How Hitch Jacks Work

Using a hitch jack can make it much easier to tow large items from one place to another.
Using a hitch jack can make it much easier to tow large items from one place to another.
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Picture this: you're ready to hitch your boat onto the back of your truck and take the family out for a day at the lake. Your truck has a trailer hitch on the rear bumper, so you think you're ready to start towing the boat.

Suddenly, your plans hit a snag: How do you lift up the trailer so its coupler fits onto the hitch of your truck? If you had a small trailer, you might be able to lift it up yourself, but a boat is a much taller order. Since you won't be able to lift it, you'll need to jack it up over the trailer hitch.

This is where a hitch jack comes in. The jacks that come with most cars aren't big enough to lift up something the size of a boat, so you'll need this piece of towing equipment to get the job done.

­Hitch jacks, also known as trailer jacks or tongue jacks, are used to raise and stabilize a trailer so it can be attached to the towing vehicle. It's one of many hitch accessories used to make the process of towing a little easier.

Typically, hitch jacks attach onto the trailer's tongue - the long beam at the front that extends out and connects with the towing vehicle. The jack is secured to that beam and extends vertically to the ground, where it has a metal base or even a wheel in some cases.

A hitch jack isn't like the tire jack that comes with most cars, which is a diamond-shaped piece of metal that expands outwardly as you turn an iron, raising the vehicle off the ground. Most commonly, hitch jacks include a crank that turns internal gears, which then extends out of a metal shaft. The shaft raises the trailer off the ground so that it can be properly hitched onto the towing vehicle [source: Free Patents Online].

Here's how to use one:

  • Connect the base of the jack to the pavement. Often, this is done by releasing a pin that drops the base down to the ground.
  • Use the jack to raise the trailer to an elevated position.
  • Carefully your vehicle up so it's lined up with the trailer's tongue.
  • Crank the jack down until the trailer is seated over the hitch.
  • Connect the trailer to the jack on the towing vehicle.

In this next section, we'll discuss what to keep in mind when buying hitch jacks.