Hitch Me Up! Towing Capacities And Trailer Hitches

by Felix Ray

It's common knowledge that all cars and trucks are not created equal, so before you install a trailer hitch and hook up that boat or trailer behind your vehicle, check the towing capacity and ensure you have the proper trailer hitch for your load. You can do serious damage to your automobile or cause an accident by towing loads it is not equipped to handle.

How to Find the Towing Capacity

The towing capacity is listed in your vehicle owner's manual, usually along with towing tips and recommendations. For example, some cars require you have a certain number of miles on your car before you tow a trailer. The owner's manual will also let you know if your vehicle is not safe for towing anything. If you don't have your owner's manual, many are available online on the automaker sites. You can also find the towing capacity listed as the GAWR (Maximum All Axles) on the compliance certification label, which is usually on the vehicle frame inside the driver's door. Do not confuse this with the GAW, which is for a load distributed across all four wheels, such as a luggage rack on the top of the car. If you have a rack and a trailer, you need to add the two weights to ensure you do not exceed the total GAW for your vehicle.

What Kind of Trailer Hitch to Buy

If you find that your vehicle is capable of towing what you desire, you need a trailer hitch. A trailer hitch takes into consideration two factors: the gross trailer weight (GTW) and the tongue weight (TW), so even if a hitch can handle the trailer weight, if the tongue of the trailer is too heavy, you need to go up a size. Trailer hitches are classed by number as follows:

  • Class 1: up to 2,000 lbs GTW; 200 lbs. TW
  • Class 2: up to 3,500 lbs. GTW; up to 350 lbs. TW
  • Class 3 & 4: up to 7,500 lbs. GTW; up to 750 lbs TW
  • Class 5: Up to 17,000 lbs. GTW; up to 1,700 lbs. TW
  • 5th Wheel/Gooseneck: up to 30,000 lbs.

Trailer Hitch Types and Placement

It gets even more complicated than just how much weight a hitch can handle. Hitches can either be installed on the bumper, on the frame, or both, depending on the type. The tongue of your trailer determines whether you need a ball hitch or receiver hitch, and there are different types and sizes of each.

You can see that towing a trailer is not as simple as hooking it up and taking off down the highway. To be on the safe side, have your trailer hitch installed by a towing professional like Brad's Trailer Supply, and have him tell you exactly what you can and can't tow safely.