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Choosing the Correct Ball Mount

Ball mount installed

What you need to know to choose the correct ball mount:


Ball Mount Basics

Here's a quick look at some of the most common types of ball mounts and needed parts, which are usually sold separately.


Ball Mount Parts

Trailer hitch ball mount with built-in anti-rattle device

Ball mounts bridge the space between the hitch on your tow vehicle and the coupler on your trailer, allowing you to connect them for towing. To connect to the tow vehicle, the ball mount slides into the opening on the hitch and is held in place with a pin and clip. The ball mount has a platform with a hole in it where a hitch ball is attached.



Ball Mount Types

Basic, Steel, Fixed Ball Mount
Basic, fixed ball mount
The simplest, least expensive ball mount is a fixed (doesn't adjust) ball mount that has holes for a hitch pin and a hitch ball, and is made of steel.
Ball mount with a substantial built-in rise and drop
Rise and Drop
Not all tow vehicles and trailers match in height, which can make it difficult to tow a trailer level. However, for safety, trailers should be level when they are being towed. To help you tow a trailer level, ball mounts are made with a built-in rise and drop. The pictured ball mount has a built-in 6" drop or, if it is flipped over, a 4" rise. Ball mounts are available in a range of rises and drops.
Adjustable trailer hitch ball mount
Adjustable Ball Mount
An adjustable ball mount lets you match different tow vehicle and trailer coupler heights with just 1 ball mount. One adjustable ball mount can be more convenient than multiple, fixed ball mounts.
Steel fixed ball mount Aluminum fixed ball mount
Steel vs
Aluminum
Most ball mounts are constructed of steel or aluminum. Steel ball mounts are usually less expensive. Aluminum ball mounts are more resistant to corrosion, and they weigh less.
Class I and Class V ball mounts Ball mounts are grouped into 5 different classes based on hitch opening size and towing capacity.
  • Class I - 1-1/4" x 1-1/4", 2,000 GTW (Gross Towing Weight)
  • Class II - 1-1/4" x 1-1/4", 3,500 GTW
  • Class III - 2" x 2", 7,500 GTW
  • Class IV - 2" x 2", 12,000 GTW
  • Class V - 2-1/2" x 2-1/2", 20,000 GTW

Other Ball Mount Options

Some ball mounts have additional features, such as: built-in locks, combination or dual purpose designs, and cushioned shanks. See the section Special Ball Mount Features for more information.





Ball Mount Capacity

Ball mounts have two weight capacities: gross towing weight (GTW) and tongue weight (TW). The gross towing weight is the heaviest trailer and load that the ball mount can tow. The tongue weight is the maximum weight that can be allowed to push down on the ball mount.


Ballmount with highlighted capacities

Ball Mount Classes

Ball mounts of similar sizes and capacities are grouped into 1 of 5 classes. The best way to start searching for the correct ball mount is to determine which class you need. You can see the sizes and capacities of the classes in the following table.

Ball Mount Classes
ClassMaximum
Gross Trailer Weight (GTW) in lbs
Hitch Opening SizeBall Shank DiameterHitch Ball SizePin Hole Size
I2,0001-1/4" x 1-1/4"3/4"1-7/8" or 2"1/2"
II3,5001-1/4" x 1-1/4"3/4"1-7/8" or 2"1/2"
III7,5002" x 2"1" or 1-1/4"1-7/8", 2", or 2-5/16"5/8"
IV12,0002" x 2"1-1/4"1-7/8", 2", or 2-5/16"5/8"
V20,0002-1/2" x 2-1/2"1-1/4"1-7/8", 2", or 2-5/16"5/8"

Note: The maximum capacity of a towing setup is limited to the capacity of the lowest rated component.


Read about how to measure for a ball mount to fit your application


Trailer hitch ball mount Shop for a ball mount


Hitch Opening Size

Ball mounts are designed to fit into one of the following three common sizes of trailer hitch receiver openings:


Hitch and label showing maximum tow weight and maximum tongue weight

Class I and Class II Ball Mounts for 1-1/4" Hitches

Because receiver hitches are usually made in one of three common sizes, finding a ball mount to fit is easy. However, if your hitch is 1-1/4" x 1-1/4", you'll need to know its class to ensure that you find a ball mount (or drawbar) that will fit. Hitches that are 1-1/4" x 1-1/4" are classified Class I or Class II. Because Class II hitches can carry more weight than Class I, some manufacturers design their Class I hitches so that Class II accessories (including ball mounts) won't fit into them. This incompatibility helps to prevent overloading a Class I hitch. If you have a Class I hitch, you'll have to make sure that any ball mount you consider fits Class I hitches. If you have a Class II hitch, you can use a ball mount that fits both Class I and Class II hitches.


Note: Manufacturers often recommend a specific ball mount be used with their Class I and Class II hitches.


If you don't know the class of your hitch, you may be able to determine it based on the hitch's maximum capacity. The capacity can be found on a sticker on the hitch, or it will be stamped into the hitch. The pictured hitch shows a typical location of a sticker. The maximum tongue weight of this hitch is 450 lbs. Most Class I hitches have a tongue weight capacity of 200 lbs, and most Class II hitches have a tongue weight capacity of 350 lbs.


Read about how to measure for a ball mount to fit your application


Trailer hitch ball mount Shop for a ball mount





Towing Different Trailers

If you need to tow different trailers, you should consider an adjustable ball mount. These ball mounts are made to help you switch between trailers of different coupler heights and ball sizes. They can adjust in height, and some have 2 or 3 balls to accommodate different trailers. Adjustable ball mounts can save you the trouble and expense of using a separate ball mount for each trailer.


