What you should know about Trailer Hitches

Because safety when towing or hauling something is so important, here is some very pertinent information you need to know before attaching or using trailer hitches to any vehicle:

The Society of Automotive Engineers has defined four classes of trailer hitch, based on the weight of the trailer and its cargo (the Gross Towed Weight Rating, GTWR).

Trailer Hitch Classes
Class GTWR
Ball Receiver Chain
I <2000 1 78 2″ × 58″ bar 2000
II <3500 1¼ × 1¼″ 3500
III <5000 2″ 2″ box 5000
IV <10,000 2″ box

The standard applies to all types of hitches, ring and pintle as well as ball and socket, but the latter is by far the most common type.

Hitch Ball Sizes and Typical Capacities
Ball size
Bolt diameter Capacity
178 ¾″ 2000
1″ 2000
2 ¾″ 3500
1″ 6000
1¼″ 6000
138 10,000
2 516 1″ 6000
1¼″ 10,000


The weight a vehicle can tow is not determined by the class of the hitch attached to the vehicle, but by the vehicle’s suspension, the horsepower of the engine, its cooling system, and so on. Simply attaching a class IV hitch to a passenger car will not make it capable of towing 9,999 pounds. To determine a vehicle’s towing capacity, consult its manual or contact the vehicle’s manufacturer.

SAE standard J684 (July 2005). Trailer Couplings, Hitches, and Safety Chains–Automotive Type.

Drive Safely and Find the Right Hitch
When you are hauling a trailer, it presents a special situation that will require undivided attention to your driving skills and the vehicle you are using.  A word of caution:   all manufacturers do not use the same formula to determine a vehicle’s towing capacity.

Once you determine how much weight you will be hauling and how much weight your towing vehicle can haul, your next choice will be the trailer hitch.  When choosing a trailer hitch, remember that the one you purchase will require much thought.  Safety needs to be the number one concern.

Some Options
There are several types of hitches on the market today.  What you are towing will determine what type you need.  Some of the most popular hitches available today are Reese Trailer Hitches.  Reese is known as the premier manufacturer of hitching systems in North America, offering revolutionary and innovative products to towers.  Of the many choices you’ll find at Reese are gooseneck trailer hitches.  This type of hitch is designed for use in a pickup truck and is similar to a 5th wheel setup, but uses a ball and coupler rather than a kingpin and pin apparatus.  If you live in Canada, please ensure that you follow the trailer hitches Canada guidelines for weight and towing and abide by all safety regulations.

For all of your towing, you’ll find all sorts of accessories, including hitch balls, utility ball mounts, specialty ball mounts, locks, pins and clips, hitch tube covers, extensions, adapters and many more, which will complete your trailer hitches and accessories requirements.  You can even get everything you need to tow safely and securely in a towing starter kit. The kit comes with a 2 inch ball mount with 2 inch drop with 2 inch chrome ball installed, a ball mount lock, a coupler lock and a 10 foot cable lock.  Not to be forgotten when you hook up your trailer is the fact that some wiring is involved to ensure that all of lights will work.  All-in-one wiring kits can be purchased where and when you get your trailer hitch and trailer.

Regardless of what you’re towing, ensure that your trailer hitches conform to your vehicle and the load you are hauling.  Above all else, be safety conscious.


William E. Dotterweich.
SAE Trailer Hitch Standard J684c – Its early History and Current Developments.
SAE Document Number 710358

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