radius, which comes in handy when hauling heavy freight like livestock trailers and flatbeds. Like a fifth wheel hitch, it mounts on the bed of your pickup. The job is made easy by a special installation kit, but it won’t get in the way of complete bed access when you’re not using it.
5. Pintle Hitch
This hitch is common in construction. There is a fine line of distinction between a standard hitch or something like a ball mount. The pintle is the hooking part of this system, which is attached to the truck. The lunette, the ring it hooks to, is attached to the trailer. The pintle is mounted to the framing of commercial vehicles and dump trucks. The downside is these hitches tend to be noisier than a standard ball mount connection. But on the plus side, their weight ratings are much higher. They can tow anywhere from 10,000 to 60,000 Ibs. in gross trailer weight.
6. Receiver Hitch (Class 1-5)
Receiver hitches are categorized in classes 1 through 5, according to the maximum amount of weight they can tow. Unsurprisingly, Class 1 hitches are for lighter loads, and Class 5s are for serious-business capacities. In the United States, hitches in classes 1 and 2 are suitable for loads no heavier than 3,500 lbs. and work with smaller receiver diameters of 1.25” and 2”. Class 3, 4, and 5 hitches usually top-out around 10,000 lbs. Classes 3 and 4 matches up with 2” receivers and Class 5 hitches with 2.5” receivers, respectively.
7. Rear Receiver Hitch
Of all the types of hitches, this is by far the most common. It can be used for towing a trailer, among other uses. The classic version of this hitch type has a square receiver tube and mounts to the rear part of the vehicle’s frame. There are also weight ratings based off of a 5-class scale — the most light-duty is 1 and the most heavy-duty is a 5. The size of the receiver tube also varies with the hitch rating. There are three primary sizes for the receiver tubes:
- 1 1/4″ x 1 1/4″
- 2″ x 2″
- 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″
The higher the rating of the hitch, the larger the size of the receiver tube. However, some hitches do not follow that perfectly, so it is always safe to double check.
8. Weight Distribution Hitch
This is quite common with camping RVs. It is mounted to the rear hitch of a vehicle to distribute the tongue weight across the tow vehicle and the trailer. It uses long “spring rods” that take some of the tongue weight off the rear of the tow vehicle, thereby helping it to steer better.
The Bottom Line
Trailer hitches are very useful. To be more accurate, they’re indispensable. Without them, the hot shot trucking industry as we know it wouldn’t exist. The types of trailer hitches we’ve just discussed represent the main types out there. There may be more (or less), depending on how they’re classified. Have we missed other types of hitches? Let us know in the comments!