How to Attach a Trailer Hitch

There are many times you may wish you had a trailer hitch for towing and, though they are easy enough to come by and fairly easy to install, you want to be sure you’re getting the right part for your vehicle and for what you’re going to be towing. Then you’ll need to know how to install and use it properly. These simple steps should get you started.


  1. Image titled 1knowyourterminology.png
    Know your terminology. There are some basic references you should be aware of if you’re going to decide to purchase a trailer hitch, and if you’re going to be driving a vehicle pulling a trailer. Acronyms such as GTW, TW, GVWR and GCWR will come up in descriptions and comparisons so make sure you know the basics to know what you’re talking about and what you need.
  2. Image titled 2knowwhatyouwillbetowing.png
    Know what you will be towing. There are multiple hitch classes available that determine both what can be towed and the vehicle suitable. A Class 1 hitch for instance is good for just about any pulling vehicle and can be used to tow up to 2,000 lbs. In real terms this would be the equivalent of a jet ski or a cargo box. For anything heavier, you may need to go up a class. A Class 5 hitch is great if you want to pull something bigger and heavier, like a large recreational vehicle, but this hitch is designed for trucks so it won’t work with your car or minivan.
  3. Image titled 3Determinethebesthitch.png
    Determine the best hitch. Part of the decision, beyond class, is understanding whether a general hitch will suit your needs, or whether you should be looking at other options. If, for instance, your potential towing list is varied, or the conditions under which you’ll be towing may change, a standard hitch may not fit the bill. A curt hitch may be more what you’re looking for because it is more advanced and offers high mobility, flexibility of use and great durability. Although perhaps not a definitive guide to everything, Wiki can be a great resource in covering the basics in terminology, classes and variations.
  4. Image titled 4Makesureyourusingtherighttools.png
    Make sure you have the right tools. Some basic tools you’ll want to ensure you have ready include a wiring kit that includes a stripping and crimping tool, electrical connectors, and either electrician’s tape or heat-shrink tubing. You’ll also need a set of box/ open end wrenches in a variety of sizes. A good wrench – either a ratchet, air impact or torque – will make the work easier as well. Before you start, read through the instruction guide to be sure nothing else is required.
  5. Image titled 5planyourposition.png
    Plan your position. Installing the hitch is going to require lifting and holding it in place. If you have a lift to raise the car, you’ll have clearance to get under and may even decide to enlist help holding the hitch in place. If you don’t have a lift, you’ll want to be sure you can lay under the vehicle safely so you can achieve both tasks. If you need extra clearance a sturdy jack system may work. Either way, you want to ensure the car is high enough to allow you to do the work and secure so you’re working safely. You’ll also want to be sure it is well lit so you can properly see what you’re doing.
  6. Image titled 6preformanyprepwork.png
    Perform any prep work. Before you move the hitch into place, perform any prep work that needs to be done. This might include drilling if you need holes and are comfortable taking this on, removing the spare tire if it is in the way, or completing any trimming that may be required.
  7. Image titled 7Positionthehitchandtighten.png
    Position the hitch and tighten. Whether you have a helper, a lift to hold the hitch, or you’re doing it yourself, you first want to position the hitch in its final place. Next, you’ll put bolts into place, at least one on either side, not tightened yet, but just to hold the hitch in position. Next you’ll want to tighten all of the nuts and bolts using the installation guidelines for recommend torque. It may also be a good idea to use a product like Loctite or some other thread locker to ensure the bolts don’t slip during later use.
    • If you’ve followed all of these steps, you’ve selected the right hitch for the work you have planned, you’ve properly installed it and now you’re ready to hit the road.

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Categories: Recreational Vehicles