Know Your Trailer Hitch

I made a small mistake last week. Well, maybe it wasn’t so small. OK, it was huge. As in a ton.

A buddy of mine asked me if we could use my truck to tow home a new-to-him boat he just bought. It was a couple of hours away, but he’s a good friend, so I agreed. Besides, he said he’d pay for fuel and sealed it with the promise of beer when the trip was done.

What I should have had: a Class IV hitch like this one, rated for 10,000 pounds. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

What I should have had: a Class IV hitch like this one, rated for 10,000 pounds. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“How much does it weigh?” I asked him.

He said 7,000 pounds. No problem. My truck is rated for 7,700 pounds and it has the tow package on it. We’re good to go. So we go get it and bring it home with no drama, minus the hangover from the beer.

It was when I got home that my heart started to race a bit.

Even though my truck has all the factory towing goodies, and a decent tow capacity rating, what it didn’t come with is a hitch that is rated for the truck’s full capacity. A decal on the electrical connector said it had a Class III hitch, which on my truck is rated for up to 5,000 pounds and 600 pounds of tongue weight with a weight-carrying hitch. Nearly every boat trailer on the planet uses a weight-carrying-hitch tongue.

What I needed was a Class IV hitch, which is rated for up to 10,000 pounds. The ironic thing is that the factory sticker on the back of my truck said, despite the hitch ratings, “Tow vehicle maximum trailer rating may be less.” I found it fascinating that they left out the part that it also could be more, which is just as serious a safety issue.

So, before you buy a used boat, be sure the truck and hitch you are using are up to the job. You might find that the boat you are considering requires you to upgrade your hitch — or your truck.

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