An adjustable hitch is undeniably one of the most versatile towing accessories you can own. If you’ve got a fleet of trailers to take on anything, it’s a must-have piece of equipment. The adjustable hitch can do it all – but you’ve got to know how to use it. Let’s go over the step-by-step process of how to install and adjust an adjustable hitch so you’ll be confident towing anything.
How to Properly Install and Adjust an Adjustable Hitch
Take one look at an adjustable hitch and it seems easy enough – simply pull out the hitch pin and slide the ball mount up or down. However, it’s critical to position the ball mount at the correct height so the weight of the trailer is evenly distributed. This gives the driver better control, efficient braking, and an easy experience.
Having your hitch either too high or too low can wreak havoc on both the tow vehicle and the trailer. If your hitch is too low, you place excess weight on the rear axle of the vehicle. When it’s too high, you stress the trailer axle. And like anything with vehicles and trailers, one issue tends to cause other problems. This can be intimidating – especially if you’re new to towing or you’ve got a heavy trailer.
Extra equipment like a weight distribution hitch can help when pulling heavy loads (trailers weighing more than half the weight of the tow vehicle itself). These use a combination of chains, spring bars, and a sophisticated hitch head to distribute trailer weight evenly. Weight distribution hitches also require you to adjust chains and add or remove washers in different spots, depending on the model.
However, starting with a properly balanced trailer often allows you to avoid extra equipment and setup time – and safe towing always starts with a balanced trailer.
Balancing the Trailer
Before we get into the details, let’s assume your adjustable hitch and vehicle trailer combination are compatible regarding towing capacity. You’re asking for trouble if you couple the trailer with an inadequate hitch or tow vehicle.
First, you’ll need to install the hitch onto the vehicle. This is as simple as sliding the hitch into the receiver tube and securing it with the hitch pin(s). Double-check that you’ve got some play between the hitch and receiver, which reduces stress to both parts. For all the info on choosing the right adjustable hitch, check out our article on choosing the right adjustable hitch.
With some adjustable hitches, you can even rotate them upside down to gain height. Be sure to check with the manufacturer as this typically changes the weight ratings. However, the process of installing and adjusting the hitch remains the same.
Measure the Distances
It’s time to grab a tape measure and make two simple measurements. Make sure your vehicle and trailer are on a flat surface, and use your trailer jack to adjust the trailer frame so it’s parallel to the ground. First, measure from the bottom edge of the trailer tongue to the ground. You then want to slide the trailer ball up or down until the bottom of the hitch ball is at the same height as the bottom of the trailer tongue.
Measure the distances again to double-check they’re at the same height. This ensures the trailer frame is parallel to the road from front to back. Then it’s just a matter of verifying your hitch pins are secure and connecting the trailer coupler to the ball.
Since you’ll probably be towing the same trailers repeatedly, note which holes your hitch pins are in for each trailer you pull regularly. This saves time and changing from one trailer to another becomes as fast as adjusting the ball mount up and down.
That’s all there is to it. You’re ready to take on next weekend, hunting season, or the family vacation. Most importantly, you’ve got the knowledge to set up your adjustable hitch for worry-free towing.