How Hitch Couplers Work

Pulling a camper through the mountains
Luis Castaneda Inc./Getty Images
It's no hot rod Camaro, but it still would be a shame to loose control of this camper.

Imagine you and your family are off to one of the coolest weekend car shows and drag racing events around, and you're towing your hot rod Camaro on your brand new trailer. You're taking it nice and slow through the curvy mountain roads when suddenly a deer jumps out and makes a break for the other side of the road. Immediately you react, and as instinct takes over, you jerk the steering wheel hard to one side and slam on the brakes. The next thing you know, you begin to lose control of the rear end and the trailer comes around toward the front of the truck. Just as you think all is lost and you are destined to slide off the side of the road, the trailer snaps free and your truck immediately regains rear traction. That's good for you, but not so good for your trailer -- or for oncoming traffic.

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After the dust settles and you've had a moment to catch your breath, you inspect the damage. The trailer is damaged pretty heavily, but luckily the slope of the mountain kept it from careening into the oncoming lane. As you scratch your head and try to get your mind around what just happened, you notice the trailer hitch seems to still be attached to your truck. As odd as it seems, the hitch appears to have broken away from your trailer. You think back to when you bought the trailer and hitch, and nothing makes sense. A closer look at the hitch reveals the hitch coupler, the part of the trailer that slips over the trailer ball mount, in two pieces. As it turns out, you didn't choose and install the proper hitch coupler when you bought the trailer. Thankfully, nobody was hurt and the Camaro made it through the ordeal. It could have been a lot worse. As you find out later, the hitch coupler you installed did not match the weight of your load. That's why it failed.

Of course, you could have avoided this scenario. In fact, if you choose the appropriate hitch coupler and towing accessories, you're that much closer to safe towing. This article aims to shed light on how to properly choose and install hitch couplers so you can tow safely. Let's start by looking at your choices in the next section.