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Q: What is a Car Hitch?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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At times, a car owner may need to tow other vehicles or cargo. To make towing safe and easy, the car owner can attach a car hitch to the rear of the car. Once the hitch is attached, the car owner can tow anything from a small trailer to a small boat or camper, depending on the rating of the hitch -- and, more to the point, the tow rating of your car -- all without damaging the framework of the car itself.

Car hitches are available in two general design types. The first design, known as a receiver type, attaches to the rear of the vehicle frame and has an opening in the rear of the device where you can place a removable mounting device. The removable devices can be anything from a bike rack on wheels to a mount for a camper. The second design type, known as a fixed-drawbar hitch, is actually built into the car, with a hole in the device where you can place the ball of a mounting device.

There are four common classes of car hitches, with each class rated for a specific maximum weight that the hitch can handle. Class I hitches can handle up to 2,000 pounds of weight, Class II hitches up to 3,500 pounds, Class III up to 5,000 pounds, and Class IV up to 10,000 pounds. The particular class of hitch that your vehicle can carry is largely dependent on the portion of the hitch mounted to your car's frame. Smaller hitch openings of 1.25 inches can carry Class I or Class II hitches, whereas you'll need a 2-inch opening for Class III through Class IV hitches. Some vehicles offer a 2.5-inch Class V hitch that can carry up to 13,000 pounds and hold Class IV hitches as well.

In addition to load-bearing hitches, weight-distributing hitches are also available. These hitches are designed to distribute the weight of the load that you're carrying to both the front and rear axles of the tow vehicle, preventing heavier loads from causing damage to the rear of the car. A weight-distributing hitch also prevents towing sag, where the point of the connection between the vehicle and the carrier tends to lower itself closer to the road because of the added weight at the connection point. Weight-distributing hitches are generally used for heavier loads over 5,000 pounds.

While a car hitch can be attached to any vehicle, it's better to use a truck or an SUV if the owner of the vehicle intends to carry any significant weight. The additional power of a larger vehicle helps give the driver enough pull to make it up hills with larger loads such as campers or boats. The larger the load carried, the higher the class of hitch recommended.

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