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How Ball Mounts Work

Installing Ball Mounts

If you haven't already checked, make sure you are set to purchase a ball mount that will slide into the hitch receiver on you vehicle. The size is labeled on most receivers. If you can't find the size anywhere, measure the square opening. In general, most receivers are 2" square hollow shank and accept 2" ball mounts. Once you have all of your rise or drop measurements calculated and your class ratings determined, it's time to purchase your ball mount. Here's what specifications on a typical straight ball mount would look like:

  • 2" Receiver
  • Rated at 5,000 lbs. GTW / 500 lbs. TW
  • Requires a 1" shank ball
  • Hollow Shank
SUV and trailer
Jill Fromer/iStockphoto
Heavier loads, like the one shown here, require a larger tow vehicle and stronger hardware.

You can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $100 or more for a solid ball mount. Those cushioned ball mounts you learned about in the previous section are pricier because they have some internal components that cost more to manufacture and added technology that bumps up the price.

Ball mounts are secured using a pin and a clip. These pins -- blunt on one end -- slide through holes in the receiver and ball mount and are fastened with the pin on the opposite side of the butted end. Because these pins are easy to remove, the ball mounts can be quickly removed for storage. If you don't feel like removing the ball mount, hitch locks are available on the market, too. Any retail location that sells towing accessories will certainly be able to point you in the right direction to find a hitch lock.

Once you have your ball mount, it's time for the very simple installation procedure. Begin by removing the pin and setting it to the side. Next, slide your ball mount into the receiver making sure the top side of the shank is facing up. Once it's in, line up the holes and insert the pin and clip. Check the clip to make sure it is properly fastened and give the ball mount a good tug. Now you're ready to install your ball (if you haven't already) and you're ready to tow. That's all there is to it.

Whether you decide to go with the old school fixed trailer hitch or a more versatile hide-away hitch with a removable ball mount, keep in mind the information concerning gross towing weight and tongue weight. More often than not, a trailer that has too much forward weight will become unstable under breaking and it may even cause you to lose control of your vehicle. At the same time, a trailer with too much of its weight toward the rear will pull the rear of your vehicle up and take weight of your rear wheels. That's no good either, as you could lose traction or possibly even your trailer. Also, make sure you have a level trailer and hitch system. Believe it or not, a tape measure and a little attention to detail can be all you need to make a well informed buying decision when it comes to your towing accessories.

If you'd like to learn more about towing and towing related topics, cruise on over to the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • "Choosing the Correct Ball Mount." (Oct. 4, 2008)
  • "Cushioned Ball Mounts." (Oct. 3, 2008)
  • The Hitch Corner. (Oct. 4, 2008)
  • USA Trailer Hitches. "Hitch Classes." (Oct. 2, 2008)