When someone is new to towing an RV, it is very important to understand the various types of towing equipment. This is why you should know what an RV hitch is.
So, what exactly is an RV hitch?
The short answer:
An RV hitch is the device that allows the connection between the towing and the towed vehicle. The most common scenario is found when a pickup truck is equipped with a trailer ball hitch that allows the connection to the travel trailer’s ball mount.
There is a lot more to know about hitches and how to choose the right one for your needs, and what are all the types in existence. So, let’s get into those details.
Definition of an RV Hitch
As I’ve said above, it is a device that allows towing. The RV hitches allow you to tow a travel trailer, but also can be used to tow some other vehicle, called a dinghy vehicle, behind your trailer or a motorhome.
There are many types of hitches, based on the way that the connection between towing and the towed vehicle is made, but also where they are mounted.
We will discuss them in great detail. But also, the hitching system has some other important components whose function you also should understand.
Types of RV Hitches
There are several types of hitches. And they are classified according to the place where they are installed on a towing vehicle and how the connection with the towed vehicle is made. And they are:
- bumper hitches,
- rear hitch receiver or conventional hitches,
- weight distribution hitches,
- gooseneck hitches,
- 5th wheel hitches.
Some of these types can be mounted on both towing vehicles and RV trailers, but some require that the vehicle is of a certain type, such as a pickup truck. So, let’s discuss these types in detail and where and when they can be used.
Check out etrailer.com to see several different options.
Bumper hitches are what their name suggests, hitches that are installed on bumpers, so they can be used on practically any vehicle or RV.
The most common and most popular are the step bumper hitches. They are consisting of a hitch receiver that is screwed into the step bumper of your pickup truck or motorhome.
When it comes to their tow rating, usually they are either for 1500, 3500, or 5000 pounds. The above-mentioned hitch receiver is one of its parts, the other two are the ball mount that is installed in its receiver tube and the actual hitch ball.
Conventional Rear Hitch Receiver Hitches
The conventional rear hitch receiver type is very similar in design to step bumper hitches. They also have a hitch receiver, but it has much bigger “arms” that are intended for installation on the chassis of the towing vehicle.
This makes them much more robust and capable of easily exceeding the towing capacity of your vehicle.
As opposed to them, the bumper hitches very rarely can exceed the towing capacity of any vehicle and can be a limiting factor. When it comes to their parts, besides the hitch receiver, they also use the ball mount and hitch balls, and they are interchangeable with bumper hitches.
This type can be used also on RVs.
Weight Distribution Hitch
Weight distribution hitches are a special cousin of the conventional hitches, but they have additional parts. The use of a couple of so-called “spring bars” that are in the shape of the letter V.
With its point, they are connected under the hitch ball mount, while the other two ends are connected to the trailer with chains that are under tension.
When you hitch a trailer, part of its weight is transferred on the hitch, and this causes your towing vehicle to squat.
Spring bars of weight distribution hitches are pressed by the trailer’s weight on their ends, which causes them to push up the ball mount. So, they transfer part of the trailer’s weight to the front axle of towing vehicle.
Gooseneck hitches are one of the two hitch types that can be installed only on pickup trucks. They are mounted in the bed of the truck, and the ball mount is installed on the pair of rails.
These hitches are most common on agricultural trailers. But, because horse trailers can come with living quarters and this type of hitch, in the widest sense they are used on RVs.
They have similar parts to the bumper and conventional hitches, but only hitch balls are sometimes interchangeable.
5th Wheel Hitch
This is the second type of hitches that can be installed only on pickup trucks, they are designed to use practically the whole cargo capacity of the truck for towing purposes, hence why the trailers with this hitch can have a GVWR above 19,000lbs.
Their presence is what gives the name to the 5th wheel trailers.
They use a special combination of kingpin located on the trailer and jaws mounted on a truck bed. With adapters, 5th wheel hitches can be mounted on gooseneck hitch rails.
Pintle Hook Hitch
Pintle hook hitches are more common in commercial applications than in the RV world. They use very similar hitch receivers to the bumper and conventional hitches.
But instead of the ball mount and hitch ball, they use a system of hook and pintle which is very good for rough terrain.
Hitch Receiver Classes
Hitch receivers, for hitch types that use them such as bumper and conventional hitches, are divided into classes by the maximum weight of the trailer they can be used for.
If you want to use the maximum towing capacity of your vehicle, you must have the hitch receiver with a rating that is equal to or higher.
- Class 1 – up to 2,000 lbs
- Class 2 – up to 3,500 lbs
- Class 3 – up to 8,000 lbs
- Class 4 – can be both weight carrying hitches, up to 7,500 lbs, and weight distribution hitches, up to 10,000 lbs
- Class 5 – can be both weight carrying hitches, up to 12,000 lbs, and weight distribution hitches, up to 17,000 lbs
Knowing what type of hitch your RV and towing vehicle use allow you to properly choose the combination of them. But before that, you have to know what is an RV hitch.
It is a device that allows towing by making a connection between towing and towed vehicles. Hitches are used for both towing the RV trailers, and also for towing dinghy vehicles by motorhomes or behind RVs.
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(Featured image: thorindustries.com)