Towing Basics: Learning to Speak the Towing Language

Towing Basics: Learning to Speak the Towing Language

  • Have you ever walked into a home improvement store to buy a product – without knowing the name of the product you need? You probably feel more than awkward as you explain to the store associate that you need the round thingy that screws into the long something-or-other on the back of that other thing you bought last week.


    Not only are you likely to wind up with the wrong thingy, but you’ll probably annoy the heck out of the store associate who’s trying to help you.


    When it comes to towing, there are basic definitions and terminology that you need to understand before you buy a trailer and start towing. It all starts with learning the most basic components of a trailer hitch and the most common types of trailer hitches available. We’ve separated these terms based on how they’re applied – towing from the bumper vs. towing from the truck bed.


    Towing from the Bumper


    Bumper Pull Fishing Boat


    Ball Mount.  Available in load-carrying and weight-distributing configurations, the ball mount is the part of the hitch system that connects the hitch ball to the trailer coupler.


    Heavy Duty Ball Mounts

    Adjustable Ball Mount.  A level trailer will minimize strain between the trailer and the hitch and keep the trailer level behind your vehicle. An adjustable ball mount allows a hitch ball to be raised or dropped to keep your trailer level, often providing a choice of ball size and height adjustment.

    Tow & Stow Adjustable Ball Mount


    Pintle Mount.  A pintle plate is a plate welded to a receiver tube that has a series of holes for mounting a pintle hook, which loops through an eyelet that is mounted on the trailer.  Pintle mounts are known for their strength and weight capacity.


    Pintle Mount


    Weight Distributing Hitch.  A weight-distributing hitch system does what the name implies. It distributes part of the trailer's hitch weight to the tow vehicle's front axle and the trailer's axle by placing spring bars underneath the tension. This is also called an equalizing hitch.



    Towing from the Truck Bed

    Gooseneck trailer towing          Fifth Wheel towing

    Truck towing a Gooseneck trailer.                                   Truck towing a 5th wheel trailer


    Gooseneck Hitch.  A gooseneck hitch connects the trailer to the tow vehicle above the rear axle of the truck using a ball.  Because the connection between the truck and trailer is taking place so close to the truck’s frame and axle, the rating of a gooseneck is usually the highest of any hitch.  Maneuvering is easier from a position above the truck’s axle, as opposed to behind a vehicle.  A gooseneck hitch is often used for horse and cattle trailers and open or closed utility trailers of 30-plus feet in length.


    Turnoverball Gooseneck Trailer Hitch Turnoverball Gooseneck Hitch in truck bed


    Fifth-Wheel Hitch.  This horseshoe-shaped plate connects to the trailer through a kingpin and a plate that sits on top of the fifth-wheel hitch plate.  Jaws in the hitch ‘grab’ the kingpin. This is most commonly used to tow an RV, which will extend over the rear bumper and attach in the bed of the truck over the axle. The attachment point is commonly 15-18 inches over the axle, which is why fifth-wheel hitches are rated slightly less than gooseneck hitches.


    Companion 5th Wheel Hitch Companion 5th wheel hitch in truck bed


    This is just the beginning. In future posts, we’ll introduce you to more towing language and explain how and why different trailer hitches and other pieces of towing equipment should be used.


    Is there a towing term that you don’t quite understand? Share it here in the “Comments” section, or email us at marketingstaff@turnoverball.com.