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What to Consider When Buying Trailer Hitch Balls

Trailer Hitch Balls

Receiver Hitch Ball

Receiver hitch balls usually consist of a solid piece of steel formed into a ball and a threaded shank with a retention flare and a nut (and washer) to snug the ball onto the ball mount which then connects the ball to the receiver.

The majority of receiver hitch balls will fall within SAE Classes I through IV, especially for passenger vehicles and light duty trucks (like F-150). Non-SAE “Class V” balls are much less common but are compatible with medium duty trucks, such as a dually pickup.

Receiver Hitch Ball

Vehicle and Hitch Towing Capacities

When selecting a trailer hitch ball, ALWAYS learn about your vehicle’s towing capacity and the weight class rating of your hitch.

Weight Class Rating

Years ago, SAE International (“SAE” for short) established a weight class rating system for trailer hitches and their associated components. SAE’s rating system includes four classes, and hitch manufacturers have developed a fifth class for heavy duty towing parts. Every hitch ball comes with a maximum weight rating, each based on factors like the ball diameter, shank length, and shank diameter. Class I towing components tap out at a mere 2,000 pounds (including trailer, cargo, and accessories) or less, while Class IV components boast a limit of up to 10,000 pounds. Also, watch out for components marked “Class III/IV” which can only handle Class IV loads with the help of weight distribution equipment.

Shank Size

Receiver and hitch balls feature a threaded shank that slides through the hole in the ball mount or hook mount. Purchasing a trailer hitch ball with the proper shank diameter is critical to a successful tow job. While a shank that is too large obviously will not fit into a smaller mount hole, a shank that is too small for the mount hole is just as problematic.

Finish

The majority of trailer hitch balls include a corrosion-resistant finish to minimize rust over time. The most common finishes include chrome plating, stainless steel plating, and zinc plating, black nickel plating.

FAQs

Q: Does a hitch need a ball?

While not every hitch style requires a ball, many do, and receiver hitches, the most common hitch type found on passenger vehicles and light duty trucks, always require a ball.

Q: What is the standard size trailer hitch ball?

Standard trailer hitch balls come in at a two-inch diameter, although maximum weight ratings may vary from ball to ball.

Q: How much weight can a two-inch ball pull?

While ball sizing may be standardized, each ball’s maximum trailering weight will vary according to its weight class rating (Classes I through V) which is based on gross towing weight (GTW) and tongue weight (TW) ratings.

Q: Can you put a two-inch ball on a Class I hitch?

Theoretically, yes, but we strongly recommend against doing so. Your vehicle will still only be able to handle Class I loads. For safety reasons, NEVER use towing accessories with a different rating than your hitch.

Q: Do I need to grease my trailer hitch ball?

If you tow often or store your trailer hitch ball in a location that is regularly exposed to the elements, then greasing your hitch ball is a wise idea.

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