Adjustable ball mount

This Fastway aluminum ball mount can adjust to a maximum 6" drop and maximum 7" rise. It also has 2" and 2-5/16" balls.


Adjustable ball mount with built-in scale

This 14.5K ball mount by Weigh Safe can adjust and can measure trailer tongue weight by means of a built-in scale. It adjusts to a maximum 6" drop and maximum 7" rise. It also has 2 interchangeable balls - 2" and 2-5/16".


Read about how to measure for a ball mount to fit your application


Trailer hitch ball mount Shop for an adjustable ball mount





Compare Steel and Aluminum

Most ball mounts are made of either steel or aluminum. Aluminum ball mounts are usually machined from a solid piece of aluminum. They are lighter and more resistant to corrosion than steel ball mounts - important considerations if you are changing ball mounts frequently or operating in a marine environment. Most steel ball mounts are made of welded steel plates and painted to prevent corrosion. However, the ball mounts with the highest capacities are made of forged solid pieces of steel.



Steel vs Aluminum Ball Mounts
AdvantagesApplications
Steel
  • Available in higher capacities
  • More economical
  • Heavier trailers
  • One-time or infrequent use
  • Multiple ball mounts needed - fleet applications
Aluminum
  • Highly resistant to corrosion
  • Lighter than most steel ball mounts
  • Available in a highly attractive, polished finish
  • Road salt or saltwater exposure
  • Ball mounts swapped frequently
  • Polished finish can complement a tow vehicle's appearance

Trailer hitch ball mount Shop for a ball mount





Security

Ball mounts are usually held in place on a hitch by a pin and clip. A pin and clip is easy to use but not secure - anyone could pull out the pin and take your ball mount. To help prevent theft, you can use a locking hitch pin, or you can consider a ball mount with a built-in locking pin.


Locking ball mount

Locking ball mount

Locking hitch pin

Locking hitch pin



Trailer hitch ball mount Shop for a locking ball mount or a locking hitch pin





Special Ball Mount Features

The standard types of ball mounts are fixed at a set rise and drop and have a hole to mount a hitch ball and another for a hitch pin to secure the ball mount to your hitch. But some ball mounts are made with additional features to help make them more useable and convenient. See some of these features, below.


Trailer hitch ball mount with built-in anti-rattle device

Built-in anti-rattle devices keep the ball mount tightly attached to the receiver so it doesn't shift around and clunk or rattle.



Trailer hitch ball mount with built-in scale closeup Trailer hitch ball mount with built-in scale

To tow safely, you should have your trailer's weight distributed so that 10% - 15% of the total weight is pressing down on the hitch ball. Rather than take a chance estimating the weight, you can depend on the built-in scale in the ball mount by Weigh Safe to be sure the weight of your trailer is distributed properly.



Cushioned trailer hitch ball mount

A cushioned ball mount acts as a shock absorber to reduce bounce and vibration, protecting your vehicle's driveline and hitch assembly, and your trailer s contents.



Dual receiver trailer hitch ball mount

A dual purpose ball mount lets you take a hitch-mounted accessory and tow your trailer at the same time. This type of ball mount is great for taking your bikes along while towing your camper.



Combination ball mounts with ball and pintle hook

Combination ball mounts allow you to haul with a ball or pintle hook.



Adjustable trailer hitch ball mount

Adjustable ball mounts let you change the height of the hitch ball to match the heights of different trailers, saving you time, expense, and inconvenience when compared to using multiple fixed ball mounts.



Trailer hitch ball mount with multiple balls

Ball mounts with multiple balls let you switch among different trailers that have couplers of different sizes. They are available with either 2 balls or 3 balls.



Trailer hitch ball mount with built-in lock

Ball mounts with built-in locks can lock onto your hitch to help prevent theft and to free you from keeping track of a separate lock.







How to Measure for Rise and Drop

With the many different tow vehicles and trailers out there, it's rare that any vehicle and trailer line up perfectly for towing. To help match up tow vehicles with trailers, ball mounts are made in a variety of sizes. They come with different amounts of rise and drop to compensate for differences in height, and they come in different lengths to position a trailer closer to or farther from the tow vehicle. To find a ball mount with the proper dimensions for your tow vehicle and trailer, you need to measure. Read about how to measure, below.


Measure Hitch and Coupler for Height

For safe and comfortable towing, the trailer should always be as level as possible. A level trailer handles well, promotes even tire wear, and minimizes strain on both the trailer and tow vehicle. To help you tow your trailer level when trailer and vehicle heights differ, some ball mounts are made with a built-in rise and drop. See how to determine whether you need a ball mount with a rise or drop, below.


Hitch Height Measurment

With the tow vehicle parked on level ground, measure from the ground to the top of the receiver opening.

Coupler Height Measurment

With the trailer level, measure from the ground to the bottom of the coupler.



If the hitch height is greater, use a ball mount with a drop; if the coupler height is greater, use a ball mount with a rise. Select a ball mount that has a rise or drop measurement that is closest to the difference between the hitch and coupler heights.


Determine Ball Mount Rise and Drop

Ball mount rise

Rise is the distance from the top of the shank to the top of the ball platform when the ball mount is oriented for greater coupler height.

Ball mount drop

Drop is the distance from the top of the shank to the top of the ball platform when the ball mount is oriented for lower coupler height.



Determine Ball Mount Length

Trailer hitch ball mount length

The length of a ball mount is measured from the center of the ball hole to the center of the pin hole. This length will determine how much clearance is available between the vehicle and the trailer. A longer ball mount may be needed to clear a spare tire on your vehicle or to allow you to open a truck tailgate while a trailer is hooked up.


Trailer hitch ball mount Shop for a ball mount