PICKUP HITCH CAPACITIES
Jul 4, 11 | by: Bruce Smith
Which takes priority: The towing capacity of the hitch – or the tow rating of the pickup? The answer will surprise you
By G. R. Whale
It took less than 60 seconds to find a web forum with an error in omission regarding hitches, the forum part of a commercial website and not a clueless basement blogger.
An owner of a 2001 F-350 had new, heavier equipment and a trailer, and wanted to upgrade his pickup’s receiver hardware to accommodate the 8- to 10-ton load.
The forum specialist replied with a series of 9-ton hitch options for pickups, noting cab and chassis models may differ.
That’s zero to illegal in three sentences or less.
Why? Because the forum specialist’s advice is bad; neither the pickup owners nor the forum’s specialist mentioned the Ford’s maximum tow rating, which our 10-year-old information gives as best-case 14,400 pounds fifth-wheel/gooseneck and 12,500 conventional towing using a weight-distributing hitch.
Using a 9-ton hitch option on that particular pickup exceeds the F-350’s maximum towing capacity by more than 2 tons – and at worst by more than 6,000 pounds.
LEGAL & SAFETY MATTER
Such bad towing advice is putting the pickup owner in a liability and negligence situation, not to mention setting the pickup up for serious handling, braking and mechanical issues.
There was also no mention of weight-distribution, which was typically required on towed loads greater than 5,000 pounds for most pickups up to 2008 when the 2 ½-inch receiver began showing up as a factory-installed hitch.
This 5,000 pound maximum towing capacity (sans the W-D hitch) included all 2-inch-tube Class III and IV hitches on Ford products from the F-150 to the F-350. Check out Ford’s towing guide.
Virtually all pull-behind towing, which is called “conventional towing” by the pickup manufacturers, is done with a tow ball, pintle hook or combination connected to a receiver hitch.
Tow balls are the more common globe-on-a-stand devices.
Pintle hooks the lobster claw that adds an element of security by encircling the lunette eye attachment of the trailer, and also a degree of articulation helpful on sharp dips.
Combinations use a tow ball with the upper half-moon section of a pintle hook.
Receiver hitches are offered in classes using Roman numerals from I to V, though standardization may not be what you thought.
If you tow no more than a small mixer or portable light stand, even a Class II hitch is sufficient, rated at 3,500 pounds trailer and 350 pound tongue weight.
Class III hitches are typically rated for 5,000-pound loads, but we found at least one named Class III rated at 10,500.
Class IV hitches are usually for 10,000-12,000-pound trailers and 10-percent tongue weights with weight distribution. In the upper ranges, hardware is constantly being added to reflect ever-higher truck tow ratings.