You wouldn't wear a pair of dirty coveralls out on a hot date, so why would you pick up that special someone with a clunky ball mount sticking out from the rear of your vehicle? While such towing equipment is mandatory for hauling trailers, boats and other loads, you don't really need it when you're headed for a steak restaurant. Some vehicles have permanent towing hitches, but others allow owners to remove such clunky equipment and replace it with a stylish hitch cover.
Without a cumbersome drawbar and ball mount attached, all you have on the rear of the vehicle is a hollow drawbar receiving tube or hitch tube. Many drivers find this unsightly, but there are other issues to worry about as well. If left exposed to the elements, the tube can easily clog with dead, wet leaves or other debris. A cover helps to prevent rust and allows you to avoid having to clean that mess out when it's time to pop in the drawbar. Plus, other drivers won't think there's a squirrel living in there. Hitch covers also provide a cushioned and highly visible alternative to a rough metal protrusion. This can cut down on accidental scrapes and bumps to human and vehicle bodies alike.
Sold on the idea of capping that hitch tube? Well, you have a big decision ahead of you. Hitch cover manufacturers offer quite a few options to choose from, ranging from the discreet and functional to the absolutely outrageous.
Pull on up to the next page to explore your options.
Types of Hitch Covers
Forget voting booths, message boards and yard signs. If you've ever been in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you know that the rear of your vehicle is the place to speak your mind. Whether you want the world to know which sports team you support or what your "other car" is, bumper stickers allow drivers to really fly their true colors. Increasingly, many types of hitch covers are right there on the front lines of free speech as well.
Hitch covers perform one main task: They cap the drawbar receiving tube. The more basic covers are little more than clip-on plastic caps -- sometimes designed to hinge open or hang prone when a drawbar is in place. There are even color-matched designs that look like part of the vehicle molding. Other designs, however, actually insert into the tube and lock into place, and these give designers a lot more freedom to get creative. A quick Internet search or trip to your local auto shop will give you just a taste of all the options out there. Love sports? Latch on a team logo or the head of a beloved mascot. Feeling patriotic? Attach your flag of choice. If you can think of a popular logo, there's a good chance someone wants to help you put it on your vehicle.
What's that? You want to attach a spinning boat propeller or a plastic human hand to the back of your truck? Well, these trailer hitch designs are out there, as are more practical covers, such as the HitchSafe, which features a lockable drawer to stow your valuables in or hitch covers that feature a bottle opener. You can even hook up some hitch covers to your vehicle's power and light up the night with glowing skulls and flashing logos. As with their cousin the bumper sticker, hitch covers allow drivers to push the boundaries of good taste. Does your trailer hitch need a pair of fake animal genitalia? If so, you can rest easy knowing you can purchase them in just about any color imaginable.
Of course, even the perfect hitch cover is a waste of time if it won't fit. Trailer hitches generally fall into one of five different classes, numbered I to V. Receiver tube dimensions on these hitches range from 1.25 inches (3.18 centimeters) for classes I and II, to as much as 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) for class V. Class III trailer hitches are the most common, however, with 2-inch (5-centimeter) tubes. Before you spend as much as $200 on a hitch cover, you're going to want to measure your hitch tube and check the product details. Luckily, most cover manufacturers are well aware of the different sizes out there and frequently include alternate mounts to ensure their flashy design will fit any vehicle.
One you have the perfect trailer hitch cover, you still have to attach it to your vehicle. Read the next page to learn how.
Installing Hitch Covers
It's difficult to say where future trends in towing hitch covers will lead, but it's pretty safe to assume that people will still be installing hitch covers themselves in the future. So until scientists invent tiny robots capable of locking a pewter bulldog head onto your truck, you're going to have to suck it up and do it yourself. Luckily, it's one of the easiest projects you could hope to tackle.
With simpler, plastic models, installation of hitch covers is as simple as clipping them on. Other designs may require you to latch the actual, decorative cover onto the mounting piece that slips inside the drawbar receiving tube. Designs vary, but typically this won't require anything more advanced than a simple Phillips head screwdriver. Next, slide the mounting piece into the receiver and line up the side hitch pin holes in the receiver with the holes in the side of the mounting piece. Finally, slide a hitch pin through the holes until it locks. Now your hitch cover is latched in place. If you're concerned about possible theft, you can also invest in a hitch lock, which works instead of a hitch pin and is secured with a key.
You'll want to perform this installation under dry conditions. Otherwise, you might trap moisture between the metal parts in the receiving tube, which can lead to rust. Also, bear in mind that some materials, such as plastic, shrink or expand depending on temperature. As with other vehicle accessories, the manufacturer may suggest that you install the hitch cover within a particular temperature range.
Once your hitch cover is locked in, you're ready to hit the road -- at least until you actually need to haul something behind your vehicle. Explore the links on the next page to learn all about towing.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
More Great Links
- Butler, Peter. "Installing a Trailer Hitch Cover." ArticleCity.com. Nov. 20, 2006. (Oct. 7, 2008) http://www.articlecity.com/articles/auto_and_trucks/article_2042.shtml
- Chiu, Donald W. "US Patent 5407219 - Trailer hitch ball cover with integral trailer wiring connector." Patent Storm. April 18, 1995. (Oct. 7, 2008) http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5407219/description.html
- Morgan, Elizabeth. "A Guide To Trailer Hitch Covers." EzineArticles.com. Sept. 8, 2005. (Oct. 7, 2008) http://ezinearticles.com/?A-Guide-to-Trailer-Hitch-Covers&id=69510
- The Hitch Corner. (Oct. 7, 2008) http://www.hitchcorner.com/
- Young, David A. and Kenneth E. Bol II. "Towing hitch cover." Free Patents Online. Aug. 1, 1989. (Oct. 7, 2008) http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4852902.html