The ball and coupler hitch used on travel trailers consists simply of a ball attached to the rear of the tow vehicle and a coupler (socket) at the tip of a tongue or A-frame attached to the front of the trailer.
A load distributing hitch is used for heavier travel trailer models. These load distributing hitches use special equipment to distribute the tongue load to all axles of the tow vehicle and travel trailer to help stabilize the tow vehicle. Here are some terms you should know when discussing hitch adjustment and in evaluating hitch performance:
- Receiver: Hitch platform fitted to the tow vehicle.
Ball Mount: A removable steel component that fits into the receiver. The hitch ball and spring bars (only on load distributing hitches) are attached to it.
- Sway Control: A device designed to lessen the pivoting motion between tow vehicle and trailer when a ball type hitch is used.
Coupler: The ball socket at the front of the trailer A-frame that receives the hitch ball.
- Spring Bars: Load-leveling bars used to distribute hitch weight among all axles of tow vehicle and trailer in a load distributing ball-type hitch.
Perform a safety inspection before each trip. Make sure that:
- The pin securing the ball mount to the receiver is intact.
- The hitch coupler is secured.
- Spring bar hinges are tight with the safety clips in place (load equalizer or weight distributing hitches).
- Safety chains are properly attached.
- The electrical plug is properly installed.
RVers who tow travel trailers share many of the same safety concerns as other RV owners. However, a tow vehicle and a travel trailer form an articulated (hinged) vehicle which presents an additional set of concerns.
The weight considerations are very important to safe towing. The tow vehicle must be a proper match for the travel trailer. If the trailer is properly equipped, it can perform safely under a variety of driving conditions. The tow vehicle should also have enough performance to climb mountain grades without excessive loss of speed.